The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of San Joaquin has been forced to take former congregants to court to regain church property. The administration and pastor of Fresno’s St. Columba Church took illegal possession of the church when they splintered off after a dispute over gay and female clergy members.
John-David Schofield, the diocese’s former bishop tried to pull the whole diocese out of the Episcopal Church after the denomination elected its first gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2006. Schofield signed over the rights to the church building to the congregation before he was removed from office by the national church.
Schofield helped the congregation join the Anglican Church in North America, which is itself a conservative splinter offshoot of the Anglican church. The Episcopal church and the Anglican Church of Canada are the legitimate recognized branches of the denomination in North America.
Now the national church is suing to regain control of the building their former members took when they left the denomination. The diocese says the former bishop acted in bad faith and didn’t have the right to give away church property. St. Columba’s pastor says the bishop was still in office and performing official duties when he made the transfer.