A setback occurred on Monday for breakaway Episcopal churches in California that want to keep their property.
The California state supreme court has decided not to hear a case that pits St. James Church, a breakaway Newport Beach church, against its former national denomination.
Since proceedings are continuing the church's property trial in Orange County court, the church's pastor says he's not surprised the supreme court refused the case.
Court watchers say it is possible St. James could appeal again with the state supreme court -- or the court may decide to hear another property property dispute case in the next couple of years from another breakaway church.
California courts have ruled that, while St. James had the right to split off from the larger church, the congregation could not take parish property with it, even though the parish has held the deed to the church for decades.
Most of the breakaway churches have joined the Anglican Church of North America. The group says about 200 of 700 churches are involved in property disputes. The majority of those congregations have left their properties or purchased new buildings.