Showing posts with label CANA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CANA. Show all posts

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: John Guernsey elected to lead new Anglican Diocese based in Virginia - The Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic in the ANCA

The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey was elected this morning by lay and clergy delegates representing the congregations of the new Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic to be their diocesan bishop.  Meeting in a special Constitutional Convention by the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) at Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, VA.  Bishop Guernsey was elected on the first ballot.

Bishop Guernsey, who was the long-time rector of All Saints Dale City and a leader in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia serving as Deputy to General Convention for many years until his parish voted to separate from the Episcopal Church in 2006, outlined his vision for the new diocese:
Having served in Northern Virginia for all of my ordained ministry, I have a deep commitment to the work of the Kingdom in this region. I have long prayed for the Lord to move in power to renew and heal His Church, that we might reach the lost with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. The formation of this new diocese is the Lord’s doing and I believe that I am called to be a part of it.
I envision a diocese that is prayer-based and mission-focused; a diocese of congregations that are growing and multiplying, served by clergy who are walking in faith and holiness; a diocese that is passionate to reach the lost and the next generations, discipling new believers to maturity in the Word; a diocese that joyfully worships the living Lord and is transformed by His power.

Support of Clergy and Congregations
I am committed to the pastoral support of clergy and their families. I presently serve a non-geographical diocese spread across the country and it is a challenge to stay in touch. I regularly phone the clergy, I pray each day for them, I connect by email. My wife always travels with me, and we love to spend time with the clergy and their spouses and children.

In this diocese, I would continue those important links, but I would also make it a priority to meet monthly with the clergy for worship, to study the Scriptures, to share our concerns and pray for one another. I would expect to meet with several groupings across the large area of the diocese. I would help create ways for our clergy and their families to support and care and pray for one another.

My parish visitations are usually over a full weekend, which creates opportunities for teaching and discipleship, fellowship and encouragement. I come to a congregation to serve and I ask the clergy to offer a plan for how best to use the visitation to support them in the Lord’s work in that place. I love opportunities to teach the Scriptures, to talk with and counsel the leadership team, to get to know the congregation and to pray for them.

The Church’s Mission
The Anglican Church in North America is clear in its Constitution that “the fundamental agency of mission in the Province is the local congregation.” That means that the diocese exists to serve the churches, not the reverse. The work of mission is the responsibility of the clergy and people of our congregations. The role of this new diocese is to support and encourage and to do those things the congregations cannot.

Together, as the congregations and clergy, we will reach the lost, and we will do that, first, through personal evangelistic witness. It is not enough to be part of a mission-minded Province or diocese or congregation if we are not ourselves sharing the Gospel with those we know.

We will plant churches of all sorts and descriptions, using new models and methods, as well as tried and true ones. We will grow and give birth to new dioceses.

We will reach the nations. Our links with the Global South have given us a new vision for Kingdom partnerships around the world. We must engage in the task of presenting Christ to unreached peoples across the globe and here at home. The proximity of our nation’s capital is also part of God’s calling to us—how does He want us to use that opportunity for Gospel witness?

Personal Discipleship
We will be people of the Word. We proclaim biblical authority, but each of us must be deeply rooted in the Scriptures through personal reading and meditating on the Word and through disciplined study.
We will be faithful disciples, who will demonstrate to the world what it looks like to be the people of God. We will disciple others, raising up the next generations in Christ.

We will seek the healing of the Lord for our own lives, walking in greater holiness and purity. We will be quick to give testimony to His grace and mercy and transforming power.

We will worship the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength. We will offer ourselves before Him in the beauty of holiness. Worship through the richness of our Anglican heritage will glorify the Lord and it will invite others to come to know Him.

We will be faithful stewards in our finances. We will proclaim the joy and freedom that is found in trusting the Lord through tithing.

Seeking God’s Vision
I take very seriously the warning in Jeremiah 23 about the false shepherds and prophets, who “speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord...But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?” (verses 16, 18). God judges those who claim to speak for Him without first having come before Him in prayer.

Yet the Lord promises to reveal Himself to those who seek His face. “But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people” (verse 22).

If I am called to this new diocese, I know the Lord would have much more to say to me and to all of us about His will and plan. It would be my responsibility and my joy to lead us in seeking Him and His vision for our life together.

My life verse is 2 Corinthians 4:5: “We seek not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” May the Lord give me and all of us the grace to walk humbly before Him, doing all for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In addition, he answered questions posed to him by the ADV:
Bishop, Diocese of the Holy Spirit of the Anglican Church in North America

Yale University (New Haven, CT) B.A. (Magna Cum Laude), History, with Honors Episcopal Divinity School (Cambridge, MA) M.Div., Biblical Studies

Spiritual Autobiography

I grew up in a Christian home and, through the witness of my parents, gave my life to Christ as a very young boy. My father modeled putting one’s faith into practice in the world; he was deeply committed to racial reconciliation and the church’s ministry among those in need. My mother taught me about prayer; I remember a time when I was upset over something in my homework I couldn’t seem to grasp, and she showed me how to pray it through. I knew that I belonged to Christ and I readily told people that when I grew up I was going to be what Jesus wanted me to be—though I didn’t yet know what that was.

As a teenager active in the church, I was hungry for more of the Lord. But I was aware that I didn’t see lives being changed in our parish or its youth group in which I was actively involved. I hadn’t been taught the Scriptures and so my longing for the supernatural reality of God led me to explore a number of inappropriate spiritual practices we’d now term “New Age.” I wasn’t rejecting Jesus, but I lacked guidance and discernment to seek Him rightly through the Holy Spirit.

During high school, I volunteered in many different ministries, particularly in the inner city. In college, I chose an urban studies major as a way of pursuing my desire to work with the poor, perhaps through a career in government service. After my sophomore year, however, I won a competitive internship, working for a summer as the aide to the administrator of the entire welfare and social service department of the City of New York. It was a terribly disillusioning experience. I came away knowing that God needed people in that environment, but I was not called to be one of them.

With my career goal now unclear, I decided to take time off from college; I had extra credits and could have graduated in three years, but I felt I needed clarity of direction first. I accepted an invitation from an Episcopal layman from Liberia, West Africa to come to his country and do economic planning for the Liberian government. My letter to my contact confirming my plans was lost in the mail, so the government job wasn’t arranged and I ended up being put to work for one of his companies, the Carrier Air Conditioner distributorship. I had a tremendous amount of the time alone to think and pray and reflect, and through it the Lord finally got through to me that He was calling me to ordained ministry. When I finally said “yes” to Him, I had an amazing certainty and a  peace that this was His will. He then made it clear that my time in Liberia was at an end and that I should return home to finish college and go through the ordination process.

At the conclusion of my final interview before seminary, I was asked by the committee if I had any questions to ask them. I said that I did and asked this: “Why is it that we pray to God the Father through God the Son and seem to leave God the Holy Spirit out of it completely?” It was the question of a naïve 20-year old, but it made the committee very uncomfortable. Finally, one member said, “Well, it sounds like you’ve asked a good question. Maybe when you go to seminary you’ll learn the answer and come back and tell us.”

I went off to the seminary my bishop had attended and wanted me to attend, but by this time it had become a very, very liberal place. By God’s grace, I went in believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and came out believing it. But I didn’t learn the answer to my question about the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t, of course, simply asking an abstract question about liturgy, but about the supernatural reality of God the Holy Spirit. What I learned instead was that the Holy Spirit was controversial. I was told very clearly that there were people out there who were “into” the Holy Spirit but we were not among them and that I should not expect God to do today what I saw Him doing in the pages of Scripture.

I did, however, meet my wife, Meg, in seminary, without a doubt the best thing that came out of the experience for me! She was from Virginia and so it was that we came here after seminary, she to serve a parish in Culpeper, while I worked at Christ Church in Alexandria.

One of my duties was to assist the lay stewardship chairman, which the Lord used to begin a process of transformation of my use of money. A wise priest I met challenged me to tithe and Meg and I, after much discussion and prayer, began to do so. We discovered a new joy in trusting the Lord and a freedom from anxiety about money and possessions that we’d never known before. It turned out that money had been a logjam in my spiritual life—breaking free in the area of finances resulted in a greater openness to God’s work in my life in other ways, as well.

In December, 1981, I was called to serve as Vicar of All Saints’, then a mission of 36 families worshiping in Triangle, near the Quantico Marine base. The guidance I’d received in seminary to put the Holy Spirit aside did not, to say the least, satisfy the longing that I had for more of the Lord. I began to hear testimonies from clergy and mature lay leaders about the working of the Spirit in their lives. I had much to learn and many theological questions to ask. But finally, the Lord in His goodness led me to the place of a deeper surrender to Him than ever before. I asked one of the godly lay leaders to lay hands on me and pray for the fullness and power of God’s Holy Spirit to fill me.

While the prayer time itself was quite unemotional, the Lord who is ever faithful began from that moment to work in me and through me in ways I’d only yearned for. I developed a passion for the Scriptures. I found a new fervency in prayer and a new intimacy in worship. In my ministry, I saw new power as I shared Jesus. As much as I wanted people to come to know Christ, I had not led anyone to faith in Him in four years of ordained ministry. After I received that empowering of the Holy Spirit, people began to respond to sermons and teaching by coming into my office, falling on their knees and asking to give their lives to Christ. Nothing in seminary had prepared me for that!

The Lord began to give me a greater love for prayer, for evangelism and for the healing ministry, three priorities which have been central to my ministry for the past 28 years. In these areas I again had much to learn and He blessed me with colleagues on staff at All Saints’ who could teach me many things. What a joy to be a part of God’s transforming work in people’s lives. How exciting to be in a parish where that transformation is the norm rather than the exception. And I’ve been privileged to be sent out on many short-term missions with SOMA, training leaders in the power of the Spirit in a number of countries around the world. God has also done His gracious healing work in my own life, freeing me from the hurts of the past to be more the pastor and husband and father He made me to be.

In our family, the Lord gave us many blessings of His love. He gave us two fine sons, who attended St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, where Meg had gone in 1979 to serve as Chaplain. Meg’s mother, physically disabled all her life but a spiritual powerhouse, came to live with us for the last 20 years of her life. Both our sons are now married, and they and their wives are all walking with the Lord. Our elder son, Nathaniel, is a computer science engineer and he and his wife, Mandy, are youth ministry volunteers. Our younger son, Michael, is in seminary preparing for ordination and he and his wife, Tracy, are praying about a long-term missionary call to Uganda.

The call to serve as bishop has been a surprising journey. Twenty years ago I was nominated to be Bishop of Colorado (along with two priests named Bob Duncan and Martyn Minns!). When I wasn’t elected, the Lord spoke clearly to me that I was to stay at All Saints’ and so I declined to be considered in dozens of episcopal elections after that. In December, 2006, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda elected me to be their Bishop for Congregations in America—without consulting me, I might add—though they delayed notifying me or announcing it publicly until the following June. I was consecrated in September, 2007 and given the responsibility to look after the then 26 U.S.
congregations of the Church of Uganda, while continuing to serve as rector of All Saints’. (The number of churches grew to 53 in June, 2009 when, at the launch of the Anglican Church in North America, the Ugandan House of Bishops transferred me and all their U.S. clergy and congregations into the ACNA.)

Meanwhile, Meg had been told by the Lord in August, 2006 that the coming academic year was to be her last at the School. The Lord didn’t tell her any more than that, but in obedience she went to the headmistress and said, “This is my last year.” Her last faculty meeting was just days before I was informed I’d been elected bishop, and so she has been free to travel with me. We’ve followed a more African model of the bishop and his wife together as we’ve visited churches across the country. Serving in this way has been a gift from the Lord to us. Meg has such a heart for clergy spouses and children and it has been so very important to us to spend time with our clergy and their families.
Early in my ministry, the Lord gave me a verse to guide my life and service of him: “We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). I constantly pray that the ministry I offer will always be a ministry of servanthood, seeking only to glorify Jesus Christ.

Here he answers questions:

Why would God be calling you to be Bishop of this new diocese?
I don’t presume to know God’s will and God’s reasons! But I do feel increasingly called to serve the Lord and His Church in this new diocese. I would hope that I could help establish the diocese as prayer-based and mission- focused. I would also hope to contribute to the continuing healing from all that we experienced in our former context.

Describe your leadership style as Bishop: how you relate to clergy and laity; what you think and have done about missions; how you feel about raising money?
I have developed a pattern of multi-day visitations to churches (usually a full weekend), with opportunities for teaching, fellowship, meeting with the leadership and spending time with the clergy and their families. Meg and I always prefer to stay in homes, often with the clergy. I go to serve the church, to teach, listen and encourage.

I have a high priority of ministering to clergy and their families. I telephone the clergy regularly to check in and to pray for them. I am always looking for emerging leaders, particularly those of the next generation, to encourage and disciple.

I am committed to continuing to engage in front-line mission work personally. In 2010, Meg and I spent a week in a remote, desert area of Kenya, working with a large team of mostly young evangelists who were on mission planting churches among unreached peoples. This sort of experience always stretches me and encourages me to keep the proclamation of the Gospel at the forefront of everything I do. In my preaching I seek to spur the church to engage in mission and evangelism and I often invite those who do not yet know the Lord to surrender their lives to Him.

Dealing with stewardship has been a priority in ministry and a significant part of my own journey in Christ. I teach biblical stewardship and readily witness to the blessing of tithing in our own family. I taught financial stewardship at Virginia Seminary for 12 years, as a consultant in dozens of dioceses and congregations, and most especially at All Saints’ Church in Dale City.
To what degree are you committed to the Anglican 1000 church planting initiative? Describe your church planting experience.

I am tremendously excited by the vision of planting 1000 churches in the first five years of the Anglican Church in North America. I assisted in the planning for the first Anglican1000 summit and was greatly encouraged by it. I scheduled the Diocese of the Holy Spirit’s 2011 Annual Synod immediately prior to the second Anglican1000 Summit and at the same venue in order to encourage our diocesan leaders to participate in the Summit. I will also be attending the Exponential Church Planting Conference in Orlando this April.

My former parish, All Saints’ Church in Dale City, planted Christ Our Lord Church in Lake Ridge, one of the most important mission experiences we ever had. I have promoted church planting in our diocese and visited and encouraged those new starts already underway. We have new lay-led fellowships, church plants served by ordained church planters (both tent-makers and those sent out by a sponsoring church) and new congregations begun as second worship sites of existing parishes. It is so heartening to see how the vision for church planting is taking hold, as even some of our smallest churches are launching new congregations.

Please describe your discipline of prayer, study and worship.
I’m an early riser and I am nurtured and strengthened by my morning time in Scripture and prayer. I’ve been reading through the Bible each year for decades, following a number of different patterns. As part of my intercessions, I pray every week through a cycle for all of my diocese’s churches and all of the clergy, their spouses and children. My wife, Meg, and I usually read the Daily Office together and we’re presently doing a study of 1 John. I’m also reading a number of books on Islam to learn more about this critical challenge facing the Church in our day.

Please describe how you spend quality time with your wife and family. Describe what rests and rejuvenates you.

Meg travels with me to all our parish visitations, so I am blessed that we get to spend so much of our time together in ministry. I also enjoy just relaxing with her. We travel so much that we have discovered the importance of having regular days off on the road. We’ve been privileged to see fascinating and beautiful places as we visit churches across the country. I’m an extrovert, but I know that I need to be freed from being “on” and around people all the time. We’ve gone to museums and lots of botanical gardens (a particular love of Meg’s), we’ve taken long walks and we’ve just sat and enjoyed spectacular scenery.

We also used our frequent flier miles to great advantage. This past spring, we took our sons and their wives on a week’s holiday to our namesake island, the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel. It was such a wonderful experience for us—from hiking the cliff walks to laughing over board games. And we’ll be going back in 2011.
Read it all here.

UPDATE:  Here is the press release from the Anglican District of Virginia:
The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) held a Constitutional Convention on May 20-21, 2011 at Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, Va. At this event, ADV delegates voted to petition the Anglican Church in North America to become a diocese and adopted new governing documents (Constitutions and Canons). Pending approval of the diocesan petition, the Anglican District of Virginia elected The Rt. Rev. John Guernsey to serve as bishop of the diocese, to be named the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.

Bishop John Guernsey has served in various clergy roles during his years of ordained ministry in Virginia. He served as rector of All Saints’ Church in Dale City, Va., for 29 years before serving as the head of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church in North America. For more background on Bishop Guernsey and to read his vision statement for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, click here.

“Our hope is that the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, under the courageous and blessed leadership of Bishop John Guernsey, will continue to follow the path Christ is setting for us as we strive to grow and share our faith,” said Anglican District of Virginia Chairman Jim Oakes.

“In just a few years, we have grown to over 40 worshipping congregations, are planting churches, and have almost 7,000 people worshipping in our churches each Sunday. My prayer is that this new diocese within the Anglican Church in North America will make the trumpet sound even louder and bring more worshippers together in mission and ministry, continued Oakes.”

ADV is hopeful that the Anglican Church in North America will accept the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic as one of its member dioceses later this year. While the new diocese will be connected directly to the Anglican Church in North America, many of its congregations will continue to be in partnership with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). CANA is a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria and a founding member of the Anglican Church in North America.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Church of the Word reaches a settlement with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

This is the second Virginia Anglican parish to reach a settlement with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in recent weeks.  From Robin Adams and Church of the Word:

GAINESVILLE, VA – Church of the Word (COTW), one of a handful of Northern Virginia churches embroiled in a four-year long lawsuit with The Episcopal Church (TEC), will retain its church property after an out-of-court settlement signed Monday, April 18, released it from the pending litigation.
The leadership of COTW, which is a multiracial congregation made up of predominantly young families, is relieved to have achieved their major goals of separating from TEC, retaining their property, and preserving their tradition of worship and ministry.

Church of the Word is one of a number of formerly Episcopal congregations that had severed ties with the denomination over matters of doctrinal drift and novel pastoral practices. Upon breaking away from the denomination in December 2006, TEC filed a lawsuit against eleven Northern Virginia churches in an attempt to keep them from retaining their property. Currently, the next phase of this litigation will continue for the remaining seven churches with the commencement of a late-April 2011 trial in the Fairfax County, Virginia, Circuit Court.

COTW’s settlement allows it to keep its property, and now free of litigation, may concentrate on its vision, which is to ‘Encounter and Share Jesus Christ’. It does, however, require that COTW sever its affiliation with the newly established Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) for a period of five years.

COTW’s pastor, Rev. Robin Adams said, “This settlement allows us to keep the church building that was paid for by us, not the Episcopal Church. It also allows us to put this painful experience behind us and move on with ministering the love of Christ to a broken world. We will not lose our Anglican identity, though we may have to rethink how we do church in the short term.

Adams said the requirement to temporally disaffiliate from ACNA is one of the more difficult aspects of the settlement, but he remains positive.

“Our goal is to return to the ACNA fold when the disaffiliation period is completed as a stronger Christian body,” he said. “We’ll continue to worship in our accustomed manner, and for most of our members, this provision will not even be something they’ll notice in our day-to-day church ministry.”
Adams called the disaffiliation requirement “a failure to ‘respect the dignity of every human being,’ as the baptismal covenant says, and is certainly unchristian.”

“It is heartbreaking that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia were unwilling to explore out of court settlement options with Church of the Word unless it severed all ties to its orthodox Anglican family,” ADV Chairman Jim Oakes said. “Church of the Word and all within the ADV have been seeking the Lord in prayer as we search for the best path forward. In spite of the separation mandate, we support the members of Church of the Word and they will remain our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Church of the Word has believed all along that its property belonged to those who paid for it – the local congregation. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, believes that all church assets within the denomination are held in trust for the national church, regardless of state property laws. An earlier court decision sided with the breakaway churches, but was then reversed upon appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. The suit was returned to the circuit court for re-trial based on a different body of law in June 2010.

“We originally voted to leave the Episcopal Church in 2006 over theological and pastoral issue,” COTW’s former senior warden Dane Swenson said. “We felt the denomination had drifted away from basic Christian belief and practices. For example, Anglicans are supposed to hold that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, as opposed to just another possible option among many. And we believe that the Bible is the guiding authority for Christian doctrine, and must not be subservient to or shaped by the culture of the moment.”

Initially the denomination had provided a process by which the congregations could leave the denomination and maintain ownership of the properties they had purchased and maintained.

“Had the Diocese of Virginia stuck to its original agreement in its official ‘Protocol for Departing Congregations,’ then four years of expensive legal action could have been avoided,” Adams said. “Nevertheless we are thankful to have reached settlement with the diocese today.”

While Church of the Word is relieved to be able to keep its property, the congregation actually outgrew its facility long ago and has had to put building plans on hold during the years of uncertainty due to the litigation. Robin Adams says the church will develop its modest site to the best of its abilities, and will refocus on planning for the future.

“Any financial resources we might have saved toward expanding went toward our legal fees in this case,” COTW treasurer Robert Miller said. “Maybe there are people out there who think our stand against biblical compromise was worth the cost. Maybe they’ll help us raise the funds we need. You never know how God will work.”

With faith that God will supply the church’s need, Adams says it will establish a fund for anyone who might like to donate. He’s hoping like-minded friends still in the Episcopal Church might pledge a gift to help Church of the Word, even while they work for reform within that body.
“You never know unless you make your needs known,” Adams says.

Official Statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia:

April 19, 2011

Today the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church announced a settlement with Church of the Word (COTW), Gainesville, the second reached with one of the nine congregations that left the Episcopal Church in 2006 and then sought to retain Episcopal church property.  Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands reached a settlement on February 20.  "We are pleased to have reached another settlement, an important step toward enabling all involved to focus our shared energies on our important ministries," said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia.

"This settlement has a set of unique circumstances that led the Diocese to allow COTW to retain Episcopal property," stated Henry D.W. Burt, secretary of the Diocese of Virginia.  "Changes in the immediate vicinity of the church, namely massive construction along Route 29 that eliminates direct access to the church, create significant challenges for any congregation in that space. Should COTW ultimately decide to relocate, the Diocese of Virginia has given them the certainty and control they need to determine what is best for the congregation and the day school they offer to the Gainesville community."

Under the agreement, the Diocese will retain $1.95 million from a payment by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for loss of value to the property as a result of the construction.  In exchange, COTW will retain the church building and personal property, and will be responsible for the mortgage on the property.  COTW will also retain $85,000 in cash from the VDOT payment and be permitted to negotiate for additional monies from VDOT.  In addition, COTW will voluntarily disaffiliate from the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) for a period of five years.  The pastor of COTW will be allowed to remain in the CANA healthcare plan and retirement plan, if permissible under the conditions of these benefit plans.

"This is a welcome and appropriate resolution for all involved," said Bishop Johnston. "It allows everyone to continue their important work while we will continue to preserve and expand the legacy of the Episcopal Church for future generations."

The trial on property issues for the remaining seven Episcopal Church properties will begin in the Fairfax Circuit Court on Monday, April 25.

Official Statement from the Anglican District of Virginia, which calls the settlement "heartbreaking":

FAIRFAX, Va. (April 19, 2010) – Anglican District of Virginia member parish Church of the Word in Gainesville, Va., has voted to take a settlement option presented by the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church in the matter of their property. The settlement results in Church of the Word’s outright ownership of its property for future ministry. However, it will require Church of the Word to disaffiliate from the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), and any other Anglican entity for a period of at least five years.

“It is heartbreaking that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia were unwilling to explore out of court settlement options with Church of the Word unless it severed all ties to its orthodox Anglican family. Church of the Word and all within ADV have been seeking the Lord in prayer as we search for the best path forward. In spite of the separation mandate, we support the members of Church of the Word and they will remain our dear brothers and sisters in Christ,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes.

“There’s no question: This litigation is a distraction from our mission and the good work our churches are doing every day to change lives. We never wanted a court battle in the first place and were saddened when amicable negotiations over properties that were purchased and maintained by our congregations were abruptly cut off.

“The litigation, which now involves seven parishes, does not define ADV and has not hindered our growth. In fact, we have grown to 32 member congregations and nine mission fellowships. We will continue to pray for a quick resolution to this matter as we look forward to the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection on Easter morning,” Oakes concluded.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Breaking News: Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Russell V. Palmore, Jr. dies suddenly

Sorrowful news.  From the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, via email:

April 7, 2011

Mr. Russell V. Palmore Jr., chancellor of the Diocese since 1987, died today following cataract surgery. A long-time member of St. Paul's, Richmond, Mr. Palmore was a towering leader in the Church, both in the Diocese and within the greater Episcopal Church. "Today, the Diocese joins in mourning the loss of one of our greatest leaders," said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop. "Russ was a tremendous example of loyalty and dedication to the Episcopal Church."

Mr. Palmore represented Virginia as a lay deputy to General Convention for eight consecutive triennial Conventions from 1988-2009, and was elected to serve as deputy to the 2012 Convention. A former member of the Standing Committee and the Board of Church Schools in the Diocese of Virginia, he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters by Virginia Theological Seminary in 2008.

"Russ maintained an unparalleled involvement in Church leadership throughout his life, back to the time that he served as a counselor and assistant director at St. George's Camp at Shrine Mont" said Bishop Johnston. "The Diocese of Virginia has been truly blessed by his continuous and unwavering support and work for the ministry of the Church."

Mr. Palmore was a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Virginia School of Law, and was a long-timer partner at the Richmond law firm of Mays & Valentine, later known as Troutman Sanders.

Please keep his wife, Susan, his daughters, grandson and the Palmore family in your thoughts and prayers. The Diocese will make available more information as soon as possible.

BB NOTE: Russ Palmore, among many of his accomplishments, was the chairman of the Bishop's Special Committee that wrote the Protocol for Departing Congregations. His steady hand and wise counsel at Diocesan Councils over the years was matchless.  He has also provided solid leadership on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church for many years. You can read more of his other accomplishments here.

May we remember Russ Palmore's wife and family, his parish, Bishop Johnston and Bishop Lee, and the members of Diocese of Virginia, in our prayers. This is a great loss.

Here is a statement from the Anglican District of Virginia:
“It was with sorrow that we learned of the death of Russell Palmore, Esq, Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Russell was a Christian gentleman of the highest integrity with a great love for the church. He will be greatly missed. On behalf of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America and the Anglican District of Virginia, we send sincere condolences to his family and the Diocese of Virginia.”

The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns
Missionary Bishop
Convocation of Anglicans in North America

The Rt. Rev. David Bena
Contact Bishop
Anglican District of Virginia

James Oakes
Anglican District of Virginia

UPDATE: The Diocese of Virginia has released information on the funeral arrangements - here it is:
The funeral for Chancellor Russell V. Palmore Jr., who died yesterday, will be held on Tuesday, April 12 at 4 p.m. at St. Paul's, Richmond, 815 E. Grace Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219. The family will receive visitors on Monday, April 11 from 5-8 p.m., also at St. Paul's.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Anglican District of Virginia announces two candidates for Bishop of new Anglican diocese

The Anglican District of Virginia announced today that The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey and Archdeacon Julian Dobbs have been proposed for bishop have been proposed by the ADV nominations committee established by the 2009 ADV Synod.

The ADV Synod Council has called a Constitutional Convention for May 20 and 21, 2011, where the Synod will consider the proposed governing constitution and canons for a new diocese in the Anglican Church in North America. With the expected approval of the governing documents, there will immediately follow the election of the new bishop as established in the governing documents.

Following the election of a new bishop, the ADV will formally submit an application at the end of May to establish a new diocese in the Anglican Church in North America.

Currently, the Anglican District of Virginia numbers of 40 congregations with almost 7000 people actively worshiping in church each Sunday

The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey is currently the bishop of the non-geographic Diocese of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church in North America.  The Venerable Julian Dobbs currently serves as the archdeacon for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breaking News: CANA Church reaches settlement with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia

The Church of our Saviour Oatlands (Virginia) has reached a settlement to end litigation with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church.  The congregation voted today to take the settlement offered by the diocese and the Episcopal Church and will surrender their property to the diocese.  They will then lease the property back from the diocese, but they must also disaffiliate from the Anglican District of Virginia, CANA, or any other Anglican entity.  The Diocese of Virginia also announced that the church w"has agreed that no bishop will visit the congregation without the permission of the Bishop of Virginia." All other claims made by The Diocese and the Episcopal Church against the Church of Our Saviour will be dropped.

“For many months, we have encouraged our congregations to pray for an end to this costly litigation,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes in an official statement.  “There has been a great deal of discussion and soul searching and we will continue to pray that His will be done. No matter the path Church of Our Saviour has chosen, they will remain our brothers and sisters in Christ and we pray for the opportunity to have continued fellowship together.”

“It is truly heartening for us to come to an agreement,” the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, Bishop of Virginia said in statement released by the diocese. “This settlement ensures that the legacy entrusted to the Episcopal Church continues, while providing a clear way forward for the Oatlands congregation.” 

The Church of our Savior was built in 1877 and consecrated in 1878 on land deeded by George and Kate Powell Carter of this historic Oatlands Plantation. Before the erection of the church, the small congregation worshipped in an abandoned blacksmith shop nearby. In 1903, Mr. and Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis built the parish house adjacent to the church.  The Rev. Elijah B. White has been rector since 1977.

The trial over remaining church properties is currently scheduled for April 25th in the Fairfax Circuit Cour, Judge Randy Bellows presiding.

UPDATE: Here is The Rev'd Elijah White's informative and heartfelt letter to his parish sent today that fills in more details of the settlement:
Dear Members and Friends of Our Saviour,

Today, February 20 in the Year of our Lord 2011, Septuagesima, our Parish voted for a future as significant as our initial formation under Oatlands Plantation's oak grove during the War between the States, construction of our church building in 1878 and parish hall in 1906, independence as a separate congregation no longer subservient under any larger parish in 1973, and our first full-time Rector in 1980.

With the unanimous endorsement of our Vestry, Officers and clergy, and a 10-1 endorsement by our voting members, we have this day settled the lawsuits filed against us by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in Richmond and by the national Episcopal Church in New York City.

I am not glad about this, but I heartily endorse these decisions, have spoken out in favor of them as the best arrangement obtainable in our current legal situation, and look forward to working energetically for our ongoing Christian mission together free from the burdens, distractions and costs of continued litigation. This frees us to put all our efforts into God's work.

Loudoun County appraises our property at $314,500. We have already spent some $400,000 in our own legal defense and contributions to our joint efforts with ADV-CANA.

Given an unfavorable decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia last June, and their sending our cases back to the Fairfax County Circuit Court to be retried individually under a different set of legal standards and criteria, our alternatives were either to negotiate the best settlement we could now or to spend another third of a million dollars and another 18-20 months in new litigation with a dubious chance of success when any Fairfax decision is sure to be appealed to that same Supreme Court of Virginia.

Recognizing that every agreement contains some points that each side likes and some that each side does not like, the terms of this settlement include the following:

· neither side admits to the validity of the other side's arguments, contentions, claims or assertions

· the Diocese of Virginia gains title to the real property and certain older items of personal property

· our Parish gains a lease of up to five years of full and free quiet enjoyment of all real and personal property, the Diocese being bound by this up-to-five-year agreement but our Parish being free to terminate it at any time upon thirty days notice

· our Parish will pay $500 per month while we occupy the premises {these payments will not come out of our Parish offerings nor budget - the full cost of a maximum five-year lease, $30,000, has already been paid into a separate account by an anonymous donor}

· our Parish will retain all our 1928 Prayer Books and 1940 Hymnals - our church organ and parish hall piano - all Eucharistic vestments and Altar hangings - all other clergy vestments - our Paschal Candlestick and Advent Wreath - our processional Cross and its accompanying wall plaque - our inlaid table in the entranceway - the big lectern King James Version Bible - the American flag Col. Mike Sweeney brought to us from Camp Fallujah in Iraq - the two cemetery benches given in memory of Anita - the silver lavabo bowl - and all of our Parish funds: no cash will go to the Episcopal Diocese nor to the national Episcopal Church

· any donor or contributor of a hand-worked kneeler, or any family member of such or of an individual in whose honor it was given, may identify and claim such a kneeler and take it

· anyone who wants a member moved from our cemetery or memorial wall can do so at any time until we leave the premises - the Parish offers to pay for such moves

· anyone who has a reservation in our cemetery or memorial wall and wants to use it can exercise that right at any time

· our congregation voted today to disaffiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America under the Province of Nigeria and its local Anglican District of Virginia, and may not affiliate nor serve under any other Anglican entity so long as we remain on our present premises - once we leave we are free to affiliate with whomever we may choose

I send this summary to you right away - more information will follow by e-mail and newsletter.

If you participated in the meeting after the 9.30 service last Sunday the 13th you saw that, although 26 people had attended the 8 o'clock and many were not at either service, we quite literally had standing-room only, the parking lot was full, the lawn half-full, more cars lined to dirt road out front, and one could hardly move in the parish hall afterward. If everyone were to come, we could not possibly accommodate them.

The fact is that we are in the process of outgrowing our beloved buildings - this is the Lord's own work, God giveth the increase, which is a growing problem for us but a very godly problem to have. Our Vestry and many knowledgeable members have been actively looking at potentially-suitable properties, and will continue to do so.

I love this place, these buildings I've served since 1948-49 when Janet Cobb's father brought me down as his Altar boy when he was Rector of S. James' Leesburg. Leaving them will hurt me very much, as I know it will many of you, but I am confident that we are doing both the best and the right thing in our complex circumstances of ending litigation and planning for growth.

Please pray for us all, as individuals for whom Christ died and rose again and as a congregation committed to His godly worship, His service, and the Faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

May the God we strive to serve bless, guide, guard, direct and prosper us all.

Faithfully yours in His service,


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Another way forward to peaceful settlement?

Attorney Raymond Dague speaks on the recent historic settlement between St. George's Anglican Church and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey:

The following is a memorandum outlining how St. George's Church and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey found  a way forward where St. George's was able to retain their property while at the same time find a peaceful way forward to a settlement that satisfied the Anglican congregation, the Episcopal Diocese and the Presiding Bishop.  It can be done!
From: Raymond J. Dague, attorney for St. George's Anglican Church in Helmetta, New Jersey, and chancellor to the Anglican District of the Northeast of CANA

Re: The Account of the Amicable Purchase of Church Buildings by an Anglican Church which was Formerly an Episcopal Church without Restrictions as to the Continued use of the Property by the Anglican Parish

Dated: January 17, 2011

Is it an aberration in relations between Anglican Churches and the Episcopal Church, or a new way forward?  There has been much acrimony with hundreds of pending lawsuits across the country between Anglican Churches and the Episcopal Church.  Might this case be a pattern for a way out from the litigation?  That is the question on the minds of laity, clergy, bishops, and lawyers on both sides in the wake of an historic settlement between St. George's Anglican Church in Helmetta, New Jersey and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.  And this happened all with the full knowledge and consent of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and her chancellor.

The ink is dry and the papers are filed in the Middlesex County clerk's office following a routine real estate closing there on Tuesday, November 23, 2010.  It is a settlement which might portend a way forward out of the litigation which has engulfed the Episcopal Church and parishes which have left it for other Anglican affiliations since the election of Katherine Jefforts-Schori in 2006 to be the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The deal involved a former Episcopal Church congregation which disaffiliated from its former denomination, yet negotiated with the diocese to retain its church buildings and tangible property with complete independence from the former denomination.  The congregation is now affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns and the Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA) under Archbishop Robert Duncan.

The property which was the subject of this negotiation was given to the newly incorporated Episcopal Church parish in 1894.  It is located at 56 Main Street, Helmetta, New Jersey.  The church building was built in 1896 on land which was given to the parish in 1894 by The George W. Helmet Company.  George W. Helmet was the owner of the large factory located near the church and the person after whom the town of Helmetta was named.  The property consisted of a large rectangular site which measured approximately 555 feet along the road frontage and 290 feet deep into a wooded area consisting of 3.7 acres of land.

The church building built on the property is a traditional high peaked ceiling church building of about 2,900 square feet in the worship area, and beneath which is a basement consisting of offices and meeting rooms occupying about 2,700 square feet.  A single family 2,900 square foot two story rectory was built on the property, as well as Ericson Hall which consists of a 5,600 square foot fellowship hall, larger than the church itself.  The property has paved driveways and parking lots, and four utility sheds.  The property is adorned with decorative stone walls and a stone staircase between the church building and the road.  The parish owned the land and buildings free and clear with no mortgage on the properties.

In early January and February of 2008 the former Episcopal Church, then known as St. George's Church in Helmetta, New Jersey, cut its ties to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Jersey and asked to be placed under CANA and its suffragan Bishop David Bena.  CANA accepted the parish, and since then Bishop Bena has made numerous episcopal visits to St. George's.

As part of the disaffiliation process the Diocese of New Jersey prepared and gave to St. George's in early 2008 a document called "Pastoral Direction for Parishes Seeking to Disaffiliate from the Diocese of New Jersey."   This Pastoral Direction was not followed by the parties except in part.  But the significance of this document is the bishop's acknowledgment of the legitimate need of a parish to disaffiliate (Introduction, page 1), the fact that the process is to be marked by negotiation (paragraph 6, page 3-5), and that "Any Agreement reached will be fully disclosed to the Diocese at large and will be made available electronically.  The Agreement shall also be provided to the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor." (Paragraph 8, page 5)

The priest at the parish of St. George's Anglican is Fr. William Guerard.  Fr. Bill, as he is known by his people, was an Episcopal priest for 22 years.  His relations with the Bishop George Councell, the bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey were always extremely cordial.  When the congregation was thinking about making this move, it was no surprise to the bishop.  Bishop Councell asked Fr. Guerard to keep him fully apprised as to the progress of the parish in this respect.  And Fr. Guerard did so.  Both Bishop Councell and his representatives came to the parish and addressed the vestry several times to talk about these developments, both before and after the vote by the vestry to leave the Episcopal Church.  The bishop and his people were extremely gracious to the parish, and the parish was likewise quite respectful toward the diocese and the bishop.

On October 17, 2008 Fr. William Guerard, the two wardens of St. George's, and Raymond Dague of Syracuse, New York, the attorney for the parish, attended a standing committee meeting of the diocese at the diocesan headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey.  In attendance at that meeting were Bishop Councell and his chancellor, attorney John Goldsack.  Bishop Councell on two occasions at that meeting said to the people from St. George's, "If there is any bishop in the Episcopal Church you want to negotiate with over something like this, it is me."  The meeting was very cordial, but no decisions were made by anyone at that time, except to keep the lines of communication open.

Fr. Guerard had previously told the bishop that they would not need to bring a lawsuit, because the parish would leave and find another place to worship if the bishop wanted that.  But Bishop Councell asked them not to do that, to stay in the church buildings and to negotiate a deal with the diocese.

On January 9, 2009 some of the people who worshiped at St. George's organized a New Jersey religious corporation named St. George's Anglican Church.  It was this church corporation which ultimately negotiated the deal with the diocese.

On January 12, 2009 the newly incorporated St. George's Anglican Church communicated to the diocese the desire to retain the property and offered the diocese $360,000 to do so.  The three page letter of the parish signed by the wardens and the rector of the parish provided for the first year's payment in an $18,000 lump sum, and payments of $1,500 per month over a 20 year period.  In exchange for that the diocese would give to the parish a general release of Dennis Canon and any other claims by the diocese to the property of St. George's.

At a Standing Committee meeting in January the diocese reviewed the offer, and met to discuss it, but did not give a formal answer to the parish's proposal.  The offer was ultimately refused in late 2009, but the diocese made no counter offer, yet the diocese indicated the desire to keep negotiating.

Fr. Bill Guerard left the church as an Episcopal priest and switched his episcopal oversight and holy orders to Suffragan Bishop David Bena of CANA.  Bishop Bena has made numerous pastoral visits to St. George's Anglican since assuming his oversight role at the parish. Bishop Councell never deposed or inhibited Fr. Guerard from his ordination vows as was done with over 400 former Episcopal clergy who left the Episcopal Church for CANA and other Anglican groups.   Canon law does not require an Episcopal bishop to depose or inhibit a priest who transfers to another Anglican group, but many Episcopal bishops have done so under similar circumstances.

New Jersey law is one of the toughest in the country for a congregation which departs from the Episcopal Church.   The 1980 case of Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Jersey v. Graves, 417 A.2d 19 (N.J. 1980) basically gives the greatest possible rights of any state in the nation to the diocese as against a departing congregation.  Further, the New Jersey statutes (N.J.S.A. 16:12-16) allow the Episcopal diocesan convention to adopt a resolution which unilaterally dissolves an Episcopal Church which has ceased to exist by declaring it so, and filing a Certificate of Extinction of the parish.  Upon the filing of the Certificate of Extinction with the county clerk, the title to the former property of the congregation transfers to the diocese without the necessity of a deed transfer or any action by the congregation.

At the diocesan convention on February 28, 2009 the Diocese of New Jersey adopted such a resolution, and filed the Certificate of Extinction in the Middlesex County clerk's office on March 11, 2009.  These acts had the legal effect under New Jersey law of effecting an immediate dissolution of the old Episcopal Church religious corporation and the consequent vesting of the title to its property in "The Trustees of Church Property for the Diocese of New Jersey, successor in interest to the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church, a dissolved corporation."   All that the diocese would have then needed to do was to commence a simple eviction proceeding to evict the Anglican Church congregation and take over the property.  The defense of such an eviction would have been only a facial challenge to the caselaw and salutatory scheme.  It would have been a difficult eviction to defend.

Yet despite the strong legal position of the diocese, Bishop Councell assured Fr. Guerard that this in no way would interfere with the continued use by the parish of the property.  Bishop Councell asked that they continue to try to negotiate a resolution to the use and ownership by the new Anglican parish.  St. George's took no legal action against the diocese to challenge this in court.  But the diocese likewise did not go to court.  The bishop and the diocese continued to talk and negotiate with the parish.

In September of 2008 the parish had an appraiser do a formal written appraisal of the property value which came to $1.7 million.   In early 2010 the diocese paid the same real estate appraiser to reappraise the property, and the figure was revised to $1.6 million.   According to the tax assessment records of Helmetta, the land is worth $732,000 and the improvements to the property were worth $1,066,800 for a total value of $1,798,800.  Numbers in this magnitude were a non-starter for the congregation, and the parish told the diocese that. 

In early 2010 the parish made another offer to the diocese.  The proposal was for a total of $700,276.80 consisting of a $30,000 down payment and a mortgage amortized over 30 years with zero interest to be held by the diocese for the $670,276.80 balance of the purchase price.   The parish offer was that they would pay the $1,881.88 per month payments for 15 years and at the end of 15 years, the diocese would get the remaining unpaid balance as a balloon payment of $335,138.40.  The parish told the diocese that this was all they could afford to pay.

The alternative was for the parish to move out, leave the keys, and let the diocese sell the property for what they could get for it.  As with many old stone church buildings, it is in need of much maintenance.  While the church and other buildings could never be rebuilt for the appraised price, neither did the diocese have an attractive prospect for selling it to an outside buyer for what St. George's offered.

In the week previous to Sunday, May 23, 2010 Fr. Guerard got a call from the bishop and was told that the diocesan Standing Committee accepted the terms of the sale proposed by the parish.  On that Sunday Fr. Guerard announced the acceptance and the terms to the parish at the Sunday morning service.

Bishop Councell followed his call with a letter to Fr. Guerard dated July 1, 2010 in which the bishop wrote:
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Jersey and I met with Canon John Wood Goldsack, Esq., Chancellor of the Diocese, on June 17, 2010 to review the terms of the proposed agreement for the sale of the property of St. George's Church.

The Standing Committee approved the terms of the agreement.  I also gave my approval.  Canon Goldsack will prepare a formal agreement and forward it to you for your and the Vestry's review and action.

You and the people of St. George's remain in my prayers.
The chancellor for the diocese wanted to draft the purchase contract, and on August 17, 2010 he wrote the lawyers for the parish and confirmed the terms of the deal.

The contract was drafted and sent to one of the lawyers for the parish by letter of October 1, 2010.  In the words of the New Jersey chancellor in that letter the chancellor noted that

As part of the approval process we will also submit the documents to the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor for their review and comment.  It is possible that there may be some modifications as a result of this review.

This was not the first time the diocese discussed with Bishop Schori the negotiations to sell the property to St. George's.  As early as January of 2009 Bishop Councell told Fr. Guerard that he had advised the PB about what he was doing with St. George's.  Bishop Councell said that the decision to negotiate a sale to the departing congregation was his choice, but that he felt that he needed to keep the presiding bishop apprised of what he was doing.  Paragraph 8 of the "Pastoral Direction for Parishes Seeking to Disaffiliate from the Diocese of New Jersey," to which reference is made, supra, made it clear that, "The Agreement [of disaffiliation and property sale] shall also be provided to the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor."

On October 28, 2010 both New Jersey Bishop Councell and Chancellor John Goldsack signed the agreement which the lawyers had prepared, which consisted of a contract prepared by the diocese and a rider to the contract prepared by the attorneys for the parish.  On November 5, 2010 the senior warden of the parish signed the agreement and the rider.  From then on it was a matter of getting the title documents ready for the closing.

By a certification sworn to November 18, 2010 Bishop Councell stated that "The Diocese has complied with all Constitutional, Canonical and Statutory requirements of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of New Jersey and is authorized to sell the subject premises."

The closing for the sale took place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 23, 2010.

In many discussions around the nation where there have been talks between Anglican Churches which have departed from the Episcopal Church, the diocesan officials have proposed a 5 year period after the sale when no non-Episcopal bishop would be allowed to visit the property which was proposed to be sold to the departing parish.  To date this is the first such sale, so there are no other actual completed transactions with which to compare this transaction.  But at no time during any of the negotiations did Bishop Councell or his people make this request of St. George's as a condition of their purchase.  The deal which the parties struck in this case in fact has no such restriction, and the CANA bishops will continue to minister to the people of St. George's Anglican Church as they have for the last several years.

It is hard to say for certain why this transaction worked an amicable settlement rather than litigation while so many other cases around the country have resulted in lawsuits.  Litigation has resulted in great cost to all parties and the ensuing bad publicity for everyone.  However it is clear to me that the very good relationship between this particular Episcopal Bishop and the rector of the parish played a huge part in the settlement.  The parish was willing to walk away from the property if the bishop said so.  The bishop was willing to negotiate with the parish rather than take over an empty building which would then be sold to someone else.  The legal framework, despite being highly favorable to the diocese because of the law and court decisions in New Jersey, was never allowed to drive the interactions between the parties.  This negotiation was conducted over the course of over two years with the presiding bishop and her chancellor well aware of what was happening and the terms of the deal.

Much can be said and much has been written about the litigiousness of these kinds of cases.   But the St. George's in Helmetta, New Jersey goes to prove that when the parties both desire to find an amicable way to sell a formerly Episcopal Church to an Anglican Church which has disaffiliated from TEC, that a way can be found.  There is no legal bar to such a sale, nor is such a sale, even at a fraction of the appraised and assessed value of the property, in violation of the fiduciary duty of the diocese or TEC.

Where there is the will to be gracious and settle without lawsuits, there is a way that it can be done, because it was done here.  Can it be repeated elsewhere?

Perhaps the Helmetta experience might be repeated.  It need not be an isolated incident if both parties in other cases have the good will to try it.

Raymond J. Dague
Attorney at Law
620 Empire Building
472 South Salina Street
Syracuse, New York 13202
(315) 422-2052

Tip of the Tinfoil to the wonderful folks at the AAC - thank you!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together we are stronger
So put your hand in mine

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

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

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


Monday, December 20, 2010

In Good Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anglican District of Virginia Synod Opens this Saturday: Advancing the Anglican Church Together

via email:

FAIRFAX, Va. (September 29, 2010) – The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) will hold its fourth annual synod on Saturday, October 2. The meeting will bring together clergy and lay delegates from all ADV churches and is centered on the theme of “Advancing Together: Laying hold of the hope God sets before us.”

“We are eager to join again with our Anglican brothers and sisters to address the next wave of goals God has set before us.  The Anglican District of Virginia is blessed to celebrate its annual meeting as orthodox Christianity continues its vibrant growth across the nation. The theme of this year’s meeting will focus on how ADV can grow together by serving communities both at home and abroad and reaching the unchurched through the power of Christ,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes.

Among the highlights on the agenda, attendees will hear from keynote speaker Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former bishop of Rochester in the Church of England and a world renowned leader in the emerging dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

Participants will be able to attend breakout sessions on healing prayer, overseas missions, Islam, and church planting and growth. ADV’s Diocesan Taskforce will also discuss their exploration into becoming a diocese within the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

During the meeting, time has been allotted a report from The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, missionary bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and for welcoming ADV’s newest congregations.

The eight new congregations that have joined ADV since last year’s meeting include: St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Charlotte, N.C., Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Bowie, Md., Winchester Anglican Church, Winchester, Va., Epiphany Anglican, Williamsburg, Va., Eternity Anglican, Richmond, Va., Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, Nags Head, N.C., La Communidad de Hispana, Fairfax, Va., and the Anglican Fellowship in Washington, Washington, D.C.

The meeting begins at 7:30 am on Saturday, October 2 with registration and will be held at Church of the Epiphany, 3301 Hidden Meadow Drive, Herndon, Va.

Event highlights:
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s Keynote Address - 9:30 am ET (Free and open to all.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Virginia Supreme Court turns down request from nine Anglican Churches

Saddened, but not surprised.  Via email:

FAIRFAX, Va. (September 24, 2010) – The nine Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) congregations that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia remained in prayer following the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision not to rehear portions of its earlier ruling.

In July, the nine churches asked the Court to reconsider whether the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) – the local and national bodies of which they are members – are branches that have resulted from the divisions in The Episcopal Church and Episcopal Diocese of Virginia under the governing Division Statute, Virginia Code § 57-9.

“While we are disappointed by today’s decision, we are certainly not discouraged. We knew going in that motions for rehearing are only granted in a low percentage of cases. We did not initiate this lawsuit and are ready to put the litigation behind us so we can completely focus on the work of the Gospel. However, we felt the basis of our motion for rehearing was strong and that the Court overlooked critical evidence showing that our congregations satisfied the requirements of the Division Statute as recently interpreted by the Virginia Supreme Court,” said ADV Chairman Jim Oakes.

“Today’s decision is not the final one in this case. The Virginia Supreme Court had already decided to send the lawsuit back to the Fairfax County Circuit Court for further proceedings. We remain extremely confident in our legal footing, but above all, our hope is in the Lord regardless of the final outcome. Our focus is on sharing the Gospel and serving those in need. The doors of all ADV churches will remain open wide to all who wish to worship with us,” Oakes concluded.   

NOTE: The Anglican District of Virginia, currently in the initial stages of forming a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America, now numbers 32 congregations and seven mission fellowships.

Friday, July 23, 2010

CANA Council continues in ministry and mission

The air may be steaming hot outside, but inside the Church of Epiphany in Herndon it is warm and welcoming as the annual council of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) gather for three days in Virginia.  The focus this year is overwhelmingly on mission, the planting of churches, the launching of new dioceses in the Anglican Church in North America, and building bridges within the Anglican community.

Bishop Martyn Minns gave the Pastoral Call for 2010, spending the majority of the address focusing on mission and ministry for the local parishes and encouraging the pastoral and lay leaders to recognize that doing church is not about keeping things the way they've always been, but reaching out to those on the margins as well as deepening the community of worship.

He also gave a report on recent developments on the global realignment of the Anglican Communion, recent gatherings of the Global South leadership, as well as the election of a new primate in Nigeria following the retirement of Archbishop Peter Akinola.

Seeing lots of old friends - these gatherings are like family reunions, where we just pick up where we last left off (whether friends are near or far) and making new friends as well.  Right now I am listening to a presentation on the Alpha Course.  The presentation started off with a clip from the television series Everybody Loves Raymond where the characters humorously discuss God and the meaning of life.

Some of the seminars offered this afternoon include "Church Planting and Anglican 1000" (which explores the vision of the ACNA to plant 1000 churches in the next five years - there are many chaplains and church planters in CANA), "The Advent of World Christianity Today," "Islam: The Challenge to Christianity Today," "National Fatherhood Initiative: Helping Dads be Dads," and "Christian Mission for Post Moderns," which I hope to attend.  It is meeting across the street at a small restaurant for a "Speakeasy" session.

Tonight is the Trinity School for Ministry Dinner.  Tomorrow is actually the one legislation session - and it lasts ONLY ONE HOUR!

It will be followed by a Festival Eucharist and ordinations with Archbishop Bob Duncan as the preacher.

Here is a short clip from the workshop on the Alpha Course with a presentation by Derek Rust:

Pictured: The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey, Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit, ACNA, Jim Oakes, Chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, the Rt. Rev'd Martyn Minns, Bishop of CANA; The Rev'd Pamela Meeks, Potomac Falls Church; Craig Cole, Executive Director, Five Talents.

LIVE BLOGGING FROM THE SPEAKEASY - I'm here at the Restaurant San Vito with about twenty others for what is called a "speakeasy" - a "postmodern" way of coming together for a talk and discussion. Dr. Darrel Whiteman of The Mission Society will be speaking followed by what is hoped to be a "robust" discussion.

The first thing we are asked to do is fill out a questionnaire. It asks questions that we should "agree" or "disagree" like:

1. Interpreting is more important than knowing.
2. It was impossible for the O.J. Simspon jury to be objective.
3. Perception is reality.
4. Classical music is the finest music ever composed.
5. I prepare "appropriate" to "right" and "inappropriate" to "wrong."
6. We need to "celebrate the differences" in people.
7. I'm optimistic about social progress.
8. It's possible to know the truth.

Twenty two questions all together. It's from the author of A Primer on Post Modernism, who has now passed away (I'll will look up his name later). The question is, how postmodern are we?

I got 19 "points" - about to find out what that means ... well I got the highest score in the group, not sure what that means yet.

It you have 12 or more, we're told by Dr. Whiteman, you are post-modern.

Fascinating. How did that happen?

We are encountering a post-modern crisis - some see it as a threat, some see it as an opportunity. The systematic theologians fall in the lower range, while those doing Christian education scored higher.

How do we connect with post-modern people? Dr. Whiteman has just handed out another handout called "Ten Rules for Reaching Postmodern People."

Yes, the robust discussion is underway!! COOL!!!!!

Characteristics of the postmodern generation:

1. Craving relationship
2. Pluralism
3. Fragmented lives
4. Rejecting authority
5. The "whatever" ideology
6. Rejecting empiricism
7. Rejecting rationalism
8. Realtivism
9. Spiritually needy

We're talking about #3 - fragmented lives.  I was thinking that there has been this idea of people compartmentalizing their lives and that seems to be deteriorating.  Is that a bad thing?

This is AWESOME!!! I am getting more out of this gathering - well, then so many gatherings I've been in lately. SIGN ME UP!

Now we are going to talk about Ten Ways to Reach Postmodern People

We are now discussing hospitality, how to be inviting, welcoming, non-judgmental, inclusive people. The discussion once again is getting very robust again.

Can we be non-judgmental? Can we be inclusive? There is a lively discussion now underway - including why Alpha is such a great way to reach postmoderns, which apparently I am.  Who new?

Dr Whitestone is going a great job in this environment - here in a restaurant, some people are hanging over the railing.

"Tolerate uncertainty, doubt, immaturity and an exploratory spirit.  Work to build community.  Allow people to belong before they believe."  This is also sparking some great conversation.

Can we tolerate uncertainty, the exploratory spirit?    We are talking about two kinds of truth - not in opposition to each other, one relational, one propositional.

"The lack of diversity is not unity, the lack of diversity is uniformity."  This is so true!!  The "diversity of Babel is redeemed in Pentecost," Dr. Whiteman is saying.  God is also in community with Himself in the Trinity, in diversity.  Question - how diverse are our churches?

Discussion once again underway!  We are God's witnesses, not God's lawyers.

It's interesting, people here are getting very thoughtful, contemplative as we wrestle with these question, especially as we consider how we respond to our postmodern culture.  Jesus melts irony into meaning.  Crisis is either a threat or an opportunity, and this should be an opportunity.