Three breakaway Episcopal parishes refused to surrender their churches, hymnals, and financial records to the diocese of Los Angeles after lawyers for the bishop made the demands last week. A response from an attorney representing the parishes said that Bishop J. Jon Bruno lacked the legal authority to make such a request. "Your demand that hundreds of families and children immediately cease
worshiping God in the buildings they alone have erected and supported defies belief," wrote Eric C. Sohlgren, the secessionist parishes' attorney.
In the past month, St. David's Episcopal Church in North Hollywood, All Saints' in Long Beach, and St. James in Newport Beach have ended their affiliation with the Episcopal Church. Leaders of the three churches said the national organization has been drifting away from its conservative values for the past three decades. Last year the church's national convention confirmed an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Six of the 147 parishes in the Los Angeles diocese have joined the conservative American Anglican Council, further challenging Bruno's authority.
On Friday, Los Angeles diocesan attorney John R. Shiner of Morrison and Foerster said the congregations were in violation of church canons and California civil law and gave them five days to surrender financial statements, copies of bank accounts, investment portfolios, and member registries. In a one-page response, Sohlgren wrote that "your clients have no authority or grounds to dictate or interfere with religious worship, instruction, oversight, communications, employment, and property use at these three churches." The bishop said Sunday that if the three parishes rejected the diocese's demand, he would meet with his assistant bishops and attorneys to decide the next step.