By Mary O’KEEFE
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition by St. James Church of Newport Beach concerning the church’s property rights case verses the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
The U. S. court’s denial directly affected not only St. James but St. Luke’s of the Mountains. In August 2004 St. James members decided to end their affiliation with the Episcopal Church and align itself with another branch of the world wide Anglican Communion. Two years later St. Luke’s split from the diocese and aligned itself under the jurisdiction of Uganda Anglican Church. The Episcopal Diocese and the churches have been in court battling over property rights ever since.
On June 9 the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One ruled that the buildings and property belonged to the diocese and national Episcopal Church. St. Luke’s appeal to the California Supreme Court was unsuccessful when on Sept. 17 the court denied its request for review. “[On Sept. 30] the court ordered [St. Luke’s Anglican] would have to vacate before or on Oct. 12,” said John Shiner, attorney for the Diocese.
However if the high court agreed to St. James’ petition Judge John S. Wiley requested attorneys from both sides conference. “Now unless something happens between now and then, [St. Luke’s Anglican members] will have to vacate by 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12,” said Eric Sohlgren, St. Luke’s attorney.
Shiner said the Diocese is moving forward and preparing for how the change between Anglican back to Episcopal will happen. The final details are still be worked out between the parties. “We have always said we want an orderly and peaceful [transition],” he said.
The long fight may finally be over, but St. Luke’s can still take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. “I haven’t had time to discuss with my client whether they want to take [further] action,” Sohlgren said.
In a statement released by L.A. Episcopal Bishop J. John Bruno said, “We continue to move forward today with the process of restoring the ministry of St. Luke’s of-the-Mountains Episcopal Church, La Crescenta, as part of the Diocese of Los Angeles in which the congregation was formed in 1924…Reconciliation and renewal in Christ continue to be our priorities in this transition, with our baptismal covenant calling us to respect every person’s dignity. Sunday services and other local ministries will continue with new leadership, and I welcome all parishioners, present and past, to participate in the life of St. Luke’s.”
The Bishop will preside over a Service of Reconciliation and Renewal at 2 p.m. on Oct. 18 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.