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Breakaway Parishes Refuse to Hand Over Their Records

August 31, 2004|Monte Morin | Times Staff Writer

Three breakaway Episcopal parishes refused to surrender their churches, hymnals and financial records to the Diocese of Los Angeles on Monday, despite threats of a lawsuit by the Episcopal Church.

A lawyer for the parishes said Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno lacked the legal authority to make such a demand.

"Your demand that hundreds of families and children immediately cease worshipping God in the buildings they alone have erected and supported defies belief," wrote Eric C. Sohlgren, the secessionist parishes' attorney.

Over the past weeks, All Saints' in Long Beach, St. James in Newport Beach and St. David's in North Hollywood renounced their membership in the national Episcopal Church and refused to recognize Bruno as their leader.

The break involved issues such as the national church's decision to ordain an openly gay priest as a bishop.

The parishes now claim to be under the jurisdiction of Anglican Bishop Evans Kisekka of the Diocese of Luweero in Uganda, which adheres to more orthodox biblical interpretations of homosexuality.

On Friday, Los Angeles diocesan attorney John R. Shiner of Morrison & Foerster said the congregations were in violation of church canons and California civil law and gave them five days to surrender financial statements, copies of bank accounts, investment portfolios and member registries.

In a one-page response, Sohlgren wrote that "your clients have no authority or grounds to dictate or interfere with religious worship, instruction, oversight, communications, employment, and property use at these three churches...."

The bishop said Sunday that if the three parishes rejected the diocese's demand, he would meet with his assistant bishops and attorneys to decide the next step.

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