News for Week Ending 1/26/2009
California Supreme Court to review another Episcopal property caseIn October 2008, a state appellate court reversed a trial-court decision that had allowed St. John’s, Fallbrook, in the Diocese of San Diego to keep parish property when the congregation chose to leave The Episcopal Church and put itself under a Ugandan bishop. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) St. John’s appealed to the California Supreme Court, which has recently agreed to hear the case. The move prevents the diocese from reclaiming the property until the Supreme Court issues a ruling. The Living Church reported the story here. Legal Newsline offers a longer story here.
Abandoned New York church building to house new Episcopal Church plantThe Buffalo News reported a story January 26, 2009, likely to be replicated across the country in the future. Last October, members of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Tonawanda, announced their intention to leave The Episcopal Church and abandon their church building to the Diocese of Western New York. (See Episcopal New Service story here.) An Episcopal priest who attended St. Bartholomew’s as a child will now begin a new church using St. Bartholomew’s former home. The Rev. Sarah E. Gordy begins her new church plant with a congregation of four. “We’re not St. Bartholomew’s, and we’re not a restart of St. Bartholomew’s. We’re something completely different,” Gordy is quoted as saying.
Wantland, Scriven released from Episcopal vowsEpiscopal News Service reported January 23, 2009, that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had accepted the voluntary renunciation of their orders from Bishop William Wantland and Bishop Henry Scriven. Both bishops claimed to have left The Episcopal Church in the “realignments” of Forth Worth and Pittsburgh, respectively. The actions were taken with the consent of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice.
Wantland, retired Bishop of Eau Claire, has been serving as assisting bishop in Fort Worth. In response to his statement declaring that he has left The Episcopal Church, Jefferts Schori sent him correspondence that can be read here. Wantland has responded to his being removed from ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church in a strongly worded statement on the site of the “realigned” Fort Worth diocese here. In it, he accuses the Presiding Bishop of lacking “a basic understanding of the English language” or of choosing “to engage in illegal activites.”
Scriven, who served as assistant bishop under Robert Duncan in Pittsburgh, announced last summer, before the Pittsburgh vote to join the Southern Cone, that he would return to England in January 2009 to work for the South American Missionary Society (SAMS). No statement from Scriven has been reported.
Sparring continues over Diocese of Pittsburgh assetsThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported January 23, 2009, that Morgan Stanley, which handles investment accounts for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, informed the group led by deposed bishop Robert Duncan that the firm would make no more distributions from diocesan accounts until the matter of who is the rightful owner is established. Filings in the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas on January 20 by Duncan’s lawyers disclosed the Morgan Stanley move and asked the court to reject the request by Calvary Church and the Diocese of Pittsburgh to deliver diocesan assets to the Episcopal Church diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)
On January 22, the Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a statement giving its interpretation of the filings by the defendants in the Calvary lawsuit. The pleadings themselves (and many other documents related to the ongoing litigation) are available on the Web site of the Allegheny County Prothonotary. (Go to the site and enter case number GD-03-020941.)