Saturday, June 30, 2012

The June Ruine: Seven Episcopal Bishops "charged with misconduct" just days before General Convention

UPDATE: Bishop Dan Martins of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield responds at his blog, Confessions of a Carioca.  Here is an excerpt:

Bishop Dan Martins
I cannot presume to speak for any of the other eight, but I need to be clear that my intention in attaching my name to the amicus brief was in no way to affect the outcome of that case. As the Bishop of Springfield, which is in Illinois, it is no concern of mine how a property dispute in Texas is resolved. If my action has the effect of aiding one side or the other, that is, from my perspective, an immaterial consequence. Rather, I took the action I did with the best interests of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Springfield, as nearly as I can discern them, at heart. My principal concern was to not leave unchallenged the assertion that the Episcopal Church is a unitary hierarchical organism at all levels, and that the dioceses are entirely creatures of General Convention. I viewed signing the amicus brief as consistent with my vow to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church. 

Read it all here.

It's official: The Episcopal Church jumps the shark.

Best guess for the reason they are actually are doing this and doing this right now - just days before General Convention begins - is that the leadership is in complete chaos.  Bonnie Anderson and Katharine Jefferts Schori put forward two competing budgets, then did a major switcher-roo on the Executive Board and Bonnie Anderson threw in the towel.

Not a little angst is now filling many leaders in the House of Deputies towards the House of Bishops (many are still steaming from 2006 when Bishop Schori took the unprecedented action late in that General Convention to march onto the floor of the House of Deputies and plead for the deputies to change their pending vote her way - right, and no, many are not so happy lately about her new Chief Operating Office, Bishop Statcy Sauls, who has been lobbying the House of Bishops to call for a Constitutional Convention before Bishop Schori flies the coup in 2015).

The HoB/HoD list serve has been a portrait of chaos, with the activists using it for their usual strategic maneuvers to lobby the list remnant for their latest radical twist (and yes there is a doozy).  But the main focus has been budget, budget, budget and it's not very pretty.

So what do we have just days before General Convention begins?  Why a massive witch hunt (ever wondered why Dorothy went on a witch hunt?) to stir up the townsfolk to forget about the mess TEC is in and get the attention to look else where - exactly!  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Seven bishops have been charged with misconduct for having endorsed a friend of the court brief prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute in the Diocese of Fort Worth case. 
On 28 June 2012, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert. Suffragan Bishop of Dallas, the Rt Rev William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, and the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas were informed they had been charged with misconduct.

Did they miss anyone?  Oh yes, there is one not yet on this list who no doubt is being saved for dessert, saved so that he may get his just desserts by the litigation long knives.

In a U.S. election we wait with great anticipation for the October Surprise, but apparently in the Episcopal Church it's called the June Ruine.  Remember, Gene Robinson was elected - you guessed it - in June 2003.

“As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas in opposition to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas and The Episcopal Church. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,” Bishop F. Clayton Matthews wrote to the seven bishops.

You know, I remember when Clay Mathews was once the Suffragan Bishop of Virginia.  He was kind and gentle and wise.  How he ends up left holding the bag to lend his personal gravitas is, quite simply, sad.  He was once friends with John Howe, back in the day, back before the dark times, before the Empire.

The bishops have not been notified with violation of the canons they have committed, but Bishop Matthews’ notice refers to the pleading they endorsed in the Diocese of Fort Worth case presently before the Texas Supreme Court.

Of course not.  They have to make sure the press release gets out in time before General Convention kicks off so that all the momentum shifts from the big-time doo-doo to "let's get the conservative tar baby back out for one more roll."  It would be one thing if the Empire could think up a new strategy forthwith, but they don't, they keep using the same play over and over, even as $millions drain out of the Episcopal coffers.  Bringing Clay Matthews to kick the tar baby back out before General Convention denotes the fact that this is right out of any DC political activist's playbook.

What have they done wrong?  Nothing.  They exercised their freedom of being a citizen of the United Sates of America and expressed their opinion that the litigators financed by the office of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is incorrect in their filings against the Diocese of Ft. Worth.  So much for freedom!

What is Bishop Schori and her litigators going to do - depose them all?   Is it hoped that the chaos of factions now breaking out all over General Convention will tidy up and mind their manners?  So much for that that "I in you and you in me" Ubuntu stuff.

The 29-page brief stated that attorneys for that national Episcopal Church sought “to establish an alternative authority to that of the diocesan bishop” in their pleadings, which they said was contrary to the church’s Constitution and Canons.

What it all really means is resistance is futile. 

Read it all here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tonight at the Cafe: Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Sheltering in place while fierce storms go by.  This song came to mind - so grab your flashlight, your pets and loved ones and sing along:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Episcopalians prepare for General Convention

From here:

Next week Episcopalians will be gathering in Indianapolis, IN for the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Meeting July 5-12, they will be facing a challenging agenda that includes authorizing liturgies for same-gender "lifelong covenants" as well as a likely rejection of the Anglican Covenant proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
The proposed liturgy for the same-gender lifelong covenants called "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant," will be used on a trial basis in dioceses until the next General Convention if it is affirmed in Indianapolis.
Bishops and Deputies of The Episcopal Church General Convention are also facing a divided church over the final authorization of a national budget, where in an unprecedented step earlier this year, both the Presiding Bishop and the House of Deputies President presented two competing budgets to the Executive Council, the interim body assigned the task of oversight for the church between General Conventions.
Other agenda items of note will be the election of a newHouse of Deputies President to replace Bonnie Anderson who recently announced that she would not seek another term. A new Vice President will also be elected.
Elected at the 2006 General Convention in Columbus, OH,Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will not complete her term until the next General Convention in 2015. A Search Committee for the next Presiding Bishop will be appointed at the Indianapolis Convention.
Read it all here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

HTB Leadership Conference: Talks are now online

Get thee hence and listen to the terrific talks on leadership brought to us by the Holy Trinity Brompton Leadership Conference that was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London in May.  The talks are fantastic and they are FREE online.  There are audio and video talks available to all.

Check out the talks here.  A great talk I listened to this morning is called Turning Vision into Action with Alpha International head Tricia Neill and Alpha CEO Rebecca Stewart - a must listen!

You can learn more about turning your vision into action here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"If you are stuck on a line, just say what it is you want to say"

From here:

“I learned so much from Bob Dylan,” says Tom Petty. The Heartbreakers toured as Dylan’s backing band from 1986 to 87. “He gave us a kind of courage that we never had, to learn something quickly and go out on stage and play it. You had to be pretty versatile because arrangements could change, keys might change, there’s just no way of knowing exactly what he wants to do each night. You really learnt the value of spontaneity, of how a moment that is real in a concert is worth so much more than one you plan out.”
Later, Petty and Dylan collaborated in the Traveling Wilburys. “We’d sit down together and write lyrics. What a privilege. I remember he said to me, ‘If you are stuck on a line, just say what it is you want to say, and don’t worry about the metre or the rhyme or anything. Just write down the sentence, and then find the key words and, wallop, you’ve got the line.’ He tended to write many more verses than we needed, and sometimes maybe in the seventh verse something would pop up that was better than anything in the first three. George (Harrison) once told me ‘Bob makes Shakespeare look like Billy Joel’. He was joking, but Bob is so far above the rest of us. He is the wandering minstrel, the travelling troubadour and his gift is so great.”

Friday, June 22, 2012

Today at the Cafe: Sometimes what's on hand is all you need

Backstage before the Jimmy Fallon Show: Jimmy, Carly Rae Jepsen, and The Roots grab some instruments you'd find in an elementary school classroom and perform Call Me Maybe.  Sometimes what we have on hand is all we really need.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

President denies request for federal disaster funds

From here:

In 1984 seventh-grader Andy Smith wrote to President Ronald Reagan formally requesting federal funds to clean up the mess after his mother declared his room a disaster area.  President Reagan responded to the request with the following letter:

Dear Andy:
I'm sorry to be so late in answering your letter but as you know I've been in China and found your letter here upon my return.
Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem: the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case your mother.
However setting that aside I'll have to point out the larger problem of available funds. This has been a year of disasters, 539 hurricanes as of May 4th and several more since, numerous floods, forest fires, drought in Texas and a number of earthquakes. What I'm getting at is that funds are dangerously low.
May I make a suggestion? This administration, believing that government has done many things that could better be done by volunteers at the local level, has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems.
Your situation appears to be a natural. I'm sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3,000 already underway in our nation—congratulations.
Give my best regards to your mother.
Ronald Reagan

For more letters from Ronald Reagan click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today at the Cafe: Prayers for a Friend


Dear Friends,

We are very grateful for all of your prayers and love and support these past two, very intense, weeks.

Elizabeth and I just saw the Doctor for a post-operation follow up and discussion of the pathology report.

The surgery was a success! All of the tumor is gone. Given the nature of the tumor she will have periodic visits and MRIs to make sure there is no recurrence. Her next MRI is in 6 months.

The facial nerves will take 3-9 months to heal. The auditory nerve, which is highly sensitive will take longer. Or it may never heal this side of glory. For all you prayer warriors out there, feel free to go toe to toe with that nerve!

We are filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. And we thank you all who prayed for Elizabeth and our family; we know that many of your carried us in your heart. Your intercessions buoyed us and made the burden lighter. We were never afraid.

We have so many communities that we love and carry inside of us: HTB, Asbury, Diocese of Mid- Atlantic, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Virginia Baptists, St Mark's Coptic, Roman Catholic Diocese and so many others (even our Muslim friends) who reached out to us these two weeks. But we give a special heart-felt thanks to the saints of Truro. We love you Truro and are grateful for all the care and concern you have shown us. As a body, you have the gift of intercession and prayer. As a community, you hold heaven and earth together. Our bond with you is deeper than ever. There is nothing like, or more beautiful, than the body of Christ!

We have drawn closer to Christ and continue to seek his will in this episode and all that we put our hand to in the work of the Kingdom. We are all the more committed to the call and prayer of Christ for his Church in the world.

Your brother in Christ,

Tory Baucum

We have been buoyed and encouraged by all the prayers, intercessions and love that has come to us through you, our parish family. I brought Elizabeth home today from the hospital.  The surgery appears to have been a success.  Though we still await some lab reports, Elizabeth is doing well.  She is now being given physical therapy at home which will continue for the next few weeks. We still request yours prayers. Lots of love to all, The Rev Tory Baucum


Late Saturday Afternoon: Prayer continues.   Thank you all so much for your prayers - the Lord is good, so very good.  Next 24 hours critical.

From Tory:
Surgery over
Dr pleased
I'm grateful 
Next 24 hrs key

A dear friend Elizabeth will be in surgery this weekend - we are praying for you and your amazing family.

NEW UPDATE - Prayers continue - Surgery now back on for Friday and Saturday.  More info here and here.

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study
and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of
disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit,
that by their ministries the health of the community may be
promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ
our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort your
servant in her suffering, and bless the means made use of
she may be afraid, she yet may put her trust in you; through Jesus
for her cure.  Fill her heart with confidence that, though at times

Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Anglican Unscripted: Updates include news from the ACNA Provincial Assembly and commentary on Supreme Court's passing on Episcopal Church property case

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court denies certiorari on Gauss and Timberridge

From here:

The motion of St. James Anglican Church, et al. for leave to file a brief as amici curiae is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.


More background info here.

UPDATE: Anglican Curmudgeon now has his commentary up here.  Curmudgeon writes:
The result today for church property law is regrettable, because it means that the morass of State court decisions interpreting Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595 (1979) will remain unresolved, with some States allowing certain churches to bypass their legal requirements for the creation of a trust, and with other States requiring that all churches comply with their local trust laws. Thus the outcome of any church-parish dispute over property will continue to turn upon the State in which it arises: if the parish is in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York or Ohio, it will most likely lose its property; but if it is in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire or South Carolina, it will most likely keep its property. And if it is in Kentucky or Pennsylvania or Virginia, then the courts could hold that any national trust canon is ineffective to create a trust, but still find that a trust existed anyway.
Fortunately, the denial of review will have little or no bearing on the three pending property lawsuits involving entire dioceses which left the Church (Quincy, Fort Worth and San Joaquin). That is because the Church's Dennis Canon has no application to real or personal property owned by dioceses. Furthermore, the fact that the Supreme Court declines to review a lower court's decision is not a judgment on the merits -- it does not mean that the Court views that case as having been correctly decided. Its net effect, therefore, will be to leave the various States' results exactly as they are.

Read it all here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How to worship when you've lost your place of worship

Truro Church last Sunday, Fairfax, Virginia

The Rev'd Dr. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Church, offers an outstanding sermon on worship from last Sunday's special service of celebration - a must-listen for Anglicans and Episcopalians and anyone else who has ever wondered wondered, "if it were only true."
Scriptue Readings: 1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15; Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 413-5-1, Mark 3:20-35.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Remembering Assembly 2012

Here are some "snapshot moments" from the Anglican Church of North America Provincial Assembly.  It drew adult and youth delegates from dioceses and organizations across the United States and Canada and included visitors from The Episcopal Church, The Church of England, and Anglican provinces from around the world.  To God be the glory.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court slated to consider appeal this Thursday

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:  The Supreme Court has denied review - update here.

Scotusblog has the scoop here.  Anglican Curmudgeon has his thoughts here.

Gauss v. The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America

Docket: 11-1139
Issue(s): Whether the First Amendment, as interpreted by this Court in Jones v. Wolf, requires state civil courts to enforce an alleged trust imposed on local church property by provisions in denominational documents, regardless of whether those provisions would be legally cognizable under generally applicable rules of state property and trust law.

Certiorari stage documents:

In addition, the Timberridge Presbyterian Church also is petitioning the Supreme Court on Thursday:

Timberridge Presbyterian Church, Inc. v. Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Inc.

Docket: 11-1101
Issue(s): Whether the “neutral principles” doctrine embodied in the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment permits imposition of a trust on church property when the creation of that trust violates the state’s property and trust laws.

Certiorari stage documents:

Read it all here.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Today at the Cafe: When the Ship Comes In

Yes, this is over on the sidebar, but it just seems fitting to end the ACNA Provincial Assembly with this offering of Bob Dylan's When The Ship Comes In performed by theologian N.T. Wright.  Can being Anglican be any cooler than this?

N.T. Wright Sings Bob Dylan from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Live from Ridgecrest: The ACNA Provincial Assembly 2012

Watch live streaming video from anglicantv at

anglicantv on Broadcast Live Free

ACNA Provincial Assembly Legislative Session
FRIDAY UPDATE: What a fascinating day - very full with the big teaching sessions as well as workshops.  One of the highlights frankly for me was lunch today where I sat at a table and we had intriguing conversations on the writing of the new Prayer Book, discussion of the Filioque Clause, and a lively discussion on women's ordination.  It was too much fun - no really, it was because the nature of the conversation was lively but respectful and filled with lots of laughter.  I downloaded a book on my Kindle Fire while the discussion was underway called, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission.

Tonight I am attending a gathering put together by Anglican TV which brings us the weekly Anglican Unscripted as well as the news site Anglican Ink.  Tomorrow is the final day with the Closing Eucharist and a sermon by Bishop John Guernsey.  Stay tuned!

AU's Kevin Kallsen and George Conger
LATE FRIDAY: Back in the room after three terrific gatherings.  First up, stopped by the Anglican Unscripted meet-up and enjoyed the conversation with Kevin and George about "all things Anglican."  Then headed over to the Trinity School for Ministry reception and a fun time of meeting new friends and swapping stories with old friends.  So much fun seeing Truro alumni like Neil and Marcia Lebhar and Richard Crocker as well as Steve Noll.  Neil and Marcia serve in the Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic where Neil is the bishop.  Richard Crocker is the rector of St. James Newport Beach, CA, and Steve Noll told me that he is not retired and is still making the trek back to Uganda.  No one looks like they are slowing down any time soon.

Also was able to catch up with Martyn Minns, former rector of Truro and Bishop of CANA.  He is now at the London Office for GAFCON and life has not slowed down for him either - no, not by a long shot.

One of the things that is very cool is there are many Episcopalians who are here with us as well - some are here at exhibitors and some are here seeking possibly to join and many are here as friends and supporters.  It is so good to see that bridges are still strong between so many Anglicans and Episcopalians and that has been encouraging to see - thanks be to God.

Then finished the evening with an impromptu gathering with members of the Diocese of the South.  There are just so many interesting people here with fascinating stories and another Truro alumni was there, Bill Midgett, rector of Christ the King Anglican Church in Winchester, TN.

Tomorrow there is still one more full day with more workshops and the closing Eucharist.  Thanks to Anglican TV we will continue to bring it live. The Closing Eucharist begins at 11:00 a.m. EDT.  God bless you all!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

If it's Wednesday, we're at Ridgecrest

View of Ridgecrest as I walked to session.
Today the Provincial Council met and I spent most of the day working on some videos and meeting up with delegates as they arrive for the Provincial Assembly tomorrow.  Kevin Kallsen and George Conger are here, as well as delegations from dioceses all over the country.  I am running into old friends from Truro which is a great delight - you never know who you are going to run into as you walk around a hallway corner!

Bishop-elect Steve Wood
Great news as good friend Steve Wood is elected bishop of the brand new Diocese of the Carolinas.  Steve is one of the original Alpha Course Regional Advisers when Holy Trinity Brompton brought the Alpha Course over to this side of the big pond in the mid-1990s and we met at one of those early gathering of advisers back when when he was still in Ohio.  It is very exciting to see someone so committed to evangelism rising up from the next generation of leadership.

Please do keep him and his family and the wonderful folks at St. Andrew's Mt. Pleasant in your prayers.  To God be the Glory!

Archbishop Bob Duncan's address from this morning is now online and you can read it all here.   Among the things he reports on is this:
"Yesterday, the College of Bishops adopted a three-way protocol (PEAR, ACNA, and PEARUSA) that effectively gives PEARUSA participation as if it were a diocese of this Church.  Moreover, today this Council will be asked to approve a diocese in formation (called Christ the King and centered at Houston, Texas) composed of former AMiA congregations. In other parts of our two countries (Canada and the US) congregations that have been AM congregations are associating with existing dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop Todd Hunter of Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) has joined us as a bishop with special mission and two of our dioceses have given “cover” to two other Anglican Mission bishops and their congregations – with a third bishop and network in conversation – as their relationships to the AM gets sorted out."
Archbishop Duncan talked of the "deepened commitment to repentance and reconciliation" recognizing how "PEARUSA has modeled this behavior for us all."  He went on to say:
"We owe an immense debt to Bishops Glenn and Barnum and those who have led alongside them, for breathing this into our common life in a new way. I am not faultless in the AMiA breakup. We are not faultless in the sad events of these last years. The Anglican Church in North America emerges from the challenges of this last year with repentance on our lips and a desire to restore broken relationships in our hearts. Any Church with these desires stirred up within it is a Church wonderfully blessed. To God be the glory."

Here is Archbishop Duncan's Presidential Address:

Steve Wood elected bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas

Good news from Ridgecrest - from here:

Steve Wood
Ahead of Assembly 2012, members of the Anglican Church in North America College of Bishops gathered in Ridgecrest, N.C. The meeting began with Morning Prayer and a time of Bible study and was undergirded by the theme of spreading the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

The bishops in attendance prayerfully considered and approved the election of a new bishop, The Rev. Stephen Wood, rector of St. Andrew’s Church-Mount Pleasant, S.C. Wood has been serving as vicar general for the Diocese of the Carolinas, a diocese in-formation within the Anglican Church in North America.

Among the other items on the agenda was a discussion of the intent to form new dioceses, plus updates from the Prayer Book & Liturgy Task Force, the Catechesis Task Force, and Anglican 1000. A formal statement was also adopted on the rules of the College of Bishops and a protocol relating to PEAR USA and the Anglican Church of Rwanda was adopted unanimously.

Officers were elected for the upcoming year, including The Rt. Rev. Donald Harvey, who will continue to serve as dean of the College of Bishops, and The Rev. John Cruikshank, who will continue to serve as secretary.

We thank you for your prayers for our leaders as they gather and ask that you continue to lift up the meetings taking place this week in Ridgecrest. The next meeting of the College of Bishops will take place in January.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

It's Tuesday and we're here at the ACNA Provincial Assembly

Ridgecrest, North Carolina site of the ACNA Provincial Assembly

Getting ready to head down to the ACNA Communicators Meeting this morning.  You can keep an eye on developments both here and Twitter - the Twitter feed is also located on this page as well.  The hash tag for the conference to follow others here is #Assembly2012.  Stay tuned!

Afternoon Update: Great gathering with the ACNA Communicators.  Some are here at Ridgecrest and some are with us via Skype.  The College of Bishops are also meeting today - in fact they are meeting next door to the Communicators Meeting.  Delegates for the Provincial Council are starting to arrive as well.  I will try to take some pictures later on and post them.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Greetings from Ridgecrest!

Greetings from Ridgecrest, a retreat center located in the Blue Ridge of western North Carolina. Over the next few days, we will be seeing a gathering of bishops, clergy, and lay leaders from all across the United States and Canada as they come together for the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church of North America. Kevin Kallsen and George Conger will also be here along with a host of old friends and new friends from all walks of life.

Yesterday I arrived with two friends after a nearly eight-hour road trip (with a stop at Starbucks in Winston-Salem) and we headed straight for the dining hall where we saw a members of the Executive Council and Archbishop's Council of Advice who had also just arrived in preparation for their meetings today. More arrived today and I've run into Hugo Blankingship, Scott Ward, Bill Atwood, Phil Ashey, Julian Dobbs
, Archbishop Duncan, John Guernsey, Sam Thomsen, Keith Ackerman, David Anderson, Julian Dobbs, David Roseberry, Martyn Minns and Neil Lebhar who just arrived off a plane from Israel.

It is interesting to have a legislative gathering in a retreat center. The environment here is so focused on prayer and hospitality and with the mountains and simple life here it is quite a contrast from all those Episcopal General Conventions. Serious business will be done, but at the same time there seems to be a lot of effort underway that this would be not only a time of governance but a time of renewal to do the work God calls us to do.

I will be sharing pictures and videos and observations while I am here. Please do pray for all those who are coming, for safe travel and for wisdom and discernment and that it would be a time to build new friendships, renew old ones, and prayerfully seek the Lord first, in fact, let's play that one now and thank you so much for your prayers!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Tonight at the Cafe: God Bless Queen Elizabeth II

This week's episode of Anglican Unscripted

This week's Anglican Unscripted is action-packed with Kevin, George, Peter, and Alan bring you the latest Anglican News. Kevin and George discuss the corruption of the "Anglican Communion Standing Committee" and the "Anglican Communion" office, rewriting the rules yet again for the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council. They also bring the latest on the betting odds for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Peter brings news of Diamond Jubilee and Women Bishops in England. Alan delivers the lastest supreme court news from The Falls Church. Check out the latest!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Falls Church Anglican Appeals to VA Supreme Court/ VA's Attorney General joins appeal over charitable donors' rights

From here:

FALLS CHURCH, VA (Friday, June 1, 2012) - Today, The Falls Church Anglican filed a Petition for Appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court, asking that Court to review and overturn the decision of Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows in the lawsuits filed by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Judge Bellows ordered The Falls Church Anglican to transfer to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia all of the church's real property, approximately $2,800,000 in funds contributed by its members prior to 2007, and most of its personal property (bibles, hymnals, furniture, etc.). The Attorney General of Virginia today filed a brief in support of the church's request for review of the trial court's treatment of funds contributed by donors.

The church's Petition requests review on a number of legal and constitutional grounds. At the broadest level, the Petition shows that the trial judge failed to follow the Virginia Supreme Court's 2010 directive to resolve this church property dispute by "application of neutral principles of law"- principles "developed for use in all property disputes" - and instead justified transferring the church's property based primarily on the denomination's internal canons. The trial court's ruling thus violates the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions by giving a denomination unilateral powers to override civil laws, powers not granted to any other entity, whether religious or secular, in Virginia.

As the Petition explains, the trial court's ruling also violates the Constitution by allowing the denomination's and diocese's canons to apply retroactively and to govern historic property that The Falls Church acquired before it joined the denomination-indeed, before the denomination or diocese even existed. The history of The Falls Church and its deeds makes its claims especially strong compared with other cases that have come before the courts. The Petition also seeks review of the trial court's failure to recognize the important distinctions between the church's consecrated property (property used for actual worship services, primarily the Historic Church and Main Sanctuary) and its unconsecrated property (all other property). Even under the trial court's legal analysis, such unconsecrated property is exempt from the scope of the denomination's and diocese's canons and should not be subject to transfer.

The Petition also focuses on the approximately $2,800,000 in funds that the trial court ordered transferred to the Episcopal Diocese. That ruling fails to respect the clear intent of the donors of those funds, who have strongly indicated for a number of years dating back to the late 1990s that the funds they contributed to the church were never to be given to The Episcopal Church nationally or the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The Attorney General of Virginia, who has responsibility under Virginia law to protect the rights of charitable donors, filed a separate brief requesting that the Virginia Supreme Court review this aspect of the decision in order to protect donor rights. It is hoped that the Virginia Supreme Court will be no less concerned to protect the rights of charitable donors in Virginia than the Attorney General has been.

The Vestry of The Falls Church Anglican voted unanimously to proceed with the filing of the church's Petition for Appeal because both the interests of justice and the vestry's duties as stewards of these resources support seeking review of the judge's decision by a higher court.

Another significant consideration supporting this decision is the currently pending requests of two congregations, an Anglican congregation in Connecticut and a Presbyterian congregation in Georgia, for the U.S. Supreme Court to review their cases and clarify the applicable legal standard for such church property cases. The Supreme Court's decision whether to review one or both of those cases is expected in mid-June. A decision by that court to grant review could have a significant positive impact on this appeal.

The Falls Church Anglican leadership's efforts to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia had been unsuccessful. The Diocese had made it clear that they would agree to allow the congregation to retain only a few hundred thousand dollars while the Diocese would take more than $2,400,000 of the funds in question and all of the real property, in exchange for the congregation surrendering all rights to appeal. However, the filing of the Petition for Appeal does not necessarily bring the possibility of a negotiated settlement to an end. It is possible that, while the church continues its effort to pursue a just decision, the Diocese could become willing to return to discussions about an equitable out-of-court resolution.

When considering this decision, parishioners recalled St. Paul's determination to appeal his false arrest in Jerusalem and trial at Caesarea to the Emperor in Rome. He judged that to use the legal system of his time was appropriate and in no way compromised his faith. Paul's purpose was simply to be a faithful steward of all that the Lord had entrusted to him, above all the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. The purpose of the Falls Church Anglican is the same, following its motto-"that Christ be King in our lives and in the lives of others"-and its prayer that "all of the resources that God has entrusted to our care over the years would be used only and always for this purpose."

Read it all here.

The so-called "Standing Committee" of the Anglican Communion meets in New Zealand ...

And what a waste of time and money.  Read the releases here.  And step away from sharp objects.

So what can we do - ah, in times like these ...

A Great Divorce

Emily Belz reports for World Magazine:

The Falls Church main church now stands empty.

FALLS CHURCH, Va.—Churchmen founded The Falls Church before the colonists founded the United States, in 1732, as an Anglican church that gave the city of Falls Church, Va., its name. Founding Fathers like George Washington once sat in its pews. At the time, Episcopal and Anglican were not distinct terms. The Episcopal Church, in fact, didn't officially exist. But today they are most definitely distinct factions in northern Virginia.
After five years of court battles between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its Virginia congregations that have broken away to join the Anglican Church in North America, a court has ordered The Falls Church Anglican congregation out of the red-brick colonial property. That means a congregation of 4,000—who voted to separate from TEC over doctrinal issues—is handing valuable church property to a 75-member Episcopal congregation representing the remnant who want to remain in the liberal TEC. Departing Anglicans must find borrowed meeting places in local middle schools and Baptist churches.
The Falls Church story has repeated itself around the country as more than 100 congregations have left the shrinking TEC because of the Episcopal leadership's increasing distance from orthodox theology. Courts have mostly ruled in favor of TEC, awarding property to the originating denomination after lengthy lawsuits—even as most of its members are moving on, or some would argue holding on, to Anglicanism. But when TEC wins property disputes in court, it sometimes has no parishioners left to use those churches.
"It was like a divorce," said John Yates, who has been rector of The Falls Church for 33 years and now leads the Anglican congregation. Five years of legal battles have exhausted and saddened Yates, but the Anglican church is growing faster than ever, planting four churches and counting in the last five years.
Michelle McCarten, the children's choir director with the Anglican congregation, knows that The Falls Church is just a building, but her childhood memories are all tied up in the place. McCarten was baptized at the church and spent her entire upbringing there. She went to college, lived in Connecticut for a few years, then came back to The Falls Church to follow in her mother's footsteps and be the children's choir director.
A few years ago, McCarten's father dropped dead while he was out on a run, and she recalls that members of the church stayed close to her and her mother during that time, doing more than bringing meals. When she thinks of home, "I think of the church before I think of where my mom lives," she said. She and her mom had close friends in the church who decided to remain Episcopal after the split, and they've grown somewhat distant. "These are people that we have worshipped with—" she said. "It's very tender right now so we can't talk about it. We can talk about anything else."
The schism opened up, as it did across The Episcopal Church, with the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson, an open, practicing homosexual. But it climaxed at the Episcopal Church's General Convention in June 2006, when the church elected as its presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has said that Jesus is not the only way to God. She and other church leaders have called into question basic Christian tenets like the physical resurrection of Jesus, and have supported Robinson's consecration along with other gay clergy.
In December 2006, The Falls Church almost unanimously voted to break away from TEC and join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which is under the authority of the Anglican province of Nigeria. Here was The Falls Church, where slaveholders worshipped in colonial days, placing itself under the authority of an African archbishop.
The TEC diocese maintains it was not the "aggressor" in bringing the property claim to court because The Falls Church filed a record of its vote to break away from the church in court. But the Anglicans said that was a record they had to file in court to have any chance of keeping the property. After the 2006 congregational vote, the diocese abandoned a tentative agreement on the property—an agreement the diocese said would have never gained approval, despite ongoing negotiations. The Episcopalians filed a lawsuit for the property in early 2007. It's been a messy divorce.
Five years of litigation began, piling up $4 million in legal fees for the Anglican congregation. The Falls Church Anglican won its case initially, but then the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against the Anglicans and remanded the case, and the same judge who had earlier ruled for the Anglicans ruled against them. The Anglicans may appeal again to the state Supreme Court, but they aren't optimistic that the ruling would change.
Under the final court ruling the Anglican congregation had to turn over the church property, which the longtime parish administrator Bill Deiss valued at $40 million to $50 million. The Anglicans also had to pay the Episcopalians $2.8 million, the amount of money on the books when the Anglicans separated from the Episcopal Church.
The Anglican church has almost no reserves now, only a two-week cushion, but Deiss noted that the breakaway congregation is both generous and relatively affluent. At the last service at The Falls Church on May 13, the congregation gave about $330,000, Deiss said, nearly triple what the church normally collects on a Sunday.
The Virginia courts awarded six other Anglican church properties to TEC, and three of them have no Episcopal congregation left to use the properties. The diocese may sell some of the properties, said Henry Burt, chief of staff for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, but he said it would not sell The Falls Church or another historic property, Truro Church, for which the diocese has no congregation. Truro's Anglican congregation is still meeting there, under an agreement with the diocese requiring that the Anglicans pay for the upkeep.
TEC has sold some other properties it has won in court over the last few years, but Jefferts Schori has forbidden selling property to Anglicans. In a recent interview with NPR, she described the Anglican congregations as "competitors." (Her spokesperson said she wasn't available for an interview for this article.) "I've had two principles throughout this," Jefferts Schori said. "One, that the church receive a reasonable approximation of fair market value for assets that are disposed of; and, second, that we not be in the business of setting up competitors that want to either destroy or replace the Episcopal Church." She hasn't enforced these two principles in all cases: In 2010 the Diocese of Central New York sold a property it won from an Anglican congregation to a Muslim awareness center for well below market value.
The Falls Church Anglican at worship.
On Sunday, May 13, Yates preached through Romans 8 during The Falls Church congregation's last service, urging his congregation to be patient during the coming period of inconvenience. "Some of you will find this inconvenience annoying, upsetting, and you just don't want to mess with it," Yates told the congregation. "We have to ask the question, 'Will we be committed to Christ and committed to our church?'" He read Thomas Paine's famous passage on "sunshine patriots" written during the Revolutionary War. "I don't want to be a sunshine Christian," Yates said. "Will you commit yourself now to no complaining? No grumbling? ... If we're going to navigate truly big challenges that we may face one day, let's face this one without complaint."
At the service, five babies and one father were baptized. The congregation sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," belting the line, "Let goods and kindred go ..." One of the clergy prayed for the Episcopal congregation, that it care for "this consecrated place" and preach the gospel. Grown men cried during the last song, "In Christ Alone," as everyone lifted their arms in the air.
Jim Long, who has attended The Falls Church since 1988, stacked chairs at the end of the service and shrugged when I asked whether he was sad about leaving. One difference he saw was that in these new rotating meeting places, he would have more chairs to set up for the service, and then take down at the end of the service. "Life will go on, we'll just be in a different building," he assessed.
That night the congregation met to hear stories from the Anglican church planters. Toward the end, Yates said he hugged his wife Susan. "I couldn't let go because I would start weeping," he said. "I've married and buried a lot of people in this church."
The Anglican congregation had to leave behind everything purchased before the split, so the choir will now sing robe-less. The church left behind an organ and a Steinway grand piano. The church also left behind the communion silver. But an antiques dealer in Pennsylvania who heard about the litigation and the property loss gave the congregation a tableful of communion silver he had been collecting for decades, enough for several churches.
Tuesday, May 15, was final move-out day. Yates glanced down the hallway where the robes he has preached in for 33 years were hanging. He would be leaving them behind also. The coffee table in his office was piled with keys to return. He could take his books, which he himself purchased, "So that's a blessing," he said. As part of the ruling, the Anglican church loses the rectory, Yates' home where he and his wife have raised their five children, most of whom were married at the church. The diocese has said he and his wife can stay at the house for a few months while they find a new place to rent, but they don't know where they will go.