The wardens of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fallbrook, California, have asked the San Diego County Superior Court to declare a newly constituted vestry the duly elected governing body of the congregation.
Because the diocesan corporation has a trust relationship with respect to the assets of all parishes, the corporation is an additional plaintiff in the suit, according to a news release issued by the diocese.
St. John’s began as a mission of the Diocese of Los Angeles in 1891 and was admitted as a parish in the Diocese of San Diego in 1973.
The diocesan news release said that on July 17 the rector, wardens and vestry of St. John’s “abandoned the offices to which they were elected as well as the Episcopal Church when they violated the canons of the church” by affiliating with the Anglican Diocese of Luweero in Uganda.
“By definition, parishioners and clergy who remove themselves from the Episcopal Church relinquish their rights of governance within the church’s structure,” the release said.
San Diego Bishop James R. Mathes appointed the Rev. Wayne Sanders as priest-in-charge of St. John’s. The parish held a special meeting and elected replacement wardens and vestry.
“Despite holding the canonically recognized offices, the wardens and vestry have been deprived the rights of the parish corporation including the property,” the news release said.
“The actions of the Fallbrook parish are part of a national effort to draw away property, assets, and people out of the Episcopal Church,” the release continued.
“I ask your prayers for the people of St. John’s Episcopal Church and those who recently left the Episcopal Church. I am mindful that those who have left have acted on a great deal of misinformation. I trust that the legal questions will be resolved quickly so that the ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church can continue,” Mathes said in the release. “May everyone treat one another with the spirit of gentleness and love that Jesus would expect, even as we contend on these important questions.”