Friday, 29 January 2010

News from Pittsburgh

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has a press release:

Today Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph James accepted a Special Master’s report detailing the properties the Judge has previously ruled should be controlled by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Special Master compiled his inventory following the Judge’s order of October 6, 2009, in which he ruled that a 2005 Stipulation agreed to by former diocesan leaders prevented them from continuing to hold diocesan assets.

Today’s order contains provisions intended to make it clear to the financial institutions holding the assets that they should now take their instructions only from designated representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The order, which takes effect immediately, also requires former diocesan leaders to provide ongoing cooperation to the Diocese to implement the provisions of the Order.

The Diocese plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds that were frozen by financial institutions during the legal proceedings.

A PDF of Judge James’ January 29th order and the public version of the Special Master’s report can be viewed by clicking here.

Lionel Deimel has additional information here, and more here. And even more here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 29 January 2010 at 11:59pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

More judgements in different locations in North America will continue to follow this pattern. The Episcopal Church is winning them hands down but it is costing a great deal of money. It is a lesson for The Church of England and should give cause to re-think any recognition of the reactionary elements in their own Church as well as the folly of recognizing the renegade Anglican Church of North America.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 12:40am GMT

The real tragedy here is that a court supervised and approved binding Stipulation was entered into in 2005, setting out which assets and properties belonged to the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburg (of TEC), in the event that the then bishop of Pittsburg, Robert Duncan, followed through on his plans to secede from TEC. Although one would expect that a Christian bishop would enter into and comply with the court approved Stipulation in "good faith", when Duncan spearated "his" diocese from TEC, he repudiated the court approved agreement, laid claim to all of the property and assets of the diocese, and then accused TEC and the Presiding Bishop of perfidy when he was appropriately deposed as a bishop in TEC for abandoning the Communion of our Church.

This is the person whose deposition Mrs. Ashworth laments and holds up to the Synod of the CofE as an example of our wayward ways in TEC. One might as well ask the Mad Hatter for a spot of tea while we're at it.

One should understand that deposition for abandonment of the Communion of our Church does not purport to invalidate one's orders as priest or bishop. It simply recognizes in an offical way that the person in question is no longer regarded as authorized to exercise their ministry in TEC.

Consistent with his lack of respect for his own solemnly given word to the court, as well as in his sacred vows as priest and bishop in TEC, the now Archbishop Duncan, bankrolled by radical right wing "Christian" money, will now attempt to bleed dry the Church that he so unseemly abandoned with endless appeals. How can someone act this way in the name of "faithfulness" to Jesus and find much support among the clergy and bishops of the CofE?

And all of this is taking place in the context of over 100 years of United States Supreme Court rulings that have held consistently that, in the case of a hierarchical Church such as TEC, all parish and diocesan property and assets belong to the parent Church, in the event of a separation of any part from the whole. The so-called Dennis Canon, which spelled this out in the last few decades, although it was well understood to be contained in other parts of the Canons, was entered into the Canons of TEC at the recommendation of The United States Supreme Court to make it easier for them to enforce this doctrine.

How can one such as Duncan lay claim to "the faith once delivered to the saints", and a greater righteouness, while condemning TEC for "apostasy", in the context of such utter bad faith on his part?

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 1:04am GMT

Karen makes good sense - but TEC must work a great deal harder to win the propaganda war.

And not just TEC. We have just seen a massive disinformation campaign, filled with lies and fraud funded and operated by Christian groups, defeating the government in parliament.

I am not advocating we use their tactics but liberals are going to have to be far more effective at challenging their spin.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 11:23am GMT

The lawsuit documents make all plain. When someone is sued, the "discovery" process on the suit forces them to produce all the evidence and the neutral judge or jury rules on the evidence. This is why Duncan fought so hard against the suit when it was initiated. He didn't want others to see the paper trail that he would have to reveal. He didn't want a neutral authority making a decision. Duncan's attorneys denied and denied his intent to leave the Episcopal Church. The paper trail revealed to the judge's neutral eye something very different. I believe anybody reviewing these documents would see something very different. Given that all is now on the table, Duncan, who complained so vociferously at Dar-Es-Salaam against the law suits on Pauline scriptural grounds, had no problem returning to court to appeal.

Posted by: EmilyH on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 1:31pm GMT

"I am not advocating we use their tactics but liberals are going to have to be far more effective at challenging their spin."

From your lips to God's ears, Martin Reynolds!

There are many factual errors and misleading claims in the motion Mrs. Ashcroft is bringing before General Synod on behalf of ACNA. They should be corrected, and it is my understanding that they are being corrected. But our experience in TEC has been that as soon as a factual error is corrected, two new ones spring up in its place.

The problem liberals seem reluctant to address has to do with the rhetorical framing used by reasserters and evangelicals in making their case. Their "facts" merely fill in the blanks of these rhetorical frames; they are disposable and expendable. It's the rhetorical frame itself that is the source of the trouble.

Liberals, high-minded creatures that we are, seem to want to treat the reasserter arguments as if they were, in fact, arguments derived from premises that can be fact-checked, by means of logical arguments that can be reviewed for validity. But truth and validity have nothing to do with reasserter propaganda. Their techniques derive from the field of public relations; Sarah Hey, for example, is a self-confessed admirer of Edward Bernays. And just to remind you what that means, here's a quotation from Bernays's influential 1928 book "Propaganda":

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. [...] In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons ... who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."

They pull the wires, frame the public perception ("Clown Mass! Clown Mass!"), and -- well, they are winning, aren't they?

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 3:19pm GMT

Yet one more documentation that the alleged "unfair treatment" is simply the course of US civil law. Not that law may not be perceived as unfair from time to time, but in this case it is abundantly clear that a basic principle is at work, long before laid out by Richard Hooker: the church is not simply an assembly but a society which endures after the assembly dissolves (Laws, III.1.14). Individuals or groups may leave the church, but the church continues to subsist in those who remain part of the larger society, not in the separatist group. The real Diocese in this case, in terms of the property (which is all the case addresses), is the one that continues to be part of the larger "national or provincial Church."

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 5:01pm GMT

"The real Diocese in this case, in terms of the property (which is all the case addresses), is the one that continues to be part of the larger "national or provincial Church.""

This is so obvious from a Catholic point of view of how the Church is structured and works that I am shocked that ACNA and their enablers don't recognize it.

That said, I'm not crazy about the lawsuits, and wish there was some way we could drop them without sacrificing our claims.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 8:02pm GMT

Why is the Church of England concerned that people who tried to take $22M not their own are getting their comeuppance in the courts?

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 8:45pm GMT

"the church is not simply an assembly but a society which endures after the assembly dissolves (Laws, III.1.14)" Very good quotation! Thanks for this.

I completely agree with you and this current crisis seems inevitable. However, it is a shame that lots of money are wasted in lawsuits. What would Paul say? Believers quarrelling about properties... Oh dear.

Posted by: Diego on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 10:30pm GMT

"Karen makes good sense - but TEC must work a great deal harder to win the propaganda war."

Well, that's just the thing, Martin R. In the main, we Silly Piskies haven't been trying to "win the propaganda war" . . . just Live the Gospel.

I know, I know: "wise as serpents, gentle as doves." I suppose that---while you're serving the homeless in Haiti, or until you've been kicked out of your sanctuary---it's difficult for the average Episcopalian to "get their serpent on". ;-/

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 2:05am GMT

"Believers quarrelling about properties... Oh dear."

I wonder what Paul would say about some believers trying to steal the inheritance of other believers.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 3:04am GMT

As an accredited practitioner of the black art of Public Relations, I agree and disagree with Charlotte.

The role of Public Relations is to tell the story and perspective of a group / organization / government in a way that is effectively persuasive. Insofar as PR techniques are so applied, there is nothing unethical about it.

But I agree with Charlotte that TEC anmd the progressives need to start using PR tools and techniques more effectively. Unfortunately, the PR / Communications operation in both TEC and ACoC are woefully understaffed and out of date.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 5:51am GMT

Let me note also that the first rule in PR (often violated by the schismatics) is "don't lie."

First of all, its wrong.

But more importantly, it generally doesn't work - at least not for long - and once your found out you can never regain credibility.

Sensible PR folk aren't stupid enough to lie.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 5:53am GMT

"How can one such as Duncan lay claim to "the faith once delivered to the saints", and a greater righteouness, while condemning TEC for "apostasy", in the context of such utter bad faith on his part?" - Karen McQueen -

How true, Karen. And how badly-served - by the original and continuing action of 'Archbishop" Robert Duncan - is the community of Christians.

The likes of Sarah Hey and Robert Duncan will have their 'Day in Court' in an entirely other dimension. However, in the meantime, the English General Synod needs to have details of this legal judgement against the ACNA Conspirators before them as they debate the 'justice' of the claims of ACNA to represent 'Orthodox Anglicanism'

Make no mistake, the likes of Sarah Hey and David Virtue of 'virtue-on-line' will continue in their mission of vilification against TEC and the A.C.of C. - in their bid to tranform the truth of the situation of ACNA into their own version of 'veracity'.

Neither TEC nor the A.Cof C. need to emulate the duplicity of Robert Duncan et al in legal matters. There is a well-known biblical quotation about justice and truth: '*Vengeance is mine, I will repay!* says the Lord your God'. In the decision of the Virginia Common Pleas Court we have a reiteration of the initial findings of the Court against Defendants Robert Duncan & Co.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 6:05am GMT

Not Virginia. Pennsylvania.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 12:43pm GMT

Malcolm+ - many thanks for your reflections. It was hard enough for many years trying to make sure people understood that communications practitioners reflect and share the values of the organisations that they represent. I grew weary (which is one reason I left the field) of the constant assumption on the part of people within and outside the church that statements we made owed more to the black arts than they did to the truth.

I think that the TEC operations (and those of ACoC) are not bad at all, even if, as you point out, under resourced, but it's not often acknowledged that the international press and media field are very different from the domestic ones as specialist fields are different from generalised ones. They are all constantly changing and being changed by the development of new technology.

I don't think that the early success of the dissident press operation is entirely down to their technical craft or their expertise; the attractive shape of the narrative they set out - heroic maverick vs faceless bureacratic entity - as well as the fact that they are prepared to use accessibly emotive language inevitably results in high-octane coverage. The effect of this cannot easily be countered with calm resonableness.

Added to which folk like Ruth Gledhill have been writing the 'Church in Schism' story for as long as I can remember and the fact that it didn't actually happen and obstinately kept on not actually happening did nothing to prevent the headlines. Indeed, the 'church in death throes' line has earned journalists a good living since the newspapers started using something like it in opinion pieces in the nineteenth century.

As long as TEC has people like Jim Naughton at work in the field then I don't think they'll want for high expertise, good sense and sound judgement. It wouldn't harm TEC, though, to review what they have against what they're going to need in the years ahead. They have enough friends worldwide.

Posted by: Jonathan Jennings on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 4:24pm GMT

"The Diocese plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds that were frozen by financial institutions during the legal proceedings." - Episcopal Diocesan Statement -

It would appear that, despite concerns around the issue of whether or not TEC is competent to argue its own case here (in the Pittsburgh Diocese) the Diocese itself is quietly getting on with the business of recovering its own dedicated assets. The Law has given permission for this to happen in Pittsburgh, so one can expect the likes of 'Archbishop' Robbie Duncan and his ACNA colleagues to seek other means of perpetuating the myth of his hold on to the property which he forsook by his desertion of TEC. Deo Gratias!

Yes, TEC, you do have many friends in Anglican Provinces other than your own. New Zealand, for instance, of which I am a part.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 11:06pm GMT

Ran into an ACNA Bishop today in a grocery store in Akron, Ohio of all places...and I bit my tongue as I muttered, better a heretic than a schismatic any day...Came complete with a purple shirt and pectoral cross.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 1 February 2010 at 12:04am GMT

Choirboy. Perhaps you should have bitten the bishop's tongue. You might have saved him from further heresy.

And yes, Jeremy on Sunday - I should have said Pittsburgh, not Virginia. How could I have made that mistake?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 1 February 2010 at 10:03am GMT

As common as ACNA bishops are, it's a wonder we don't all run into a gaggle of them every time we leave the house.

Posted by: JPM on Monday, 1 February 2010 at 4:00pm GMT

I learnt latter that this guy was the rector of the charismatic break-away parish and was on such good terms with his buddy --Bobby Duncan of Quitsburgh that he got a purple shirt and funny hat (although I doubt the latter, they are VERY low church).

I was with the sub-organist and lead choirboy from Mr. Paul's, had to behave myself, but little David blurted out (unfortunately after the "wrong" reverend had left earshot) "Why can't people accept people the way God made them?"

There is hope.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 3:14am GMT

As I have been reviewing some of my notes on some of the parishes that I have been following and how their "stories" may have been portrayed, I wondered if their were any patterns. In all cases that I have been following, the position of "rector" has been critical. He/She has been the pivotal mover and shaker and principal teller of the story. In the case of the schismatic congregation he(and it is usually a he), has been telling the story to his allies, the press and anyone else who will listen. In most cases, the opposition has no effective spokesperson or a person in "authority" the press can contact for the other side. The case of Calvary Pittsburgh, by contrast, had a Rector who sued and an articulate layman, Lionel Diemel who would provide balance. If you think about it, in the case of Grace St. Stephens Colorado Springs, what have you really heard of the other side of the story? In the case of Falls Church, Truro or St. James Newport, what have you heard of the other side of the story? It is not just that the Episcopal Church has failed to defend itself, its dioceses and their local parishes where the battles have been fought have lacked the rectors or laymen to state the facts of their side of the story. In so many ways, such public venting seems just bad manners

Posted by: EmilyH on Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 12:51pm GMT


I can say this as a former journalist--the problem is that journalists are taught, early on, to seek out "official spokespersons"...whether the story is a crime, a civil suit, or just a human interest piece. Why? Because you don't want to be quoting "the man in the pew" only to have the rector, or vestry warden, or some other official source come back to tell you that person has no authority to speak for the parish.

The answer to that? Those opposed to the rector/vestry should organize themselves in some obvious fashion. Form a group, give it a name, publicize it as an opposing voice in the community, incorporate it even if you must. That way, when Joe Parishioner speaks to the press, he can say he heads "Group A" that represents X number of parishioners.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 2 February 2010 at 10:20pm GMT
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