Friday, October 20, 2006

Diocese of Virginia responds to Christ Our Lord reforming as Anglican church

BB NOTE: One does wonder if the Diocese realizes that the passive/aggressive tone of their "press release" reveals more about why we're in this crisis then perhaps they intended? Is this the sort of statement that a diocese wants to put out to the general public advertising what a loving and inclusive denomination the Episcopal Church is? This press release is just dripping with contempt for the people of Christ our Lord. It also has picked and choosen its points. For example, the real estate was returned to the diocese, but the rest of the assets belongs to the founding parish. On one hand, the diocese threatens All Saints Dale City (and let's not even go there) with lawsuits and then wails that it doesn't know where Christ Our Lord's stuff is. Excuse me? Apparently, it's all about the stuff. There's not one bit of evidence here that the Bishop of Virginia cares what happened to the people. So much for being a shepherd. Who does he call? He apparently is sitting in his office dictating press releases and calling his lawyers rather than his people and his priests. So apparently it really is all about money and property after all - and not the people or the priests. Now we know.

Now even though I'm rather ticked off by reading this press release (who exactly is it directed to??), I do feel sad to imagine Bishop Jones inside the former Christ Our Lord Episcopal Church - empty, like Kirk beaming aboard another ship without its crew or its captain and wondering what happened - walking through the halls, picking up a paper here and a paper there, a stapler here, a pencil there, finding the keys sitting out for him to collect, maybe they left a note, but everything silent. That is pretty darn sad. What's really sad, though, is that Bishop Lee couldn't do it himself. He was on the phone with the lawyers. He had to send the Suffragan. And he can't bring himself to call George Beaven, instead he calls for the Standing Committee. We get it.

Contact: Patrick Getlein
800-DIOCESE x30

Mission Congregation Dissolves Without Notice

On Sunday, October 15, the congregation and leadership of Christ our Lord, Lake Ridge,Virginia, a parochial mission of All SaintsÂ’, Dale City since 1992, voted to dissolve itself and reform under the aegis of the Diocese of North Kigezi in the Anglican Church of Uganda. The Rev. George Beaven had been vicar of the congregation.

Formal notice of the action was received by the BishopÂ’s Office on Thursday, October 19 in a letter from All SaintsÂ’ rector the Rev. John Guernsey. As the rector of the missionÂ’s Founding Church, Mr. Guernsey has authority to appoint the vicar of the mission with the concurrence of the Bishop.

“I am saddened by this departure and by the mission’s apparent failure to thrive,” said Bishop Lee. “I am also disappointed to not have heard of plans for this action directly from the leadership of the congregation prior to their taking this action,” he added, noting that as of this release he had heard nothing from Mr. Beaven.

The church structure on Omisol Road in Lake Ridge, title to which is held by the Diocese, was abandoned following the Sunday decision. Though the building was abandoned, the note securing the property has a balance due of $420,000 and is five months in arrears.

The property was purchased in 1997 with a $500,000 loan from the Diocesan Missionary
Society. The note was co-signed by the Bishop of Virginia and by Mr. Beaven acting as vicar.

However, All SaintsÂ’, the missionÂ’s founding congregation, could ultimately be held accountable for the debt under the Canons of the Diocese.

Also not clear is the status of the former vicar, who appears to have abandoned not only the real property but also the Church in which he was ordained by Bishop Lee in 1992. The Bishop has asked the Standing Committee to determine his status.

Though the real estate was abandoned to the Diocese, other property -- computer equipment, sound equipment, intellectual property, the parish register and bank accounts – were not turned over to the Diocese.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones visited the property and secured a number of documents and other items and has taken possession of the keys to the property.

Arrangements are being made by the Diocese to provide continuity of utility service which had been scheduled by the Vestry Committee to be terminated on Friday, Oct. 20 despite the fact that the property is also under lease to a Hispanic Christian congregation. The Diocese will restore an Episcopal presence in the church on Sunday, Oct. 29.


Dr. Mabuse said...

I visualized the scene of the Suffragen Bishop walking through the empty church just the way you did - what a striking image, and one that I bet will be repeated many times. "Abandoned" - I never thought I'd hear that word used about North American churches; it reminds me of archaeologists looking over ancient villages and trying to fathom what disaster could have caused all the people to just walk away from what was so familiar to them. Meanwhile Bishop Lee complains that nobody told HIM what was going on until it was a fait accompli; maybe people have seen what sort of treatment other priests and parishes have gotten when they HAVE informed him of what they're thinking, and have just decided not to bother.

Dr. Mabuse said...

Oops - cut off the end of my comment somehow; I mean to say "when they HAVE informed him of what they were thinking, and have just decided not to bother."

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is the best way to go about leaving one's diocese. We don't "stick it" to our enemies...we are to bless our enemies, and not curse them. And no priest should go AWOL on his bishop, regardless.

Unknown said...

Of course, anon - there is more to the story. Remember who wrote this press release. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Left behind.

Dr. Mabuse said...

No, this is giving hardline revisionist bishops exactly what they demanded - "You go, leave us the property." It's not anyone's business to sugarcoat that value judgment - this is what it looks like. If, now that he's gotten what he asked for, the bishop doesn't like it, maybe HE should consider changing.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you will be interested to know that it was +Jones who was phoned by Beaven+ after the congregational meeting, at the beginning of a long-scheduled clergy retreat. As the press release notes "formal notice" was not received until Thursday.

What is very sad to me is that Christ Our Lord has apparently made no pastoral provisions for those who wanted to continue in the Diocese of Virginia, including the other church that rents from them. That Guernsey+ has not made provision is galling to me, as well.

As for being a shepherd, both Lee+ and Jones+ expresses their pastoral concern by restoring an Episcopal presence only a week later. How many priests do you think are qualified and available to take on that work?

Anonymous said...

I find it rather strange that anyone would think the congregation of Christ Our Lord Church would "abandon" the building that they, themselves have been paying for, if they were actually given the option to keep the building. It was made quite clear that the Diocese would take the building, so COL decided to give it back rather than besmirch the name of Christ by engaging in a legal battle.

I also find it rather strange that the Diocese is "shocked" at their leaving. It is no secret that this has always been an evangelical and orthodox congregation.

We have recently come back to COL after serving for nearly five years as the worship leaders in an Assembly of God mission church. In our time away, we watched the people of COL try to work with the system, but it could not be done. It was no secret to anyone in the congregation that this separation would take place. It was also no secret to the Hispanic congregation that this would happen. As for the few of our brothers and sisters who wanted to stay with the Episcopal church, not all of them necessarily desire to part with COL just because they did not agree over this issue. Two of our family’s dearest friends have decided to leave, but they will look for a church that is closer to their home. They hardly feel the need or desire for someone else to oversee their choice of a church.

As for the Hispanic church that met in that building, it is up to the Diocese of Virginia whether or not they will be allowed to remain. The people of COL no longer have a building to share with them. The Diocese has been told of the standing arrangements, and they will be the ones either to allow or disallow that congregation a place to meet.

Perhaps it is because I do not have a personal vestment in the
Episcopal church per se, that I find it difficult to believe that the reason the Diocese would use the building for a service as soon as they can, has anything to do with being pastoral.

Anonymous said...

I hate to burst anyone's romantic vision of Bishop Jones wandering through a deserted building all-alone, but he wasn't alone. He could not have even gotten into the building, well, short of breaking in, if someone from the congregation had not been there. He was shown around the building, and offered the keys to it, which he kindly refused until he had spoken with the Beavens about it.

Things were actually a lot more amicable than the Diocesan press release might lead one to believe.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments Patricia! You raise excellent points!

We can now read "the rest of the story" here:


Anonymous said...

"Mission Congregation Dissolves Without Notice" -- trying to be careful not to stir up rumors or untruths, so I'll phrase what I heard as a question & maybe one with direct knowledge can respond. Were COL & Diocese of Virginia in conversation about this last spring?

Granted even if not, COL departure should almost begin to be common place with the bishop. This is either the third or forth mission parish to leave from No.Va. in less than a year. "The Special Committee" of Palmore, Merrow, Parkinson, Yates, Yates & Blankingship that Bp. Lee set up last Nov. has delivered their report for his review. This 40 days thingie seems to imply something ...

It must be nice to be in that much denial. Sure you keep getting these rather sudden "rude" wakeup calls, but just thing about all those days in between, no loss of sleep, no stress, just pretend all this is not really happening ...

Anonymous said...

Kevin -- to answer your question in part: It has never been a secret where the congregation and the leadership of COL have stood regarding the authority of scripture. That part of the dialog began a very long time ago. As far as negotiations for the property -- I believe that was done through the mother church last spring. Basically COL was told it was a no go by the Diocese and to not bother to even try to go there. The parish had hoped to be able to re-buy the property which is why they held on as long as they did. Hope that helps a little.