New Ruling in Episcopal Split Case

May 7, 2009 6:12:23 PM PDT
The split between the local Episcopal Church has taken a new turn. A judge recently released a preliminary ruling that one side says solves a major issue.The US Episcopal Church is pointing to a judge's tentative ruling as proof their bishop is the true legal authority. Back in December 2007, a dispute involving gay marriage led Bishop John-David Schofield to break away from his national church. In turn, the national church sued and installed their own bishop who is fighting to be the one and only leader.

Bishop Jerry Lamb said he is very pleased with a nine page tentative ruling. Lamb said a judge recognized him as the legal authority which means if the ruling becomes final Lamb controls all Central Valley Episcopal Churches including Saint James Cathedral. Lamb said, "A lot of people have been hurt on all sides of this question. It's not a time of celebration. It's a time of being pleased that we can go forward."

Right now, Bishop John-David Schofield claims control over Saint James and dozens of churches who followed him after a 2007 vote. Schofield led a movement to separate from the national church and align himself with a more conservative Anglican church. The rift was largely caused by disagreements over the bible and homosexuality. While the recent ruling favors Bishop Lamb, ABC 30 Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi urges caution. Capozzi said, "A tentative ruling means what it says, it's tentative. It's not final. Indeed if either party objects to this ruling, it is no longer the ruling of the court."

Bishop Schofield is fighting the ruling. His faction has said this fight is only about money and property. Schofield is out the country. Father Bill Gandenberger told us, "We gave them the churches that wanted to stay. They want to take all the churches, because they don't like the fact that we broke away." Father Gandenberger said Schofield is their true leader and that's who they will follow.

The judge is expected to take more than a month to finalize his ruling, but that won't be the end. If he rules against Schofield, his legal team is expected to appeal the decision to a higher court.

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