Court loss for Ontario parish in property fight: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 25, 2011 August 28, 2011Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation.
Tags: ANiC, Cheryl Chang, Huron
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
An Ontario Court has ruled in favour of the Diocese of Huron in its dispute with the congregation of St Aidan’s Church in Windsor over the trusteeship of the parish property.
On 15 August, the court held that under Canadian law a parish and congregation have the same legal meaning, and were interchangeable words The Ontario Superior Court has decided that the property and assets of St Aidan’s in Windsor, Ontario, are held in trust for a St Aidan’s “parish” within the Diocese of Huron of the Anglican Church of Canada.
In his decision, Justice David Little held that the words “parish” and “congregation” were interchangeable terms that meant “distinct separate unit, rather than a compilation of its congregants at any one time”, and that as such the legal entity who controlled the property were not the people in the pews but “St Aidan’s Parish of the Diocese of Huron.”
In 2008 the congregation quit the Anglican Church of Canada and joined the Anglican Network in Canada, due to the innovations of doctrine and discipline permitted recently in the Canadian Church, including same-sex marriages.
Cheryl Chang, Special Counsel to ANiC said, “While we are extremely disappointed with this decision, we are not surprised, given previous decisions in the Canadian courts. From our perspective, nothing has changed. The church is the people or the ‘congregation’, despite the judge’s interpretation of that word and the ANiC congregation of St Aidan’s will continue to worship and carry out their mission and ministry regardless of location.”
In a letter to the congregation, the rector of St Aidan’s, the Rev Tom Carmen, said “within hours of the court’s decision being released, the Diocese of Huron had changed the locks on the building and demanded that we come to remove all personal belongings.”
“We were astounded by this unnecessarily hasty and harsh action, especially since they have little need for the building for their tiny group. Nevertheless, we have been blessed to experience the outpouring of love by the Christian community here in Windsor,” Mr Carmen said, noting other churches had made “generous offers of assistance – including facilities for our congregation to worship in.”
In a statement released by the Diocese, Bishop Robert Bennett said his “first reaction was to call the diocese to prayer for both those faithful Anglicans who continued as members of St Aidan’s, Diocese of Huron; and also for those who found they could no longer stay within the diocesan family.
“It is now time to move on to that place where the Holy Spirit leads. We intend to re-mission St Aidan’s in the very place where it has proudly witnessed to the Gospel since 1923.
“My hope is that the disaffected members of St Aidan’s will also find that good place where God leads. St Aidan’s will continue to warmly welcome all who strive to follow the way of Jesus within the diocesan family of Huron,” the Bishop said.
An appeal has been filed by the parish as has a request for a stay of execution of the judgment, allowing the congregation to return to the church pending a final court ruling.