On Sept. 30, the Connecticut Supreme Court, without dissent, ruled in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in a lawsuit brought to return to the Church control of the real and personal property of Bishop Seabury Episcopal Church in Groton. This ruling brings to a welcome conclusion the dispute that arose when the former ordained and lay leadership of the parish chose to leave The Episcopal Church but had refused to relinquish possession of its property.
Those individuals, named as defendants in the action, argued to the court that they could choose who would control the parish property and that the property was not subject to the doctrine and polity of The Episcopal Church. As it did in 1993, the Supreme Court has rejected that claim, ruling instead that The Episcopal Church has the right to govern itself and that courts should respect and enforce the trust in which church property is held for the Diocese and for the wider Church. While we are all blessed with the right to worship as we choose, the court’s ruling joins the many other states that have ruled that those who leave The Episcopal Church cannot take property of the Church with them.
We remain saddened, however, that the ordained and lay leaders of Bishop Seabury Church who chose to depart The Episcopal Church refused to settle these matters amicably out of court resulting in the use of precious financial resources for legal battles rather than to extend God’s reconciling love in the world.
Bishop of Connecticut Ian T. Douglas responded to the decision: “This has been a long and difficult process that has taken away from our common witness to the Good News of God in our Savior Jesus Christ. With the decision of The Supreme Court we can now put this matter behind us and once again turn our full attention to the work of proclaiming and making real that Good News in all the world.”
The people and worshipping communities of the Diocese of Connecticut look forward to restored unity with our sisters and brothers in Groton as we continue to serve God’s mission of reconciliation and healing.