This is the first court case in Ontario between ANiC and an Anglican Church of Canada diocese to settle building ownership. As such, its outcome does not bode well for the other ANiC parishes in Ontario in building disputes with their former dioceses.
Here is an article from the Windsor Star which, although it appears to have been dictated by a diocese of Huron PR man, gives some of the details.
A breakaway Anglican group in Windsor has lost a bid to take control of St. Aidan’s church and a parish financial trust.
Ontario Superior Court Justice T.D. Little ruled that the property must remain with the Anglican diocese of Huron. A large majority of parishioners at the east-end church voted in 2008 to break away from the Anglican Church of Canada and join the more conservative Anglican Network in Canada.
A battle over scriptural interpretation, including disagreements about same-sex marriage, was at the heart of the rift.
Little noted in his ruling that the parish was established as part of the diocese in 1923 and the membership has changed over the years.
He said the 109 members who voted to leave the diocese in 2008 also voted to leave the parish.
“Members can come and go in a parish at any time, but the parish itself remains,” he said in his ruling.
“The parish could not sever itself from the diocese.”
The diocese will move to take sole possession of the building, Nethery said.
“The reaction from our standpoint is the rules were interpreted by Justice Little as they were meant,” he said.
He expects theological disagreements to remain, but hopes the ruling is a big step in ending bids by breakaway groups to take over church properties. St. Aidan’s was the first church in the diocese of Huron to break away, but the seventh in Ontario to join ANIC and the 11th nationally.
Toronto lawyer Peter Jervis who represents parishioners from the breakaway group, did not respond Tuesday to a message left by The Star. A message left with the church also was not returned.
A healing mass to be conducted by Rev. Robert Bennett, the bishop of Huron, will take place at St. Aidan’s on Sunday, Aug. 28.
“The diocese and ministry will continue with what it’s called to do – and that’s to bring people to faith and help people in their lives,” Nethery said. “That’s our focus.”
The Diocese of Huron has a media release and bishop’s letter which you can read here. It contains the, by now, routine invitation for the laity to desert their clergy:
I want to make it clear that no one is being asked to leave the building, except the clergy whose ministry was abandoned with the Anglican Church of Canada. Let us pray that we can all move forward with hope and in faith.
Also of note in the media release is this:
Justice T. D. Little also ruled that a Charitable Foundation set up by the congregation many years ago, also remains with the Diocese of Huron Parish of St. Aidan’s.
“In my view, all Foundation funds presently held in various bank or financial institution accounts to which they were transferred . . .should be consolidated and returned to the Churchwardens of St. Aidan’s Parish of the Diocese of Huron to be held by them in trust for the purposes of the Foundation.”
Another gem from the bishop (my emphasis):
“My 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.
How does the bishop view the 109 parishioners who left the diocese? As faithless Anglicans? Faithful non-Anglicans? Or perhaps faithless non-Anglicans? It seems to me that they have placed their faith above their building: they are faithful Christians and faithful Anglicans.
Update (Aug 18): There is a follow-up Windsor Star article here with comments from a parishioner:
“We are not going back (to St. Aidan’s) and we’re not losing any of our people,” Knight said. “They’ve stuck through this for three years and they are not leaving now.”
“We have not made any decisions on a response,” Knight said. “We will rely heavily on what our attorney advises. We have 90 days to file an appeal. We may do that, but we are not sure yet.”