By A. S. Haley, the Anglican Curmudgeon.
In a rather contorted opinion published today, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno, California ruled that although “the trial court made several errors in its analysis of the case”, it would nevertheless affirm that court’s decision to turn over all the disputed property of the former Diocese of San Joaquin to the remnant Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, which was first organized in March 2008 after its predecessor voted to leave the Episcopal Church (USA).
In so deciding, the Court of Appeal first rejected the contention that ECUSA and its remnant group were collaterally bound by the final decision of the Illinois Appellate Court rendered last year, which reached the opposite result for the Anglican Diocese of Quincy. It did not consider the Illinois case to be on all fours with this one, because the title to the church property in Illinois was held by an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, while in the San Joaquin case, the title was held by a California corporation sole.
With all due respect, this is a distinction without a difference. A corporation sole is every bit as much a religious organization as a religious not-for-profit corporation. The key question in the California case is: which diocese — the Anglican one that withdrew from ECUSA in December 2007, or the newbie Episcopal one that started up on March 29, 2008 — has the legal control of the corporation sole under California law?