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St. Francis named in lawsuit to claim church, property

St. Francis named in lawsuit to claim church, property

The St. Francis Anglican Church in Turlock was hit with a lawsuit on Monday by the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin that seeks to claim the church and the property. Rev. Gerry Grossman says the par...

POSTED February 12, 2010 10:30 p.m.
A banner hanging outside St. Francis Anglican Church proudly declares “Lives Change Here.” Rev. Gerry Grossman is quick to point out the present tense of the declaration and is even quicker to point out that his parish has no plans of letting it slip into the past.
That goal was recently put into question by a lawsuit filed Monday in Stanislaus County by the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. The lawsuit, which names Grossman and nine members of the church’s leadership as defendants, seeks “to return control of the parish premises and other parish assets to the plaintiffs in the matter.”
The lawsuit was spurred by a separation among the Episcopal Church. Differences over interpretations of Scripture caused some churches to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church.
In 2007, about 40 parishes, including St. Francis, decided to leave the original Episcopal diocese in Fresno and align with the Anglican Church. Another seven opted to stay. About 20 parishioners left St. Francis prior to the separation, Grossman said.
The Episcopal Church has filed several similar lawsuits throughout the country, but St. Francis is the first parish to be served with an individual lawsuit.
Grossman said St. Francis has no intention of just handing over the keys to the parish, nor will they let the lawsuit distract them from their mission, he said.
“This congregation is growing and we are affecting the lives of people in this community,” Grossman said. “We are not going to let this lawsuit disrupt the work we are doing or the ministry we are building.”
Outside of the negativity created by one church suing another, Grossman questions the legitimacy of the lawsuit. St. Francis, which broke ground at 915 E. Main St., in 1948, is individually incorporated and was paid for by the parishioners, not the diocese.
“This building really belongs to the community,” Grossman said.
In addition to the 80 parishioners at St. Francis, the church is used by an Armenian church and an East Indian organization.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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