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CONNECTICUT: State Supreme Court Decision said Parish had the right to remove priest at St. Paul's, Darien

CONNECTICUT: State Supreme Court Decision said Parish had the right to remove priest at St. Paul's, Darien
Ownership of Parish property remains in dispute

By David W. Virtue, DD
April 15, 2019

A legal dispute brought by parishioners which led to the removal of the Rev. George I. Kovoor as rector of St. Paul's, Darien, a flagship charismatic evangelical parish in the Episcopal Church and spiritual home of the late Dr. Terry Fullam, was upheld by the courts today.

In an 18-page decision, Judge Kevin Tierney of Connecticut State Superior Court accomplishes both the removal of George I. Kovoor as St. Paul's Rector, without any liability for payment of his salary; and simultaneously confirms that on October 26, 2018, the Annual Diocesan Convention severed its relationship with St. Paul's Church - Darien.

The civil complaint alleges that Kovoor made false representations as to his credentials which induced the parish to engage Kovoor to be its rector in October 2016 and, therefore, his contract as rector never came into existence and is void.

Accordingly, St. Paul's now continues as an independent, Connecticut, ecclesiastical society, as it was in 1967, when it voluntarily agreed to join the Diocese.

The decision in the Kovoor case bars any attempt to collect civil damages from the ex-rector and the Diocese related to alleged, intentional, and/or unintentional, misrepresentations that induced the Vestry to approve George I. Kovoor as Rector in the first place.

Judge Tierney granted the Defendants Amended Motion to Dismiss the case, because, under the Constitution, he has no power to entertain the law suit. In doing so, the Court specifically noted that its ruling does not deal with the issue of ownership of the Parish property. The action to oust the Diocese from its alleged unlawful entry and detention of the Parish property will be tried in a separate case. Lay leaders led by senior warden Anthony F. Miscimarra, Jr. told VOL, "We are confident that we will retain the property."

In October 2018, the Bishop of Connecticut, Ian T. Douglas, stormed into St. Paul's, Darien, without prior notice or request by the wardens and vestry and performed a religious service before a handful of people. He then proclaimed that he owned the historic parish church building and all its assets and changed the locks on all the church's buildings, barring the 200 parishioners.

"Our purpose for filing this action last June was motivated by a desire to rid St. Paul's Church - Darien of George Kovoor as its Rector," said Miscimarra.

"From our perspective the case was one where the Parish claimed that the Letter of Agreement (Contract) of George Kovoor was null and void at its inception due to the alleged misrepresentations made by him in obtaining the Vestry's approval of his application to serve as Rector.

"Today, we are an independent, Jesus-centered Parish within the Global Anglican Communion that it is no longer a member of the Diocese. We look forward to re-entering our Church soon. We now find St. Paul's Church lives on, but it is now outside of the Episcopal Church, although through no action of our own. We were always willing to work with the Bishop (Ian Douglas) to achieve the reconciliation he thought possible, even if that meant reappointing George I. Kovoor at the end of the day.

"The Diocese's attention, however, was focused on seizure of the Parish land and buildings to convert the property to cash. We intend to seek protection for this historic property and are continuing to work to halt any attempt by the Diocese to sell the property. Some very few, who are not St. Paul's Parishioners, have said over the past few days that St Paul's "lost its case". However, Defendant Kovoor won nothing and it is yet to be decided who owns our property on Mansfield Avenue, which was not part of the Judge's decision."

At its Annual Meeting on March 16th, the Wardens and Vestry were reelected for another one-year term. The entire Vestry remains unified and is currently planning the future of the Parish, even as the litigation continues. We are confident to a certainty that Jesus has a plan for St. Paul's Church -- and it is a Perfect Plan. There are still motions before the court which can now accelerate.

For the time being, the church is closed for worship.


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