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A final sermon boosts spirits before parish relocates

The day before St. Luke's Anglican is turned over to the Episcopal Diocese of L.A., reverend lauds his congregation for taking a stand. The parish broke away from the national church in 2006.

October 12, 2009|Ari B. Bloomekatz

The marquee outside St. Luke's Anglican Church in La Crescenta was a bit sardonic in its scripture from the Book of Hebrews: "You joyfully accepted confiscation of your property."

That was the message delivered Sunday by the Rev. Rob Holman, in his last sermon at the Foothill Boulevard church that has been entangled in a legal dispute with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

"Next Sunday, as many of you know, we will be worshiping in a different building," Holman said. "All because we have chosen to stand for the gospel and the authority of God's word over our lives."

Today, St. Luke's leaders will hand over the church's keys to the diocese after losing a lengthy battle to practice its conservative brand of Christian theology and hold onto the church.

The congregation voted in 2006 to leave the diocese and the national Episcopal Church over theological differences, including the consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. The diocese in turn sued to retain the church building with its stone facade and red-tile roof. Earlier this month, a judge ordered the congregation off the site by Oct. 12.

The dispute is part of a larger conflict within the Episcopal Church, where theologians are at odds over issues of biblical authority and the role of homosexuals in the church.

Last summer St. Luke's joined the new Anglican Church in North America, founded in 2008 by four Episcopal dioceses and dozens of parishes that broke away from the national church.

The mood inside St. Luke's on Sunday was mixed.

Video screens with the words "Welcome to St. Luke's Anglican Church, A Final Celebration" greeted roughly 75 congregants at the 10:30 a.m. service as they filed in and exchanged hugs. Some in the audience were not members of the congregation but wanted to show their support, while others had not been to the parish in years but wanted to attend Holman's final service there.

Holman told the congregation that fighting for their principles is more important than a building, and that God has greater plans in store for them.

Some cried. Others walked away smiling, confident that the congregation would continue at their new home at a rented chapel at a Seventh-day Adventist church in Glendale.

"The overall theme is that we have taken a principled stand," Holman said after the service. "For that we have paid a price. Essentially that's OK because Christians have always paid a price."

David Scoggins and his wife, Amanda, came to St. Luke's about three months ago because they like the way the congregation practices Christianity. After the service, the Pasadena residents said they were not disheartened that the church plans to move to a new location.

"A building's a building," David Scoggins said.

Stephanie Akens-Gunn, 51, has been coming to St. Luke's for about a decade. After Sunday's service, she fondly remembered other services that had touched her deeply and meaningful church events such as putting together care packages for U.S. soldiers.

"I'm praying the people will not separate as we move," she said.

Others took a more defiant tone.

"Christ was a radical . . . and called an enemy of the government," Cathy Bartholomew wrote on the back of a flier describing the new location for St. Luke's on Vallejo Drive. "If the church is the church, it should be the same at one point or another. We are called to obedience, not political correctness."

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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