Thursday, March 11, 2010

If it's Thursday, must be time for TEC to sue

Yes, The Episcopal Church has found someone new to sue. Feel the love. From here:

The Episcopal Diocese of the San Joaquin filed a lawsuit Thursday against St. Columba's -- a Fresno parish that joined dozens of other churches in seceding from the national Episcopal Church in 2007.

The diocese maintains that it and its bishop are the rightful owners of the various parish properties -- including real estate and cash -- within the diocese.

The diocese has filed similar lawsuits against at leat two other churches that also were part of the secession.

Read it all here.

48 comments:

Anam Cara said...

Okay, I know that ideally, churches would take the property they have been maintaining for years when they leave. But has anyone considered (what I guess might be the unChristian thing to do) spenting all the money - perhaps buying prperties that have inflated price tags, and then leaving everything to TEC?

I'd be real tempted to do that and then walk away and leave TEC with the church, the stuff, no cash, and some extra mortgages to boot. But then, I confess, I have to fight against my nasty side.

Steven in Falls Church said...

BB, don't you know that every day is a day for TEC to sue? Well, not really every day as the courts are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Anonymous said...

Anam - so you think it's OK to take hard cash, but that there might be some wisdom in leaving behind debts and chattels. That's an interesting way of looking at the issue of how much and what do I get to help myself to when I decide to leave a church. Do the people who stay get to keep anything in your approach, or do they just get what's left?

Scout

Anonymous said...

The legal precedent in California is awfully clear. Those parishes are going to lose, and failing to walk away from the property is simply irresponsible.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

I am beginning to wonder if there is a bizarre strategy for congregations that have left TEC in states where the law is clear: stay in buildings, force the TEC diocese to sue and look mean-spirited and spend money for leagl fees. Of course, the departing congregations have to spend money, but there are probably some folks with fairly deep pockets who will give money not to win the cases but simply for the PR. That may sound like a conspiracy theory, but how else to explain a legal strategy that has little chance of success?

Anonymous said...

I am beginning to wonder if there is a bizarre strategy for christians in Rome where the law is clear: stay on following this Christus, force the proper authorities to stop them and look mean-spirited and spend money to do so. Of course, the christians have to spend money, but there are probably some folks with fairly deep pockets who will give money not to win the cases but simply to promote their cause. That may sound like a conspiracy theory, but how else to explain a strategy that has little chance of success?

Tacitus

Anonymous said...

Tacitus is quite right - that was our conspiracy.

Tertullian, 197 AD

Anonymous said...

Fr. Weir,

Perhaps, with the benefit of another cup of coffee, you would like to reconsider your theory?

If those congregations wanted to provide some bad PR for TEC, why not chain thenselves to the pews and have the media show the police dragging them out by their feet?

Actually, that may not be a bad idea...

RalphM

John said...

Wow!

Now, I see why our church here in Georgia, bought land for a parking lot and built a church hall when we were already in debt. All this during their vain attempt to take the church for the "Anglicans."

They did indeed walk away from that debt which left half the original congregation to pay for it.

Guess what. We ran a debt retirement campaign, renegotiated our loan and cut our mortgage payment by more than 50%. The Bishop helped with cash and here we are three years later a growing loving open Episcopal church.

Who said, "The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew."

Anonymous said...

Half? Then as it should be, the parish remains in TEC. The Protocol in Virginia for the CANA churches requires a 70% supermajority to leave TEC.

BabyBlue said...

Golly, how many blogs have Tacitus and Tertullian posting. Might need to put that in the banner. :)

bb

John said...

Half, You say, according to some protocol in Virginia. Our church is in Georgia

What does it say about manipulation of information and banning the Bishop from the premises and manipulating the vote. Which the "anglicans" won- 67% to 33%.
CANA still tried to take the property

Anam Cara said...

Okay, I said when I wrote it that it wasn't a good idea, but certainly it has been done in a lot of divorces.

And it hardly seems fair that when the majority votes to leave they get to take nothing with them.

And really, which is the group that left? Is it those who made a formal vote to remain true to the teachings of the "Mother Church" and associate with a group that still abides by those original teachings? Or is it the group has been voting for years to leave/abandon the "Mother Church?" An arguement could be made that TEC left Anglicanism long ago - that TEC is the departing church.

Perhaps these things should be divided just like in a marriage divorce - call it a no fault divorce and divide equally (or percentage based on the vote) - you get the candle sticks, I'll take the linens.... we sell the house and divide the sale price or one side buys the other out). Of course, in a few divorces I've heard about, she gets the house and he keeps the mortgage. Wonder how that would fly.....


I love a spirited debate.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, in Virginia, they invited the bishop to come and speak and provide materials. He would not come and speak, and instead sent a representative from the Standing Committee who was so mean-spirited and rude and who made a presentation so bereft of any positive reason not to get the heck out of the TEC diocese as soon as possible that I believe he lost the bishop about 10-20% of the vote right there on the spot. And there was no manipulation of information, either, the bishop's materials were circulated.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

I am pleased that my tongue-in-cheek post got such great responses.

Seriously, as my mother used to ask, is that a ditch you want to die in? It still seems an odd legal strategy to try to keep property when the law makes that highly unlikely,if not impossible.

Anonymous said...

I would think at some point it might be possible for the Church to recover costs of litigation if secessionists are just clinging to the property long after it is clear in a jurisdiction that they have no right to it.

Ralph - I know you were being a little arch, but most Americans with even a smattering of ethical sensibility or morality would probably be appalled at the idea that people who decide, for their own reasons, to leave a church, would chain themselves to the fixtures of the church they left in protest over the idea that their decision to leave entitled them to take the church property with them. It would be regarded as absolutely looney. It seems we have somehow gone through some sort of Dodgsonian lens in this particular matter where people of otherwise sound morals and ethics have convinced themselves that this blatant type of moral misbehavior is justified. I think anyone not in the middle of it would find the principle being asserted by departees to be absolutely shocking and indefensible.

Anam - when I read your first comment, I found myself thinking about an abusive divorce. You're quite right that sometimes these things do happen. But if one spouse left a home and family taking all the accounts and the property, forcing the remaining spouse to wander the streets looking for a roof to get under, no one would think it a fair result.

Scout

Anonymous said...

I read blog after blog where people defend the Denis Canon, and people defend the PBs' decisions regarding litigation. The thing I find most telling of these posts that little is said about "why" these congregants are voting to leave, leaving, and no longer wanting to be associated with TEC in any way, shape or form.
Don't you, the people who are still involved in TEC, find it a little disturbing that large numbers of congregants in your denomination want to leave? Or, are leaving, or have left? The attitude I pick up on is that the congregants, Priests, and Bishops who have left are of no consequence to those within TEC. It's almost a non-issue...let them leave...no big deal. "we'll (TEC) continue on our current course and we'll be damned if we let a few conservatives de-rail our train" If thousands of people were leaving my denomination, I think that I might pay a little more attention to the "why?" behind their exodus...and maybe be open to the idea that what i'm doing is wrong. Nonetheless, I doubt anyone in TEC leadership has the fortitude to ever admit that or even consider it.
-Josh H

John said...

Josh H

Where do you get the notion that we in the Episcopal Church are not dismayed about congregants leaving. We are.

What we are not willing to do is reject those who seek God's redemption because of their race, color or sexual orientation.

We are still unhappy about the split in our church but there was no stopping it. The CANA group was on a crusade to save our souls no matter how many lies and distortions about us they had to tell to get what they wanted.

Anonymous said...

Scout,

It may be looney, but it would surely pull TEC into a spotlight that would not be flattering.

In my experience, most Americans believe that property belongs to those who paid for it. Since it's impossible to figure out how dead people would vote, the living seem to be the only ones who should have the right to decide who gets the property.

Unfortunately, we're all in the courts now, so our on-line debates, while satisfying, are moot. They do serve a useful purpose to the extent that someone with Rip van Winkle syndrome can hear opposing arguments without having to sit in a courtroom all day.

RalphM

Anam Cara said...

Scout said: "Anam - when I read your first comment, I found myself thinking about an abusive divorce. You're quite right that sometimes these things do happen. But if one spouse left a home and family taking all the accounts and the property, forcing the remaining spouse to wander the streets looking for a roof to get under, no one would think it a fair result."

And that is my point exactly. TEC left the teachings of the Anglican communion and decided to go about it's own business. It "left the house" and now it wants to take the accounts and property leaving those in the churches who want to stay true to the Anglican communion "to wander the streets look for a roof to get under"

They found a roof - CANA, but they still may be wandering the streets when the finial judgments are made. But apparently those in TEC think that is fair....

Anonymous said...

Ralph - the "paid for it" doesn't cut it, because people who elect to stay "paid for it" also. Do you tell them, your contribution is worth zero, and mine is worth the whole shooting match? That doesn't strike me as a workable way to determine property rights, either as a matter of law, or as a matter of Christian principle.

I strongly doubt that people who contribute to the collection plate do so with the expectation that they are, in essence buying not only "shares" that are redeemable in property at some future point if they elect to leave, but also have the property of wiping out the "shares" of those who stay if the numbers (dollars or people) are out of balance. It's a completely unworkable principle and one that should never be given any credibility. One gives to a church without expectation of recovering that investment. As I have mentioned before here, I have left two or three churches over my lifetime, and never had the slightest expectation that I got to recover those pledges or contributions in cash or in kind.

Anam - I was thinking of it from the other end of the telescope, I guess. But, the point remains, that one cannot objectively establish who left whom in this instance. Those who chose to stay, for whatever reasons, with the Episcopal Church certainly don't feel like they left anything, and here they are out on the street, displaced from their long-time places of worship. What did they do to deserve that? What is the principle by which those who left get to keep everything, and those who stayed have to lose everything. I have never heard that answered very articulately. One gets stuff like Ralph's idea that his contribution entitles him to erase mine (which I reject not because it's arbitrary and selfish, but because neither of our contributions entitled us to anything - they were gifts) and then one gets theological positioning about true doctrine, a very important concept, but utterly useless, particularly in secular legal settings, for determining ownership.

Scout

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

I have used the divorce metaphor before, but it is finally less than helpful because it assumes facts about property which simply aren't the case with the departures of large numbers of the members of Episcopal parishes. Yes, I do recognize that people have left, many of them long-time friends. I am sorry that they are gone, but there seemed little chance of their staying in TEC given TEC's position on same-sex unions. Those who left our parish left with our prayers and we rejoice that they have found a new faith community in which to worship and to grow. What is at question is the ability of TEC to change, to respond, as it has in the past, to changes in our context. We did that during the civil rights movement and would we have found it acceptable for Episcopalians who didn't want intergrated congregations to vote to leave and keep the buildings? Has TEC taken a position that is at odds with that of most of the leaders of the Anglican Communion? Certainly, but the Communion does not have any group with the authority to impose even widely-held positions on the member Churches. Pehaps the Covenant will make that possible, but for the present, each member Church has the freedom to accept or reject Lambeth resolutions and staments from the Primates. What is often overlooked is that TEC accepted the requests of the Windsor Report, while some other Churches in the Communion did not.

Anonymous said...

No matter how much debate goes back and forth, Scout believes the property goes to TEC, even if there is only one person remaining. It's not a question of fairness or majority. My understanding of Scout's opinion and correct me if I'm wrong, Scout, is TEC theoretically could choose to worship {insert choice here}at the next GC and Scout's opinion is if people don't like it, leave and leave without the property. Would this be a simplified understanding of your position?

Lakeland Two

Anonymous said...

No Scout, I do not believe the vote should negate the shares of those who wanted to remain in TEC. In several churches, including mine, discussions were underway on how to work out a sharing arrangement so that Episcopal services could continue to be held.

Filing of the suits by TEC and DioVA halted those discussions. Assuming the CANA congregations win in court, I would personally urge that these discussion be restarted.

I can guarantee you, however, that should TEC win there will be no such discussions. Can anyone find a location wherein TEC has won and permitted a sharing of the facility with the departed congregations?

As TECs PB has stated, TEC would sell unsupportable properties to anyone except a departed congregation - even a night club is deemed a more suitable occupant.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

In my church, Ralph, the departing parishioners filed in court first to claim title to the property. The continuing congregation requested the right to continue to hold services in the Historic Church and were refused. We also requested that the departing group give up IRLs/web links with the "Episcopal" terminology and we were refused on that (or at least, to my knowledge, never received a response).

But, back to the question. If the test is "who paid for it", why does your contribution control and mine is worth zero? The question is asked for analytical purposes only, because, as I stated, I don't think either you or I "paid for it". We just gave gifts as our hearts and financial conditions dictated. there must be some other criterion at work.

Scout

Robert said...

That's not that way I understood things happened at TFC, Scout. The TEC remnant was offered the opportunity to use the historic church but TEC lawyers advised against it because it would undercut their case. Ironically, I know more than a few TEC-loyalists who have no problem sending their children to the youth group at the Falls Church CANA, and we are happy to have the kids there. It says something about what is being taught.

Anonymous said...

Robert - I know that to be inaccurate. If someone is representing that continuing Episcopalian members of The Falls Church could be worshipping on Sunday mornings at the Historic Church, but that they have declined based on advise from the national church's lawyers, they are spreading false information. The TFC members have no problem at all partaking of children's programs at the buildings now occupied by those who left. TFC doesn't have adequate facilities in its borrowed space for such programs. Doctrinally, there is no distinction between what children are taught at either location. for that matter, as far as I know, there is no doctrinal distinction between what adults are taught at either location.

Scout

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

Scout,

Thank you for being clear that the disagreements that have precipitated the divisions are not about doctrine. There have been doctrinal disagreements - many of them of long-standing - among Episcopalians, but we seemed able to live them. The sexuality issue has changed all that.

Daniel

TL said...

LOL! You all are funny and way off base as usual! But I guess you would have to walk a day or two in our shoes herein San Joaquin to see the hilarity of all of this!
God's work continues and does not stop because those who are running TEc are of the world and have conformed to it. We in San Joaquin have not left anything so why should we give the buildings and assets to those who have left the Church and the Church's teaching and Authority for over 2000 years? If TEc and Mz. Schori's Great Commission is forcing gay/lesbian sex into our lives as a blessings and suing those who do not agree with her (ahem) agenda, then she gets to explain that to God one day...not me and not we in San Joaquin. We are moving forward doing God's business teaching and preaching and walking in the Light of God's Grace and Son Jesus Christ who TRANSFORMS lives from sin ....not leaving them in sin and calling is blessed.

Have fun you all and may God bless you and TRANSFORM you!

Robert said...

Fr. Weir, in fairness, just because there is not a doctrinal dispute in the "The Falls Churches" doesn't mean this whole thing doesn't have an important doctrinal element to it. It was at the heart of my decision to vote in favor of leaving, which meant leaving behind a lifetime in TEC. The fact that a loaded committee decided it was "not about doctrine" concerning Bishop Righter doesn't mean we all bought what was being sold - it's all about doctrine in the end.

As for the canons, I haven't seen any canonical discipline for parishes practicing "open communion" or who were practicing SSB prior to any authorization, but in TEC some canons appear more equal than others.

Anonymous said...

Robert: have you seen canonical discipline for parishes that do not practice "open communion" or who were practicing SSB?

Scout

Anam Cara said...

Gosh. I guess I don't know what the proper meaning of "doctrine" is. I thought it was what a church taught or professed. And I guess I always believed that you could figure out what someone really believes by how they act.

When the Episcopal Church started ordaining women, I was uncomfortable. I didn't think that was right, but I could understand how some people interpreted various Scriptures to believe differently. I accepted the fact that I might be wrong on that. I never received communion from a woman celebrant, but I did not leave the Episcopal Church. I just only took communion from male celebrants.

But when the Bishop Righter charges were dropped, that's when I realized that the Episcopal Church had departed, not just from me, but from the basic teachings of the Church. I knew there was no way that I, or Christians through the millenia could be wrong on that one:
Lev 18:22, 20:13, Ez 16:43 (mentions the "immoral acts" refered to in Lev), Romans 1:24-27, ! Cor 6:9, and lest anyone say that the sin of Sodom in Gen 19 was inhopitality, read Jude 7.

Nope, the teachings on that one was pretty plain. I don't see how anyone could miss that one. It's hard to "interpret" anything different from what the text says. But the Episcopal Church chose to and left the historic, PLAIN, teaching.

Sounds to me like they were preaching a "different gospel" Sounds to me like doctrinal differences and maybe a doctrinal dispute.....

Anonymous said...

It was said: "I know that to be inaccurate. If someone is representing that continuing Episcopalian members of The Falls Church could be worshipping on Sunday mornings at the Historic Church, but that they have declined based on advise from the national church's lawyers, they are spreading false information."

That is misleading. It is not clear whether it was on the advice of lawyers, but it was reported in the press at the time that this was in fact offered to and declined by TEC:

"The Falls Church had offered to reserve one of its Sunday services - with Mr. Lubelfeld officiating - for about 127 parishioners wanting to remain Episcopalians, the rector added, "but the bishop said 'no.'"

From here:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/aug/03/episcopal-bishop-ejects-clergy/

BabyBlue said...

Yes, that is absolutely true. Truro had also made a similar offer to hold services in our Chapel for any Episcopalians who may want to have an Episcopal priest officiate, but we were also turned down by the diocese.

As it happened, the majority of those who had voted to remain in the Episcopal Church decided to remain members of the majority now-Anglican congregation. :)

bb

Robert said...

I have seen zero evidence that parishes who participated in SSB's or practice open communion have ever been subject to any form of discipline whatsoever. So, if it's considered progressive it gets a wink and a nod.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

Anam Cara-

Doctrine is what the Church teaches, and that does include some things about which the Church has changed its teaching. There also matters on which the Church's teaching doesn't changed, e.g., the authority of Scripture. In the Righter case the question was whether or not the Church's traditional teaching about same-sex intimacy was something that couldn't change, i.e., was it a matter of core doctrine. The judgment that it wasn't reflected, to some extent, the fact that there were many scholars in the Church that were giving serious thought to whether or not the Church's teaching on this should change. It is largely in the area of ethics that changes have happened, e.g., lending money at interest, slavery, artificual contraception. There are other ethical questions, e.g., pacifism, where the Episcopal Church recognizes that faithful people may hold different convictions.

Anonymous said...

My question was the opposite: are you aware of any instances where parishes or priests have been disciplines for NOT performing SSBs or NOT practicing open communion?

Scout

Robert said...

Scout,

My point is and remains, extra-canonical actions that favor the progressive agenda get a free pass. That dates back to the ordination of the first women. Kevin Forester was the only push back I can remember that succeeded and I wouldn't be surprised if you eventually see "Bishop Forester" eventually.

Regarding being disciplined for NOT performing SSB or open communion, TEC is not there yet, but will get there soon enough. I saw how Bishops Chane and Dixon treated those opposed to women's ordination in their diocese. I heard Bishop Bruno say voting against Glasspool because of her sexuality is a violation of the canons. Can charges be far behind if you don't have an LGBT person on the slate? It's only a matter of time for dissenters. At best they'll be treated like the eccentric uncle who is tolerated provided he sits in the corner and doesn't make a scene and of course, pays up.

My parents have been through the same thing in their Midwestern diocese. Nominally, they have a choice but they've had one partnered lesbian after another put forward by the diocese as the preferred candidate of the bishop for their parish. They've endured deeply left-wing political sermons including calls to pray for Al-Qaeda but not for the protection of US troops. Nashotah House and Trinity graduates need not apply for the job despite the parish trying to put them forward. My parents supported Nashotah for decades but hey, Nashotah doesn't support the "new thing" so the diocese ignores the applications. Within that diocese theological conservatives are weeded out during the discernment process - they never make it to seminary, well, not within the Episcopal Church.

Fortunately, I don't have to trust the leadership of TEC anymore.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

Robert,

As an admitted revisionist, I have fairly consistently expressed my opinion that Bishops are wrong when they refuse to allow a parih to call a qualified priest who happens to disagree with the Bishop on some hot-button issue. Both conservative and liberal Bishops have been guilty of this and I think it denies parishes their right to the priest they want and it impoverishes the diocese by narrowing the diversity of opinions and convictions within the diocesan clericus.

Robert said...

Thank you for your sympathy.

Anonymous said...

Robert - I share some of your views on what I regard as a wackiness thread that runs through some parts of modern Protestant church life. Sometimes it amuses me, sometimes it passes into the realm of the annoying. I have, fortunately, never seen it in my parish, but I am not naive enough to believe it does not exist. My point, however, has been that I personally have never seen it as grounds for breaking up a centuries-old church. My perception is that there is a group dynamic within those who have become disaffected to exaggerate the impact of those kinds of events. That's why you get these fervid cries of "persecution" and a lot of hyperventilation (in my view) about the impact of doctrinal disagreements. To this day, I am unaware of any priest or bishop (or parish) that has been disciplined by a Bishop or the national Church for having a traditionalist view of theology or for not being comfortable with the idea of non-celibate, sexually active priests and bishops of any particular sexual orientation. I frankly don't believe it has ever happened. If I saw the church ejecting people on those grounds, I would leave myself.

I am a student of the American Civil War period. They frenzy that the rumor mill fans about these kind of issues strikes me as very similar to the tone and kind of stuff that swept through the Secessionist camps, particularly as the year 1860 unfolded. They didn't have blogs, but the psychological dynamic - the straining to paint the other side as monstrous and tyrannical - is very similar to what I perceive to be going on now within secessionist elements of the church. I would much rather people stay and witness for what they believe to be good doctrine.

PS: re events at TFC: The reason I say that I know your earlier post to be inaccurate is that the continuing congregation requested on several occasions that they be able to continue to use the Historic Church for worship and there was talk of using the Rev. Lubelfeld, whose status vis-a-vis the Diocese was not certain at that time, as the priest for such services. But all those proposals from the Falls Church continuing Congregation were rejected by the CANA leadership. No one in the Diocese or the National Church advised the TFC not to accept offers from CANA to use the sanctuary. All these proposals were initated by those who stayed with TFC, none were initiated by CANA. I suppose it is possible that some communications were knocking around that I am unaware of between TFC CANA and the Diocese of Virginia or the national church and that neither party communicated these to TFC Episcopal. But I doubt it

Scout

BabyBlue said...

"there was talk of using the Rev. Lubelfeld, whose status vis-a-vis the Diocese was not certain at that time, as the priest for such services. But all those proposals from the Falls Church continuing Congregation were rejected by the CANA leadership. No one in the Diocese or the National Church advised the TFC not to accept offers from CANA to use the sanctuary. All these proposals were initated by those who stayed with TFC, none were initiated by CANA."

Scout, this is not accurate in the least. As you know, we had a Standstill Agreement in place and part of the conversations that were ongoing even before the vote was to how we would separate. The long-term hope, according to the Reconciliation Commission report (from which the Bishop's Special Committee was created) was that we would aim to find a way to "stay in as close a communion as possible." That was the goal and in that effort, to open up the historic church and the Truro Chapel to any Episcopalians who might want to receive the Eucharist from an Episcopal priest. TFC and Truro identified Episcopal clergy who would remain on our payrolls but also remain Episcopalian to conduct these services.

What continues to sadden me is that the diocese still has not put the Standstill Agreement on their website - a crucial document - and its absence sadly reveals the duplicity of the current state of affairs from TEC. I still, even at this late hour, believe that the Diocese and CANA could stand down from the litigation, which may be why Bishop Schori is conducting separate lawsuits so that even if the Diocese of Virginia and CANA could return to the negotiating table, the Diocese of Virginia would then be the target of hostility from New York as the Diocese of South Carolina is today.

The fact remains that the Bishop's Special Committee had covered these topics and arrangements long before the vote to separate so that we would be ready to go to the next step, as All Saints Dale City had piloted for us. It was Schori's intervention that derailed the year's work in the Bishop's Special Committee to create an amiable separation so that we may remain "in as close a communion as possible."

bb

Anonymous said...

Scout's comments are false. No one at CANA rejected the Falls Church offering the historic church to the TEC group. It was the Falls Church's idea. The TEC group rejected it.

Nor was Lubelfeld's status uncertain. He was then an Episcopal priest and remained one for several years thereafter at another parish. I don't know if he still is.

Whether the TEC group rejected the offer for legal reasons, or out of anger or some other reason is speculation, but saying they did not is just trying to change the facts. I understand why TEC supporters want to do so - it puts the TEC group in a bad light - but dissembling about it makes them look even worse.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is an immense relief. Apparently this was all a great mutual misunderstanding. The Episcopal Falls Church mistakenly thought that their efforts/requests to continue worshipping in the Historic Church had been rejected by those who left and the departing congregation in the CANA church mistakenly thought that the continuing Episcopalians had rejected their offers that they stay and use the Historic Church. Misunderstandings do happen. But both sides can rejoice in the return of Episcopalians to the wonderful old sanctuary. Palm Sunday would be an excellent time for this. I am thrilled. I'm sure that the leaders of both churches will have this worked out in no time.

I cannot overemphasize how important this is in the life of the church.

Scout

Robert said...

Scout, you mentioned being a student of the Civil War. I have a master's in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. On several issues on this thread - use of the Falls Church sanctuary by Episcopal loyalists, the standstill agreement and others none of us are going to make any progress with each other on these issues. Even new "evidence" in these situations is often dismissed as extraneous or irrelevant.

I would suggest we focus on dealing with where we are now. For example, what would your reaction be if the VA Supreme Court awarded the property to CANA and the Falls Church offered a some compensation to the your group, not out of compulsion but because it was the right thing to do? If the reverse court decision were true could your group support such a large facility? Would they negotiate a lease, a slow withdrawal plan or just ask for the keys?

Anonymous said...

My guess, Robert, is that it would take at least a couple of years to find out if the continuing parish could support the property. There may be a large number of pew-sitters who simply keep on attending in those premises regardless of which element holds title (I think that is one of the operating assumptions that makes not only this departing group, but others around the country so keen to hold the property when they leave - it's a lot easier to build a church if one can offer attractive physical surroundings than if one's church is wandering the streets looking for a home). If the continuing group could not sustain it, the Diocese would probably entertain lease arrangements, and given what we found out in this thread, that the perceived refusals of use over the past three years were simply miscommunications, the continuing parish would do well to advance the cause to the Diocese of allowing the departing group to rent space at least until the departees can establish their own church. I think we will find (hopefully starting on Palm Sunday) that the two groups can use the properties jointly, at least on a temporary basis, very productively and harmoniously. The only problems I see to that are parking and traffic. Those are problems both groups can deal with.

The continuing parish is part of a Diocese and is not a litigant. They accept that the Diocese, through trustees, is the ultimate owner of the property. Of course the "right thing" to do would be for those who left but wish to stay to offer the Diocese the fair market value of the property as of late 2006, plus the fair rental value of the property since December 2006 less the cost of maintenance and repair since December 2006 plus the value of all accounts seized in December 2006. I think that ultimately would be acceptable to the continuing group and could be justified to the Diocese. That's not a small sum, but lawyers fees are starting to make that seem reasonable (aside from the fact that it has a sound ethical foundation).

A workable proposal regardless of the outcome of the court proceedings would be, given the numbers, that the continuing Episcopalians retain the Historic Property, and the departing group purchase or rent the newer sanctuary, and other property, with some proportional condominium use of the non-worship space. (offices, classrooms etc).

If the courts award the departing group title, if I were in the departing group, I would not sleep well if I had not offered those who stayed but who have thought they were banned from Episcopal worship over the past several years something to sustain them. They "paid for it" (to use a criterion much employed by departing members here and elsewhere - I don't regard it as a valid criterion for determining title, but I don't understand any coherent principle that says their decision to stay should zero out their contributions to the church over time) in the same form as those who left. If the courts award the Diocese title (again, the continuing Parish is not a litigant), the continuing group would be wise to encourage the Diocese to permit those departing, after a settling of accounts for the occupation period, to maintain some form of rental use of some portion of the space.

I have no reason to believe the two groups cannot co-exist in close proximity to one another. My objections have been to the idea that by leaving one gains title (and to the sentiment that one would want to do so) and that one can assert that right unilaterally, without any concern for those who have conflicting claims. If that's what Virginia law is ultimately deemed to say, I would think it a monstrously poor law, but it is a reality. I don't think it can ultimately be deemed to say that for state and federal constitutional reasons, and I am certain the legislature, admittedly capable of great silliness, would never enact such a law in modern times. But I could be wrong. It has happened before.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that the rather famous Falls Church mosque on Rt. 7 is looking for a larger facility. If TEC wins, you can call them and probably make a good deal.

BabyBlue said...

Once again, Scout, your comments do not reflect the reality of the Standstill Agreement or the negotiations that went on for a year - a year - in the Bishop's Special Committee. I understand that the diocese has not communicated the content of those negotiations (including the existence of the Standstill which Bishop Lee drew up) or that negotiations were underway when Schori intervened regarding financial settlements, or that arrangements had all ready been made to hold Episcopal priest-led Eucharists in the historic Falls Church chapel and the Truro Chapel - but that all of that was withdrawn by Bishop Schori's intervention.

The fact remains that no one has ever been banned and that arrangements had all ready been made to show a compassionate response to any who may wish it - but that compassionate response was ultimately rejected by the diocese after Schori intervened. In fact, it was so mixed up that the Episcopal priest who had been identified at TFC to conduct Episcopal eucharists was at first inhibited by Bishop Lee, which may illustrate the disarray the diocesan office was in leading up to the lawsuits and depositions, that he would inhibit one of the non-separating clergy.

One of the bright lights through all this sadness is that the Daughters of the King in the Diocese of Virginia continue to work and pray and do ministry together as Anglicans and Episcopalians, sharing two chaplains and worshiping and serving together. They continue to enjoy "as close a communion as possible" and this had been the hope and goal of the earlier negotiations between Bishop Lee and the leadership of the voting parishes.

Again, I do continue to pray that the Diocese will stand down (whatever Schori might do) and we can return to the negotiating table and explore ways in which we may remain in as close a communion as possible. That is not only a matter of the head, but a matter of the heart.

bb