A PRELIMINARY court ruling has ordered the return of 27 church
properties from a reaffiliated group of Anglicans to the Episcopal
diocese of San Joaquin.
In a ruling filling 41 pages, the Californian court also said
that dioceses could not opt to leave the Episcopal Church "because
a diocese is a geographical construct of the Church, it makes no
sense that a diocese can 'leave' the Church; it does not exist
apart from the Church".
The diocese, which was one of the most conservative in the
Episcopal Church, seceded in 2007 because of long-running
disagreements over the ordination of women and the blessing of
same-sex relationships (News, 4 July 2008, 14 December
The properties, which have been ordered to be handed over, have
been valued at about $50 million. The ruling will become firm in
the next 60 days if it is not challenged.
The newly elected Episcopalian Provisional Bishop of San
Joaquin, the Rt Revd David Rice, said: "The thing we have to
remember about what they (parishioners on both sides) have lived
through and what I've inherited is that there are no winners. What
we have to work through is how we move on. The task is not about
buildings, but how we're going to serve in this place called San
Joaquin. There are so many needs here."
The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, Dr Eric
Menees, said in a later interview that some of the ruling would
probably be challenged, but that he would accept the court's final