From the Worldwide Faith News archives

North Carolina parish lawsuit ends in mistrial

Date Fri, 20 Jul 2001 11:18:02 -0400 (EDT)


North Carolina parish lawsuit ends in mistrial

by Jan Nunley

     (ENS) A lawsuit filed by the Diocese of East Carolina and St. Andrew's 
Episcopal Church in Morehead City, North Carolina, to recover property occupied 
by a group affiliated with the Anglican Mission in America ended in a mistrial 
July 14 in Carteret County Superior Civil Court.

     After six days of testimony, the jury in the case announced that it saw no 
possibility that it would reach a unanimous decision. The jury was split 9-3 in 
favor of the defendants. Judge John B. Lewis Jr. then declared a mistrial.

     The departing group claimed to have documents that would "stand the test of 
any litigation" establishing that ownership of the properties and real goods of 
St. Andrews was deeded to the vestry. The diocese and parishioners who remained 
claimed that all property of the parish, which was established in 1952, was held 
in trust for the diocese, which "lays rightful claim to it upon the resignation 
and withdrawal of the vestry and other members from membership in The Episcopal 
Church," according to canons I.7.4 and II.6.

Positive outcome

     In a letter to the clergy and wardens of the diocese concerning the verdict, 
Bishop Clifton Daniel III said that "on balance, I view the outcome in a positive 
way." He said he would "begin consultations" on what the diocese's next action 
would be.

     "I am thankful for and proud of the growing parish of St. Andrew's Episcopal 
Church, Morehead City, which remains in a positive spirit as I saw this past 
Sunday when I joined some 80 others for worship," he added. "Soon, they will move 
into a new building to accommodate their growing numbers and the vitality of 
their parish life. I am also thankful for the wonderful support evidenced by so 
many of you throughout the diocese over the course of the last week."

     The clergy and vestry of St. Andrew's notified Daniel in March 2000 that the 
parish was withdrawing from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of East 
Carolina. Daniel informed them that while individuals may leave, no vestry has 
the authority to withdraw a parish from membership in the Episcopal Church or the 
diocese. He asked that those leaving turn over all property of the church to the 
diocese and to the 25 parishioners who chose to remain in the Episcopal Church. 
The vestry refused and trustees of the diocese and the parish's newly elected 
vestry filed suit to recover the church's property and assets. St. Andrew's 
Episcopal Church has been meeting in Morehead City Middle School since that time. 

     The parish's former rector, Christopher King Cole, an assisting priest, John 
Harvey Grayson, and Deacon John William Gladstone, were deposed by Daniel in 
November 2000 on the grounds that they had "abandoned the Communion of this 
Church" according to Canons IV.10, IV.12.1(d), and IV.12.4(d).

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service.

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