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DioNwk: Update on Diocese of NJ and Diocese of Newark vs. PECUSA, Inc.

The Comma, Inc. Suit
Newark, NJ, May 13, 1998
by Louie Crew

In the U.S. District Court in Newark a week ago, Magistrate Judge Chessler
met with the complainants--The Diocese of Newark (represented by Hon.
Michael Rehill, Chancellor) and The Diocese of New Jersey (represented
by the Hon. R. Catenacci)--and with the respondent, PECUSA, Inc., a
Wisconsin-based corporation (represented by Hon.  Buchanan Ingersoll, an
attorney from Pennsylvania).

The complainants allege that PECUSA, Inc. has stolen the name which
rightfully belongs to the Episcopal Church, which still uses "Protestant
Episcopal Church" in the opening to its constitution and in many other
official documents.

The respondents argued two major points: 

1) This is a theological dispute beyond the jurisdiction of the court and
must be resolved only by the two primates, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold
and Bishop Wantland, head of PECUSA, Inc.

2) The issue must be decided at the Lambeth Conference of all Anglican
Bishops this July and August in England.  PECUSA, Inc. expects Lambeth to
declare PECUSA, Inc. as the true and rightful holders of the name and
title to Anglican standing in the United States.  PECUSA, Inc. alleges
that the Episcopal Church has stolen the name and is not the faithful heir
to Anglican teaching and worship. 

Judge Chessler will not allow the freewheeling discovery which PECUSA,
Inc.'s attorney had sought, in which persons from all over the church
would be brought in to discuss issues of doctrine.  The judge focused
instead on two narrow issues: 

1) abandonment (Has the Episcopal Church abandoned its use of the name
"Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA," as alleged in defense by
the respondent, PECUSA, Inc.?)

2) standing (Do the complainants, i.e., the two dioceses, have standing to
be the ones to bring the suit on behalf of the Episcopal Church?  They
argue that they do as the duly constituted and recognized 'franchise' of
the Episcopal Church in New Jersey.  PECUSA, Inc. recently incorporated in
n all 50 states.)

The litigants will not likely meet again with the judge until late in
1998.  The two dioceses insist that PECUSA, Inc. must change its name. 

Lawyers and the judge now refer to the case informally as "The Comma Inc.

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