Skip to comments.La Crescenta, CA: Church fights for building
Posted on 05/11/2006 6:18:24 PM PDT by sionnsar
LA CRESCENTA (5/11/2006)--The conflict between St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church and the Episcopal denomination now enters a legal phase, as the two sides battle in court over the parish's stone church.
In 1924, the congregation laid the cornerstone of the church, located in the 2500 block of Foothill Boulevard. It was built and maintained with contributions from church members, and is owned by a nonprofit organization established by the parish.
In 1940, the church joined the Episcopal Church USA, where it remained until February, when members voted to leave the 2.3 million-member denomination to join the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda.
The ECUSA, the American branch of the Anglican church, has been in turmoil since its liberal members elected an openly gay bishop in 2003. Traditionally, the Episcopal and Anglican churches have professed that the Bible defines homosexual behavior as sin. Hundreds of congregations that cling to the traditional interpretations of the Bible have left the denomination or stand opposed to its liberal direction.
St. Luke's leaders said they left because the ECUSA has abandoned orthodox Christian teachings on the issues of the authority of the Bible and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
The lawsuit's plaintiffs include Patricia Huber, a member of the church for about 70 years, the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles and its leader, Bishop Jon Bruno. The case was filed against St. Luke's on April 24.
The lawsuit alleges that the church is subject to the rules of the ECUSA, which state the church property is held in trust for the denomination. When the church joined the ECUSA, it agreed to hold its property in accordance with the denomination's rules, the lawsuit said. John Shiner, attorney for the diocese, said he is confident the court will rule in favor of the plaintiffs.
Leaders at St. Luke's say they are the legal owners of the property.
"We have disaffiliated," said Tim Kelly, senior warden of the St. Luke's vestry, the board that runs the church. "Our understanding is that we report to a different diocese and we're in good standing with them. We no longer have a subordinate relationship to the Los Angeles diocese."
Attorney Eric Sohlgren, who represents St. Luke's, has been involved in three recent cases that involved similar lawsuits against parishes that left the diocese. The courts ruled in favor of the individual churches in all three cases, he said. The diocese is appealing all three.
The state of California does not analyze church property disputes according to internal rules of a denomination, Sohlgren said. The court examines aspects like who bought the property, whose name is on the deed, and whether or not it exists in a trust, he said.
"The Diocese of Los Angeles hasn't contributed a dime toward building those buildings or helping people keep the lights on," Sohlgren said. "So we're very confident that a court looking at it will analyze it along those same lines and come to the same conclusion."
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