California Supreme Court upholds ruling in San Joaquin property case

Decision signals an end to eight years of litigation

By ENS staff
Posted Jul 14, 2016

[Episcopal News Service] The California Supreme Court on July 13 “declined to review” a decision made in April by a state appellate court putting an end to eight years of litigation and awarding 28 properties worth an estimated $50 million to the continuing Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

“Accordingly, the original judgment in favor of the Diocese and ordering the return of the properties and funds (approximately twenty-eight properties, including ECCO and the Cathedral, and various Diocesan funds) stands,” said Michael Glass, diocesan chancellor, in a July 14 statement to the diocese.

“It is my belief that the leadership of the Anglican Diocese intends to work with the Diocese to provide for an orderly, thoughtful, and pastoral transition of the properties,” he added.

Three remaining parish cases, St. John’s in Porterville, St. Paul’s in Visalia and St. Columba in Fresno, will now resume, said Glass in the statement.

In describing the situation, San Joaquin Bishop David Rice made an analogy to air travel.

“…It has been an extraordinarily long flight, suffice it to say, the flight was challenging, sometimes turbulent, and certainly at times less than comfortable.  And I trust the thought occurred to all those on board once-or-twice, will this thing ever land?  Landed it has.  We are on the runway and the tarmac upon which we find ourselves is unfamiliar to us, that’s what eight years will do.  And if you allow me to continue with the image for a moment longer; we are sitting on the tarmac and the attendant has indicated that the seatbelt sign is still on,” he said.

“Faithful ones of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, this is the most important point I wish to convey. The seatbelt sign remains illuminated. It is not time yet to get up and empty the compartments overhead, nor is it time to deplane.  We need to sit a bit longer.  And patient we have been, particularly those who have been waiting for eight long years, what a flight eh!  But sit a bit longer we must.”

He then reiterated a position he’s long held to.

“I have suggested in the past that we assume a position of prayerful restraint,” said Rice. “There will be an appropriate time and place for celebration.  What we do now, which is what we are always called to do, is to give thanks to God that we are Called to be… And the ways in which we continue to emerge in this Jesus Movement remains our focus.”

In December 2007 a majority of the diocese’s congregations voted to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, taking properties belonging to the church with them. In a statement on its website, the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin said the diocese would comply with the July 13 ruling.

Earlier this year, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and the Episcopal Church received a decision April 5 from the Fifth District Court of Appeal affirming the judgment issued in 2014 by Fresno Superior Court that ruled that the breakaway Anglican diocese had no legal right to the property, including St. James Cathedral Fresno, the Evergreen Conference Center in Oakhurst and various other properties belonging to the diocese.

Property disputes between the Episcopal Church and other breakaway groups in Fort Worth and South Carolina are ongoing.


Comments (14)

  1. PJ Cabbiness says:

    There is no winner in this matter. Ideologues from both sides have done tremendous damage to the Anglican people of the San Joaquin Valley.

  2. F William Thewalt says:

    Time and again the courts have found in favor of the established Episcopal Church and against the breakaway groups, We must have a clear legal case to ownership of Diocesan property. It also seems like plain common sense that a Diocese has a continuing interest in the property it owns, When will these breakaway groups realize there is no free lunch, especially one gained by stealing.

    1. Christina Cleveland says:

      The courts in South Carolina and Texas ruled for the conservative breakaway dioceses.

  3. Rev. Julian Hills says:

    The word “continuing” in paragraph 1 is surely misleading, since that word has been used by Anglican but non-Episcopal Church groups — including “breakaways” referred to later in the article. I had to click on the diocesan link to be sure I knew which “diocese” was being referred to, and recommend that the editor revise that sentence.

  4. Doug Desper says:

    I am active in my local Episcopal Church. I’m not leaving. This issue of “breakaways” hits home with me because it has partly involved friends who were pillars in our church. They were the constants, the old reliables, loyal, a family whose ancestors founded the church, a family with an Episcopal missionary among them, educated, world-traveled — and these and others felt betrayed by a Church that they felt had “left us”. They could recount with anguish a Church that they felt was out of control and not living in honesty with its own standards: notable bishops and other clergy who denied the Resurrection, others who openly denied that Christ is the unique and sufficient Incarnation of God (never equal to others and surpassing all others), clergy who denied that Christ invites the world to salvation through His works alone, winking at canonical standards, bishops flatly ignoring canons to pursue a personal revelation agenda in “their” diocese, disregard for restraints asked for by the larger Communion, and flat rejection of Communion-wide agreements on sensitive matters of sexuality. One bishop very famously denied that there were same gender weddings in his diocese (in order to get to go to Lambeth) when the reverse was proven. Such canonical disobedience was called “prophetic”. When the dissenters – like our friends – took their actions to distance themselves it was called “disloyalty”. Odd how that gets to be viewed that way. Time and General Convention has revealed that there is little room for dissent on issues that were formerly promoted as “all may — none must”. Many of the so-called “breakaways” were formerly praised as some of the most vital — soon they were villainized when they wanted to get away from all of this and just go with the stuff that they or their ancestors had bought and paid for and paid dearly to maintain. They became mocked as “just a few who don’t want to be with….us”.

    So, thirteen years later there have been thousands of our members lost to another emerging Anglican presence in this country. At least 5 dioceses left and in their wake there are mainly untenable remnants left which require great resources to maintain. Meanwhile our Sunday attendance, baptisms, and Sunday Schools are burying deeper into the negative. Cathedrals have closed. Seminaries have shuttered. People are staying away. Pockets of vitality are truly few.
    Any organization under such stress and decline would self-examine in painfully honest ways.

    So….some property has been gained back. And it will be empty. It will be costly to maintain. The larger Church will continue to underwrite the costs of struggling “continuing Episcopal dioceses”.

    If there is a “win”, then it is microscopic.

    1. Brian A. MacFarland says:

      So in a nutshell, you feel it is alright to quit the club if you disagree with the direction the club is going and take the clubhouse with you? I should think not!

      1. Doug Desper says:

        No…in a nutshell I described the reality of people being tagged “breakaways”. They have faces, histories of loyalty, and they bring a conversation that few want to hear. They can trace with clarity “the club’s” changing of its own standards when it suited, failure to discipline errant leaders when convenient, and the “club’s” increasing intolerance of anyone who didn’t go along with those things quietly.

        1. Leslie G Marshall says:

          Doug… yours is the most compelling explanation of all, as to what happened to those that had The Church crumble around their ears. The same thing happened at my Church. All those outre beliefs were present, PLUS we were also given Islamic readings to ponder, and meditate on (at the same time, blasting the Bible, over & over again.) Since I had been educating myself with the bible (with no help from TEC), I knew what to do. I just went to a plain Christian church –where the pastor was not ashamed of Jesus. God is good! Yet, 13 years later, I’m still heart-broken, to see a once-beautiful Church body, be so adulterous.

    2. jim davis says:

      As a conservative I would agree with you Doug but there was much uncanonical moves on the other side of the divide as well and much I read was tinted with bigotry. I remain in the loyal opposition in my church and with logic and love pesevere through many a peversity.

  5. George J Wade says:

    Remember, Our Lord works and speaks to us in very mysterious ways and if this was not the will of our Lord, it would not be. It is our challenge to pray and learn his true motive and message. I can’t help but believe it has a great deal to do with “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

  6. In a July 13 letter to the Anglican diocese, their bishop stated:

    “Now is the time for us to begin the process of handing over the properties. We will work with TEC to do this in as gracious and orderly a manner as possible.”

    May we Episcopalians also exhibit grace – and mercy, too – starting with gifting the Anglican diocese properties that do not have adequate Episcopal congregations waiting to fill them.

    Yes, I realize that eight years ago the Anglican diocese did not exhibit grace and mercy toward continuing Episcopalians, causing tremendous grief and distress for many people, and to this day, they continue to treat gays like lepers. However, if you’re thinking of doing unto them what they did unto us, you definitely need to do some immediate remedial gospel reading. No prayer or “discernment” needed here!

  7. Pamela Kruse-Buckingham says:

    There are Episcopalians that were left out in the cold when all this happened. We have a parishioner that moved from Alameda to Tracy to live near family due to health reasons, and there is no Episcopal Priest to go and visit her. So sad. It’s a very long trip for one of our Priests or LEM’s to get all the way to Tracy to give communion. I pray for the healing of the Church in the Jan Joaquin Valley, and I pray that some Priests get out there soon.

  8. Terry Francis says:

    I totally agree with Doug Desper regarding this issue. The reason so many of these dioceses broke away is because sharing and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ had taken a distance back seat to leftward-leaning political activism in TEC. The notion that different points of view are welcome in this church was and is quite simply, a shame. If you express the view for instance, that we should take control of our borders in regards to immigration, you’re a racist. If you express the belief that same-sex marriages go against Biblical teaching you’re a hate-filled closed-minded intolerant homophobic bigot. Is it any wonder so many chose to leave! So to the Diocese of San Joaquin I say rejoice in your hard-won “victory” and the retaining of your precious property. So what if many conservative and traditional Episcopalians are now left out in the cold! I hope it was worth it.

    1. jim davis says:

      You are right that many conservatives were underserved in the church but to leave and not fight on did everyone a great disservice. We should all pray fro forgiveness.

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