L.A. Diocese Wins Another Church Property Battle

The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Los Angeles are entitled to the property of a conservative congregation that left the diocese last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision by Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. names the Episcopal diocese the rightful owner of the property of St. Luke's of the Mountains in La Crescenta, Calif. It follows last week's California Court of Appeal's decision that also ruled in favor of the Los Angeles diocese against three other parishes that broke away.

"We're very pleased with this decision today," said Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno on Tuesday, according to the Episcopal News Service. "We are a people of reconciliation, and our major concern is for the people of St. Luke's, and how to bring them back into relationship with the Diocese of Los Angeles if they wish. We will pray for them. I hope they will pray for us."

Congregants of St. Luke had voted to leave the diocese and The Episcopal Church in February 2006 over differences over biblical authority and interpretation, including The Episcopal Church's 2003 decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop.

Although Wiley was leaning toward favoring St. Luke's, after last week's appellate ruling against the three breakaway churches, the judge said he was obliged to defer to the higher court and its analysis of church property precedents in California and elsewhere, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The three conservative parishes were St. James Church in Newport Beach, All Saints Church in Long Beach, and St. David's Church in North Hollywood, which voted out of The Episcopal Church in August 2004. They joined the Anglican Province of Uganda.

Officials and attorneys for St. Luke's said they were disappointed with Tuesday's decision but not surprised, as reported by the LA Times.

"This doesn't change our decision to withdraw from the diocese and The Episcopal Church (U.S. branch of Anglicanism), and to uphold the decisions of the wider Anglican Communion," said the Rev. Ronald W. Jackson, the church's rector.

"We're a vibrant, growing congregation and we're going to continue the ministry that Christ has called us to," he added.

An appeal decision is expected soon.