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Anglicans who split over gay bishop must return church to diocese

May 07, 2013|By Jill Cowan

An Anglican church campus in Newport Beach belongs to the larger Episcopal Church Diocese of Los Angeles, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled last week.

St. James Anglican Church members split from the Episcopal Church nine years ago after a fissure over the ordination of a gay bishop and other issues.

The court order, which comes at what could be the end of a series of court battles over three church properties on 32nd Street, was reaffirmed Monday by Judge Kim G. Dunning.

"I give thanks for the culmination of this marathon litigation, and I pray this action will settle the fact that people can disagree but cannot take property that has been entrusted to the Episcopal Church for ministry," Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said in a statement. "I give thanks to God that, after these cases spanning more than eight years, we now can proceed with the continuing ministry of the Episcopal Church in Newport Beach."

St. James leaders said they were "obviously disappointed by this ruling."

"We're praying about discerning the next steps," said the Rev. Richard Crocker, leader of the St. James congregation. "Our lawyers have advised us that a final judgment needs to be negotiated; that's happening over the next few days."

Whether the property was held in trust by the larger diocese or owned by the local church first came into dispute in 2004, after the St. James congregation voted to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church and to instead align with the Anglican Church.

The move made St. James congregants part of an increasing number of American Christians joining the Anglican Church, spurred by a "developing difference of opinion over what it means to live according to the Bible."

While Crocker stressed that the diocese's decision to ordain openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire in 2003 was not the only point of disagreement with the larger Episcopal Church, it was a factor.

Still, he said, "the differences are much deeper."

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