Who paid the legal fees in Pittsburgh?

One of the common charges made by groups of former Episcopalians as they leave the denomination is that any legal action they attempt to retain property represent a sort of David vs. Goliath struggle given the financial reserves of the full Episcopal Church. Lionel Deimel points out that in the case of the departing people and clergy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, that’s not exactly what happened.

He’s written an analysis of the money spent and portions recovered in the lawsuit that was brought against the departing portion in the Diocese of Pittsburgh by Calvary Church, Shadyside on behalf of those who remained. Turns out that a large portion of the costs were born by the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, not the larger Episcopal Church.

“Recall that Calvary Church brought a lawsuit against then bishop Robert Duncan and other diocesan leaders in 2003, charging that they planned to allow property to be removed from The Episcopal Church without appropriate compensation. Two years later, an agreement was reached regarding the distribution of property in the event that any congregations wanted to leave the church. That agreement provided for Calvary’s escrowed diocesan assessment to be returned to Calvary, less $50,000, which was to go to the diocese. I estimate that something on the order of $170,000 was returned to Calvary, most or all of which was likely used to pay legal fees.

[…]Additional sources of funds to cover Calvary’s legal expenses included (1) individuals in the diocese, (2) Episcopal Church bishops, and (3) member parishes of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes. As far as I know, The Episcopal Church did not pay any of Calvary’s legal expenses. It was not originally a party to the litigation. It later joined the litigation, however, and incurred its own expenses.

Calvary’s counsel has been Walter P. DeForest, a Calvary parishioner. Much of his work was done pro bono, and the rest was billed at a reduced rate.

As you can see, at least in the case of litigation in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, legal expenses were borne by the church at large, but a substantial portion of the money came from within the diocese itself. When Calvary first filed its case, neither The Episcopal Church nor most of the parishes strongly supportive of their church showed much enthusiasm for Calvary’s move. I’m sure it is gratifying to members of Calvary Church that, six and a half years later, those same parishes are grateful enough to contribute directly to the cause that Calvary so selflessly undertook.”

Read the full post here with links to the sources of his information and more detailed analysis.

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