Wednesday, February 03, 2010
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James has issued an order detailing which assets are among the centrally held properties that he earlier awarded to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which broke from the Episcopal Church in 2008.
The order, issued Friday, doesn't apply to parish property, which is to be negotiated later. Leaders of the Anglican diocese had earlier said that they would appeal the October decision. The Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary of the Anglican diocese, said the appeal can be filed now that this order has been issued.
The original diocese split when a majority of clergy and laity at its 2008 convention voted to leave the Episcopal Church over theological differences. Prior to the split, some parishes now in the 28-parish Episcopal diocese sued for the property of the 57-parish Anglican diocese. The funds have been frozen by financial institutions until the litigation is resolved.
Friday's order said that as of September, the Episcopal diocese had $22 million in cash and investments, of which $2.5 million was held for parishes.
A footnote in the special master's report that formed the basis of the decision said, "it is believed that the individual parishes have the right to withdraw the value of their investment accounts" from the diocese.
A brief statement from the Episcopal diocese said that its leadership "plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds."
Asked if that applied to Anglican parishes, Rich Creehan, a spokesman for the Episcopal diocese, said, "any parish that had been participating in that fund from whatever time, we are making arrangements so they can access those funds."
The report documents another $717,000 in trust funds and at least $2.4 million in real estate belonging to the diocese. The latter includes a residence in Donegal, near Ligonier, that in 2007 was sold to Bishop Robert Duncan, then of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and now of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Friday's order stated that there are legal documents for the sale, and that the Duncans will owe the Episcopal diocese $135,507 on the mortgage.
Other loans to clergy and parishes totaling more than $1 million are to be repaid according to instructions from the Episcopal diocese. The report included a long list of religious objects, mostly from closed churches, awarded to the Episcopal diocese. But the order said that no real property can be sold or removed from its current site without a further court order.
The order lists 45 properties, most of them parishes, deeded to the Episcopal diocese. But the Rev. Hays said some of those may be incorrect. One is for a church that was sold over a decade ago and subsequently torn down. Another is for a playground, not a church building, she said.
"We're not looking to be argumentative, we just want to make sure the information is correct," she said.
Judge James gave the Anglican diocese 20 days to provide the Episcopal diocese with the records and information "reasonably needed by the Episcopal diocese to hold and administer the real and personal property that is subject to this order."
The Rev. Hays said she believed the appeal would put a hold on that process.
"We have always wanted to find a way where both sides could have the resources appropriate to their share," she said.