Saturday, January 22, 2011

Live Blogging Diocese of Virginia Resolutions Votes at Annual Council

Live from Intrepid on the floor of the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia:

We are getting a report on the commission about ssbs ... They were a united group with close spiritual bonds. They had a modified indaba process and created a friendship among members. Perhaps biggest accomplishment was staying focused on what we were asked to do.

"We were asked not to opine on whether ssb should be authorized ..."
"We established an opine free zone"

The underlying issues remain potentially divisive.
Our guidelines needed to address key issues.
We needed to be mindful that some clergy might not want to participate in ssb
We carefully studied resolution 14s which reminded us that asked for canonical recommendations but we were convinced that the authorization of ssb was solely at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.

We also determined that no changes to diocesan canons are necessary or desirable
As with heterosexual marriage we believe national canons are the appropriate level

To establish diocesan canons would be cumbersome and preemptive process of that national process.

We talked our task with open minds, we did the research, and followed our work to it's logical conclusion.

We have come up with our best recommendation for consistent and enforceable guidelines for providing pastoral care for same sex couples looking to have their relationships blessed.

We have submitted these guidelines to Bishop Johnston for his use. They are for the bishop to see as he sees fit. We have no recommendations for canonical changes for this council.

More to come


This is what I have said from the start. The authorization of services is at the permission of the ordinary of the diocese, the bishop. When the bishops say they need to hear from the diocese or the national church or the decision is based on legislation it is a dodge. The authority has always been in the hands of the bishops to allow or disallow such practices ... And so to choose whether or not to stay in communion with the rest of the consensus fidelium or to step outside the boundaries of the orthodox church. The commission has put the ball back in the hands of the bishop ... Something I brought up in a previous council meeting when I asked why we were bothering with listening sessions when Bishop Johnston had already said he believed in ssbs and said he would work for them personally.

Russ Palmore is reviewing the litigation now

Eleven congregations voted to secede. They immediately filed petitions to have state courts grant them ownership of the properties where they worshipped. We followed later with our own petition.

(BB NOTE: Again, Russ Palmore's statement is not accurate.  The eleven churches immediately filed petitions recording their votes - they did not take the next step to file petitions to have the state courts grant them ownership of the properties - that is absolutely false.  The votes were filed.  At that time we thought, following the Diocese of Virginia Protocol negotiated by Russ Palmore and Bishop Lee, we were heading into negotiations to come to a financial settlement withthe the diocese.  There was no reason to ask the court to intervene - we thought we were headed to resolution as was demonstrated in the prototype of the All Sants Dale City Resolution.  This was covered in the Standstill Agreement drafted by Bishop Lee and agreed to by the voting churches.  This Standstill Agreement is still not publicly available on the Diocese of Virginia's website - it's as though they don't want the people of the diocese to know about it - it will interfere with this timeline, I don't understand why they won't put the Standstill up on their website, it's public - you can read it here and here.

They wish to take Episcopal property to a new entity ... Under a statute that is extremely unusual. No Episcopal congregations had ever attempted to use this statute. It has always been the rule of the Episcopal church that properties held as a trust for the church as a whole. Most of the churches knew this and participated in council twenty five years ago when we wrote this canon into the diocesan canons, and they originally followed these canons. Every year until 2006 their Vestries took an oath to uphold the doctrine of the Episcopal church.

They asked the courts to rule that only a majority controlled the properties ... It would be fair to say that the diocese and the Episcopal church has experienced stumbling blocks.

Trial is still necessary under modern Va church property laws. While we cannot predict with certainty, I and the lawyers for the Episcopal church believe our claims are well supported ... Perhaps recognizing this the departing churches have tried some interesting new tactics.

In the mean time you may hear that the diocese has not been willing to negotiate. That is wrong. As Bishop Shannon mentioned we are willing to negotiate ... Our willingness to negotiate continues. We have been in touch with one of the other congregations about settlement. We will be reasonable but reasonableness is a two way street.

(BB NOTE: This is very good news - reasonableness is indeed a two-way street and it's clear, as we can see in the recent resolution between the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey and a CANA/ACNA congregation that such resolution is now possible.).

This is not a path the diocese wished to travel. Yet when I look down that road I see more stepping stones than stumbling blocks.


Working on resolution R2A now.


Well that was fun. Odd debate ... And then a vote to be taken in orders. Very few of us clergy holding up red cards (an odd misnomer since they are decidedly pink) to vote against resolution 2.

My delegate asked why we were doing it this way. I thought it was clearly a way to identify the few of us left in the room ...


Resolution 12s now ...

Resolutions heartily recommends approval. Discussion? None. People are tired and hungry. It passes without opposition.

Intrepid is a delegate at the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.


Anonymous said...

BB,- the petitions filed in December of 2006 were more than a mere recordation of the vote. Go look at them (or at least the one filed by The Falls Church - I have not looked at any others, but I suspect they are similar). A recordation of a vote would take a page. These are fairly complicated documents that assert ownership and possessory control over the properties and claim that the Diocese has no interest in the properties. They cite the Virginia Division statutes and contend that the implication of that statute is that the December votes had the effect of granting title to the seceding faction. If those petitions had not been opposed, it is highly likely that the Court would have taken some action that would have at least had the appearance of ratifying the claim of title by the departees. Is it reasonable to expect the Diocese to do nothing at that point? Are Mr. Palmore's comments inaccurate when one reads the petitions? My own view is that he is exactly correct and there is nothing to quibble with in his recitation (as reported by the intrepid Intrepid) of the events that led to this situation. If we are indeed hoping for some kind of consensual resolution, I do not understand why there is this constant revisionist history effort under way.


Unknown said...

No, we did not petition for transfer of the property - that was an option before our vestries and we did not do it.


Anonymous said...

Bishop Johnston says the diocese is "reasonable" about negotiation, but he doesn't state his terms. My guess is that he means by this that he is willing to give the CANA congregations a few extra weeks to vacate, if they need it. Otherwise, nothing has changed; the diocese will not negotiate a settlement as per the BP's instructions.

An equitable agreement, that would save thousands in lawyers' fees, would be for the CANA parishes to compensate the diocese for the properties, so they can start new congregations, which is what Bishop Lee was working towards in the beginning. Still, that would be a big price tag given the real estate involved. Another possibility would be to divide up the properties with CANA getting half and the diocese getting half. For instance, CANA would get Truro, while the diocese would get Apostles, or the other way around. That would make a financial compensation unnecessary, which would be incredibly expensive. Simply divide up the physical assets and skip (most of) the lawyers fees.

RSchllnbrg said...

Let's cut the baby in half? Hmmm. Might not work. Someone tried that one before I think.

Anonymous said...

"BB" and "Intrepid"- The cleric who requested the vote by orders is very firmly against R-2a and was probably hoping that there would not be a clear majority when the vote was broken down. As "Intrepid" observed, there was a clear majority for R-2a in both the clergy and lay orders.

DavidH said...

BB wrote, "No, we did not petition for transfer of the property - that was an option before our vestries and we did not do it."

False (and nonsense). If this were true, then there wouldn't have been 3 years of litigation over your petitions.

You made a decision you could pressure the Diocese of Virginia into settlement and/or win in litigation, primarily on 57-9. It didn't work out. Would reflect much better on your side if you'd just man up and admit it.

Steven in Falls Church said...

DH--Three years of litigation because the DoV walked away from the Standstill Agreement. You need to admit that.

Unknown said...

That is exactly right.

For some reason, that document - which was drawn up by the bishop - is not on the diocesan website. It is wonder then that the perception is so at odds to the facts. If you take the standstill out, the spirit in which it was drawn up, the months and months if not years it took to get to a place of trust in what the Diocese's Reconciliation Commission called a Level Five conflict was extraordinary. That it came crashing down after Bishop Schori's installation was tragic.

But it's still not too late. That is why this is a good time to pray. I don't think there was anyone in this conflict that wasn't hurt and at some point we recognize that we are hurt and are continuing to hurt and that may help us to pause and say, there must be a better way forward than this.


DavidH said...

The obsession with the Standstill continues to be completely illogical.

Steven, there has been litigation because both sides believe they're entitled to the properties, both sides filed lawsuits to get the properties, and neither side has been willing to give up the properties.

BB, again you continue with the revisionist history. There were years of the CANA folks treating the Bishop like a wayward child and attacking the rest of the Diocese as a bunch of non-Christian heretics. It is ridiculous that you think there was some "place of trust" at the time of the Standstill. To the contrary, a standstill agreement reflects a lack of trust. As does just about everything else that happened.

Anonymous said...

DavidH is correct. Had the diocese not intervened after the congregations filed their votes, the properties, by default, would have gone to the congregations. To avoid this, the diocese had to take affirmative action. It filed suit. Ignoring the constitutionality issue of 57-9, the court ruled that the separating churches did not join a "branch" of the church. The court did not buy the argument that the Anglican Communion was a church. CANA, was not and never has been a branch of the diocese or TEC. When Truro filed the papers it did, it moved to take 100% control of the properties. Both the diocese and Truro took a legal all or nothing position. Anything that that the diocese does do for separating congregations now, it will do out of simple and pure generosity. It holds all the cards.
I have taken issue with another blog owner over the "who sues whom issue" I realize that, for some, the biblical imperative not to sue is important, but, in the case of the VA congregations, the action taken by the filing of the vote left little recourse.
BB, thank you for curtailing the "heretic" language,--- even if one of your contributors was offended. EmilyH

Anam Cara said...

Sorry, BB, but reading all of this post makes me very sad. Very sad, indeed.

I am so glad I am neither Episcopalian or Anglican. I am so sorry for all involved.

IMHO, the error was made in not walking away. I know that people are very attached to their church properties. But Truro and the others should have just walked away when the suits started being filed.

They recorded votes, hoping for negotiation and a chance to buy the property. They didn't bring the first suit. When 815 and the diocese sued, they should have walked away.

We'll never know if they could have purchased the property later when the remaining parishioners couldn't afford to keep it up. That might have been the way things could have worked. We can't know. But the money spent by both sides, the emotional toll it has taken on the parishioners and staffs of the churches, always wondering if and when they will have to leave has been tremendous. Better to have just started anew someplace else.

That having been said, I do think Truro is right and hope that in the end, they don't have to leave. However, I would have turned the other cheek, given them my cloak as well as my coat (and the organ pipes you're paying storage for), and leave it for the Lord to take care of rather than the courts.

Put not your trust in princes in sons of men in whom there is no salvation.

jschwarz42 said...

Re: who started the litigation. I am a retired litigator, and while I have followed the litigation what I know is basically what is in the pleadings and has been said at those court hearings I have been able to attend.

Scout is essentially right, from what I can see. I have looked again at the Petition from Falls Church (which started it all) on the Diocesan litigation resources webpage. Falls Church is the only one there, but I assume that Truro's (and the others) were similar except for property descriptions, etc. (the Diocesan webpage states that all other congregations filed "virtually identical petitions"). Based on this pleading itself, the claim that the CANA congregations did not start the litigation is, at the (very) best, disingenuous in the extreme.

bb, I do not know what your lawyers TOLD you Truro was doing, but (again assuming Truro's filing was like Falls Church's) what you actually DID was file a "Petition". Now if you are claiming that you were just depositing the vote count, and not asking for any judicial determination or initiating legal proceedings, then I have no idea what you thought use of the term "Petition" meant. You clearly were petitioning for something.

The division statute, which is quoted in the Petition, states NO TIME LIMIT REQUIREMENT for filing election results with the court (so you did not need to file it THEN). It clearly anticipates that a congregation would file the vote result (what it calls the "determination") with the court at the time of and as part of a request for an adjudication of ownership. The statute clearly states that the "determination" (the vote of the congregation) will be reported to the court, and if approved by the court, will be entered in the Order book and will THEN be CONCLUSIVE as to ownership of the property. That "approval" was clearly what you were "petitioning" for; and, if that petition had gone unanswered and unchallenged by the Diocese and the determination had been "approved", then you would have had a judicially final order (probably not even appealable at that point, because properly noticed and never challenged prior to the order), saying CONCLUSIVELY that Truro owned the property.

The final section of the Petition ("Request For Approval of Report") even specifically tracks the statute language and asks for "approval" of the "determination" - and entry of an Order in the order book. This would have conclusively determined ownership - and that it what your lawyers SPECIFICALLY asked for.

Now (1) how exactly were your actions compatible with any sort of "Standstill Agreement"? And (2) what exactly was the Diocese supposed to have done at that point to protect its legal position and interests, when presented with your "Petition"? It would have been like (in more normal litigation) not responding to a Complaint and waiting for a Default Judgment to be entered.


ettu said...

Why all this unceasing insistence that a stand still agreement trumps everything else? I have been in negotiations that I thought were going my way - and had reason to believe there was an intent to sell to me -- but then found out all was a sham and the "deal" went to another party. Well, I had nothing in legal binding form to rely on so I licked my "wounds" and went on to other - and often better -issues.
Whining endlessly about a lost opportunity ill becomes the side that does so - it certainly does not seem to have any chance of changing the legal result.

Anonymous said...

JS42 and ettu: I also have had a lot of difficulty understanding the tenacity with which a few people have asserted that the litigation in Virginia started with "the other side". To me it's a matter of indifference, other than that it is empirically ascertainable who fired the first shots in court and I don't see why anyone should pretend otherwise. It probably has something to do with trying to appear not to have violated the Pauline injunction against intra-parish litigation. Frankly, I don't attach any particular opprobrium to the departing parishioners filing their petitions other than my overarching disagreement with the concept that leaving creates some sort of property right. But I would feel that way even if it was just a concept that no one had acted on.

In fairness to BB and some others, I think their attitude is, in significant part, a natural reaction to a very complicated and ambiguous set of signals being sent by the Diocesan Bishop to restive elements in the year or so before the vote. These were further confused by the filtering of Diocesan actions by separatist clergy and vestry when they conveyed them to parishioners. Bishop Lee's actions and utterances were very Buchanan-ish at a time when a little more of a flinty, Lincoln-esque attitude might have saved a lot of confusion. People very much heard what they wanted to hear from the Diocese. My feeling is that the then-Bishop was bending over backwards to try to maintain bonds of faith and affection with a number of very valuable members of the Diocese. He seemed unaware of how far out the door people already were, and also misread the zeal for secession that had been cultivated in the captive situation that prevailed in the parishes in the months leading to the vote (by "captive", I mean that the "dialogue" on the issue was extraordinarily managed and one-sided). In looking at the "What-ifs", I can't help but think about how much better off all would be now if the Bishop had said in mid-2005 or earlier something along the lines of: "I respect your scruples. If you wish to stay and witness for your view of correct doctrine, we welcome you to do so. However, if you are terminally uncomfortable in this Church, and have decided you must seek other affiliations, you must leave and leave now. You cannot stay and use your position to plot property takeovers, promote schism and maneuver against unity, and use the pulpits to build sentiment for others to join you. The Diocese will work with you to make your departure as smooth as possible, but will not tolerate situations where your loyalty to the Church has terminated, or is divided or dilute."

In some cases, this stand would have allowed eventually for discussion of property transfers along the lines of the recent New Jersey model, although I do not think the Diocese would have considered sale of the more historic properties, such as TFC or Truro. In any event, it is very hard to get to even discussion of such dispositions when a hostile group is occupying the premises simply by force of numbers and is excluding Episcopal clergy and worship.


Unknown said...

It would be interesting to hear comments on the formation and reports of both the Reconciliation Commission, chaired by St. Mary's Arlington Rector Andrew Murrow, and the Special Committee, chaired by the Diocese of Virginia's Chancellor.

Over and over again, both committees seem to be dismissed. Bishop Lee took the recommendations of the Special Committee and the Protocol, which was written by the Chancellor himself. Also included on the Special Committee was the just-retired (and later candidate for bishop) chairman of the Diocesan Standing Committee. If we can't believe them, who do we believe?

I do think it shows there was far more division in the diocese then we knew at the time. It made it far more vulnerable to the change of power in 815 the month before the vote in 2006.

Again, Episcopal clergy and worship is not excluded. As one public example, the Episcopal congregation from Centreville ( a liberal parish no less) was welcomed at Truro to conduct a wedding. The rector of the Episcopal parish officiated at the wedding.

In addition, the liturgy we use at Truro is from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. We have in our congregation both Episcopalians and Anglicans. Episcopalians are not required to be confirmed or received.

As for resolution, one of the positive things that came from this weekend is that - off the blogs - leaders from the Anglican and Episcopal congregations were talking to each other and praying together.

Case in point, it was happening within the Council itself as the Daughters of the King were present and the Diocese of Virginia is made up of chapters from BOTH Episcopal and Anglican congregations. The Daughters of the King in Virginia have found a prayerful way to remain in as close a communion as possible, to the point that Daughters from both Episcopal and Anglican congregations were present and praying at last weekend's Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.


Anonymous said...

Occasional weddings and funerals don't cut it, BB. Regular Sunday worship is the test. If the Episcopalian members of The Falls Church had been able to continue weekly Sunday worship in the Historic Church, it would have been a far healthier situation than it is for them to be in exile.

By the way, is there another term than "Anglican" that we could use in discussing these distinctions? Episcopalians are Anglican, so the latter term spans both Episcopalian and CANA or ACNA groups.


Lapinbizarre said...

..... the latter term [Anglican] spans both Episcopalian and CANA or ACNA groups." At the risk of being uncharitable, Scout, it spans provinces recognized by the Anglican Communion as being a part of that Communion. Other groups using the term do wishfully.

Anonymous said...

Point taken, Rabbit. I was perhaps subconsciously just spotting ACNA and CANA their use of the term. I don't mind if they call themselves Anglican, I just don't want to cede the term to them for exclusive use. As an Episcopalian, I certainly think of my affiliation as Anglican.


Always hobbits said...

It is hard to know whether this is worth it, or not. Maybe it is just clanging cymbals. When I read Scout, jschwarz, lapinbizarre, I wonder why all this matters to you? On the one hand I know that history and property are deeply part of identity, but the argument here is over the substance of a faith that the Episcopal Church no longer affirms, isn't it? Some of you "like" being Anglicans, and resent that the CANA and ANCA folk have identified themselves in this way. I think they (CANA and ACNA) are only trying to hold onto their own commitments and history, and the present reality of the Anglican Communion-- which is no longer shaped by the colonial and post-colonial Canterbury see. The world is moving on, even if the Archbishop resists that new wineskin. Ecclesiatics have been doing that for millenia. He doesn't seem able to see what is going on with the growth of live orthodoxy all over the world, and instead continues to offer a seat at his right hand for the presiding bishop of TEC, who by her own confession does not believe in the theology of historic Christianity. Her theology has a name, Hinduism, which is an honored and old religion in the world, but it is not mere christianity, nor is it historic Anglicanism. Doesn't any of this really matter to you folks? Are we just talking about "stuff"? About things that will rot and decay-- an not about what really matters for this life and eternity?

Anonymous said...

AH - I was not aware that the Presiding Bishop was a Hindu, and would suggest that that supposition bears further investigation. The faith still affirmed in the Episcopal Church is pretty much what it has been for several centuries. We are a creedal faith with strong historic ties to the Church of England. There are various people in various Christian denominations whose theological views might minutely coincide with mine (or yours), but I think the core faith remains strong. I have seen no evidence of anything particularly "unorthodox" in my weekly worship.


Always hobbits said...

I wonder, Scout, what the term "moral seriousness" means to you? Do you really want to defend Katherine Schiori's belief in the creeds? Do you read her? I know you are an intelligent man. Knowing that I as I do it seems incredible that you would stake much at all on her allegiance to the meaning of the creeds and confessions of the Church.

To press the point: what is Hinduism, and how is it different than Christianity? Among its chief beliefs is that there are many deities, many pathways to the divine. Jesus is one of those. It may be "street-level Hinduism," but it is Hinduism that Schiori believes, not a faith that is resonant with the creeds of the Church. Read the Nicene Creed again, and ask yourself an honest question about the presiding bishop's own words about her faith. But she does so with an Enlightenment face, doesn't she? Have you heard her intellectual scorn for the unEnlightened Global South? Just comparing degrees, which can be done with real work, the leaders of the Global South have shown much more academic seriousness than the more "enlightened" North. Spend some time on that someday.

We are not talking about intellectual ability here, but moral seriousness, where there is honest integrity between what one says he or she believes to be true, and how one lives life. To recite the creeds isn't much, in the end. If one doesn't believe them to be true, one is just whistling in the dark.

Does that matter to you at all? Esp in those you submit to as the leaders of your church?

Anonymous said...

If Mrs. Schori is a Hindu, AH, she should move on. She is clearly in the wrong job. I was not attaching much importance to her one way or another. She is just one person. I have no reason to believe she is lying when she recites the creeds. If she is, she needs to make some changes. But it doesn't have much to do with me. I, of course, might prefer that our Presiding Bishop be someone who does not excite such controversy, whether justified or not, but I have to make my judgments about my faith and worship based on my daily and weekly worship with fellow Christians.

I have made no secret of the fact that I did not think the choice of Mrs. Jeffords-Schori was the optimal choice at the time. The quality of Bishops, Priests, Popes and Archbishops varies over time. The Faith remains the same.

I agree with you that there are some very impressive clerical leaders in the Global South.


Lapinbizarre said...

If I determined to become a Roman Catholic, Always hobbits, I would become one, not by my act of declaring myself to be one, but by my being received into membership by that church.

[Check the recent ordinations at Westminster Cathedral.]

Always hobbits said...

As I wrote, the sun no longer sets on the British Empire, politically or ecclesiastically. It's the 21st-century. Perhaps if Rowan Williams had taken up the moral authority that was his, he would not have forfeited the ecclesiastically authority that has been his. It is a matter of wineskins, crazy rabbit, and the one you are living with has become cracked and it leaks badly.

Lapinbizarre said...

Assertions are not argument, Always hobbits.