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U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Episcopal property case

October 5, 2009 |  6:45 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intercede in a long-running property dispute pitting the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the national Episcopal Church against a breakaway local congregation, St. James Anglican Church of Newport Beach.

The court on Monday refused to hear St. James' appeal of California Supreme Court and appellate court decisions that the parish's property was held in trust for the diocese and national church and not owned by the congregation.

St. James is among a number of parishes and four dioceses that have split away from the Episcopal Church since the national church's 2003 consecration of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire.

The Episcopal Church has argued that although anyone may leave the denomination, those who do so are not allowed to take church buildings and other property with them. In response, St. James and other breakaway groups have argued that they hold title to the properties and have spent years and money maintaining them.

The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, applauded the court's decision and called for reconciliation.

But St. James' senior pastor and attorneys said they would pursue the legal struggle with a return to trial court in Orange County. "Our battle is far from over," the pastor, the Rev. Richard Crocker, said in a statement.

-- Rebecca Trounson