When its parishioners voted to split in February of that year, the congregation “denounced their prior promises to be subject to the governing documents of the national church and the diocese, abandoned their membership in the corporation, and lost the power and authority to be directors of the corporation, as they were no longer members in good standing of the Episcopal Church,” the appeals court ruled.
St. Luke’s officials declined to comment on the court’s ruling, saying they had yet to completely read it through.
In 2003, the now-Anglican parish began eliminating references to the Episcopal Church in their bylaws after an openly gay man was ordained as a bishop in New Hampshire earlier that year, though the congregation did not split from the church until 2006. That year, the Episcopal Diocese sued St. Luke’s congregation after it joined the Anglican Province of Uganda.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with the diocese in July 2007, citing a 1979 church law establishing its ownership of all Episcopalian parish property.
The latest ruling keeps in line with recent court decisions over similar rifts between wayward congregations and church property, said John Shiner, attorney of the Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
“It is yet another example of an appellate court ruling in favor of the diocese of Los Angeles and concluding that the property in question belongs to the diocese,” he said.
But as of Tuesday, the fate of the Anglican congregation remained murky.
The Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, said he would be replacing the church’s reverend with a practicing Episcopalian.