Two more dioceses are acting to hold departing former Episcopalians accountable for Church property they are holding onto for use in their new congregations.
The Diocese of Massachusetts has sued former Episcopalians who departed their parish to start a new congregation under Anglican Mission in America. While they left the building, the diocese claims that the leadership systematically diverted funds from the parish to a separate account held by an organization that the leadership themselves formed.
the diocese said that over an 11-month period last year, the parish’s rector at the time, the Rev. Lance Giuffrida, and the parish’s vestry transferred $111,863.36 from the church’s treasury to an organization called The Lesser Franciscans Inc., an organization founded in late 2004 with offices at Giuffrida’s house and governed by members of the parish’s former vestry.
The diocese also alleged that the parish spent $85,000 on unknown expenses and gave the Giuffridas a $10,000 loan.
The diocese is asking the court to order the departed parishioners to turn over all the records of the church to the diocese and to repay the missing money.
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In the Diocese of Connecticut, a Bristol congregation that has voted to depart the Episcopal Church and become part of CANA [Communion of Anglicans in North American] has until July 8th to vacate the building and account for the assets of the parish.
Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith said the Rev. Donald Lee Helmandollar “renounced his orders” and was deposed – the equivalent of being defrocked – on June 13 by the clerical members of the diocesan standing committee. Smith said he has since written to leaders at Trinity Episcopal Church informing them that the diocese intends to take over the property July 8.
Trinity Church in Bristol is the second of the so-called Connecticut Six parishes that Bishop Drew Smith and the Standing Committee has acted to recover. The Rector and Vestry claim the parishes charter, which predates the formation of the Diocese, allows them to leave unilaterally and retain all property and assets. The Diocese claims that the rector of the parish renounced his orders when he was accepted onto the ministerial roles of CANA and that the vestry gave up their fiduciary responsibility over the parish when they voted to align with CANA. The Bishop brought the case of the priest and parish to the Standing Committee after a vote in the parish to join CANA.
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