Features

Community property?

National

Issue: "California's wall of fire," Nov. 8, 2003

ONCE AGAIN, A SECULAR court in effect has upheld a 1979 Episcopal Church rule that all parish property and assets are held in trust for the denomination.

A Pennsylvania state court on Oct. 28 upheld a lower court finding that an attempt by the biblically orthodox St. James the Less church in suburban Philadelphia to reincorporate itself was invalid, and its property and endowment belong to the local (liberal) diocese. Rev. David Ousley and his people were pondering next steps late last week.

But what if a diocese votes to return control of property and assets to the local parishes? Under the leadership of conservative bishop Robert Duncan, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to do just that in late September as probability of schism in the denomination loomed larger. But is it legal?

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Liberal priest Harold Lewis filed a lawsuit on Oct. 24 to find out. It seeks to force the diocese to comply with the national denomination's constitution and by-laws regarding ownership of parish property. The case has wide implications for conservatives in coming months.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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