Thursday, March 26, 2009

Judge orders Anglican parish to vacate Grace church by April 3

A judge on Wednesday ordered the Anglican parish that's been meeting at Grace Church, 631 N. Tejon St., to vacate the building by April 3 at 5 p.m., setting the stage for the exiled Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal parish to hold its first service in the gothic church on Palm Sunday.

Judge Larry Schwartz also ordered the Anglican parish priest, Donald Armstrong, to vacate the rectory, where he lives on Electra Drive in the Skyline Way area, by May 8. This revised the original order issued on Tuesday, which stated that Armstrong would have to vacate by April 1.
The motion hearing in Fourth Judicial Court was held to resolve issues involving transition of the parishes into and out of Grace Church and those involving security of the $17 million property, among other issues.

Schwartz urged both sides to work together to get through this transition. "If we act like adults, this can all be resolved," he said.

The Episcopal and Anglican groups split two years ago, but the reason is disputed. The Anglican parish, which on Wednesday renamed itself St. George Anglican Church, claims it left the national body because it had become too liberal in its interpretation of Scripture; in 2003, the church consecrated a gay bishop, setting off a firestorm of criticism from Armstrong and others. The diocese, on the other hand, has accused Armstrong of financial misconduct, and it says the split was the only way the parish could retain him as rector.

On Tuesday, Schwartz issued his order that the Tejon Street church and other properties belonged to the Episcopal Church and not to the congregation that split from the church in 2007 but continued to worship in the building. Hours later, Armstrong called police when a security team hired by the diocese showed up on Grace Church property to guard contents within the buildings.

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