|Bishop Budde of the Diocese of Washington.|
In fact the NPR program is promoted by focusing on the "decade of schism in the American Episcopal Church" saying that has indeed "taken a toll." The program interestingly enough focuses on the recent damage to the Washington National Cathedral as a metaphor of this toll of schism.
Bishop Budde, who speaks glowingly of her time with what she calls the "radical" Catholic Workers movement and ardently endorses what she describes as the political and prophetic voice of the Episcopal Church, sees herself as a community organizer placed to make that political and prophetic voice resonate by somehow buttressing up the busted up local parishes of the Diocese of Washington and getting new people to fill up the emptying pews. She rightly understands that if this new prophetic thing is really going to take off, the flight from the pews has got to stop.
Yet how on one hand can someone be defending the Episcopal litigation as protecting the Episcopal legacy, while at the same time telling the local churches its no longer business as usual and the legacy stuff has got to go? Though she presents herself not as the politically charged rhetorical political activist promoting active conflict, she sees herself as a conciliatory strategist like an ecclesiastical version of Barack Obama, circa 2008.
Sadly, she categorizes the schism as just a typical problem of the changey stuff, an unfortunate reation to the God-mandated embrace of the hot cultural innovations and social experiments of our time. She still pulls out spiritually charged and frankly progressive fundamentalist rhetoric herself (how can there be any honest conversation if the current crop of TEC leaders, including this one, continue to express that they have heard directly from God and that all they are doing is His New Thing?), branding those that disagree with her as the "fundamentalists" and "literalists" who apparently are all about promoting centralized super-authority to bishops (talk about transference, those comments reveal more about the current internal conflict in the Episcopal Church itself over the authority and role of bishops now that some of diocesans are waking up and seeing red ink). She starts off her vision-thing as sounding so reasonable and just plain nice, until she is left to disparagingly categorize those who hold the views of the vast majority of Anglicans around the world. Hope fades.
If one is really interested in building trust and openness, it might be wise to start with comprehending why churches like the name-checked Truro Church and other sister churches in Virginia saw 7,000 of its members vote to separate from the Episcopal Church in 2006. Like the National Cathedral, it isn't just about a few spires on the roof toppling over, but of a deep lost of integrity within the foundations of the church itself.
Listen to it all here or here.
Your post was all the Budde I can take. The NPR audio might well send me over the edge.
I don't think her Diocese has been nearly as riven by property disputes as has the neighboring Diocese of Virginia. However, her comments did not question that people who are disaffected have every right to leave and that it was a challenge for the church to try to make them feel comfortable in staying. As for reference in the post to litigation, the only litigation has been not because people decide to leave, but because when they leave they have attempted to take things and have excluded from continuing worship people who choose to stay. That's quite a limited, radical circumstance in which there are very few options for either the church, a diocese, or the continuing Episcopalians.
Oh, please. You can't swing a dead cat in Virginia without hitting an Episcopal church (not that you'd want to).
There are plenty of options for people who choose to remain Episcopalian - most notably some of the departing churches which set up ways for the "continuing Episcopalians" to use the Anglican buildings for their Episcopal worship.
Self delusion coupled with group-think has marked the demise of many organizations throughout history. It is what infects the top tiers of TEC.
Some organizations slide unnoticed into irrelevancy; others cause collateral damage as they crumble. Their final legacy is that of vandals who destroyed what they themselves could never have built.
The Bishop's interview continues to reflect the institutional tone-deafness that has befallen the church. And too, inferring that you're a "community organizer in a mitre" is not a good look for anyone.
The "play dress-up" photo was all the Budde I could take.
Scout and I, and others, have been pushing back-and-forth over this very same issue for years now. We do not see history, and the law, the same way at all. We have fundamentally different accounts of right and wrong, probably because we have fundamentally different loyalties to the creeds and confessions of the Church. And beyond that, and probably most importantly, we believe differently about God, Scripture and the Church.
Even though the historic claims of The Falls Church, Truro etc were sustained repeatedly by the courts through Judge Bellows' rulings, at the end of the day Scout/TEC may win out. No human knows at this point. Equally intelligent people see this very differently, and read the law differently.
But what is clear is that the legal universe and the moral universe are not always the same. The "law" may allow for behavior that human society has historically judged in tension with the demands of the moral universe. Take the recent Penn State scandal as one example, viz. though Coach Paterno may have done what the law required, life required something more. We were not content with the requirements of the legal universe; we knew that there is a deeper law, and we cringed and cried out. The expert in the law in the Gospel of Luke had mastered the letter of the law, but had missed its meaning, and so Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan. A person can get all A's and still flunk life.
The skewedness of Scout's vision of history is galling, on some levels-- though I bear no personal animus towards him. Who does he think paid for the churches? Faithful people who actually believed what they confessed and prayed. Overwhelmingly, TEC is no longer that church. Listen to the House of Bishops and to Katherine Schiori; they do not believe in historic Christianity anymore.
It is a good word,"overwhelmingly." When the votes were taken to leave TEC, only about 5% wanted to stay. The congregations of TFC and Truro et al overwhelmingly are "faithful people who actually believe what they confess and pray." Why is it so hard for Scout and company to honor that reality?
No one can make a serious argument that TEC could even keep the buildings going, much less make use of them. Overwhelmingly, good word that it is, their churches are dying, and the trust funds that have kept TEC alive are rapidly diminishing due to its horribly-crazed, suit-driven leadership. Schiori et al have such a short-sighted vision. "Yes, your honor, I would sell to a night club before I would allow other Anglicans to use these buildings!" And if the night clubs won't have it, I will sell to the Muslims. Lord, have mercy.
Yes, may the Lord have mercy.
Sorry, the vestments leave me without words to comment on her statements. Perhaps a nomination to http://badvestments.blogspot.com
would be in order?
AH - what makes you think my take on the creeds is any different than yours? Why would you think we believe differently on any theological points? How do the creeds affect the property issues?
Judge Bellows has not repeatedly "sustained" the Occupy groups in their assertion of rights to church properties. He did rule that the Virginia Division statute granted them the right to claim the properties, but was overruled by the state Supreme Court. I don't recall that he has issued any rulings on the matters now before him in the aftermath of that reversal.
My basic position is that the traditional, conservative approach to reaffiliation decisions is for the person to leave the church he worships in, and go to another. He can make this decision for reasons of conscience or convenience. Even for reasons of arbitrary preference or spite. But when he leaves, he leaves and he doesn't acquire any rights to property. There is nothing in the by-laws of any parish or the governing documents of the Diocese or the national church that give him (or a bunch of similarly motivated persons) property rights when they make the decision to leave.
The "paid-for-it" argument is completely useless. People who decide to leave may have contributed when they were there, but so did people who decided not to leave. That issue is a wash. I paid for things at the church I have been evicted from by the occupying departees. What is the canonical mechanism by which my contribution is worth nothing and someone who decides that he must leave gets to keep my contribution? It makes no moral, ethical or common sense.
The voting process in every case of which I am aware around the country was organized and managed by the people who wanted to leave. It was completely purpose-built to rationalize leaving without consequence. And it was anything but an objective process. The bishop of our diocese had been prohibited from visiting our church for some time prior to the "vote."
The issue of legal ownership does not turn on whether, once occupiers return the property to its owners, they can sustain it. I have no idea in the various parishes whether Episcopalians will be able to keep up the properties. But isn't that issue irrelevant to the question of ownership? If it is relevant, then better-off folks can simply take my home if I get into straits, without having to go through the inconvenience of buying it from me.
I think we will soon have a chance to find out whether these properties can be sustained by Episcopalian congregations. It will indeed be a challenge. But, if they can't, then other dispositions will be made. If departing groups had not occupied the buildings, there might have been some basis to work out an arrangement with them for joint use or leases/sales etc. But the seizures, and particularly the expulsion of the Episcopalians, created a very difficult atmosphere for reaching those kinds of arrangements.
Wishing all an inspirational Christmas season, I am,
Anam Cara -
Which of the departing groups set up ways for the continuing Episcopalians to use the occupied buildings for continuing Episcopalian worship? That sure didn't happen in Virginia, as far as I know. My parish has had to worship for years now in a loft provided by another denomination. It has been an enriching experience for most, if not all of us. However, I think it would have been far better if the occupying group had permitted us to continue to worship in our buildings pending resolution of legal issues.
Years ago my father, a globally-respected scientist at a major university, taught me that one's view of the origins of the universe had little to do with native intelligence. Equally bright people could see the universe very differently. The "quality" of one's PhD had little to do with whether one saw the world as created, or as chaos, as our "seeing" came from our hearts,and our hearts were primarily a matter of metaphysical and moral commitment.
This difference, Scout, has everything to do with God, Scripture, the Church, and its creeds and confessions-- and almost nothing to do with the law of Virginia. It always has, and always will.
That you don't see that it does is the principal reason you are still arguing for Schiori's skewed, suit-driven leadership, and for the dying ecclesial organization that TEC is (hard to call it a "church"anymore, as it no longer pretends to stand in that line of historic faith). As I long said about St. Stephen's/St. Agnes School in Alexandria-- proudly a school of the Diocese of Virginia --it is "sympathetic to transcendence, but it doesn't believe in truth." Just like its mother "church."
Maybe someday, out of spite, you will be able to watch the historic churches of Truro and TFC become Muslim mosques, or nightclubs. And when and if that day comes, I wonder what you will then think about your protests against "faithful people who actually believe what they confess and pray" and who are overwhelmingly, in this generation and past generations, the folk who have built and paid for the buildings.
And I wonder if there will ever be enough moral honesty for you and others to acknowledge that, BS-- before Schiori --Peter Lee intended to come to peaceful means by which Virginia congregations could choose to separate. That was the plan at least, before "the new sheriff" came to town. It is what happened, Scout-- all your long protests to the contrary.
Tiny Tim gets the last word, and a very good it is: God bless us everyone. We live or die by that.
Actually, AH, I've identified myself here many times as not being a fan of the current PB. I viewed her election as a case of finding the wrong person at the wrong time for that important job. And I have the highest regard for "Faithful people who actually believe what they confess and pray. . ."
My point of departure from the majority position here is over what one does when one decides to reaffiliate with a new or different denomination. I view it as a radical, anarchic approach to church governance, one that has no grounding in canon or secular law, that people leaving a church get to take anything with them, up to and including the buildings. It is positively, in my view, amoral behaviour. Rationalizations are created for this, many of them based heavily on demonizing the folks from whom the property is taken. However, at the end of the day, it is a kind of narcissistic self-deception by people who, in any other field, would not behave in that manner. My views on this are very much informed by my generally conservative nature and my faith. That you or others have other views is a reflection of human nature. But my question concerning the source of authority for such takeovers has rarely prompted any mature exchange, but instead tends to provoke personal attacks on me or others who were chucked out of their places of worship for no greater offense than simply that they chose (for a multitude of reasons) not to leave.
I'm certainly aware that more than one of the CANA churches were in talks with those choosing to remain Episcopalian so that some accomodation for use of the buildings could be made.
These talks ended abruptly when DioVA/TEC filed their lawsuits, not in retaliation for the suits, but rather because of what use DioVA/TEC might make of sharing arrangements as an argument for property ownership.
Anam Cara refers to sharing arrangements where the Occupy groups in Virginia were letting Episcopalians continue to use the buildings. I am unaware of any such arrangements. RalphM is probably correct that at least some of the reluctance to do so was motivated by legal considerations. Frankly, however, I think that permitting such use by people who did not leave would have had no adverse effect on the legal positions of either side.
One would hope that trying to make good faith arrangements for usage of the properties would not be used by the plaintiffs for advantage.
However, one would have also hoped that DioVA/TEC would not sue the officers of a non-profit organization (clergy, trustees and vestry) for the sole purpose of intimidation and injury. In VA, these officers cannot be held liable for their votes (short of criminal intent). One would not have believed that DioVA/TEC would try to register all probable names to prevent the departing churches from using them.
One would have hoped this things in vain as the record shows.
When I was a vestryman, there never was any doubt that if I violated my oaths or my fiduicary duties to the parish or the diocese, and caused harm thereby, I could be held personally liable for my breaches of duty. The departing groups went to court to assert title to properties they occupied after their departure. The Diocese counter-sued. The departing groups' suit came to grief at the state Supreme Court level. The counterclaims remain sub judice. But in constructing the counter-complaints, who else would the Diocese name as counter-defendants besides the clergy and vestry members who spent considerable time constructing the means by which they would assert control over property and evict those who decided to remain in the Diocese and the national church? It strikes me that there could be no other defendants. If the court ultimately rules in favour of the Diocese, the order will have to direct someone to deliver the property and accounts. Who else would that be other than the people who engineered the takeover in the first place?
While there have been points along the way that I have decided that I won't try ever again to engage Scout et. al. over the issue of TEC, I am a man who hopes. And maybe it was Christmas that made me think that it was worth it to try again.
It isn't. And so I bow out. But don't think that your words are the last words, Scout. At some point, in this life or the next, you will realize that the issue is one that is completely bound up with God, Scripture, the Church and its creeds and confessions, and has almost nothing to do with the way you or the Virginia Supreme Court read the history of the law. You say the same thing, again and again and again-- and the heart of your argument is fundamentally false. Peter Lee initiated a peaceful separation within the Diocese of Virginia, and then under pressure from Katherine Schiori, reneged. And eccesisial hell broke loose.
As I said a few days ago, sometimes very tragically, there is a dissonance between the legal universe and the moral universe, between what the "law" says it right and what is right. The Penn State story is only a recent example of that. Whatever happens with Judge Bellows, I know that I hope that the final disposition is not left with you and TEC. The wonderfully rich histories of the Truros and TFCs will be done with in this age, and they will go the way of all flesh-- nightclubs, mosques, or condos as they will become.
I cannot imagine that that would make you a happy man. But that is a question I often come to, in difficult conversations. What is it that you want? What is it that would make you happy? Our answers say much about our heart of hearts. Or as Augustine said so well and so long ago, about our loves. And our loves are at the very heart of who we are.
If the courts rule in favor of DioVA/TEC, they will simply direct the trustees to deliver the deed. That does not require personal suits - simply an order of the courts.
Vestries, clergy and, in some cases, trustees have changed since DioVA/TEC initiated the court actions. How could a person no longer in those positions turn over the keys?
The personal suits were an attempt to intimidate and injure. They served no other purpose.
Two of the three trustees were continuing Episcopalians. They also were named in the countersuit. There is also the issue of accounts and personal property that were taken over by the occupying groups. Those will have to be accounted for. Any injunctive order of the court will have to be addressed to the people capable of executing the instructions of the court.
Vestry members should be very much aware of the consequences of their actions. I doubt very much that the individuals involved would find being named particularly intimidating. They certainly weren't injured. The worst that can happen to them is that they will have to make whole people whom they injured. They will be no worse off than if they hadn't caused the harm in the first instance. But this is a matter of correct pleading construction, not malice. My understanding of the current state of things is that there is a stipulation that the departing group will be bound by the results and, as a consequence of that undertaking, the individual counter-defendants have been either formally or informally dismissed. I invite correction on this from anyone who knows more about this than I.
AH - the process initiated by Peter Lee (but rejected by the Standing Committed of the Diocese) was not one in which the departing groups simply occupied the premises without compensation and chucked out those who chose to stay in the Church. It was one which confirmed that the departing groups could offer payment for the properties, presumably under terms that would have protected those Episcopalians who continued to worship. I very much doubt, even had the Lee/Palmore approach been approved, that the larger, historic properties would have been let go at any price. But that was a road not taken, so we'll never know.
I hope that there is not a dissonance between the law and justice in the Penn State affair. I am not sure how that relates to these issues. If Sandusky is proven to have committed the offenses that have been reported, I would expect him to face very severe punishment.
As to the rest of your comment, I simply don't see that our creeds and faith do much to illuminate the correctness of these occupation tactics by departing groups. Why could they not do what, on an occasion or two, I have done - switch to another church? Where in the governing documents of the church is there a provision for a person or persons to take over buildings when they leave? If I sincerely believe I have interpreted scripture more correctly than that guy over there, can I have his church? Isn't that the issue with regard to these property disputes? You seem to think so.
What factual evidence is there that the CANA congregations "excluded from continuing worship people who choose to stay", as claimed above?
I'd like to hear it. Or does it exist only in the writer's imagination? As far as I know, the services were exactly the same and open to all after the votes to depart as they were before. The handful of TEC people chose to quit attending. Some of them, I know, because they did not want to be under an African bishop.
I'm not sure what would constitute "factual evidence" in the context of the last comment, but the question strikes me as an odd one. I would have thought the more interesting question would have been whether there are any of these occupations by departing groups that have permitted the folks who chose not to leave to continue to worship as Episcopalians on the occupied premises. I certainly am not aware of any. In my parish, Episcopal worship ended the week after the vote. I know of no situation anywhere in the country where the continuing congregations were permitted to stay and continue Episcopal services. The Christ Church Savannah situation, one which has been in these pages and elsewhere recently because court decisions finally permitted the return of Episcopalians after years of exile is, as far as I know, the norm, not the exception.
That's what I meant - the claim made was untrue.
Now, you say you could not worship at the church any longer because it was not episcopalian. But other than that, there was not one thing on a Sunday morning from clergy to message to order of service that was different from before the vote to after. Not one thing. The folks who became the CANA folks did not change. The only thing that really changed was you (other than getting a Nigerian bishop - apparently a real stick in the craw to some traditional Virginians). You need to own that.
And the Falls Church, at least, did offer to let TEC continue to have services at the church. The Diocese of Virginia rejected it. They had their reasons, but they don't deny it happened.
I'm not certain what you think is untrue, Anon 0917. If you are saying that people generally can worship where they please, I guess I agree with that. I could worship at a Roman Catholic Church or even a synagogue or Buddhist temple. My point is not that I could not set foot on the premises. My point is that Episcopalians who, for whatever reason or reasons, thought it unwise to further schism in the Church, could not continue to worship as Episcopalians in the Diocese of Georgia, or Virginia, or California, or wherever, at any point after those who felt it necessary to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, for whatever reason or reasons, departed and occupied the church buildings. I do not pretend to know everything that happened everywhere. However, as one who follows these things around the country, it is my impression, for which I welcome factual correction, that the universal rule has been that following the departures and occupations, no Episcopalian parishes were allowed to co-habit in the same buildings that were occupied by the departees. If there were exceptions to this general rule, I am glad for it, but suspect that the rarity of such events generally proves the rule I posit.
I am unaware of any offer by the departing group at the Falls Church to the Diocese to allow condominium usage by Episcopalians at that facility. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, but I can say with some certainty that The Falls Church parishioners (the Episcopalians) were never informed of it. I personally don't believe it happened. I say this because I do know that requests by The Falls Church parish to use the buildings were denied by the CANA group. The explanation offered was that the CANA lawyers had advised against it. I can't reconcile this rejection of use with the idea that a sharing arrangement would have been offered indirectly to The Falls Church by the CANA group through the Diocese, or that the Diocese would not have informed The Falls Church of the offer.
Use of the term "countersuit" is confusing. The plain language terms are "plaintiff" and "defendant". DioVA/TEC are the plaintiffs and the (then) CANA congregations are the defendants.
How is a vestry person injured by being named in the suits filed by DioVA/TEC? How about in such matters as job applications, credit applications, security background checks... DioVA/TEC sued the vestry members as an intimidation tactic.
The individual suits were dismissed without prejudice by agreement of the parties. As I recall, the judge was indicating strongly that he was going to dismiss with prejudice if DioVA/TEC did not agree to back off.
I have finally listened through the whole interview and was struck by the following. First, I hope that the ministers and bishops under which I place myself and my children do not giggle about "blocking out" certain scripture found to be troublesome or offensive, like what +Budde did about the Timothy passage. Second, the damage to the Cathedral is not a metaphor for the cracks and decline affecting TEC that +Budde has been called upon to remedy; it is metaphor for the brokenness that TEC has visited upon global Anglicanum. The scaffolding should be left around the central tower as a reminder to future TEC leaders of what their predecessors have wrought. Third, there is a hint of refreshing honesty when +Budde drew a connection between TEC's theological innovations and the strife over the past ten years. In this respect, the interview must be understood within the context of BB's post on the Church of Sudan cutting off the PB and embracing ACNA, as further demonstration that TEC has been engaging in constructive schism, or "schism in place." While the folks at the Daily Episcopalian may sniff about the ACNA folks being schismatics, it is telling that ACNA churches are in full and unimpeded communion with far more worshippers globally than TEC.
While rambling off topic, the decisions to dissasociate and keep the properties were not made by vestries or trustees or clergy. They were made by a vote of the parishioners.
So, why didn't TEC choose to sue all the parishioners? Think of the thousands more people TEC could have harmed!. Truly a missed opportunity!!!
There were a number of vestry and clergy who, long after they made a decision to leave the church, failed to resign their positions and continued in place, in violation of their oaths, undertakings, and fiduciary obligations, planned the scenario for persuading parishioners to leave. The governing documents of the church (parish/diocese/national church) make no provision for parishioners making a joint decision to leave and claim property. Of course, individual parishioners are free to leave at any time for any reason.
I can't speak for your parish, but decisions regarding real property were (and are) required to be put before my parish for a vote. The vestry can recommend, but the decision is up to the parishioners.
Representatives of DioVA were invited and did speak. Those on the vestry who voted not to recommend dissassociation were invited to address the congregation and did so. Our parishioners are adults, and they made an informed decision.
So the question remains - why were the vestries, clergy and trustees sued by DioVA/TEC but not those who made the decision to leave?
The answer is simple - injury and intimidation of the leadership.
The issue has been overtaken by events discussed above. However, if I had been drafting the pleadings I would have named those persons who engineered the attempt to take over the buildings and those who would be responsible for accounting for the assets taken and the property's return if my side were to prevail. It strikes me as necessary approach to ensure that properties, real and personal, are returned intact. Any vestryman who didn't see that risk was simply not paying attention.
We have dragged this thread OT long enough. With no sarcasm intended, I wish you a joyful and happy new year. My hope is that both sides will get what they need and that this litigation will finally be put to bed in 2012.
I think we can make common cause on that note, Ralph. Best new year's greetings from the Netherlands.
You were right, Ralph (RalphM at 2002). Judge Bellowes has put the issue to bed in the first month of 2012. Of course, as deep as the occupiers are in this at this point, they may decide to pursue an appeal (in for a few million, in for a few more million). But I think the story is essentially over in Virginia.
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