Wednesday, 15 November 2006

two Virginia vestries recommend secession

Two large conservative parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, The Falls Church and Truro Church have moved towards secession from ECUSA and stated that they intend to join CANA.

The Falls Church vestry has voted to recommend this. In a letter to parishioners, John Yates the Rector of that parish said:

…The decision of the vestry, as we met last night, was to recommend to the congregation that The Falls Church disaffiliate with The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican District of Virginia, an association of Virginia churches who are joining together to realign traditional Anglicans in Virginia. The district is part of CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America), a branch of the Anglican Communion within the Church of Nigeria that has The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns as its Bishop. The vote was 15 aye, 2 nay, and 1 abstention.

The Vestry and I will be providing you with as much information as we can about the Anglican District of Virginia and CANA in the next few weeks. We will have two congregational informational meetings to explain and discuss these matters, as well as to go over the resolution and ballot, which we expect to use in the congregation-wide vote on this matter.

The first meeting will be next Monday Nov. 20 at 7:30 pm in the Main Sanctuary. The next will be on December 3rd, when the 9:00 am & 11:00 am services will be shortened to have a meeting after each of those services. Please plan to attend! I may also be sending out additional information via email.

The congregation will decide this matter at a meeting that begins Sunday morning Dec. 10. Please do make plans to vote; I am sure you can appreciate how important that vote - and your individual vote! - will be. This is likely the most important vote that this congregation will take in any of our lifetimes, perhaps ever. The voting times will be stretched over a week to enable those who may be traveling on Sunday to vote. The polls will be open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Sunday, December 10th, as well as a couple of hours Tuesday evening, Wednesday afternoon, and mid-day on Saturday the 16th. The results will be announced on Sunday, December 17.

We have informed the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, of the vestry’s decision. As a congregation, we are following a protocol, approved by the Diocese, that sets out a procedure for congregations considering whether to sever ties with The Episcopal Church…

Truro Church vestry has made a similar recommendation. A joint press release reads as follows:

Fairfax, VA, Nov. 15 - In a congregational meeting Sunday afternoon, Nov 12, the Vestry of Truro Church, Fairfax, announced to their parish that they unanimously recommend that Truro should sever its ties to The Episcopal Church (TEC) and remain as full members of the Anglican Communion by joining the Anglican District of Virginia Anglicans in the Convocation for Anglicans in North America (CANA).

On the following Monday, Nov. 13, the Vestry of The Falls Church, Falls Church, also voted to recommend that they sever their ties to the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican District of Virginia, CANA.

Both congregations will review the recommendations and vote on the final Vestry resolutions, starting on December 10.

The congregations are following a protocol, approved by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which sets out a procedure for congregations considering whether to sever ties with The Episcopal Church.

“The meeting of the Truro vestry was prayerful and somber,” said Jim Oakes, Senior Warden Truro. “We shared prayers and tears as we voted to recommend to the Truro parish this course of action. It was an extraordinary meeting.”

The Falls Church Senior Warden Tom Wilson agreed. “With great sadness and yet firm conviction we took this initial step toward our respective votes,” he said.

This action comes following a discernment period by two of the largest and oldest parishes in the Diocese of Virginia. “In that time we studied, reflected, prayed, and engaged in deep and significant conversations not only in the Vestry, but also with the congregation and with the diocese,” Mr. Oakes said. “It became clear to us that this was the best direction for us to recommend to the parish.”

“We have witnessed firsthand how the Episcopal Church has separated itself from the historic Christian faith of the Anglican Communion over the last few decades,” said Mr. Wilson. “Both Truro and The Falls Church have had to come to grips with the direction TEC is moving. We are at an historic crossroads.”

Other Episcopal congregations are also preparing to vote, as the crisis in the Anglican Communion - precipitated by the recent actions of the TEC General Conventions in 2003 and 2006 - continues to deepen and divide. “It is clear that there is a division in the Episcopal Church,” said Mr. Oakes. “Our next step is for our congregations to pray and reflect on the Vestries’ recommendations as we continue to move forward.”

The congregational voting begins December 10.

For more information, visit http://trurochurch.org and http://thefallschurch.org.

A letter to Truro parishioners is posted here.

The Diocese of Virginia has also issued a press release: Two Vestries Vote to Recommend Separating from The Episcopal Church. This release contradicts some of the points in the letter above.

The Vestries of Truro Church, Fairfax and The Falls Church, Falls Church, two Episcopal congregations in The Diocese of Virginia, voted Monday night to recommend to their congregations that they sever ties to The Episcopal Church. The vestry decisions follow the conclusion of a period of “40 Days of Discernment” in each congregation.

“We are very, very sad that the vestries are going to recommend to the congregations that they sever ties to The Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Lee.

In a letter to his congregation communicating the decision, the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, asserted that the congregation is following a protocol approved by the Diocese that sets out a procedure for congregations considering whether to sever ties with The Episcopal Church.

“There is no approved protocol,” explained Patrick Getlein, Secretary of the Diocese.

At a meeting of the Executive Board and Standing Committee last Thursday in Burke, members of those bodies received and considered the report of the Special Committee set up by Bishop Lee in late 2005 to help those congregations continuing in conflict over the decisions of the 75th General Convention in 2003 to get on with their mission in as close a union as possible with the Diocese of Virginia. The report contains a section entitled Protocol for Departing Congregations.

“The Executive Board and Standing Committee both voted to receive the report but it is inaccurate to say it was endorsed or approved,” explained Mr. Getlein.

“There is no protocol,” said Col. Jean Reed, president of the Standing Committee. “The Standing Committee intends to meet with those churches proposing to separate from The Episcopal Church and review their situations on a case by case basis.”

The Living Church has a report: Falls Church, Truro Vestries Recommend Disaffiliation. It includes this:

With a combined membership of more than 5,200 and average Sunday attendance of 3,200, Truro and Falls Church are among the largest and wealthiest congregations in The Episcopal Church. In 2005 the combined reported pledge and plate income for the parishes was in excess of $7 million.

Episcopal News Service has this report: VIRGINIA: Bishop saddened by vestry recommendation to leave Episcopal Church

UPDATE
The two parishes have issued a further press release in response to the one from the diocese, read it here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 10:08pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

And when may we expect said vestries (along w/ any like-minded congregants) to vacate these historic *Episcopal* premises?

[JCF, who has Episcopalian ancestors from the Falls Church area. As God is my witness, this schism is NOT what they intended, for the parish they built!]

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Wednesday, 15 November 2006 at 10:53pm GMT

And what did the people of The Falls Church do in 1776? I wonder.

Posted by: Betsy Ross on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 2:46am GMT

I'm wondering if these churches are in ALLEN territory or WEBB territory. I'm betting the former. "Lawsy, now we don't have to worry that one of them homer-sekshuls is sitting in the pew next to us! NOW we're safe." Poor people in those pews.

Posted by: IT on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 4:08am GMT

"With a combined membership of more than 5,200 and average Sunday attendance of 3,200, Truro and Falls Church are among the largest and wealthiest congregations in The Episcopal Church. In 2005 the combined reported pledge and plate income for the parishes was in excess of $7 million."

They have not given one thin dime to the general operating budget of the diocese for the last several years.

The Diocese of VA is alone, or maybe nearly so, in not having a mandatory giving to the diocese. In most other dioceses in the US, there is a mandatory amount expected, and if you do not give, you lose seat voice and vote at diocesan council. Don't get me started on how stupid this has turned out to be.

The bottom line is that the diocese will not lose squat for operating budget when these folks depart, as they have not been giving squat for some time.

They make themselves out as great martyrs. They ain't.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 4:24am GMT

There are a lot of errors going on here...

1. Northern Virginia, where these two parishes are located went for Webb, not that this is relevant in any case.

2. The TFC has given money to the diocese but began withholding money after GC2003 as a form of protest for the actions of diocesan leadership. My understanding is we pay 150k per year to the diocese. Also, the church continued to work with ministries both we and the diocese agreed upon and we have been accused of "money laundering" for doing so. (Personal comment, the "boycott" or withholding funds has always been a favorite liberal pressure tactic, but it's not acceptable when used by conservatives?)

3. IT, your comment is decidedly un-Christian and bigoted in character. I said the same thing to a conservative who shot from the hip in TitusOneNine the other day. I'll assume it was a "send-first-think-second" moment on your part.

4. The TFC has grown tremendously under the leadership of Rev. Yates. When he joined the church as a young pastor over 20 years ago it was a very small, typical TEC congregation. We (the current members) built a new sanctuary and educational spaces to continue our extensive outreach (www.thefallschurch.org). We bought back property originally owned by the TFC but sold in the past "to make ends meet", restoring to the church what had been lost.

Why are the claims of the dead given greater priority than the work of the living? I could argue that the dead wouldn't have countenanced "the new work of the spirit" being claimed by the current leadership. I agree that compensation should be in order but we can work this out. I know the TFC is willing to, are you?

Posted by: Bob on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 11:53am GMT

As a person who has lived across the street from TFC for nearly a decade and an Episcopalian I feel that this split is consistent with what I perceive as their mindset: self centered and parochial.

They have worked mightly hard to build an physical enclave to the point of requesting that E. Faifax street be declared as their private street, or at least closed, or else one way to meet their needs. So far the City has declined. They have shut down a culturally diverse shopping center with School Uniform Shop, Halal Market, Kurd Restaurant, and Chinese Restaurant. Their intended purpose was to build a gym and rec center for their congregation. Now there are empty buildings in dis-repair that are used as extended meeting rooms. They take but I do not see any giving.

I see happening in this schism what they have demonstrated physically in our neighborhood. They will build their own exclusive club and work hard to keep out the riff raff.

Personally, I kind of hope they choose to move out of Falls Church. We can use some friendly neighbors.

Finally re: the politcal question about Falls Church. Well, Falls Church did go for Webb. But I will say, informally, that a majority of the cars that fill our street on Sundays have Allen and Bush stickers. Plus they don't have Falls Church city decals -- more likely from the burbs.

Posted by: George on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 1:15pm GMT

The Diocese of Washington doesn't have mandatory giving either.

Posted by: Jim Naughton on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 1:42pm GMT

(Personal comment, the "boycott" or withholding funds has always been a favorite liberal pressure tactic, but it's not acceptable when used by conservatives?)

It certainly is a valid tactic. I have neighbors here who are Mennonites, some of whome refuse to pay that % of their taxes that they consider 'war tax.' They risk jail, and are willing to go to jail for their conscience' sake.

TFC has NOT supported the general work of the diocese, but has, unwisely I think, been allowed to do as you describe.

When at annual council it has been suggested that those who do not contribute to the general budget should not vote on how the diocese allocates the money the rest of us give [my parish does better than tithe], we are told that the money withheld is 'an act of consience' and it should not be 'punished' by depriving these churches of seat, voice, or vote.

I say, look at the Mennonites. Look at Thoreau, Ghandi, and MLK. They went to jail for the sake of conscience. No pain, no gain. No cross, no crown.

Those churches witholding from the general budget of the diocese have had their grand gesture cost them zit and zero. Such 'acts of conscience' cut no ice with me.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 1:47pm GMT

Truro continued to support the ministries of the diocese - with the bishop's consent I might - including making signficant contributions to Shrine Mont, the Diocese of Virginia's Conference Center.

Posted by: Betsy Ross on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 2:33pm GMT

"As a person who has lived across the street from TFC for nearly a decade and an Episcopalian I feel that this split is consistent with what I perceive as their mindset: self centered and parochial."

Perceptions are not as they always appear:

1. Regarding the Property Purchased -- The deal that was negotiated with owner of the property was all above board. It was his property to sell and his tenants assumed the risks all tenants do when renting. The businesses stayed in operation for months after the property was purchased. They were not cast out into the street.

2. The TFC offered to aid all of the tenants in finding new locations. One tenant paid no rent for months and was not "hunted down" and made to pay. The Halal Grocery opened in a much nicer store right around the corner, literally within 100 feet of its old location.

3. The property is in its current state because of turmoil in Episcopal Church. There was an unwillingness to move forward with such a daunting building project with so many other issues in flux.

4. TFC has numerous outreach ministries to the local community, I would suggest you check the website. ESOL, Birthmothers, Jobs Ministry, the list is long, very long. None of these require any "doctrinal purity test" to take advantage of. We have also opened our facilities to a hispanic congregation.

5. The concern for Fairfax St. closure was due to the large number of children that would have to cross to get to classrooms on the new property. It was NEVER proposed to be a closed and gated "enclave" sealed off from the rest of the community. On Sunday nights there are over 300 kids regularly attending youth services.

6. Is this a political issue? You can't be a liberal Episcopalian and vote Republican? You can't be a conservative one and vote for Webb? This is an unconstructive kind of stereotyping. For the record, I voted against the marriage amendment and so did my wife. What does that make me?

Please don't let your perceptions define what you see.

Posted by: Bob on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 3:46pm GMT

"Truro continued to support the ministries of the diocese - with the bishop's consent I might - including making signficant contributions to Shrine Mont, the Diocese of Virginia's Conference Center."

See above. IMHO that was a mistake on the part of the diocese. If you don't support the general budget of the diocese, you should abandon at least vote in council. But no. Have cake and eat it too.

I disagree with my Mennonite neighbors in their pacifism, but I respect mightily their willingness to accept the consequences of their actions.

Can't say the same about the churches who will only give selectively to the diocese and then claim equal citizenship with the rest of us. It is not the kind of stewardship that vestries and rectors encourage in congregations [I won't pledge, but I'll give a hundred bucks to the music fund.]

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 4:14pm GMT

I wonder what the assessment by Nigeria will be. After all, a big part of that $7 million would go a long way there toward help for the sick and hungry.

Would the Archbishop via his bishop have the right to order TFC to sell its undeveloped property? From what little I've read, it seems that ++Akinola has a much larger say over what happens in each of his dioceses and its parishes than bishops do in The Episcopal Church. Is TFC really prepared to submit fully to his authority in these matters.

Posted by: sheila on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 6:38pm GMT

"IT, your comment is decidedly un-Christian and bigoted in character."

Oh no, IT: you've been accused of being "un-Christian"! Horrors! ;-p

[NB: anyone who knows the *delightful* IT, knows she is a (very principled) ATHEIST. That she is both a lesbian coping with the socio-political consequences of (significantly Christian-based, AS IN TRURO/FALLS CHURCH >:-/) homophobia, and the partner of a faithful Christian, makes her continue to take an interest in---and contribute so intelligently to---the matters of we lil' Anglicans. "Bigot"? Well, that's just beneath discussion...]

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 6:45pm GMT

There will be no assessments from Nigeria. What parishes give (and they are free to decide the amount, no assessments) will all remain in the US - no money sent to Nigeria and no money required by Nigeria, this is an American structure. There will be no money sent to Nigeria by either the parishes or CANA.

Posted by: Betsy Ross on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 7:39pm GMT

Bob: Why did Falls Church announce a church planting in Old Town? Isn't Christ Church or St. Paul's adequate or are they just tainted.
Personally I'm sorry we have got to question's each others commitment to Jesus' message. It seems that TFC have passed judgement on other Episcopalians many of whom are conservative members of the aforementioned parishes.

I might not agree but it doesn't mean I don't love.
Bob

Posted by: Robert Christian on Thursday, 16 November 2006 at 7:56pm GMT

Bob, I appreciate your attempts to defend TFC, but as I said, I live here and have so for almost 10 years.

I beg to differ and stick by my statement that your church intended to close off the street and build an enclave for their private use.

I forgot to mention the new double wide trailer that the city was told is temporary you all assembled on the lawn for fifth grade classes so that these young children would not have to cross the street. Now it's used by the kidergarden in the day and I see adults there at night. In the procees you all almost chopped down a bunch of trees in this city that prides itself on its trees. It was only our neighbors here that kept the rest from coming down. You all dont' give a tinkers damn about much except your own agenda.

Back to the 300 kids. You all manage to clog the street with parents double parking and your own orange cones every weekend. Imminent domain seems to be in play.

I've attended city council meetings and hear the duplicitous claims you leadership make to appeal to the city government and then see the reality on a daily basis. I'm reminded of Jesus Christ driving out the Pharisees. Perhaps that may happen again?

Thanks to Robert I am reminded of the need for Love, Compassion, and an Open Mind. But, I am frustrated and challenged at the moment.

Posted by: George on Friday, 17 November 2006 at 12:15am GMT

I guess I am the current defender of all things TFC for the moment. I doubt I'll sway anyone one way or the other. Unless some new topic comes up, I'll consider this my final post.

Regarding IT's Original Comment: IT's comment is stereotype. It is an easy way to discard the views of anyone affiliated with the institution. I don't attend Truro so I can't and won't speak for them. I assume IT would agree it is harder to engage a real person, something I am always willing to do.

TFC Church Planting -- I have not heard a single peep about the TFC planting a church in Old Town or anywhere else for that matter. I could be mistaken, but a church plant has historically been preceded by a call for members to join and there has been no such call. The last church plant was in Potomac Falls. As far as I know, therefore, this is just rumor. I could be wrong. I just don't know.

TFC Neighborhood -- Any large institution is going to create friction in the neighborhood. The political process is in place to manage it. The street wasn't closed off so the city felt it fair/just to permit the trailer. Trees were cut down...and trees were planted to replace them. Not everyone can be satisfied but I assert that nothing has been duplicitous. I don't really see how we can make any more progress on this topic so I suggest we end it here.

Love and Disagreement -- This whole process has been very difficult for me. I was born and raised Episcopalian. I can't prove/disprove how "tolerant" I am to anyone here. I am not in favor of all the actions TFC or TEC takes. I am painfully aware of how easily we seem to dismiss others in this debate. Because there is a point where we waste more energy and engender more bitterness by staying together I have reluctantly concluded it would be better to walk apart.

I am sure of just one thing, when we stand before God we will all be ashamed of the opportunities we missed to minister to one another in love and be grateful for His mercies and faithfulness despite our weaknesses.

You are all welcome to contact me privately at rwkachur@hotmail.com

Posted by: Bob on Friday, 17 November 2006 at 11:30am GMT

Bob:

I can't find the particular item about the new church plant in Old Town, Del Ray but the reason for it was that folks driving from Old Town had a haul to worship at TFC. I will look for it and pass along later.

I still wish there was room for all opinions in TEC but it seems some folks like forcing their views on all.

Just for the record I'm a revisionist in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In this diocese I'm the devil incarnate but in Virginia there is a wide range of folks. I can't imagine Truro or TFC being treated poorly. My parish hasn't seen +Duncan in 8 or so years. He seems to send the asst since we don't really matter. The asst +Scriven can't even remember who we are or the name of the parish or that we're not a member of the Network.

I would've hoped that TEC would have been a place to explore the message of living together inspite of our differences. Wishful thinking as time goes on.

Peace, Bob

Posted by: Robert Christian on Friday, 17 November 2006 at 6:06pm GMT

and also with you, Robert.

Posted by: Bob on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 11:44pm GMT

I personally think that, given TFC and Truro's support for Akinola, and Akinola's recent support for draconian anti-gay laws that criminalize two men even writing "I love you" in a letter (this is literal. This would be criminal under laws set to take effect in Nigeria and is punishable by 5 years at hard labor.)

If this is the sort of congregation TFC and Truro represent, and the values they consider important, we're better off without them.

(Now to just finish the process of ripping the buildings and land out from under them and setting them out on the street.)

Posted by: Darren Watts on Friday, 19 January 2007 at 3:52pm GMT
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