Skip to comments.Los Angeles Diocese Sues to Seize Property. Parish Responds
Posted on 04/29/2006 5:16:17 PM PDT by sionnsar
LA CRESCENTA, CA--The 400-member orthodox parish of St. Luke's of the Mountains Church which left the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church and realigned itself with the African Province of Uganda, has been sued by the diocese and its Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno, in an effort to seize the property. Included in the lawsuit is the priest, the Rev. Dr. Ron Jackson and the 12-member vestry.
In an interview with Fr. Jackson, the 58-year old rector, (he has been an Episcopal priest for 32 years), told VOL that the parish owns the property which pre-dates the Dennis Canon. "St. Luke's was not established by the diocese or even as a parish of the diocese. It was a totally independent church plant in the 1920's. It voluntarily affiliated with Diocese of Los Angeles in the late 1920's."
The lawsuit arrived at the parish late Friday (4/28/2006) where it was received by the rector and Dr. Tim Kelly the senior warden. This is the fourth orthodox parish in the diocese to leave the diocese and the ECUSA this year. The other three are St. James, Newport Beach, All Saints Church, Long Beach, and St. David's Church, North Hollywood.
"This is nothing more than an attempt to seize the church property and retaliate against church members for exercising their religious freedom of choice," said Jackson. "In February, St. Luke's members voted by 91 percent to end their affiliation with the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of Los Angeles over issues of church doctrine, and to align ourselves with the Diocese of Luweero in the Province of Uganda led by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi."
"We have attorneys who will vigorously defend us," Jackson told VOL. "We believe we own the property and the diocese has no legal claim to it. We have engaged the law firm of Payne and Fears which won its case for St. James against the bishop. The Diocese of Los Angeles has lost six times over the years; three parishes over the ordination of women and the three current parishes over sexuality issues (the consecration of V. Gene Robinson) and scriptural authority because of the actions of GC2003 General Convention. St. Luke's is the seventh congregation to flee. All have retained their properties."
"Sexuality is not the major issue, the authority of Holy Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ is," Jackson told VOL.
"We realigned ourselves away from the diocese in February and voted unanimously to realign the parish with the Province of Uganda. This vestry's decision to realign was ratified by the vast majority of the diocese."
"We are deeply saddened by the actions of Bishop Bruno, and our prayers are that the diocese would honor the vote and the will of the people of St. Luke's and allow us to continue the ministry that God has given us," said Jackson.
"We worked very hard to try to reconcile our differences with the Diocese of Los Angeles, and we realigned with another Diocese as the only way we could maintain our orthodox identity. It is important to us that we maintain the historic view of the uniqueness of Christ and Biblical authority. We are saddened to find that the Los Angeles Diocese cannot accept the near unanimous vote of our members to join with another Province of the Anglican Communion, and disappointed that they would take such aggressive action", said Kelly. "The substantial sums that will be spent to prosecute and defend this lawsuit could be put to much better use by supporting the many missions and ministries of the Church," he said.
"We have been dialoguing for over 10 years," Jackson told VOL. "I have helped start many of the efforts to dialogue in this diocese. I was a member of Diocesan Council in an effort to be a part of the diocese and to be available to build bridges."
The lawsuit contends that the local church families are interfering with the property, for example by attending Sunday services and Sunday school, and demands an injunction to evict them. The property claimed includes the land and buildings, along with "personal" property, which would include furniture, chalices, and other articles of worship.
"I fail to see the damage caused by people worshiping God, taking Communion, singing hymns, and reading the Bible together. Does the Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles really want to deny people of faith their Bibles and articles of worship because they were purchased while the churches were Episcopal?" asked Jackson.
The lawsuit alleges that Bishop Bruno and his diocese - along with one former church member - are the rightful owners of St. Luke's property based on internal rules the church passed for itself. This is the same church rule argument made by the Diocese of Los Angeles that California courts have rejected on six previous occasions, as recently as 2005 when the Orange County Superior Court dismissed the Diocese's lawsuit against St. James Church, All Saints Church, and St. David's Church, and in the early 1980's when the Diocese of Los Angeles lost the same kind of case against three former Episcopal churches.
Like the six churches sued before them, the property of St. Luke's is and has always been owned by a separate California non-profit corporation, not the Diocese of Los Angeles, said Jackson.
If they've lost this same claim six times before, this amounts to harassment and malicious litigation. They ought to be able to hit the Bish up at least for attorney fees and litigation expenses.
. . . at least around here, it's the courthouse thermonuclear device and you only use it in the most extreme circumstances. BUT a six-time losing argument is pretty extreme!
My prayers are that all churches would hold themselves up to this standard, and realize that they are here to serve JESUS, not to somehow twist and mangle the unchanging Word of God to fit their own lifestyle.
I was just sitting here thinking the exact same thing. I can tell you this, if this sort of suit were brought in my state after loosing the exact same suit multiple times before, I suspect both the Bishop and his attorneys would be sanctioned and very, very heavily.
So petty. The words, 'You can't take it with you' must apply to the LA Diocese as well. Good for St. Luke's. May the Lord richly bless them. It's a great church, and so beautiful -- built of stones from the local alluvium.
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