NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Instead of saving souls, these days worshippers and staff are worried about saving St. James Church from a lawsuit by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles (search).
The feud started when St. James and two other California parishes decided to break away from the American Episcopal Church over a dispute over church doctrine and the confirmation of an openly gay bishop. Earlier this year, V. Gene Robinson (search) officially became the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay bishop in church history.
"The leaders of the Episcopal Church have moved from being those who upheld the historic teachings, which has been embraced for 2,000 years by all the denominations, to a church that has come to question its validity," said Rev. Praveen Bunyan (search) of St. James Church.
The Los Angeles diocese is suing the breakaway parishes, claiming that their property, from hymnals and prayer books to the church buildings themselves, belong to the diocese and therefore are no longer theirs to use.
"The reality is that the property was purchased by the bishop of Los Angeles before they ever got their hands on it," said Bishop Jon Bruno of the L.A. Episcopal Diocese.
But Rev. Bunyan disagrees.
"This property was purchased, the buildings and the property were built by the members of St. James and it was completely funded by our people."
In the late 1970s three other churches broke from the diocese over the ordination of women priests, but they were able to keep their property. Now it falls to the courts to decide if other Episcopalians can continue to worship in the churches they grew up in.
Click on the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Anita Vogel.