Canadian court rules dissident churches must abandon property

November 19, 2010

TORONTO (RNS/ENInews) An Canadian appeals court has ruled in favor
of an Anglican diocese in a property dispute with congregations opposed
to same-gender blessings.


In a unanimous decision released on Monday (Nov. 15), British
Columbia Court of Appeal Justice Mary Newbury, writing for a three-judge
panel, dismissed an appeal by four breakaway parishes against a 2009
lower court ruling.


Newbury said that the dissident clergy of the four parishes in the
Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster cannot remove themselves from
their bishop's oversight and the diocesan structure and retain the right
to use properties that are held for purposes of Anglican ministry in
Canada.


The diocese has begun to replace the clergy of the four
Vancouver-area churches, whose properties are worth an estimated $20
million. One of the churches, St John's Shaughnessy, is widely
considered one of Canada's wealthiest parishes.


Clergy and trustees of the four churches, which split from the
Anglican Church of Canada in 2002 when the diocese authorized a liturgy
for blessing same-sex couples, had asked the court to give them control
over the properties.


Those who left joined a breakaway group called the Anglican Network
in Canada (ANiC), which they say is the true, orthodox Anglican church.


Monday's decision could set a precedent for similar cases across
Canada, where gay marriage is legal. Six out of 30 Anglican dioceses in
Canada make some provisions for same-gender unions.


"Obviously, we are deeply disappointed by this decision, which is
currently being reviewed by our legal counsel," said ANiC legal advisor
Cheryl Chang in a statement on the network's website. The congregations
may appeal, she said.