Skip to comments.Diocese files suit against All Saints Episcopal (Irondequoit)
Posted on 03/07/2006 7:25:29 PM PST by sionnsar
The local Episcopal diocese filed a lawsuit Monday asking for the property of the former All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church.
The Irondequoit parish was voted out of the diocese in November, so the property - including religious records - should be returned and the legal corporation of the parish should be dissolved, the suit states.
"If they respond favorably, I will gladly withdraw the complaint which has this morning been placed before the courts," Bishop Jack McKelvey told reporters at a Monday afternoon news conference. "There is nothing positive about getting involved with suits."
The church at 759 Winona Blvd., now known as All Saints Anglican Church, has refused to hand over the keys to the building and continues to meet there. The conflict started when All Saints withheld $16,000 from the diocese because it disagreed with the larger body's support of the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003. All churches in the diocese are expected to pass along some of their income to the diocese, so withholding the money was seen as breaking communion with the churches in the diocese.
The congregation has since joined the Church of the Province of Uganda, a separate church within the Anglican Communion. Like the Episcopal Church of the USA, it has roots in the Church of England.
Still, the parish, which is older than the diocese, should be allowed to keep the property, said All Saints' attorney, Raymond Dague.
"Why is Bishop McKelvey doing this? Why is he chasing this church down? Why not leave well enough alone? Why sue one of your former churches?"
The diocese's position is that Episcopal churches and their land, religious records and other property are held in trust for the diocese. That idea shows up in the rules of the local diocese, the rules of the church at the national level and in New York state law, said Philip R. Fileri, chancellor for the diocese.
Recently, three Episcopal parishes in California went through a nearly identical process and courts have let them keep their property, but Fileri said that isn't the norm.
In fact, in the late 1990s, a church in the Albany diocese left and wanted to keep the property, but the court sided with the diocese.
The Rev. David Harnish, pastor at All Saints, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment but his church's attorney said the lawsuit was "sad but not surprising."
The diocese and the bishop take very lightly the scriptures pertaining to sexuality, Dague said. "So it's not surprising that they would look at the scripture that says you aren't supposed to sue a brother in Christ and take that very lightly."
The lawsuit isn't about scripture or theology, said McKelvey. It's strictly about property.
"You can have your own congregation," he said. "But you can't do it with our property.
"And I don't think he has any idea how seriously I take scripture."
The diocese could have padlocked the door to the church, Fileri said, but that would have been equally offensive. "A lawsuit is the only real option at this point."
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