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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Church spat might head to Supreme Court - Rochester, NY - MPNnow
Church spat might head to Supreme Court

By Linda Quinlan, staff writer
Irondequoit Post
Fri Sep 12, 2008, 04:02 PM EDT

In a property dispute stemming from a rift with the Episcopal Church of America, the attorney for All Saints Anglican Church urged New York’s Court of Appeals Tuesday to set aside a previous decision from a lower court that essentially allowed the removal of the congregation from its longtime church building at 759 Winona Blvd. in Irondequoit.

It’s a case that might not be settled until it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court.

During court proceedings Tuesday, parish attorney Eugene Van Voorhis argued that secular state law — and not ecclesiastical canon — should govern the transfer of property in New York.

“All of the funds that bought the church, built the church, bought the land — all was donated by parishioners,” Van Voorhis said in court. “This has to do with legal principles ... It has nothing to do with doctrinal disputes.”

The point, Van Voorhis said Wednesday morning, is that the lower court applied religious canons — or law — rather than the secular laws of New York state to determine property ownership, and that is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment regarding the separation of church and state.

Because the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester got a summary judgment from the Appellate Division courts, “the All Saints parish never got its day in court,” Van Voorhis added. “The real issue is whether All Saints held its property in trust for the diocese or not.”

With about 100 similar cases in courts around the country, Episcopal Diocese attorney Thomas P. Smith said the All Saints case appeared to be the first to reach a state’s top court. The Court of Appeals is New York’s highest court.

At issue is whether the parishioners who built the church own it, or whether they simply held it in trust for the Episcopal Church of the USA and the diocese under the national church’s 1979 Dennis Canons, Smith said.

“These were Episcopalians giving to an Episcopal church and not to a free church,” Smith said. “They’re free to leave and join the church of Uganda or wherever, but not take church property.”

Trial and mid-level appeals courts sided with the diocese, concluding it was entitled to the property under canon rules.

A rift developed between the Irondequoit parish and the Episcopal Church of the USA after the 2003 ordination of its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

“That (ordination) was just a precipitating factor,” said the Rev. David Harnish, who is rector for All Saints. “We’re way beyond that now.”

There was no formal split until the Rochester diocese voted at a convention Nov. 19, 2005, to expel All Saints from the local Episcopal diocese.

“All Saints didn’t leave voluntarily,” Van Voorhis said.

“All along, the core issue really has had to do with whether we could be the church we were organized in 1925 to be for ministry and mission and not live under the threat of the diocese taking major punitive action against us,” Harnish said. “And, indeed, in 2005, hostile action was taken against us as a parish, while we have always just wanted to be faithful as a Christian church.”

Harnish notified the diocese about a month after the 2005 vote that the parish had been placed under the authority of Archbishop Henry Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda. It is now called All Saints Anglican Church and holds its worship services at 10 a.m. Sundays in the chapel at Reformation Lutheran Church, 111 N. Chestnut St., in downtown Rochester.

After what Van Voorhis calls “all the fuss and feather,” the diocese and All Saints congregation did agree to sell the Irondequoit church building, which is at the corner of Winona and Chapel Hill Drive.

The diocese subsequently sold the building to another Protestant denomination, Trinity Communion Church, for about $475,000. Smith said the diocese is holding the funds, depending on how the Court of Appeals rules.

If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of All Saints, the proceeds from the sale could come to the local congregation, which is already considering building a new church.

“We’re examining whether there’s a calling to be a more regional church or return to our Irondequoit roots,” Harnish said.

He said congregations like All Saints are combining now into what is called the Common Cause Partnership, The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, that is expected to lead toward a new Anglican church in North America that would be different from the Episcopal Church.

“What we’ve been involved in from the beginning is a true reformation of the church that’s emerging,” Harnish said.

Van Voorhis expects the Court of Appeals decision could take a couple of months. Regardless of the decision, both he and Brown agreed the case could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Includes reporting by Michael Virtanen of the Associated Press. Contact Linda Quinlan at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 350, or at lquinlan@messengerpostmedia.com.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gospel Conference 9/6/08

Life-changing Power of the

Gospel of Jesus Christ

A Conference hosted by All Saints Anglican Church

Saturday Morning, September 6, 2008

Main Sanctuary at Reformation Lutheran Church
111 N. Chestnut St., Rochester, New York

A Church Leader from Africa comes to the U.S. to lead this Biblical Christian Conference on:
The Power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Transform Lives
Challenges to the Gospel and Unchanged Lives
The Rt. Rev. Elia Paul Luzinda Kizito
Bishop of the Mukono Diocese
The Province of the Church of Uganda (Anglican)
The home diocese of All Saints Anglican Church

Life-changing Power of the Gospel
Conference Program:
8:30 am Gathering for refreshments and greetings in the Lord
The Conference will begin with a time of prayer & praise
9:00 am Bishop Luzinda shares his testimony to the trans-forming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in people's lives as witnessed in Uganda
10:00 am Participants share the challenges they are experiencing to the gospel in the U.S. during a question & answer time with the bishop
11:00 am Time for refreshments and fellowship
11:25 am Encouragement and Equipping of those participants who seek to share the gospel and its transforming power
NOON Time of prayer & praise and a 'sending forth'

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… Romans 1:16

This conference is a time of fellowship, support, encouragement and equipping for those who are standing up for the Lord Jesus Christ and for those who believe in the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let’s join in the emerging reformation and renewal of the true Christian Church among brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord Jesus and who affirm the authority of the Bible in our lives.


Please call and leave a message at All Saints at 342-1605 or (even better) e-mail us at allsaintsr@yahoo.com that you are planning to attend so that we can properly prepare for all those who will be participants. God bless you!

Those who would like to support this conference with a gift are encouraged to send their check marked ‘Gospel Conference’ to:
All Saints Anglican Church
P.O.Box 67824
Rochester, NY 14617
May our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in what we share together!