Skip to comments.Courts tentatively back Fallbrook church against diocese [San Diego]
Posted on 11/09/2006 6:24:40 PM PST by sionnsar
A lawsuit aimed at putting Episcopalians back in control of a Fallbrook church appeared headed for defeat yesterday, and another priest has left the San Diego diocese in a widening national rift led by conservatives.
A Superior Court judge in Vista issued a tentative ruling that would allow St. John's Anglican Church to remain in the Fallbrook property.
The church was an Episcopal congregation until a majority of members voted in July to break away from the denomination but keep the property and be overseen by an Anglican bishop in Africa.
The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and St. John's members who didn't want to break away are suing to get possession of the building. They argue that the former officers lost their authority when they voted to leave the denomination.
But Judge Jacqueline Stern disagreed. "It is clear that plaintiffs have not met their burden of proof on this motion," she wrote. However, she told both sides at yesterday's hearing that she wanted more time before issuing her final decision.
Two other churches that have left the diocese also are staying in their buildings, but Charles Dick, an attorney representing the diocese, said a decision has not yet been made on whether to pursue legal action against them.
Members of both congregations filled the gallery for the brief hearing. The remaining members of St. John's Episcopal have been meeting in Vista, but plan to look for new quarters in Fallbrook if they don't win the case.
On the other side, the Rev. Donald Kroeger, the former Episcopal rector who is now leading the renamed Anglican congregation, said he hopes the judge doesn't relent.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Michael Nee has become the seventh priest to break away from the diocese and align with a conservative jurisdiction elsewhere in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
Nee made the announcement during Sunday services at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Carlsbad. He will begin officiating at services this coming Sunday at the newly established Good Shepherd Anglican Church, which will meet at Congregation Shir Ami, a synagogue in Encinitas, under the oversight of a bishop in Bolivia.
Nee said he was approached by Holy Cross members who wanted to start a new church within the Anglican structure. "They felt the Episcopal Church had been separating itself from (the Anglican Communion)," Nee said.
Since 2003, dozens of congregations and priests across the country have realigned themselves with more conservative Anglican bishops in other countries.
"A lot of Episcopalians are being lost in the Episcopal Church," Nee said. "They are fleeing for one reason or another and I think it's God's call to go out and to minister to them."
Nee, 55, was ordained in 2000. He said he is taking a risk by going to this new congregation. "I have no compensation package. No health care plan. I have no idea what they'll pay me for anything," he said. However, he added, "It's a matter of principle."
Nee would not speculate on how many of the 80 or so people who attend Holy Cross will follow him to Good Shepherd Anglican. "We're not relocating Holy Cross," he added. "We're planting a new church."
Diocese spokesman Howard Smith said another priest will be at Holy Cross to conduct services on Sunday.
Smith said he would not characterize this latest departure, coupled with the judge's tentative ruling, as setbacks for the diocese.
"I think it is a part of our ongoing work to preserve the church," Smith said. "However, these ongoing distractions are keeping us from doing the work of the church, which is feeding the poor, taking care of the sick and spreading the gospel of Jesus."
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