One of the nation's oldest congregations has lost an appeal to keep its property.
The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling Thursday, that required Christ Church in Savannah, Ga., to turn over its property and assets to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and the Episcopal Church.
Christ Church left the Episcopal denomination in 2007 over concerns that leaders were allowing the ordination of gay clergy and taking a more liberal approach on same-sex marriage.
The three-member Court of Appeals panel concluded the Episcopal Church "has always required parish property to be held and used for the mission of the National Episcopal Church and its dioceses."
The court added that other courts across the U.S. have upheld that rule.
Since the land debate started in 2007, Christ Church has been holding worship services Sunday evenings at another local church.
"While worshipping in borrowed space, waiting for the Georgia legal system to facilitate our return to our home on Johnson Square, we truly experienced an amazing spiritual renewal," Rev. Michael S. White, Christ Church's rector, said.
"We have come to see experientially what Scripture proclaims to be true -- that the church really is the people and not the building in which we meet," he said.
The breakaway congregation has 10 days to file a motion for rehearing in the Georgia Court of Appeals.