ANiC to appeal to Canada’s Supreme Court: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 17, 2010 p 7. December 18, 2010Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) has filed an appeal with Supreme Court of Canada, asking it to overturn a British Columbia Court of Appeals ruling that awarded control of the property of its four Vancouver-area breakaway congregations to the diocese of New Westminster.
On Dec 12 the parishes announced that they would be filing an appeal of the Nov 15 decision upholding a trial court ruling by Justice Stephen Kelleher that the property of St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, St. John’s, Shaughnessy, St. Mathias & St. Luke and Church of the Good Shepherd should remain within the Diocese of New Westminster.
In a joint statement, the parish councils said that after a period of “prayer, consultation, reflection and discernment” they would take their case forward.
“This is not the path any of us would have preferred,” the noted, “however, we initiated court proceedings when threats to replace trustees began to be carried out and when the diocese caused banks to freeze two parishes’ bank accounts.”
“The Trustees of the four parishes sought the court’s direction and clarification as to their status and responsibilities. The courts have agreed that the bishop did not have the lawful authority to fire or replace the Trustees,” they said.
In an interview with AnglicanTV, Cheryl Chang of ANiC noted the parishes “won four of five points” at issue before the BC Appeals Court. However, on the fifth point, the control of the property, the courts said “we can’t disrupt the structure of the Anglican Church of Canada so we are going to let the properties go to them,” she said.
“What is at stake” for the congregations, was that “you either have to deny your faith or leave your buildings,” Ms. Chang said.
However, in a statement released on Nov 30 the diocese said “no one has ever been required to act against their conscience” on the issue of same-sex blessings.
“No one is being asked to leave or relocate.”However, the “clergy now aligned with [ANiC] will need to continue their ministry in other locations,” the diocese said.
It added the issue “before the Court was not about sexuality nor the truth of the Gospel. Rather, litigants sought to take possession of diocesan buildings and assets after they had removed themselves from the Anglican Church of Canada.”
However, the parish councils said “this has always been about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the authority and interpretation of Scripture. We are seeking to continue our biblically faithful and historic Anglican tradition and witness in church buildings that were founded and built for that purpose.”
The Diocese of New Westminster responded to the announcement saying it did “not believe that there is any need to take any further court challenges, which will incur more expense and anxiety.”
Ms. Chang said she believed the Canadian Supreme Court would hear the appeal as the issue effected litigation in a number of provinces and because the Court of Appeals ruling overturned the existing laws on church property disputes.
She noted that the prior standard the Courts in Canada used in determining ownership of the property in the event of a church schism was to look at the doctrine of the two parties and see which conformed to its traditional teachings.
The tenets of the Canadian Church’s Solemn Declaration of 1893, which set out the doctrine and disciple of the church, had been altered by Bishop Michael Ingham and the Diocese of New Westminster, she said. The purpose of the “original trust” articulated in the Solemn Declaration “was now frustrated,” she said, and under Canadian law, the courts had the “opportunity” to reform the church’s covenants so as to permit its original intentions to be fulfilled.