Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Day, a New Year

Just want to pause a moment and thank all of you - known and unknown - who take the time to stop by the cafe, sometimes you just drop by and say hi and sometimes you stay a while and have some pie and butterbeer, but whatever you do, may you find joy and mercy and the love that passes all understanding in this new year. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation," Paul writes in his second letter to his friends in Corinth. "Old things are passed away - behold, all things are made new." May this be so for you and for those you love.   Jesus reminds us, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." And that is why we have hope.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: St. George's Anglican Church to retain property following amicable settlement with the The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Jersey

Merry Christmas!  It now can be done!  Historic settlement in New Jersey church property case.  From here:

St. George's Anglican Church, a former Episcopal Church congregation which disaffiliated from its former denomination, has negotiated with the Diocese of New Jersey to retain its church buildings and tangible property with complete independence from The Episcopal Church (TEC).

The congregation is now affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under Archbishop Robert Duncan.

"We are extremely grateful that the congregation of St. Georges Anglican Church is able to retain its property. This is an incredible blessing and witness to others that Christians can resolve these matters amicably. We are also thankful that the church has been able to maintain a cordial relationship with the Diocese of New Jersey. I trust and pray that St. Georges Anglican Church will continue to serve the Lord through mission and ministry for many years to come," said CANA Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns.

The final sale of St. Georges church property took place on Tuesday, November 23, 2010.

In early January and February of 2008 the former Episcopal congregation, then known as St. Georges Church in Helmetta, NJ, cut its ties to TEC and the Diocese of New Jersey because of theological differences. Fr. William Guerard, St. Georges parish priest, maintained an amicable relationship with Bishop George Councell of the Diocese of New Jersey throughout the division.

Fr. Guerard was able to transfer to CANA as an ordained Anglican priest without being required to renounce his ordination vows unlike many other Anglican clergy who have left TEC for CANA and other Anglican groups. Our constant prayer throughout these two years has been for Gods will to be done, he said. We are all thankful that this has been accomplished peacefully, and we pray it will set a precedent for other churches going through similar situations. Let us return to the work of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus our Savior who has come to bring us light, peace, and salvation.

Beginning in January, 2009, St. Georges Anglican Church began negotiations with the Diocese of New Jersey which finally ended in an agreed monetary settlement.

BB NOTE: And with that, let us pause and give thanks:

When the road is rough and steep
And it leads a heart to weep
There's an ocean of tears
That you've held through the years
But we're not stopping here

On this long and winding street
Will You guide these weary feet
Every step that we take
With our hearts full of faith
And we're not stopping here

Together we are stronger
So put your hand in mine

We give You praise
We give You praise
And the King of all the earth
Has saved us from ourselves
We give You praise
We give You praise

Through the avenues of time
Here You meet me where I am
We walked with glory and pain
And You've broken the chains
So there's no stopping here

Glory, we sing glory
We sing glory
In the darkness where You shine
Let it shine, let it shine!


Monday, December 20, 2010

In Good Faith

Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court has set April 25 - June 14, 2011 as the dates for the trial of the litigation between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Diocese of Virginia and nine churches who voted to separate from the Diocese of Virginia and join the Convocation of Anglicans North America (now affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America) in 2006.

In addition, Judge Bellows ruled that it would be a bench trial instead of a jury trial asked by the Virginia congregations. Judge Bellows also ruled against the proposal by the Diocese and TEC to split the trial into multiple sections where the churches would be addressed together as a group and then separated church by church. In addition, Judge Bellows ruled that Church of Our Saviour Oatlands would not be separated from the other Virginia congregations but would be part of the April-June trial. Church of Our Saviour had not sought a jury trial.

The form the trial will take will begin with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia presenting their case, followed by the Virginia congregation responding and presenting their counter case, followed by TEC and the Diocese presenting their rebuttal and opposing the counter suit, followed by the Virginia congregations presenting their rebuttal as well as their rebuttal to the opposition of their counter suit. It sounded as though final arguments may be presented by brief. Judge Bellows then would rule on the entire case perhaps some time in June.

There were several things that struck me about the court hearing last Friday. First of all, I have never seen the Episcopal Presiding Bishop's personal chancellor David Booth Beers speak or smile to anyone in the Virginia congregations in all the times we have gathered together. But this Friday he was sitting next to the Diocese of Virginia's Chancellor Russ Palmore and at one point, noticed that Bishop David Bena, CANA Suffragan Bishop for the Anglican District of Virginia and former Suffragan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, had come into the court room. Before the hearing began, David Booth Beers got up from his front row seat and walked over to the opposite side of the court room and to the back and warmly greeted Bishop Bena. Bishop Bena returned the warm greeting. I later learned that back in the early days of Bishop Bena's ministry he was in the Military Chaplain's office at 815 and got to know David Booth Beers who even then was the chancellor.

Similar types of outreach happened following the hearing when attorneys from the Diocese of Virginia greeted the CANA attorneys, exchanging pleasantries beyond the casual nod. This was a marked change even from the last hearing when there were some barbs exchanged during and after the proceedings.

Another highlight - possibly because Judge Bellows said it more than once - was that he announced that he was going to proceed through the preparations for the trial and during the trial itself "in good faith,"and urged the parties to do as well.  It was a rather interesting phrase considering who is populating his court room. He repeated this more than once - that he would assume that all the parties were operating in good faith and not seeking to undermine the other, but assume the best of one another. He said he would continue to assume that all the parties were operating in good faith with each other until he saw differently, in which case he would intervene.

It came across to me that he was saying - quite strongly in fact - that counsel from both sides should follow his direction and assume that all were operating in good faith. One might think at first that such a view would be naive, until you pause a moment and realize that if he is led to think differently, he has the authority to take this case in any direction he deems fit. He has the authority, in his way, to basically direct the parties now to operate in good faith. If they don't, it will be at their own peril.

Since he repeated himself on this particular point - holding back from stipulating certain rulings on the assumption that the parties would operate in good faith with each other - it seemed to drive home to me the point that it was as though he was chastening both parties that this is how he was going to operate and they would be wise to do the same.

I have been pondering that phrase, "Good Faith" all weekend, especially in light of work now underway by lay leaders in Virginia to find a way forward toward resolution. Bona Fides is Latin for "in good faith." Wiki states that "Good Faith" is "good, honest intention ... or belief. In law, it is the mental and moral state of honesty, conviction as to the truth or falsehood of a proposition or body of opinion, or as to the rectitude or depravity of a line of conduct. This concept is important in law, especially equitable matters."

Webster Dictionary defines bona fides as "evidence of one's good faith or genuineness." What this says to me is that it's not just what is presented in court, but how it is presented. And if we are able to restore this view - that all parties are operating in good faith - could that not bring us back to the table to find common ground resolution that would build us all up for mission as members of the same faith family?

After all this time - as we see here at the Cafe from time to time - good faith has taken a hard hit over the years. One could point to reasons why this may be, but as Judge Bellows said - at this point, right now, right where we stand can we pledge to operate in good faith, seeing as marks of that trust evidence of genuineness and honesty?

How would such a thing happen? The reality seems so far away, as the comments on the earlier post and other sites that have picked up that post reveal. I know of only one way - and that it to reorient ourselves to a new disposition, one that comes to us in who's name we carry. This can't be done by will power alone, the wounds go deep and even the bravest among us would be challenged to have such a will.

It is interesting to think about how God operates in good faith, even knowing who he is dealing with. Even the famous words of John come to mind, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son ..." It wasn't that we deserved it or had earned the right to have a savior, not by a long shot. But it was because he loved us that he found a way to bring resolution between himself and the world - he took the initiative. Our response is as John writes, "that whosoever believes in him ..." Do we dare to believe?

Where do we begin? Perhaps with the one who is the most genuine and honest, who Paul describes so well in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. Oh that we may love one another like that.

Perhaps this Christmas may open our minds and hearts in ways we never could have imagined. May it be so.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coalition forming for a win-win settlement in Virginia

As the next round of litigation is heating up in Virginia on the fate of nine church properties, a coalition of prayerful Episcopalians and Anglicans is forming to pray and seek ways to find an amicable settlement between the The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and nine Anglican churches. "Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement" has all ready launched their website called "Seeking Common Ground in Common Prayer" that aims to provide helpful information, encouragement, and insight on how the different sides in the Virginia litigation between the Episcopal Church/Diocese of Virginia and nine Anglican churches that voted to separate from The Episcopal Church four years might approach a "win-win" settlement.

Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement are "Virginian lay members of Episcopal and Anglican parishes who believe that the current litigation between the Anglican District of Virginia, the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church (TEC) must end," they write at Seeking Common Prayer in Common Prayer.  The organizers of the website/blog are Kathryn Peyton, a member of St Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, and Dan Van Ness, a member of Truro Church in Fairfax.

What are some of the reasons why a win-win settlement is the best alternative to prolonged and costly litigation?  From the blog:

There are lots of reasons for looking for a win-win settlement:
  1. Litigation costs money we could be spending on mission. 
  2. Litigation turns people into enemies. We all have heard of situations where a dispute between neighbors divided the neighborhood when the case went to court, or when families were split apart by a bitter divorce. The same thing can happen in parishes as we have learned in the four places where there are both Episcopal and ADV congregations.
  3. Litigation between Christians causes scandal.  1 Cor 6:7 says, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.” As former Secretary of State James A Baker has said, “Squabbling over church assets is the wrong way to resolve this impasse. The predictable result of continuing this battle will be public conflict without end in sight, to the utter dismay of most Episcopalians.”
  4. Win-win settlement allows creative solutions. Courts must apply the law and the result can be unsatisfactory. For example, some of the pieces of property in dispute have multiple deeds. It is possible that a judge or jury would determine that the wording of the deeds means some parcels belong to one side and others belong to the other. Furthermore, in negotiating a win-win settlement it is possible to find solutions to problems created by the separation that aren’t even part of the litigation (like figuring out how to deal with the conflicting claims to be part of the Anglican Communion).
  5. Win-win settlement is faster. If there is a trial for this second phase of the litigation it is possible there will be no judgment until Summer 2011. The appeal process took an additional 18 months in the first phase, so litigation may not be over until 2013 or later. While we might need the help of a mediator to do it, negotiation could produce a win-win settlement by Spring 2011.
Here at the Cafe we are very excited by the forming of this coalition and pray that it will flourish.  Learn more about how you can join this effort by clicking here or here. To God be the glory.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Remembering December 7th

For those of us who have lived in Hawaii, this date is marked in our minds every year. As it happens, my grandfather was assigned to the USS Honolulu, based at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. My grandfather rushed to join the crew of the USS Honolulu to save the ship while my grandmother took their two boys to safety at a relative's house on Mt. Tantalus. From there my dad and my uncle watched the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Monday at the Cafe: Of the Father's Love Begotten

A favorite here at the Cafe. We're sending this out to all our Regular Anons. You know who you all are - and so does the Lord. God bless you all.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Aloha and Farewell Mrs. V

Today the news came of the passing of a great lady - a great lady - a lady simply known to thousands of students at Radford High School in Honolulu, Hawaii as Mrs. V.   

It wasn't long after my arrival in Hawaii as a high school freshman that I met Mr. and Mrs. V, John and Barbara Velasco.  Mr. V was the head coach at one of the leading athletic champion public schools in the State of Hawaii, Radford in Honolulu.  Mrs. V was in charge of student activities.  Together they mentored thousands of young students navigating their way through adolescence.

In my senior year I got very involved in Student Council and student activities.  Along with two other classmates, Larry Wolfe and Rusty Vierra, we chaired the Assembly & Awards Committee and our advisor was Mrs. V.  Our committee won the Committee of the Year Award and while we worked very hard, we could not have done it without the steady and wise counsel of Mrs. V.  Through her efforts I was introduced to the world of politics and government as well as event planning - and she made it fun!  She was always solid, always grounded, always positive and kind and approachable.  But at the same time, there was this unspoken expectation that you never wanted to let her down.  You wanted to make her proud.  She was an inspiration and I admired and respected her.  She was the truthteller and she knew how to maintain discipline and focus, but she also laughed at our jokes and pranks - well, most of the time.

Today the news came that she had passed away and the first person I thought of was Mr. V.  Mr. V shepherded a remarkably diverse community of students from all walks of life, race, culture, and nationality.  He was fearless and was one of the few people who could silence a room with a mere look.  He was extraordinarily disciplined and led the Varsity football team to numerous championships, including my sophomore year.  He led the team again the year after I graduated - and won the state championship, but the story of that victory was one for the papers.

The week of the state championship, Mr. V suddenly was stricken with a heart attack and died.  It was so sudden and shocking and of course, it stunned the Radford community. Though filled with grief, the football team decided to go ahead and play in the championship and dedicated the game to Mr. V.   The public school team stood in a circle on the field and offered a prayer and then played their hearts out and won the game.

Mrs. V inspired generations of students and her inspiration continues to this day.  Thank you for your confidence in so many, for your firm direction with a gentle hand, for your warmth and faith - you made a difference in so many lives, Mrs. V - and you made a difference in my life.  Mahalo nui loa, Aloha ke Akua.