The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster has asked the Supreme Court of B.C. to declare that the 17 individuals who filed a lawsuit against the diocese and its bishop, Michael Ingham, are not entitled to possession or control of the church properties they currently occupy.
In its statement of defence, filed in response to a Sept. 9 lawsuit lodged by former clergy and lay leaders of three parishes who have left the Anglican Church of Canada, the diocese also asked the court to grant a permanent injunction regarding the use of the contested church properties.
Former clergy and lay leaders of St. Matthew’s and St. Matthias and St. Luke, Vancouver, had filed the lawsuit following the diocese’s decision on Aug. 26 to evict breakaway priests who continue to use diocesan parishes and to dismiss trustees who have similarly left the Anglican Church of Canada. The diocese said that under a provision in its canons (church law) it was returning control of the parishes to the diocese.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to declare that the dismissal of the trustees is “of no force and effect,” and that the parish corporations, “or, in the alternative, the trustees” and not the diocese hold the property of the parishes in trust.” It also asked the court to declare that the bishop “has no jurisdiction or authority to dismiss or appoint trustees to parish corporations.”
The parishes of St. Matthew’s and St. Matthias and St. Luke voted in February to realign with the Anglican Network in Canada and said they were now under the episcopal authority of Bishop Donald Harvey, a retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, who left the Anglican Church of Canada and joined the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone last year.
Meanwhile, three other congregations that have left the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster have gone to court to avoid being evicted from the parish buildings they currently occupy.
The Vancouver Sun reported that the congregations of St. John’s Shaughnessy, St. Matthias/St. Luke, and St. Matthews in Abbotsford, B.C., have argued in court documents that they should be allowed to hold on to the properties because their opposition to the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with “historic, orthodox Anglican doctrine.”