Monday, February 23, 2015

ECUSA litigation scorecard

The influential American Anglican attorney, A.S. Haley, on Sunday published his annual survey of ECUSA property litigation. He counts 83 cases since 2000 where ECUSA (and/or its dioceses) sued others.

He also lists 8 where ECUSA was the defendant, but in 7 of the 8, ECUSA or the diocese “ triggered the filing of a lawsuit by moving to take control of the individual church's assets”. The exception was the Pawley’s Island (S.C.) parish (successfully) suing to keep its property as part of its plan to join AMiA.

Of the 83 suits, 33.7% (28) involve California parishes. The next largest batch of litigation is the 23 lawsuits in Virginia, including the historic The Falls Church and Truro Church in suburban DC.

Nineteen of the California suits (#11-29) involve the Diocese of San Joaquin (#11) or 9 of its parishes, sued twice (#12-29). All are tied to the lawsuit against the diocese, currently (for a second time) at the state court of appeals.

The other nine lawsuits:
  • St. John's (Fallbrook) #2,#5
  • St. Luke's (La Crescenta) #9
  • All Saints (Long Beach) #7
  • St. James (Newport Beach) #6
  • St. David's (North Hollywood) #8
  • St. Anne's (Oceanside) #3
  • St. John's (Petaluma) #10
  • Holy Trinity (San Diego) #4
According to Haley, three LA-area cases (Newport Beach, North Hollywood, Long Beach) are currently on appeal, while in a fourth (La Crescenta) the Anglican parish decided not to appeal a loss. The Anglican parishes also lost (or stopped appealing) the remaining five lawsuits.

I've attended services at six of the California parishes (in their original, pre-litigation locations), and two post-litigation.

Compared to parishes where (thus far) the dioceses have left with their structure and parishes intact, the ECUSA legal tactics have succeeded in increasing the cost of leaving — deterring other parishes from doing what they know would be theologically preferable. As Haley notes, in several cases ECUSA (or its diocese) has abandoned the parish because there were not enough remaining congregants to support a parish.

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