Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Bridge Too Far?








Had a very interesting morning.

Went to Christ Church Alexandria today on behalf of a good friend and watched the congregational vote, which was quite spirited in their questions, quite spirited indeed.

I did have some concerns about the way in which the congregational meeting was conducted, which I've noted in response to Christ Church members who posted earlier today in this on-going discussion here.

The congregational meeting was conducted toward the end of the 9:00 "family service" and the final dismissal for that service was postponed until the congregational meeting ended with a vote of a show of hands of those who happened to be present in the church this morning.

No credentials were required to vote.

No quorum was determined.
No one was designated register to take minutes.
No chancellor explained the risks.

The vestry's text was passed out only as the meeting began in the service.
No hearings or opportunity for public review was granted.
The number of voting members present was not acknowledged.
The number of votes needed to pass the resolution was never announced.
The final vote tally/number in favor of the resolution was not announced ("majority rules," said the rector without explanation).
No vote counters were appointed (though we have an anon observer here who counted three lone nay votes).
No announcement of the nay votes.
No ballots were issued.
No public reading of the resolution (nor a motion to suspend the reading).
No reading of the amended resolution.
No procedures were in place to protect Christ Church from voter fraud.

We actually have no idea who was in the room or who actually voted yes. There was no sign-in, no check-in, no roll call, no nothing. Just an informal show of hands.

We do know that a majority of the hands raised voted to do as Bishop Lee requested. There was a vestry person in front of me who was showing her displeasure at the audacity of all the questions being raised (and there were many) - including the point made from the balcony that if Christ Church does not in fact own the property now under litigation (and what is it about attempting to transfer the interest of a property under litigation that makes one feel a bit queezy?) but attempts to "quickclaim" it over to the bishop (who called last Monday) then that would be like the woman in the balcony "quickclaiming" the Wilson Bridge to the bishop.

The bishop wouldn't own that either.

Though the resolution in the single resolve says "the bishop," the Senior Warden kept talking about transferring the property now in litigation to "the diocese" when in fact it is to the same bishop who called him last Monday "requesting" that the interest of the disputed property be transferred over to him.

Where are the Tums?

The Senior Warden was quite clear that they are not transferring the interest of their own property in Old Town to "the diocese" and no one should worry about that. Glad that's cleared up and Christ Church does indeed control their own property - for now. Which of course, they do - not the bishop, not the diocese, after all - the bishop had to request that Christ Church hand over the property now in the final weeks of litigation. And of course, the congregation of Christ Church was required to vote in order to do it.

In fact, one of the questions dealt with whether they are inadvertently hurting the shadow congregations by admitting that they actually do "own" property (for now, anyway) and that by "voting" what to do with the property they were in fact undermining the litigation for any shadow congregation. This concern was summarily dismissed.

The fact that the congregation was quite worried that they might be deeding more than just the alleged-Falls Church property indicated that the congregation may be worried that the diocese might take control of their worship space as well. But not to fear, they were assured. They own their property. And of course, that is correct. That's why the bishop told them to vote. Sound familiar?

Frankly, there was something in the Christ Church Alexandria service that I found far more troubling than all the talk about bishops ringing up for quick transfers of interest before court resumes in the morning.

I enjoyed the sermon very much - it was centered on Jesus (not the Cosmic Christ), was fun, thoughtful, memorable, and true. But it was followed by an event that was anything but that.

Just before the passing of the peace, the celebrant called up students who are taking what appears to be a modified catechism class with a twist. Only two students came up and were being asked to take a "vow" in what the service leaflet called a "Confirm Not Conform" Covenant.

Here is the liturgy of vows taken by the students and the congregation of Christ Church Alexandria this morning before they held their congregational meeting:

Celebrant: These students, baptized in Christ's Church, are now entering into a journey to discover their own faith. We do not know where that journey will end for each of them, but we know that coming to your own sense of faith is not easy.

Celebrant: Students, are you committed to following this journey, bringing open hearts and minds to all classes, ready to explore your and others beliefs?

Students: We will.

Celebrant: Will you be faithful in class gatherings and field trips, recognizing that you cannot take this journey on your own?

Students: We will.

Celebrant: Will you who are witnessing these vows uphold these students in prayer throughout their journey, recognizing that their faith may not wind up looking like yours, but entrusting such diversity to our God?

Peope: We will.
I had to stop myself from shouting "No!"

Christ Church Alexandria is taking young students and having them make public vows in front of the church that they will take seriously the possibility that they will abandon faith in Jesus Christ and journey instead - with Christ Church's blessing no less - to other religions.

How is this possible?

As I read through the announcements in the service leaflet, I found one that was rather interesting as well. Under the heading "Youth and Family" there was something called Marriage and Partners Relationship Workshop or "PAIRS." The blurb in the service leaflet said that Christ Church was encouraging married and partnered couples to take a workshop that focused on developing "practical application of intimate relationships" by identifying "the skills and experiences that nourish intimate, extraordinary relationships"- all this under the heading "Youth and Family." Couples could be either married or partnered, it didn't matter. But it didn't mention whether it was okay to be Hindu.

When the congregational meeting ended and the service came to a close, I walked back down the tree-lined autumn streets to my car and I felt such sorrow, like grief. What a sad morning in so many ways. Tonight I remember these words from Isaiah:

But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5-6

If we believe, if we are believers, if we are convinced that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, our Salvation, our Life, our Lord, why would the Church then turnaround during a Christian worship service and commission its youth to go explore something else? To make a "covenant" with them - to take "vows" with them, and send them off into the wilderness?

And then I am reminded of the lament of Isaiah. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

This is more than about property.

26 comments:

Jeff H said...

BB, whether the person in the balcony knew it or not, the point of a "quitclaim" deed is to convey whatever interest the grantor has in the quitclaimed property to the grantee. It could be true ownership, or it could be nothing. So I could execute a valid quitclaim deed giving you my interest in the Wilson Bridge. Of course, I have no interest in the Wilson Bridge, but I just gave you whatever I had, i.e., nothing. So it's often used when it's not clear whether the grantor actually has an interest, but wants to give whatever interest he has to the grantee.

Hope that makes sense.

BabyBlue said...

Too bad you weren't at the meeting! This is very helpful. Thank you.

bb

Anonymous said...

A scathing review--especially of the "confirmation service." You're right. This is not about property. It is about whether the Episcopal Church is a Christian Church.

Kevin said...

A VERY smart move to visit, I hope there is another friendly in the room to write up a testimony for CANA lawyers.

It is sad to hear the Christ Church has fully taken over in the leadership. The questions sound as if a liberal minority are ruling, but it sounds as if they have the power structure locked up.

anam-cara3 said...

The blurb in the service leaflet said that Christ Church was encouraging married and partnered couples to take a workshop that focused on developing "practical application of intimate relationships" by identifying "the skills and experiences that nourish intimate, extraordinary relationships"

Very different from my Orthodox church where the priest recently in a sermon told parents that when they agree to their young adult children cohabiting because it saves money, they are prostituting them!

Lynn said...

BB, if we have to take a new vote, we will.

I'm glad you liked the sermon, we have excellent priests. You should contact Fr. Matthew if you are concerned about "Confirm not Conform," it is decidedly Christian education, but different than my confirmation class in 1971.

I am truly saddened that you did not find the Holy Spirit as you worshiped with us, but I'm glad you came to the service and hope you came to the communion rail as a baptized member of the Body of Christ. You were welcome

I listened to the questions and answers of that discussion as a member of the Christ Church family, and you as a visitor. My impression was quite different, and I suspect the same would be true if the roles were reversed. You came knowing that Christ Church is loyal to the Episcopal Church and the diocese - and probably that we have no desire to be directly involved in the Fairfax County litigation.

May the love of the Father, grace if the Son, and fellowship of the Spirit be with you. We disagree on many things, but perhaps not that concept.

Fred Schwartz said...

Just an observation: When the re-asserters win ya'll can't stop talking about winning and when ya'll lose you still can't stop talking about whining. It never ceases to amaze me how facts are bent to your best advantage. Like, if you say something long enough and loud enough it will come true.

The vote at Christ Church was a well thought out and well planned vote that took place under the best of circumstances. Why not give this one a rest?

Kevin said...

The vote at Christ Church was a well thought out and well planned vote that took place under the best of circumstances. Why not give this one a rest?

Why should I trust some one in CA if the vote in Alexandria, VA was fair and by the cannon of DioVA or not?

Anonymous said...

Votes, procedures and canons are now irrelevant in TEC, so there is no use arguing about whether the CCA vote was proper. It was their vote - so be it.

The only story here is that CCA has allowed themselves to be used as a weapon against their fellow Christians. A weapon that has little chance of causing injury to be sure, but sad nevertheless.

RalphM

Steven in Falls Church said...

"The vote at Christ Church was a well thought out and well planned vote that took place under the best of circumstances. Why not give this one a rest?"

BB's observation of the voting process is very appropriate because the ADV parishes endured tens of thousands of dollars in legal expense on discovery and briefing to defend the scrupulousness of their own disaffiliation votes against attack from the Diocese, only to have the Diocese drop the challenge after it appeared to be a sure loser. The Diocese apparently refuses to play its own game. Moreover, the diocesan canons (Can. 11 Sec. 13) require as follows for congregational votes:

"At such [congregational] meetings only those persons shall be entitled to vote who are qualified to vote for Vestry members and such meetings shall be conducted in the same manner as meetings held for the election of Vestries, except that voting by ballot need not be required."

Because there was no check at the door or record of who voted, there is no way to verify those who voted as eligible. This has left the quitclaim deed vulnerable to challege as invalid when the trial resumes this week.

BabyBlue said...

I thought the Holy Spirit is present, as He always is, just as Jesus promised He would be. What, do we think He might take the morning off?

The Holy Spirit is present because He promised He would be. His presence is not dependent on our obedience or our own merits, but is made possible by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Where ever two or more are gathered in the Name of Jesus, He is there. Thanks be to God.

What we do in His presence is quite another matter.

bb

Lynn said...

Steven in Falls Church -

A realistic question. If the vote leaves the quitclaim in question, doesn't that just leave the trustee relationship in the hands of the Christ Church vestry?

That is assuming the old deeds are considered the most recent and not tossed on the grounds of adverse occupation. Some big ifs.

Kevin said...

Well, Steven, all the better for ADV ...

Lynn said...

Oh, BB, I was just annoyed that lyou left off the end of the CNC covenant that talks about being redeemed from sin by baptism and the resurrection of Christ. . Fr. Matthew runs a Bible-based Sunday school program. I promise, we really care about our kids, and know how vulnerable teens are in a metro area. Bet you feel the same way at Truro.

Fred Schwartz said...

Kevin,
Quite often a parish meeting is. Just a parish meeting and a vote is just a vote. One does not have to be in Virginia to know that but take a look at Real Anglicans if you would like a parish member's take on things.

Anonymous said...

Steven in Falls Church wrote: "This has left the quitclaim deed vulnerable to challege as invalid when the trial resumes this week."

Not really. Apparently you have no evidence of any problems. Just BB's conjecture.

And as someone else has already pointed out, despite BB's persistent attempts to manufacture fear, uncertainty, and doubt, there is no risk to a quitclaim deed. It is what it is -- valuable or worthless. That's the entire point of it being a quitclaim deed.

Kevin said...

Fred Schwartz - You are quite in error, this has to do with property and the canon are very specific about that. I've been involved in a few parishes in which property issue arouse and BB is quite correct in pointing to the number of violations.

So no, "Just a parish meeting and a vote is just a vote." You obviously are unfamiliar with the canons. DioVA has published them online if you want to take a look, but currently you are mouthing off without knowing what you're talking about.

Then I understand in the new Episcopalianism, some canons are more equal than others.

Kevin said...

"there is no risk to a quitclaim deed.

Obviously an Anon with DioVA sympathies trying to say All is Well.

Gotta love Episcopalians, there got to be more lawyer per capita than other denominations combined.

Per the actual issue, I'm sure both sides attorneys will fill a few reams of paper on why or why not the quitclaim deed should be considered.


[FYI - You makes NO sense for your charge of trying "manufacture fear, uncertainty, and doubt" if this is not primarily written for DioVA or CC audiences, would it? I do not think you were her intended audience].

Fred Schwartz said...

Kevin,
For someone as gifted in Canon and Constitutional law as you are it would seem that "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.". Ask BB to translate for you.
I can FEEL the Christian love, Kevin

Kevin said...

I'm not that gifted, I have been through a property disposal and read the canons online on the website, but then I didn't come out accusing (in Christian love of course):

Just an observation: When the re-asserters win ya'll can't stop talking about winning and when ya'll lose you still can't stop talking about whining. It never ceases to amaze me how facts are bent to your best advantage. Like, if you say something long enough and loud enough it will come true.

The vote at Christ Church was a well thought out and well planned vote that took place under the best of circumstances. Why not give this one a rest?


To which I asked how you in CA knew this vote was "fair and by the cannon of DioVA or not?"

To which you replied:

"Quite often a parish meeting is. Just a parish meeting and a vote is just a vote. One does not have to be in Virginia to know that but take a look at Real Anglicans if you would like a parish member's take on things"

When challenged you now say:

"For someone as gifted in Canon and Constitutional law as you are it would seem that "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.". Ask BB to translate for you.
I can FEEL the Christian love,


Well, it'd be tough side of that love, my friend, the one which met your accusation, yet funny in return you produce more accusation.

Odd for one who comments on a meeting in VA in which BB was present but you were not yet declares "Why not give this one a rest?" but now FEELs the Christian Love while asking me to have BB translate for me ... hmmm ... I see that the accusation of hte double standard you introduced yourself here may actually not be BB's problem rather your own.

Something you may want to think about.

Fred Schwartz said...

Kevin,
The parish wanted to quitclaim the property to the Diocese of Virginia. That was the intent from the start. They felt, by an overwhelming majority of the parishioners, that was what they were called to do. What I read on this blog "seemed to indicate" that many who read this blog wanted to protest over petty and inconsequential issues. Been there done that, see the vote of December 7, 2007 when ex-JDS took the "group" out of TEC. There were cries of violation of canon law, violations of the constitution, no ballots were issued, no roll call was held though there were many calls for it at the time. But, all that being said, JDS and minions took most of San Joaquin to the Southern Cone. And, yes, I do understand property and property rights. What I do not understand is the whining. Once again, the plain and simple fact is that the Parish wanted to do what they did by a clear majority, Nothing you or anyone else can do to change that so why not get on to something we can argue about and make a difference.
By the way, if you read REAL Anglican you will get the story from a parishioner who was there for the entire event including the Eucharist and the vote. She is also a long time member of the parish and could probably give you some insight into the entire process -- if you are interested.

Kevin said...

Fred,

Unlike you, I have little interest in butting my nose into the details of San Joaquin, it a whole another set of State Law and diocesan cannon law and the learning curve to familiarize myself, less I make the same grievous errors you have here, would take longer than I'm willing to give, so your blog is of little interest to me.

Those "protest over petty and inconsequential issues" are the double standard of how some canons are more equal than others. If the votes on December 18, 2006 were conducted as this vote was then there would be much protest by the DioVA lawyers to declare it invalid.

AS for your opinions form CA, well, the REAL Anglicans left with their bishop, those who don't care about canon law think they have authority, then what should I expect, this weekend I think I'll quitclaim Virginia's interest in your California parish (remember our charter) to Rochester, England. I think that's about as valid.

(In the end that "nothing you or anyone else can do to change it" will be decided by the one whose authority really does matter, so far it appears your friends are not doing so well in front of him).

Kevin said...

Just an observation: One who introduced himself with Why not give this one a rest? he really does not seem to be able to do so ... ;-)

Kevin said...

Some concluding thoughts, on my way home from visiting my parents, it occurred to be that despite what Fred and Anon have been trying to promote (an "oral argument" in the court of public opinion) that this thread may have done it's job.

There no mention of this vote in BB's account of the testimony. Yet, with her in the room, everyone would know CANA legal team could ask the judge to call BB to the stand to give an account of the vote.

We'll probably never know if DioVA lawyers changed their strategy for their oral arguments, now the whole issue will probably only end up as a sentence or two in a brief and may not rebutted, since CANA lawyers will be more interested in challenging the claim than giving it recognition.

Other than my toying with revisionist, I'm going back to my first comment, it was a REALLY SMART move to be both at the vote and in the court room. Ironically Fred maybe correct that the quitclaim turns out to be nothing, but that may not have been the original plan :-)

Anonymous said...

Baby Blue -

Christ Church Alexandria is obviously disposed to remain loyal to the Diocese of VA. The congregational vote (however they chose to conduct it) was clearly intended to dissociate their parish from any involvement whatsoever in the DoVA/CANA litigation. Who can blame them?

Last week I read a post of yours linked on anglican-mainstream.net where it was stated (and clearly intended to imply) that the Christ Church vote was to quitclaim ALL of their property to "Bishop Lee". I wrote to the moderator of the site, Bishop Anderson, to post a correction, which he graciously did.

I share your frustration and anger at the course of events in the national church and DoVA. Those of use still fighting for our parish's spiritual health but have not yet joined the piecemill exodus from the Diocese need clear, rational, and accurate reporting of events in our fight. Please be aware that others are linking to your posts. Inaccurate, manipulative information, "blog" though it may be, does not help us.

God bless you, you know I feel exactly like you do.

BabyBlue said...

The Christ Church congregation were indeed given counsel by Bishop Lee's lawyers before they voted (which may include the wording of the resolution he wanted). They did not, however, get a second opinion other than what the Senior Warden made clear he was told by the diocesan lawyers. They went with the opinion of Bishop Lee's attorneys and passed their resolution accordingly.

Here is what Christ Church Alexandria actually "resolved" to do:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:

That the Congregation of Christ Church, in a meeting duly called for the purpose pursuant to Canon 15, Section 2 and Canon 11, Section 13 of the Canons of the Diocese of Virginia, deems it in the best interests of Christ Church and of the Diocese of Virginia that Christ Church quitclaim and release all of Christ Church’s right, title and interest in and to the Property to the Bishop, by quitclaim deed; that the Congregation consents to such conveyance pursuant to Canon 15, Section 2 of the Canons of the Diocese of Virginia; and, subject to (a) receipt of confirmation from the Diocese that the Standing Committee and the Bishop have approved the quitclaim and release of Christ Church’s right, title and interest in the Property to the Bishop, and (b) fulfillment of the statutory requirements of the Commonwealth of Virginia, hereby authorizes and directs the trustees of the real property of Christ Church and the Senior Warden to execute and deliver a quitclaim deed and to take all other necessary steps to quitclaim and release all of Christ Church’s right, title and interest in the Property to the Bishop.

Do you see the problem?

bb