Local Parish Wins More from Diocese of Los Angeles

This is follow-up story to a previous post that I made.

Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles must pay legal fees to Newport’s St. James, judge says. By Lauren Vane Daily Pilot September 16, 2005 An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles must pay more than $81,000 in legal fees to St. James Church, the Newport Beach congregation that split from the diocese over a dispute about church doctrine. The same judge, David Velasquez, ruled Aug. 15 to dismiss a lawsuit against St. James Church’s congregation that claimed the Newport Beach breakaway church’s property and assets belong to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Velasquez ruled that efforts by the national church to retain the property of the seceding St. James congregation was an attempt to tread upon the congregation’s freedom of speech. Praveen Bunyan, pastor of St. James, said the awarding of legal fees is another affirmation that the St. James Church was right from the beginning. “This is a reiteration saying that the lawsuit was wrongfully brought against us,” Bunyan said. Representatives from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles did not return phone calls Friday. Financially, Judge Velasquez’s ruling Thursday means that the church can apply funds toward “God’s mission,” Bunyan said. “We’re glad that we can continue to concentrate on the mission that we believe as a church we are called to do,” Bunyan said. The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles filed suit against St. James in September 2004 after the Newport Beach church and two other Southern California congregations broke away from the diocese and the Episcopal Church of the United States in protest of the national church’s positions. After leaving the national church, St. James affiliated with the Diocese of Luwero in the Anglican province of Uganda, Africa. The Los Angeles diocese’s lawsuit alleged St. James’ property belongs to the national church, not to the congregation. Although St. James Church is pleased with the awarding of legal fees, the church remains skeptical that the diocese will pay the legal fees without first appealing the decision, said St. James attorney Eric Sohlgren, in a statement released Thursday. “I don’t know whether they will appeal,” Bunyan said. “Of course, we’ll continue to fight for what is ours.”