January 05, 2006

Court: Episcopal parish cannot secede

Philadelphia Inquirer

By David O'ReillyInquirer
Staff Writer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected a Philadelphia parish's attempt to quit the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, but ruled that the parish - not the diocese - holds title to its assets.
In a decision released last week, the high court affirmed two lower court rulings that St. James the Less parish in East Falls cannot leave the diocese unilaterally.
But the Supreme Court also reversed portions of the decisions of the lower courts and said that St. James' antebellum church buildings and other assets belong to the parish, which holds them "in trust" for the diocese.
Attorney Valerie Munson, who argued the case for St. James, said Tuesday that much of the case was narrowly decided and had implications only for the parish. The court noted that the parish's founding charter of 1846 made clear that it was a part of the diocese and theAbuse Tracker Episcopal Church, the predecessor of the Episcopal Church USA. ...
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering calls from sex-abuse victims and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to establish a one-year "window" of opportunity to file lawsuits for assaults committed years ago.
"This case gives us some indication of what the [Pennsylvania] court is thinking" about parish property, said Munson, who specializes in church property law.
(Last week an Oregon bankruptcy judge ruled that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, not individual parishes, owns all parish assets.)

Posted by kshaw at January 5, 2006 08:22 AM