FROM THE BACK PEW: Church stood up for its beliefs

I met the Rev. Rob Holman in summer 2008 at Crescenta Valley Park, as he was about to go down a Slip 'n' Slide with his son, Mitchell.

As they slid down the hill, the pair made every effort to stay on the plastic and not end up on the dry grass. When their trip ended, they were all smiles and went back for more.

I got a chance to talk to Holman for the first time that afternoon. As it turns out, La Cañada Congregational Church Pastor Skip Lindeman was there, too. He took a turn at the Slip 'n' Slide as well, and I learned that afternoon that men of the cloth can have a good time too!

The event at Crescenta Valley Park that afternoon marked the first time the Crescenta Valley hosted a community church picnic and outreach.

Holman had just been appointed reverend of St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church, so I was eager to speak with him. We agreed that I would call his office upon my return from vacation the next week.

I was very impressed with him.. He had goals for his church, but he was also a very prayerful man who would turn to God to help him achieve those goals.

We talked about his background, his family, what his hopes and dreams were for St. Luke's — all the basic questions. He ended by saying that the people at St. Luke's had welcomed him warmly into their community and were looking forward to having him serve as their pastor.

Then the Anglican congregation at St. Luke's got sued.

They got sued because St. Luke's idea of religion was different from the U.S. Episcopal Church's idea of religion. The former saw things one way; the latter saw things a different way. So the former split in 2006, affiliating itself with an Anglican Diocese in Uganda.

When this happened, the Episcopal Diocese hit the roof and sued on the grounds that the property was theirs. Of course, St. Luke's fought back, the congregation's main argument being that they did have a right to the property after maintaining it for years.

They had a strong ministry there, they had families that had called St. Luke's home for decades. Denying them the property would uproot all of that.

Still, the Episcopal Diocese insisted the property was theirs.

I got to interview Holman again, this time in the heat of a situation that would soon get worse. Again, I saw a very prayerful man who was turning to God to guide him in what to do next.

He ended by saying that the people at St. Luke's were supporting him fully and were looking to his guidance as a pastor to lead them through this.

Then St. Luke's lost its property.

Then St. Luke's lost its appeal to that decision Sept. 17.

As it stands now, the Anglican congregation is under tentative court order to transfer possession of the property by Oct. 12 if the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear a related appeal from a church in Orange County. This would mean new leadership for the church and a reversal to its original name of St. Luke's of the Mountains Episcopal Church.

I can't say for sure who the winners and losers are here.

Did St. Luke's really lose because they no longer have their property?

Did the Episcopal Diocese really win because they now have what they consider rightfully theirs?

St. Luke's did what I believe was the most Christ-like thing I've seen anyone do. The church believed in something that made them quite unpopular to a certain group of people. St. Luke's had supporters who stayed by their side, and others who decided to go somewhere else. They fought for what they believed in by never giving in to the demands of the Episcopal Diocese.

And in the end, they lost it all, except for the handful of faithful who would always call St. Luke's Anglican Church — not St. Luke's Episcopal Church — home.


?MICHAEL J. ARVIZU is a reporter for the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or e-mail michael.arvizu@ latimes.com.

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