The courts continue to uphold The Episcopal Church’s property rights in cases involving schismatic splits. A letter from the Diocese of Milwaukee on the latest ruling:
JUDGE ORDERS IMMEDIATE RETURN OF CHURCH PROPERTY TAKEN BY DISSIDENT GROUP
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge J. Mac Davis ordered the immediate return of the real and personal property of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Elm Grove to its parishioners and the Diocese of Milwaukee. This order was issued at a hearing held Thursday, December 16 in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
In 2008, dissident parishioners at 8t. Edmund’s (sic) left the Episcopal Church to join another religious denomination. However, the dissidents refused to vacate the property of St. Edmund’s Episcopal on Watertown Plank Road.
Bishop Steven Miller of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee stated, “For three years, the members of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church have been denied the use of their rightful church home. I am gratified the property will again be used for its original purpose–the work and witness of the Episcopal Church.” The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee and the Episcopal Church were forced to sue to recover possession of the property. “We regret that we had to take this action but we had a responsibility to faithful Episcopalians to uphold the fiduciary trust imparted to us,” said Miller. “In America, people are free to believe and worship as they wish. Individuals can choose to leave a congregation, the diocese, and the Episcopal Church but congregations which are creations of the diocese cannot. Moreover, they may not split from the Episcopal Church and, at the same time, take the property of the Church they left.” Judge Davis ruled that the dissidents had no legal rights to the property and ordered them to vacate it.
Lawyers for the involved parties are at work developing an orderly transition for the return of the property.
For further information: The Rev. Canon David A. Pfaff