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[Episcopal News Service] April 17, 2009

[Diocese of Pittsburgh]

A judge has ruled in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh on several points in its legal dispute with former leaders over control of diocesan assets, according to a release posted on the diocesan website.

In a hearing April 17, Judge Joseph James of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County allowed diocesan chancellor Andy Roman’s appearance as the attorney for the Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church. The judge also granted a motion by The Episcopal Church to intervene in the case.

Both matters had been challenged in earlier court filing by attorneys representing former bishop Robert Duncan and others who left the Episcopal Church last October to align with the Province of the Southern Cone, based in Argentina.

The judge ordered a hearing on the central issue before him; whether a 2005 court order and stipulation agreed to by Duncan and Calvary Episcopal Church requires that diocesan property must remain under the control of a diocese that is part of The Episcopal Church. Attorneys on both sides agreed the question of whether a diocese may leave the Episcopal Church will be reserved for a later hearing and decision, if necessary.

The judge also declined to “unfreeze” assets held by Morgan Stanley, as requested by Duncan’s attorneys. Morgan Stanley froze the accounts upon learning about the dispute over who is the rightful owner of diocesan assets. The judge referred the parties to work with the court-appointed special master to determine whether any of the funds should be released.

No dates have been set for subsequent hearings.