April 28, 2006

Legal battles erupt over rights to church real estate

Columbus Dispatch

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Rev. Allen Kannapell, pastor of the Anglican Church of Livonia, Mich., prepares for services at a YMCA, the temporary home of his breakaway flock.

When the Rev. Allen Kannapell and most of St. Andrew’s parish in Livonia, Mich., decided earlier this year that they could no longer remain Episcopalians, the conservative pastor knew he had a choice.

Kannapell could either launch an expensive legal fight to claim ownership of St. Andrew’s that he would likely lose, or simply walk away. He and his flock weighed the options and decided to turn over their keys. ...

Facing big-dollar sex-abuse lawsuits, the Catholic bishops of Portland, Ore., and Spokane, Wash., declared bankruptcy. In determining which assets would be available to pay creditors, the bishops said parishes were off-limits because they were not controlled by the diocese.

Under civil law, the bishops said, they were merely trustees for the property, holding them in benefit of parishioners. Under church law, they said, they have authority over parishes but cannot close them at will.

But lawyers representing the creditors in Portland argue that it’s clear that the 124 parishes are owned by a corporation that is based in the bishop’s office.

Posted by kshaw at April 28, 2006 09:30 AM