Skip to comments.California Diocese Lost Property Fight [ECUSA]
Posted on 10/05/2005 5:42:05 PM PDT by sionnsar
While currently on travel in the San Francisco Bay are, I came across this historical look at a property fight which Mr. Swing and his diocese in California lost two decades ago. Here is the article in today's Oakland Tribune:
So, there is ample precendence for parishes which separate from revisionist diocese to keep their property, at least here in California.
CASTRO VALLEY The Rev. William Swing, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, always gets a lot of exercise when he visits Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Castro Valley.
In 1983, Swing led Holy Cross parishioners in a two-mile march from Hayward to a temporary home in Castro Valley after they vacated a Hill Avenue church building over doctrinal and legal issues.
Two years later, after committing personal and diocesan funds to a new Castro Valley church building, Swing wielded a shovel to break ground for a new sanctuary.
And, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Swing will join his Holy Cross flock on a symbolic walk around the church's outdoor labyrinth during his last visit before retiring next spring.
"It's really his church," said Lillian Kline, one of the original congregants.
"Without his support, we might as well have folded up our tents," added Chet Smith, who with his wife, Bernie, credited Swing with persuading the diocese to loan Holy Cross $500,000 in the mid-1980s to help build the new church.
Holy Cross, one of 80 congregations in Swing's care, also received a $1,000 check for construction from the bishop, recalled the Rev. Mark Spauld-ing, the church's current rector.
The separation of Holy Cross from Trinity Episcopal Church in Hayward was the culmination of a six-year legal and spiritual battle that gained national headlines at the time and still resonates today.
In 1977, the Rev. Graham Lesser, rector of Trinity which had its origins in the Hayward area in 1871 and some church members split from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States to protest the national church's admission of women priests and modernization of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
Following Trinity's rift with the national church, a group of church members who did not agree with the decision to break away sued Trinity officers to obtain title to the Hill Avenue property.
They lost the suit in 1978 when an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that the withdrawal from the national church was proper.
Then the Episcopal Diocese of California entered the legal fray and sued for possession of Trinity, contending the local church merely held it in trust for the national organization. Another Superior Court judge agreed with the diocese in 1980 and Lesser's group moved out, meeting in a mortuary until the California Court of Appeal in 1983 overturned the county ruling and gave Trinity back to the membership led by Lesser.
After other appeals, the diocese and the group that would go on to form Holy Cross decided to drop the legal proceedings and resume their spiritual journey in Castro Valley.
Spaulding, Kline and the Smiths speak with pride of the sense of community that the 250-member Holy Cross congregation has developed through the decades, hosting educational, child care, recreational and spiritual programs on the campus that now includes the labyrinth, parish hall and memorial garden.
"If anything happens to me, I get on the phone (with other church members)," Kline said. "This church keeps me sane."
Trinity, now Trinity Anglican Church, has had a more difficult time. The congregation sold its Hill Avenue property and has leased Sunday meeting space from the Castro Valley Unified School District while searching for a permanent place to build a new sanctuary.
Trinity bought 21 acres on Sunnyslope Avenue in east Castro Valley but since 2001 has been unsuccessful in persuading area residents and Alameda County to award building permits.
As a going-away present, Holy Cross members will present Swing with a color picture of a rainbow crossing over the church's steeple and cross. Spaulding, a woodworker whose furnishings dot the church hall, is making the frame.
An even greater gift, he explained, will be the church's pledge to continue to demonstrate its love of God by making Holy Cross a place of hospitality and welcome.
And Bishop Swing's people are.. like.. nervous. HA! They've got all the Dems in CA on THEIR side.
I don't know. My own province has its main presence in CA and is doing fairly well there. Our rector is a good friend of the rector featured here. (The article is even better with the photos not included online...)
Sionnsar -- I know who exactly you mean. I love this ArchBishop. :)
There have been several recent cases from California which have upheld the right of the congregation to leave with its property unless there is an express, irrevocable trust.
I believe that the case involving a Methodist church has gone to final judgement, and a case involving a PCUSA congregation has a preliminary ruling saying that (but the two congregations have to share the property pending a final ruling).
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