Having considered these differences, we conclude that the neutral principles of law approach is preferable because it provides the parties with a more level playing field, and the outcome in any given case is not preordained in favor of the general church, as happens in practice under the hierarchical approach.
Jones thus not only gave general churches explicit permission to create an express trust in favor of the local church but stated that civil courts would be bound by such a provision, as long as the provision was enacted before the dispute occurred. We also reject the view that the Dennis Canon represents a ‘‘self-serving declaration of trust’’ because, as we previously noted, Parish members agreed to be bound by the constitutions and canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese in 1956 when they affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and, as a result, their interests are in harmony with those of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese.
When the Dennis Canon [of 1979] is considered together with the application submitted by the members of the local congregation in 1956 for admission to the general church as a parish and with other church documents, it is clear that the disputed property in the present case is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese. . . .Thus, in agreeing in 1956 to abide by the constitution and canons of the Diocese, members of the congregation also agreed to abide by the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, including the subsequently enacted Dennis Canon. There is no provision in the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church or the Diocese expressing an intent to the contrary or excusing a parish, either explicitly or implicitly, from complying with amendments or additions to the constitution and canons that might be enacted after a parish is accepted by the Diocese.
The Supreme Court of Connecticut today decided in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in a dispute arising when a number of former Episcopalians claimed ownership of the building and property of the parish they had attended. . . .For your information, Dean Knisely, the article does not provide anything even approaching such a "list." In the first place, it confines itself just to a listing of cases in 2011, so it does not claim to survey the entire field. Next, it mentions the California litigation involving St. James, in Newport Beach, California -- in which St. James won its right to go back to the trial court for further proceedings: that is hardly an instance where the State court ruled in ECUSA's favor. Then the article mentions Pittsburgh, but that litigation is waiting to hear whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will review the appellate court's decision. And look at the other cases it mentions: Virginia and Texas, where there are no final rulings of any kind, and --- wait for drum roll, please -- Canada!
"We now conclude under neutral principles of law that the Dennis Canon applies and that it clearly establishes an express trust interest in the property in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese," [Connecticut Supreme Court Justice] Zarella wrote."
The article goes on to list all the instances where State supreme courts and other courts have ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and the argument that the Dennis Canon means that all property in the Episcopal Church is held in trust for the Episcopal Church as a whole.