Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ugandan Bishop Wins First Round Over CA Parish

Almost exactly a year ago, St. James Church in Newport Beach, California, announced that they were leaving the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and joining the Ugandan Diocese of Luweero, under Bishop Evans Mukasa Kisekka. Here is some background information on that announcement.

According to the LA Times, a judge recently ruled that the parish owns the property, refuting the argument put forward by the Diocese of Los Angeles that the church belonged to the diocese.

One might expect a secular court to not understand how a church with bishops functions. The smallest segment of our church is the diocese. Apart from the diocese (the bishop), a congregation cannot exist. Which causes me to wonder why this lawsuit was not directed towards Bishop Kisekka, rather than the parish. By so doing, the diocese has inferred the validity of St. James' "congregationalism."

David Anderson thinks this is great stuff. No surprise, as he was the former rector of this parish. There will be an appeal. The parish can afford it. After all, the infamous Howard Ahmanson is one of their members.

Regarding the Diocese of Los Angeles, I understand the need to use every means possible to keep foreign bishops from plum picking among the troubled congregations of ECUSA. But the lawsuit seems to be about property, rather than the unscrupulous behavior of Bishop Kisekka. I think that focus is a mistake.

In the comments of another entry, Bill Carroll made a couple of interesting statements that I'd like to explore a bit further. Here's Bill's comment;

A flawed decision, which interferes with our rights, under the free exercise clause of the first amendment, to practice our religion, which includes diocesan polity. That said, I still advocate settling these things out of court. More often than not, the kind of parish that would contemplate leaving has not been a productive member of the diocesan community for years. Let's maintain the principle that the parish belongs to the diocese but work out an amicable settlement, as in Kansas. I'm not too comfortable with the Church owning property anyhow!
Personally, I agree with Bill. This is rather ironic for me, as I am just beginning negotiations involving a rather large piece of property.

I believe it was Robert Capon who first suggested that the model for the future Church would be AA; no building, no overhead costs, just a contact person and rented space. Some days, I agree. But, right now, stuck with a physical plant that simply does not work, the need for a functional base seems essential to carrying out the mission of the Church.

Your thoughts?


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