Skip to comments.Liberal Parish Seeks to Reopen Property Dispute [TEC]
Posted on 12/30/2006 8:40:54 AM PST by sionnsar
PITTSBURGH (12/20/2006)--On December 20 a civil court heard the rector and parish of Calvary Episcopal Church, a virulently liberal parish run by the Rev. Harold Lewis, request expedited discovery in connection with their petition to "enforce" an October 2005 property settlement against the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The court denied the request for early discovery.
Calvary Church filed a petition, asking "enforcement" of the October 2005 settlement and apparently wants to draw the national church into the diocesan dispute, a source told VirtueOnline.
In October 2005, a Pennsylvania state court judge approved a settlement in the lawsuit, which challenged a 2003 diocesan convention resolution asserting that congregations own their buildings and that neither the diocese nor national church structures could claim them if a parish decides to leave.
Now, less than a week before Christmas 2006, Calvary Episcopal Church, the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, Herman Harvey, and Philip Richard Roberts filed a "petition" seeking new remedies for alleged breaches of the October 2005 settlement. This follow-on to Calvary's earlier action against the diocese was filed in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. Calvary alleges the diocese is ready to transfer title or the use of any real or personal property to an entity outside of the Episcopal Church.
A source close to the situation said the Dr. Lewis's real intention seems to be to get The Episcopal Church into the property game, by saying that the diocese is threatening to take the property out of the Episcopal Church.
"The truth is the Episcopal Church is not a party to the earlier action or this settlement, and although the TEC is not a party to any of this, Lewis apparently wants them in play," said the source.
"Lewis believes that the settlement has been breached, but this is not true. Nothing has changed since October 2005. His move is a precursor to what he believes is a move by the diocese to leave the Episcopal Church with its properties. But the national church owns no property in the diocese. All properties in the diocese are owned by the diocese. This is a frivolous lawsuit," he said.
"Since the settlement, the diocese has dealt with the property as it always has," said the source. "Diocesan properties are held or administered on behalf of the diocese. The differences between Calvary and the Diocese are not about property but about theology. They want to talk about property, but Bishop Robert Duncan has made it clear it is about the faith."
The bishop has repeatedly said that the diocese is not going anywhere. "It's The Episcopal Church that has elected to walk apart from the Anglican Communion," he has regularly opined.
"The diocese firmly believes the matters presented in the petition were either finally resolved by the settlement of October 2005 or of such a nature that, if they are to be pursued, they can only be pursued in a new and separate lawsuit. There have been no breaches of the settlement agreement by the diocese, the bishops, or committees sued," said an official statement at the diocese's website.
At no time has Bishop Duncan and Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven "renounced and repudiated their fiduciary responsibilities" regarding the property.
"It is a sad thing to see Calvary Church, which over the years has been part of so much that was good in the diocese, once again attempt to use the secular legal system as a lever to enforce its own version of being Episcopalian on the majority here. We fully expect to defeat this effort. We will continue to protect the rights and resources of all Pittsburgh Episcopalians." said Bishop Robert Duncan.
The next event will be the response of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to the petition. Pittsburgh intends to stand against this flagrant abuse of process and this attempt to invoke inappropriately the agreement reached last October in which the court determined that there had been no breach.
The Calvary settlement, announced October 14, 2005, stated that even if the majority of the diocese's congregations decide not to remain in the Episcopal Church, any diocesan real estate and endowments would continue to be held and administered by the diocese for the parishes and institutions of the diocese.
Official documents can be viewed here: (http://prothonotary.county.allegheny.pa.us/WebMomCacheDir/vol409000005F6.pdf) (http://www.pgh.anglican.org/news/local/calvarypetition122106).
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