Thursday, October 06, 2011

Twenty-First Century Excommunication: You're not Anglican, says the Episcopal Church to congregations that split over its liberal doctrinal and political stances

Just in from the Wall Street Journal:


The former Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY.
When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque.

The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn't been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she'd rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

The Episcopalian congregations that want to break away are part of a larger movement of Anglicans world-wide who are concerned by the liberalism of the official New York-based Episcopal Church on sexuality and certain basic tenets such as Jesus' resurrection. Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in "broken" or "impaired" fellowship with the more liberal American church.

In 2009, breakaway Episcopalians in the U.S. and Canada formed the Anglican Church in North America, which now reports 100,000 members in nearly 1,000 congregations. This group has been formally recognized by some Anglican primates outside of the United States.

Bishop Jefferts Schori says this new Anglican group is encroaching on her church's jurisdiction, and she has authorized dozens of lawsuits "to protect the assets of the Episcopal Church for the mission of the Episcopal Church." The Episcopal Church has dedicated $22 million to legal actions against departing clergy, congregations and dioceses, according to Allan Haley, a canon lawyer who has represented a diocese in one such case.

Now the Episcopal Church has upped the ante: It has declared that if congregations break away and buy their sanctuaries, they must disaffiliate from any group that professes to be Anglican.

All Saints Church in Rosedale, PA
Rather than agree to this demand to disaffiliate from Anglicanism, Pittsburgh's All Saints Episcopal Anglican Church last month walked away from the building it had inhabited since 1928. The congregation called the Episcopal Church's demand "mean-spirited" and an attempt to deny "the freedom of religious affiliation."

Some other Episcopalians have opted to disaffiliate rather than lose their buildings or spend years in expensive litigation. Two breakaway congregations in Pennsylvania and two in Virginia have promised they will not affiliate with other Anglicans for five years.

For Anglicans, affiliation with a bishop is essential to their identity and to being part of a church. A disaffiliation clause means that bishops can't make their annual congregational visits to perform baptisms, confirmations and other rites integral to the life of the church, and they can't encourage or discipline priests. The congregation meanwhile can't work with local and national church bodies on disaster relief, youth retreats or educational seminars. Clergy members' insurance and pensions are uncertain. And congregations can't advertise that they are Anglican or contribute the traditional 10% tithe to the local branch of their denomination.

"It's unconscionable for a Christian to impose such a condition on a fellow Christian, telling them who they can and can't worship with and who they can and can't affiliate with. That violates every Christian precept I know of," said Mr. Haley, citing St. Paul's admonition against Christians suing each other in secular courts.

"We can't sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business," said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that "no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy" of the Episcopal Church. Indeed she has no complaint with Muslims, Baptists or barkeepers buying Episcopal properties—only fellow Anglicans.

The archbishop of the break-away Anglican Church in North America, Robert Duncan, says his group has no interest in replacing the Episcopal Church. He says he has encouraged participation with Episcopal Dioceses and recently blessed a priest who wanted to return to the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Duncan says that while the ongoing litigation over property is "unseemly and scandalous," the new disaffiliation clauses are even worse: "You can ask me to give away what I have and I'll give it away. But don't demand of me that I abandon the tenets of my faith."

Read it all here.

31 comments:

Anam Cara said...

When you're the emperor, you don't care what the court of public opinion says.

Dale Matson said...

BB,
Excellent article. Too bad it was in the Wall Street Journal and not the NY Times. TEC and KJS are not winning the PR wars with the "Uncommitted voters". TEC is a church that sold it's soul to the god of relevance, only to become irrelevant.

Patrick said...

The article quoted Alan Haley: "It's unconscionable for a Christian to impose such a condition on a fellow Christian, telling them who they can and can't worship with and who they can and can't affiliate with. That violates every Christian precept I know of[.]"

Of course it is. But the whole point of this thing is that TEC (at least when it comes to the senior leadership) is no longer a Christian body, isn't it? I mean, let's face it. What are the real, private beliefs of most TEC leaders at this point? They deny the virgin birth (and thereby that Mary was theotokos, which essentially denies the incarnation as orthodoxy understands it.) They deny the resurrection. In at least some cases (but maybe not all) they deny the existence of a personal, theistic God altogether. They deny the unique efficacy of Jesus' work on the cross for the redemption of mankind. They deny the bodily resurrection, the second coming, judgment. They deny the authority of scripture, Old and New Testament, the basics of scriptural morality. In fact, they deny so much that it's pretty hard to figure out what they affirm. Some mushy stuff about inclusive love, so far as I can tell. Oh yeah, and the Democratic Party Line, by ... ahem ... god (capitalization intentional.) It's enough to make me want to start making bracelets for the kids to wear: "What Would Paul Say?" But, of course, they deny him too. (I suspect Paul is probably grateful for that.)

But we all know the problems with TEC. The point I want to make is... why is Alan Haley, or anybody else, surprised when moral depravity, mean-spiritedness, and vicious behavior follow apostasy? You don't have to read the New Testament for long to come away with the distinct impression that what we are seeing now is exactly the sort of behavior that we ought to expect. Whether it's "abortion is a blessing" (thank you for making that so clear, Katherine Ragland!) or the celebration of "sexuality" (at any time, in any form) or love of money and position that expresses itself by suing departing congregations to prevent them joining other denominational bodies, it all rises from hearts that have deliberately and in full knowledge of the truth turned their backs on God. They're now showing their true colors, and we shouldn't be surprised.

That's not to say that there aren't good people and good churches and even good bishops left in TEC. But it's pretty clear to me that they are outnumbered and not in control of the denomination and certainly not in control of the seminaries.

Sad.

P

Patrick said...

Doh, the "abortion is a blessing" quote came from "Katherine Ragsdale", not "Katherine Ragland."

P

Dale Matson said...

Patrick,
Excellent summary. Too bad they don't have a new statement of faith reflecting those values and dropping the 39 article and Nicene Creed. I prefer the way you spelled her name in your original post. I knew who you meant and it sounded less like yours truly.

Andy said...

Christ taught us that we'd be known by fruit of our lives.

"It's unconscionable for a Christian to impose such a condition on a fellow Christian, telling them who they can and can't worship with and who they can and can't affiliate with. That violates every Christian precept I know of[.]"

Understanding this, can the institution be expected to act in any other fashion?

Andy said...

Off topic... Mary, I love the Cafe's new layout, its top shelf.

Kelso said...

As far as I can tell, the Episcopal Church is now composed of two wings: Holy Roller and Heathen.

There may be a few Christians wedged into the cracks here and there, but not many.

All the real Episcopalians left long ago, taking the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with them.

BabyBlue said...

Thanks, Andy :)

bb

TLF+ said...

Dale Matson's current post at "Soundings" confirms BB's long ago "Remember the Arapaho" post. By trusting the ABC's promises and pronouncements, the Communion Partner Bishops and others effectively grouped themselves in camps easily targeted for eradication.

Anonymous said...

I find the quote of the Presiding Bishop the most revealing,'"We can't sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business," said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that "no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy" of the Episcopal Church.'

The language of business and competition shows a mindset more American and capitalist than Christian. If people are being led to Christ - REGARDLESS OF THE CHURCH - she should be rejoicing. Some of my greatest experiences came from "outside the brand" of Anglican. This strikes me as a cultural captivity of mind and imagination of the leadership of TEC. This is reinforced by her "job statement". I doubt Archbishop Duncan would have given the same job description.

There is also the embedded assumption ACNA wants to "put TEC out of business". I would rejoice at the revival of TEC and they are doing a good enough job right now of putting themselves out of business. RWK

TLF+ said...

And of course this points out the lack of a core message - it was "Preserve assets for future Episcopalians" when that seemed cool; now it's OK to dump those assets as long as it's not to a "business rival." So she'll see how that plays and then revise accordingly.

Anonymous said...

perhaps there should be a class action against TEC over disaffiliation as a form of descrimination.

Anonymous said...

How hard can it be to disaffilate, anon 1757? You just go to another church. No muss, no fuss. But the Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina are, as I understand it, remaining within the Episcopal Church. Disaffiliation has nothing to do with it.

Scout

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

Oops, there goes Hagrid - sorry Anon, but Hagrid has just tossed you out of the Cafe. And it seems it wasn't through the door, but through the window.

Sweeping up the mess,
bb

Ed McNeill said...

Hargid stopped me from flaming Anon. Thank you Hagrid! Anon clearly has not only drunk the cool-aid, but drained it!

Anonymous said...

TEC knows they have the support of the ABC in all this as the ABC rejects Windsor to keep KJS in the councils of the Communion even at the cost of faithful Archbishops of the GS finding it impossible to stay on the Standing committee..... the ABC is a key part of the 'inch at a time' strategy of revisionists...... never mind, people in the US and in England are voting with thir feet.....

Anonymous said...

How did this writer come to the conclusion that these departees had worshipped in this church since the late 1920s? I'm a bit skeptical. She doesn't elaborate on that. And I found nothing that links back to the idea of "excommunication."

Scout

Anonymous said...

increasingly, I am not bothered by KJS or the ABC....... these people have taught their revisionist stuff....result in the US and the UK is the same....hardly anyone attending today......nobody attending revisionist churches in not too many years ..... most of the AC is not wasting its time ith KJS, the ABC et al.... there is important work to be done and millions interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ...... faithful people in TEC, don't worry if you lose buildings etc, however unfair it may all be, you have important work to do...whether you do it from a rented school room or a fine old building, it is the work that matters...and it will last

Anonymous said...

increasingly, I am not bothered by KJS or the ABC....... these people have taught their revisionist stuff....result in the US and the UK is the same....hardly anyone attending today......nobody attending revisionist churches in not too many years ..... most of the AC is not wasting its time ith KJS, the ABC et al.... there is important work to be done and millions interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ...... faithful people in TEC, don't worry if you lose buildings etc, however unfair it may all be, you have important work to do...whether you do it from a rented school room or a fine old building, it is the work that matters...and it will last

Dale Matson said...

I was told by a friend who remained in my former TEC congregation that Bishop Lamb told him that the TEC strategy was to get the property back and the people would come back with it. How's that for the materialist minds of the TEC Bishops?

Anonymous said...

If that is the strategy, Dale, it's essentially the same strategu as that of the departing factions: that many people will follow the property. That certainly explains why so many departees have clung to the stick and bricks while at the same time asserting that they're leaving. The more rational, traditional, and less ethically compromised position would be simply to go and start one's own church with its own facilities (or join another with which one is comfortable).

Scout

Dale Matson said...

Scout,
"If that is the strategy, Dale, it's essentially the same strategu [strategy] as that of the departing factions: that many people will follow the property." I don't believe the departing parishes and Dioceses considered leaving with the property a "strategy". To say that property is what the departed were really loyal to is to put your own legal mind template on reality. This has been your spin on things on many of your posts. Now that TEC leadership has driven out the conservatives, they are going after the conservatives within TEC. At least cannibals only eat their enemies. This is not about "sticks and bricks".

Anonymous said...

I don't say that the departing parishioners were "loyal" to property, Dale. I do say that many of them planned their actions in a way that included claims to the property. Since the traditional remedy for departing a church with which one is uncomfortable is to simply depart, and that remedy has the benefits of expedition, low cost, and avoidance of conflict with those who do not depart, I recommend it as an option. In my particular parish (which may or may not be typical) the departing folks definitely contemplated that they would have greater support for their plan to leave if they could retain control of the physical property and accounts of the church, as opposed to having to start afresh. When I look around the country, I see a lot similar fact patterns playing out, although I don't know the details well enough to know the motivations of the departees in every case.

In our particular case, I think events bore out the perceptions on this (i.e., that more people joined the departing group given that they took control of the buildings than would have been the case had they simply decamped), although by now the costs of laying claim to the property have probably exceeded the costs they would have incurred had they simply started a new facility elsewhere. And the issues that attend their claims remain in costly litigation.

By the way, I'm very "conservative" myself, and I've seen no indication that anyone is trying to remove conservatives from my parish or diocese. If I pick up any of that, I'll probably move to a different denomination, but I won't try to take stuff when I leave.

Scout

Dale Matson said...

Scout,
You continue to assert that you are a conservative yet your focus is on how parishioners should leave not why they left. How about commenting on the polity or theology of TEC leadership too.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Scout a few posts below speaking approvingly of the DioVA authorizing SSBs so long as they did not use the word "marriage". I'm at a loss as to how that is conservative theology. Is this the use of "conservative" like some TEC universalist bishops claim to be "orthodox"?

BabyBlue said...

Anon a few posts up - no, I don't think TEC has the support of the ABC on their actions. That may be why they are making the choices that they are making - not because they have his support, but because they do not. Remember, The NEW Title IV canons fundamentally now REJECTS the understanding that the "communion" are those dioceses/bishops in communion with Canterbury, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Rowan Williams by current leadership of TEC and its advocacy groups.

bb

Anonymous said...

Anon 1414: your recollection is faulty. I said nothing resembling what you recall I said. You may be mis-remembering a comment I made in response to BB announcing that the Diocese of Virginia had approved same-sex marriages. I questioned whether that indeed was what had happened, particularly given that same=sex marriage is not permitted by civil authorities in Virginia. I am quite sure that I have consistently stated that Christian churches are under no compulsion to accept same-sex marriages.

Scout

Anonymous said...

I believe that is trying to change the subject. I do not question whether a particular church can be compelled by the state to accept SSMs or SSBs. Though general convention or the diocesan bishop could presumably do so. Your posts below quibbled over the meaning of marriage versus blessing. But there is nothing to suggest in your posts that you do not approve of what the DoVA is doing, you only complain of how the news was characterized. The clear implication is that you approve of the Diocese's actions. I invite anyone to read and judge for themselves - see the postings in question under "Seven Episcopal churches authorized by bishop to perform same-sex marriages in the Diocese of Virginia" below. Perhaps we have misunderstood, though - if you disapprove, then say so plainly and tell us what you are doing to oppose it.

My point is that it is neither conservative nor orthodox for the DoVA to permit SSBs. Many of those in TEC (for example, the TEC congregations that have been established as "remnants" in places like Falls Church, VA) seem to wish to say so, though, or to conceal how widespread it is, I suspect out of fear of continued loss of membership and funds. We see this all the time. Well, they are free to say what they like, but I don't think many people are fooled.

Anonymous said...

I think I was much closer to the subject of the post than your last comment, Anon1038. But while we're way off-topic, I'll engage on your latest points. I disagree that continuing Episcopal congregations such as The Falls Church have some sort of monolithic view either on same-sex marriages or same sex blessings (If that was what you are saying - it wasn't crystal clear to me) . My experience is that there are different views among parishioners, some in direct opposition to both same-sex marriage and same sex blessings, some who would support the latter and not the former, some who haven't given it a thought, and some who do not object to either. I'm not sure where that gets us.

This post was about a peculiar op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal concerning negotiated settlements where departing groups agree to remain independent of ACNA as part of a compromise over use of church property. I thought it somewhat ill-informed, but the comment chain relates to the article. Just to accommodate you, however, (an not because I think it relevant), I am opposed to religious same-sex marriages (what the state does on this is a different issue governed by different constraints). The "blessing" issue is not something on which I have a fully formed opinion. I am uneasy about it and I am concerned that my Church is skating a bit close to the edge on this. I have been thinking a good bit about it over the past months. I guess it depends on what the "blessing" is blessing. If it is a committed friendship between persons of the same sex, I don't have a problem with that. My dogs, boats and houses have been blessed by priests, and a strong, loving friendship is at least as valuable as those things. If the blessing is a glorification of sin, that doesn't fly with me, any more than I would approve of a blessing of heterosexual fornication (not that anyone is proposing that, as far as I know). I'm watching to see how that issue develops. If you're that interested in my opinion on it, I'll let you know when it gels. In the meantime, I feel quite confident that I can be a conservative, traditional Christian within the Episcopal Church without any fear that someone is going to run me out on a rail for thinking conservative traditional thoughts, and enjoying conservative traditional music and liturgy (the pop mass at the ACNA/CANA church in my town drives me nuts - entirely too liberal for me. as is the idea of claiming property when one leaves to go to another religious affiliation).

Scout