A Statement from the Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, NOVEMBER 25, 2009
Mr. Justice Stephen Kelleher of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Reasons for Judgment released today ruled that the four parish properties under ownership dispute in the suit brought against The Diocese of New Westminster and Bishop Michael Ingham by 22 leaders of four dissident congregations remain within the Diocese of New Westminster.
In a 98 page, 336 paragraph decision, Justice Kelleher has upheld the integrity and authority of Structures, Canons and Constitutions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the autonomy of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The four parish church properties in dispute were:
- St. John’s (Shaughnessy) at 1490 and 1498 Nanton Avenue in Vancouver. The St. John’s church building and parish hall are located on these properties.
- Parish of the Good Shepherd, at 808 East 19th Avenue in Vancouver. A church and ancillary building are located on this property.
- St. Matthias and St. Luke at 680 West 49th Avenue in Vancouver. The St. Matthias and St. Luke church and rectory are located on this property.
- St. Matthew’s (Abbotsford) at 2010 Guildford Drive in Abbotsford. The St. Matthew’s church building and adjoining parish hall are located on this property.
In February 2008 after almost 7 years of estrangement the four dissident congregations voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and sought to align themselves with the Province of the Southern Cone in South America. Subsequently the clergy of these parishes resigned their positons, relinquished their licenses from the Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, and left the Anglican Church of Canada. However, the congregations wanted to keep their parish buildings over which the Diocese of New Westminster has authority and jurisdiction.
In paragraph 256 of the Reasons for Judgment Justice Kelleher writes:
“A parish does not have authority to unilaterally leave the Diocese, and it is consequently ultra vires(beyond the powers)
for it to pass a resolution purporting to do so. Additionally, while parish corporations may hold title to real property, the effect of s. 7(4)(a)* is that that property effectively remains within the Diocese unless the Executive Committee and Bishop agree to mortgage, sell or otherwise dispose of it. In using the church properties for purposes related to ANiC**, the parish corporations are using them outside the jurisdiction of the Diocese, and, indeed, the ACC. In my view, this is sufficient to bring the properties within the ambit of s. 7(4)(a)* such that the consent of the Executive Committee and Bishop is necessary. As that consent is obviously not forthcoming, the properties remain with the Diocese.
In what may be a precedent setting decision, Justice Kelleher has agreed that these buildings are held on behalf of those who wish to worship within the Anglican Church of Canada.”
According to today’s judgment the elected trustees of the dissident parishes must exercise their fiduciary responsibilities in accordance with the Governing Statute, Constitution, Canons, Rules and Regulations of the Diocese
***under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese, the Right Reverend Michael Ingham.
A statement from Bishop Michael Ingham will be issued within the next two days.
*The Act of Incorporation of the Diocese of New Westminster (1893)
**Anglican Network in Canada
***Paraphrase of Justice Kelleher's paragraph 335 of the Reasons for Judgment.
Click Reasons for Judgment
to download a pdf of Justice Kelleher's decision.