The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia announced May 3 that the Episcopal Church has resolved the remaining issues with Christ Church Anglican, the group that separated from the Episcopal Church several years ago but which remained in the church building on Johnson Square in Savannah until last December according to Episcopal News Service.
“We are pleased that these remaining issues could be resolved and that all parties can move on,” said the Right Reverend Scott Anson Benhase, Bishop of Georgia. “We wish the congregation that departed God’s grace and peace.”
The dispute began in March 2006 when the church’s former rector and members of the vestry changed the church’s articles of incorporation to disavow Christ Church’s long-standing affiliation with the Episcopal Church. Subsequently in 2007, the former rector and vestry asserted that Christ Church would become affiliated with the Church of Uganda under the control of the Ugandan bishop.
The Diocese of Georgia then filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Chatham County and asked the court to declare that all real and personal property of Christ Church is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Georgia as provided for in the Constitution and Canons of the church and the Diocese. The Episcopal Church joined the suit in support of the Diocese and to enforce its own trust interest in ensuring that parish property be used for the mission of the church.
In 2009, the Superior Court ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese and, in 2010, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld this ruling.
On November 21, 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed these rulings and held that parish property must be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese and that, accordingly, the Diocese is entitled to legal possession of the historic Christ Church building and other church assets for the benefit of those who remain faithful to the Diocese and the Episcopal Church.
From the Savannah Morning News:
Under the agreement prepared Thursday morning, the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, and Christ Church Episcopal, will retain all endowment funds, property and assets of Christ Church and retain the exclusive right to use the designations of “Christ Church, Savannah,” and “the Mother Church of Georgia.”
That church is located at 28 Bull St. on Johnson Square.
The Anglican congregation that separated from the Episcopal Church during the litigation will re-incorporate as “Christ Church Anglican.”
The agreement also requires the Episcopal Diocese to take over a $32,838.45 parking-lot debt and for the Anglican group to pay $33,437.18 to the diocese.
None of the individuals named in the suit are required to pay anything as part of the settlement.