District Court Judge Larry Schwartz has ruled that the historic Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church property is held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church and has ordered the breakaway congregation that took possession of the property two years ago to leave.
Schwartz’s opinion states:
“I find and conclude that, like [Bishop and Diocese of Colo. v. Mote, 716
P.2d 85 (Colo. 1986)], the founding documents, various bylaws, relevant
canons of the general church and consistent parish loyalty to the diocese
over most of its 135 year existence demonstrate a unity of purpose on the
part of the parish and of the general church that reflects the intent that all
property held by the parish would be dedicated to and utilized for the
advancement of the work of [the Episcopal Church of the United States of
America]. While freedom of religion recognizes the right of any faction
within a church to leave that church whenever they choose, the trust that
has been created through past generations of members of Grace Church
and St. Stephen’s prohibits the departing parish members from taking the
property with them.”
The 500 members of the Episcopal congregation have been worshipping at First Christian Church for nearly two years while the case worked its way through the court.