Property case reaches top NY court


With about 100 similar cases in courts around the country, diocese attorney Thomas P. Smith said this appeared to be the first to reach a state’s top court. At issue is whether the parishioners who built the church own it, or whether they simply held it in trust for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA and the diocese under the national church’s 1979 Dennis Canons.

Trial and midlevel appeals courts sided with the diocese, concluding it was entitled to the property under the canon rules.

The parish in suburban Irondequoit quit supporting the diocese and the Episcopal Church of the USA after the 2003 ordination of its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

In November 2005, a majority of delegates at the Rochester diocesan convention voted to end their relationship with All Saints.

The Rev. David Harnish, the All Saints rector, notified the diocese a month later that the parish had been placed under the authority of Archbishop Henry Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda.

The diocese sued and has since sold the building to another Protestant denomination for about $450,000. Smith said they’re holding the funds depending on how the Court of Appeals rules. He said the case could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Philip Fileri, chancellor of the Rochester Diocese, told The Associated Press that five or six parishes from Long Island, Binghamton and the Buffalo area, out of 300 to 400 statewide have taken similar steps. “Nationally, it’s also very small, too,” he said.

Past Posts