general church, not the local church, owns the property in question. Although the
deeds to the property have long been in the name of the local church, that church
agreed from the beginning of its existence to be part of the greater church and to
be bound by its governing documents. These governing documents make clear
that church property is held in trust for the general church and may be controlled
by the local church only so long as that local church remains a part of the general
church. When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not
have the right to take the church property with it."
You can read the full decision by clicking HERE.
It should be noted that the breakaway congregations won at the trial court level, but lost on appeal. The California Supreme Court is upholding an 88-page decision of the California 4th District Court of Appeal. The case in which I have been involved, with a breakaway congregation in Petaluma, Calif., has been on-hold pending the decision in the Southern California cases. I hope the Petaluma case can now go forward, or even better, if the renegade Petaluma congregation will hand over the keys or rejoin the Episcopal Church. This decision could also have an impact on the lawsuit seeking to regain control of the Diocese of San Joaquin.
While the decision of the California court has no direct bearing on the nine cases yet to be decided in Virginia, it should be noted that California decisions historically have been cited by other state high courts. The California Supreme Court in its ruling also cited cases from the United States Supreme Court which should have a bearing on Virginia and other states. The Virginia cases are still in the trial court stages, where an 1867 law has, so far, been used with success in allowing the breakaway congregations in Virginia to retain property that Episcopal Church claims that it owns.
By the way, though no one seems to mention this much, the 1867 Virginia law in question was passed after the Civil War to allow local churches to disaffiliate from national denominations rather than allow African American ex-slaves to join their churches. It is upon that law, with roots in the history of white supremacy, that the breakaways of Virginia now rest their case. Perhaps the higher courts of Virginia will see this as California Supreme Court now sees it.