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Legal fight over ownership of Newport Beach parish can continue, court rules

May 5, 2011 | 11:26 am

The legal  fight over who owns St. James Parish in Newport Beach can continue even though the general rule is that the church hierarchy owns parishes, the California Supreme Court decided Thursday.

The court said that St. James, which broke away from the Episcopal Church, may present evidence in court to show that the church and the property are owned by the congregation, not the Los Angeles diocese and Episcopal Church.

In a ruling in 2009, the state high court entered the fray over St. James and decided "that the general church, not the local church, owns the property in question.” 

But in a 6-1 ruling written by Justice Ming Chin, the court said that its decision was based only on the facts before it and the ruling "does not mean the actions were finally decided in favor of the Los Angeles Diocese and the Episcopal Church. "

The St. James  congregation split away from the denomination after it consecrated a gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

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-- Maura Dolan

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