(Photo courtesy Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles)
A California judge has ruled against a conservative breakaway Anglican congregation in a property dispute between it and The Episcopal Church.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning ruled last week that the property of St. James Anglican Church of Newport Beach belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
"As a matter of law, the Diocese is entitled to enforce the trust in its favor and eject the current occupants," reads the court order. "All the church property acquired by and held in the name of St. James Parish is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese, which have the exclusive right to possession and dominion and control."
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, said in a statement provided to The Christian Post that he was thankful for the conclusion of the years-long litigation.
"I give thanks for the culmination of this marathon litigation, and I pray this action will settle the fact that people can disagree but cannot take property that has been entrusted to the Episcopal Church for ministry," said Bruno.
"I give thanks to God that, after these cases spanning more than eight years, we now can proceed with the continuing ministry of the Episcopal Church in Newport Beach."
With approximately 700 members, St. James Anglican was one of a handful of congregations that voted to leave the Los Angeles Diocese years ago over The Episcopal Church's acceptance of homosexuality. St. David's Anglican Church of North Hollywood and All Saints Anglican Church of Long Beach were among those that voted to break away.
Last May, Judge Dunning ruled against St. David's and All Saints in a similar legal case regarding the question of who owned the church properties.
As part of its argument to keep the property, St. James Anglican produced a letter from 1991 in which the diocese apparently waived ownership of the disputed property.
"The Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of Saint James' Parish, Inc. of Newport Beach, are given permission by the Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. Frederick H. Borsch, to purchase and own the property on 32nd Street in Newport Beach, in the name of the Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Saint James' Parish Inc. and not held in trust for the Diocese of Los Angeles," read the letter.
Judge Dunning concluded that the 1991 letter was an invalid claim, as it only applied to one part of the property owned by Saint James Parish and furthermore did not invalidate Episcopal Canon 1.7.4, known commonly as the "Dennis Canon."
Approved in 1979, the Dennis Canon states that all "real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located."
Saint James Anglican did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time. According to local media, they have not yet decided whether they will pursue an appeal.
"We're praying about discerning the next steps," said the Rev. Richard Crocker, leader of St. James Anglican, to the Daily Pilot.