Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Diocese of Quincy seeks court help with over-reaching by Presiding Bishop and staff

BB NOTE: Next thing we'll know, the PB will be saying that no, Chrysler and GM are owned by The Episcopal Church as well. It is clear that the Presiding Bishop has no authority to tell dioceses what they can and cannot do - a diocese was free to join General Convention a diocese should be free to leave (especially when it has gone so far off the rails that practicing Buddhist can be elected Episcopal bishops), unless TEC is now the equivalent of an ecclesiastical roach motel where you can check in but you never check out. With all this huffing and puffing coming from up north, it looks like Jefferson was right (which he had the foresight to write into Virginia Commonwealth law). Let's just not make Christopher Hitchens right too.

Here's the latest news from the Diocese of Quincy, which voted to separate from the province of the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, via e-mail.

[QUINCY, ILLINOIS] The Diocese of Quincy has petitioned the Circuit Court of Illinois in Quincy to issue a Declaratory Judgment clarifying the rights of the Diocese to hold and manage its endowment funds. The petition was filed in response to actions taken by leaders of the Episcopal Church in New York claiming that trust funds held by the diocese must remain in the Episcopal Church. Quincy formally separated from the Episcopal Church at it annual Synod in November, 2008.

“We hoped from the beginning to avoid any legal action,” said Fr. John Spencer, President of the Standing Committee which oversees the diocese. “Our Fall synod passed a resolution asking the leaders of the Episcopal Church to find ways ‘in which the two entities might carry out the mission of the church as brothers and sisters in the Lord Christ rather than as hostile parties.’ We sent that to the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop. She never responded. We wrote to the leader of a group of several churches that is setting up a new Episcopal diocese here, asking to meet and talk about the property issues. They said they didn’t have the authority to talk with us.”

Quincy, along with the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Ft. Worth, withdrew from the Episcopal church over the meaning and authority of Holy Scripture and other basic Christian teaching, according to Fr. Spencer. San Joaquin separated in December, 2007, and the other three last fall.

A series of legal actions by the Episcopal Church led to the filing of the Quincy petition this week, Fr. Spencer said. In January, an attorney for the Episcopal Church wrote the bank that holds Quincy’s diocesan endowment funds, claiming that those funds have to stay in the Episcopal Church. The letter also claimed that the elected officials of the diocese no longer had any say in the control of those funds.
In February, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, wrote the members of the Quincy Standing Committee, claiming they were no longer officers of the Diocese. “The problem is,” Spencer said, “she has no authority to make such a judgment. The governing officers of each diocese have always been elected at the local level, and the General Convention officers in New York have no say in the matter.”

About the same time, Spencer said, a group of churches that have broken away from the Quincy Diocese announced they would organize a new Episcopal diocese in central Illinois. An article appeared in the March edition of the Episcopal Church’s official newspaper, “Episcopal Life,” saying the Episcopal Presiding Bishop was giving “extensive guidance” to the churches organizing the new diocese and that the goal of Episcopal Presiding Bishop and other Episcopal leaders was “to craft a lawsuit that is trim and focused on the critical claims involving ownership and possession of diocesan property.”

“It was clear,” Spencer said, “that a law suit was heading our way. From suits they have filed elsewhere, we know Episcopal Church leaders will start by trying to seize our funds, and eventually try to take our churches.”

After lengthy consultation with their legal counsel, the Quincy Standing Committee made the decision to petition the Illinois court to clarify and define the property rights of the Diocese against the claims of Episcopal Church officers from New York.
“We want people to understand, this is not a typical ‘law suit’,” Fr. Spencer said. “We’re not trying to take property away from anyone. We’re simply trying to protect the property of our Diocese and local churches which we believe legally — and morally — belong to the people of those churches, and to our historic Diocese that has existed since 1877.“ A Declaratory Judgment, Spencer said, is a particular court petition that asks the court to spell out what the rights, duties, and responsibilities of the Diocese are under Illinois law. “Only then will we be able to move forward with releasing property to those churches who have decided to leave us. We want to do everything properly, and an explanatory ruling from the court will ensure that we stay within the bounds of the law.”

Spencer emphasized that the Diocese has offered to work charitably with those few churches that decided to leave the Diocese and stay under the control of the Episcopal Church. “We were willing to begin those talks. Unfortunately, the improper legal claims by leaders of the Episcopal Church in New York have tied our hands. We need direction from the court before we can proceed.”

Spencer said he had no idea how soon the court will make a decision on their petition. “The sooner the better,” he said. “The Episcopal Church has spent millions of dollars in the last few years suing churches who no longer want to be a part of it. Our goal is not to make their lawyers rich. Our goal is to protect our churches and diocesan resources. Many people have given sacrificially to our Diocese for over a hundred and fifty years because we have always upheld traditional Christian faith and discipline. We plan to do so for the next 150 years, God willing.”

The "shadow diocese" created by the Presiding Bishops's office is having an April 4th event. What we find interesting is the sudden reappearance of this guy, aka Father Jake. He's not exactly Keith Ackerman. He went missing when New York suddenly recruited him and he shut his popular acerbic blog down. Perhaps there were greater fish to fry. But is he a Peoria Chiefs fan?


Anonymous said...

The nominee for provisional Bishop for the Diocese of Quincy (Episcopal)is the Rt. Rev. John Clark Buchanan, retired Bishop of West Missouri.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet "Fr. Jake" will be removed from the shadow diocesan site by morning now that it has been exposed.
They remove everyone who smells of controversy.

Bunkered down in Quincy & asking for prayers!

ettu said...

I love it that you get it right in recognizing that there is a North/South divide very much along sociological and immigration lines - I recommend "Albion's Seed" by Fischer as a fine exposition of the "personality differences" between the regions of the country based on early influences that exist up to the moment and that impacted everything since - especially the Civil War period. There was a reason the South Carolinians behaved as they did at Fort Sumter that goes beyond the stated reasons. We are all creatures of our DNA.

Allen said...

I would personally be gratified to see people like "Fr. Jake" have to step up to the plate. If he is a leader of a rump diocese then he can put into motion all of those wonderful and positive revisionist ideas that he has been touting from a safe place for years. Let's see whatthe "New Thing" can do at the hands of those with no opposition and plenty of money. Like "Fr. Jake", Susan Russell also hides in the background of All Saints, Pasadena....on somebody else's staff line-up. Why AREN'T these people in their OWN parishes showing the world how it's done?

Because it's all a lie. And they know that their way won't work short of having plenty of $$$$ to blow in the attempt.

DavidH said...

I'm shocked ... shocked ... to see the Diocese of Quincy acting so anti-Biblically by filing declaratory judgment actions.

Or is a declaratory judgment action only bad when you disagree with the diocese that filed it, bb?

BabyBlue said...

I believe they are filed in response to the Episcopal Church's earlier legal actions, leading up to this weekend with the Presiding Bishop creating a shadow diocese (complete with the appearance of Fr. Jake, no less) so she can file the lawsuits through the shadow since the TEC constitution does not give her the authority to do that personally. As the press release says, we've seen the same pattern over and over again. Quincy isn't stupid.

I'm not a pacifist. If you need to defend yourself, do it. Guess that means I won't make it as a Quaker. Darn.


DavidH said...

"I believe they are filed in response to the Episcopal Church's earlier legal actions..."

That's what the press release says, but if you read further to what the "legal actions" were, it's clear that TEC has not sued Quincy yet.

BabyBlue said...

No not yet, just take the legal actions in preparation for their coming lawsuits as the press release states.

I supposed it is possible that Katharine Jefferts Schori has spent this time in Lent reviewing her actions and considering that perhaps the counsel she has received has not done well for her denomination nor her standing and authority as a global religious leader. I supposed it's possible that she might stand down from her current trajectory that she's followed since she was passed the baton at National Cathedral in Nov. 2006 and changed strategies from the point of view of Frank Griswold to litigious view of Jon Bruno (to whom she is indebted) & Stacy Stauls - I supposed it is possible.

If that is true and she has had a change of heart and does not follow the same path she's followed with San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Ft. Worth and decides that there is another way the the litigious one she has been following - then I supposed that Quincy may also stand back as well. Not sure what that will give Father Jake to do, though.

I supposed we can remain hopeful. In fact, that would be wonderful.