Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Church is focus of court fight

Another property dispute, this time in Nebraska. This parish is still opposed to women's ordination and is using the Tridentine liturgy from the middle ages.

When a parish breaks up with its church authority, who gets the house of worship?

That's a fight taking place in courthouses coast to coast and now in Nebraska as part of the Episcopal Church's schism over issues of scriptural interpretation and homosexuality.

The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska is suing the rector and lay leaders of a breakaway parish, St. Barnabas. Diocesan officials want the Rev. Robert Scheiblhofer and company to leave the historic church at 129 N. 40th St. and the rectory next door, now that the parish has rejected the authority of the Episcopal Church. The diocese contends it is the rightful owner of the property under church rules and state law.

Scheiblhofer and other parish leaders say they aren't going anywhere. They contend that the property has always belonged to the parish, that it still does and that the diocese has no claim to it.

The diocese has asked the Douglas County District Court to resolve the dispute. An attorney for Scheiblhofer and St. Barnabas' vestry, or governing body, is seeking to have the suit thrown out. The first hearing in the case is set for Wednesday.


Scheiblhofer said St. Barnabas historically has had differences with Nebraska Diocese officials. The parish was founded in 1869 as part of the Oxford Movement, a strain of Anglicanism that identified more than most with the faith's roots with the Roman Catholic Church.

To this day, St. Barnabas uses the Tridentine Mass, a dramatically scripted liturgy that dates to the Middle Ages. It's the same liturgy used by an organization of Roman Catholic priests who have a seminary in Denton, Neb., who are trying to bring back the Latin Mass.

St. Barnabas conducts its services in English. It also has a weekly Spanish Mass.

Scheiblhofer said the ordination of women and Robinson's ordination were products of what he considered errant theology going back decades.


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