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HOLLYWOOD, CA: St. Mary of the Angels Loses Legal Battle

HOLLYWOOD, CA: St. Mary of the Angels Loses Legal Battle
Hollywood church returns to control of the Anglican Church of America

By Allison B. Cohen
August 2, 2018

After nearly six years of legal filings that split a church parish in two, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge upheld, on July 25th, an appellate court's ruling from last December that a 2012 vote by St. Mary of the Angels parishioners to leave the Anglican Church for the Roman Catholic Church was invalid, and therefore the church and its holdings, including an adjacent commercial building on Finley Avenue, still belonged to the Anglican Church.

The ruling means the church will now resume to be under the control of the Anglican Church of America (ACA) and Los Feliz resident Marilyn Bush, who together were the key litigants in the case.

"This has been a very long [six] years finally coming to a close," Bush said in an email. "To say I am delighted is an understatement."

It is not clear exactly when Bush and the ACA will regain possession of the church. Father Christopher Kelley, who had been rector of the church since 2007 was packing his and his family's belongings from the home they shared directly behind the church last week. Kelley and family said they were devastated and that they had been hopeful the final court ruling would go their way.

The appellate court last December found the church's 2012 actions to disassociate from the Anglican Church were invalid because, the court ruled, it had used the wrong voter list in calculating the vote. The result, according to the ruling disaffected eight people and allowed two others not eligible to vote to cast ballots.

The December ruling additionally indicated that once St. Mary's disassociated from the Anglican national church, it was "stripped" of its power to control the church's property and finally that the church had not complied with its bylaws as a corporation requiring all members be noticed of any special meetings or votes.

Kelley's attorneys had argued that those not receiving ballots were either deceased or had left the church.

Additionally, Kelley's attorneys said that Bush had not been notified of a meeting pertaining to the vote because she had previously indicated she would not meet anywhere Kelley was present and because she had been appointed by the ACA as part of an opposing vestry.

Kelley's attorneys filed their own appeal to the December ruling, but it was denied.

According to court documents, since the December 2017 ruling, the ACA and Bush have since waited for Kelley's exit.

"After prevailing on appeal, [we] have respectfully provided [Father Kelley and others] substantial time to wrap up their affairs and conduct a peaceful transition of control of St. Mary's," attorneys for the ACA and Bush wrote in court documents June 15th.

On July 18th, the issue was heard again in Los Angeles Superior Court and Judge Daniel Murphy confirmed the appellate court's decision with a temporary ruling that was eventually finalized July 25th.

According to those close to Kelley, his fight for St. Mary's is over.

However, he said he hopes to move his now Catholic parish, at least temporarily, to space at Our Mother of Good Counsel on Vermont Avenue.

During Kelley's last service at St. Mary's, Sunday July 22nd, about two-dozen parishioners dotted the pews, while retired Archbishop John Hepworth from Australia--the global Anglican leader for parishes, priests and parishioners considering formally renouncing ties to Episcopal and Anglican churches--sermonized about perseverance and pilgrimage.

According to Hepworth, St. Mary's is the only Anglican church that has opted to go into the Roman Catholic fold that will not be allowed to take its property with it.

St. Mary of the Angels was founded in 1918 to minister to parishioners working in the motion picture industry.

According to litigant Bush, she said she expects services to resume under the new regime starting August 5th.

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