Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breakaway Episcopalians look to US high court

From AP-

Marcia Kear's three daughters were married at St. James Anglican Church. Her mother's funeral was there. She said she found the Holy Spirit there.

But she may have to give up the bayside sanctuary, where sunlight filters through watery blue stained-glass windows and glints off the flawless copper pipes of an organ purchased with parishioners' tithes.

Kear is among theologically conservative breakaway Episcopalians fighting over parish property in a long-running rift over how churchgoers should interpret what the Bible says about gay relationships and many other issues.

St. James Anglican, in the Diocese of Los Angeles, is one of several dozen individual parishes and four dioceses nationwide that voted to split from the national church after the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire.

"It's not just about the building, it's about the church," said Kear, 70, who participates in group prayers for the property even while she says the congregation could continue without it.

The congregation may have to do just that. State courts have sided with the Los Angeles diocese throughout the five-year legal case, most recently in January. St. James has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes that it might take up what has so far been a losing battle. St. James expects to know next month whether the nation's highest court will take the case.

Two other seceding parishes — All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood — are parties in the lawsuit. A high court decision could also affect the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin, one of the dioceses that voted to split off and is now involved in a complex property dispute with the national church.

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