WINDSOR, ONT: Breakaway Anglicans unhappy with court decision

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Fri Aug 26 09:45:55 EDT 2011


WINDSOR, ONT: Breakaway Anglicans unhappy with court decision 
Hunt on for new site  

By Dave Battagello,
The Windsor Star 
http://www.windsorstar.com/ 
August 18, 2011

 St. Aidan's Church in Windsor will remain in the hands of the Anglican diocese of Huron, an Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled.

A leader of a breakaway Anglican group expressed disappointment Wednesday with a Superior Court ruling which rejected the group's bid to take over St. Aidan's Church.

But the former parishioners are already looking for a new site to continue services, said Cathy Knight.

Ontario Superior Court Justice T.D. Little ruled the church and a financial trust belonging to the parish must remain with the Anglican diocese of Huron.

More than 100 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.

Following Tuesday's ruling by Little, the diocese has moved to take full control of the church, which the last few years has operated under a split arrangement.

"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."

The breakaway group is in discussions with local Christian churches to host services, but nothing has been finalized, Knight said.

"It's pretty fair to say we are disappointed in the decision," she said.

The group - which launched the legal challenge to take over the church - will review its legal options with its Toronto lawyer, Peter Jervis.

"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."

Jervis did not respond Wednesday to messages from The Star.

St. Aidan's parish leaders held a meeting with diocese officials Wednesday, but refused to comment.

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 breakaway group has not changed its views on the diocese's position regarding scriptural interpretation, Knight said.

"The reasons this was undertaken were valid and we are happy we pursued it," she said. "The diocese started to drift away from what we believed and we were not prepared to go with them. We are just disappointed in the result."

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.

MORE NEWS and RESPONSES HERE

St. Aidan's, Windsor loses court battle

by David 
Aug 17th, 2011

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."

*****

Ontario Superior Court Deprives Congregation of Church Property

Anglican Network in Canada 
August 18, 2011

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 released 15 August 2011, Mr Justice Little leaned heavily on the court decisions in the BC case involving four Vancouver-area parishes which also had left the Anglican Church of Canada and joined the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) in 2008. Mr Justice Little concluded that "Parish" and "congregation" were interchangeable words which referred to a "distinct separate unit, rather than a compilation of its congregants at any one time", and that the separate entity in this case was the "St Aidan's Parish of the Diocese of Huron". 

The decision should soon be available on the Ontario Superior Court website.

Within hours of the decision being released, the Diocese of Huron changed the locks on the building and asked the ANiC clergy and parish leaders come to remove all personal belongings.  The Rev Tom Carman, Rector of St Aidan's, as well as their legal counsel, were both away on holidays when the decision was handed down. 

"We were astounded by this unnecessarily hasty and harsh action," said Rev Carman, "especially since they have little need for the building for their small congregation. Nevertheless, we have been blessed by the outpouring of love from the Christian community here in Windsor. We have had generous offers of assistance - including facilities for our congregation of 165 people." 

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." 

The trustees of St Aidan's (ANiC) have instructed their legal counsel to file a Notice of Appeal and seek an immediate stay of the order of Mr Justice Little. If successful, this will continue the sharing arrangement that has been in place for several years, pending the outcome of the appeal. 

Background

On 28 September 2008, parishioners of St Aidan's (Windsor, ON) voted unanimously to realign with the Anglican Network in Canada, moving from the Anglican Church of Canada. The decision resulted from recognition that the Anglican Church of Canada was fundamentally changing its theology, abandoning 2000 years of Christian teaching and practice. St. Aidan's voted to affiliate with and come under the episcopal authority of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) in order to maintain their faith in line with the majority of global Anglicans while the Anglican Communion was in the midst of a worldwide split. 

The case to decide the beneficial ownership of St Aidan's property and financial assets was heard in the spring, beginning on April 26. 




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