(July 8, 2010, Savannah, Georgia) – A three judge panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals in Atlanta has unanimously affirmed Superior Court Judge Michael L. Karpf’s October 27, 2009 ruling in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. The appellate court voted to support Judge Karpf’s ruling that the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia is the rightful owner of the historic Christ Church building on Johnson Square and other Church assets.
The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Georgia and Christ Church Episcopal originally filed a lawsuit after the breakaway congregation voted to align with the Province of Uganda in September 2007 but refused to vacate the church property.
Judge Karpf’s 21-page ruling in favor of the Episcopal Church held that Christ Church Episcopal was entitled to immediate possession of all church property. The breakaway congregation subsequently appealed that decision.
In affirming Judge Karpf’s decision on all counts, the Court of Appeals noted Christ Church’s longstanding affiliation with the Episcopal Church including its leadership in forming the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia in 1823.
The Bishop of Georgia, the Right Reverend Scott Anson Benhase, said after learning of the Court’s decision, “We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for the sound judgment and wisdom of the court. The historic mission of the Episcopal Church in Savannah and in Georgia flows through Christ Church. Episcopalians through the centuries have given sacrificially and worked faithfully to support the mission of Jesus Christ through His Body at Christ Church. The Court’s ruling reaffirms that this mission, guided by the Holy Spirit, will continue in its historic church home.”
Since October 2007, the Episcopal congregation of Christ Church has been worshiping each Sunday evening in space made available by St. Michael and All Angels’ Episcopal Church on Washington Avenue.
“Throughout this process, our deep and abiding faith in God has never waned, for the Church really is the people and not the building in which we meet,” said The Rev. Michael S. White, rector of Christ Church Episcopal. “We continue to embrace our calling to be faithful stewards of Christ’s word and sacraments and to go forth with a profound sense of humility, forgiveness and love.”
Christ Church, founded in 1733 shortly after the arrival of General James Oglethorpe and the original colonists, is one of the oldest churches in the State of Georgia. The church has also been the home for many of Savannah’s most prominent citizens including Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, Academy-award winner Johnny Mercer and former mayor Malcolm R. Maclean.
A more detailed statement by Father White is can be viewed by clicking here.
A copy of the court’s ruling can be viewed by clicking here.
The Rev. Michael S. White