Monday, October 29, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court of Virginia grants The Falls Church Anglican's Petition for Appeal on all issues

UPDATE: The Supreme Court of Virginia has granted The Falls Church Anglican's appeal on all issues and refused the The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's assignment of cross error.   

Read more at Curmudgeon on this loss for TEC and the DoV:
By its order, the writ panel expressly refused to consider the Diocese's and ECUSA's cross-assignments of this claimed error, so Judge Bellows' ruling on that specific point will stand. And as I explained in this earlier post, that means that the Dennis Canon has no effect in Virginia. 
Curmudgeon writes on what the Virginia Supreme Court will review in granting The Falls Church Anglican's appeal:
1. The trial court erred in enforcing canon law, rather than “principles of real property and contract law” used in all cases ... to award plaintiffs a proprietary interest in TFC’s property and to extinguish TFC’s interest in such property, even though TFC’s own trustees held title and TFC paid for, improved, and maintained the property.  
2. The trial court’s award of TFC’s property to plaintiffs violates the Religion Clauses of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions by enabling denominations to secure others’ property by means available to no other Virginia entity.
3. The trial court erred in finding that plaintiffs had proprietary interests in TFC’s real property acquired before 1904, when the legislature first referenced denominational approval of church property transfers. [Note: in the body of the Petition, this claim of error is restated in this way: "The trial court divested TFC of property by retroactively applying canons and statutes passed after the conveyances at issue, contrary to state law and the Contracts Clause."] 
4. The trial court erred in awarding plaintiffs TFC’s unconsecrated real property, which is exempt from plaintiffs’ canons. 
5. The trial court erred in awarding TFC’s personal property to plaintiffs—even though plaintiffs never had any control over TFC’s funds or their use, and TFC’s donors, for religious reasons, gave on the express condition that their gifts not be forwarded to plaintiffs—in violation of Va. Code §57-1 and the Religion Clauses of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions.
6. The trial court erred in awarding plaintiffs more relief than sought, including funds given after TFC disaffiliated and funds spent on maintenance, which plaintiffs stipulated TFC should keep.
In their response to the Petition, the Diocese of Virginia claimed that The Falls Church Anglican had "waived" Assignments of Error #3 and #4 above, for improperly presenting and/or preserving them in the record for appeal. The Supreme Court obviously disagreed with that contention, because there is no language in its order restricting the points of error which The Falls Church Anglican may raise on appeal.
Read Curmudgeon's full report here. Link to the Supreme Court's award of appeal is here.

The Supreme Court of Virginia has granted The Falls Church Anglican's appeal.

The Falls Church Anglican reports:

The Virginia Supreme Court has posted on its website that it has granted The Falls Church Anglican's Petition for Appeal and will hear our case. 

The Court's online "Case Information System" lists the status of our Petition for Review as "Granted", with a "Disposition Date" of this past Friday. 

Our Petition asked the Court to review Fairfax Circuit Judge Randy I. Bellows' January 2012 letter opinion and March 2012 Final Order ruling against TFCA in the lawsuits brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and directing us to transfer all of our real property and million of dollars of money and other personal property to the Episcopal Diocese. 

Our Petition for Appeal asked the Virginia Supreme Court to review the entire lower court decision for failing to follow U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions applying "neutral principles" of secular property and contract law to resolve disputes about church property. Our Petition also sought review on several other grounds, including some specific to the Historic Church building, where our deed pre-dates the existence of both the Episcopal Diocese and the entire Episcopal denomination, and to the "non-consecrated" property, such as the Southgate Property located south of East Fairfax Street. 

One issue that is potentially significant for all charitable donors in Virginia was the lower court's decision to override the expressed desires of a substantial majority of our donors that their contributions should not go to the Episcopal denomination or Diocese. The Virginia Attorney General submitted a brief supporting our position on this important issue. 

Let's all be thanking and praising the Lord for this answer to our prayers. We look forward to presenting our case to the Virginia Supreme Court, but this is just one step in what has obviously been a long process, so please continue to pray for the next steps.

UPDATE: George Conger has an article up now on AnglicanInk:

The historic Falls Church in Falls Church, VA
A three-member writ panel of the Virginia Supreme Court has voted to review the case of the Episcopal Church v. The Falls Church.

On 26 October 2012 the court’s website stated it had “granted” The Falls Church’s petition for appeal of the March 2012 order issued by Virginia Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows granting trusteeship of the property and control of the congregation’s assets to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. 
On 16 Oct, attorneys for the Northern Virginia congregation were permitted 10 minutes of oral argument before the writ panel, to state why they believed the court should review their case. Under Virginia law, civil cases have no automatic right of appeal. The state’s Supreme Court may accept civil cases for review at its discretion. 
The office of the Diocese of Virginia was closed on 29 Oct due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy and unavailable for comment. However, The Falls Church released a statement saying it welcomed the court’s decision. 
The church stated that their petition asked the court to “review the entire lower court decision for failing to follow U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions applying ‘neutral principles’ of secular property and contract law to resolve disputes about church property. Our Petition also sought review on several other grounds, including some specific to the Historic Church building, where our deed pre-dates the existence of both the Episcopal Diocese and the entire Episcopal denomination, and to the "non-consecrated" property.” 
The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of one of the issues raised by the congregation. The Falls Church asked that the Supreme Court review the “lower court's decision to override the expressed desires of a substantial majority of our donors that their contributions should not go to the Episcopal denomination or Diocese.” 
“Let's all be thanking and praising the Lord for this answer to our prayers. We look forward to presenting our case to the Virginia Supreme Court, but this is just one step in what has obviously been a long process, so please continue to pray for the next steps,” the church statement said.
Read it all here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Challenge of the Church: Rowan Williams preaches at the opening Eucharist of the Anglican Consultative Council

Opening Eucharist of the Anglican Consultative Council.
You may hear the remarkable Eucharist sermon by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the opening of the Anglican Consultative Council in Auchland, New Zealand here.  The church keeps slipping back and not praying hard when it doesn't see the sharp challenge of the church.  Rowan Williams preaches from his heart, as one who has faced the challenge himself over the past ten years of his ministry.

Here is the scripture:

17 This is my command: Love each other.  
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truthwho goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Breaking News: Praying for the people Hawaii

As many of you know, Honolulu is my adopted hometown - I am a graduate of Radford High School in Honolulu.  Got the word over the radio that Hawaii is facing a possible tsunami tonight after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada.  Praying tonight for the people of Hawaii (live coverage) and especially dear friends there.  Follow developments on Twitter at  #HITsunamiAloha ke akua.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The "Standing Committee" meets in New Zealand prior to the kickoff of the tri-annual Anglican Consultative Council

We must recall that the so-called "Standing Committee" has faced resignations from conservatives who were appointed to this group that has no real authority.  It met today in New Zealand, but without the Archbishop of the Sudan who had what Kenneth Kearon's office described as "visa challenges."

Not exactly sure why this group went to all the expense to travel to New Zealand when they apparently just swapped howdies and did not address the escalating crisis facing the Anglican Communion (at least in print), but then perhaps what will be important in the days to come is not what is said in these "media" releases, but what is left out.  Americans, having survived now three presidential and one vice presidential debates, are all geared up for what may described as the Anglican version of caveat emptor.

Of note, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA, voted this past summer to significantly reduce the asking by the Anglican Communion Office (run by Kenneth Kearon, by the way, not the Archbishop of Canterbury) to $700,000 - 1/4 of what Kearon's office requested. After a plea from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffert's Schori's COO, Stacy Sauls, who said the General Convention's action was "a mistaken reduction in the triennial amount," (oh really? What else was a mistake?) the Executive Council increased it by a $104,000, still far below what the ACO wanted. Just watch that space.

Here is a tidy report posted by the "Anglican Communion News Service," which incidentally is also run out of Kenneth Kearon's office in London.  Ah, that things could be so tidy.  Guess who is not mentioned, no not once, in this report.  Fascinating isn't it?

Neligan House, Auckland
The Standing Committee met in advance of the start of the 15th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October at Neligan House, in Auckland. A shorter agenda reflected the fact that the ACC would be meeting and therefore on both days the meeting was adjourned at 1pm.

Visa challenges meant that neither Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak nor Mrs Philippa Amable could attend the meeting. Both are yet to arrive in New Zealand, but will be at the ACC meeting at Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

After opening with prayer, the meeting began with the assembled members sharing news and challenges from their Provinces and dioceses with one another. Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui the Most Revd Paul Kwong shared that his Church is planning a 200-bed hospital with a focus on treating cancer patients. New Zealand’s Dr Tony Fitchett explained that many dioceses are now facing massive insurance hikes in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Christchurch on New Zealand’s south island.

Much of the rest of the first day's meeting was a review of the ACC-15 programme. The committee particularly welcomed what one member described as “a maturing of the Networks” in that they were more structurally connected to the Instruments of Communion.

The Anglican Communion Office’s Director for Communications, Jan Butter, shared with the committee the planned ACC-15 communications resources (videos, news and feature articles, podcasts, etc.) and channels (Social Media, the Anglican Communion News Service, etc.) which he hoped would “allow Anglican Communion members not in Auckland to feel involved in the meeting and related events such as the opening welcoming ceremony.”

The Standing Committee also reviewed and then welcomed a code of conduct concerning discriminatory behaviours, harassment and sexual harassment prepared by Anglican Communion Office staff for use at all official Communion meetings.

Speaking about the code of conduct, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon said having such a policy was not a response to any particular problem but rather was a “modern reality” and an important move to ensure all attendees and staff felt safe. He added, “We recognise that this document may have to evolve in the light of experience.”

There was some discussion about the correspondence from the Diocese of Uruguay regarding issues of Metropolitical Authority. The Standing Committee decided to convene a subgroup to consider next steps in responding to the diocese.

Anglican Alliance Director, Sally Keeble answered questions from the committee about the Memorandum of Association for the Anglican Alliance - Development, Relief, Advocacy. Much of the discussion was around ensuring that the composition of the trustees would ensure voices from regions around the world, particularly those most directly affected by poverty, would be heard. The committee approved the Memorandum of Association.

Before the meeting came to a close, the Vice-Chair, Elizabeth Paver, expressed the committee’s thanks to the five members for whom this ACC was their last: The Revd Maria Cristina Borges Alvarez, Mrs Philippa Amable, Dr Anthony Fitchett, Dato’ Stanley Isaacs, The Revd Canon Janet Trisk.

Read it all here. The ACC starts its meeting on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, a primary target being the Anglican Covenant which saw such contention at the last ACC meeting in Jamaica.  You may catch up on the last ACC meeting in postings at the Cafe here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

When the deal goes down ...

Tom Jones' cover of Bob Dylan's When The Deal Goes Down:

In the still of the night, in the world's ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildering brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I'll be with you when the deal goes down
We eat and we drink, we feel and we think
Far down the street we stray
I laugh and I cry and I'm haunted by
Things I never meant nor wished to say
The midnight rain follows the train
We all wear the same thorny crown
Soul to soul, our shadows roll
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down
The moon gives light and shines by night
I scarcely feel the glow
We learn to live and then we forgive
O'er the road we're bound to go
More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours
That keep us so tightly bound
You come to my eyes like a vision from the skies
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down
I picked up a rose and it poked through my clothes
I followed the winding stream
I heard a deafening noise, I felt transient joys
I know they're not what they seem
In this earthly domain, full of disappointment and pain
You'll never see me frown
I owe my heart to you, and that's sayin' it true
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down
B. Dylan 2006

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting the Grand Tour

UPDATE: The Episcopal Church has released an incredibly defensive PR piece "explaining" why members of the activist group "Episcopal Forum" was formed to go after Bishop Lawrence (so fascinating that there is a paragraph saying that well, yes, the little Episcopal Forum group does belong to the Episcopal Forum but no, it's not the Episcopal Forum - even though this is why the Episcopal Forum was formed in the first place, it's not a knitting club). Every evangelical or traditional diocese in The Episcopal Church has/had an activist group formed just like the South Carolina version of Episcopal Forum to do exactly this sort of thing - it wasn't a secret.  It is necessary for their litigation strategy to set up a shadow diocese, take the evangelical or Anglo Catholic bishop out and still be home in time for dinner.  What was once deemed audacious is now old hat.  It's not like it's a new thing - it's not a new thing.  The activists keep doing the same thing over and over again.  But why release a defensive piece so quickly this time?  What's up with that?


Here at the Cafe much of the table chat focuses on the uproarious actions of the Episcopal Church this week toward the people of the Diocese of South Carolina and their twice-freely elected bishop.  Let's just say it's not going unnoticed.  And perhaps that's what the leadership of The Episcopal Church wants.

Well, until it backfires.

Faced with enormous challenges this week of crumbling structural integrity, membership falloff, and and budget shortfalls, one might need to find a way to re-energize the base.

Oddly enough, as Mark Lawrence gets his handy packet in the mail, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is getting the grand tour in Manhattan - yes, right here at the illustrious penthouse and offices of the Presiding Bishop herself, the very same penthouse and offices the House of Deputies voted this past summer to put on the block.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Episcopal Church takes hostile action against Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina: Declares "abandoment" from TEC; Special Convention called

UPDATE:  AnglicanTV has posted all of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina videos on their front page.  It makes for very interesting viewing.  Am still wondering though why the Episcopal Church released a defensive piece out of its ENS site so soon.  Perhaps it is because a lot more people watched the live happenings at General Convention then ever before in history?  


There are just no words.  From here:

On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops  had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention. That Convention will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17, 2012.

Bishop Mark Lawrence
Bishop Lawrence was notified of these actions taken by the Episcopal Church between two meetings, one held on October 3 and one to be held on October 22, which Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence had set up with the Presiding Bishop to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The meetings were to explore “creative solutions” for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church. 
A timeline of these events and their associated documents may be found below. 
Two of the three charges had previously been determined by a majority vote of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in November 2011 not to constitute abandonment. The Diocese has not received a signed copy of the certification and also remains uninformed of the identity of those making these charges. 
We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt peacefully to resolve our differences.  These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina.

The Certification of Abandonment is here.  Read the documents here.

At a time like this, what else can we do but sent out a  special dedication to a fellow Bob Dylan fan - you know who you are. 

High water risin’, the shacks are slidin’ down
Folks lose their possessions—folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook it—broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, “You’re dancin’ with whom they tell you to
Or you don’t dance at all”
It’s tough out there
High water everywhere

Read more:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Now is a good time to pray ...

UPDATE: Jeff H attended the oral arguments in the Virginia Supreme Court yesterday and posted his observations over at Curmudgeon.  Here's his view:
I attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Virginia this afternoon. The Falls Church Anglican's petition was first on the docket in the main courtroom, and they actually began a few minutes early, presumably to facilitate reshuffling of panels due to recusals.

The panel hearing the petition consisted of Chief Justice Kinser, Justice Millette, and Justice Powell.

Steffen Johnson, who argued on behalf of the CANA congregations in the prior appeal, presented 10 minutes of oral argument. No questions were asked. At the end of his argument, Chief Justice Kinser said, "I believe we understand your position," and called a brief recess.

Counsel for the Diocese of Virginia were present; not sure about counsel for TEC.

In terms of what happens next, I'll quote one of Virginia's leading appellate lawyers, who notes:

"Unless you work in downtown Richmond, the writ panel will probably decide whether to grant your petition before you get back to your office on the day of argument. The justices confer the same day and decide which petitions they’ll grant and which they’ll refuse. The ensuing delay between the argument date and the date on which the decision arrives in your inbox is a function of the time it takes to process the paperwork, combined with dumb luck. I usually tell lawyers to expect a decision somewhere between three days and four weeks after the argument."
Thanks Jeff. H. Stay tuned for updates!


Today the attorneys for The Falls Church Anglican go before the Virginia Supreme Court to make their argument on why their the petition for appeal of Judge Bellow's Circuit Court ruling last January should be granted.  Anglican Curmudgeon wrote of the case last month:
Today, the Supreme Court of Virginia informed the parties that it would hear a brief oral argument on October 16, beginning at 1 p.m., on the petition filed by The Falls Church to review the judgment entered against it in Fairfax County Circuit Court. In Virginia, appeals from civil judgments are not a matter of right. Only the Supreme Court hears civil appeals, and it has discretion to refuse review. The purpose of the brief argument is to give the appellant's attorneys an opportunity to emphasize to the Court's writ panel (which will consist of just three of the Court's seven justices) the reasons why it should accept the case for review.

You can read more of his commentary here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

Here is a brief overview of mission and ministry in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic this past year:

Monday, October 08, 2012

Today at the Cafe: Don't take a weatherman ...

Lots of quotes lately from this apparently timeless 1965 Dylan tune (some call it the first music video) so it's now up on the Cafe Jukebox.