Thursday, June 10, 2010

A House Divided

 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 
Mark 3:25

Yes, it is a sad day.

No one won today.  It is sad because the Virginia churches satisfied the Virginia statute 57-9 but for the definition of a branch as defined by the Virginia Supreme Court.  What this means is that we could now be back to 2006 again when the Virginia parishes followed the protocol.  It is an interesting moment.  The days continue to unfold.  It is a time of thoughtful consideration, a time of prayer and fasting, a time of listening to the Lord and to one another.

For what saddens me even more, even now, is that the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed that there has indeed been a major division in The Episcopal Church.  It is severe enough for that part of the statute to be satisfied.  This means that the Supreme Court could see and affirm that the Episcopal Church is indeed in very serious division.

I find that part of the ruling today the saddest of all.

I will tell you however, that the first person to contact me - to want to know how I was feeling and if I was okay was a loyal and perhaps somewhat progressive Episcopalian.  She's very much an advocate of what some might call innovations, she would see as acts of justice.   But what seemed to matter more to her today were not positions on issues or property or lawsuits - but the welfare of a friend.  Her outreach of hospitality meant so much and it's those kind of actions - still possible after everything that happened - that gives me waves hope, even now.

I don't know what the future holds.  Today actually may bring us back to where we started, back when we had the Standstill Agreement and were talking.  I even take Henry Burt's words of asking the ADV churches to hold Episcopal services a good one.  That had been in place when the lawsuits first were filed, but the Episcopal clergy designated to conduct the services were later warned by the then-diocesan bishop that if they did so they would be deposed.  I see this invitation from Henry as a very positive sign.

A lot has happened in the past three years.   The fact remains that the Diocese of Virginia did not affirm Glasspool's ascension to bishop - neither the bishop or the Standing Committee.  One can see in that action a desire to remain in communion.  I pray that we may, even in this late hour, find ways to reopen conversations.

Just recently, Truro hosted a wedding conducted in the main church by a current Episcopal rector in the Diocese of Virginia.  It was an amazing opportunity to work together again.

Tonight we are standing on the courthouse steps.  Our table, as even the Supreme Court of Virginia could see, is divided.  Shall we continue more division or shall we take seriously the question and admonition from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself?
"What are the vehicles for sharing perspectives, communicating protest, yes, even, negotiating distance or separation, that might spare us a worsening of the situation and the further reduction of Christian relationship to vicious polemic and stony-faced litigation?"
-Rowan Williams
Church of England Synod
February 2010

One thing I can say, after a very very busy day - is that I am grateful for all of you here at the Cafe, even in those moments that we disagree - and we do often disagree.  You take me to task sometimes and I want you to know I am listening.  I appreciate the honesty and the passion of all the regulars and visitors here at the Cafe.  For the most part, you all are good to each other.  And I want to thank you - let's keep talking, let's keep listening, let's gather around our tables and sing praises to the Lord.  For in all that we do, and all that we don't do - He remains good.

71 comments:

Kevin said...

[*Hugs*]


May the Lord grant His peace and use this for His glory and to bring out the best in everyone (including me, who no longer has a bid in this one).

Anonymous said...

BB -

I posted this on the other comment - not sure you've seen it. You should.

http://www.wtvr.com/videobeta/08a62668-3df9-4050-a5f9-59103f9a4181/News/Episcopal-Church-Decision

Mark Harris said...

Hi...Judy got there first, but still...I was thinking of you today. This blog entry is one of those signs that we will keep on talking and drinking black coffee (none of those chi thingies) (oops another potential argument in the making) and generally hanging out until the One who is Good helps us see we were, after all, good enough.

Take care.

Caoilin Galthie said...

BB,
While I am of similar mind to your friend who contacted you, and we have certainly had our disagreements in Second Life, you and your community are in my thoughts and prayers as you move forward. You are also always welcome to join us at St Matthews (in SL).
~Caoilin

BabyBlue said...

Thank you so much, Caoilin. God bless you.

bb

Londoner said...

BB - someone is preparing rooms for us as we speak.....more than we can expect or imagine....I'd still give 'em the buildings if they really want 'em..... you guys have no eternal need of them......easier to say than do, I know....and I would probably end up not following my own advice if faced with the same situation.....but be encouraged, rooms are being prepared for us and even our loveliest buildings will look as nothing when we see those!

Sibyl said...

The battle is not just for the property...it is to prevent mis-use of God's conscecrated resources.

As Matt Kennedy+ said, the battle is to keep Christ's Church from being turned over to heretics and apostates and His Holy Name mis-used to promulgate syncretist and pansexualist idealogies and practices and polluted, distorted, poisonous versions of Christianity AND to keep concecrated buildings from being sold to become resource centers for pagan barbaric religions (as was Good Shepherd Binghamton NY), or restaurants, bars and/or bath houses.

Sibyl said...

Whatever happens to the VA property,
GOD will not bless sin and syncretism. GOD will turn all things to good as HE has done in Binghamton (Good Shepherd now has a much better, bigger more convenient church and parsonage... with room for growth, a separate building that can be used for a Christian school and the congregation is growing.

This scenario, like the story of Joseph, has been repeated all over the country.

The enemy will never defeat Christ's Church or His Gospel.

Romans 8:28

Sarah Boyle Webber said...

I was thinking of you this week. Glad to know your heart is hopeful.

Wilf said...

When I first read this I figured it was Judy who spoke with you, very glad to hear from Mark that it was Judy. Judy is lovely and I am a member of a Judy appreciation society.

Scout, when you get here - it's being reported over at T19 that of the Epsicopal congregations claiming the property, that relatively few members of the continuing congregations actually have any history with the property - http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/30611/
- in your group, how many were members of the original Falls Church before the split, and of those, what would be their average term of active membership?

Anonymous said...

My question is why is that relevant? How many of the members of the departing congregations were cradle Episcopalians? How many had long history with the church property? This is a specious argument that cuts both ways.

Wilf said...

Anonym, suppose we find that 20 people total from the 11 churches effected with their 3000+ members of these new churches were actually originally members of the original congregations and have some reasonable claim to having been "locked out." I estimate about 20 articles so far have had them arguing that they are being "locked out", probably at least 50 comments on this blog have been on this topic, it would provide perspective about the issue. Not that it is unimportant, but that 2O people are willing to create this much press exposure in order to drive 3000+ out of their church homes "for the sake of all Episcopalians," whatever that means, since none of these church communities will be able to maintain the buildings. I know that some will be able to get you more than $50,000 you got from the Muslims for Matt Kennedy's church, but the whole scene is ... well, I don't live in America so maybe I just don't understand the American perspective on such things.

It just seems to me a pity that such a great fuss is being made for such an unjust cause - admittedly, with me not really understanding Americans' sense of justice.

I'd hope that at this point, the Episcopalians in question would at least be willing to offer some transparency regarding the numbers I request here. Or this does truly seem like the press is being treated to a very cruel and expensive farce for the sake of inhibiting the mission of those people who meet in these churches.

The Lakeland Two said...

God bless you, BB. Our thougts have been with you and others in VA. God help us to live in His image.

Wilf said...

It seems to me that perhaps it's the way that Episcopalians tend to view the Israeli / Palestinian conflict as a sort of sacred thing, and that there is an implicit tendency to think that Episcopalians must be like the Palestinians somehow, so the claim of these 20 people or so must be defended with the same religious ardour as that with which the Palestinians defend the claim upon Jerusalem, with little regard to the fate of others who are affected by what this claim might imply. I see no "rationale" behind this which could allow for an injustice of this proportion to occur, behind some sort religious belief in grounds, property, and funds which can't be explained by common reason.

And of course, it doesn't matter if you take these people's churches and mission accounts, in the end it doesn't matter if you take their jobs or lock them up or put them in camps either, though these things obviously aren't on the plate. It is by far more important that you Episcopalians consider whether you want to recognize Christ, and decide whether you think that Jesus is who He says He is. It is better to take people's churches and mission funds or even intern people in work camps than it is to have church leaders which pronounce within the church that Jesus is not who He says that He is. I suppose most have given up on the Christology issue by now and are hoping that some ethical moderation on the part of Episcopalians might be less blighting to the souls of Episcopalians individual and corporate, with some hope of a somewhat less ethically atrocious church at some point also seeing the light regarding who Jesus is. That you might not understand Christ, but that there is still hope that you may understand justice with regards to church homes, and this may be some small progress.

I have seen people respond here: "oh no, KJS may deny the resurrection and the divinity of Christ, but, well I don't think she does, though I really can't offer any rebuttal to her very clear statements where she does and anyways, I am interested in our local church, where we don't do things like that."

It could be that these people you are displacing simply have the habit of thinking a bit less provincially than you do, and that for them it does matter whether the Mother Church as a whole is denying Christ or not, irrespective of the behavior of their local congregations. And then the question still arises: why do you want these properties being possessed by an entity which has shown itself to be engaged in bringing another gospel into the church, which is condemned far beyond the condemnations of other types of sin which currently occupy the minds of the rest of the Communion?

I hope I am not judging here. I do not judge if you take the property, I will not judge if you lock them up or take their jobs (which you are not doing here), I do not judge if you do whatever you want to do with them. These are relatively unimportant compared to what you teach your sheep about Jesus. I am simply telling you what Paul tells you in Galatians. It is not for me to judge, but it is for me to inform you of the precipice upon which you stand - and that in supporting your church leaders, you are bringing upon yourselves something horrid which as men and women created in God's very image is an utterly tragic spectacle, like lambs being devoured by wolves. Do, please, run away from those wolves.

Anonymous said...

Wilf - I'm just arriving after a day away from this. I don't have precise figures, but in my parish, I would say appoximately 60% are continuing cradle or long-time Episcopalians who have attended our church for decades. We have had healthy new membership, most of whom were Episcopalians elsewhere. The demographics of those of who stayed at the time of the departure (I'm going to try to ween myself off the word "secession" at BB's request) tends to be older, indeed, somewhat elderly. Again, without precise data, but based on observation, my sense of those who left is that many were not long-time Episcopalians, and had not long been members of our parish. They seemed to have a strong contingent of relative newcomers. That last observation is really very subjective, however, and I can't back it up with data.

Getting to your larger point, those who chose to leave had every opportunity to move elsewhere without much disruption, at least when compared to the predictable disruption that has predictably occurred. There was never any doubt that the "vote" would be lop-sided. The clergy, composed of popular, charismatic spiritual leaders, had preached departure for months, and the vestry was largely on board months or perhaps years before the vote. The matter was well-orchestrated and choreographed internally over a long time to herd to congregation away from the Episcopal Church. One of my major misgivings about the process was that I considered it wrong for those leaders who had made the internal decision to leave, to advocate departure for others while still sitting within the church. If they had simply left in 2003 (after the Robinson event), many would have followed. If in 2006, they had said that the vote should be on the assumption that those who chose to leave would have to leave the physical premises, I would have thought it more honest and a more meaningful witness. But that's just me.

But the numbers aren't really controlling, as you suggest they should be. The idea that if you leave something, particularly a church, you get to keep bits of it or the whole thing, is an alien notion, even if a lot of folks share your views. Particularly when there are people who deem it not a good idea (for whatever reason) to leave and choose to stay. What is the authority of those who leave to tell those of us who stay, that we're out on the street?

Anonymous said...

PS - that last is from your friend, Scout, if you didn't discern that from more subtle cues.

Scout

Wilf said...

Thank you, Scout, for providing an estimate, I appreciate that very much and that you continue to address some parts of this issue. This is a much larger number than I had supposed - has anyone discovered what the number is at Falls Church?

I can identify with your position that clergy should not encourage their parishoners to leave. This, however, is the position they arrive at when they have stayed too long - they stay on as shepherds, but the situation (perhaps not locally in Virginia, but in the Mother Church) becomes so dire that they also can not in good conscience allow others to stay without warning. It does seem like a slap in the face, but at this point, the clergy feel more beholden to their parishoners than they do the Mother Church, and they feel they must warn the parishoners, and also facilitate the parishoners staying together as a family of faith, and not disperse into other surrounding churches, with the parish unity broken.

I find the whole "who is staying, who is going" to be a difficult question in itself, which I may elaborate on later - you seem to be reluctant to put Schori's words to the logical test of what she is actually saying and intends, which I can understand to some degree - I am guessing also that you haven't wrestled with trying to spiritually nourish people who have been brought up by their church environments to believe the Spong Stuff, or you would realize how radically it diminishes a person's capacity to even begin the learning process necessary to rationally evaluate basic theological positions, since trust in the Body of Christ (the church) has been so fatally undermined. It seems to me in this case that "who stayed / who left" has become quite academic - one can stay, but have one's rector replaced with a person who declares on Easter day that the resurrection is unimportant, and that encouragement of belief in such amounts to a fraud the church has perpetrated upon its adherents - and deal with the consequences of this with one's childrens' upbringing, while remaining dead-set on staying within the church. Or one can leave, but realize that one has in a very significant sense abandoned the others inside the church who may still need one's help. I think that one can only conclude in all fairness, is that one can only say that both parties have, in a very significant sense, "left." Granted, the Easter day scenario probably never happened in your diocese, but it happened in mine when I lived in the U.S. decades ago, and with Schori at the helm without widespread complaints about her Christology, it seems more likely to happen in general.

I do think the numbers remain relevant. Part of this is justice / humanitarian - there are persons in need of the resources for their spiritual well-being. Stipulating that only individuals may leave, but not parishes, means that families of faith must break up - dwindle away to Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran etc. congregations, without staying together as congregations. I rather like the way the dioceses of Fort Worth and Pittsburgh approached the issue, allowing churches that voted to stay, even though they were breaking with the diocese, to keep their property. It seems difficult for me to understand why, in some cases, a 3% minority would demand that the church buildings paid for by the 97% majority should be held by The Episcopal Church - especially when The Episcopal Church itself claims to be a justice-oriented institution. On the institutional level it smacks more of schadenfreude, though I can see more why you personally feel offended at what they have done.

Wilf said...

Scout,

Thanks for being a friend in dialogue during difficult times like this one. This isn't easy for either one of us and I hope it does not seem that I do not appreciate your candour in remaining in discussion. You are sticking in there (in dialogue I mean, not sticking in TEC - I think you still find this quite easy) when sticking is tough.

Forgive me for times that I may sound arrogant or pompous, I imagine that at times I may come through this way. It is very, very, very difficult to not sound so after having read Spong - the claims of TEC leaders (especially the "we don't leave our brains at the door" type) seem so, so silly - sort of like a congregation rallying around Pastor Billy-bob who has found some sort of "scientific proof" in the Bible that evolution never happened, and claiming that the rest of the world are brainless fools. It's hard not to speak arrogantly in the face of this type of arrogance.

And there, again, I sound arrogant and pompous. It's not aimed at you, though. I don't see you as a die-hard Schori supporter. You are also very reasonable here in that it does seem awful and dishonest to advocate, within the very walls of a church, leaving that church. Perhaps they all should have left TEC many years before they did. I still have respect for those who stay. The problem is: at some moment or other, this awful dilemma occurs. Am I unfaithful to my parishoners, or am I doing something which would be seen as unfaithful by my bishop? Fortunately Schori maintains very clearly that dissent is warmly welcomed in TEC, so I suppose that this probably includes, "maybe we should leave." After all, if the notion that the resurrection is not important is not too controversial when spoken by the Presiding Bishop, how could "maybe we should leave" possibly be any more controversial, or forbidden as an avenue of thought for spiritual exploration within the church? This is, after all, a very important spiritual decision, and the congregation probably wants to stay together as a family of faith, with guidance from their pastor while considering it.

Anonymous said...

I would say that last night's call for "spiritual warfare" from the pulpit of the Falls Church lacks grace, much less graciousness.

BabyBlue said...

Anon, I am pondering that myself. It didn't rest easy with me.

bb

Anonymous said...

Wilf - Spong is easy to reject or to put in a confined space. I don't think he really has much sway in the general church population.

I don't track the various remarks of the current PB all that closely. I find some of her ideas rather fuzzy for my tastes. But I don't think she said, "The resurrection is not important" any more than she said that she would rather Episcopalian property be converted to a saloon than sold to departing congregations. A lot of these stories about the other side are propaganda and get magnified and distorted in the re-telling.

Anon 1138: who called for "spiritual warfare" at the Falls Church? That seems like a possible distortion in the other direction. Very jihad-istic. I hope that isn't accurate.

Scout

Wilf said...

Scout,

I agree with you very much about the danger of exaggerations of arguments of "the other side," whichever side - I've seen quite some exaggeration in some cases on both sides. This is also why I went to such care in making clear - exactly - what Schori says and does not say. My conclusion is that she clearly does deny the doctrines of the resurrection and the divinity of Christ. http://anglicanecumenicalsociety.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/what-do-people-mean-when-they-say-that-presiding-bishop-schori-has-denied-the-resurrection-or-the-divinity-of-christ/
You can read it and see what you think yourself, everyone needs to make their own conclusions on this one, but I do believe it's pretty water-tight.

Re. Spong - yes, he is easily rejected - but his influence in TEC has been immense. If TEC were largely against these teachings, why then did they elect Schori, a Spong affianado, to their top office? I think much of the problem is lack of education, but this is different in a church setting than it is in a school, for example.

Spong is still very present "in spirit" in much of what is going on. Schori's theology is quite Spongish in points, many Episcopal churches are using the "Living the Questions" materials which The Christian Century has described as rather "fundamentalist" in nature, they e.g. claim that people who think that the church should teach that the miracles of Christ are true are a short step a way from committing acts of genocide. I don't mind so much the insult here since Christians are used to being insulted - the problem is, people are being positively scared away from the faith from within their very churches. They are being taught implicitly that "it is totally socially unacceptable here to believe that Christ rose from the dead" (another feature of Living the Questions in a different video). What is left is a distrust for the church as the Body of Christ, this makes things profoundly difficult for people to consider actually committing themselves to faith in Christ.

Re. the saloon remark - you're right, she did not say this with those words, what she's said is that the church buildings may under no conditions be sold to churches which would like to be members of the Anglican Communion but are not part of TEC, and that a saloon for her is perfectly acceptable. So she did not say this in those words, which would sound insulting.

We often also hear about how Bishop Duncan has "lied" etc.. - I tend to track these stories down, too. When it comes to the groups that have departed TEC, the allegations which I find have some substance are about the corporation Bishop Wantland set up (very dodgy move, very dumb), and both the Chapman Brief and the Barfoot Memorandum contain some details which I'm sure are offensive to loyalist Episcopalians, but neither is much of a "smoking gun" of some sort of grandiose deception, as they are frequently made out to be on the HOB/D listserv, or in the loyalist blogs.

Wilf said...

the link above was broken:
Schori denies the divinity of Christ and the resurrection

Wilf said...

I see I should correct a misunderstanding - I wrote above about Living the Questions that people were being taught "it is totally socially unacceptable here to believe that Christ rose from the dead" -

Those quotes are meant more as "scare quotes," that quote of course is not found anywhere in LTQ, but this is the general affect of the LTQ videos. Little is rationally grounded or put into a dialogical context, so it's not really about scholarship, it's mostly, I think, a tool for training people that persons who believe in such things as the resurrection are "fundamentalists" and as such are scorned in the parish in question. Since "fundamentalism" is such a strong epithet in our society, of course, people are very much scared about the social acceptability of holding Christian beliefs. This is one of the difficulties in speaking with them on matters of faith, when they have spent time in some Episcopalian parishes. There is an issue of trust in the church and faith which has been profoundly broken.

I don't believe that these parishes actually intend to "scare" people this way, I think that they probably view the videos as "scholarly" and "important views" - but this is also the case with Fundamentalist congregations presenting their own materials which ... at times ... are problematic in their own ways. A lot of damage can be done in "good faith."

Anonymous said...

Someone says: 'I would say that last night's call for "spiritual warfare" from the pulpit of the Falls Church lacks grace, much less graciousness.'

I was there for the whole time, and I don't recall any such "call ... from the pulpit." One lady who has a prayer ministry with a half dozen others described their 6-year broad project of prayer (for marriages and families in the church, for healing, and--as only one of the items on their list--for the resolution of our denominational issues) as "spiritual warfare". It is a phrase that refers not to any battle with other humans but with our demonic enemies. (Eph 6:12: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world".) If there was any other reference to "spiritual warfare", then I don't recall it. But perhaps my attention wandered; perhaps someone else recalls something.

One reason my memory might not be reliable is that I consider the phrase unremarkable and thoroughly Christian, and I might not even notice when one speaks of "spiritual warfare." I would not at all object to using the phrase in describing the struggle over the descent of the Episcopal Church into error. It's quite a distortion to characterize the phrase as "jihadistic".

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the whole meaning conveyed by the term "spiritual warfare," a reference to Paul's message to the Ephesians quoted above (ch6)is that we are not to fall into the error of thinking that persons with whom we may find ourselves in an adversarial position on this earth are our "enemies." They are not our enemies. Our only true enemy is Satan, the Enemy of Christ. And we ARE to wage war against the Enemy of our souls, and all the ways that he can manipulate us through our inherent sinfullness (that's ALL of us, folks!). Being aware of, and confessing, our own sins is one key instrument of spiritual warfare.
But those of us for whom that's a common term need to keep in mind that its meaning might not be readily evident to others.

Anonymous said...

Context is everything. The concern is that a phrase like "spiritual warfare" spoken in a setting specially called to discuss the recent Virginia court decision, given the tendency of people to fall into overheated rhetoric on these issues, might be interpreted as hostility toward Episcopalian Christians within the departing community. If it is clear that the remarks were directed at demonic activity by incorporeal spirits, I guess it's not a problem. I might have chosen a different setting.

Getting back to Wilf's concerns: I doubt that Schori has denied the divinity of Christ or the centrality of the resurrection to Christian doctrine. If she has, she is in the wrong line of work, to say the least. If it's clear that she has, I'll personally undertake to find her employment better fitted to her skill sets (which I personally suspect lie in other areas, but she was elected fair-and-square). Do people suspect she is crossing her fingers during the recitation of the Creeds? Moreover, I doubt that anyone (at least anyone whose views have any weight) that belief in the Miracles of Christ is akin to being genocidal. If your point is that there is scholarly debate about how literally the scriptures must be read, of course there is that kind of discussion. I cannot imagine that there is a problem with that. If someone's belief in the Risen Lord proceeds from viewing elements of either Testament as allegorical, I do not perceive that their belief is inferior to someone who comes to the same belief through a more literal read.

Scout

Wilf said...

Well Scout I'm glad you're willing to help do something if Schori indeed has denied the resurrection or the divinity of Christ. I've posted the link a few times, let me know when you get around to reading it.

Re. the "genocidal" bit - it's not an Episcopalian (as far as I know) - it's Dominic Crossan in the "Living the Questions" series - which is used in many Episcopal churches. You can see him here.

Wilf said...

nb, note how I phrase things above - i.e., people who believe that the church should teach that the miracles are true. I am not arguing this, but this is what is taught in most churches. Crossan reserves his word "genocidal germ" for those who believe that "people should believe in the literal interpretation" etc., I am being a bit more nuanced. But then Crossan crosses all boundaries with his quick slippery slope - notice how he uses the word "genocidal germ" for such people, and notice how later on, in the video, he talks about how we tend to "quash" germs - one would think that a guy who had been thinking for two minutes would see the problem here.

The problem isn't that anyone is going to go out hunting down fundamentalists. It's just the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle banging away at people who have any notion of a normative faith and scaring the weak from developing a committed faith. Of course, what Crossan says about what people think about people who think people "should" do something ... can be applied to any ethical precept. You can use the same bonkers slippery slope for people who think that people shouldn't pick on gay people, etc. etc..

I realize that Crossan is "trying to go somewhere" and this isn't his "main point" - he is "just trying to say that this is dangerous" etc. etc.. But have a look at his language. And consider how people would react if this epithet were applied to any group other than Christians. It would be called "hate speech."

Wilf said...

Actually Scout -

I'd prefer it if you don't bind yourself to anything in the case you decide that she denies the resurrection or the divinity of Christ. Best to go into it without having any consequences in the back of your mind, a more free approach to discerning what is what in this matter.

It's a very, very important one. It's historical even. This is the first time that I know that the head of a significant church claiming to be Trinitarian has done this. In a certain sense we've entered a new era.

kc said...

Wilf -just read the article by JI Packer you posted re: does Schori deny the divinity/resurrection of Christ - it's excellent. Thoroughly rational, calm, intelligent analysis of the PB's statements in comparison to what Christian theology has taught for over 2,000 years.
For Scout, or anyone else interested, I thought I'd post here Packer's conclusions from his analysis. But I think Scout has already supplied his response and indicated his position when he says that (quote): "If someone's belief in the Risen Lord proceeds from viewing elements of either Testament as allegorical, I do not perceive that their belief is inferior to someone who comes to the same belief through a more literal read." (endquote) KJS could indeed be said to view these things as "allegorical," so I'm guessing that's not a problem for him. (Scout, please do jump in and correct me if I'm misunderstanding your position!)

Here are the conclusions JIPacker comes to from his analysis of the body of published statements from KJS on the resurrection & the divinity of Christ:

re: the Resurrection:
As the importance of the bodily resurrection and its necessity in a complete faith is a part and parcel of the church’s doctrine of the resurrection, Schori is indeed denying the church’s doctrine of the resurrection by denying its importance, even though she most definitely never, to my knowledge, has ever denied that Christ rose from the dead, or explicitly denied the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ. (JIP)

So: when people say – “She has denied the resurrection” – what they mean is, that she has denied the church’s teaching of the resurrection; if they mean that she explicitly ever says that Christ did not, bodily, rise from the dead – then I believe that they are wrong, and should be corrected with a more nuanced indication of what it is which she does, and does not, deny, and in how she does it. It is important for people to have a proper understanding, since this is such a weighty issue, and it can be damaging indeed when people are led to believe one thing, only to find out later that it was wrong.

re: the [unique] divinity of Christ:

So: when people say, “she has denied the divinity of Christ,” they do not mean: she has said “Jesus is not the Son of God,” or “Christ is not divine.” What they mean is: she has denied the church’s doctrine of the divinity of Christ, by re-defining “divinity” as to mean a quality of “a great figure,” something which references an ethic and an ethos, rather than those things which the church teaches us about God. (JIP)

Wilf said...

kc, I think it important to state here:

the article in question is NOT by J.I. Packer. I see you may have confused this since there is another article below it about J.I. Packer, but this one isn't J.I. Packer. Don't worry, someone else earlier made this same mistake.

Anonymous said...

I agree we should stop the rhetoric and the accusations.

I also think the Supreme Court’s decision places our claims for property in the same path as the litigations that have occurred in many other states where the Episcopal church has won most if not all the marbles. Accordingly, it would be better for us to leave with something sooner through a negotiated settlement, than to be forced to leave later with nothing. This would also save millions from being wasted on lawyers so these funds could be redirected to Christ’s mission in the world.

Anonymous said...

Anon, that (i.e. negotiating a settlement) is exactly what the ADV churches were attempting to do before the new PB, K. Jefferts-Schori, stepped in and put a halt to that. She has insisted that no non-Epsicopal "Anglican" congregations are going to worship in these properties during her watch.
So . . . when does her term end? anyone?

Anonymous said...

So negotiate a generous departure. I suspect they'd be all ears.

BabyBlue said...

Wow, Anon, that's a rather brutal remark. With remarks like that, it lends credence to the fact that The VA Supreme Court is right - TEC is officially in division. We are no longer talking about the PB's "Coalition of the Unhappy" - we're talking division, schism.

bb

Anonymous said...

This is your best post to date. It strikes at the heart of the angst of wanting to "get along" in Christian fellowship while remaining true to our convictions. There is a case to be made by each side. I am part of a parish that has left (property and all) to join the ACNA. We too, find the greatest miracle of all is to care for one another even from "opposing sides" of a conflict as great as this one. This conflict is sad, even heart-wrenching and also a great opportunity for God's mercy, grace and Love. Our prayers are with you and others like you. There are many.

Anam Cara said...

BB said:
Wow, Anon, that's a rather brutal remark. With remarks like that, it lends credence to the fact that The VA Supreme Court is right - TEC is officially in division. We are no longer talking about the PB's "Coalition of the Unhappy" - we're talking division, schism.

Gosh, BB, it sounds like you are just beginning to figure this out. It's been this way for years.

This is very hard, because we want to remember as 10:34 Anon said, we are not enemies - our enemy is Satan who is alive and well on planet earth. But even though we are not enemies, we are divided. There is a schism here.

The Episcopal Church (the Episcopalians) are saying one thing while the Anglicans (the rest of the Anglican Communion) are saying something different. The labels "Episcopal" and "Anglican" show the world that there is a difference.

I am no longer a part of the Anglican commuion, but for the 6 years between 1996 and 2002 when I found my true home, I was ashamed to tell people I was an Episcopalian. For me it was a label I happily shed!

I sometimes wonder, if there had been an Anglican Truro where I was living at the time, would I have ever searched for God elsewhere. I believe it was His grace and mercy to me that I was led elsewhere.

Wilf said...

Members of denominations are sometimes quite "patriotic" regarding the denomination, to some degree it's natural to feel that a criticism of the denomination's leaders somehow implicates one's self. It's difficult grasp that even a strong reprimand of the leaders of a denomination could be done in love - and that moreover this is also love of the people who must live under the consequences of the actions of those denominational leaders.

The TEC leaders have been quite successful at cultivating an "us-them" attitude in their "rallying the troops." TEC is repeatedly depicted as a group of persons who together suffer under the events happening in the Communion. There is doubtless some truth to this, but it also is dependent on the degree to which one pins one's own self-identity upon the denomination.

Anglicans in general do not tend to speak much of "Anglican identity" - that is, Anglicans outside of TEC. As creedal but non-confessional Christians, they do not pin their identity to a particular set of teachings, or a grand moment of historic reform. Rather, they are simply Trinitarian Christians. This also means, however, that the creeds, and the Holy Trinity, are relatively more important for us than for other denominations, since these are all we really focus on.

TEC leaders on the other hand have been carving an identity out for themselves which is highly selective, focusing on "fringe" elements of the gospels to the exclusion, or even denial, of key components of the gospels' message. The heavy-handed, rather indistinct alarmism regarding "fundamentalism" - without distinguishing what this "fundamentalism" is (e.g., in the case of Spong, who has written the most on "fundamentalism," a "fundamentalist" is more or less anyone who believes Jesus was anything more than a moral teacher and example), TEC members are left in a highly confusing position, afraid of associating themselves with other Christians (not to mention explore issues of faith).

What's left is sort of a vacuum - it is an identity formed around a few slogans, which in some cases drive people away from fellowship with non-Episcopalian Christians, and away from considering the claims of Christianity.

It's important for us to continue to emphasize the love that we have for Episcopalian people, and even Episcopalian leaders. But in such an atmosphere of distrust and lack of theological education amongst the members (and some clergy) of TEC, this task is difficult indeed.

John said...

A great victory for the remaining Episcopalians.

Their churches have not been taken by an offshore entity and a time of rejoicing for answered prayer is at hand.

BabyBlue said...

So there is triumphalism on the Episcopal side as well. This is so not helpful on either side - the court rules that TEC is in division, aka schism. Hardly something to celebrate, wouldn't you say?

bb

Anonymous said...

The court didn't create the "division", BB, and that component of the ruling is not central to its action last week. When the departing groups filed court actions invoking the division statute three years ago, they had no inhibitions whatsoever about classifying their actions as "division" (or "schism", as you call it). That fact was created by the actions (completely elective, in my view) of people outside the secular courts and didn't require secular legal validation to be true.

As a legal matter I continue to suspect that "division" a used in the statute cannot be something that is just self-declared by those leaving a church but seeking to claim its property. That makes it entirely too easy to drum up dissension and use it to effect a major property ownership shift. It seems to me that the term must have meaning within the canons or other guiding rules of the Church itself. But, the Virginia Supreme Court is probably the last official word on that point and we will not see it litigated again.

The significance of last week's ruling, however, is that this strange statute is out of the mix in relation to the present disputes. Good riddance, in my view. I strongly suspect that the statute itself contributed to the pace of disintegration and influenced the actions of those advocating departure. I'm very glad to see it put away.

As for triumphalism, the reaction I've seen in my parish and heard about in others has been very restrained, it seems. Everyone realizes that this is just one element of the legal dispute. What is gratifying, however, is that the legal dispute is now a lot like a number of other legal disputes and can be assessed for planning purposes as one would assess any civil litigation.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Recalling the situation in New York where TEC opted to sell (at a reduced price) a confiscated church to muslims rather than back to the departing congregation, a dark vision emerges from some corner of my mind:

Given the percentages of the votes of the CANA congregations to leave TEC, reasonable people would believe that the remaining Episcopal congregations would not have the resources to support the buildings. While DioVA and TEC would be able to pump $$ into them for a little while, they would eventually have to be sold.

Historic, highly visible properties like The Falls Church and Truro would be a prize for highly financed groups like the Wahabi muslims. Are both sides prepared to see the crescent atop these historic properties?

Kevin said...

"A great victory for the remaining Episcopalians. "

Ahh ... no it isn't.

Episcopalians did not get their slam dunk of the court ruling unconstitutional or that they get the property, just as CANA didn't get their slam dunk of declared outright victors.

Basically, it is almost like Dec. 19, 2006 all over again, this time like in South Carolina.

Basically, CANA still holds the buildings, DioVA could file for them and another trial.

The question for remaining Episcopalians is if the rest of the diocese wants to continue taking on debt to subsidize four parishes (really three) when everything is back zero, that CANA actually had some benefit DioVA didn't so at this point in a stronger position. Of the nine left in the case, only three 'remaining Episcopalians' do not have a building.

I agreed with another commenter on Stand Firm, looks as if the Court is pressuring both sides to settle.

Kevin said...

Also don't forget 57-9 still stands and the Court outline what steps would need to be taken for these 9 parishes to use it (as well as any future parish) for they declared two of three conditions met, it would be very possible for these parishes to fulfill that step.

No longer involved, I have no clue what option any of the parties are going to take [except 815, I trust they'll continue to push, but then they don't seem to be ponying up much of the legal cost, passing those the the dioceses, so no problem for them].

However, for those who are gloating (or those who are in despair) don't.

Anonymous said...

"Basically, CANA still holds the buildings, DioVA could file for them and another trial."

DioVA/TEC do not have to do a new filing: DioVA/TEC had filed for a declaratory judgement, but 57-9 was a potential show-stopper and has now been ruled on. We will now get on to deciding the case on neutral principles. My money is still on the CANA churches, but as always, negotiation is preferable to litigation.

RalphM

redleg82 said...

NEWSFLASH. If you are a TEC and want to leave with your property, take your vote, file and join ACNA. Then you are golden with the VA Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

It seems wishful thinking to assume that ACNA would meet the Court's requirements where CANA did not. That issue was not delved into. We don't know. I'm not sure which nine parishes Kevin is referring to, but if they are dissenters who have already departed to another organization, they can't go back and re-do the circumstances of the departure to un-ring the bell of their previous actions. They're stuck with the record they've created.

Finally, 57-9 "still stands" only in the sense that the Court found it unnecessary to reach constitutional arguments given their decision that it does not apply to facts on the ground. Courts tend to avoid constitutional dispositions if there are narrower grounds for decision available. My own opinion is that the statute is of dubious constitutionality and is completely indefensible legislative policy. If it comes to the Court again in a context where the constitutional questions cannot be avoided, my prediction is that it will go down the tubes.

Scout

Kevin said...

RalphM:

Thank you for the correction.


Scout:

"It seems wishful thinking to assume that ACNA would meet the Court's requirements where CANA did not."

Not necessarily. While the Court did not rule on ACNA, it chose to declare CANA not a splitting entity in such a way that ACNA does logically (I know that logical and legal are not necessarily the same thing) would fit.

Anonymous said...

whatever, K. But in any event, the value of ACNA under the Division Statute does not extend to any group that already left TEC. They can't get there from where they are now.

Scout

Kevin said...

Scout:

That's not a sure bet. It is a logical possibility to hold another vote and join the ACNA outright. Would the VA Supreme Court allow it ... who knows ...

Anonymous said...

Kevin: A CANA group could leave CANA and joint ACNA, I suppose. But unless you have a time machine in your shed, one that accommodates several hundred people, how are you going to re-stage the 2006 votes? Do you rejoin TEC so you can leave again? Think that would work?

Me neither.

Scout

Kevin said...

Scout,

It would be an action in response to the Courts opinion to be in compliance. Granted most lawyers commenting elsewhere have stated that not the preferred option [but who knows, I'm sure legal teams on both sides are studying all angles, much more in depth than your sweeping statements here].

Anonymous said...

I don't find that the concept taxes me too much, Kevin, and I hate to see anyone waste time on the idea that now, three years later, groups that left a long time ago could now vote a re-do, without any of the context of the original vote and expect not to get laughed out of court if they go in saying they've now colored within the lines (nunc pro tunc, as lawyers are wont to say). Just forget that. It's silly. You can't get that toothpaste back in the tube.

The issue now is whether the deeds run in favor of the Diocese or the parish, and, if the latter, who is the parish - the people who left or the people who stayed. I think at my church there are actually quite a few deeds covering different parcels that make up the combined holdings, and they aren't all identical in their formulations. It raises the possibility that different parcels might be disposed of differently. All the more reason for both sides to give a good hard look at settlement.

Scout

Kevin said...

Scout,

Do you ever get dizzy trying to spin the truth too much? You should take your own advice and see that this opinion is not a win of any one. That three year bit, well, hold on for there will be three years more.

Worse for DioVA, is they went into debt of this, taking out a line of credit. So that three years has interest attached.

Per name on deeds? Well, what do they say? Are they in the name of the diocese as they are in the Roman Catholic Church?

That's the part of the Courts opinion you don't seem to grasp. That the Court also did not give merit to 815's standard trust argument. So grand slam CANA for 57-9 not grand slam DioVA for Dennis cannon.

In a sense you should be as frustrated as the others, but I don't think you know that yet.

Anonymous said...

K- I think you 're confusing me with someone else. I don't recall being at all triumphalist about this. My point has been that a fair reading of the decision seems to be that 57-9 is off the table, but we now have to go to a straight secular analysis (all theology aside) of 1) what do the deeds say about who holds the property and 2) if the deeds that are in trust do not run to the diocese and/or the national church, which parish is the beneficiary - the one formed by people who left, or the continuing one of people who chose not to leave. I have not purported to pick winners in that debate. I happen to be in the camp that believes that a court won't be able to decide this without some reference to the internal polity of the Church, a condition that suggests to me that we are in dangerous constitutional territory. However, there are ways to navigate through those straits, according to the United States Supreme Court. We'll see how our state courts fare if the parties fail to settle.

By the way, I did not perceive in the opinion that the Supreme Court addressed the issue of "815's standard trust argument", as you put it. I don't think that came up at this level, although it has been addressed below. The courts are still going to have to work with the deeds and trust instruments, even if the Dennis Cannon is not given effect.

And, yes, I would be more than a bit frustrated if this goes on another three years. I think I've said that previously.

All that is a long way around to saying that I don't quite understand your comment.

Scout

Kevin said...

All that is a long way around to saying that I don't quite understand your comment.

Well ...

And, yes, I would be more than a bit frustrated if this goes on another three years.

I'm saying unless there is a settlement, then from all indications I am seeing expect this.

Anonymous said...

I guess that puts us both squarely in the settlement camp, Kevin.

Scout

Anonymous said...

If this were primarily a disagreement about real property, reasonable people would have reached a settlement many months ago.

It is really about whether the Anglican franchise in the US is exclusively the property of TEC.

Anonymous said...

I guess that's one way to look at it. I think another more narrow, but equally valid way of looking at it is whether we should be comfortable with factions within churches squaring off to form majorities with the secular state government awarding the momentary top vote getters the physical property. That idea really bothers me and makes me think that reaching some sort of spiritual seclusion from the secular world is a hopeless goal.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Is secular governmental involvement any worse than a religious denomination reaching into the secular realm by passing rules allowing the seizure of property they do not own?

RalphM

Anonymous said...

Is secular governmental involvement any worse than a religious denomination reaching into the secular realm by passing rules allowing the seizure of property they do not own?

RalphM

Anonymous said...

Not sure I follow that, Ralph. It seems pretty unremarkable to me that organizations that have real property within their control (or even chattels or other forms of property) would make internal rules about how those properties are administered and owned. Those who associate themselves with the organizations explicitly or implicitly agree to be bound by those rules. If the rules do not great violence to the laws of the states in which they are located, I would think the default setting would be for the courts to defer to the rules of the organization. When the organization or association is a religious group (particularly in Virginia where Jefferson's notions of religious independence are incorporated directly into the state constitution), it strikes me as altogether appropriate that the secular government would give a wide berth to the religious organization's internal rules. I'm sure that persons less steeped in conservative constitutional principles than I might argue for a greater degree of governmental interference in religion, but I think it a fundamental element of religious freedom that the government keep its distance.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Scout,

Since BB's forum describes itself as addressing Episcopal and Anglican issues (listed before Bob Dylan), it could be considered a religious organization. You post here (making yourself a member of the forum), so perhaps the other forum members should vote to claim ownership of your computer, your desk, your chair, etc.?

RalphM

Anonymous said...

Scout,

Since BB's forum describes itself as addressing Episcopal and Anglican issues (listed before Bob Dylan), it could be considered a religious organization. You post here (making yourself a member of the forum), so perhaps the other forum members should vote to claim ownership of your computer, your desk, your chair, etc.?

RalphM

Anonymous said...

An interesting concept, Ralph, but I'm not sure it helps your position. It sounds a bit more like the position I'm opposing.

I've been referring to a circumstance which we've seen in Virginia and elsewhere where people who decide to change churches try to claim not only pieces of property from the church they left, but also the church building itself. I have no idea what the legal, ethical or religious principle is that would support such claims. It seems a radical notion altogether and one that none of us would want to see get into general circulation. If a bunch people turned Muslim or Zoroastrian and left a church, I doubt if anyone would have much sympathy for the idea that they could keep it. Same if people decided to leave because they didn't like the pastor or his wife or his kids. Somehow, however, a lot of people's moral compass has started spinning around on this issue and I think the source of the confusion is that they think being theologically infallible (in their eyes) justifies the grab at the property, even at the expense of people who do not care to leave. I don't find that in the law, and I don't find it in Scripture.

Scout

Anonymous said...

The loss of respect for Scripture is at the heart of these battles.

Negotiation would have provided a way forward for both sides instead of a series of empty buildings. It was TEC/DioVA who broke off the negotiations and has refused all calls to return to the table. Perhaps the thoughts of more years and more millions of $$ will provide motivation.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

It was impossible to negotiate with departees occupying the premises and in court asserting title under 57-9. That statute was a winner-take-all statute and had to be opposed or there would have been absolutely nothing to negotiate. I agree that the settlement environment is much improved by that litigation ploy being taken out of the picture by the Supreme Court.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Rewriting history is not helpful. The CANA parishes have offered negotiation at every step. The offer was there when it was broken off by TEC/DioVA and it is still there.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

Rewriting history is not helpful. The CANA parishes have offered negotiation at every step. The offer was there when it was broken off by TEC/DioVA and it is still there.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

Did someone attempt to re-write history? I missed that altogether.

My point, Ralph, in case you missed it, was that when the departing groups went to court on 57-9, there was no possibility for negotiated settlement. The nature of that statute is a winner-take-all statute. Once the litigation balloon went up on a statute whose mechanics work like that one's do, there is precious little one can do but respond in court. But, I hope, as apparently you do, that now the sides can talk. This is a good time for that, it seems to me.

Scout