The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has upheld an Allegheny Common Pleas decision awarding centrally held property of the Episcopal diocese that split in 2008 to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
About $20 million in endowment funds and other assets is at stake. The ruling has no direct impact on ownership of parish property, other than indicating that Anglican parishes must apply to the Episcopal diocese to negotiate for their property, rather than vice versa.
The decision is here.
Lionel Deimel has analysis here.
Somewhere, the Cheshire Cat is smiling. Because the ACNA diocese claims it is the Episcopal Diocese the case has an Alice in Wonderland feel.
In a closely related development a parish has just negotiated a purchase from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. In a statement ACNA’s Bob Duncan called the settlement “heartbreaking.” It has not been a good couple of days for Duncan.
Part of the agreement allowing St. Philip’s church to keep its building and property stipulates it must cut ties with the newly formed Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh for at least five years.
“The amendment to the bylaws passed by a voice vote, which means they will be withdrawing from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh,” diocesan spokesman David Trautman said after the meeting.
The settlement with St. Philip’s will leave that church independent with the deed to its property clear of legal battles. In addition to continuing to pay the mortgage for the buildings, St. Philip’s will pay an undisclosed fee to the Episcopal Diocese.
The Anglican Diocese already passed a resolution releasing St. Philip’s from the diocese, pending the congregation’s approval of the settlement, Trautman said.[Epis. Dioc. spokesperson] Creehan said Duncan’s comments do not reflect how the settlement was reached.
“That statement does not accurately reflect what the negotiations were
about,” Creehan said.
See also this Post-Gazette report.
ACNA’s Pittsburgh Diocese isn’t the only one that has appealed a lower court’s ruling. In recent days Fort Worth has as well.