Thinking Anglicans

More on the General Convention marriage canon proposals

Updated Friday

The first TA article about this can be found here. A number of further items have been published.

Tobias Haller has published a series of three blog articles:

A new website, Fully Alive has been launched, sponsored by Communion Partner Bishops, to continue the criticisms first made in the paper Marriage in Creation and Covenant.

This contains additional articles: see

But also, some papers published there take a different view, see

Another different view has been published by Craig Uffmann and can be found on the website of the Diocese of Rochester (USA):

Update

Yet another paper has been published, this one by two American bishops, Scott Benhase (Georgia) and Dorsey McConnell (Pittsburgh), titled A More Excellent Way.

Once again, Tobias Haller has responded, see One Last Question on the Canon Change.

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General Convention to consider gender-neutral marriage canon

In February this year, the General Convention Task Force on Marriage issued a report which recommends changes to the marriage canon of The Episcopal Church.

The changes are explained in this report from Episcopal News Service by Mary Frances Schjonberg Marriage task force calls for gender-neutral language in marriage canon.

The 122-page report of the Task Force is available in full here.

In addition to the recommendations, the report includes seven essays, which form the bulk of the report (pages 9 to 98) and are:

1. A Biblical and Theological Framework for Thinking about Marriage

2. Christian Marriage as Vocation

3. A History of Christian Marriage

4. Marriage as a Rite of Passage

5. The Marriage Canon: History and Critique

6. Agents of the State: A Question for Discernment

7. Changing Trends and Norms in Marriage

More recently, some articles have been published by the Anglican Theological Review which discuss this report. These articles are all available from this page, but are as follows:

The recent Report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, as presented to the 78th General Convention, proposes substantial changes to The Episcopal Church’s marriage canons. By replacing language in Canon I.18 drawn from the marriage rite in The Book of Common Prayer, the changes would render optional the traditional understanding that marriage is a “covenant between a man and a woman” that is intended, when it is God’s will, “for the procreation of children.” We contend that these changes obscure the nature of marriage as a divinely created social form that is the external basis of the covenant union between “Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). As such, it draws a veil over marriage as an outward and visible sign of this union. While leaving open the issue of blessing same-sex unions, we make an Augustinian case for retaining the prayer book’s doctrine of marriage.

Three further articles respond to the above:

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South Carolina affiliates with the Global South

This announcement has been made jointly by the Global South Primatial Steering Committee and the Diocese of South Carolina led by Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Diocese of South Carolina: Global South Welcomes Diocese of South Carolina

…As you will recall the 223rd Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina meeting at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant on March 14-15, 2014 unanimously accepted the offer of the Global South Primates Steering Committee for Provisional Primatial Oversight.

Now this morning we receive with gratitude this letter from the Global South Primatial Steering Committee. It is their acceptance of our request for this gracious relationship. I trust you will be heartened as I have been by their welcome of us “… as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.” It is my joy to share it with you…

Letter from Archbishops Anis and Ernest: Announcement regarding the Diocese of South Carolina.
Also available at Global South Anglican.

…The Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomes the unanimous request of The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina to “accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight of our ministry as a diocese during the temporary period of our discernment of our final provincial affiliation.”

The decision of the Diocese of South Carolina was made in response to the meeting of the Global South Primates Steering Committee in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014.1 A recommendation from that meeting stated that, “we decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.”

Recognizing the faithfulness of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, and in appreciation for their contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Global South welcomes them as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found…

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Presiding Bishop visits St Albans and Oxford

Updated Friday evening

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church recently visited St Albans and Oxford.

At St Albans she preached at the Alban Pilgrimage.

ENS Video: Presiding Bishop preaches at Alban Pilgrimage

ENS Video: Alban Pilgrimage pays tribute to Britain’s first Christian martyr

At Oxford, she preached at the University Church and received an honorary degree from Oxford University.

ENS Presiding Bishop preaches in Oxford

ENS Presiding Bishop receives honorary degree from Oxford University

The citation for the degree can be seen here.

The Church Times carries this interview with her, conducted by Paul Handley ‘A long process of liberation’.

Lucy Davis of WATCH has written Wonderful, inspiring day in St Albans with Bishop Katharine.

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Archbishop of Canterbury visits Canada and USA

Updated Thursday evening

The Archbishop of Canterbury is this week visiting Canada and the USA.

See Lambeth Palace press release: Archbishop of Canterbury visits Anglicans in Canada and the USA

From Canada, the Anglican Journal reports: Welby explains gays and violence in Africa remarks. An extract:

…Q: Were you in fact blaming the death of Christians in parts of Africa on the acceptance of gay marriage in America?

A: I was careful not to be too specific because that would pin down where that happened and that would put the community back at risk. I wouldn’t use the word “blame”— that’s a misuse of words in the context. One of the things that’s most depressing about the response to that interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said; they mostly imagined what they thought I said…It was not only imagination, it was a million miles away from what I said.

Q: So what exactly were you saying?

A: What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the church but around the world…And, this is not mere consequentialism; I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world. Now that will be more true in some places than in others. It depends on your links. We need to learn to live as a global church in a local context and never to imagine that we’re just a local church. There is no such thing…

The Anglican Journal also reports Welby & Hiltz discuss issues of sexuality, reconciliation

When Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby met with the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, he was “very interested” in the work of the Anglican Church of Canada’s commission on the marriage canon because of the reality that the Church of England will have to wrestle with the issue of same-sex marriage following its legislation in the U.K.

“Notwithstanding the declared position of the Church of England at this moment, he [Welby] is very conscious, of course, that there’s going to be a fair amount of pressure from within the Church of England to at least have some discussion around that [same-sex marriage],” said Hiltz in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “He hoped that we would stay in touch over the work of the commission, [because] inside the Church of England, they will need to have the same conversation.”

Welby was also very interested in the issue of reconciliation as it relates to the history of the Canadian church’s relations with indigenous people and its involvement in the Indian Residential School System. “As he said now, in the Church of England, things are coming to light in terms of abuse in church schools…they’re kind of at that early stage,” and Welby wanted to know how the Canadian church responded. “They’re compelled [to respond] and they will not stand in anyone’s way,” said Hiltz, adding that Welby was interested in the church’s 1993 apology to former residential school students for the harm and pain inflicted through the schools.

On the issue of the marriage canon, Hiltz said Welby was “very appreciative” that the commission will conduct a broad consultation across the Anglican Communion and with its ecumenical partners on the matter of changing the Canadian Anglican church’s marriage canon (church law) to allow same-sex marriage…

The archbishop then moved to Oklahoma, where he delivered this speech: Archbishop Justin’s speech at the Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace conference, Oklahoma, USA

ENS reports:

Archbishop says church must ‘join its enemies on their knees’

VIDEO: Archbishop explains comments made to LBC radio

…During the news conference, Welby noted that he had made similar comments in the past and that he was trying to say that “at its heart is the issue that we’re a global church.”

“The Anglican Communion is a global church. And that wherever we speak, whether it’s here or in Africa, or in Asia or in any of the 143 countries in which we are operating, in which there are Anglicans, we never speak exclusively to ourselves but we speak in a way that is heard widely around the world,” he said. “And so the point I was making, because the question was essentially about why don’t we just go ahead and do gay marriages, we have a profound disagreement within the Church of England about the right thing to do, whether to perform gay marriages or have blessing of same sex marriages where the marriage has taken place in the civil system.”

Same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales on March 29. Parliament by a comfortable majority passed The Marriage (Same-sex Couples Act) in July 2013.
The Church of England is “starting two years of facilitated conversation about this and we are not going simply to jump to a conclusion, to preempt that conversation in any direction at all but we need to spend time listening to each other, listening to the voices around the communion,” Welby said.

The example he gave during the call-in program of his experience at the site of the mass grave “was of a particular example some years back which had had a great impact on my own thinking,” he said during the news conference…

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South Carolina: Anglican developments

The Diocese of South Carolina led by Bishop Mark Lawrence has issued this press release: Diocese Formalizes Worldwide Anglican Ties

The Diocese of South Carolina has been formally recognized as a member in good standing of the Global Anglican Communion.

On Saturday, March 15, the Diocese’s 223rd Annual Convention unanimously accepted an invitation to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) and temporarily enter into a formal ecclesiastical relationship known as provisional primatial oversight from bishops in the Global South.

The convention’s nearly 400 participants supported clergy and delegates as they voted to create a task force to explore more permanent affiliation options for the diocese. The task force will offer recommendations at the next Convention, which will be held next March.

Local critics of the Diocese’s 2012 separation from The Episcopal Church had said the disassociation would isolate the Diocese from the Global Anglican Communion. While the Diocese has maintained many informal relationships with organizations that are part of the communion, this formal primatial oversight arrangement makes clear that the Diocese is officially part of the greater Anglican Church.

“There’s an African proverb that wisely states ‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together,’ said the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese, in his address to the Convention. “This will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest Ecclesial entities within in the Communion; one which includes Anglicans from a diverse body of believers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian Ocean and many, many others.”…

The Charleston Post-Courier reported this: Diocese of South Carolina accepts provisional oversight from Global South primates.

Another press release says: SC Court of Appeals Denies TEC Appeal

SOUTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS DENIES TEC APPEAL, BLOCKS DENOMINATION’S STALLING TACTICS

Justices prevent TEC from using legal maneuver to delay court proceedings

CHARLESTON, SC, March 18, 2014 – The South Carolina Court of Appeals today rejected an appeal that would have delayed a trial in the Diocese of South Carolina lawsuit to protect diocesan and parish property from seizure by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local group, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).

The Court decided that TEC and TECSC could not appeal a lower court ruling on the process to be used in discovery.

The Court of Appeals effectively said it will not tolerate legal shenanigans to delay a trial to decide whether the denomination may seize South Carolina property, including churches and the diocesan symbols. In asking the Court of Appeals to dismiss the action, the Diocese of South Carolina argued that TECSC is appealing a court order that is “unappealable”.

South Carolina’s Court of Appeals justices agreed…

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US Supreme Court will not hear Falls Church case

Michelle Boorstein at the Washington Post reports: Supreme Court won’t hear appeal of dispute over Episcopal Church’s property in Va.

Seven years after 15 conservative Virginia congregations made global news by breaking away from the Episcopal Church — and refusing to give up tens of millions of dollars in property — the Supreme Court on Monday ended the complex legal dispute by declining to take up an appeal by the last remaining plaintiff.

The Falls Church Anglican, a 2,000-member breakaway congregation, had asserted that the nearly 300-year-old sprawling property belonged to the Anglican group because the Episcopal Church “left” its umbrella Anglican tradition by becoming more liberal in interpreting scripture and ordaining gay and lesbian clergy…

Mary Frances Schjonberg at ENS reports this way: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Falls Church Anglican case. This article contains many links to earlier documents.

More than seven years after a majority of clergy and members of several Diocese of Virginia congregations declared they had left the Episcopal Church and the question of ownership of the property involved began to be litigated, the U.S. Supreme Court refused on March 10 to hear the appeal of the last congregation still at odds with the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

The court gave no reason for deciding not to review a 2013 ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court reaffirming an earlier circuit court ruling that returned The Falls Church property to loyal Episcopalians to use for the mission of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The court’s decision was included in its March 10 order list and was one of 121 requests for review that it refused.

All that remains in the case is for the Diocese of Virginia to request an order from the Fairfax Circuit Court releasing to the diocese more than $2.6 million that was in the Falls Church’s bank accounts at the time of the split and that the court has been holding in escrow during the progression of the case…

Diocese of Virginia: press release and letter to diocese.

There is no press release as yet from CANA or ACNA. The latest email to the Falls Church Anglican congregation can be found here.

We received word today that the United States Supreme Court has denied our church’s petition for certiorari and declined to hear our case. This means that the long legal process in which our church has been involved since we were sued by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in 2007 has come to its end.

We have pursued this legal process out of the conviction that it is one of the ministries that God has entrusted to our church and out of our desire to be faithful to God’s calling to see it through to the end. We are grateful that our nation’s civil justice system allows us this recourse and we thank the Supreme Court for its consideration of our petition.

We will keep praying for the many churches and dioceses that remain embroiled in lawsuits over their property with The Episcopal Church or other denominations. We will continue to pray for clarification of this area of law, which has become increasing convoluted and confusing for the lower courts since the Supreme Court last addressed it in 1979…

A.S. Haley has published Heartbreaker: U. S. Supreme Court Denies Falls Church Petition.

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Oxford University to award honorary degree to Presiding Bishop

Updated Friday

Press release from Oxford University:

Six leading figures from the worlds of science, the arts and religion are set to receive honorary degrees from the University of Oxford this year, subject to approval by Congregation.

The degrees will be awarded at Encaenia, the University’s annual honorary degree ceremony, on Wednesday 25 June 2014.

Degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa:

The Most Reverend Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, PhD, is Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and 16 other nations. Over the course of her nine-year term, Bishop Jefferts Schori is responsible for initiating and developing policy for the Episcopal Church and speaks on behalf of the church regarding the policies, strategies and programmes authorised by General Convention. Bishop Jefferts Schori’s studies for the priesthood, to which she was ordained in 1994, were preceded by her career as an oceanographer. She holds a BSc in biology from Stanford University, an MSc and PhD in oceanography from Oregon State University, an MDiv from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and several honorary doctoral degrees…

Update Lambeth Palace has issued this:
Archbishop congratulates Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on honorary Oxford degree

Friday 7th February 2014

Archbishop Justin has welcomed news that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the University of Oxford

Archbishop Justin said: “I am delighted by the news that the Most Revd Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori is to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford. This award, richly deserved, reaffirms Bishop Katharine’s remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion, which she has dedicated to the service of Christ.

“Prior to becoming ordained, Bishop Katharine pursued a career in oceanography, and her enduring deep commitment to the environment has evolved into a profound dedication to stewardship of our planet and humankind, especially in relieving poverty and extending the love and hospitality of Christ to those on the edges of society. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said of Bishop Katharine, ‘In her version of reality, everything is sacred except sin.’

“It must be noted, too, that Bishop Katharine’s achievements serve – and will continue to serve – as a powerful model for women seeking to pursue their vocations in the church.”

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US Presiding Bishop on LGBT rights

The US Episcopal Church has issued this press release.

Presiding Bishop on LGBT rights

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) rights:

The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family. Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained. The current attempts to criminalize LBGT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations. Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability. To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community. No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created. Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

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Anglican homophobia: two reports and one response

There are two news reports (so far) of the latest remarks by the Primate of Nigeria The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh on the Nigerian anti-gay legislation:

Nigerian Tribune Those practising same-sex marriage are heading for destruction —Okoh

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, on Monday, warned those practising same sex marriage to desist from the act, saying they were heading for destruction…

…Okoh explained that the act was an attempt by people to question God’s authority.
He said: “The same thing is happening today in the issue of human sexuality. It is not about whether a man should marry a man or a woman should marry a woman, the question in the garden (of Eden) has come back again.

“And as in the former time, disaster followed when man dethroned God. So, again it shall happen that if man decided to stick to the principle of dethroning God, He will face nothing but disaster.

“Man will come to nothing but extinction. For this road leads to nowhere. It is a dead end and it is not in the interest of humanity.

“We want to thank God, the National Assembly and the President. He (Jonathan) has articulated the views of Nigerians.”

Channels God’s Punishment Awaits Those Against Anti-Gay Law- Okoh

…He however commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his courage in signing the anti-gay bill into law which has continued to generate reactions in some quarters in Nigeria and beyond.

According to him, those not in support of the bill are like the biblical duo, Adam and Eve who questioned God for asking them not to eat the fruits from the Garden of Eden.

His words: “Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.

He added: “in the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power.

“”So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed”.

There has been one response to all this, from the President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, writing at Religion News Service : COMMENTARY: The church’s role in, and against, homophobia across Africa

…The Anglican primates of Uganda and Nigeria enthusiastically support anti-gay legislation in their countries. I, like them, am a member of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide body of more than 80 million Christians. I am troubled and saddened that fellow Anglicans could support legislation that fails to recognize that every human being is created in the image of God.

Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.

Twice in the last three years, I have traveled to Africa to meet with biblical scholars, grass-roots activists and church officials at consultations about the Bible and sexuality. These brave leaders have taught me that there is no getting around the Bible when searching for the origins of the homophobia that is rampant in many African cultures. What’s more, Europeans and North Americans bear much of the historical responsibility for this sad state of affairs. As Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda has written, it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa…

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Texas Supreme Court rules on church property cases

The Supreme Court of Texas today handed down its decisions in two cases relating to the property of The Episcopal Church. In both cases the ruling was against a diocese of The Episcopal Church.

The actual texts of the decisions are here:

Statements were issued by the two Fort Worth diocesan organisations:

Pastoral Letter from Bishop High

Pastoral Letter from Bishop Iker

A S Haley writes:

Today the Texas Supreme Court handed down decisions in the two ECUSA cases pending before it: No. 11-0265, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.; and No. 11-0332, Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas. In the first case, the Court sided with Bishop Iker’s Diocese by a closely split vote of 5-4, reversed the summary judgment of Circuit Judge John Chupp which had awarded all of the property and assets of Bishop Iker’s Diocese to the Episcopal Church and its rump diocese, and sent the case back to the trial court. The majority held that the trial court had improperly failed to apply a “neutral principles of law” analysis to the issues. The four dissenters did not disagree with that result, but instead believed that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from the trial court’s judgment in the case.

In the second case, the Court by a vote of 7-2 reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision requiring the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo to turn over its building and all other assets to the Diocese of Northwest Texas. The Court definitively ruled that all Texas courts must follow “neutral principles of law” (rather than deferring to an ecclesiastical hierarchy), and that based on such an analysis, the Dennis Canon was not effective under Texas law (or that if it were effective to create a trust, the trust was not expressly irrevocable, and so could be revoked by the parish in question)…

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American church responses to Supreme Court decisions

Updated

The Supreme Court of the United States today issued two decisions relating to the marriage of same sex couples. The Guardian summarised it this way:

A landmark supreme court ruling struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory on Wednesday to campaigners who fought for years to overturn it.

The court also dismissed a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.

Together, the two rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment…

The Federal DOMA opinion is here. The California Proposition 8 opinion is here.

Numerous statements in response were made by bishops of The Episcopal Church and other senior church officials. Here are some links:

Update

Church leaders outside The Episcopal Church expressed contrary views:

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Los Angeles court rules against Newport Beach church

Episcopal News Service reports: Court orders return of Newport Beach property to Los Angeles diocese

Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning today reaffirmed her May 1 final orders that property occupied by St. James Church, Newport Beach, is held in trust for the current and future ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the wider Episcopal Church.

“All the church property acquired by and held in the name of St. James Parish is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese, which have the exclusive right to possession and dominion and control,” Judge Dunning ordered. “The diocese is entitled to enforce the trust in its favor and eject the current occupants.”

This is the fourth and final case involving congregations in which a majority of members, having voted to disaffiliate from the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church, sought to retain church property for themselves. In each instance, however, courts have ruled that the property rightfully belongs to the diocese and Episcopal Church…

The congregation issued this press release and a prominent conservative lawyer issued this analysis of the decision.

Anglican Mainstream issued this Letter of support to St James Newport Beach:

The following letter was sent to the rector and congregation of St James’ Newport Beach and read out at the three main services on Sunday May 5.

To the Rev Richard Crocker and people of St James, Newport Beach

Dear Friends and Fellow Christians

We were very disturbed and saddened to read the news that legal proceedings against you by other Anglicans mean that you may soon be deprived of your property at St James and have to find alternative accommodation.

We wish first to assure you of our fellowship with you as you continue to take your stand on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching. We share with you a passion to proclaim the gospel of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and affirm you in your faithful discipleship.

Although we have not experienced the depth of hostility that has led some people with responsibility in the Church of Christ to act in this way against you, we do want to assure you of our love, our prayers and our support. You are not alone: anyone who touches you, touches us.

This further evidence of continuing litigious acts against those whose only “wrongdoing” is to stand firm on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching should convince all those in authority in the Churches of the Anglican Communion that your stance is the mark of authentic Christian discipleship and fellowship. For this reason we are copying our letter to Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala.

With warmest greetings in our risen victorious Lord

Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor, Anglican Mainstream)
Bishop John Ellison (Chairman, Anglican Mission in England Panel of Bishops)
Rev Paul Perkin, (Chairman, Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland))
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream)

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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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More developments in South Carolina

Previous report on this subject here.

Now, further legal action has been taken, as ENS reports: Lawsuit seeks to recognize vonRosenberg as bishop of South Carolina.

Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint…

The full text of the complaint can be found here (PDF).

And the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is here.

At the time of writing, this action has not been reported on the website of the “Lawrence” diocese. The latest news item there is 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention to be Held in Florence, March 8-9 and also Three More Parishes Join in Suit to Prevent TEC from Seizing Property.

The latter press release summarises the situation thus:

…47 of the Diocese’s 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 18 support TEC and 7 remain undecided. The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

The TEC diocese website reports that the Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, will be held March 8-9, 2013, at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.

And it has this press release: Diocese added as defendant in lawsuit.

…Remaining with The Episcopal Church are 19 parishes and missions so far, along with at least 10 more “continuing parishes,” where members are maintaining official ties to The Episcopal Church even though their parish leadership has left the church. In addition, at least seven active and growing worshiping communities have organized across the diocese to allow displaced Episcopalians to continue to worship together…

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Developments in South Carolina

Updated again Friday

TEC Agrees to Injunction that Prohibits Them From Using Diocese of SC Identity
South Carolina lawsuit parties agree to temporary injunction

I last reported on South Carolina on 8 January. Since then there have been significant developments.

A South Carolina Circuit Court judge Jan. 23 issued a temporary restraining order preventing any “individual, organization, association or entity” from using registered names and marks that are claimed by Mark Lawrence and other leaders who led some Episcopalians in that state out of the Episcopal Church.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein’s order is in effect until Feb. 1 when a hearing is scheduled.

See ENS report South Carolina court temporarily restrains use of diocesan names, seal and also this diocesan press release
Circuit Court Blocks the Use of Diocese of South Carolina Identity By Anyone Outside of the Diocese.

And on 26 January a provisional bishop for those remaining in The Episcopal Church was elected, see this ENS report South Carolina continuing Episcopalians meet to plan their future.

See also:

Presiding bishop preaches to Episcopalians in South Carolin

House of Deputies president supports South Carolina Episcopalians

New bishop provisional addresses South Carolina Episcopalians

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Lawsuit filed in South Carolina against The Episcopal Church

See this press release: Diocese Seeks Declaratory Judgment to Prevent Episcopal Church from Seizing Local Parishes and “Hijacking” their Identities.

St. George, SC, January 4, 2013 –The Diocese of South Carolina, the Trustees of the Diocese and congregations representing the vast majority of its baptized members today filed suit in South Carolina Circuit Court against The Episcopal Church to protect the Diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes.

The suit also asks the court to prevent The Episcopal Church from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established long before The Episcopal Church’s creation.

“We seek to protect more than $500 million in real property, including churches, rectories and other buildings that South Carolinians built, paid for, maintained and expanded – and in some cases died to protect – without any support from The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “Many of our parishes are among the oldest operating churches in the nation. They and this Diocese predate the establishment of The Episcopal Church. We want to protect these properties from a blatant land grab.”

The Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 as an independent, voluntary association that grew from the missionary work of the Church of England. It was one of nine dioceses that voluntarily joined together to form The Episcopal Church in October 1789, which eventually became an American province in the worldwide Anglican Communion, also a voluntary association.

“When the Diocese disassociated from The Episcopal Church we didn’t become a new entity,” Canon Lewis explained. “We have existed as an association since 1785. We incorporated in 1973; adopted our current legal name, ‘The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,’ in 1987; and we disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October of 2012. The Episcopal Church has every right to have a presence in the area served by our Diocese – but it does not have a right to use our identity. The Episcopal Church must create a new entity.”

The Diocese of South Carolina is made up of 71 parishes with approximately 30,000 members. Of those, 22,244 members have decided to remain with the Diocese and 1900 are undecided. Fifty Three Hundred say they want to be with The Episcopal Church with nearly half of those from one church in Charleston. While the Diocese has disassociated from The Episcopal Church, it remains a part of the Anglican Communion.

Though theologically more conservative than the leadership of the national Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence has for five years struggled to keep the Diocese intact and in The Episcopal Church, even as some 200 parishes and four other dioceses nationwide disassociated. The parishes and dioceses have disagreed with The Episcopal Church’s recent interpretation of scripture, which is widely considered to be unorthodox by most of the world’s 80 million Anglicans…

And there is this letter from Bishop Mark Lawrence.

There is a long version and also a short version of a document entitled Stewardship of the Gospel – Stewardship of the Diocese.

And there are other materials and letters of support from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion and beyond over here.

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A TEC statement about Bishop Mark Lawrence

Updated again Friday

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs has issued a statement titled Presiding Bishop accepts Lawrence’s renunciation.

Citing Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 of the Constitutions and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and following thorough discussion with the Council of Advice, with their advice and consent, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.

The Presiding Bishop made the announcement December 5. The Presiding Bishop informed Lawrence by phone, email and mail on December 5. Following that, the House of Bishops was notified.

According to the documents, Lawrence “is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations. This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character.”

The renunciation is effective immediately on December 5.

The renunciation was consented to by the members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, who are the presidents or vice presidents of the nine Provinces of the Episcopal Church: Bishops Stephen Lane of Maine (Province I), Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island (Province II), Neff Powell of Southwestern Virginia (Province III), Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida (Province IV); Wayne Smith of Missouri (Province V), Rob O’Neill of Colorado (Province VI), Larry Benfield of Arkansas (Province VII), James Mathes of San Diego (Province VIII) and Francisco Duque of Colombia (Province IX). Also members of the Council of Advice are Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas, vice president of the House of Bishops and Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development. Note: Bishop Dabney Smith was not present at the meeting because of illness…

The public address on 17 November referred to above is this one. Also available as a PDF here. The events surrounding this were previously reported here.

There is additional background material in the announcement linked above, and also on this page. An earlier letter from the Presiding Bishop is available here.

Update
Bishop Lawrence has issued this letter: Bishop Lawrence Writes Regarding Renunciation.

The Presiding Bishop called me this afternoon to inform me that she and her council of advice have accepted my renunciation of ordained ministry. I listened quietly, asked a question or two and then told her it was good to hear her voice. I did not feel any need to argue or rebut. It is the Presiding Bishop’s crossing of the T and doting of the I—for their paper work, not my life. I could bring up the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church but to what avail? They will do what they will do regardless of canonical limitations. That is already well documented by others and hardly needs further documentation by me. She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address of November 17, 2012.

Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ—But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous…

There is a lot of useful background information on earlier comparable cases, and how they were dealt with, towards the end of this ENS news report.

A further statement from the diocese: Diocesan Statement Regarding Claimed Renunciation

…This action by the Presiding Bishop will come as no surprise to most, though it should be a disappointment to all. It has been done before. Just as the Episcopal Church has been increasingly characterized by ignoring the plain meaning of biblical texts, that same behavior has now come to characterize the application of their own governing canons as well. Those canons are quite explicit about the renunciation of ministry. It is to be a request, made in writing, to the Presiding Bishop, that the bishop in question wishes to be released from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. None of those qualifications have been complied with. Bishop Lawrence has never renounced his orders or expressed the desire to do so.

It is also clear in the canons that a release from ministry is not possible when another disciplinary process is in force. With the previous certification of abandonment by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, it should not have been possible, without violating the canons, for there to be a declaration of the renunciation of ministry. As surely as these same interpretive habits have created theological chaos within the Episcopal Church, these latest actions are further evidence of increasing canonical chaos and a leadership that has slipped all restraints in pursuit of its agenda and goals. For those remaining within the Episcopal Church, these developments should be cause for serious concern. For the Diocese of South Carolina, which has already departed, they are viewed with a certain amazement, but also with gratitude that we have disassociated ourselves from the increasing dysfunction.

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General Synod Questions about ACNA and South Carolina

Two questions were asked at General Synod on Monday which were answered by the Bishop of Guildford. The full list of all Questions is available here (PDF).

53. Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:

Q. Has consideration been given to whether the Church of England is in full and unimpaired communion with Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?

54. Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:

Q. Following the recent issue of a Certificate of Abandonment of the Episcopal Church in relation to the Rt Revd Mark J Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, and recognising that Bishop Lawrence has been one of the declining number of theologically conservative bishops who has sought to remain and to keep his people within TEC, in the light of paragraph 6 in the statement offered to the Synod in GS Misc 2011 by the Archbishops, are there any plans to consider proposing to the Synod fuller recognition of the Anglican Church in North America than has been considered to be appropriate up to this point.

The Bishop of Guildford’s answer (transcribed from audio recording available here)

With your permission sir, I will answer this and Mrs Ashworth’s question together.

The withdrawal from The Episcopal Church of most of the clergy and people of several dioceses, led by their bishops, after diocesan convention decisions, is a development novel in kind as well as in scale. Our North American sisters and brothers have been often involved in a litigious and sometimes acrimonious debate. We should try to remain on good terms with all parties and avoid inflaming matters further. Our response should be deliberate, and not hasty.

As the Archbishops noted in GS Misc 1011, the creation of the Anglican Church in North America raises questions of recognition of orders – ministry – as well as a relationship of communion. The former question is in some respects simpler, because the considerations are more objective, and it is also the more pressing, by reason of requests for transfer. Nevertheless there are some matters that require clarification before any decisions can be taken.

Clergy ordained in several churches with which we are not, or not yet, in communion are seeking permission to minister in the Church of England. The Council for Christian Unity has therefore established a small group to offer advice to the Archbishops through the Faith and Order Commission on the relevant issues. The question about the Anglican Church in North America’s orders (whether it is a church and whether its orders are such, whether they such that we can recognize) will be addressed in that context. This will necessarily involve direct ‘engagement with the Anglican Church in North America’ which was envisaged in the Archbishops General Synod miscellaneous paper that I have referred to, GS Misc 1011, and that will be the context for subsequent exploration of relationships between our churches.

On Saturday, a Special Diocesan Convention endorsed the South Carolina withdrawal from The Episcopal Church. The Bishop has stated that their position would be to remain within the Anglican Communion as an extra-provincial Diocese. The Episcopal Church on the other hand maintains that General Convention consent is necessary for any withdrawal. So the legal and indeed theological and ecclesiological position is extremely complicated. And it is absolutely not certain.

It has therefore not been possible to consider the consequences for our relationships at this immediate stage. And, in my view, any statement just at this point would be premature.

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South Carolina: withdrawal from Episcopal Church confirmed

Updated Sunday morning

Episcopal News Service reports: South Carolina convention affirms decision to leave Episcopal Church

The majority of South Carolina Episcopalians who attended a special convention at St. Philip’s Church here Nov. 17 affirmed actions by Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocesan Standing Committee a month ago to disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Those actions took place after Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori restricted Lawrence’s ministry on Oct. 17 after the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops certified to her that he had abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.”

On that same day, the Standing Committee announced that the action of the Disciplinary Board “triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the diocese from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention.”

The bishop referred to the special convention as “the Valley of Decision” during his address and asserted, “It is time to turn the page.” He referred to attempts to prevent separation of the diocese, and his oft-mentioned issues of theology, morality and disagreement with church canons…

The full text of Bishop Lawrence’s address to the convention can be found here. It is worth reading in full.

The ENS report notes that:

..While the bishop referred to numerous letters of support from church leaders, he did not announce any open offers of affiliation with the Anglican Communion, and he confirmed that for now the separatist diocese will affiliate with no one. In a conference call following the convention, he confirmed that alignment is not on the table at present.

However, during his address, he claimed that “for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with TEC, we remain an extra-provincial diocese within the larger Anglican Communion.”

Such a designation requires action by the Anglican Consultative Council, which concluded a 12-day meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 7. No action on South Carolina was taken during that meeting and the council will not meet again until May 2016…

Updates

Diocese of South Carolina Turns the Page; Looks Forward

Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation

Today, Saturday, November 17, 2012, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina met in Special Convention at the “mother church of the Diocese,” historic St. Philip’s Church in Charleston. There, an overwhelming majority passed three resolutions…

Full details of the three resolutions can be found here (PDF).

Video of Bishop Lawrence’s address here.

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