Saturday, 5 April 2008

Virginia court ruling: Saturday reports

Earlier reports in previous article.

New York Times Neela Banerjee Virginia Judge Allows Case on Episcopal Property to Proceed

Washington Post Michelle Boorstein and Jacqueline L. Salmon Court Ruling Boosts Breakaway Churches

Time David Van Biema The Episcopal Property War

Washington Times Julia Duin Va. judge sides with breakaway Episcopal parishes

Institute on Religion and Democracy Court Rules in Favor of Departing Virginia Churches

Church of Nigeria CANA magnanimous in victory

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 5 April 2008 at 7:28am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA
Comments

May I note that there was another property ruling, just a couple of weeks ago (Long Island NY, I believe? I could be wrong), that TEC ***won***? [I don't believe that it was reported here, but several commenters noted it at Fr. Jake's]

I never fail to be impressed by the *amount* of coverage the schismatics win for themselves. Ah, that Ahmanson money... (Yes-yes-yes: "thou shalt not covet". Then again, if no one were coveting, Episcopalians in Virginia wouldn't have any trouble worshipping in *Episcopal-built* parishes, would they? :-/)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 5 April 2008 at 7:38pm BST

When someone has to issue a news release to tell you they've been magnanimous, you can rest assured they've been anything but.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Sunday, 6 April 2008 at 3:05am BST

Anyone want to bet that Ohio's sudden turnaround in how it treates its departing churches (within a month of saying how good relationships were) was due to being told by 815 to get nasty - after signs of potential defeat in Virginia?

http://www.livingchurch.org/news/news-updates/2008/4/4/diocese-of-ohio-litigation-ends-peaceful-way-to-coexist

Is Liberal TEC adopting the motif of the fear of God's judgement? Aiming to keep the faithful under control through the threat of the fires of eternal litigation?

Posted by: david wh on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 12:06am BST

David wh, you place great speculation on an article that is murky at best. Out of these five congregations here in NE Ohio, one has lost it's rector to a sex scandal within the parish, the other lost it's priest-in-charge due to non-attendance, and one of the other break-away parishes has returned to the fold (the one down on the river). That leaves two, of which one is an inner-city mission of the other in suburban Akron (St. Luke's). St. Luke's is basically non-Anglican in worship (no hymnals, "liberal" use of non-prayer book passages, unorthodox music and strange gestures-did I say "Pentecostal"- by the congregation in their "form" of worship). I pass their parking lot every Sunday to my gig and can attest that it is anything but filled.

If anything, the article quotes sources that have shown great patience from +Mark Hollingsworth. Perhaps the cries from "dissidents" (insurgents???) from within these troubled parishes are voices to right the wrongs caused by renegade rectors who have encouraged FOR YEARS (predating +VGR by at least twenty of them) for their parish leadership to avoid paying their assessments (and thereby cut off from participating in the yearly diocesan conventions).

If anything, we've been very kind to these people, and now it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost. And basing your argument on a place you know nothing about, and by one article in an obviously slanted publication such as the Living Church proves your gullibility David wh, not to mention a sloppy effort at grasping for straws.

And has been said many times on this blogsite by others, if you're going to play hardball, accept the fact that you're going to get hit by that ball occasionally.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 1:18pm BST

JCF, New York law is quite different from Virginia law - no 57-9 statute that addresses property in the case of division.

Bp Lee's lawyers, I am quite sure, knew about the law. Yet he allowed himself to be strong-armed into stopping negotiations and begin litigating at incredibly cost to the diocese, a cost that does not appear to be shared with the national church. Rather he apparently has sold off a million dollars worth of un-designated property (given by people who were not intending it to go to lawyers' fees) as well as taking on debt. Incredibly, Fr Jake has blamed the Anglican District in Virginia (ADV) for the legal fees. One writer at Standfirm comments:
-------
That quotation from FrJake constitutes the most utterly incredible instance of denial I’ve seen from the TEO side. First the PB strolls in and axes a year’s worth of work on a peaceful settlement protocol, then Jake blames the ADV for causing $4 million in legal fees.
-------
I hope that our brothers and sisters across the pond on both sides of the fence see the folly and destructiveness of the "take no prisoners, no negotiations with schismatics" strategy and communicate it with leaders of the Episcopal church here.

Posted by: robroy on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 1:48pm BST

These discussions would be so much simpler if the "conservatives" had not chosen to believe that lying in defendce their cause was acceptable.

David Wh, despite your fantasies, the Presiding Bishop does not have the capcity to "force" the Bishop of Ohio, the Bishop of Virginia or any other Bishop to start a lawsuit.

Robroy (and why must you so degrade the name of an heroic figure from history), the Virginia lawsuits were not initiated by the Diocese of Virgina, but rather by the decamping pseudo-Nigerians. A plaintiff has far more influence over hte timing of a lawsuit than a respondent.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 5:50pm BST

In this context, a very interesting exchange earlier on this blog might be revisited. My post asked a question of Robroy:

"Regarding church property, Robroy wrote the following yesterday on TitusOneNine:

"It seems outrageous to me that one party of a contract can change the rules and the other must live with it which is precisely what the Dennis canon does. The diocese and national church effectively states give me all your deeds to your parishes. How un-American."

I would be interested in hearing from members of the Church of England on this. Does it seem wrong to them to vest ownership of church property in the Church of England? Is it "changing the rules" for the Episcopal Church in America to do the same? Are there any Anglican churches that vest ownership in individual congregations?"

And David Wh replied:

"Charlotte, Ownership of Church of England churches' property IS vested in the Rector (or Vicar) of the parish!"

So I presume, then, that if the Rector or Vicar of a Church of England parish decides to affiliate with a different province (say, Southern Cone, or The Episcopal Church), he has a perfect right to. The church buildings and all other property will transfer with him. If he should decide to become a Roman Catholic or Baptist, the church property also will transfer with him.

Church of England members, I would welcome your comments on this. Is this the case?

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 6:03pm BST

Robroy:

Someone moves into my family's ancestral home, changes everything around, claims to be "returning it to its historic state", and then wants to transfer ownership of the home to some foreign group...and I'm supposed to "negotiate" with him?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 6:16pm BST

Charlotte asked

"So I presume, then, that if the Rector or Vicar of a Church of England parish decides to affiliate with a different province (say, Southern Cone, or The Episcopal Church), he has a perfect right to. The church buildings and all other property will transfer with him. If he should decide to become a Roman Catholic or Baptist, the church property also will transfer with him."

I think it would be fair to say that there are some leaderships who think this is reasonable, quite probably Sydney, for example. Who would also probably be prepared to take the whole of Sydney and its assets with them. After all, they haven't had a problem pruning out from within their midst those who would suggest otherwise to their decrees.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 8:18pm BST

Charlotte is perfectly right to ask her question about ownership of property in the Church of England. David Wh has been a tad economical with the truth, in that whilst a Rector or Vicar is vested with the freehold of the property of the living (church and churchyard in effect) it is held ON BEHALF OF THE PARISHIONERS.
The Incumbent who decided to sell the churchyard to a property developer would not get very far. There is an extremely complex system for the sale of redundant church buildings and property. The diocese can't simply put an ad in the property section of the local paper on Friday evening.
The incumbent who tried to affiliate with Sydney or Zaire would not get very far, either. English parishes are geographical and their boundaries are set by a legal process. It is therefore simply impossible to transfer the parish of St Etheldreda's, Sludgetown, to the diocese of Abuja, because the "gap" it would leave cannot exist in law. The congregation can go and worship in a local school: it's happened many times. But they cannot any longer claim any interest in St Etheldreda's, its parish, its property, or its goods and ornaments. They cease to be St Etheldreda's, and they are no longer in communion with the local bishop. This happened not long ago in Worcester diocese.

Posted by: cryptogram on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 8:24pm BST

"May I note that there was another property ruling, just a couple of weeks ago (Long Island NY, I believe? I could be wrong), that TEC ***won***? [I don't believe that it was reported here, but several commenters noted it at Fr. Jake's]"

Most definitely, St. James, Elmhurst, Queens. The interesting bit was that this parish was one of those from colonial times which predated the formation of TEC. They took the standard position the because they predated the diocese, they were guaranteed their independence. Charles Nails, former TEC member and now Anglican vagante, testified and completely failed to convince the judge.

Posted by: ruidh on Monday, 7 April 2008 at 10:01pm BST

Charlotte

Unfortunaelty cryptogram didn't look back and read all that I had posted, so got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The Rector/Vicar has freehold use of the property, but no right to sell it, as far as I know, if any property is sold the money would go to the Diocese.

I suspect that if the Established Church suffers another ecclesiastical division - like the one that is happening to ECUSA - it could probably only happen by a change of UK law (as happened when episcopal provision was made for legitimate dissenters on the question of women in the priesthood). General Synod would probably have to agree how to form the division, and carve up the assets, and then make a recommendation for legislation by Parliament.

Since liberals do not have a majority in Synod, this would probably lead to an old-fashioned fair division... If the liberals were in control I guess they might quickly convince themselves of the virtue of the modern liberal-totalitarian approach: "we have the majority, so we make the rules -- if you don't like it go away and leave us the assets".

UK liberals might protest that they would be fair, but I find it hard to believe. We have just witnessed Welsh liberals trying to use the totalitarian method by enact legislation on women bishops that made no adequate provision for legitimate dissent. And I have yet to hear a single english liberal criticising what either Wales or TEC are doing!

Posted by: david wh on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 12:08am BST

Cryptogram, thank you for responding to my question.

Here is my point. You have explained the position of the Church of England regarding its churches and other property. The Episcopal Church takes exactly the same position regarding its churches and other property. So why the controversy? What reason do David Wh, Margaret, Robroy and the others have to think that a historic Anglican standard does not apply to them?

Posted by: Charlotte on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 12:50am BST

Another law case has been dragging on for years in the diocese of South Carolina, Ruidh. It concerns All Saints, Pawleys Island, the majority of whose congregation voted to leave TEC in 2003. In the case of All Saints, the complicating factor is that the church building, erected prior to the American Revolution, was deeded at that time to trustees. To date the SC courts appear to have ruled that on account of this factor the SC diocese and the continuing TEC congregation have no claim on the church building, though other property and money have been awarded to them. It seems, therefore, that under SC law the entire property would have been awarded to the continuing TEC congragation but for this unusual complication. I imagine that the diocese of SC bears this in mind as it charts its future course.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 2:20am BST

"Robroy (and why must you so degrade the name of an heroic figure from history), the Virginia lawsuits were not initiated by the Diocese of Virgina, but rather by the decamping pseudo-Nigerians. A plaintiff has far more influence over hte timing of a lawsuit than a respondent."

This is another blinking at reality. Katherine Jefferts-Schori has said herself, in sworn deposition, that she was the one that made the diocese of Virginia break off negotiations and begin litigation.

Malcolm seems to confuse with the recording of the results of the votes taken at the 11 parishes at the local court with initiation of lawsuits. The dio of Va could have simply acknowledged the rights of the parishes under the 57-9 statute and no lawsuits would have been filed. Everyone would have been happy.

And to answer your question, Pat, you might not feel the need to negotiate in a charitable fashion, but Bp Lee did. He already had negotiated the separation of two churches that went to Uganda, I believe, before he was forced to break off.

Does anyone else find the term "pseudo-Nigerian" a hair's breadth away from blatant racism? It is certainly unnecessarily uncivil.

Posted by: robroy on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 2:46am BST

The law-abiding British people would never allow the pirates from the GS to claim CofE parish properties, the ABC's personal position on the schism notwithstanding. The British just do not pander to thieves and pirates.

Posted by: John Henry on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 4:17am BST

"Since liberals do not have a majority in Synod"

Which Synod of which area within which nation does this refer, and which Synod represents all Synods in all areas within all nations?

There's a paradigm filter leading to such statements, understand the filter and then understanding statement's content, context and their author becomes easy.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 11:26am BST

"If the liberals were in control I guess they might quickly convince themselves of the virtue of the modern liberal-totalitarian approach: "we have the majority, so we make the rules -- if you don't like it go away and leave us the assets"."

How is a holding a vote and then abiding by the majority decision a "totalitarian" approach? Sounds like democracy to me.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 11:33am BST

cryptogram replied to what David Wh wrote on *this* thread. Other things may have been written on other threads, but there are things of greater importance than pursuing the collected works of DW across cyberspace.

Posted by: cryptogram on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 12:16pm BST

"The British just do not pander to thieves and pirates"

Tell that to Queen Elizabeth I.

Posted by: James Crocker on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 3:56pm BST

A desperate attempt to play the race card, Robroy.

Pseudo-Nigerians is a reference to a byunch of people who have no real connection to Nigeria pretending to be a part of the province of Nigeria. They can pretend to be Nigerians all they want - and the Prince Bishop of Abuja can pretend right along with them. But they are not Nigerian. They do not live in Nigeria. They have no real or tangible connection to Nigeria. Certainly nothing that would make them authentically Nigerian.

KJS may well have persuaded, convinced or pressured Bishop Lee to change tactics. There is simply no mechanism in the Episcopal Church by which she could have forced him to do so - which is what you and the other "conservatives" claim.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 5:21pm BST

"The British just do not pander to thieves and pirates."

I live in Newfoundland. Pull the other one! Oh, right. In our case, they WERE the thieves and pirates!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 8 April 2008 at 6:56pm BST

Pat O'Neill wrote: "How is a holding a vote and then abiding by the majority decision a "totalitarian" approach? Sounds like democracy to me."

Pat, To quote the font of all knowledge: "'Majority rule' is a major principle of democracy, though (...) minority rights are often protected from what is sometimes called 'the tyranny of the majority'." Anglicanism's liberals seem to not like to respect *minority rights*... if they think that that minority is "wrong" (ie not liberal)! I think that they consider that man-made "human rights" completely negate any respect for people who hold to 2000 year old Christian beliefs.


ps cryptogram, you replied to what Charlotte quoted me as saying (which was only an excerpt of what I had posted)

Posted by: david wh on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 at 12:22am BST

""'Majority rule' is a major principle of democracy, though (...) minority rights are often protected from what is sometimes called 'the tyranny of the majority'." Anglicanism's liberals seem to not like to respect *minority rights*... if they think that that minority is "wrong" (ie not liberal)! I think that they consider that man-made "human rights" completely negate any respect for people who hold to 2000 year old Christian beliefs."

Yes, but those minority rights are not protected by denying the majority vote. They are protected by a system of "checks and balances" whereby it is difficult to get a majority. In TEC, those checks and balances are largely represented by the necessity to get a majority in all three houses of General Convention: bishops, clergy, and laity. A lack of majority in any one of the three vetoes any proposal.

Further, they are protected by the fact that no resolution of GC can force any individual Episcopalian...or any parish...to do anything it does not wish to do. Hence, despite the adoption by GC of a "new" prayer book over three decades ago, some parishes still use the 1928 version. And even if at some time in the future, GC does approve a blessing for same-sex unions, it would not require any parish...or any priest...to participate in such a blessing.

What you propose is not a protection of minority rights, but rather a "tyranny of the minority" in which that minority could prevent the majority from having its way.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 at 11:48am BST

"Anglicanism's liberals seem to not like to respect *minority rights*"

Astounding statement! We are constantly being told that conservatives constitute the vast majority of Anglicans. It is conservatives who are falsely claiming they are being forced to do and accept things when no-one is doing so. It is conservatives who are forcing the minority to bend to their will or get out of the Communion. So, from where I sit, it's not that the liberal MINORITY doesn't respect minority rights, but rather that the conservaitve MAJORITY is upset they cannot hold sway over everybody else. How can you claim to be in the majority when you want to exert your will over others, then turn right around and claim to be in the minority when you want to look persecuted? Don't you see how bad that makes you look? In every single case of supposed liberal "persecution" of the conservative "faithful remnant" that I have seen, the conservatives created the situation. The Church won't let you break with 2000 years of Tradition and take buildings when you go into schism? Claim persecution! The bishop disciplines you when lock the doors against him after he refuses to claim baldly that all who aren't Christians are going to Hell? Claim persecution!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 at 12:42pm BST

Ford,

You do an interesting "juggling act" with "minority" and "majority," it just does not advance the conversation.

Of course many matters can be decided in the local church (e.g. whether to use the Alpha course to teach newcomers etc), but when there are matters of basic Christian theological or moral teaching involved - e.g. God is the creator of the universe or a bishop is expected to be married and live in faithfulness to his wife - the local church cannot simply act on it own or go its own way.

To the extent that the AC has a polity to deal with questions beyond the local level, the strongest expression has been the Lambeth coferences. So we had Lambeth 1.10 affirmed by the great MAJORITY. Further the bishops met, including then preiding bishop Frank Griswold, and agreed that action not in accord with this would "tear the fabric of communion" and they would stand together. Then he went back to the US and ordained Gene Robinson. Are you surprised when people say you did not keep faith with the communion or with us? This action is a clear walking apart (by a minority from the majority).

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 at 4:10pm BST

David WH seems to think that I have somehow misrepresented his views. I think we all need to see the complete original post. You will see that the part I deleted was simply inflammatory rhetoric. You will see that he said nothing about "freeholds" or rights to sell parish property in the original, which is highly misleading. Here it is, in its entirety.

-quote-
Charlotte, Ownership of Church of England churches' property IS vested in the Rector (or Vicar) of the parish!

I've no idea what would happen to non-liberal churches if the liberal cancer that is destroying TEC were to get a death-grip in England too but, fortunately, our nasty liberals are not in control - despite their strident noise and assertions of inevitable domination.

And, if the heirarchy ever allows itself to become truly representative of its churches and clergy (especially the successful ones), the risk of destruction due to liberal apostasy will recede even further.

Posted by: david wh on Sunday, 6 April 2008 at 11:54pm BST
-endquote-

Posted by: Charlotte on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 at 7:17pm BST

"To the extent that the AC has a polity to deal with questions beyond the local level, the strongest expression has been the Lambeth coferences."

But that's just it, Ben. The Anglican Communion has no such polity...and the Lambeth conferences are definitely not a part of it. The AC is a collection of individual churches...working from a historical tradition that each nation deserves its own church based in its own understanding of Christian thought and tradition. We are siblings with the CoE, the Anglican Church of Canada and, yes, even the Anglican Church of Nigeria. We are not children of the See of Canterbury, required to be obedient to its will...or the will of those who meet there once a decade.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 9 April 2008 at 7:50pm BST

Pat,

I think you have already been around this bush with Margaret. The very concern about who is "invited" and what will be addressed tells you Lambeth is more than just to get together and talk about the weather and maybe drink a little beer!

And what about "the primates" meeting? Both are ways of addressing larger than merely local concerns. I agree that the covenant process is intended to clarify some of this and deal with some lose ends (Ms MacAdams haled earlier as a leading light here I thought made the case in the light of the fix the AC is in, with strong agreement from many on this list, that we need a way to define some boundaries!).Even siblings as part of a family have to find ways to act together for the good of the whole!

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Thursday, 10 April 2008 at 3:20am BST

Ben W wrote: "You do an interesting "juggling act" with "minority" and "majority," it just does not advance the conversation."

Here is another "juggling act" with "minority" and "majority" (I have pinched it):

"200 million Americans can't be right!"

; = )

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 10 April 2008 at 6:35am BST

"The very concern about who is "invited" and what will be addressed tells you Lambeth is more than just to get together and talk about the weather and maybe drink a little beer!

And what about "the primates" meeting? Both are ways of addressing larger than merely local concerns."

Address them, yes. Make canonically enforceable pronouncements, no. The arguments over who is invited to Lambeth are more about agreements over who is a true bishop than about the value of what is discussed and decided.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 10 April 2008 at 11:41am BST

What Ben and the rest of the "conservatives" (deliberately?) fail to grasp is that the Lambeth Conference specifically, pre-emptively and definitively REJECTED the idea that Lambeth was some sort of synodical court for world-wide Anglicanism.

Not only did the +Cantuar of the day explicitly reject the idea in issuing the invitations, but the first several Lambeths actually defeated resolutions which sought to invest the conference with that kind of authority, or to establish some other juridical body to "regulate" the autocephalous provinces.

Of course, when facts get in the way of the "conservative" argument, facts must be discarded.

The only authority a Lambeth Conference has is the collective moral authority of its participants. Thus, Lambeth Conference resolutions deserve to be given serious and respectful consideration because they reflect the current thinking of a majority (or ideally a consensus) of all the bishops in attendance.

That does NOT, however much you may wish it otherwise, constitute the same thing as binding juridical authority. Indeed, if it did, surely Akinola et all would be equally deserving of formal and official censure for his flat our refusal to conform with Lambeth 1998 1.10's call to listen to the experience of homosexual persons.

Likewise the Primates meeting have the authority to gather, to offer mutual support and to pray. That is the purpose for which they were called to gether and that only authority they have beyond that is the collective moral authority of the participants. For the primates collectively to claim binding juridical authority is nothing less than an ecclesiastical coup d'etat.

Since the only authority either meeting has is the collective moral authority of the participants, it would behoove those who plot schism and destruction to remember that blatant political machinations do exactly nothing to enhance that authority.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Thursday, 10 April 2008 at 4:58pm BST

Malcolm,

Yes, if in the context of critical challenges formal good faith pledges mean nothing then forget Lambeth and the primates meetings. But be prepared for chaos. No one expects that Caesar of old is waiting to enforce agreement by exiling the bishops on "the other side."

But then what in Christian context is or should be more binding then one's solemn word in this context?

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Thursday, 10 April 2008 at 6:32pm BST

Ben W:

As I've said elsewhere, the chaos you predict wouldn't last. Sooner or later one view or the other on any presenting issue would gain a majority position, without any enforcement.

I sometimes think of the various autonomous national churches of the Anglican Communion the same way I think of the sovereign states of the United States. We allow each of them to "experiment" with certain ideas, each in its own way, until we see which ideas work best or, in the Anglican context, best fit our traditions of scripture, liturgy and reason.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 11 April 2008 at 3:18am BST

"And, if the heirarchy ever allows itself to become truly representative of its churches and clergy (especially the successful ones), the risk of destruction due to liberal apostasy will recede even further."

One has to wonder what would happen if, instead of the above, the hierarchy ever allowed itself to become truly representative of its God and His teachings. We would certainly get rid of the risk of destruction caused by conservative apostasy. Where did you get the idea that the Kingdom of God is some sort of representative democracy? It is not the Republic of God, after all, despite what a lot of American Evangelicals/Fundamentalists think.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 11 April 2008 at 7:39pm BST
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