Reactions to the California Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling on property in the Diocese of Los Angeles in favor of The Episcopal Church continue, including a statement from the churches who lost the case.
From the Los Angeles Daily News:
When the Rev. Jose Poch learned a high court ruling Monday could spell eviction of his 78-year-old parish from St. David’s Church, he was prepared to pack his bags and Bibles.
The California Supreme Court unanimously decided that a breakaway parish like his could not hang onto church property.
“We have to find a place,” said Poch, rector of the North Hollywood church. “We must worship the Lord in any way we can.”
A lawyer for the breakaway Southland churches said despite the ruling, he would continue to fight for church property when the case returns to a lower court.
“The Episcopal Church has never contributed a dime to buy properties, to build buildings and to maintain the property – all things that property owners have to do,” Eric Sohlgren said.
St. David’s Church owns deeds to a half-block complex at 11605 Magnolia Blvd., which it has inhabited since 1953. Like the other breakaway churches, it abandoned the L.A. Diocese for an Anglican diocese in Uganda.
Poch said he would comment on church plans after consulting with church leaders and attorneys.
“Today is a day to focus on the church,” he said, “and prayer and our people.”
H/T to Titus 1:9.
Also being reported from Kendall Harmon’s blog is a statement from the churches who lost their case:
Nor is the saga over for St. James Anglican Church. “While we are surprised that the Court seemed to give some credence to the Episcopal Church’s purported rule confiscating local church property, the battle is far from over,” lead attorney Eric C. Sohlgren said. “The matter will now return to the Orange County Superior Court for further proceedings, and we look forward to presenting evidence and additional legal arguments that St. James Church should prevail under neutral principles of law.”
The leadership of the Newport Beach congregation is also evaluating a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and is meeting to discuss other possible steps. Today’s ruling also affects All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David’s Church in North Hollywood, whose cases were put on hold pending the outcome of the St. James case. Together with St. James Church, these congregations never agreed to relinquish their property to the Episcopal Church upon changing their affiliation, and have consistently maintained that they have the right to use and possess the property which they have owned and maintained for decades.
Read the entire statement here. Few believe that the US Supreme court will accept this case as no point of constitutional law is at issue and the ruling is consistant with those in many other jurisdictions.
The Bakersfield Californian reports:
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin said the California Supreme Court ruling Monday on property held by seceding Southern California parishes gives him hope regarding similar lawsuits in his diocese. The court ruled that the property in question belongs to the Episcopalian (sic) Church, not the Anglicans who seceded and transferred rights to the property to themselves.
The Living Church writes that Bishop Bruno says his next step will be to initiate dialogue individually with the clergy and lay leadership of the three churches in the hope that it will lead to reconciliation and perhaps the eventual voluntary return of those congregations to The Episcopal Church.
“I want to see if they are willing to talk; to see if they want to return to The Episcopal Church,” Bishop Bruno said. He added that the offer of dialogue carried no preconditions.
“Attorneys handle legal issues,” he said. “This is now a pastoral issue.”
The Fresno Bee captured reaction from Schofield group:
>Updates: Calif. court ruling may impact Episcopal Church’s property fights (RNS)
A similar case is pending in Fresno court, but it addresses a diocese’s ownership rights. A diocese is a territory comprising parishes, usually overseen by a bishop.
The national church sees the decision as a victory that should end the Fresno case and lead to “reconciliation.”
“We are hopeful that this decision will help to bring remaining property litigation in California and elsewhere to a speedy conclusion,” said a statement issued Monday by the office of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
But leaders of the breakaway diocese said the case remains far from settled.
“This will impact our case, but there’s no precedent for a diocese or dioceses leaving a national denomination,” said the Rev. Bill Gandenberger, assistant to Bishop John-David Schofield, leader of the breakaway diocese.
All Saints continues legal appeal (Long Beach Press-Telegram)