Friday, 19 April 2013

Virginia Supreme Court rules in favour of TEC

It has been a full year since we last reported on the long-running property disputes between CANA and the Diocese of Virginia. (Previous reports here, and also here.)

This week the Supreme Court of Virginia made a ruling. Here is the Diocese of Virginia press release: Supreme Court of Virginia rules in favor of diocese.

In a dispute over the ownership of The Falls Church, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled today in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The decision affirms an earlier ruling returning Episcopalians to their church home at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. The Falls Church Anglican had sought to overturn the lower court’s ruling in favor of the Diocese. The court also remanded a portion of the case back to the Fairfax Circuit Court for a decision to determine a minor fractional difference in funds owed to the Diocese of Virginia.

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court of Virginia has once again affirmed the right of Episcopalians to worship in their spiritual home at The Falls Church Episcopal,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia. “This decision ensures that Episcopalians will have a home for years to come in Falls Church, and frees all of us, on both sides of this issue, to preach the Gospel and teach the faith unencumbered by this dispute.”

The court also held that the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church have a trust interest in the property, in addition to the contractual and proprietary interests already found by the lower court. This provides greater certainty regarding church property ownership.

“The Falls Church Episcopal has continued to grow and thrive throughout this difficult time,” said Edward W. Jones, secretary of the Diocese and chief of staff. “This ruling brings closure to a long but worthwhile struggle, and will allow the members of the Episcopal congregation to put the issue behind them and to focus their full energies on the ministries of the Church. We hope that The Falls Church Anglican will join us in recognizing this decision as a final chapter in the property dispute.”

Bishop Johnston added, “We pray that all those who have found spiritual sustenance at The Falls Church Episcopal and our other churches will continue to move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and love.”

Nearly a year ago, the Diocese settled the conflict over property with six other congregations. The Falls Church Episcopal and the other continuing and newly formed congregations, including Church of the Epiphany, Herndon; St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; St. Paul’s, Haymarket; and St. Stephen’s, Heathsville, spent the past year growing their membership, supporting outreach and strengthening their church communities. Members of the Diocese have joined them in these efforts through Dayspring, a diocesan-wide initiative that is bringing a spirit of vision and rebirth to our shared ministries as a church.

Read the full opinion of the Supreme Court of Virginia online.

Some press reports:

Washington Post Episcopal Church wins Virginia Supreme Court ruling

Falls Church News-Press Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Decision Conveying Falls Church Property to Diocese

Update
There is a letter from The Reverend John Yates to the CANA congregation: The Falls Church statement on VA Supreme Court decision.

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Comments

This may not be the final word, as there may be an effort by the splinter group to appeal to the US Supreme Court. Not that any such effort would have much of a chance of succeeding....

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 12:34am BST

Yet another ruling in the Supreme Court of The U.S. that favours the right of TEC (The Episcopal Church) in America to retain properties alienated by various schismatic dioceses and parishes of TEC. The 'Dennis Canon', protecting TEC from the prospect of losing out on property ownership to schismatic entities, has again proved vital.

Although the situation is somewhat different from that pertaining in the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, where a schismatic Bishop tried to hang on to the property of the Church in which he was formerly the Bishop of Harare; the principle is, nevertheless, quite similar:

Departing entities in Anglican Churches have no right, in law, to automatically alienate the use and ownership of property from the custody of the mother Church. Disaffection from the Provincial Church is proving to be expensive for those who seek to take the property rights with them when they elect to leave.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1:02am BST

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court of Virginia has once again affirmed the right of Episcopalians to worship in their spiritual home at The Falls Church Episcopal”

Indeed, grateful. Every once in a while, the levers of the State stumble upon the Lords's work (I believe, OCICBW).

God grant reconciliation, in God's Good Time.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1:16am BST

I'm originally from the Northern Virginia area where these parishes are located. It is in the suburbs of Washington D.C. But I've only worshiped at a couple of the parishes as a guest, because I didn't grow up in the Episcopal Church (Falls Church was the church of my mother, however). When I was a guest numerous times at St. Margaret's in the 1990's, sporting my Episcopal Church/AIDS button, I was welcomed just fine and people were curious about the AIDs ministry. I sensed no judgement whatsoever and they had a dynamite female priest. And then there was a distinct shift upon a visit in the 2000's.

I get the feeling that Northern Virginia is influenced by the administration du jour in Washington. At the time of the schisms, it was GW Bush and the neocons.

I could be wrong, but it really seems like the neocon culture warriors had a major influence there. And I couldn't be happier that they've lost on all fronts. After all, there was no compromise possible. There wasn't room in "their church" for me. I can tell you that the "shift" that I experienced there was quite unkind.

It was a searing experience. It clearly left me not wanting to let anyone get away with hate language in the name of Christ.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 4:39am BST

"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers."

Posted by: The Apostle Paul on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 7:53am BST

Fr Smith--The US Supreme Court has heard no cases whatsoever. You are mistaken.

In Va, the language 'church diocese' exists in the statute and influenced the decision in consequence. No other state has such language.

In SC, the courts have ruled against the position of the PB and her chancellor. The judge will hear testimony in Illinois this coming week; he ruled against the request for summary judgment and made it clear that hierarchy may well end with the Bishop (the view the present PB herself took in an amicus brief in DC a decade ago). We are awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court of Texas.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1:43pm BST

This is good news as it has wider implications for the future of the Anglican Communion.

The American religious world is in any case quite different to anywhere else. Competing and fissiparous denominations are the norm and catholicity as such hardly exists. The endless number of mostly protestant groups of various kinds mirrors the competitive commercial world in the States. The ANCA and others are exactly in this mould. Anglicanism would be well advised to keep a good distance from them if it wishes to avoid complete disintegration into self-righteous and self affirming groups.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1:53pm BST

I feel very deeply for John Yates and his congregation, they have done what they could and TEC did what it was obliged to do. The Episcopal congregation too has been through much pain, often over friends and even family who have left.

It seems to the casual observer that both congregations are flourishing, that is good.

Outcomes elsewhere are unpredictable, it illbehoves us to make all this suffering a matter of "winning" or triumph. All of us are losers n the present division, that is the only certainty.

I am particularly sad for those (some of them my friends) who were assured by bishop and lawyers, with absolute confidence, that they would always have their church building - only to find themselves evicted in a year. They were not betrayed by TEC.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 8:06pm BST

Back in the 1970s, earlier breakaway groups had tried to lay claim to Episcopal Church assets and failed in every instance. The courts had consistently ruled against them.

So I will never really understand why the new group of breakaways had convinced themselves so completely that the courts would rule in their favor, when all precedents were against them.

Many of the Falls Church group were, in fact, Bush-era neocons. There is a long list of other things that, against all experience, they'd convinced themselves were true:

* that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,
* that the Iraq war would be a "cakewalk,"
* that a much smaller US Army could hold both Iraq and Afghanistan,
* that the "inherent powers of the presidency" enabled him to bypass Congress and the laws in wartime,
* that taxes could be cut in wartime without swelling the deficit,
* that financial markets could be deregulated without increasing risk
* that new financial instruments like credit-default swaps had eliminated risk from the markets

-- and the list goes on. So I suppose the ACNA property follies are just one more item to add to the list. But that doesn't explain their actions; it just generalizes their motives.

Some day I hope to read a historian's explanation of the pervasively delusional quality of US elite thinking circa 1990-2008. (It didn't really begin with the Bush Administration.)

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 10:16pm BST

I think, Concerned Anglican, that this view of Anglicanism in America is highly distorted. Anglicanism in the US doesn't actually seem that different from other corners of the globe, especially amongst our cousins.

We came up against an impossible situation. Throw women and LGBT sisters and brothers under a bus or face schism. There was no middle way, certainly not for the culture warriors from my home region in Northern Virginia.

This is the problem that CoE faces now. Is there a way to not humiliate and discriminate against women and yet provide for those who can't accept WO and WB's. Good luck trying to make that work. It isn't as if TEC didn't try.

It is true that TEC is much more democratic, and thus the church couldn't really do much about New Hampshire. But one can hardly say that CoE's disconnect from its members is a winner. We would say that the Holy Spirit works through the voices of the many, not the few. And CoE proves right on an almost daily basis.

It's not a good idea to write off TEC as if we're not Anglican. We just aren't Neanderthals on women and LGBT's. If CoE can find a better solution, I will be thrilled to hear it. Truly thrilled. I personally can't see how you can not discriminate and appease discriminators at the same time, but the Brits are an ingenious bunch.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 10:33pm BST

I think the "competing and fissiparous" nature of religious life in the USA is a sign of healthy vitality. We take religion seriously enough here to argue about it. I don't think very secular and increasingly anti-clerical England with its state church is any model of success.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 2:55am BST

While the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on the Great Unpleasantness directly, the Dennis Canon tracks the Court's description of how a hierarchical church can protect its property rights in local property "by providing, in the corporate charter or the constitution of the general church, that the identity of the local church is to be established in some other way, or by providing that the church property is held in trust for the general church and those who remain loyal to it." Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595 (1979). Courts are notoriously reluctant to destabilize property rights, which finding against TEC would do, so the chances of Jones being overruled or modified even by the current court is not good.

In Virginia, the statute previously (and unconstitutionally) discriminated against hierarchical churches, not allowing them to create trusts at all. The Virginia (not US) Supreme Court found that the course of dealing, including the Dennis Canon, established a trust.

Dr. Seitz misses the import of All Saints v. Campbell, which turned on the fact that the quitclaim deed in question had been issued by the Diocese nearly a century prior to the property dispute, 70 years prior to the Dennis Canon's adoption, and eighty years prior to the diocese's explicit ratification of the Dennis Canon--all of which events happened decades before the consecration of Mark Lawrence as bishop of South Carolina. In All Saints, the Supreme Court found that any trust created could not include the property at issue, because the Diocese had abandoned any claim on the property before the creation of any trust under the canons of either TEC or the Diocese. Here, however, there is no dispute, as far as I can tell, that when Mark Lawrence became bishop, TEC had enacted, and South Carolina had adopted, canons creating a trust in all property within the Diocese on behalf of TEC.
How things will turn out in SC is anybody's guess, but the great preponderance of authority is in TEC's favor.

Posted by: John Wirenius on Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 1:03pm BST

Mr Wirenius, Let's see how the TX Supreme Court rules. It shouldn't take much longer. They have been deliberating since November. I'd guess we could hear any day now, and certainly not later than end of summer.

The Quincy case starts up on Monday of this week.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 3:37pm BST

"the great preponderance of authority is in TEC's favor" -- wouldn't that be nice!

The Cathedral, St Michael's, St Philips--whose congregations are 95% behind the Diocese of SC--will simply be handed over to the 'national church,' along with 30 others.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 3:40pm BST

"They were not betrayed by TEC."

In the record are the efforts of the Bishop of VA to negotiate with the parishes in NoVA and reach a settlement. Why? Because the PB at the time believed he had no role in dioceses and acted accordingly. So +Howe in CFL and +Stanton in Dallas reached property settlements with parishes wanting to leave. +Lee was also doing this -- until the present PB demanded that he cease. A new 'policy' was followed.

Think of all the money that has been wasted because of this change in procedure and invention of a role that no PB ever claimed before.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 7:48pm BST

"Think of all the money that has been wasted because of this change in procedure and invention of a role that no PB ever claimed before."

Perhaps because no previous PB had been confronted with a concerted, multi-state, multi-diocesan effort to alienate and appropriate property held in trust for the national church.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 9:21pm BST

Are you saying that +Griswold was wrong because he viewed TEC Bishops' authority to negotiate beyond his own remit?

With his leadership on this matter, consistent with the Constitution, he avoided litigation and the spending of vast sums of money.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 12:03am BST

Exactly, Pat O'Neill. No previous PB faced what KJS has, and she would have been remiss to have just let it go. The only people who believe she should have are the bigots.

Not only are there a lot of people wanting to stay in the larger church, there is also the case of rapid evolution on SSM in US society. By 2020, only 7 years from now, the vast majority - not just the current slim majority - the vast majority of Americans are going to be in support of SSM. TEC is not exactly on the vanguard with SSM, out of liberal Protestant churches. If TEC doesn't move a little quicker, we're going to look like Troglodytes, with Same-Sex-Blessings, a separate and unequal solution, as the only option in some dioceses.

Time has more than justified the liberation of women and LGBT persons in TEC. And handing on to our lawful property for the use of those member who don't feel the need to exclude others on preposterous grounds.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 12:44am BST

Good points, FD Blanchard, on the robust nature of religion in America, an opposite and more informed view than that of Concerned Anglican.

Anglicanism in the US is very strong. It was interesting that the churches formed still have much of the flavor of their founding. Thus, Virginia churches, formed at a time of "low church" have names like Falls Church, and Aquia Church. Meanwhile the US Midwest was established during the Oxford movement and therefore Chicago and Minneapolis have a lot of Anglo-Catholic or at least "high church" practices. Out West is a mix.

We have tons of "catholicity," depending on what you mean by it. We definitely aren't looking to Rome. We have Apostolic succession, thanks to our Scottish Episcopal Church cousins. And we take all things Anglican very seriously. Most especially, we are glad for the use of Tradition, Scripture, and Reason. Using both Reason and Scripture - with fresh eyes, I might add - we came to the conclusions that some Traditional practices are the product of creating God in our bigoted image, rather than seeing the image of God in all people. The fact that our Canadian, New Zealand, South African, and other Anglican cousins have also come to similar conclusions on WBs and/or LGBT inclusion, is great. It means there is a strong movement towards liberation within Anglicanism, and it exists just fine without the bumbling of the historic mother church.

Worshipping in the US is not very different than from the UK. A few things come in different order. I prefer the Peace right after Confession. We sing a lot of the same songs.

The biggest difference is that our episcopacy is elected by broad membership. Does this make us less "catholic?" CoE bishops and ABC are selected by a tiny committee, the ABC has to be approved by the PM and Queen. This is more catholic, somehow?

There wasn't much that was rational or true about Concerned Anglicans rant against religion in the US. It reminds me of the informed and compassionate commentators in the Guardian.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 1:42am BST

Actually, cseitz has muddled the chronology. +Lee and the breakaway parishes had drafted (but not yet approved) a protocol that would have allowed for a more amicable split. But the breakaway parishes elected not to wait. The wording of their ballots was tailored not to the draft protocol but to the Virginia statute on separations (which in the end was ruled inapplicable to the situation). It was only after the vote -- which gave the Diocese the choice of accepting a fait accompli or going to court -- that the national church became involved.

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 2:33am BST

"Are you saying that +Griswold was wrong because he viewed TEC Bishops' authority to negotiate beyond his own remit?

With his leadership on this matter, consistent with the Constitution, he avoided litigation and the spending of vast sums of money."

Not precisely. I'm saying that, at the time Griswold made his decision, the nature of the ACNA et al "movement" was not yet apparent... and by the time Jefferts Schori was in office, it was -- which required a different approach to the problem.

Further, as Steve Lusk notes, you have the chronology wrong and have (deliberately, I fear) misrepresented the nature of the proposed "compromise".

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 11:26am BST

No, the water is muddied by your note.

1.There is no factual doubt whatsoever that +Griswold held that he had no authority in individual dioceses on this matter. Do you dispute this?

2. The timeline is also clear: Bishops in CFL, Dallas, W-LA and elsewhere were free to settle property disputes amicably and did. (Even under the present PB, +NJ did as well).

3. This was the uncontroversial policy of the PB and 815 and it was in effect until he retired.

4. The change came with the present PB and the perfect storm of her lack of experience and her chancellor at last getting his way.

5. +Lee felt the first waves of this and the result is before us: millions of dollars spent and a trail of litigation and the opposite of what Mark Harris now--after surveying all the carnage--call for: 'free association.'

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 1:34pm BST

How many parishes left with church property during Griswold's tenure? Which ones and which dioceses? What did the "amicable" solutions look like? Did the exiting parishes buy the property? What happened to the people within the parishes that didn't want to leave TEC? What about endowments and whatnot?

I remember people leaving, but not taking the property, in Southern Ohio during that time.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 7:57pm BST

One cannot help but wonder whether the so-called 'ACI', to which cseitz belongs, is closer in ethos to Bishop Lawrence of the schismatic 'diocese of S.C.' than they are to TEC - which is the legitimate 'Anglican Church' in the United States. His constant argument in favour of the schismatics would seem to invalidate the 'Anglican' part of the title ACI.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 22 April 2013 at 10:34pm BST

Fr Smith, I am surprised that you now reflexively stoop to this; I am a third generation TEC Priest and have 32 years experience as a proud Episcopalian. For some reason you never deal with realities but only with pre-formed slogan. The issues before us are very clear. I have never indulged personal attacks in your case; I have no idea who you are and it would be disrespectful.

The facts re: leaving parishes during +Griswold's tenure are not difficult to ascertain. Valiant efforts in CFL, Dallas, W-LA and elsewhere are in the public domain. Christ Church Plano is one of the better examples.

PB Griswold made it very clear that he had no authority to involve himself in dioceses and their respective Bishops' affairs in matters regarding property. This is the polity of TEC and one can thank him and his forebears for honoring this. It respected the limits of the office of PB and, thank God, saved enormous amounts of money.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 12:00am BST

"One cannot help but wonder whether the so-called 'ACI', to which cseitz belongs, is closer in ethos to Bishop Lawrence of the schismatic 'diocese of S.C.' than they are to TEC."

This isn't a matter of "wonder"; it's a matter of ACI's stated position. See its "Statement On South Carolina" ( http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2010/04/statement-on-south-carolina/ ), which states things like:

"The Anglican Communion Institute has often called attention in recent years to the subversion of the fundamental polity of The Episcopal Church now afoot, and we stand fully behind Bishop Lawrence and the diocese of South Carolina in their defense of our constitutional governance."

"We fully support Bishop Lawrence and the diocese of South Carolina in their defense of these principles."

Posted by: dr.primrose on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 12:01am BST

Primrose--in every single instance of involvement in legal and public domain, we have rejected the 'TEC over here' and 'others' over there. We are defendants of TEC's constitution. I accept that it is very exciting to depict us otherwise, but your quote is exactly accurate -- 'the subversion of the polity of TEC' is where our concerns manifest themselves. We support any Bishop who seeks to uphold the TEC 'fundamental polity.'

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 1:06am BST

"I am a third generation TEC Priest and have 32 years experience as a proud Episcopalian."

- cseitz -

You must forgive me, Christopher, If I mistake the your statement here as being totally different from what you have actually been expressing AGAINST TEC. 'Pride' in being part of TEC does not seem to have been the motivation for your remarks here on T.A..

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 1:09am BST

Fascinating that Dr. Seitz and the ACI do not include the Dennis Canon in their interpretation of TEC's polity...although it has been consistently upheld by the courts.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 2:01am BST

Thank you for the link to ACI, Dr. Primrose. I couldn't find the robust theological treatises by leading female theologians. Nor the passionate ones on the call to mission for the poor and marginalized. I'm sure I just missed them.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 3:34am BST

I do forgive you Fr Smith.

I confess I have never understood how you have consistently failed to see the actions of faithful Bishops like Salmon, Howe, Stanton, MacPherson, Smith, Bauerschmidt, Lambert and others as anything but what it is: robust defense of the TEC constitution out of concern to preserve TEC from disordered power plays and the marginalization of traditional Episcopalians.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 2:14pm BST

Mr O'Neill. No, what is fascinating is how purposefully one can ignore the legal reality. What is happening this week? There is a trial in Illinois. What is at issue? The Judge dismissed the request for summary judgment from TEC agents and roundly so because he disputes their take on the Dennis Canon, hierarchy, and the constitution. He is a Roman Catholic. He has stated in the record that he does not see the polity of TEC as TEC's 'provisional Bishop' and agents have presented it. Hence, a trial. Expert witnesses will give sworn testimony on both sides. He will render a judgment. 'Consistently upheld by the courts'? -- obviously not so, hence the Quincy proceedings.

And so very obviously not so in Texas, where the Supreme Court heard the testimony last November and are still deliberating.

These are the facts. They are not difficult to grasp.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 4:16pm BST

cseitz says: I confess I have never understood how you have consistently failed to see the actions of faithful Bishops like Salmon, Howe, Stanton, MacPherson, Smith, Bauerschmidt, Lambert and others as anything but what it is: robust defense of the TEC constitution out of concern to preserve TEC from disordered power plays and the marginalization of traditional Episcopalians.

The minute I hear complaints about constitutional powers and whatnot from spiritual leaders who aren't working every angle to exclude me from the Body of Christ, I'll take a more focused look. At the end of the day, it is clear that General Convention has invited me to the table, both as a woman and as a lesbian. Yes, General Convention rates higher than the House of Bishops, but the HOB is part of GC. GC is the Spirit in action and have followed the path of Jesus and the call for compassion, radical love, and inclusion.

Consequently, I'm not very sympathetic to the bishops who have not been able to respect the moving of the Spirit through GC. It can not be more obvious that the church has erred on numerous occasions and misogyny and homophobia are amongst the errors. The more that time goes by, and the gifts that women and LGBT people bring to TEC and in general, the worse those bishops look.

I also can not sympathize with their banding together to meddle in other dioceses. Even if you believe that bishops are feudal lords of their own diocese, meddling in the affairs of other dioceses is out of the question.

Hopefully, with a lot of the neocons out of Washington/Northern Virginia, the churches of my home region can find peace and healing and move on with their missions. It would be nice for me to be able to be a guest in a church that doesn't condemn me when I'm there working out the care needs and end of life issues for my mother. I didn't have a friendly parish nearby when my father was dying in 2008. It was very unkind. So no, I'm not very sympathetic with the bigoted bishops conspiring against my inclusion.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 4:45pm BST

In the light of C. Seitz's further comment here - about the 'loyalty' of the dissenting bishops he speaks of (above), one cannot but suspect that the real object of their institutional disaffection is the Presiding Bishop, Dr. Katharine Jefferts- Schori.

She has been labelled 'inexperienced', guilty of 'disordered power plays and the marginalization of traditional Episcopalians'. Can Dr.Seitz explain, then, why she was elected Presiding Bishop? Was it because of these factors he has highlighted?

Obviously most Episcopalians thought that Bishop Katharine had the qualities necessary to lead, in the situation of schismatic departure (ACNA) that had overtaken TEC by the time she was elected by democratic process.

I do hope that the fact she was a woman had nothing to do with the machinations against her. But, in the circumstances, One cannot but wonder.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 at 11:53pm BST

"Mr O'Neill. No, what is fascinating is how purposefully one can ignore the legal reality. What is happening this week? There is a trial in Illinois. What is at issue? The Judge dismissed the request for summary judgment from TEC agents and roundly so because he disputes their take on the Dennis Canon, hierarchy, and the constitution."

To dispute something is not to reject it; it is to question it. The judge in Quincy is not convinced of TEC's take on the relevant points...he has not rendered a decision in the case. He is prepared to hear both sides argue their positions.

Now who is it that is ignoring legal reality?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 12:47am BST

Judges make mistakes. The trial-court judge in Virginia got the Dennis Canon wrong too.

The Virginia Supreme Court, however, ruled that there is indeed a constructive trust in favor of the Episcopal Church.

It may take an appeal in Illinois to establish the same principle in that state.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 11:23am BST

"it has been consistently upheld by the courts" -- except where it hasn't been.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 12:37pm BST

"the real object of their institutional disaffection" -- is an inaccurate characterization. These Bishops remain loyal to the history and identity of TEC as established in its constitution and mission. The PB herself signed an amicus brief in favor of the very position these Bishops has asserted more recently. And for that they were charged with Title IV offenses.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 12:42pm BST

I don't think that all of these "loyal bishops" are loyal to the fact that a woman PB was elected. Wasn't it Howe who said that he couldn't be under the authority of a woman? Male headship and all that?

Certainly the PB can sign legal documents pertaining to any diocese in TEC, she's the leader of TEC. I question whether it's OK for diocesan bishops to sign on to documents in other dioceses if it is against TEC! It isn't that difficult a concept.

Yes, of course the attacks on the PB have a lot to do with the fact that she is a woman. And she's a woman who was forced to take aggressive action on behalf of the whole church.

The "loyal bishops" lost the arguments within the church and so they went outside the church, to the legal system. What a way to spend one's time. Working every angle to exclude God's children.

I think the "loyal bishops" should take a step back, take a sabbatical, and go into deep reflection and deep listening. I have never had an experience of God that told me to inflict pain and suffering on others!

It should be sobering that Jesus' most harsh words are for the Pharisees when they used the Law to exclude and demean people.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 8:29pm BST

Dr. Seitz:

Please point out a jurisdiction where a final decision has been made that the Dennis Canon was not upheld by the court. Texas and Quincy don't count--no decision has been reached in those cases. That the judges therein refused a summary judgment is not indicative of their eventual decision at trial, no matter how much you may wish it were.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 10:35pm BST

"Loyal?" I'm absolutely gobsmacked at the use of ACNA doublespeak. Why engage *with* such obvious untruth? Simply call it untruth for those who might confused and leave the dead to bury the dead, rather than try to reason with the dead.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 25 April 2013 at 6:26am BST

So your point actually was: in the several instances where the Dennis Canon has been determined to be in some kind of effect, that has been the determination.

In others cases, that has not been so, and we await some very important rulings (TX, Illinois, et al).

In one state, things did not go as planned for TEC (SC).

In the vast majority of others, there has been no judicial determination whatsoever.

I believe it was Justice Blackmun who said the Dennis Canon and the very idea of 'implied trust' were very fragile legally. Soon we will hear with TX thinks about that as well. At present in SC we have a skirmish over jurisdiction, not over Dennis. If TX is a good indicator, the federal court will step back and let the state court do its work.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 25 April 2013 at 12:51pm BST

In the interest of full disclosure...Dr. Seitz, according to 2011 tax returns is the President of ACI, and interestingly, although he was compensated at a level of 33,000 plus 5,940 in health benefits for 10 hours per week and the institute is not noted as having any office expenses, assuming at it's alleged office in Beaumont Tx, almost the entire cost of operating the institute seems to be outside contactor fees paid to Dr. Seitz. Great work if you can get it!He appears to working to set up a successor organization in Dallas, where he lives and institute funds and his time are being used for this purpose.

Posted by: curious on Thursday, 25 April 2013 at 2:45pm BST

"... in the several instances where the Dennis Canon has been determined to be in some kind of effect, that has been the determination. "

Where, exactly--save in the unique circumstance of South Carolina and All Saints, where a quitclaim had been given decades before the Dennis Canon came into existence--would the Dennis Canon NOT be in effect?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 25 April 2013 at 9:00pm BST

"Wasn't it Howe who said that he couldn't be under the authority of a woman? Male headship and all that?"

No, Bishop John W. Howe is a public supporter of women in all ranks of the ordained ministry. He was in fact one of the first evangelicals to make the scriptural case for it.

bb

Posted by: BabyBlue on Thursday, 25 April 2013 at 9:03pm BST

This is tiresome.

Obviously (one might have thought) it is NOT in effect in any place the courts have not so ruled.

Viz., most places.

As Blackmun said, 'it will be tested' and so it is being.

Are you aware of the legal realities in a United States where there are State courts? I can't remember where you live.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 26 April 2013 at 12:53am BST

Thank you, BB, in helping provide basic information about +Howe.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 26 April 2013 at 12:55am BST

Oops, I don't want to diss Howe on WB's. I got him confused with Iker in Fort Worth. It's hard to keep it all straight, the splinter groups started in opposition to WO. Since in the church in the US I'm more subject to homophobia than misogyny, it isn't that important to me to keep track of the ones who support women but would throw me under a bus. I lumped them together. It may not be fair, but it comes out the same to me.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 26 April 2013 at 1:30am BST

Dr. Seitz, I've largely sat this one out, but as a proud Episcopalian and third generation Episcopal priest, you're saying that one of the canons you've sworn to obey is only in effect where secular courts of last resort have enforced it with the coercive power of the State?

Even by this sad metric, the vast majority of cases have been resolved in favor of TEC, as this year's litigation report from A.S. Haley (pre-Virginia decision) documents: http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2013/01/annual-litigation-summary-for-episcopal.html

The only case I'm aware of where the property has been finally awarded to a "departing" parish or diocese is All Saints, which explicitly turned on the impossibility of a trust being created where the parish a had long-extant quitclaim deed waiving any such interest. Rightly decided? Against the Diocese, probably. Against TEC itself, probably not under Jones v. Wolf. But, hey, any litigator will tell you that you sometimes win cases you should lose, and vice-versa.

But either way, the secular authorities forcing the ordained to comply with the canon does not speak highly of their loyalty.

Posted by: John Wirenius on Friday, 26 April 2013 at 10:47am BST

Dr. Seitz:

I live in the US. And I am very aware of the nature of our legal system -- you, apparently, are not. Courts only rule on things like the Dennis Canon in places where it is challenged. In all other places -- that is, most of the states in this country -- it is in effect because it has been voted on by GC and accepted by the dioceses and parishes in those areas.

And, except for the two cases where decisions remain to be rendered (Texas and Illinois), every time the Dennis Canon has been challenged, it has been upheld. (There was no challenge to the Dennis Canon in the All Saints case in SC, since it never applied, being that the quitclaim was issued decades before the Canon existed.)

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 26 April 2013 at 11:10am BST

"you're saying that one of the canons you've sworn to obey"

Now that is bizarre.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 1:36am BST

Mr's Wirenius and O'Neill -- you put your finger precisely on the issue. If an ecclesiastical entity purports to create an 'implied trust,' by definition it has entered a contested secular realm.

The very fact that something asserted can be challenged, and is, means that it is not something anyone can swear to.

TEC has entered the secular realm with things like 'implied trusts' and so it must live and die but what the courts uphold -- or foreswear to, given the First Amendment.

My suggestion to you would be to find a way to get General Convention to amend the Constitution (a la United Methodism or PCA) so that it is absolutely clear about trust relationships and those who contract them in law.

Failing that, you will have an open sore.

And my strong hunch is that liberal dioceses (like PA) will end up being the strongest opponents of this kind of air tight revision.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 1:49am BST

Dr. Seitz:

Who, exactly, has opened the door to this secular realm? TEC, by defending its canons? Or the ACNA parishes, by challenging them?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 11:33am BST

TEC sought to enclose something called the 'Dennis Canon' for reasons very different than today -- for those old enough to remember. Indeed a good number of dioceses to this day have never formalized any 'accession' to TEC C/C -- typical for how higgigty-piggilty the system is compared to the CoE (see the fine essay of Colin Podmore). As has been pointed out, previous PBs did not consider it within their purview--constitutionally--to get involved in sovereign dioceses.

All this predates of course ACNA and the latter has not been voicing constitutional objections to overreach -- as have Bishops of TEC and others. ACNA simply exited.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 9:07pm BST

ACNA did not "simply exit". It attempted to leave with the family silver hidden under its coat. That is what has resulted in what Dr. Seitz calls "overreach" by TEC.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 11:52am BST

Anyone who knows anything about ACI knows that we are not ACNA. I have no idea what happens in the halls of ACNA. The (I thought obvious) point I was making is that if you exit TEC (with or without silver is irrelevant) you are no longer arguing on behalf of its constitution that we are witnessing overreach by a PB and Title IV machinations (which is why GC has called for a review).

This has nothing to do with ACNA at all. The Dioceses of SC, CFL, Dallas, et al; filers of amicus briefs; expert witnesses in legal cases -- none of these is 'ACNA.'

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 7:21pm BST

I believe a more accurate statement is that the property disputes in question are between TEC and various parishes and dioceses that have left (or purported to leave) TEC. Many (but not all) of the departing dioceses and parishes have since joined ACNA. However, ACNA isn't a named party to any of the lawsuits because it did not even exist when the departures took place, and ACNA, itself, does not claim a beneficial interest in any of the property.

Posted by: Paul Powers on Monday, 29 April 2013 at 5:15am BST

Dr. Seitz:

Are you familiar with the legal term "a distinction without a difference"?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 29 April 2013 at 11:24am BST

Mr Powers, thank you. As noted above, +Frank Griswold was quite satisfied to let Diocesans settle with parishes that wanted to leave. The point is: he did not understand the role of PB to extend constitutionally to this place. The very idea of 'provisional bishops' so as to get standing and then to sue was the stratagem of Beers/Schori. I do not believe it is any doubt that the chancellor wanted that same policy under +FG, but he was not granted that license. Nothing about the emergence of ACNA altered one clause of the constitution/canons. The only thing different was the new enlargement of powers by 815.

ACNA did not fight this within TEC. It left instead.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 29 April 2013 at 2:26pm BST

Would it be at all whimsical to say that ACI considers itself to be the 'loyal' opposition contained within the boundaries of TEC? A straight answer to this question might help all of us outside North America to understand precisely where cseitz is coming from with his oppositional tactics to TEC.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 12:55pm BST

I don't know why people don't bother to read ACI material. We were vilified by folks associated with ACNA and AMiA! This isn't an issue of obscurity.

Many liberal dioceses give little if any money to TEC. Some aggressively oppose the idea of the PB as a metropolitan. LA famously declared itself 'autonomous' when it came to responding to requests for information re: Bennison.

The older orthodox Bishops in TEC can recall as did Polycarp and John the Elder the occasion for the passing of a Dennis Canon, and how it is now being misused. It was a liberal Bishop who objected that passing a supplemental rite for SSBs would have been unconstitutional as they did not have enough votes given that all living Bishops were part of the count and not enough were present or reliable on the desired outcome.

ACI has always been at the exact some point: it does not want to history and constitution of TEC to be manipulated to achieve an outcome. If we are to be blamed for anything it is for having far more experience and longevity and for wanting TEC--if it wants to change its C/C--to do what that requires and not to invent things like 'renouncing other people's orders' or scrubbing them clergy roles, because the orderly way of doing these things won't work or is not expedient.

The very idea that the present PB signed an amicus brief which defended the hierarchy of the then Bishop of DC, and Bishops who did the same thing were brought before unconstitutional Title IV tribunals (Title IV is under review by GC agents) -- this is the kind of injustice that ACI inveighs against because it wants TEC to do the hard work to change its C/C instead of just acting out of power.

I confess I find it bizarre that 'Thinking Anglicans' cannot take the effort simply to read what is out in the public domain. ACI has been roundly attacked by ACNA enthusiasts. It is all in the record.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 9:50pm BST
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