Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Diocese of Pittsburgh announces their intent to appeal lower court ruling

via e-mail:

ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH RESPONDS TO COURT RULING

Today, we are pleased to introduce ourselves as The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Previously known as The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, our diocese is comprised of fifty-five congregations; 51 local congregations with a very long record of service to Pittsburgh area communities (in eleven southwestern Pennsylvania counties), and 4 congregations beyond the immediate region. We were the majority (67%) on the vote to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and are the majority now: 55 Anglican Church congregations as compared to 27 Episcopal Church congregations.

Our purpose in asking you here today is to announce our intention to appeal the recent ruling of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The court ruled that a minority of our former parishes, which now claim to be a diocese affiliated with the Episcopal Church, shall hold and administer all diocesan assets. The appeal will be filed once the court issues a final order directing the transfer of all diocesan property to this minority group.

Our decision to appeal is for the purpose of protecting the mission of our fifty-one local congregations. Left uncontested, the award of all diocesan assets to the minority party, a group that comprises only a third of the parishes that were a part of our diocese when we withdrew from the Episcopal Church, would establish a precedent that we believe the minority would use to take steps to seize all the assets of all our local parishes. Indeed, the minority's website proclaims as much. This litigious action, which is supported by the aggressive leadership of the Episcopal Church, is unfair, unreasonable, and unconscionable.

A further reason for the appeal is to address the question of the legal right of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh to separate from its former denominational affiliation (The Episcopal Church of the United States). This essential question has never yet had its day in court throughout the legal action in which the Episcopal Church minority is the plaintiff and is suing for all the assets. Many of these assets were donated in good faith by generations of families in our fifty-one congregations. There must be an equitable agreement and distribution. There is a Christian way to resolve this dispute.

The Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh are actively engaged in effective, caring ministry and the planting of new congregations, both regionally and nationally. Our local congregations stretch from Slippery Rock to Somerset to Waynesburg. We are urban, suburban, town, valley and mountain congregations. Shepherd's Heart in Uptown, Seeds of Hope in Bloomfield, and Church of the Savior in Ambridge are among our most celebrated ministries to the urban poor and to urban youth. Half of all mission agencies in North America are headquartered among us and are led by our people. Unhesitatingly, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is committed to protecting and expanding the extraordinary ministries of these dynamic congregations and agencies.

The appeal announced today will be funded from several significant contributions, the first of which is in hand. An Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Defense Fund (The Staying Faithful Fund) has been established and is receiving donations. None of the ordinary gifts of our people or assessments of our congregations will be used to support the appeal.

We are building for the future, not dependent on the past or controlled by the culture. We proclaim the Christian Faith as once for all delivered to the saints. We rejoice in the generosity of our people and stand firmly on the solid Rock who is Our Lord Jesus. We share what we have, whether much or little. We are Anglican Christians transforming our world with Jesus Christ. We are the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

BB-

I look forward to your explanation why Duncan et al. are not being litigious in appealing the ruling.

Anonymous said...

Anon #1,

I agree with you. I'm sure bb will remember reading how Christ looked at the money changers in the Temple and proclaimed that the faithful should find somewhere else to worship...

Anonymous said...

Oh brother, doesn't this turn the so often claim of The Episcopal Church doing the suing on its head? Please recall Bishop Duncan's appeal at Dar-es-Salaam to stop the lawsuits. Does the notion that Christians not sue each other apply to him?

Steven in Falls Church said...

Anonymous -- I am glad you apparently agree that TEC should drop its appeal of the Virginia court's ruling in favor of The Falls Church and its sister CANA parishes.

Anonymous said...

I very much don't agree that the appeals should be stopped. The law should be addressed in all of these states to provide certainty on these issues.

I just think the hypocrisy of CANA's talking points as fed to BB and others needs to be highlighted.

Steven in Falls Church said...

Of course, for your argument against BB to have any traction, one must assume the utterly risible logic that appealing an adverse ruling in a trial where you were the defendant somehow now recasts you as the "suing" party. Doesn't. Make. Sense.

Anonymous said...

Troll Alert - Check under all bridges for Trolls!!!

Anonymous said...

Steve-O:

Agreed. Much as CANA churches were petitioners, i.e. plaintiffs for purposes of 57-9. TEC and the Diocese were intervening parties, cast in essence as defendants, as the burden was on the seperatists.

So really, the "risible logic" is not applicable, nor was it intended to be so, in either case.

The hypocrisy remains.

And before BB gets on her regular rant about the standstill agreement, etc. ad nauseam, a standstill agreement and settlement negotiations do not make CANA any less of a plaintiff, or petitioner, or (to be frank) an agressor, in the eyes of the court. Or anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Stand Firm has posted that the Georgia ius being appealed. The intent apparently, given a quirk in Georgia law, is an appeal directly to the Ga. Supreme Court. I am unfamilar with Georgia procedure but it may be the Supreme Court will hear, send it down to an appeals court or ? I would appreciate anyone familiar with Georgia code? EmilyH

The Lakeland Two said...

It always amazes me that y'all who love TEC will spin things while useing a different standard to apply to yourselves. These buildings really mean so much more to you that the people in them.

Anonymous said...

I can't help suspect that one of the reasons that the buildings have become so important to both sides (and it casts them both in a less than flattering light) is that both sense that there is a significant number of parishioners who may not have strong views on same-sex blessings and gay bishops, and who will just follow the buildings. Hence, these wasteful, distasteful fights over property are, in substantial part, a fight over attendance and going forward financing. The faction that has to start over from a no-building base has a much bigger burden to bear in maintaining allegiances and attracting new congregants. If it really were just a pure theological disagreement, it would be a relatively easy thing for those leaving to leave.

Scout

BabyBlue said...

Scout, does it not depend on "who" left "what?" Is that not what the now global Anglican"disagreement" is about - who left what?

It's disintegrating so much that even the Pope is now intervening. What will it take for the TEC "leaders" to even just doubt that perhaps God is not doing such a new thing after all?

bb

Anonymous said...

I was referring to the property issue, an issue in which I don't think either side comes off looking very good. But I do think the better moral and ethical principle is that those who leave should leave.

I'm not sure what your last comment refers to, but I don't necessarily disagree with it. Not sure it illuminates the property issue to any extent, however.

Scout

The Lakeland Two said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Lakeland Two said...

Scout, it's evident what BB's comment was about. We thought she put it rather well as not to need us to respond. As we left on T19, it pretty much boils down to perspective.

NoVa Scout doesn’t want to see what the principle is here. Perhaps a different analogy. The founding fathers of our country based us on democracy. Say we have a bunch of communists come in, get elected and then throw out all the laws and everything this country ever stood for and start taking over the land of those of us still remembering what the US is all about. NoVa Scout would just hand over the keys then, right?

Many of us understand what you choose not to (or unable to for whatever reason). What TEC has become is NOT what we know Christ to be. Just because TEC wants to go its own path does not mean it gets to take us with it.

The fixation on the buildings is only to punish those who don't want to go along. It is a financial asset used for spite. If it were just an asset, Schori wouldn't have made her position so clear under oath - never to an alternate Anglican identity, and rather it be a saloon. How Christian is that?

To the anonymous and sometimes not comments assailing BB by others (not Scout) on this thread and other threads - where are the facts backing them up? The idea is to assail her character, to diminish her. To us it is bearing false witness - but that's some of those testy 10 Commandment things. They'll get edited out just like anything else that is uncomfortable to free will. Let the truth speak. And yes, sometimes it is black and white. Whether they, you, or we like it. God's will or the highway. We'd rather be trying to do it using the Book guiding the way than off on some tangent with nothing backing it up while conflicting with God's Word. Just us.

Anonymous said...

TL2: I think you have to factor in the reality that these departure scenarios are not ones that are unanimous or ones in which all participants on all sides agree that the secessionists are channeling theological inerrancy and those who abhor schism are heretics and apostates. There needs to be some standard to determine property ownership that is not based on imperfect and fallible human perceptions of God's will. However, there is a ready solution that is far preferable to what has occurred and that does permit actions based on fallible human perceptions of God's will: those who become disenchanted with events and positions of others in the Episcopal Church can leave and found their own churches. No muss, no fuss. No pollution of spiritual beliefs by efforts to claim temporal, physical assets. No lawyers bleeding the larger Church of Christ in endless disputation.

The idea that, in a church, the best way to determine who owns it is to take a vote strikes me as exceedingly unwise and insensitive to the nature of a church as a religious institution and part of Christ's global reach. I'm sure that, sufficiently motivated, I could stir up a considerable proportion of a congregation over a relatively short period of time to vote with me to do a number of things. Others have even greater gifts at this than I do, particularly if they can control the discussion from the pulpit and vestry, and exclude opposite views from having equal visibility or time. But I don't think of church as a political convention and doubt deeply that that's what we really want from our churches.

By the way, I've seen you do this before and think you will want to correct yourself eventually. Check the Schori quote about the saloon. She did not say what you attribute to her.

As for BB, I haven't noticed anyone "assailing" her in any sense than people sometimes disagreeing. This is a very nice site, the music references are great, and I regard BB as a lovely person.

Scout

The Lakeland Two said...

Scout,

While you don't think a church is political, that is a reality. It shouldn't be, but it is. And TEC got where it is by political manuvering. Many of us have watched it over the years.

Your position on the buildings is not logical. I understand that you feel that you should be entitled because you want to continue doing what TEC is doing now. Those who understand what TEC was and want to continue in that don't agree with you. It appears that you don't want to believe anyone who disagrees with you. But there are many who do disagree with you, and they don't believe you or TEC are entitled to assets accrued under a different/former belief system. Whether the courts decide differently doesn't change it. Defending yourself against TEC's landgrab litigation isn't the same as initiating it. I've previously stated at this point we L2 would just walk away. But we honor why others have not.

Democracy within the church is OK when it goes your way, but not OK when it doesn't. God isn't a democracy. Dress it up any way you would like, but it boils down to that. Many of us "signed on" to Biblical Christianity as it was given to us and choose to follow it now. That TEC finds it inconvenient doesn't change what we were taught, or those before us.

As far as the saloon comment - did Schori say it in those words? No. However, per her testimony, she has no problem with the assets being sold and used for secular purposes. Saloon was an example used by opposing counsel. But she did go down on the record as the property would never be allowed to go to CANA or to quote her "I have said a diocese, the national church has an interest in preventing sales to other -- to groups that purport to be another part of the Anglican Communion within our territory." So while she didn't actually say the words, the concept does stand.

SFIF has an article with links to the video taped deposition as well as a PDF of the transcript.

http://tinyurl.com/y8mu3em

The transcript PDF is here:

http://tinyurl.com/ydbqjdh

Beginning on the PDF page 12...the meat begins at deposition page 66, line 1 through 72, line 10. The implication is that Schori doesn't care if a church is used as a saloon, but it won't be allowed to be used as a CANA or AMiA, etc., church.

You wanted precise - there it is. And it ain't pretty. No Christian love in it, Scout. This in no way represents what I was taught as an Episcopalian. And I'm embarrassed as an Episcopalian at the actions of TEC leadership.

As for the comments to and about Babyblue and even to other commenters - you have to have your rose-colored glasses or blinders on to miss them on this page or even the Savannah Christ Church story. How Babyblue chooses to handle them are her business as this is her site.

I understand you and I have opposing views in several areas and we actually agree in others. I do wish you well and pray you thrive in your journey with God.

Anonymous said...

Actually, TL2, I am not comfortable with the direction of some in the Episcopal Church. However, my church was never required to follow their direction and we were free to continue to witness for orthodoxy. In those circumstances (which I think generally applied elsewhere also) I opposed splitting up congregations, even though I am on the "conservative" (I use the term loosely because I don't think it really has much meaning in this context) end of the debate. I thought the more correct approach was to stand firm, rather than to run away. But, as you indicate, that's just my opinion. I think it has some internal merit and consistency, but I never had any problem with my friends who decided they just couldn't stand it any more and had to decamp to more comfortable alignments. I am well aware that a number of people have other views. Not sure why you would assert otherwise.

Where I strongly disagree, however, is that I think it immoral and unethical to leave a church on points of principle and then assert a claim to the property (real or personal, bricks or accounts) when one leaves. Whether those who stay are right or wrong, sincere or insincere, informed or uninformed, I cannot justify evicting them for their desire to stay.

I don't see the TEC position as a "landgrab" I see it as protecting those who remain in the church. I don not see how the church or the diocese could take any other position without being completely complicit in efforts of the departers to take control of the property.

You have misrepresented the Schori comments previously and I'm glad to see you taking some time to put them in appropriate context. She was being questioned by opposing counsel on her view of her powers to deal with property in her role as Presiding Bishop. The saloon hypothetical was the lawyer's, not hers. You acknowledge this in your most recent comment, but your use of the reference earlier and elsewhere implies that she advocated turning churches into saloons. If you think it isn't sufficiently "Christian" for her to have answered the question the way she did, fine. But it does accurately reflect TEC's view of the role of the national church (I personally don't happen to agree with that position, feeling that control rests with the Diocese, but I find nothing particularly remarkable about her response to that hostile question).


Scout

The Lakeland Two said...

Scout,

The definition of who is the stayer/leaver is rather the point of all this. I understand your point and your own circumstances, but continue to disagree that those who disapprove of TEC's current path are the ones who need to leave. If that was the case, why didn't they go and start their own church. There's no room for those who continue to oppose women's ordination. Why is that? Especially after being assured there would always be "a place at the table" or "room under the big tent" for them. If you think there will be room for those who disagree with SS blessings, history does not support it.

But as I've said before, I've been in a diocese and churches where we were told over and over again that we were OK, the changes would not affect us...then they did. The one I grew up left without a paperclip. That wasn't OK for me after being lied to all those years. But that new congregation is growing in so many ways. There are churches in our diocese and others that were started by
very orthodox/conservative members specifically who can not tolerate what TEC is doing and where it is headed. New Covenant was sued by DIO of CFL, backed down and eventually was sold the property when no "remaining" congregation could support it. So NC paid for it twice. We belonged to NC, so that includes our donations as well. When I/we write, these are on my/our mind heavily. On one level I agree with you, and on other level I don't. I believe the current TEC has shown it doesn't have the heart of Christ by its ongoing actions. But there are still parts of TEC that aren't going that path. Why must they leave when they were here first? It is not logical.

TEC has shown its non-Christian heart in suing for those leaving. It is punitive to protect the new brand. If it were us, we'd just leave - because of what Jesus said about the tunic and robe. But we understand those who are fighting to be good stewards of the funds they have given, and their legacy and the legacy of their forefathers/mothers. You see the same for TEC. I don't expect it from TEC anymore, but I pray that God gives all wisdom as to what He sees as the solution that will give Him glory.

You claim I misrepresent Schori's remarks. No, I am not. It is a summary/conclusion others have come to as well. But when I personally write about something, I do research. And I will be able to back up what I'm writing. You accused me of misreprsenting Schori's remarks and I've shown you what she has said. Perhaps you weren't around when this issue was discussed in 2007. So I take issue with your comments both of misrepresentation and putting them into appropriate context. It was out there at the time and easily found using Google.

Clip number 3 of the link to the videos at StandFirm (http://tinyurl.com/y8mu3em) show the questioning.

1. She states it's OK to sell to secular uses, the saloon is used as an example - which she even makes a joke of it being the other way around in NV.

2. It's OK to sell to another denomination (Baptist is the example).

3. But it isn't OK to sell to CANA, or any other group she sees as competing with TEC.

So, it is no big leap that she would prefer a church to be a saloon rather than a continuing parish in CANA, etc.

BTW, while opposing counsel is questioning her in this clip, he is not being rude or hostile though being questioned in deposition she is in the hotseat and knows it (who wouldn't). Watch the tape and see for yourself.

And as far as her not knowing about a church being turned into a saloon - bar, nightclub...The former Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in NYC, which later housed the Limelight nightclub, then the Avalon, has quite a horrific reputation after its sale. The chances of her not knowing about that, considering who she is and where TEC is based, are quite slim, and her demeanor during the questions and answers speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

re your first para., those who left did start their own church- in my case CANA and in other cases ACNA. The problem is that in many places they did it in the same buildings they occupied before they left to start their own church. I have absolutely no problem with folks leaving (although I miss some of them). I have a problem with them leaving and not leaving at the same time.

I think the fair reading of Schori's testimony is that, given her view of her powers as PB, it would be a mistake to sell to ACNA/CANA parishes, at least at the time of the testimony, because it would encourage secessionists to engineer a departure and end up holding the buildings, which, rightly or wrongly, are a draw to many, including those who might not be particularly juiced up about the issues which led to the division. I think she is certainly quite right about that as a tactical matter. IF she (or the national church) has the authority to control disposition of these properties (and, as I said yesterday, I question this and believe that control rests at the diocesan level), it would be a momentous error and totally irresponsible to sell to those advocating departure, particularly in the 2006-2008 time frame. It simply would invite discord. I see nothing remarkable about the Schori comment in the reality of that time. (By the way, I use the term hostile in its legal sense - examination by opposing counsel. I was not commenting on the behavior of the lawyer).

Finally, I see no reflection whatsoever on the sincerity of Christian beliefs in lawsuits to protect property. The Church is not required to sit still and let people pick it clean in order to be Christian any more than those departing who think they have a claim are required not to assert it. This is a situation where each side has a point of view and one is no more non-Christian in a theological sense than the other in protecting its position. In Virginia, the Diocese reacted in the secular courts only after the departing factions filed petitions asserting title under our division statutes. I would have preferred that the Diocese fire the first shot and move peremptorily even before we had our votes to enjoin the skewed process that attended at least some of the lead ups to the votes. Not sure it would have worked, because that really gets the State in the middle of things, but I would have felt our Bishop was showing some justifiable muscle at that point. Facts are somewhat different in other jurisdictions, and each has its own peculiarities. But I see no reason to equate Christian purity with sitting back and ceding property to people who are so put off that they feel they can't any longer associate with the Church.

Scout

The Lakeland Two said...

Scout,

This is a major point for us and it has mutliple contexts.

The church has no Biblical right to sue. Jesus said in Matthew 5:25-26, Settle matters quickly with your adversary "who is taking you" to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Schori and TEC initiated the lawsuits and won't settle. Is that Christian? Is there mercy in that stance? No. The rest are mere brushstrokes of details. Dust. The departure protocol was a Christ-like path of separation. Lawsuits are not.

It is evident that you will not or can not see that those who chose not to follow TEC's current path, and want to continue worshipping the in the form as they have for years do not feel TEC is entitled to the keys. They are protecting the assets for Christ. TEC wants to make them homeless. The inclusive, help the poor and the homeless TEC that is so loving that they sue and are not reflecting of Christ's love is the one you feel should have the keys. That you feel they should is so astounding, so foreign to us. How is that so? THAT is what concerns us.

God bless you, Scout. That you spend the time here and at length shows you care. That's more than some will do. We don't agree with you in all things, but do respect you.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate your civility TL2. It's a discussion worth having. As someone who was "made homeless" by those who departed, I do have a point of view that is inconsistent with yours, but there is no reason we can't talk about it.

Both sides are "protecting the assets for Christ" or at least for Christians. Where does that get us? The decision about who has title can't swing on who is theologically correct, because there is no secular judge who can make that call. It really comes down to ethics, morality, stewardship and secular legal principles. We'll see how it all turns out.

Scout