Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Diocese of Virginia Annual Council (January 20-22, 2011) will take up consideration of continuing financing litigation or seeking peaceful resolution

BB NOTE: The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia will be considering resolutions at their Annual Council (January 20-22) in Reston, VA, to either continue to pay the mounting costs for litigation against the parishes that voted to separate from the diocese in 2006 or to seek non-litigious conversations with all the parties to find a mutual beneficial resolution.

Please pray for Resolution R-9, for those who are petitioning "in the spirit of reconciliation and sound financial stewardship" to the Bishop, the Standing Committee, and the Executive Board to seek a "bilaterally beneficial outcome."  Watch those words very carefully: Bilateral beneficial outcome - a win-win scenario for all.  Right now the Diocese and the CANA Congregations are engaged a lose-lose scenario, whatever happens everyone loses.  This resolution pleads for an end to the "mutually destructive process of civil litigation."  For this to be achieved we will need to have kindness, consideration, and yes, resolution on all sides.  Come Lord Jesus, come!
R-9: Stewardship and Property Litigation

Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia urges the Diocese to initiate negotiations toward an amicable resolution of differences over property ownership with the congregations that have departed from the Diocese; and be it further

Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council, in the spirit of reconciliation and sound financial stewardship, petitions the Bishop, the Standing Committee and the Executive Board to engage in the negotiating process so that a bilaterally beneficial outcome might be achieved and an increasingly prolonged and mutually destructive process of civil litigation be avoided.

Submitted by the Rev. Charles D. Alley, Rector, St. Matthew’s, Richmond; the Rev. James H. Cirillo, Rector, Grace Church, Casanova; the Rev. Geoff Gwynne, Vicar, Christ the King, Harrisonburg; Mr. Douglas LeBlanc, Lay Delegate, St. Matthew’s, Richmond; The Rev. Cuthbert H. Mandell, Rector, Aquia Church, Stafford; The Rev. C. Robert Merola, Rector, St. Matthew’s, Sterling; The Rev. John Thomas Sheehan, Rector, The Church of Our Redeemer, Aldie; The Rev. Mario Gonzalez del Solar, Assistant Rector, St. Matthew’s, Richmond

Background: During the past year, the Virginia Supreme Court has sent the case back to the Circuit Court for retrial, virtually sending the multimillion dollar legal proceedings back to the starting line. While litigating this matter has not been a positive witness to the Kingdom of God, nor has it enhanced the evangelism and witness of the Church, the matter of financial stewardship must also be addressed. In view of the present financial environment in the Diocese and the possible need to sell properties in order to maintain the law suits, as well as the unlikely ability of our continuing Episcopal congregations in these locations to immediately assume the financial burden of such properties, it would seem prudent for all parties to pursue an amicable settlement rather than litigate outstanding property claims.

BB NOTE: A counter-resolution, which focuses the attention not on the mounting legal and personal and spiritual costs of continuing the litigation but rather focuses attention on "supporting the bishop" (as if he pays any of it!) is being proposed as well.  Most of the supporters of this resolution are made up of members of the shadow congregations formed by the Diocese as part of their litigation strategy following the sudden withdrawal of the Standstill Agreement in January 2007.  This resolution takes a passive aggressive stance, purporting to support the bishop, but only if he continues the litigation.   What is actually rather interesting about this resolution are the names absent from the list of submitters, which again is something to hold up in prayer.  It's clear that these folks who did submit this resolution feel the need not to present the case for spending millions of dollars on litigation, but rather to put pressure on the bishop.

Let's consider this.  If Bishop Johnston were to consider a peaceful resolution, would that mean all these people would no longer support him?  Isn't that what this resolution infers?  From some of Bishop Johnston's recent statements that doesn't seem to be an issue.  So who is this resolution for but those on the outside, those actually funding all the litigation.  This resolution places their sacrificial giving in the context not of furthering the ministry of the church or the gospel, but as the way to "support the bishop."  It's just sad.

R-8: "Continued Support for our Bishop"

Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms our continued support for the Bishop in his leadership to preserve Episcopal properties for the mission of the Episcopal Church by all available means, as requested by the Executive Board in 2006.

Submitted by The Rev. Lucia Lloyd, *St. Stephen’s, Heathsville; The Rev. Michael Pipkin, *The Falls Church, Falls Church; The Rev. Cathy Tibbetts, *The Falls Church, Falls Church; The Rev. Kate Chipps, *St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; The Rev. Donna Foughty, *Epiphany, Herndon; Mr. Don Metheny, President, Standing Committee; Mrs. Cindi Bartol, Standing Committee; Mrs. Myfanwy Hall, Standing Committee; Mr. Roger Inger, Standing Committee; The Rev. Michael Cadaret; The Rev. Geoffrey Coupland; Mr. Dick Eager; The Rev. Lindon Eaves; The Rev. Bob Hall; Mrs. Sandy Kirkpatrick; The Rev. Daniel Robayo; The Very Rev. Hilary Smith; The Rev. Lauren Stanley; The Rev. Margaret Ann Faeth, Immanuel Church on the Hill, Alexandria; The Rev. Joie Clee Weiher, St. Luke's, Remington; The Rev. Leslie Hague, St. Michael's, Arlington; The Rev. Daniel Robayo, Emmanuel, Harrisonburg; The Rev. Jennifer McKenzie, Church of the Good Shepherd, Burke; Mr. Paul Brockman, Standing Committee; The Rev. R. Ellen White, St. Anne's, Scottville; The Rev. David May, Grace Church, Kilmarnock; The Rev. Scott Dillard, Wicomico Church


Background
We are deeply grieved that those who have severed their ties to the Episcopal Church have continued to claim that our property now ought to belong to them, and that they have made this litigation necessary. Bishop Lee and Bishop Johnston have provided steady leadership, and we believe it is important that they have full latitude to determine which options are wisest in providing for the worship and ministry of Episcopalians in these locations for generations to come.

BB NOTE: Here is a Prayer for Resolution:
O Father, in this time of deep separation in our beloved church, we offer this prayer for the just and amicable resolution of the litigation we are facing, for the healing of broken relationships, for the softening of hearts hardened by hostility, and for common ground in our Common Prayer. Please help us all to be empowered by your Holy Spirit to dedicate our mutual resources for your work and glory, not our own, that we may find some good to come from this conflict that has engaged us for so long. Hear us, Lord, we pray, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
To learn more on how you can help find resolution in Virginia, please go to Finding Common Ground in Common Prayer here.

52 comments:

CSPellot said...

Thumbs up, Mary! Great post!

Steven in Falls Church said...

R-9 is quite a slap at the supporters of R-8, as it claims the "unlikely ability of our continuing Episcopal congregations . . . to immediately assume the financial burden of such properties." While one may quibble over the use of "immediately" (I would substitute "ever"), this otherwise is a pretty honest assessment of the situation.

DavidH said...

R-9 might as well be a CANA press release. To call it honest and accurate is to show very little understanding of the state of the litigation, among other things.

BB also knows (or should know) that what she says about the continuing congregations isn't true but continues to repeat the lie anyway. They were not formed by the Diocese as a litigation strategy -- they were formed by people in the congregations who did not agree with what those congregations did and wished to remain Episcopalian. BB, care to offer any evidence of your assertion? No, didn't think so.

(And yes, if I were discussing in a brick-and-mortar cafe something with someone who were repeating obvious spin and untruthful statements, I would like to think that I would confront them there too.)

Andy said...

Prayers for a peaceable, amicable solution.

Steven in Falls Church said...

"R-9 might as well be a CANA press release."

But it isn't. It is by rectors of TEC diocesan parishes, who are well aware of the costs of the litigation and the unsustainability of the ADV properties, were they to be seized. Are their words empty?

Anonymous said...

I don't see any reason why the Convention couldn't pass both resolutions. They are not mutually exclusive unless one interprets R-9 as meaning that the Diocese has to yield title of the occupied properties to those who departed. But there are many possible outcomes that would preserve ownership and access by Episcopalians that might still permit departing parishioners to use the facilities on at least a temporary or transitional basis. That would be the sort of "Win-Win" mutually beneficial outcome that some seek.

Having said that, when one decides to leave, it is a minor and known consequence that one gives up surroundings and objects in return for finding a more suitable church. No one leaving had any reason to believe they could do so without some sacrifice of familiar surroundings and without incurring the cost of finding new worship space. Anyone who led them not to understand this basic consequence was being misleading.

I have no reason to believe that the Diocese is not exploring ways of ending litigation short of having a guy in black robes sort this all out. So R-9 and R-8 are probably, to some extent, both precatory endorsements of what is already happening.

It is unfortunate, as David H observes, that BB fell off her recent reconciliation theme to take a counter-factual, propagandistic, pejorative swipe at the continuing congregations. I can't speak for all of them, but in the case of my parish, the congregation is the same congregation that it was prior to the split, minus people who left to join another denomination. People leave parishes all the time for a variety of reasons. That doesn't turn those who stay into shadows or render them some sort of second-rate phonies. The Diocese didn't "stand us up" and we are anything but a "shadow". If anything, the departure of many of our former members has focussed us a bit in our worship, made us understand the importance of our parish, and brought us into a deeper spiritual state.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Nice post, BB -- but I think it's obvious which resolution will pass and which won't.

Lots of anger and bitterness in the Diocese of VA from the revisionist activists who can't stand the conservatives -- and particularly *competing* conservatives.

Let's bet one another a steak dinner, shall we? I'm confident! ; > )


Cheers,


Sarah

TJ McMahon said...

"Bilateral beneficial outcome - a win-win scenario for all"
I think it is important to stay with the original language- there are big differences between a "bilateral beneficial outcome" and a "win-win scenario"- and it will certainly not be "for all" in any case.
It cannot be "win-win" since really neither side comes out better off than they were at the start of all this- both sides have been damaged already. More importantly, in any compromise situation, it is important to manage expectations. For the last several years, the word "win" has been defined, by both sides, as "end up with unquestioned legal title to the property." For TEC, it has also meant "being able to bar the opponent from EVER buying, leasing, or having access to the property" (granted, the diocese may not have been quite so adamant as 815 in this regard)."
So, it would seem best to stay away from talk about "win-win"- since almost by definition that is not possible. However, both sides, regardless of who ends up with the deeds, could be better off than they are now. "Beneficial outcomes."
As to everyone coming out ahead, that is not possible either. Unless the correspondence I've had is incorrect, there are quite a number of people for whom "good outcome" would mean a return to some sort of "status quo ante"- a situation in which the congregations were re-united and the departed parishes returned to the diocese, and the diocese somehow returned to orthodox Christianity. But that cannot happen under any circumstances foreseeable within the next 50 years- GC, KJS, and the ABoC have insured that TEC will stay on its course to perdition, and it will take decades, of not centuries, if ever, to undo the damage done to TEC over the last decade.
Still, this is a good and worthy effort. My previous experience with resolutions in other dioceses does not make me sanguine about its future. My experience has been that when a resolution like this hits the convention floor, the revisionist delegates go at it hammer and tongs, and what is likely to emerge (if it ever comes to a vote at all) will be unrecognizable. But I admit that I am unfamiliar with the convention rules of Virginia, so perhaps in your case there is a way to get it to the floor intact.
So bb, you have my prayers for this, although the analytical side of my brain tells me you are tilting windmills. Still, the Lord has the power to intervene if He so chooses, and open the eyes of the bishop and delegates and perhaps He will. I will pray He does.

BabyBlue said...

Actually, yes, DavidH there is evidence of the litigation strategy to setup the shadow congregations. The TEC litigation strategy, which was formed initially by what was then called back then the Via Media Steering Committee, focused on creating "litigants" for the lawsuits they were filing at all levels of the division. This included dioceses and parishes, they all followed the same strategy.

From the Via Media Standing Committee Minutes, dated September 29, 2005 (and note - this strategy was put in place more than a year before the Virginia parishes voted to separate):

What will be our response the "Day After" when the bishops start announcing they are in a "new" Anglican Communion and the Network is "recognized" as the only legitimate expressions of the A.C. in North America?

* Have ready blank presentments for abandonment of the communion.
* Have already drafted request stating that the see is vacant and requesting appointment of interim bishop. Need to coordinate with PB on these appointments.
* Have request for special convention ready to give to interim bishop so that vacant spots in diocesan government can be filled (trustees, council, standing committee, commission on ministry, etc.)
* Be ready to take legal action on property identify who will serve as litigants, what property needs to be covered.
* Have plan for locations and personnel to provide worshipping communities and "safe havens" for the faithful remnants. Identify retired priests and deacons, lay leadership.


You can read a copy of the full minutes from that September 29, 2005 meeting here: http://philippians-1-20.us/vmminute.htm

Yes, it is troubling - it means that lay people were strategically targeted to serve as litigants and that this strategy was in place long before the parishes took their votes.

Can we sit down now and find a way to peacefully resolve these issues in a way that is mutually beneficial?

bb

DavidH said...

Baloney BB. Nice try with evidence that (1) doesn't say what you assert, and (2) doesn't pertain at all to Virginia. Whatever the "Via Media Steering Committee" is, it had nothing to do with starting the four Virginia continuing congregations. You have no Virginia evidence because you're peddling a falsehood.

To get away from your distracting attacks and address the subject of settlement more generally, there are two ways that one can encourage settlement.

First, one can let bygones be bygones and simply say that right now, settlement of at least some of these cases should be possible and is the best thing to do (as a matter of theology, practicality, etc.). I could wholeheartedly get behind that.

Second, one can spout CANA talking points that (inaccurately) place all the blame for litigation and non-settlement on the Diocese and TEC, describe the litigation in a way that fails to acknowledge the reality of Virginia law and how the litigation actually stands, and (without evidence) belittle the continuing congregations as mere shadows. I find it very revealing that both you and Dan Van Ness (and his still-in-TEC cohort) have chosen the second path. I don't know the R-9 folks, but they show some of the same signs unnecessarily -- to the detriment of what they profess to seek.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE! I can no longer be silent about the misrepresentations made in this post (and many others). My husband and I were among those members of The Falls Church who did not want to separate from the Episcopal Church. After much consideration and prayer, we decided on our own to begin a congregation of continuing Episcopalians--our first service took place in our living in January 2007.

NEVER were we approached to start a "shadow" church nor did we even discuss this issue with the Bishop or any member of any group before the vote to separate. I have never heard of this Via Meeting group and since those "minites" are so poorly written and deals with issues that in 2005 weren't even seriously considered, I am pretty sure that it is a bogus document. No where is there any mention of Virginia, anyway.

SO...
Right now, I have my hand on my Bible in front of me and I swear to all of you that our parish, which has been and continues to be the continuing congregation of The Falls Church (Episcopal), was never asked to be a part of a litigation strategy, is not a "shadow" congregation, has had no financial support from the Diocese or anyone else (in fact we have supported the Diocese for last past 4 years, something the other church did not), did contact the Diocese to provide us with a priest in January 2007 when we couldn't in good conscience continue to worship at the departing congregation, and are a viable and strong parish.

Enough of these misrepresentations and lies. And please, please stop being so un-Christian to those of us who still worship as an Episcopalian. We are not devil-worshippers or the "gay church" as so many has called us. We are Christians, who love the Lord and care about our communities, our parishioners and our spiritual life.

Robin Fetsch

Wilf said...

Robin,

bb here may not be speaking of Falls Church. After all, it's the largest of these groups. I do believe from a reliable source, however, that for at least one of these churches, there was an attempt at formation of a group which didn't come from parishoners of that church.

jschwarz42 said...

Yesterday at Pre-Council I spoke against R-9. I will do so again and vote against it at Council, if survives the Reconciliation Committee. I would vote for R-8.

As a retired litigator, I find R-9 quite mischievous. Now I am all for PRIVATE CONFIDENTIAL settlement discussions between the parties. These take place in all litigation and I would frankly be surprised if they have not happened (or are not happening) already. But to PUBLICLY petition the Diocesan leadership to essentially drop the litigation and settle it at any cost, regardless of what is given away (which is actually what this calls for if you read it carefully, although it is pleasantly worded) would be enormously "unhelpful" to the litigation process - including serious settlement plans. Presumably the Diocese wants certain results from this litigation, otherwise they should never have pursued it. If there was a way, which Truro et al would agree to, whereby the Diocese could settle in line with its basic bottom line expectations, I am guessing we would have a settlement already. The Diocese needs to trust its leaders and legal team and not try to publicly undermine them during such a conflict. This resolution, if passed, will certainly not bind the Diocesan leadership, but will muddy the waters and make real confidential negotiations (which are always delicate) more difficult - assuming both parties are interested in such negotiations and there is a realistic basis for them at this point.

It is all well and good to talk about "negotiation" and " reconciliation" in general terms. My guess however is that when the submitters (and bb) talk about "a bilaterally beneficial" or "win-win" outcome, what you are all really talking is about something along the lines of: the departing congregations all get to keep all the property, and maybe they give some kind of large or small monetary pittance to the Diocese in settlement compensation (without of course admitting that the Diocese ever had any legitimate ownership claims). That certainly would not be an acceptable outcome (short of being required by legal judgment) for the continuing episcopal congregations, whose churches they (and most of us in the Diocese) see as currently "occupied" by those who departed TEC, who want those churches back so they can go back to worshiping in them, and who are (as was strongly stated yesterday, and contrary to the gratuitous assertions in the "background" section of R-9), more than willing and committed to financially resume responsibility for those properties. It should also not be acceptable to the Diocese. If it was, they should never have started the litigation, because I am sure they could have worked out a settlement along those lines at the start.

- John

jschwarz42 said...

[Part 2] The most interesting thing about the two resolutions is who signed them. R-9 is not signed by a single one of the continuing parishes, who actually are the ones with something concrete at stake. But many people from those parishes (such as Falls Church and St. Stephen's) instead signed R-8 (which does not try to tell the Diocese what to do but merely "affirms our continued support for the Bishop in his leadership to preserve Episcopal properties for the mission of the Episcopal Church by all available means" - and such "means" might well include by negotiation).

R-9 by contrast is signed mostly by members of some of the most conservative parishes remaining in the Diocese, who (on web pages and elsewhere) publicly and unequivocally support the theological stance of the breakaway CANA congregations. That obviously is their privilege, and they are to be praised for their public honesty. But this resolution did NOT originate from a cross-section of moderate mainstream churches who simply want to do what is right for the Diocese. These are those few churches who are the friends of the departed congregations but have remained Episcopalian (often while rather noticeably publicly holding their noses in print).

Now, I grant you, this is a cool political tactic - and you have to admire it. Suppose you are the departed congregations. If it looks like (realistically, no matter what you say in public) the litigation is not going your way on the issues remaining after the Va S. Ct., then what could you do? Well, you could try what all litigators (if they are honest) know is the last refuge of those with a weak legal case on the merits, and try belatedly to get a jury trial of issues that are plainly inappropriate traditionally for jury trial. So that didn't work. Then, at least as a great public relations and political ploy, you could ask all your friends who are still in the Diocese to cobble up a nice little resolution, to be decided and hopefully passed at Council, to petition the Diocesan leadership to give up all this "destructive" litigation (which you are likely to lose if it moves on to conclusion) and work solely on settling the case at any cost (without of course specifying any minimum conditions that would need to be met in any satisfactory settlement!).

Now this tactic is also great for your conservative friends who would bring the resolution. Because THEY are looking out and seeing the possibility that there might be same-gender blessings coming down the road in the not too distant future; and if so they might want to leave themselves, and, if they did, they would obviously dearly love to also take their property with them (as you did). But, if the litigation goes all the way to judgment, and you lose (which is looking kind of likely), then there will be a big fat precedent standing there that departing congregations do NOT legally get to take their goodies with them. And that would, as a practical matter, make it very difficult for your friends credibly to try to take their property when they leave, at that point. BUT, if you bring sufficient pressure to get a settlement by which you get to keep the property in what your friends describe disingenuously as a "bilaterally beneficial outcome", then there will be no legally determined precedent on record. But there WILL instead be now the informal non-legal "precedent" established that these things should be settled "amicably" by departing congregations keeping their property. And it would be much harder for the Diocese at that point credibly to refuse to deal with new churches that might want to leave in the same way that they had dealt with the original CANA churches. Pretty cool strategy. But I am sure, that is not the way it was at all....

- John

Lapinbizarre said...

Excellent analysis, John.

Anonymous said...

Of particular note is the almost total absence of any lay delegates as sponsors of the two resolutions. It is the laity and their children who will pay for the litigation.

Who speaks for them?

RalphM

BabyBlue said...

That is correct, Wilf. A representative from the Diocese of Virginia - a vicar of a nearby church - was charged with calling Truro and requesting to know who did not vote to separate. Since the votes were by secret ballot that information was not known. But the diocese was able to identify individuals at Truro who voted not to separate and were contacted by the diocese about their willingness to form a shadow congregation. The diocese negotiated with a nearby Presbyterian Church to house the shadow congregation. However, the Truro members declined the diocese's request and have remained as active and vital members of the community.

I do hope our friends at the Falls Church Episcopal - and many are friends - have an opportunity to read the minutes from the 2005 meeting. We are separated because of a great deal of pain - this was not an overnight sensation, but happened over many many years. To take any steps, even baby steps forward, it will need to be done in prayer. That includes me too! One of the ways I have been working on it is to make a list of things for which I am grateful.

One was that I was approached by a member of the Falls Church Episcopal at one of the recent hearings in the Fairfax Circuit Court. We had a great exchange and I left after talking with her feeling like, okay, maybe we can find our way forward, with baby steps. But at least steps.

And even having the opportunity to see David Booth Beers reach out to Bishop David Bena with warmth I have never ever seen him do in all the years I've encountered him again helped me visualize what it could be if we gave this a chance.

I don't know if we can go back and redo the past. But perhaps we can stand where we are and pause, just pause and prayerfully seek the Lord's kindness and compassion that we might be able to extend that kindness and compassion with one another, not because we are right, but because we've been forgiven.

bb

Anonymous said...

I as being arch this morning. I sort of liked my idea of passing both resolutions on the theory that the net result is an affirmation of the status quo. But it isn't getting a lot of traction in the thread, and, on further reflection, particularly in light of John's comments, I guess I should be a bit less flip. Like John, I am no stranger to litigation, and, if I were the Diocese's attorneys, I would view R-9 as an attempt to tie their hands at a time when I had all the advantage in the litigation context. Sometimes a client just has to let the lawyers do their job and do their duty. Part of that duty is always to be alert to a settlement that serves the interests of the client. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Diocese's attorneys have exhibited that alertness at all phases of this litigation. They are skilled and honorable people.

John is absolutely correct that one can perceive mischievous intent behind R-9. I think he outlines it pretty clearly. I have every reason to believe that attorneys for both sides have channels open to a reasonable settlement and that those channels have not lain totally fallow since the Virginia Supreme Court issued its ruling. But one can clearly perceive that R-9 isn't just about confirming what already has happened. If taken more seriously and literally than I have taken it, it would compromise the ability of Diocesan litigators to achieve a just result based on where things stand post-Supreme Court ruling and post-the denial of the jury trial request.

Ralph - I am a lay member of The Falls Church, and I am very content to see R-8 sail through. It's too bad about the cost, but it was a cost imposed on the parish and the Diocese when those who left refused to relinquish the property. The alternative of simply acquiescing in that kind of behaviour would be far more costly. The costs are accruing to both sides, by the way. Knowing well some of the firms on both sides, my guess is that the Diocese is getting far more bang for its litigation buck than the people who left.

BB: This reconciliation idea is very nice, but it really took off here when the inevitable legal result got very close. I would feel much better about the depth of the concern if you could lose the stuff about the shadow parishes. That really undermines the appearance of sincerity about finding a mutually beneficial settlement and makes this recent turn toward calmer talk seem like some sort of tactic along the lines suggested by John and David.

Scout

BabyBlue said...

That is a good point, Scout, I think that is correct that I should stop using the phrase "shadow congregations" and perhaps a better phrase might be "Episcopal congregations." I take that to heart.

bb

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BabyBlue said...

Sorry Anon, but Hagrid got up from his table and tossed you not through the door but through the window. So we are taking estimates to find out how much it's going to cost to replace the window. Hagrid suggests that you may want to redo Junior High School - it apparently did not take the first time.

bb

Anonymous said...

Thank you, BB, but it's not just the nomenclature. You placed the charge of Shadow Parishes "stood up" by the Diocese fairly prominently in your post and then dug in on that position with DavidH. It seemed very important to you to push forward that position in a context seemingly devoted to amicable resolutions.

Let's be clear. The Diocese of Virginia did not "stand up" phony parishes. The parishes that continue after the departure of people who joined CANA are the same parishes that existed before the split. They did not vote to extinguish themselves and the Bishop did not disband them. Some of these parishes have been around for a very long time (centuries in the case of The Falls Church). Their numbers are depleted by the departures and they miss many of the people who left. But they are indeed "continuing" parishes.

So terminology is important, and I thank you for not shying from the term Episcopalian (without pejorative embellishment) on a going forward basis, but not banging the counter-factual propaganda drum about these parishes being Potemkin creations of the Diocese is the real issue.

Scout

ettu said...

Robin Fetsch - thank you for your heartfelt testimony - I have read much here and elsewhere and find your personal story to be very imortant in all this and that it confirms that which I suspected all along - regards ettu

BabyBlue said...

There does seem to be evidence of a great deal of anger, even rage - some of it I see in deleted comments I've sadly had to make here. I am of the opinion that litigation inflames the rage (we are family, after all) - this is why I expect Judge Bellows basically ordered the parties to engage in the process "in good faith."

I think again that's a charge for us all. Instead of just one side telling the other side what to do or what's wrong with them, what would we suggest our own "side" as it were could do to help open up the possibility of peace resolution?

bb

jschwarz42 said...

Re: R-9

"And though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge...."

- John

BabyBlue said...

That is precisely what Judge Bellows said he would not have in his court room. As much as I am sad about the litigation now underway, the good news is we have a non-cynical judge and he will not tolerate such games in his court room. Perhaps that is the way the Lord will work, one way or the other.

But at what cost? It's not only a major financial cost of millions, but it's also many others costs as well. Why not diligently pursue the avenue of mutual resolution? I know there are folks reading this who are considering it - and I earnestly encourage us all to pray fervently for them and for each other, that we may find a way through that builds each other up in Christ, strengthens His ministry in us, restores relationships between us, and offers hope to broken world. Why not start here?

bb

Anonymous said...

Mutual resolution short of going the full court route will have to, I think, concentrate on four elements: 1) restoration of assets as they existed at the time of the occupation, compensation to the Diocese for uncompensated use in the interim, 3) fair value credit to the occupying group for contributions to maintenance and upkeep during the occupation; and 4) reasonable assistance in terms of continuing use during transition to new quarters. I think you could build something fair to all along those lines. There also may be some variations from parish to parish. I used to think that a fair settlement might include the sale of Truro to the departing group (sale price would include payment to the Diocese of fair rental value over the period of occupation less credit for upkeep), but, given the historic position of Truro in the Diocese of Virginia and as part of the history of the Commonwealth, the farthest the Diocese could responsibly go would be a lease that protects Episcopalian access to the property for religious use.
Such a lease and shared use migh provide opportunities for the kind of joint mission and other programs that BB is championing.

Scout

Anonymous said...

ettu: re your 0755 comment - Robin Fetsch and her husband Bill have given unselfishly of time and energy to be bulwarks of support and leadership of The Falls Church in very difficult times for the parish. In the Historic Church there are plaques on the walls honoring clergy and leaders for their service to the parish going back a couple of hundred years. I very much hope (and I think it would be very appropriate) that in a couple of hundred years from now, parishioners will see a plaque there honoring Robin and Bill for their selflessness in the time of grief and despair.


Scout

jschwarz42 said...

bb: But it is not only in Court that people play games. They can also play "extracurricular" games (quite beyond the purview of Judge Bellows) by disingenuous and mischievous attempts to influence the court of public opinion and to undermine and weaken their litigation opponents' position (including negotiating position).

R-9 is fairly transparently, although subtle and deceptively innocent-sounding in its mischief, such a "game" being played on the Diocese - for all the reasons I stated earlier. And that was the thrust of my quote (which was, I recall. one of several pinned to my wall back in college, a million years ago, shortly after the album first came out). But "it’s alright, Ma, [we] can make it!"

- John

Wilf said...

Robin Fetch,

You can easily find the document to which bb refers by googling some of the terms. See the case above in bb's post of the attempt at creating a Truro Episcopal parish by the diocese.

"Enough of these misrepresentations and lies. And please, please stop being so un-Christian to those of us who still worship as an Episcopalian. We are not devil-worshippers or the "gay church" as so many has called us."

Robin, in my experience, what frequently happens is something like this - some orthodox blog claims that there is a problem with worship of deities forbidden in the Old Testament in TEC (e.g., see the Melnyck case) - an Episcopalian gets angry and accuses that blog of implying that ALL Episcopalians are paganists worshiping heathen gods - another links to that blog and says, "see, they are lying about us" - when the first post did not in any way intend to insinuate that all Episcopalians are involved in pagan practices (had the author been careful, he probably should have added, to avoid confusion: that in all likelihood, if any, there are probably very, very few such Episcopalians).

If you find some examples of actual "lies," this is probably not a bad place to bring them up - they should be investigated. I have investigated some of the claims of TEC loyalists regarding "lies" - the most compelling is that the Chapman memo reveals deceit, since it shows that some people were thinking about concrete options should they decide to leave TEC. So they seem to have been less loyal to TEC than it might have been assumed. Others shouldn't be called lies, really - e.g., Iker is sometimes called a "liar" because he encouraged people in his diocese to consider leaving, but in the opinion of some, did not do enough to warn them of possible consequences of litigation. Also, as no quotes were provided, it's difficult to assess the case.

All in all, at least regarding TEC, I don't find ACNA people to be really involved in lies, to the extent that I have researched. But I could be proven otherwise; I'd need evidence, though.

Re. "lies" from TEC: Jim Naughton told the national press that people from ACNA churches do not wish to worship with gay people. This was said rather generally, i.e. pretty much a blanket statement about all of them. I have yet to meet a single ACNA person who does not wish to worship with gay people.

In a way, this can be understood. These are statements made in the fog of war. If you like peace and don't like war, it's best to avoid Anglicans completely. None of the other Trinitarian churches have hit the profunditity of denying Christ that we Anglicans have. It's best to worship in peace, and to acknowledge Christ.

Anyways, if you have actual evidence of lies about TEC, I'd be interested in seeing it. I could be wrong in my assessment re. ACNA in that regard.

Wilf said...

I should qualify about the Naughton quote - it was said in sort of an offhand, insinuating way, so many would find "wiggle room" for him since he didn't actually say it directly, though the insinuation was extremely direct. Here's the quote for your own evaluation: "I think this organization does not have much of a future because there are already a lot of churches in the United States for people who don’t want to worship with gays and lesbians" - source is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/us/04episcopal.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&hp -

This isn't just a blog posting, or by a layperson - it's a Canon who's giving a quote to the international media, knowing it will be spread the world over. And it was - googling for the phrase shows 232 results still indexed by Google, even though this is 2 years old and Google tends to drop older pages from its index - you can check here: http://www.google.be/search?q=jim+naughton+%22don%E2%80%99t+want+to+worship+with+gays+and+lesbians%22&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=com.ubuntu:en-US:official&prmd=ivnso&ei=m3AsTdidHYrRhAef6ZCqCQ&start=0&sa=N
He's a Canon of Communications, so he knows very very well where such a quote will go, and how people will interpret it. This is no innocent mistake, it's spin aimed at projecting the view that ACNA people hate gay and lesbian people.

Anyways, fog of war, etc. etc.., people do ill-advised things. But I think both sides of this debate would do well to call out their own sides when they are engaged in making deceitful statements. DavidH, for example, is far from being a TEC loyalist, he's quite adamant about the necessity of reform for TEC. But he's here calling bb on a lot of things, with other sides to the story of the VA litigation. I'm very happy to see that. It means that at least some critics of TEC have a high investment in truth.

I don't recall any TEC loyalists at the time calling Naughton to the carpet for this NY Times quote.

Anonymous said...

Scout,

This is why a negotiated settlement is so difficult: there is little consideration of the final outcome. Your four elements of an envisioned "resolution" can be summarized as "pay back rent and get out".

With the exception of perhaps one church, there are insufficient TEC members to sustain the physical plants. If TEC "wins", either through negotiations or the courts, the end result is that the properties will have to be sold. In that scenario, these properties will not be preserved for future generations of Anglicans of any flavor. (Perhaps some token use of the properities could be negotiated with the new owners.)

You may wish to make hopeful statements about growth but that has not been the record to date.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

RE: "BB: This reconciliation idea is very nice, but it really took off here when the inevitable legal result got very close."

Of course, that's a dead lie. BB has been banging the drum about reconciliation for the past seven years.

And I've been pointing out to BB for the past seven years that we don't need "reconciliation" in the least, but rather an adjudicated outcome in the courts, diocese by diocese, parish by parish by parish.

And that is what we shall have.

The proponents of the two gospels cannot be reconciled, nor should we wish to be so other than, of course, the usual "reconciliation" that occurs when folks do non-church things periodically -- a tennis match, or serving in inter-faith activities, or whatever.

But regardless of that -- BB has been incessantly banging the drum about reconciliation for years, and for Scout to say otherwise is, of course, not-surprising, but still a lie.

I personally hope that there will be no mediation or whatever -- and as I wagered above, there won't be. Too much fear and rage from the revisionist TEC activists against the leavers and the competitors for that. And it's all to the good.

Should TFC end up back in the clutches of the revisionist activists, we already know the outcome anyway -- the same outcome that we are seeing all over TECusa in the plummeting stats. Should TFC end up remaining in the hands of the traditional Christians, that'll be cool too. Either way, it's all good and I'm not sweating it.


Sarah

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't forget that both sides honestly and with some justification believe that they have a claim on the property. The departing ADV congregations believe that TEC diverged dramatically from the historic faith and that it would now be unrecognizable to the many people who financed, built and worshiped in their facilities for generations. They also believe that deeds naming the congregation and not the Diocese as owner provide legal justification for their claim.

On the other hand, the Diocese and four continuing Episcopal parishes believe that the Episcopal church can change over time and still be itself. Further, the congregations worshiping in those buildings have until very recently identified themselves as Episcopalian which means that those preceding generations assumed that the property would remain in the Episcopal church. In support they will cite national and Diocesan canons that say that all property is held for the benefit of the Diocese. Finally, they are also confident that their interpretation of trust law will be upheld by the courts.

Neither position is unreasonable. There will at some point be a judicial decision that gives the property to one or the other group. But that reality does not mean that the losing side has no important claims to an interest in the property.

In fact, I believe that it is most accurate to say that both sides have a reasonable claim to an interest in the property.

A negotiated settlement, in my opinion, would necessarily acknowledge those multiple interests. That means that whichever side keeps possession in any negotiated settlement would have to compensate the other side. Presumably some, at least, of that compensation would go toward helping the group that does not retain possession to purchase its own facility.

As long as our positions are that the other side seeks to steal what can only be considered ours, there will be no negotiations. Until we recognize that this position fails to respond charitably and with grace to our brothers and sisters on the other side, we will carry on with this public, shameful and scandalous litigation.

Dan

Anonymous said...

Sarah - not sure what a "dead lie" is, but a common understanding among reasonably literate people is that a "lie" is an intentional utterance of a proposition known to be factually false stated for the purpose of misleading others. So I guess I skate free on this charge.

I don't go back seven years with BB. I like her and enjoy her site. In the two or so years I have followed this, most of the posts have not been particularly geared toward putting these parishes back together. In the past couple of weeks, however, this has been the subject of a couple of posts. I am pleased to stand corrected, now, however, and to find that that has been a recurring theme for many years.

Scout

DavidH said...

Wilf, BB's brief statement about Truro proves nothing. She doesn't say if Truro "stayers" had contacted the Diocese. She doesn't say how she knows what contacts the Diocese made or how she knows the nearby vicar didn't have the idea of increasing his own flock rather than starting a Truro Episcopal congregation. And maybe most obviously, the fact that no Truro Episcopal congregation was created at the time belies the idea that the continuing congregations are somehow mere creations or stooges of the Diocese.

Sarah, what a thoroughly unBiblical view. Or is there a translation of the New Testament in which one can find the command to fight to the death when another does us wrong? And I think the volume of BB's settlement fervor has pretty clearly had an inverse relationship to the legal position of the CANA folks.

Dan, your comment doesn't bear much relationship to what Virginia law actually is. It's really not that complicated. Leaving the question of the 57-9 statute aside, at least some of the CANA folks have absolutely no reasonable claim to the property.

Anonymous said...

CANA has advocated negotiation since before the lawsuits were filed by TEC/DioVA. This has been stated publicly and repeatedly, and has been put to TEC/DioVA's legal representatives. The answer has always been the same. TEC/DioVA is not interested.

The "fervor" is related to the prospect of dumping many more millions of $$ into legal fees.
Regardless of the outcome, all will have lost as these court battles continue.

RalphM

DavidH said...

Ralph, your first sentence would be far more accurate if it read:

CANA has advocated negotiation since after it filed lawsuits and so long as the negotiation results in the property going to CANA.

Steven in Falls Church said...

David H -- Two words for you:

Standstill Agreement

TEC and the Diocese expressly agreed to negotiate, and walked away and filed lawsuits. Why would the Diocese sign a document agreeing to negotiate, and then not negotiate?

BabyBlue said...

DavidH - you are a regular here. You can ask questions.

You write:

She doesn't say if Truro "stayers" had contacted the Diocese. She doesn't say how she knows what contacts the Diocese made or how she knows the nearby vicar didn't have the idea of increasing his own flock rather than starting a Truro Episcopal congregation. And maybe most obviously, the fact that no Truro Episcopal congregation was created at the time belies the idea that the continuing congregations are somehow mere creations or stooges of the Diocese.

The Episcopal vicar from a neighboring Episcopal congregation who called Truro was very open and honest (she had attended Truro in earlier days) and said she had been appointed by the bishop to call Truro and find out who had voted not to separate. She asked for their names but the vote was by secret ballot so were not known. We were told by members who did publicly say that they voted to separate but decided to remain in the congregation that they had been contacted by the diocese and asked if they would be willing to form an Episcopal congregation. We were told by the pastor of the local Presbyterian church that he was contacted by the diocese to see if he'd be willing to have his church host the congregation and he said he would. However, those that voted to separate did not want to create another Truro Episcopal congregation. Many remained in the CANA-affiliated congregation and some moved to other Episcopal Churches. There are several not far from Truro.

Let me know if you have any questions. The point now is - now what do we do? Can we commit ourselves to pray and see if we can find a non-litigious way forward?

bb

DavidH said...

Steven, I think that's been covered on other threads.

BB, so what's wrong with any of that?

Anonymous said...

Sarah - I may have misinterpreted your earlier statement. I thought you might be accusing me of personal mendacity and my counter was based on that assumption. However, it occurred to me overnight that a "dead lie" may be a golfing term (I do not golf - so excuse me for missing the allusion). If that was your meaning, I should not have thought your comment intemperate.

Scout

Anonymous said...

David H, the point of my post was not to discuss VA law, but to point out that the expectations of people on both side are understandable. In less litigious times, they are ones that could be respected in a negotiated settlement.

You say that VA law is not complicated and point to Green v Lewis. I don't want to get into legal arguments here, but when the court proceedings begin, I believe that we will find ADV parishes able to show that their situations are substantially different than the church in Green, beginning with the wording of the deeds (something the Green court relied heavily on).

Dan

Anonymous said...

DavidH:

My statement above stands and is accurate as written.

CANA can maintain the properties. DioVA cannot. As I have stated before, should CANA prevail in the courts, I will personally advocate in my own church that the Episcopal remnant be given generous access. This was under discussion until DioVA and TEC filed their suits.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

If you are serious about reconciliation, negotiation, and peaceful resolution, you will cease to refer to The Falls Church Episcopal, St. Stephen's Episcopal, Epiphany Episcopal Herndon, and St. Margaret's Episcopal of Woodbridge as "shadow congregations". It is insulting and unproductive to treat faithful people who are finding their way through this morass and chose to remain in the Episcopal Church and continue their congregations this way. These are real churches who are members of the Diocese of Virginia who serve living, faithful people every day of the week.

Wilf said...

DavidH,

If what bb writes is true (and I myself don't doubt that it is), it does put aside the allegation of "lies" in the first comment, this was why I posted my remark regarding the attempted formation of Truro Episcopal.

One might ask what the value of some of these efforts, such as the attempted Truro Episcopal, is apart from to function as litigants or bolster the legal case, especially when it is the case that there are a number of Episcopal churches nearby.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:47 and others,

Regarding the term "shadow" congregation, I believe you are correct. while it has little to do with a negotiated settlement, the Episcopal church remnants are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are poorer by their absence.

While the formation of such congregations was part of a suggested strategy back in 2005, there is no clear evidence that the continuing Episcopal congregations have that as their overriding goal. It is not our place to interpret their motives.

RalphM

BabyBlue said...

That is a very positive thing to say, Ralph. :)

bb

jschwarz42 said...

Re: "While the formation of such congregations was part of a suggested strategy back in 2005, there is no clear evidence that the continuing Episcopal congregations have that as their overriding goal."

I think we need a certain clarification here. There are two issues (1) the allegations (about which I know nothing other than what I have read here) that the Diocese tried to "recruit" Truro parishioners to form a continuing parish and (2) the case with the actual continuing Episcopal parishes which exist today. Assuming arguendo (as we lawyers say!) that the Diocese did as said in the case of Truro, I would see nothing wrong with that on the part of the Diocese, and it would have been perfectly appropriate (IF it happened, which I don't know). But that is a red herring.

Obviously no continuing parish was in fact successfully reconstituted in regard to Truro. So that has actually nothing to do with the issue which was originally raised on this thread: which alleged that those continuing parishes who do actually exist today were somehow "set up" by the Diocese as a litigation strategy. We have had here the first-hand witness of parishioners from at least one of those parishes that their formation was an initiative among the parishioners themselves (although clearly they have received assistance along the way from the Diocese - and from other parishes including my own). I have seen nothing beyond speculation and rhetoric to dispute that witness. And today those parishes I know about are thriving and increasing in strength, based upon the commitment and work of their own people (contrary to the gratuitous slander in the Background to R-9). What may or may not have happened with Truro is totally irrelevant to how we should see the ACTUAL continuing parishes such as The Falls Church. To say that "there is no clear evidence" that being a part of a "strategy" was "their overriding goal" says far too little; and is in a quite unwarranted way damning them with faint praise.

- John

Anonymous said...

John,

My comment is about the way we refer to those continuing Episcopal congregations. If you would bother to take my comments in total, you would see that I'm not damning anyone.

RalphM

Wilf said...

John, re.:
'Obviously no continuing parish was in fact successfully reconstituted in regard to Truro. So that has actually nothing to do with the issue which was originally raised on this thread: which alleged that those continuing parishes who do actually exist today were somehow "set up" by the Diocese as a litigation strategy.'

No, John - it is evidence that the Diocese did attempt to set up at least one parish in such a manner, and therefore establishing the likelihood that other such parishes were so set up. We have one example of where this did take place (albeit unsuccessfully); and one where it did not (Falls Church).

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is with the phrase "set up." If the Diocese were to support Episcopalian worshippers in parishs where large numbers left for other denominations, I would think it an entirely wise and proper thing to do.

Scout