[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.