Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Developments in the Court Case for Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about developments in the court case involving the assets of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The court has appointed a "master".

"In response to a lawsuit led by one of its parishes, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has agreed to have a court-appointed neutral party inventory all of its property and assets as it prepares for a final vote on seceding from the Episcopal Church. The agreement between representatives of the diocese and Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside, came after a hearing yesterday before Joseph M. James, president judge of Common Pleas Court. In 2005, he oversaw a settlement after Calvary sued the diocese to prevent the transfer of property from the denomination to individual parishes."


The official diocesan press release may be found here.



The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

The Coalition for Realignment has issued the following statement regarding yesterday's court agreement:

The Coalition for Realignment was pleased and greatly encouraged with the outcome of the recent hearing on the Calvary litigation that occurred on September 8th in a hearing before Judge James. Judge James not only responded negatively to Calvary's most recent requests, but adopted the strong recommendation of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for the appointment of an independent 'Special Master'. The Special Master will be a neutral party who will be able to review financial records and property matters dispassionately. We expect that this review and the recommendations the Special Master will make to the court, will greatly assist us in identifying options for shaping fair and equitable distribution of property.
In agreement with our diocesan leadership, the Coalition for Realignment strongly supports an even handed way forward with regard to property, over against an all-or-nothing approach to property disputes. We believe that open-hearted negotiations are the right way forward and most likely to glorify God. We continue to be supportive of all efforts that will move us away from the scandal of unnecessary and costly litigation between Christians.
The Coalition was also greatly encouraged by the wisdom of Judge James who voiced his strong opinion that parishes on both sides of the realignment issue should be able to continue to worship as they so choose. The Diocese of Pittsburgh had a very good day in court!

Jonathan Millard (Spokesperson) and Geoff Chapman (Convener)
Coalition for Realignment

The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

Bishop Robert Duncan has released a statement on the results of a hearing before Judge James that took place on September 8.

The statement follows:

"On Sept. 8, there was a hearing before Judge James in the Calvary litigation. Calvary took the position that the Realignment vote will violate the 2005 Stipulation and that Calvary was entitled to the appointment of a "monitor" to take over the financial affairs of the Diocese. Calvary first initiated this request in a July 2008 filing. Since July, we have documented with the Court the Diocese's strong opposition to Calvary's position, and the fact that Diocese has consistently complied with the Stipulation since it was signed, and will continue to comply with the Stipulation after the Realignment vote. The Diocese always has been, and remains committed to administering Diocesan assets for the beneficial use of all parishes and institutions of the Diocese, regardless of any parish's position on Realignment.

"The relief Calvary sought -- a court-appointed monitor who would effectively run the financial affairs of the Diocese -- was not what was done yesterday. To the contrary, we proposed the appointment of an independent third-party (called a "Special Master"), who will have no role regarding the operation of the Diocese. Rather, the Special Master will review all Diocesan financial records and make recommendations to the Court regarding which property is covered by which provisions in the 2005 Stipulation (i.e., what is Diocesan property and what is parish property). The appointment of a Special Master has no impact on whether TEC or its representatives can make any claim to any property. These issues will be addressed at a later date. We have clearly stated our position that the minority who oppose Realignment are not entitled to seize the assets of the Diocese. If necessary, we will vigorously pursue this position in litigation.

"It is important at this juncture, however, to be mindful of the destructive effect of the all-or-nothing approach to property disputes that has characterized so much of the church property litigation across the country. Judge James has voiced his concern that all members of our Church -- regardless of where they stand on Realignment -- should be permitted to worship as they deem appropriate. Before the conclusion of yesterday's hearing, Judge James asked counsel for both parties to confirm that nothing about the appointment of a Special Master, or the establishment of an escrow account, would negatively impact any parish's ability to continue worshiping as that parish chooses to worship.

"We think appointment of the Special Master is an excellent way to begin the process of pursuing a fair and equitable distribution of property. To repeat, this process does not determine how property will be divided, it simply identifies the property at issue so the Court has a clear picture of what property is in dispute. We will continue to seek the Court's assistance to work through these issues to maximize our opportunity to avoid a destructive (and expensive) all-or-nothing battle."

posted on the Diocese of Pittsburgh website

David Laughlin said...

This sounds like it is good for all. No one will try to walk away with any church property or claim that such and such is theirs unless approved by this outside person.

I guess the next round starts if the diocese votes to leave. Then new court cases will begin. This will be bad for all