May 27, 2009
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh presented its case in court today for regaining control of diocesan assets still held by former leaders who have left the Episcopal Church.
The case was heard by Judge Joseph James of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Chancellor Andy Roman represented the Diocese. He was joined by attorneys for Calvary Church and the Episcopal Church.
The hearing centered on a Stipulation and Order of the court, dated October 14, 2005, which was agreed to by the Diocese, Calvary, and then-Bishop Robert Duncan.
The Diocesan Chancellor presented evidence to show the Stipulation requires that all diocesan property must remain dedicated for the use of a diocese that is part of The Episcopal Church, and that by leaving the Episcopal Church, Bishop Duncan and others gave up their right to control those assets, regardless of the circumstances of their leaving.
The judge has allowed both sides to continue to file written briefs into July before rendering his decision.
Last month all parties agreed that today’s hearing would not concern itself with whether a diocese could validly leave the Episcopal Church, but focus solely on whether the 2005 Stipulation had been violated. Each side disagrees on the issue of valid withdrawal and reserved the right to revisit the question, if necessary, at a later time.
The Diocese’s case also does not concern who controls parish church property, as some have claimed. Rather, the Diocese currently is seeking from the former leaders all diocesan-held investments, bank accounts, real estate, and business-related property and data.