Saturday, 11 August 2007

Virginia: reports of court hearing

Updated Sunday morning

Episcopal News Service reports that Court will use Church’s Constitution and Canons in deciding property disputes.

Virginia’s Fairfax Circuit Court ruled August 10 in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia in denying the claims of 11 separated congregations that the court should not consider the Church’s Constitution and Canons in deciding property disputes.

The congregations, in which a majority of members have voted to leave the Episcopal Church but continue to occupy its property, asked the court to dismiss the complaints of the Church and the diocese.

After hearing arguments by all parties, the judge overruled all but one part of the motions. The court dismissed the claims of the diocese for a judgment that the congregations had committed a trespass by holding onto the property. Such claims, the court ruled, should be pleaded separately…

And this:

Also on August 10, after hearing arguments on a motion to dismiss all the individual defendant vestry members, clergy, and trustees from the litigation, all of the parties agreed that they — together with the separated congregations — will be bound by whatever ruling the trial court makes regarding ownership of the real and personal property. Their agreement extends to any ruling on appeal.

According to the agreement, if the court rules in favor of the Episcopal Church and the diocese, an orderly transition with respect to all property would ensue. The Church and the diocese reserve the right, however, to seek an accounting of all monies spent by the departed congregations and bring the individual vestry members and clergy back into the litigation for that purpose.

There is another account of yesterday’s court session here: A Very Good Day.

A recent letter from the diocese (mentioned in the ENS report) can be found here.

Update Sunday morning:

There is still nothing yet posted on CANA or on ADVA websites about this.

The Diocese of Virginia now has this: Judge Overrules Motion to Dismiss Lawsuits:

Today in Fairfax Circuit Court, Judge Randy I. Bellows overruled a motion to dismiss lawsuits filed by The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church against 11 congregations that voted last year to leave The Episcopal Church and attempt to take Episcopal Church property.

The decision to overrule the motion to dismiss came at the end of a four-hour hearing in Courtroom 4-C. In addition, two-hours into the hearing, The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church agreed to allow individuals named in the lawsuits to be taken out of the suits on assurance that those individuals and their successors will be bound by the rulings of the court on diocesan and Church claims concerning property.

“Our only aim in including these individuals was to make sure the proper parties were before the court so that the relief and remedies we seek could be properly sought and obtained,” said Patrick Getlein, secretary of the Diocese. “The assurance to be bound by the rulings of the court achieves that objective.”

Those individuals whose names were removed today include the vestry and rector of each congregation. Trustees remain named in the suits only in their capacity as holders of title.

“We are pleased with today’s rulings and the agreement on removing the names of individuals from the suits. But by no means is the work here done,” said Mr. Getlein. “There are still individuals and congregations who have been dispossessed and literally locked out of their churches. Their exile continues.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 August 2007 at 6:54pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: ECUSA

I'm happy that babyblue (Mary Ailes, of a CANA congregation) is happy ("A Very Good Day").

I'll be even happier, when she (and her fellow CANA-ites) either

1) Reconciles to TEC, and her bishop +Peter Lee, or unfortunately failing that

2) Departs (physically) the parish property of +Peter Lee's Episcopal diocese (as the courts appear LIKELY to declare she must)

I trust she'll be happier that way (preferably Option 1), too!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 11 August 2007 at 9:25pm BST

How can the CANAites keep the properties after this ruling? I don't see how.

Posted by: Curtis on Saturday, 11 August 2007 at 9:57pm BST

This is wonderful news, even if expected based upon US legal conventions and Diocese of Virginia and national Episcopal Church canons.

Clearly any person can leave the Episcopal Church, for whatever reason, and affiliate with a different faith community or with a foreign religious organization. But, that applies to the person, and not to the real or personal property entrusted to any parish of the diocese.

The Diocese of Virginia will be able to move forward, and reestablish those parishes whose rebelling clerical and lay persons attempted to take the metaphorical family silver when they left the family home.

Curiously, the linked posting on the Baby Blue blog appears to ignore the reality concerning the major issue, and focuses upon a lesser issue of the parties agreeing to ignore personal culpability (unless an accounting later demonstrates inappropriate actions, or some kind of potential malfeasance).

Baby Blue's focus reminds me of the person who rejoiced because the doctor told the son and daughter, after revealing the bad news that their mother had a very serious illness, that he or she was nevertheless pleased to report that their mother's bunions seemed to be improving.

Yes, for the sake of the individuals involved, it seems best to keep this as a macro issue and steer clear of those individuals unless later warranted on a person-by-person basis. As one who serves on two not-for-profit boards, and who had served for twelve years on the vestry of two parishes, I can relate to the quandary that some of them may have been facing.

But, when will Baby Blue recognize the forest instead of merely recognizing one of the trees?

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Saturday, 11 August 2007 at 10:39pm BST

"But I shook hands with a few of them - wishing that there was a better way (and there had been a better way) than this."

Well, yes, there is. Go to Nigeria. Leave the keys on the table and don't let the door hit you as you leave. Really simple.

A parishioner at my church in Virginia reminded me that many of her family are buried at one of the hijecked churches. She doesn't think they'd like to leave TEC, but then, nobody asked them. Some of her ancestors helped build that church, but, she says, they didn't do that to make it anything but an Episcopal church in America.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 12 August 2007 at 4:01am BST

BB's post seems to this non-lawyer to be incomprehensible but, as the say, da' Nile is not just a river in Egypt. But, seriously, the spin on stories such as this - and the Don Armstrong case- reduces the position of conservatives and resembles nothing so much as the technique of repeating something over and over until it assumes a life of it's own.

Posted by: ettu on Sunday, 12 August 2007 at 5:45pm BST

"Go to Nigeria"

Heck, Cynthia, I'd be satisfied if they (the CANA-ites) just went across the street...

...though, as I said, I'd truly be JOY-FILLED if they would only *reconcile* with their Episcopalian brothers and sisters (and bishop). :-)

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 12 August 2007 at 7:22pm BST

Reconciliation would be wonderful, but I think it highly unlikely. We have a fine columbarium that forms one wall of our small chapel. There are spaces available, spaces with both spouses, spaces with one spouse. I know some of the widows, widowers - and how heartbroken they would be if our congregation lost its collective mind and ceased to be Episcopalian so that they could only be interred with their spouses by an alien priest using an alien rite.

My understanding that the northern Virginia Nigerians have not been gracious to the Episcopalians who have wanted access to their churches.

We do not build and maintain these structure for ourselves along, but for our posterity. It is a gesture of trust and hope in and for the future.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 12 August 2007 at 9:46pm BST

Anyone round here remember the ABC and the other Primates calling for an end to these law suits???

Is this TEC showing its great concern for Anglican unity??

Posted by: NP on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 8:54am BST

NP - You aren't serious are you? Don't you know that it was the CANAnities that first filed a claim for the property in Va. And that if the diocese does NOT challenge the claim. the property is theirs by default. If you desire to be DES compliant as you say, you should be calling for CANA to withdraw their claim.

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 10:48am BST

CB - I am serious. Both sides should not be using the is a mark of complete failure.

I think the CANA people should not fight in the courts...but I understand they want to keep their buildings,especially when they have paid for much of them. But, in the end, they should not fight in the courts.

TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches....they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet. A genuinely liberal approach would be to just let them go.

The two sides should get together and be as generous as they possibly can to each other...that would be a shock but it is what they should do as they separate.

The whole fiasco in the courts is bringing the gospel FURTHER into disrepute in the eyes of the public....but then, the AC has only had FOUR years to sort out the presenting issues - I guess it is is too much to have hoped to have been on clearer paths by now.

Posted by: NP on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 12:04pm BST

"TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches....they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet."

NP, this is not an episcopalian understanding but a congregationalist one.

Can you picture the CoE doing as you suggest?

The people are not "the churches"... They are congregations. The "church" here is the whole Episcopal Church, collectively.

Your thinking does not reflect catholic understanding of the Church.

Posted by: Viriato da Silva on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 2:23pm BST

NP wrote
TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches....they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet. A genuinely liberal approach would be to just let them go.

What about the people (who are also the church) who wish to remain as part of TEC? Where will they worship?

Posted by: kennedy` on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 2:53pm BST

"TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches....they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet. A genuinely liberal approach would be to just let them go."

Fine--what happens to the members of those parishes who voted NOT to leave the Episcopal Church? What happens to their financial and emotional investment in these lands and buildings?

Further, what value do the canons of the church--ANY church--have if individuals and parishes can just throw them over whenever they seem inconvenient? I don't know what the situation is in Virginia, but the charter and bylaws of MY parish here in PA say that we are bound by the canons of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and of the Episcopal Church. Those are the legal documents that make us a not-for-profit religious corporation; we can no more legally disobey them than General Motors can legally disobey ITS incorporation documents.

The CANA-ites knew the rules when they started this; how can they pretend now those rules don't apply?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 3:12pm BST

"The whole fiasco in the courts is bringing the gospel FURTHER into disrepute in the eyes of the public." NP

Awe yes, OUR image, OUR reputation, OUR soiled behavior toward LGBT Christians and heterosexual women at all levels of CHURCH life over the past 2007 grim years of active fear/hate driven denial and pretend...actions, more positive and inclusive actions of outreaching brothery/sisterly love and some really powerful witness/attraction might be helpful. Bitterly clammouring for discrimination against OUR fellows and "poaching" and attempted theiving of other Christian peoples property isn't attractive is it?. No, I agree.

It's time to say no to the insanity of hate-mongering, excluding and damning at Church...a nice start toward lovely oneanother as we have been loved and making a better IMPRESSION in the world at large.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 3:15pm BST

"Your thinking does not reflect catholic understanding of the Church."

Which is the point. This is not merely a debate about the evil homos. This touches on numerous aspects of two very different styles of churchmanship. One considers "catholic" to be a dirty word, and only to be used of the Church conceived of as some abstract entity that is basically just "Christians everywhere". It certailny does NOT, in this context, connote anything about beliefs, organization, Scripture, or indeed anything else, except on the most superficial level. That those who so use this word have an alarming tendency(and I am not claiming this only of them, though I believe it to be more prominent in their attitudes) to consider that they and only they speak with the voice of God, and that they have a responsibility to purge the Church of impurity (God, I guess, being too weak in that respect and our Lord's words about wheat and tares being allowed to grow together till harvest being lost on them). You misunderstand those with whom you are attempting debate if you assume they have the same religious language as you do. We use the same words but with radically different meanings.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:01pm BST

too many here do not even seem aware of what the bible says about lawsuits between supposed believers.....not surprised to see rights-based arguments coming back from TEC supporters but do you even know what the bible says on the issues?

those who want to stay in TEC?
look at what I said....the sides should get together and work something out, being generous to each take care of those who do not want to leave TEC and those who do

Posted by: NP on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:12pm BST

"the sides should get together and work something out, being generous to each take care of those who do not want to leave TEC and those who do"

Perhaps, Solomon-like, we should split the church buildings and lands down the middle, and see which group objects?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:19pm BST

NP, Bishop Lee tried to get together with the dissidents and work something out -- the diocese only filed suit when the dissidents categorically refused to consider meaningful negotiations. To quote from Bishop Lee's letter of January 18:
"The work of the Property Commission, which assembled immediately after the votes to separate, brought together the years of efforts at accommodation and the previous year of discussion over matters of property and clergy status. As that work was brought into the Property Commission’s view and shared with the Executive Board, Standing Committee and with counsel for the separated churches, it became clear that no position other than relinquishing our claim to Episcopal Church property would be satisfactory to those who have left. There would be no serious effort at reaching a fair market price for property. There would be no discussion of the issues on a case by case basis. There was repeated desire to wrap issues of clergy status, including matters having to do with clergy pensions, into the discussion of church property, an inappropriate bundling of unrelated issues. It became clear that the process of negotiation would be unduly cumbersome and would risk further a second alienation of those loyal Episcopalians who had already been disenfranchised by the vote of the majority of their former members."

Posted by: Jim Trigg on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:53pm BST

Just to clarify, Motions to Dismiss at the beginning of a lawsuit are very preliminary in nature and seldom granted unless there is some easy out the Court can use to get rid of a case--i.e., the statute of limitations expired 20 years before, or the complaint does not state a justiciable cause of action, etc. The case now proceeds to the next phase--discovery. In this phase, there will be depositions, etc. to clarify the facts. This will be followed by possible summary judgment motions (also seldom granted). And, if nobody blinks, the case will eventually get to trial sometime in the next year or two (barring settlement by arbitration or otherwise in the meantime). So, it might be just as well to get ready for a long haul (as long as everyone's money holds out).


PS-I can't see much of anything unusual (or worthy of hoots of triumph or pain) at this point for either side--just the court taking care of some preliminary matters and issues. /s

Posted by: Steven on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 5:02pm BST

Image what will happen once Marty Minn's moment passes.

Suppose, as looks likely, Virginia schismaniacs lose the land and they end up getting a motel room somewhere to run the show out of. What do they look like? They look like another of the many sectarian isolationist groups that populate any given Sunday in American religianity. Which, by the way, is what they are.

Let them take the property? No way. They had lot's of chance to play nice. Let them reconcile and get along with their fellows if they don't like this turn of the worm.

Posted by: Curtis on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 5:16pm BST

I am struc with one particular thing about these "votes" to separate.

In the Colorado Springs case, we have seen that a parish of 2,500+ members "voted" to separate with fewer than 20% of members voting. Even allowing for the possibility that some proportion of the 2,500 represented children and those no longer mentally competent, that is still a remarkably small turnout of people to vote on so momentous an issue.

Then we had the other little fact about Colorado Springs - that only those who signed on to the coup d'eglise were allowed to vote.

I am reluctant to argue from the particular to the general, but how many of these parishes had comparable rotten borough processes?

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 6:54pm BST

The case is being tried in the Fairfax courts in part because they have a reputation for not dragging things out, so we may find a resolution at that level somewhat sooner - for sure not instantly - but not at Jarndyce v. Jarndyce pace, either. I am told that both sides have agreed not to try the case in the press, hence the terse comments and brief press releases.

I have not researched this, but would not be surprised to find that for Christians to take part in judicial proceedings under Roman law would have involved sacrifices to the gods - or swearing to truthtelling by the gods. That - and the expectation that Jesus would return very quickly - would militate against Christians under Roman rule from resorting to secular law.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 8:06pm BST


I also haven't researched the matter, but I tend to believe Christians have not actually been in a position to worry much about the issue of trial in the courts for much of the last 1700 years. For most of the last two millenia, the objection of going to court before unbelievers did not exist in Western Europe, as all the parties, the courts, juries, etc. were ostensibly Christian. Now, in a post-Christian age, these questions once again have some bite.


PS-Nice reference to Dickens. All we need now is a TAer to start caging small birds with unusual names--all to be released, of course, on "Judgment Day".

PPS-Also good to know that the Fairfax courts have a reputation for speed. A "speedy" resolution from the court's point of view would probably not be recognized as very speedy by most at TA, but so it goes.

Posted by: Steven on Monday, 13 August 2007 at 10:13pm BST

It's not bewildering that separating religious bodies end up in secular courts. Determination of which is legally entitled to the property assets is a not a religious matter: it's secular. The courts aren't ruling on which party interprets the bible correctly or awarding damages to injured parties. The reality is, leaving my parish does not entitle me to take any of its assets with me: I was freely making contributions, not buying stock. Leaving in the company of others rather than as an individual does not constitute an exception. And why would those leaving think otherwise? It defies hundreds of years of tradition: splinter groups are the creation of new entities with no claim on the body from which they fled. The people leaving state that they cannot in good conscience be a part of the larger church any more and must leave. Fair enough. But they walk away from everything when they leave: after all, that's what splintering means. Those willing to stand up and be counted regarding relgious beliefs surely realize that that also requires them to stand up and be counted on the costs of doing so. Unlike ugly history, modern splinter groups aren't persecuted; however, neither are they rewarded by their former church.

Posted by: K.M.Alderman on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 3:21am BST

Steven's comment is deliciously sectarian. And misinformed.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 5:54am BST

"deliciously sectarian."

How so? If you are referring to the idea that we are in a "post-Christian" world, I disagree with you. It is a mistake, I feel, to assume that just because our society still has the trappings of Christianity, ie holidays, cultural attributes, that it is Christian. It's not about condemning people for not being Christians, it's about freeing them from any remaining social pressure to conform to something they don't really believe in. People don't feel there's anything wrong with saying they aren't Hindus if they aren't, why should they feel a compulsion to call themselves Christian ? I think far from denying people's faith, we should be giving them the freedom NOT to call themselves Christians. If they don't want to practice the faith, then that's no crime, doesn't make them a lesser person, doesn't mean they're "bad", and they don't need to go through the sham of getting married, getting the babies "done", and getting a Christian burial just because there is the tacit assumption that we live in a "Christian" society. We are also freed from having to validate Western social institutions. Our current debate would be a lot less prominent, f'r instance, if there wasn't the "societal approval" aspect to Christianity.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 1:10pm BST

Goran - you claim Steven is misinformed but you seem unware that the bible discourages the use of law courts to solve disputes in the church.....but I guess you can "interpret" the relevant verses to mean it is fine to use the law courts, since you seem to be able to read any verse to mean its opposite in order to see what you want to see in the scriptures......maybe Steven is not misinformed or sectarian but stating something quite simple and self-evident

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 1:54pm BST

What I found most astonishing about the entire process was the acknowledgment that most of the people voting to leave The Episcopal Church had never even joined but were still Baptists & Methodists -- the mind boggles

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 2:45pm BST

"most of the people voting to leave The Episcopal Church had never even joined but were still Baptists & Methodists"

One of the arguments is that their spiritual forebears "paid for" "their" church buildings. Well, the buildings aren't "theirs" to begin with, which shows how far they are from Anglicanism, and the "ancestral" status of Anglicans WRT Baptists and Methodists certainly has never included the taking of Anglican buildings, has it? What's more, their attendance at these places is obviously not based on belief in the style of Christianity known as Anglicanism. If it were, surely they would have become Anglicans by now. Is it because going to one of those churches is seen as a good practice socially? One gets to network with the Washington powers that be if one attends such places? How is it that people for whom church attendance is just another form of social climbing are allowed to tear the Church apart? How is it that many consider them heroes for using God to justify their social aspirations?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 5:58pm BST

Simpler answer, then, NP. Your conservative mates, when they leave their denomination, should not attempt to steal their property as they depart.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 6:14pm BST

MM - as I have said elsewhere, what you call my "mates" represent a majority of the bishops in the 1998 and today.

When the Labour Party had to get rid of Militant, Neil Kinnock did not take the mainstream majority and leave.....similarly, you will see Rowan Williams deal with the AC's militant minority in a way which strengthens the AC

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 7:10am BST

What position is that you claim is held by a majority of the CofE bishops?
The issue under discussion here is whether members of congregations of the (American) Episcopal Church can lawfully, or even should, retain church buildings if they wish to leave that body. Even when those wishing to leave represent an overwhelming majority of those who were previously members.
I doubt that most CofE bishops are in favour of that.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 9:11am BST

Simon, I was responding to MM's statement about my "conservative mates"....I think the presenting issue, behind his use of the word "conservative", is the same presenting issue which is leading faithful Anglicans in TEC to I was pointing out to MM that my "conservative mates" (conservative in agreeing with Lambeth 1.10) include a majority of CofE bishops

Sorry for jumping off-topic.....but too often I see statements on TA with false assumptions eg that thost leaving TEC in the US are just some radical right-wing minority when actually they would not be leaving the CofE if they were, I respond....and go off-topic! Sorry!

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 10:09am BST

I don't actually thinbk that the majority of CofE Bishops do agree with NP's conservative view: neither do they agree with the most liberal views. Most are somewhere in the middle.

But given that unity is so important , I don't think that RW will think that either 'side' leaving or being thrown out will contribute to unity. John Sentamu's interview was very instructive here.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 10:10am BST

So, MM.....why did he do what he did in Tanzania????

So confusing...I see his actins agreeing with me but you tell me that he agrees with you.

I think the ABC sees what is happening in the courts of Virginia and does not want to see that in, you will see further actions consistent with his actions in Tanzania.

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 10:16am BST


I attended a meeting about the future recently at my old parish in the diocese of Pittsburgh. They have approximately 350 members of which only 30 attended the meeting. Half the vestry wasn't even there. It seems these 30 people are trying to call the shots and prod the other 320 to either go along with them or stay home and don't vote, if it comes to that.

In several of the network parishes similar situations have been occuring. The majority of people are just tired of the fighting.


Posted by: Bob in SW PA on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 2:38pm BST

"faithful Anglicans"
Explain to me how a Baptist who attends an Anglican Church because that's where the socially upward moving people go but who never bothers to become an Anglican can accurately be described as a "faithful Anglican"? And explain how that is justification for implying that the other members of the congregation who ARE in fact confirmed in the Anglican Church, are faithless. In short, how does refusal to formally join a body constitute faithful membership of that group while full membership in that same body does not? It seems to me an odd thing to say that those who aren't members are actually faithful members while those who are members are faithless. You might call these people faithful Christians, but how can you say they are faithful Christians of the Anglican type? You are forever referring to "doublespeaking" in TEC, surely this constitutes doublespeak, no?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 4:05pm BST

Ford..I agree, I normally mean faithful Christians when I say faithful Anglicans....but the two should be the same in the AC, right?

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 5:18pm BST

You keep referring to "faithful Anglicans" leaving TEC. Yet some of these people are not even Anglicans. They don't seem to know what an Anglican IS, to all intents and purposes. So, how can a non-Anglican who attempts to force an Anglican congregation to behave against the ethos of Anglicanism, be called a faithful Anglican? And why do they attend an Anglican Church while refusing to become Anglican? Could it be that their attendance is based on something other than faith? Could it be because that's the church the elite go to, making it a good place for networking and social advancement? These may be typical Anglican motives :-), but can they be said to be "faithful"? If this or something similar is NOT the reason they go there, then why have they not converted?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 5:48pm BST

Ford - I suspect they are simply "low-church" Anglicans, regular communicants and therefore just as Anglican as anyone else.....

As you know, some Anglican churches do things in a very "modern" way wih few cermonies etc so people from other denominations as well as non-Christians can join without barriers.....I don't think we are seeing anything more than this....they are faithful ("low-church") Anglicans

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 8:50am BST

"Low Church Anglican" does not mean 'anyone who wants to go to an Anglican Church regardless of their denominational affiliation'. If a Muslim came to church week after week and didn't get baptised, would you call him a Christian? So how does a Baptist who has not joined the Anglican Church get called an Anglican? Also, any baptised Christian can receive at our altar. Your comment about barriers to joining is also odd. I'm interested what barriers you think would exist in a parish like mine. And 'modern' does not mean 'no ceremony'. There are quite a lot of ceremonies associated with the Novus Ordo, and the rebels of the Reformation got rid of an awful lot of ceremony. The 'hymn sandwich' might be relatively new in the history of the Church, but 500 years old is NOT modern. This is all moot, anyway, since we are being assured that all those who voted in Falls Church et al were indeed Anglican.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 12:55pm BST

Hello Ford

I think the barriers we can put up is an issue worthy of serious consideration since I guess we would not want to put people off....

We need to think about how someone coming in off the street might relate to our music, "ceremonies" etc. Would they know what we are doing? Would they be confused or intimidated by not knowing what to do and when? Might theybe put off coming again? Are the things we are doing essential to teaching, learning and knowing Christ?

We see lots of people coming to faith every year (thank God) and so we are very careful to make sure that we are not using jargon, not forcing them to learn prcedures etc

I am sure old hymns and music and even some "ceremonies" contain many treasures.....for the cognescenti and people who like old or "classical" music. We use some (our music director was a Cambridge organ scholar) but we use more modern songs because we want new people to adjust easily to being in church and not to put any barriers in front of "outsiders" coming in......I think this is particularly important if we want to attract people under 40.

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 2:44pm BST

Yes, exploit the contemporary culture and at the same time put up a high barrier to believing, to jump it if you want to carry on with the entertaining style of religion.

The other way around is more thinking about what people believe combined with a cultural approach which is not every day in the street but allows a sense of mystery and appreciation.

One of them is a get 'em in approach, and the other treats people who have either been on a journey with informed minds of their developing some stability in their spirituality, or alternatively who come in and wish to explore and find a cultural setting in which to do this.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 9:45pm BST

Yes, I want to "get 'em in" that as many as possible hear the gospel.....that's right and why ST Paul said "be all things to all people" in order to share the gospel with them.

Pluralist....pls show me where we are commanded to use words and music which are hundreds of years old???

Posted by: NP on Friday, 17 August 2007 at 8:44am BST

First point: there are numerous younger people who are not at all attracted by a rock concert cum worship service, and who do not appreciate all the emotional crying and waving of hands. There are many who prefer a service where coming into the presence of God is done in reverence and humility. The problem is not with those who converse with God, whether it be through a praise band or a Solemn High Mass. The problem is with people like me and you who are unable to contain our scorn for those who worship differently than we do.

"we are very careful to make sure that we are not using jargon"

Please, Evangelicalism is all about jargon! "Jesus as your personal saviour" "Bible believing" "upholding in prayer" "I'm believing God for a miracle" even the word Christian is used, though for some I'm beginning to think subconsciously, to mean Evangelical Christian. I don't deny there are a lot of specific terms, even jargon, in traditional worship, but come on, old man, a little self-examination is in order. As to people hearing the Gospel, well, there are lots who would be more attracted to those who LIVE the Gospel quietly than they would to those who thunder the Gospel loudly from their pulpits, but fail to practice it's most basic tenets, and even use the Scriptures to justify such hypocrisy.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 17 August 2007 at 1:16pm BST

Am I in the army or something? Is everyone looking for where they are "commanded" to do anything?

If a church wants to be on the lines of, say, Abundant Life Church, Bradford, with rock bands and singers and repetitive verse, and lights and media, and people swaying about, then it is fine by me.

But there is at least another ethos too. This is where people contemplate, meditate and think about matters of faith. Often the music is recent, but it should add to the sense of the numinous. It is not a command, but a preference. Bash and crash music leaves a great many running for the door - out.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 17 August 2007 at 2:43pm BST

"Is everyone looking for where they are "commanded" to do anything?"

No, everyone isn't. There are those for whom their relationship with God has to be on the basis of Law and obedience and command. NP, for instance has repeatedly referred to Peter's Dream in Acts as giving him the "authority" to eat a bacon sandwich. I find such an attitude and language bizarre and would never be able to think in terms of what I have "authority" to do, but for him, it is a perfectly clear and reasonable approach to the things of God. He does not seem to understand 1 Corinthians 6, or at least thinks that "not expedient" means "not legal". I feel sad for him in that, but that's just me being judgemental. I agree with everything in your post, and I love that someone else uses the word "numinous"! I would add, however, that, just as there has to be a place for the Abundant Life people, there has to be a place for NP's type of person too. The trouble is that once they get settled away, they promptly try to get rid of the rest of us because we DON'T see things like they do.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 17 August 2007 at 4:39pm BST made me laugh....seems like you imagine I am part of some pentecostal set up from the Southern states of the is all very English at my church in London and quite formal, actually! We have thousands using our main church and our plants but none of these are remotely "rock concerts".....I have told you that our music direct is a Cambridge Organ Scholar.

Anyway....let's not waste time arguing about what works but get on with our do what you do to reach as many as you can, we will do what we do .....

Posted by: NP on Friday, 17 August 2007 at 5:17pm BST

"Anyway....let's not waste time arguing about what works but get on with our do what you do to reach as many as you can, we will do what we do ....."

But not -- in your case, as best as I can gather, NP -- to reach anybody who isn't straight, who might prefer to be ministered to by a woman, or who believes that the Holy Spirit didn't stop working after the last book of the New Testament was written.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 17 August 2007 at 11:21pm BST

The problem is that the things NP and his ilk do to "reach as many as they can" are a roadblock to us. His type of Christianity is what the world has very strongly rebelled against. Of course, he will never admit it. He truly doesn't see, and will not be led to see, the problems with his attitude. I've given up. I am confident that one day he will be asked "Why did you drive so many away, and deny it when it was pointed out to you?" I'll stop on my way to the goats to hear his answer.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 20 August 2007 at 2:40pm BST

Yes, Ford, I quite agree.

NP likes to point out the shrinking membership of the "liberal" TEC and the growing membership of the conservative GS. What NP fails to see, however, is that TEC is shrinking, probably, because it isn't liberal ENOUGH for the present and coming generations of United States Christians. Polls show that the members of my kids' generation (and my kids are very nearly "cradle Episcopalians", even if I am not--they were baptized at the ages of three and one, respectively) are far more tolerant and accepting of their LGBT brothers and sisters than any generation before. To them, all this nonsense about gay marriage is ridiculous...of course, gays should be able to get married is the common answer among this generation. They simply don't understand what their elders are making such a fuss about.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 at 12:46am BST

Pat - you just made me laugh out loud!

You are aware of the huge conservative church growth in the US in the last years?? Sure, it is mostly outside TEC....but even in TEC, you have seen evidence of this in the last twenty years.

Well, go for it....make yourself as liberal as you like and show me your megachurch or many strong local churches around the US!

We have to keep on subsidising liberal parishes right next to us.....I will pass on your advice that they have 5% of our congregation even though they are 10 mins walk away....because they are not liberal enough! I wonder what we are doing right? Might it be sticking to the word of God even when we are challenged by it??

Anyway, brilliant conclusion!
Thanks - you have brightened my day!

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 at 2:34pm BST

I'm sure with all the listening you've been doing, you've come across a song called "The Right is Wrong". It refers to right wing politics, whether sacred or secular. It is something of a favourite among those who hate the Church, the ones you deny even exist, until you want to accuse them of perscuting you unjustly just because you are a True Christian.

One day, I'd like to sit down with you and a pie. I will promise you one half of the pie. Then I will cut away one half and throw it away, but still promise you one half. I will keep doing this till we have only a small piece left. The I will give you half of what remains, and take a small portion of the rest for myself. I will then wait for you to tell me how you got most of the pie and I only had scraps. Just because your church gets more scraps than ours doesn't mean you're not getting scraps.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 at 5:22pm BST


And what do you think will happen to all those growing conservative mega-churches when their adherents "age out"...and there are no young people to join them? Because the young, having grown up in an increasingly tolerant, liberal society, will find the intolerance of their parents' beliefs insufferable and unsupportable?

My own parish--liberal enough to have a woman associate rector--is growing, adding new families (and, yes, whole families, not just older couples) every year...while the hard-core conservative parish next door (the one that refused to allow our bishop to visit) has closed its doors, having been reduced to a mere 35 parishioners on its rolls.

Now, tell me, which part of TEC is growing?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 at 5:31pm BST

"refused to allow our bishop to visit"

Did he refuse to condemn all non-Christians to Hell and therefor show his apostacy, stimulating the fury of the True Christians?" That seems to be a tactic: set a test that requires a nuanced answer, demand a clear concise answer and, when none is forthcoming, lock the doors against the bishop. When he disciplines you, claim that you are a beleaguered group of True Christians being oppressed by the Evil Hell Bound Liberals, and True Faith is more important than canon law.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 August 2007 at 12:33pm BST

"the young, having grown up in an increasingly tolerant, liberal society,"

I'm not so optimistic about this, actually. About fifty years ago we created another group of human beings, the teenager. We told them they were expected to rebel against the ways of their elders. Is it any surprise, then, that when the children of the 60s hippies got be teenagers, they dutifully rebelled against the liberalism of their parents and, in their twenties, were the movers and shakers of the 80s "me" generation? That's perhaps a bit broad, but if growing up in a liberal society is a guarantee of liberalism, why are there neo-Nazis? The issue is not so much that there ARE neo-Nazis, but that such people are always around, and all it takes is economic hardship, something our economic system is almost geared to produce in some sectors of society, to give such people a voice in society. Also, the current global demographic shift means that people from far more traditional and less tolerant societies than ours are gaining a greater voice in the cultures in which they now live. There's no guarantee that the West will continue it's halting stumble towards freedom and justice, there are forces within and without that seek to turn us back.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 August 2007 at 1:22pm BST

Ford / Pat - I am speaking from my experience in London

In my church in Lonon, we have lots of kids (probably 100 in Sunday school) and another 100 in teens and 500 in their twenties (with another 500 aged 30 - 90)
So, I am not worried about demographics .....

The question I ask you is why have we got so many Brits when 5 mins down the road, the liberal AC church is empty ???

And why are churches like ours all over England doing so well? We are not shrinking like Ford's pie......I hope that does not disappoint you Ford

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 4:20pm BST

"We are not shrinking like Ford's pie"

Really? The number of Britons who attend no Church at all is increasing daily. You cannot possibly be spreading the Gospel if the number of Christians in the population is decreasing. By its very definition 'spreading' the Gospel requires that the Gospel actually spread, not be accepted by fewer people all the time. Now, the question is why are people not going to church? I can't speak for Britain, but I know why it's happening here, because I talk to the people who don't go, who actively hate the Church. Curiously many of them love God, and have read the Bible. They don't see the God of the New Testament in organized religion. They see judgemental hypocrisy and demands of adherence to the Law by people who don't obey that Law themselves, and who don't seem to understand that the very faith they practice preaches freedom from the kind of mindless obedience they demamnd. In short, NP, they see you. They judge you by the standards you pretend to follow and find you wanting.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 at 12:22pm BST

Ford - you ain't listening, brother....we are growing strongly and have been doing so (and planting) for many years and decades.

Maybe the total nos fall because there are so many wishy-washy vicars still in the CofE, preaching little more than "be nice people", ignoring the bible where it challenges them or others and turning droves of Christian and NC people off.....we cannot do anything about them and the damage donoe to the gospel by their work ....... maybe you should look at where the huge decline in the CofE is for an explanation of what is failing the spreading of the gospel in the UK.......

Your conclusion is Goranesque (maybe even Cherylesque), we see thousands using our church and thousands in our plants....and we are the ones turning people off??? There are lots of empty liberal churches....and we are struggling for space....but we turn people off? We see lots of new Christians come to faith....thank God....but you think we turn people off....and the liberal churches which last saw a conversion when Wesley himself preached there are not missing something??

Well, we are going to continue being a failure in your eyes and pray God continues to give us lots of new people who desire to love and obey him so we ca reach the nation as you suggest we should.

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 at 3:44pm BST

"we are going to continue being a failure in your eyes"

In order to continue, you would have to start being a failure in my eyes, since I do not see you as a failure now. I do not dispute your church is blocked to the doors. The number of Christians across Britain is falling daily, however. Thus you can only be getting a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller pie. How decreasing numbers can be seen as growth is difficult for me to grasp, perhaps you can explain. As to the reasons, I cannot help the fact that you remain ignorant because you refuse to speak to the people you have alienated.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 4:25pm BST

Ford...the people we have alienated?

Are they those new Christians God gives us all the time.

Are they all those people not going to liberal CofE churches?

Anyway, we will continue our work with praise to God for the thousands he has been adding and with confidence that he will continue to renew the CofE......30 years ago, the idea that Alpha would come out of the CofE would have been hardly believable....God is going to continue his good work. We rejoice in what we see him doing - let the liberals rejoice in what he is doing in their churches.

Posted by: NP on Friday, 31 August 2007 at 9:16am BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.