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Judge rules against realigned St James’s

10 May 2013

A JUDGE ruled last week that the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles was entitled to eject a realigned congregation from its building.

St James's, Newport Beach, disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church in the US in 2004, and affiliated with the Church of the Province of Uganda. The California Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the church's buildings and property belonged to the Episcopal Church (News, 9 January 2009).

St James's argued, however, that a letter it had received in 1991, on behalf of the then Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt Revd Frederick Borsch, exempted it from the ruling. The letter stated that "the position of Bishop Borsch and the diocese" was that the property of St James's was "not held in trust for the diocese of Los Angeles".

The Orange County Superior Court Judge, Kim G. Dunning, ruled last week that the letter did not amend Canon 1.7.4 of the Episcopal Church. She concluded: "As a matter of law, 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. . . As a mat-ter of law, the diocese is entitled to . . . eject the current occupants."

The Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt Revd J. Jon Bruno, told the Episcopal News Service after the ruling: "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."

On Sunday, the Rector of St James's, the Revd Richard Crocker, read out to his congregation a letter of support, which was signed by four British churchmen: the chairman of House of Laity of the General Synod, Dr Philip Giddings; the chairman of the Anglican Mission in England, the Rt Revd John Ellison; the chairman of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans for UK and Ireland, the Revd Paul Perkin; and the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, Canon Chris Sugden.

The letter said: "We wish first to assure you of our fellowship with you as you continue to take your stand on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching. . . You are not alone; anyone who touches you touches us."

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