Friday, April 22, 2005

Christ Church approves separation - Episcopal Diocese of Kansas

A large conservative congregation in the Diocese of Kansas leaves the Episcopal Church.

April 17, 2005

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and the rector and vestry of Christ Episcopal Church of Overland Park, Kansas, jointly announce that Christ Church parishioners have approved an agreement to separate from the diocese and the national Episcopal Church.
Key elements of the agreement include:
  • Christ Church will claim no association with the diocese or the national Episcopal Church.
  • The diocese is releasing Christ Episcopal Church from any claims the diocese may have for unpaid financial commitments required by diocesan policy; in property owned or possessed by the parish; and in the Christ Church Endowment Fund. Christ Episcopal Church is releasing the diocese from any claims it may have against the diocese.
  • A new entity, "Christ Church," will assume the current parish's mortgage debt and will purchase its assets with payments over time to the diocese.
I suppose this could serve as a model for other divorces between large conservative congregations and their dioceses which might arise. Several candidates come to mind. (Note to non-Episcopalians: In the Episcopal Church the diocese owns the property, not the church/congregation. This is true even though generally it is the congregation that contributed the bulk of the investment. At the same time, the "wider church" does contribute substantially to a congregation's "founding and formation.")

Under a deal not yet finalized, the renamed Christ Church Anglican would assume the current parish's debt of $1.7 million and pay the diocese $1 million over the next 10 years. (AP)
It is unlikely that dioceses that lose large congregations will have much use for the property they would acquire in the divorce; the likely best use for the property is for it to continue to be used by the congregation. It appears that in the Kansas case (1) the diocese held the upperhand in law, and (2) any animosity between the parties they may have existed did not prevent them from finding an efficient transfer of property.

It would appear, too, that Christ Church and the Kansas Diocese were a decidedly odd couple:

In 2002 Bp. Smalley announces policy of permitting the blessing of same gender unions and of opposite gender unions in which a traditional legal marriage would result in loss of benefits or other financial hardships. Allows local option with consent of Vestry and clergy in charge, with final approval of process and liturgy by the Bishop.

Search for Ninth Bishop of Kansas begins in May of 2002. 14,057 baptized members and 12,279 communicants (unofficial totals).
(Diocesan History)

ExampleBishop Dean E. Wolfe said "this is a sad and difficult time for the Diocese of Kansas because we are losing an important part of the body."

According to the AP story, Christ Church has over 2000 members. 2000 out of a total diocesan membership of 14,057 is a big loss.

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