Anglican churches, including St. Matthew's in Abbotsford, lose court-costs appeal

St. Matthew
St. Matthew's Church in Abbotsford is among four Lower Mainland parishes involved in a years-long court battle with the Diocese of New Westminster.
— image credit: John Van Putten

St. Matthew's Church in Abbotsford is among four Anglican churches that have lost an appeal on a ruling that they pay court costs to the Diocese of New Westminster.

Two of three justices on a B.C. Court of Appeal panel on May 19 upheld a B.C. Supreme Court decision from June 2010. That decision said the four parishes were responsible for paying approximately $120,000 in court costs to the diocese.

The two sides have been in conflict over the issue of same-sex blessings and who is entitled to the church properties.

The four churches – which broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) to join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) in 2008 – have maintained that allowing same-sex blessings is contrary to core Anglican doctrine.

The diocese continues to operate under the ACC, which favours same-sex blessings, and has won two court battles – in B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal – that ruled the parishes are using the church properties outside the jurisdiction of the diocese and must vacate.

They have refused to do so, pending the final outcome of court proceedings. The two sides are now waiting to hear whether a further appeal will be heard before the nation's highest court – the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the B.C. Court of Appeal's decision on court costs last week, Justice Peter Lowry said the diocese was entitled to the funds because it "enjoyed substantial success at trial."

"In my view, the trial judge was not wrong in declining to exercise his discretion in favour of ordering the parties to bear their own costs," Lowry said.

The parishes argued that each side should pay its own costs.

In addition to St. Matthew's in Abbotsford, three Vancouver churches are involved in the legal battle. They are St. John's Shaugnessy, the Church of the Good Shepherd, and St. Matthias and St. Luke's.


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