[Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles] Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning today reaffirmed her May 1 final orders that property occupied by St. James Church, Newport Beach, is held in trust for the current and future ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the wider Episcopal Church.
“All the church property acquired by and held in the name of St. James Parish is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese, which have the exclusive right to possession and dominion and control,” Judge Dunning ordered. “The diocese is entitled to enforce the trust in its favor and eject the current occupants.”
This is the fourth and final case involving congregations in which a majority of members, having voted to disaffiliate from the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church, sought to retain church property for themselves. In each instance, however, courts have ruled that the property rightfully belongs to the diocese and Episcopal Church.
“I give thanks for the culmination of this marathon litigation, and I pray this action will settle the fact that people can disagree but cannot take property that has been entrusted to the Episcopal Church for ministry,” said Bishop J. Jon Bruno, of the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles, who was present in the courtroom this morning. “I feel blessed that Judge Dunning followed the direction of the California State Supreme Court and appellate courts and did a masterful job of interpreting all the briefs. I give thanks to God that, after these cases spanning more than eight years, we now can proceed with the continuing ministry of the Episcopal Church in Newport Beach.”
“I am very pleased with the court’s ruling,” said John R. Shiner, lead counsel for the diocese. “Judge Dunning’s meticulous analysis is entirely consistent with the guidelines established by the California Supreme Court and other appellate courts throughout the State. The reality of this lengthy litigation will have continuing significance within the Episcopal Church community throughout the United States.”
Last year Judge Dunning issued similar orders declaring the disputed properties in Long Beach and North Hollywood rightfully belong to the Diocese of Los Angeles. Earlier, courts in 2010 also concluded that Episcopal Church property in La Crescenta, California, be returned to the diocese.