Judge rules against Christ Church in Savannah

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A two-year legal battle over ownership of the 276-year-old Christ Church came to a close in Chatham County court Tuesday with a judge ruling in favor of the national Episcopal Church's claims to the historic property.

Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf rejected the argument of former members and clergy who broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2007 that the church belonged to them.

The ruling grants "immediate possession" of Christ Church Savannah and its property in the city's historic district to the Right Rev. Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Georgia* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

Posted October 28, 2009 at 7:23 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. the roman wrote:

Makes no sense, at least not to me. Who wants to predict the future of the building now?

October 28, 9:31 am | [comment link]
2. evan miller wrote:

At this rate, Virginia may end up being the only place where departing orthodox Anglicans retain their properties.  Very sad.

October 28, 10:02 am | [comment link]
3. Adam 12 wrote:

South Carolina too…

October 28, 10:10 am | [comment link]
4. AlanR wrote:

The reason this case did not go as the All Saints case went is South Carolina is because of a particular Georgia statute. The judge ruled on all the other points in favor of Christ Church following the same logic as the South Carolina court had followed.

October 28, 10:54 am | [comment link]
5. jkc1945 wrote:

Let them go.  Jesus has already said, ‘he that will not leave it all, is not worthy of Me.’ (paraphrased, from a faulty memory).  If the properties remain in the hands of TEC, they will eventually be available on the open market anyway, at a bargain basement price, unless I miss my guess.  Let them go.

October 28, 10:57 am | [comment link]
6. teatime wrote:

If Christ Church predates the formation of TEC and even the country, it is ANGLICAN. So how can TEC win? Sheesh, what will this mean if any parishes in these states do go to the RCC—bitter litigation between denominations?

October 28, 11:09 am | [comment link]
7. Pb wrote:

This was the predictable result of the litigation in Georgia and most other states. My guess is that the diocese will make Christ Church the cathedral and keep it from becoming a mission. I do not think the folks in the pew saw this one coming and how this will play out is far from certain. There are no winners here.

October 28, 11:34 am | [comment link]
8. Intercessor wrote:

The Gospel has been silenced at Christ Church but not in the hearts of the faithful who have been wronged. Witnesses for Christ’s love…our prayers go out to you.

October 28, 12:33 pm | [comment link]
9. palagious wrote:

I would try this another way.  I think its time that all remaining parishes in TEC begin to invoice their diocese and TEC for a portion mortgage and maintenance payments.  Since it is assumed that they hold the property in trust and own the property parishes should insist on names on the deeds.  Don’t make it a First Amendment issue just a straight property issue.  You can’t own it if you have no interest in it.

October 28, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
10. FrJim wrote:

Palagious is correct.  The law created this mess - the law can fix it.

If the property is held in trust, the congregation should either invoice the diocese and national church for money - or withhold apportionments to cover upkeep of the facility held “in trust.”

Of course, the best way to manage this problem is simply to walk away from the property and let the diocese pay for the whole thing.


October 28, 2:18 pm | [comment link]
11. Doug Martin wrote:

Teatime, maybe because TEC is the Anglican Church in the United States, in spite of the fancies of those who would have it otherwise?

October 28, 3:47 pm | [comment link]
12. Doug Martin wrote:

Presuming FrJim+ is an Episcopalian priest his last suggested action is one which I would strongly encourage.  If you cannot execute your ordination vows to be loyal to that church, by all means, walk away.  Quickly.  Beats the dickens out of using your post to spread further dissension ansd sedition, and if that is your opinion of your church you are likely not serving it with enthusiasm.  By all means get out, and take those of like mind with you.  The world is full of churches, find one which suits you better.

October 28, 3:55 pm | [comment link]
13. austin wrote:

#12 If only the revisionist post-Christian brigade that has hijacked TEC had taken your charitable advice. 

Instead we had liberals demand toleration while they were in the minority—then enforce conformity once they achieved a majority.  And if you don’t like, get out.

October 28, 4:21 pm | [comment link]
14. chips wrote:

Come on Doug - your lot hijacked a well heeled national church and turned day into night.  I must say I am very impressed and equally dismayed. You can afford to be a more charitable winner.  Come on - if jack booted Nazi’s came into to your lots dens of inequitites (as members) and took them over through a well orchestrated putsch - you would have a similiar sense of outrage as the folks at Christ Church.

October 28, 4:35 pm | [comment link]
15. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Personally, I hope Christ Church proceeds with an appeal.  The SC case shows that lots of reversals can take place along the way to a final decision.

But I think it’s worth pondering the possibility that IF this case goes to the Georgia Supreme Court, and IF the state Supremes also decide against the departing congregation of historic Christ Church, then that would set up a situation where the GA and SC Supreme Courts reached opposite conclusions (perhaps due to the specific GA statute that AlanR alluded to in his tantalizingly brief but helpful #4).  And that in turn could make it more likely that the US Supreme Court would agree to hear an appeal to settle the matter on a national level.

It’s not over until it’s over.  The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

But in the meantime, this is another sign that we all must count the cost and make our decisions fully aware of the substantial risks involved.  Also, in the meantime, I hope the attitude of the faithful in Savannah is similar to the congregation of St. Luke’s, La Crescenta, CA, where they lost the first round in court too and had to evacuate the premises immediately.  On the last Sunday, the rector appropriately preached on the text, “You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property” (Heb. 10:34).  Joyfully, mind you.

Regardless of the eventual legal outcome, I’m always glad when orthodox Anglicans are willing to face the possibility that may have to “let goods and kindred go.”  And regardless of how it all plays out, the people of Christ Church have added another illustrious chapter to their distinguished history by standing firm for the true gospel, the same gospel that John Wesley and George Whitefield preached.

David Handy+

October 28, 4:41 pm | [comment link]
16. Phil wrote:

Well, Doug #11, ECUSA is Anglican, but its status as a church is questionable, in spite of the fancies of those who imagine otherwise.

October 28, 5:42 pm | [comment link]
17. DavidH wrote:

AlanR, 4, that is not how I read the decision at all.

October 28, 7:58 pm | [comment link]
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