St. James’ Anglican congregation will likely be forced to return the property to the Episcopal Church as result of a legal settlement

By Chris Caskey
The Union Democrat

The Anglican congregation at Sonora’s historic Red Church could be moving as soon as this summer – the result of a legal settlement over church ownership.

Leadership and worshipers with St. James Anglican Church are finalizing the details of the settlement that will turn over the keys to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, according to Fresno attorney Russell VanRoseboom, who has represented the Anglican diocese in the case.

VanRoseboom said on Monday that the settlement would be similar to an agreement between the Episcopal diocese and St. Francis Anglican Church in Turlock, which held a final service and officially moved on Sunday.

Both the Red Church and St. Francis have been involved in legal battles with the San Joaquin Episcopal Church over who owns the church properties. The churches were previously under the authority of the Episcopal Church, but their affiliations were shifted in 2007 due to ideological differences when the previous San Joaquin Diocese pulled out of the Episcopal Church and joined the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

VanRoseboom said a settlement over the Sonora church and nearby St. Michael and All Angels in East Sonora will likely include the Anglican group vacating the property by July 1.

While the often acrimonious legal battle dates back to 2007 and has involved multiple churches in the San Joaquin Valley region, he said the two parties are working amicably in this case.

“It’s very refreshing that the two sides here are being gracious with one another,” he said.

What will happen with the local Anglican congregation is still unclear, however. When reached on Monday, the Very Rev. James Stout, interim priest at St. James, said he’s “not really up to date” on the matter.

He referred questions to the Fresno-based Anglican Diocese. An inquiry from The Union Democrat to the Anglican Diocese was not returned in time for this story.

Michael Glass, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, said Tuesday that the diocese is not commenting on the issue.

The legal battle originated when then-Bishop John-David Schofield pulled the local diocese out of the Episcopal Church and brought most Mother Lode Episcopal clergy with him. The disagreement stemmed from ideological differences, with the more conservative wings of the church taking exception to the Episcopal church’s liberal stances on gay and female clergy.

The Episcopal Church later sued, claiming the now Anglican churches do not have the right to take the properties with them.

St. James lost its longtime priest, the Rev. Wolfgang Krismanits, and his wife, LaDonn, in the midst of the legal strife when they died Nov. 27 in a car accident in Hollister.

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