The Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles announced Tuesday that it has filed lawsuits against three breakaway parishes that have aligned themselves with an Anglican diocese in Uganda. The Southern California churches abandoned the local diocese in mid August, saying that it had strayed from biblical teachings. The orthodoxy dispute has been simmering for years, and the Episcopal Church's recent stance on homosexuality has deepened the divide. Bishop J. Jon Bruno, head of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles, recently assigned two assistant bishops to serve the congregations and said he would
appoint new lay governing boards. He also had threatened legal action. "We have been left with no choice but to authorize the filing of these actions to preserve these churches as houses of worship for faithful Episcopalians," Bruno said Tuesday in a statement. He said the lawsuits were filed in superior courts in Los Angeles and Orange counties "to secure and protect the church properties which are owned in trust by the Episcopal Church, the diocese, and our faithful parishioners." The national Episcopal Church will file a separate action in support of the diocese's claims, Bruno said.
The three breakaway parishes--All Saints' Church in Long Beach, St. James Church in Newport Beach, and St. David's Church in North Hollywood--issued a statement saying they were "deeply disappointed" by the lawsuits. "The local churches hold the deeds to these properties, and hundreds of church families have raised money to acquire and build them," they said. "We are amazed at the callous disregard of the religious rights of hundreds of families who overwhelmingly voted their conscience to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church and the diocese of Los Angeles." Eric Sohlgren, a lawyer representing the breakaway parishes, said he had not seen the lawsuits and could not comment on them.
Leaders of the breakaway parishes said the Episcopal Church has been straying from biblical teachings for the past 30 years. Conservatives more recently have been upset over the Episcopal Church's confirmation of an openly gay bishop and blessings for same-sex couples. There are an estimated 2.3 million Episcopalians in the United States, with about 85,000 in the Los Angeles diocese, which spans six Southern California counties. The Episcopal Church in the United States is part of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a global association of churches. The three parishes aligned themselves with the Anglican Province of Uganda so that they could remain within the Anglican Communion. They said the Ugandan diocese upholds core tenets of the faith.