17 March 2009

California Supreme Court denies schismtics new hearing - revised/updated

On Wednesday, March 11, the California Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review that had been filed by the former members of St. John's Episcopal Church in Fallbrook. The Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions for the Fourth District Court of Appeal to republish the opinion it previously had issued in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and St. John's Church. That opinion affirmed the right of the bishop to resolve intracongregational disputes over who is eligible to serve on a church board.

"This is a very important decision in favor of the Episcopal Church,” said Charles Dick, Chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and Partner with Baker & McKenzie LLP, who served as counsel to the diocese in this litigation. “It vindicates our position that the actions of the dissident congregation were extralegal and in excess of their legal authority.”

According to Bishop Matthews,

I am overjoyed with this result which will finally allow the Episcopalians of St. John’s to return to their church. It is now time to bring to a close this unnecessary legal proceeding. The Episcopal Church will continue its ministry of following Jesus as an inclusive, servant church. All are welcome at St. John’s; there is room enough in God’s house for everyone.

This is part of New vs. Kroeger decision which returned the property to TEC. A concise summary of taht case is here.

In this particular ruling the court ruled that when vestry members resign from the Episcopal Church they cease to be a representative of congregation and The Episcopal Church. That means they did not have the authority to remove the assets from the diocese or the National Church

For another take on the decision, ReligiousIntelligence.com has a report by George Conger. The Living Church's take is here.