The Full Text of the Georgia Episcopal Church Legal Ruling

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is a 22 page pdf--read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Georgia

3 Comments
Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

That’s a rather curious opinion. As much as I hate to see further litigation on property issues regardless of whom wins, I think there is a logical problem here that could be grounds for appeal.

The opinion goes on at great length at the beginning to assert that courts have to observe neutrality in doctrinal disputes, which I agree with. However, in the conclusion, the judge states,

In this case, it is undisputed that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical in nature, that Christ Church has been a member of the hierarchical organization since 1823 (for over 180 years), and that Christ Church through its own 1918 charter and subsequent actions made itself subject to the hierarchy’s discipline.

That the episcopal church is definitely hierarchical in nature is very much in dispute. To me, that’s the whole point of contention over property issues because there are segments of the church that thought think either the Dennis Canon is invalid, or at the time of passage of that canon, that is was needed because the piety and governance of the Episcopal Church up to that time was unclear whether the Church local or denominational held title to property by internal precedent. By stating that the Episcopal Church is without question hierarchical for purposes of property disputes, the court has taken a doctrinal side, therefore throwing the conclusion into question and subjecting the circular argument to appeal.

I also find it curious that the defendants (those wanting to leave and take the church property with them) are penalized for historically going along with the Dennis canon and not bringing quiet title action or some outward denunciation of the validity of the canon until now, while the Episcopal Church gets a pass for not bringing quiet title action to have its name clearly put on the deed of the church property until now.

Seems to me that the neutral principle of law here that would negate a whole lot of unnecessary wrangling would be to apply a very simple standard. Whose name is on the deed to the property in question? If its the vestry and local reps, then let them have it, if its the National Church, then let them have it. This is just my opinion, but it seems to be a whole lot easier and less theologically messy for a secular court to rule that way.

October 28, 11:05 am | [comment link]
2. Pb wrote:

Apparently the 1908 charter amendment which somehow placed the church under the authority of TEC was refiled with the Secretary of State in 1981 after the Dennis canon. There are two ways to look at this legally and this opinion followed most other states. I am not saying they are right.

October 28, 11:30 am | [comment link]
3. Satulan wrote:

One of the problems with the decision is that although it gives lip service to the established doctrine in Georgia that courts should apply neutral principles of law, it doesn’t really do so.  Neutral principles of law do not permit the extablishment of a trust by anybody but the owner of the property.  Its assumption that the national church was the owner of the property when it imposed the trust was to assume the very point in issue.

A second problem is that Jones v. Wolf held that an hierarchical church could by changing its constitution establish rules for resolving property disputes.  A canon is not an amendment of the constitution.

October 28, 1:45 pm | [comment link]
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