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Judge orders church to turn over property to Episcopal diocese

St. Luke's Anglican Church in La Crescenta broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2006 in a dispute over biblical authority and interpretation, including consecration of an openly gay bishop.

October 01, 2009|Duke Helfand

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Wednesday ordered leaders of a former Episcopal church in La Crescenta to turn over church property by Oct. 12 to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, marking the latest wrinkle in a long-running legal dispute.

St. Luke's Anglican Church and the diocese have been feuding since 2006, when a majority of the parish's congregants voted to pull out of the diocese and the 2.1-million-member Episcopal Church because of differences over biblical authority and interpretation, including the national church's decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop.

After the La Crescenta church left, the diocese sued to retain its property.

St. Luke's argued that the parish remained the rightful owner because it held the deed.

In 2007, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. ruled in the diocese's favor.

In June, a state appellate court affirmed the judgment, saying the property was held in trust for the diocese and the national church.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, diocese officials said.

The bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, welcomed Wiley's latest decision. In a statement, Bruno said he planned to install a new pastor at St. Luke's and to preside over an Oct. 18 "service of reconciliation and renewal."

But St. Luke's current rector, the Rev. Rob Holman, said the matter remains unresolved. He said the church is waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it will hear a similar property dispute case between the Los Angeles diocese and a Newport Beach church that also broke away.

The high court is expected to make its decision public Monday, Holman said.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the Newport Beach case, Holman said, his church will ask to delay enforcement of Wednesday's lower court order.

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duke.helfand@latimes.com

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