Property litigation involving Episcopal Diocese is over
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Eight years of property litigation involving the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has ended, but most parishes that broke from the Episcopal Church still face negotiations over their buildings.
After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week denied an appeal from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which had argued that it owned the property, the Anglican decided diocese it will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, spokesman David Trautman said.
"This whole string of litigation is ended, is done," he said.
The lawsuit was filed in 2003 by Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside, whose leaders believed that Bishop Robert Duncan and many others might leave the denomination and try to take property. According to the Episcopal canons, all property -- including parish buildings -- is held in trust for the denomination.
The split occurred in 2008, when the majority at the diocesan convention voted to leave the Episcopal Church. Those who wished to remain Episcopalians immediately chose new leaders and continued that diocese. The Anglican diocese argued that it was the legitimate heir to the Episcopal Church property.
"We accept that the courts have not found in our favor and will, of course, comply with all court orders," Anglican Archbishop Duncan wrote last week.
His diocese already turned over $20 million in centrally held assets. Parish property remained the main object of dispute under terms of a 2005 legal agreement that required negotiations for it.
"We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Episcopal Church diocese," Archbishop Duncan wrote. "In light of this judgment by the courts, we will redouble that commitment to reaching a final resolution of all issues between the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese."
The Episcopal diocese is "obviously pleased with the Supreme Court decision not to hear the case, pointing by that decision to the fact that the justices felt that the issues were clearly examined by the lower courts," said Rich Creehan, spokesman for the Episcopal diocese. "We certainly hope that this is the end of litigation. Recognizing that there are still some unresolved questions about property, we are looking forward to working through those issues with the congregations concerned."
First Published October 26, 2011 12:00 am