August 15th, 2011 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled that the buildings and other property of St. Aidan's Anglican Church in Windsor will remain with the Anglican Diocese of Huron. In dismissing an action launched by representatives of a breakaway group, which has since joined the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA ANiC), Justice T. D. Little also ruled that a Charitable Foundation set up by the congregation many years ago, also remains with the Diocese of Huron Parish of St. Aidan's. One hundred and nine members of St. Aidan's voted in 2008 to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and then launched legal action against the Diocese to try and take the property with them.
In his decision, quoting from Anglican history, structure and governance, Justice Little wrote:
“Members can come and go in a parish at any time, but the parish itself remains.
In 1923 there were some 110 people who applied to the Diocese of Huron to become a parish of that Diocese. They were granted that right by the Bishop of the Diocese of Huron and became St. Aidan's Parish of that diocese. The membership changed over the years. The effect of the vote that took place in September 2008 was to indicate that those who voted in favour of leaving the Diocese of Huron were also voting in favour of leaving St. Aidan's Parish of that Diocese. The parish could not sever itself from the Diocese.”
Justice Little stated in several portions of his decision, his agreement with a recent decision between break away groups and the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster. The Anglican Church of Canada Diocese prevailed in that case, which was upheld on an appeal. A request by the break away group for leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied.
In the Windsor case, Justice Little also ruled that the Charitable Trust remain with St. Aidan's, Diocese of Huron.
“In my view, all Foundation funds presently held in various bank or financial
institution accounts to which they were transferred . . .should be
consolidated and returned to the Churchwardens of St. Aidan's Parish of the Diocese of Huron to be held by them in trust for the purposes of the Foundation.”
The Right Rev. Robert Bennett, Bishop of Huron, says this decision brings to a close a difficult time for all involved.
“My first reaction was to call the diocese to prayer for both those faithful Anglicans who continued as members of St. Aidan's, Diocese of Huron; and also for those who found they could no longer stay within the diocesan family. It is now time to move on to that place where the Holy Spirit leads. We intend to re-mission St. Aidan's in the very place where it has proudly witnessed to the Gospel since 1923. My hope is that the disaffected members of St. Aidan's will also find that good place where God leads. St. Aidan's will continue to warmly welcome all who strive to follow the way of Jesus within the diocesan family of Huron.”
The Diocese of Huron, after being barred from the building in 2008 by the break away group, has for many months shared the facility with the ACNA parish, but in light of this court ruling will move to take sole possession of the building.
The ANiC Defendants involved in the case have indicated that they plan to appeal Justice T.D. Little's decision.