Favorable Ruling for Conservative Episcopal Church
By Alexander Samuels
In an article posted by AgapePress yesterday ("Court Says Newport Beach ECUSA Dissenters Can Keep Church Property"), Jim Brown reports on a court ruling that forbids the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles from confiscating the property of a church that left the denomination because of the ordination of an openly gay bishop. The article goes on to say: . . .
Orange County Judge David Velasquez recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by the diocese against the dissident St. James Church in Newport Beach, saying that the parish's actions were protected by the First Amendment's freedom of speech provision. The ruling allows St. James to retain legal possession of its church buildings, property, and financial records.
The pastor of St. James, Praveen Bunyan, views the court decision as "vindication from a vindictive lawsuit." On a spiritual level, he says the church's members are simply joyous and are praising God for the "deliverance and the victory that He has rendered." Now that the legal issues have been resolved, he says St. James simply wants to "move on with freedom to worship the Lord, claim His name, and fulfill His mission."
This ruling is important because many denominations in our country own their churches' buildings and other assets. This precedent will hopefully give individual churches the right to withdraw from their denomination and keep church property when the denomination adopts policies that are contrary to orthodox Biblical teaching.
Some may consider the downside of this to be that churches that support unorthodox non-Biblical teaching, such as the ordination of openly homosexual clergy, etc., may be able to withdraw, property and all, from their denominations. Personally, I think this is an acceptable (and fair) solution in order that Bible-believing churches may continue in their orthodoxy without pressure from a denominational bureaucracy that has become overwhelmingly liberal in its theology.
All Saints' Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood are also challenging lawsuits from the diocese in Los Angeles, as well. Hopefully, the result for them will be as favorable as the ruling for St. James Church.
Please do not assume that I am anti-denomination by taking this stance. I believe these are times, however, that such measures are needed to maintain the integrity of churches that are attempting to be faithful to God's Word.