On November 25, Justice Stephen Kelleher of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Diocese of New Westminster against four congregations who left the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoc) in 2008 to join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), which was one of the founding members of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The congregations in question are St Matthew’s (Abbotsford), St Matthias & St Luke’s (Vancouver), St John’s Shaughnessy (Vancouver), and Church of the Good Shepherd (Vancouver).

While such acts have become commonplace in the United States, there was hope that the differences between the Canadian and American legal systems would allow orthodox Anglicans the ability to retain their church properties as they leave the increasingly liberal Anglican Church of Canada. That hope has not been realized. The  decision prompted Anglican Network in Canada responded with a news release where they lamented the following:

Mr Justice Kelleher preferred to follow American legal principles rather than apply British and Canadian cases which have held that “As a rule, where a church organization is formed for the purpose of promoting certain defined doctrines of religion, the church property which it acquires is impressed with a trust to carry out that purpose, and a majority cannot divert the property to inconsistent uses against the protest of a minority however small.” (See Anderson v. Gislason 1920 Man. CA) He also chose not to apply established British and Canadian “cy pres” trust principles in dealing with the church properties.

There was, however, some small good news in the midst of the bad. Justice Kelleher ruled that $2.2 million that had been given in trust to the Good Shepherd congregation should remain in the hands of the ANiC congregation and not the diocese.

This news story, while bitter-sweet, hits home particularly hard for me as I have friends in the St. John’s Shaughnessy congregation. Keep orthodox Anglicans and Episcopaleans in your prayers as they struggle against the oppression of their national church bodies.