Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Adherence to the authority of scripture

Perhaps it explains this (note US is next to last).

The Scopes Monkey Trial is so last century. One would have hoped.

WO, baby

WO = women's ordination. (Evidently, those who are fixated on it (usually the same as those thinking about gay sex all the time) have, over the course of time, developed a shorthand.)

Point (via titusonenine):
You opposed blessing homosexual relationships, but you were in favor of women’s ordination. Those two positions aren’t often held by the same person. How do you understand them going together?

[George Carey] I don’t see any problem whatsoever. On the one hand, the ordination of women is a very clear mandate in scripture, [which speaks] about women’s gifts being used in the church. I was working from that biblical premise and a theology of the equality of male and female. The issue of homosexuality is on a different basis all together. We are talking not about homosexuals being allowed or not allowed to be ordained. Of course, anyone can be ordained, but the lifestyle that’s required in scripture and in the Christian tradition is that ordination is open to either single, celibate men or a married priesthood. You can’t have a third order coming in. The ordination of practicing homosexuals throws up enormous challenges sacramentally about marriage, about [clerical] orders, about ordination itself. These are not easy issues to deal with.
[Stuart Smith] The connective tissue between WO and homosexuality advocacy is as follows: Both deny the order built into God’s creation of Man and Woman (with the man as head, the woman as helpmate to the head…see Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5), with WO advocates reading into Galatians’ equality in baptismal dignity the equivalence of man/woman in holy orders; while the advocates of homosexuality deny the order of creation of man for woman in the cleaving together bond of marriage. For ABC Carey, apparently, there is no evidence of the difference between equality of dignity…YES…and the equivalence of position/order/ministry…NO…of women in the church.

Both believe that Tradition can be adjusted for contemporary psychological insights (woman is full inheritor of the rights to ordination; lesbians and gays are full inheritors of the rights to conjugal ‘union’), and both use the suspicious ‘evidence’ of their argument by EXPERIENCE: the homosexuals claiming the holiness and joy of their unions; WO advocates claiming the fruitful ministries and joy by the women who have gained their previously denied opportunities to serve as clergy.

National Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations :: WVparson


I spent last week in New York attending the January board meeting of NNECA; (The National Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations). We met at 815 on Tuesday and Wednesday and at the Church Pension Group's office on Thursday.
The Presiding Bishop gave us a good deal of her time. I was impressed by her openness, her willingness to speak to us frankly and clearly and her sense of humor.

Our new Primate met in the NNECA board a cross-section of TEC as it is now, from “left” to “right”, from rural to urban, male and female, African American and white, Pittsburgh to El Camino Real. She fielded questions about the South Carolina election and her vision for the future. She heard us ask that she recognize and encourage the center, the moderate majority, ranging from those who are traditionalists but won’t leave the church to those who are liberal but don’t want to leave the Anglican Communion. We asked her to encourage the parish clergy who get on with being faithful parish priests and pastors in these difficult times and the women and men across TEC at home and abroad who struggle to pay the bills and worship week by week in their parish churches.
We also discussed –centering on a recent case – the problem of clergy “black-balling”; bishops and Deployment Officers contacting each other through what we used to term “the old boys’ network” and disqualifying clergy, and in particular interim clergy in a process in which such clergy have no right to defend themselves and who often remain unaware that they have been marked until the inevitable gossip catches up with them. As a result a letter is being sent to DOs and Bishops asking that this pernicious habit cease. We predict that if it does not, there will be law suits.
We also concluded plans for our 2007 conference which will meet in Williamsburg, Virginia on the days following the 400 Anniversary celebrations of the Jamestown landings in June. The speakers include the Presiding Bishop, Dr. Michael Battle, Loren Mead, and Tex Sample.

Read the whole thing.

Exodus? :: Letters to the Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Editor, Times-Dispatch (scroll down):

My world view often differs from your editorial staff's, yet I have enjoyed your paper because it's important and fun to be challenged by others' perspectives. But an editorial and a recent column by Ross Mackenzie regarding my beloved Episcopal faith struck a nerve.

In the editorial "Exodus," the church is accused of playing childish games by electing Katharine Jefferts Schori to be our presiding bishop. After reading numerous articles by and about her, including the interview in The New York Times Magazine, I've come to realize that she is brilliant and the right person for the job. The moral and intellectual snobbery you attribute to her may actually belong to those who fear change.

As a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church, and the grandson of Rev. Frank Wilson (a close friend and confidant of President Franklin Roosevelt), I'm aware that progressive changes have challenged Episcopalians in the past. The decision to ordain women created a larger schism than we are currently witnessing.

Another notable moment for the [Episcopal] church occurred after the Civil War when Gen. Robert E. Lee joined a freed slave at the altar to receive communion, right here in Richmond. At the time many considered this to be a heretical act. Those who feared change back then were as misguided as those who fear it now. When we look back at such events and turning points in history we often wonder: What took so long?

Alex Wilson, Mechanicsville
More letters here.

Volunteerism in US reaches historic high

I'm interested in the news, and that the major English-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates provided the story to its readers.

How the minimum wage hurts the poor, and Mom and Pop :: FreeXchange

From the Economist blog, FreeXchange:
It is probable that the minimum wage increase will not cost enough jobs to make its effects readily distinguishable from random economic variation. It is also probable that it will improve the lot of a few poor people, though not many, as fewer than 20% of those who earn the minimum wage live in poor households now. On the other hand, it also seems probable that much of any benefit that goes to poor families will come out of the pockets of other poor people—very probably even poorer people, such as convicts, who are currently barely hanging onto the fringes of the labour force.
CEO's who support higher minimum wages are not, as the media often casts them, renegade heros speaking truth to power because their inner moral voice bids them be silent no more. They are by and large, like Mr Sinegal, the heads of companies that pay well above the minimum wage. Forcing up the labour costs of their competitors, while simultaneously collecting good PR for "daring" to support a higher minimum, is a terrific business move.
Read the whole thing.

And then there's all the benefits of the minimum wage that goes to voting white middle-class families via the summmer and part-time jobs of their teenagers. That's a great political more for Republicans and Democrats.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Coadjutor-elect The Rev. Shannon Johnston :: WaPO

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has picked its next leader, a 48-year-old Alabamian who says one of the most endearing qualities of his denomination, roiled by disagreements centering on homosexuality, is "our ability to 'agree to disagree' on issues, biblical and otherwise."
In a candidate questionnaire and in other comments about the role of gays and lesbians in the church, Johnston has been vague, if centrist. In a 2005 article posted on his church's Web site about the dispute, he wrote: "I insist that the answer will not come from one of the two 'sides' but rather will be found in the Center."

In the candidate questionnaire, he also said he supported -- "with some reservations" -- a 2004 report by an Anglican commission that rebuked the U.S. church for ordaining a gay bishop and blessing same-sex unions and called for both practices to stop until some consensus emerges in the Communion, the second-largest church in the world.
The impressions of EpiscoSours are close to mine. EpiscoSours writes:
The Mediator. I continued to be won over by Fr. Johnston’s charm and humor and his solid understanding of what it means to be Anglican. My question to him was about the Windsor Report, which he understands as a process; I asked him what he expected the end result of that process to be in 5, or 10, or 20 years. He didn’t think that the process would or should last that long, that there would come a time when we would have to make progress in pastoral care for LGBT Episcopalians. I think he does have a goal, but he wants to get there in a theologically correct manner. I’m not certain if anyone else was reassured, but I was anyway.

But Fr. Johnston is a very calming presence, and this as well is what our diocese needs.
UPDATE: Jim Naughton (dailyepiscopalian) has much, much more about what it means to be a centrist in The Episcopal Church. Read the whole thing. Here is his bottomline:
It is easier for me to understand, and to converse with leading figures on the Anglican right like Kendall Harmon and Matt Kennedy than with those who think that sitting out this struggle is a transcendent moral act. Perhaps because it seems to me more Christian to argue with someone--see the Council of Jerusalem, or any Church council, for that matter--than to look down on them.

So, if anyone who identifies themselves as a centrist can explain their philosophy to me, I would appreciate it.
Especially if you are a candidate or nominee for bishop, perhaps? I'm not (though I'm eligible - you don't have to be ordained to be a bishop, you know). My guess is the answer is that centrists work towards consensus and value process as intrinsic whose we are. That doesn't mean the compromise their values if others stymie consensus or give them a veto, but they do try to bring everyone along, listen, and try to get us to the right place.

As an example, a centrist might say confirmation of Gene Robinson was wrong because we were not at consensus on issues of homosexuality. Centrists might ask some to wait for justice - just a while? - for the sake of the body.

Bishop Jones's Address: "Yes, I am a member of Bishop Tutu’s Church"

I am sad that some of our clergy have led their congregations out of the Episcopal Church. The matter is very personal to me. I have worked with a number of these clergy and their congregations in Church Planting and appreciate their passion for evangelism. But I reject with all my might the notion that our theology has changed. I find it outrageous to suggest that we have abandoned the historic faith. We continue to worship with the Book of Common Prayer and affirm that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and contain all things necessary to salvation.

We share a common devotion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We share a common faith stated clearly in the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds and the Book of Common Prayer.

It is true that we are at a different place than some Christians in other parts of the world. It is also true that we have a wide breadth of opinion on current matters of faith and discipline. That has always been true. In fact, it would be difficult in the Episcopal Church to identify one common point of view on any contemporary social issue. How could we? We are the Church – the people of God assembled and serving in our own communities.

From my own perspective, little has changed in terms of our faith. What has changed is how rapid international communication has sharpened differences into divisions and divisions into schism.

In the departing congregations, I have witnessed a shift of emphasis from belonging to Christ through baptism to an emphasis on belonging through adherence to one exclusive point of view. That development is not Anglican!

What God establishes in baptism is indissoluble and cannot be compromised. All of us belong through baptism. We are God’s beloved children. The primary message of the Epiphany season is that the gospel is for all people, everywhere.

What is essentially Anglican is a common devotion to Jesus as Savior and Lord, the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and a common acceptance of the integrity of different cultures living out the Christian life. I celebrate that openness and rejoice in the freedom it affords all of us to grow into the full stature of Christ.

Some of our newest congregations have reported difficulty in attracting new members due to the negative publicity we are experiencing in the press. Some suggest that our “brand name” has been damaged. In some places and among some people that may be true.

But that does not change who we are and what we are called to be. We are the Church and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Even in the face of adversity, we have our marching orders from the Risen Christ. We are to ‘teach all nations’ and baptize. We are to love our neighbor and strive for justice and peace. We cannot allow the attention on a few to divert our attention from our most sacred call – the call of God in Holy Baptism.
The complete address is here.

KJS, a blog


Bishop Lee's Pastoral Address


Some quotes:
The theme of this 212th Annual Council is, "ONE Church : ONE Mission." The church in Virginia now and in the past has known divisions and stresses. As I travel around the diocese and read your newsletters, it is clear to me that the great majority of our churches, our clergy and our people share two emphases: the mission of reconciliation at the heart of our Christian faith and the unity we have with one another and the Anglican Communion across the world. We recognize that some people experience that unity and breadth as insufficient for the exercise of their faith. We respect their consciences but also must respond when people who no longer share our mission, seek to leave and take with them property that belongs to all of us and to our grandchildren in the faith. Our differences with the congregations that have departed the Diocese are not about property but about legacy. The church buildings of the Diocese of Virginia were given by generations past to be Episcopal Churches for generations to come and we are committed to protecting that legacy.

We have the strong support of the Presiding Bishop and the General Church in seeking to recover the properties now occupied by persons who are no longer loyal to the Episcopal Church and to the Diocese of Virginia.
We are marking 400 years of Anglican presence in Virginia. On June 24, 2007, the four dioceses in Virginia and West Virginia will gather for a celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Jamestown Island. It was on the same Sunday in the ecclesiastical year, the third Sunday after Trinity, when the original settlers at Jamestown gathered in 1607 for a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. We will welcome there the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Shori, who will be the preacher. Then, in addition, the Washington National Cathedral will celebrate Virginia State Day on Sunday, October 21, 2007. I hope many of you will make arrangements for some of your people to participate in the Cathedral's celebration of our 400 anniversary.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Property fight looms :: Reuters (Jan 27)

The diocese cited state law and a diocesan law stating all real and personal property is 'held in trust' for the diocese.

'Show me the paper that has the names,' responded Jim Pierobon, spokesman for Falls Church and Truro Church, saying no such trust formally exists. 'Virginia law doesn't favor denominations -- it favors congregations.'

David Virtue, a critic of the Episcopal leadership, said Jefferts Schori is wrong, as cases in California have shown.

'It is not as black and white as she says,' Virtue said. 'In some dioceses, the bishops have lost. In others, they have won.'

Wicks Stephens, chancellor of the Anglican Communion Network, a conservative group within the church that claims to represent about a quarter of a million Episcopalians, said a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision made it clear state courts can look at church property disputes.

He said court history shows that a 1979 Episcopal Church law called the Dennis Canon -- which reserves all property for the church -- 'is not enforceable, and when properly defended against, it will be defeated in a lawsuit.'

Doing the legal limbo limbo rock :: Washington Post

Concerning property disputes and schism in The Episcopal Church:
Each side has accused the other of rushing to court. But independent legal experts say part of the problem is that the law in this area has become increasingly unsettled as courts in various states have taken differing approaches and arrived at differing conclusions about who gets the assets in a church divorce.

Martin Nussbaum, a Colorado lawyer who has represented the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant congregations but is not involved in the Episcopal Church dispute, said he believes the diocese holds the stronger legal position.

"The majority of rulings suggest that in the Episcopal Church, the secessionist congregations cannot take their stuff with them," he said.

Still, he added, there are enough inconsistencies in the way courts have handled such cases that congregational leaders are encouraged to roll the legal dice.

"Whatever happens with the Northern Virginia congregations, it's going to be a very important case historically and constitutionally," said William F. Etherington, a Richmond lawyer who specializes in church-state law. "A lot of people are going to be paying very close attention to it, and not just in the Episcopal Church."
The Supreme Court tackled a similar dispute over church property in 1871, in the landmark case Watson v. Jones. Much as homosexuality threatens to divide churches today, slavery was the divisive issue then.

After the national Presbyterian Church declared support for Abraham Lincoln and the Union, the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church in Louisville split into pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions, each claiming the property. The Supreme Court ruled that when a congregation belongs to a hierarchical church with its own laws and governing bodies, civil courts have no business interpreting church doctrine and must defer to the highest church tribunal.

In practice, this favored dioceses and national denominations over individual congregations. It remained the controlling precedent for nearly 100 years, until a pair of cases in the late 1960s and '70s involving Presbyterian congregations in Georgia that sought to leave the national church over such issues as the ordination of women and the Vietnam War.

In those rulings, the Supreme Court said state courts do not have to defer to hierarchical church authorities when it is possible to decide property disputes based on neutral principles of law, such as an examination of deeds and trusts. A state may adopt "any one of various approaches for settling church property disputes so long as it involves no consideration of doctrinal matters," the court held in 1979.

Since then, courts in Michigan, Florida and Texas have continued to defer to hierarchical churches, ruling that departing congregations cannot keep their property. Courts in Maryland and several other states have taken the neutral principles approach and arrived at the same result. In 1983, for example, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a Baltimore congregation that severed its ties to the Presbyterian Church could not give its building to another church.

But courts in a few other states, including New York, Ohio and California, have decided in favor of departing congregations. In 2004, for example, a California appeals court allowed St. Luke's Community Church in Fresno to break away from the Methodist Church and keep its property.

Virginia's Supreme Court has given hope to both sides. In 1977, it accepted a lower court's ruling that an Episcopal Church in Clifton Forge had no right to its church or parish house once it left the denomination.

Twice in more recent years, according to Etherington, Virginia's highest court has said it must defer to church authorities on matters of internal governance. But in a 1974 case, Norfolk Presbytery v. Bollinger, the state Supreme Court endorsed a neutral principles approach, saying a lower court could resolve a church property dispute by considering "the statutes of Virginia, the express language in the deed and the provisions of the constitution of the general church."

Lawyers for the departing Episcopal congregations cite that precedent and emphasize two facts: The deeds to the properties are in the names of individual trustees, not the diocese, and the buildings were erected without financial help from the national church.

A linchpin in the diocese's legal case is a canon, or law, adopted nationally by the Episcopal Church in 1979 that says all parish properties are held in trust by their dioceses. But Steffen Johnson, an attorney for the departing members of The Falls Church and Truro Church, said Virginia law does not recognize such trusts.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wal-Mart, monopoly not :: Composite Drawlings

Wal-Mart is not a monopoly.

Via always the irreverent EclectEcon.

In my other persona I've written plenty in defense of Wal-Mart and its customers.

Bring back ROTC to Harvard: Greg Mankiw

In my view, Harvard has a moral obligation to play an appropriate role in our nation's defense. No one benefits more from the freedoms that the military defends than academics, who use the freedoms of expression more liberally than the average American. It seems particularly reprehensible for us to free ride as completely as we do.

In addition, from a purely self-interested standpoint, Harvard as an educational institution would benefit from having more students who are considering a military career. If one judges "diversity" by worldview rather than merely skin color, more ROTC students would substantially increase the diversity of Harvard's student body. Their presence would enrich discussions in various history and government classes.

Finally, ROTC at Harvard would extend the university's reach in the world. We have run into diminishing returns filling the ranks of investment banking and management consulting. Wouldn't it be great if some of the next generation of military leaders launched their careers at Harvard? If the Harvard faculty wants to have influence, they should be eager to teach the next Colin Powell.
Greg Mankiw is former chair of the Council of Economic Advisors (for George W. Bush), professor of economics at Harvard, and economics advisor to Mitt Romney.


Economists: Don't squandor your youth

You may be saving too much. Don't let those retirement planners fool you into saving too much. It's in their interest service fee.

Bishop Howe rules property resolution out of order :: The Ledger

ORLANDO - Episcopal Bishop John Howe has halted, at least temporarily, a movement by some parishes in his diocese to stake a claim on their property in the event of a split with the national Episcopal Church.

In an unusually personal and public assertion of authority, Howe addressed the annual convention of the Diocese of Central Florida on Saturday and warned backers of a resolution they would be making "a grave mistake" if they challenged his ruling that the resolution was out of order. The resolution would have established a procedure by which parishes could negotiate a settlement that would allow them to keep or buy back their property if they voted to leave the denomination, something church rules normally forbid.

Addressing those who wanted to overturn his ruling and allow the resolution to go forward, Howe said, "It would be devastating to our life as a diocese, and I simply cannot allow it."
In his address during the convention's morning session, Howe said he would rule it out of order because it would undermine the legislative authority of the convention, but he added there is "a far deeper problem" with the resolution. It could, he said, open the diocese to lawsuits by the national church such as those that may be pending against breakaway parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, and Howe vowed he would not allow that possibility. But he also traded on the personal respect and trust he holds among many in his diocese.

"I would remind you that the (rules) of the Episcopal Church say that all real property is held in trust for the diocese and the national church. … But this is my promise: If there are those who decide to leave, I will be more fair-minded and generous to them than any policy that could possibly be established, and I don't have to ask you to believe that. I have proved it," he said, to applause from the delegates.
The Rev. Tom Seitz, rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Lake Wales and a member of the diocese's executive board, said, "I think (Howe) is saying, look, you're overreaching, and you're going to make my life more difficult. I think he's handled this exquisitely."

What is the IRD?

And why is it at odds with the National Council of Churches?

The wild, wild west :: LA Times

Schofield is leading his San Joaquin Diocese in an unprecedented effort to pull away from the Episcopal Church.

Although parishes have left the national church, primarily over the ordination of gays and lesbians, this is the first time that an entire diocese has sought to align itself with more conservative members of the Anglican Communion overseas.
Schofield's goal is to place the diocese under the jurisdiction of a conservative prelate, possibly one in South America or Africa.

"When you hear that we're some little Fresno fringe group, think of this," he said. "We identify with the worldwide Anglican Communion of 77 million members. Compared to that religious body, the American Episcopal Church of about 780,000 members is a tiny drop in the bucket."

Schofield, 69, has been bishop for 19 years. He strikes friends as jovial and cheery but has little patience for detractors, who have been banned from publishing articles in the diocese's newsletter, the San Joaquin Star, which serves as a forum for his own messages — often lengthy.
Four bishops, including the one from Los Angeles, have said Schofield should be tried in a church court for defying national church doctrine. Three liberal parishes in his diocese, organized as Remain Episcopal USA, predict that the national church will fight Schofield in civil court for control of diocesan property.
Now, the diocese is preparing for a showdown in civil court with national church leaders over control of property, including its wood-paneled headquarters in the heart of Central California's farm country.

In previous property disputes hundreds of miles to the south, a Superior Court judge dismissed lawsuits filed by the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese against three conservative breakaway parishes in Long Beach and Newport Beach claiming to be the owners of their churches. The diocese has appealed those rulings.

However, late last year a different Superior Court judge allowed the diocese to proceed with a lawsuit filed against a breakaway Episcopal church in La Crescenta. That suit also seeks a declaration that the property is owned by the diocese.

"It's the Wild West out there," Jan Nunley, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church headquarters in New York, said of California. "If the leadership of the [San Joaquin] diocese declares it is no longer part of the national organization, the question is this: Does that leadership stay or have its positions replaced by others?"

Schofield said he plans to stay in his post. He also would allow dissenting congregations to keep their churches, provided that they do not leave the diocese saddled with debt.

"Let them have their freedom, and a bishop more in harmony with their theology," Schofield said. "If someone wants to go their own way, God bless them."

Willfulness :: Tom Ehrich

Not long ago, the "enemy du jour" stalking traditional Christian denominations was "creeping congregationalism."
That meant the tendency of congregations to function independently of traditional denominational standards or structures. Conservatives in the Episcopal Church, for example, lamented the loss of cohesion or what they called "catholicity."

Then the denomination, with significant cohesion, made some decisions the conservatives didn't like, and suddenly they are demanding their own form of congregationalism, claiming they have the right to leave the national church and to take their property with them. And they demand a choice as to which "catholicity" they recognize: Nigeria or New York.

In other words, in this argument, as in most religious arguments, the issue is rarely higher-order concerns like Scripture, tradition or reason.

The issue tends to be the lower-order concern of willfulness: We want what we want, and we will do anything to get it, even quoting Scriptures we never read before if they make our case, or making common cause with a bishop in Nigeria whose existence previously meant nothing to us.

Consider the "victim role." Some people or groups are indeed victims, and they deserve justice.

But even when doors open, tables turn and balances shift, it's difficult to stop using guilt, shame and remembered grievances to get one's way.
Like everybody, I like to use my lizard brain.

Jim Naughton: role expands :: Bishop Chane

I am pleased to announce the decision to promote Jim Naughton , who has served well in the position of Director of Communications to a position of broader scope; “Canon for Communications and Advancement.” This new position and title recognize Jim's outstanding performance as well as his dedication and interest in the areas of parish growth, outreach and marketing.
The other expanded aspect of Jim's work will build on his passion for issues of evangelism and church growth. I have asked him to look for additional topics that might lend themselves to dialogical opportunities such as the Church Marketing 101 series he convened. More broadly, I have asked Jim to dedicate a significant amount of time making and nurturing relationships with persons and organizations around the nation and then bring their ideas and methods of church growth and marketing to our diocese.
Among other things, Jim is the keeper of the daily episcopalian.

Congratulations to Jim on his new position.

Bishop Lee and New Coadjutor Agree on Vision of Big Tent Church :: The Living Church

After electing the Very Rev. Shannon Johnston as Bishop Coadjutor of Virginia the day before, the annual council meeting mostly followed a path of genteel centrism in the resolutions it approved in the business portion. During a Jan. 27 press conference at the end of the two-day council meeting, Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee and Fr. Johnston shared a "big tent" vision of the diocese and The Episcopal Church.

Earlier in the day, delegates and visitors to the business portion heard Colonel Jean Reed, president of the standing committee report that it has declined to consent to the election of the Rev. Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina.

In a news conference afterward, Bishop Lee said that he, unlike the standing committee, had given consent to Fr. Lawrence’s election.

“My hope is that he will be confirmed as a sign that The Episcopal Church is a big tent, and that we have room for people of his theological convictions,” Bishop Lee said.

Fr. Johnston agreed with Bishop Lee regarding consent to Fr. Lawrence’s election, saying he was pleased to be part of the Mississippi standing committee’s decision to grant its consent.

After electing Fr. Johnston, who describes himself as a vocal centrist, the resolutions most likely to divide the council were softened into substitutes by committee, and the council approved most of them in nearly unanimous numbers.

Diocese to study same-sex blessings :: Richmond Times Dispatch

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has cracked the door for allowing the blessing of same-sex unions.

Delegates to the diocese's 212th Annual Council adopted a substitute resolution that calls for a commission to look at a possible agreement on a local option for blessing same-sex unions.

Current diocesan policy prohibits blessing same-sex unions publicly. The commission is to report its findings at next January's annual council.

An overwhelming show-of-hand vote was taken yesterday during the closing business session of the council's two-day meeting at the downtown Richmond Marriott Hotel.

The original resolution called for the council to recommend that a policy of local option for parishes be adopted on a trial basis and be reviewed for final approval by the 2010 council.

During a news conference following the council meeting, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, bishop of the diocese, said he was surprised that the resolution did not draw more discussion from the floor.
"A lot of the animosity from the past has been avoided. We seem to be operating more as one church," said Augustine [Sanjiv Augustine, a lay delegate from St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Annandale], who was attending his fourth council meeting. "The church is about so much more than the hotbutton issues. It's about the family, worship, spirituality. I think we are over a watershed. The people who feel strongly have left the church, and I wish them well. That allows the rest of us to focus on what is important."

Augustine referred to the 15 churches in the diocese that have left the denomination and the diocese over differences about the role of homosexuals in the church and biblical authority.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Virginia Standing Committee Denies Consent...

... to bishop-elect of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence. So reports BabyBlue.

Johnston :: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal


"To see that level of consensus is overwhelming," Johnston said Friday after the vote. "It's terribly humbling because of the level of expertise and the very fine national reputations of the other nominees. I myself have no such reputation."
"Anglicans simply don't break apart from each other," he said. "The fact we now have that going on for the first time in our history says we need to come back to that middle ground.

"The problem is not homosexuality," he said, "but the way the right and left are treating each other. That has to stop."

Albert White, an All Saints' lay leader, said Johnston's decisive election of Johnston was reasonable to him.

"That diocese was reaching out for someone who could have a unifying influence and take it back to its traditions," he observed.

Johnston interviewed by Richmond Times Dispatch

In a telephone interview from his Tupelo home last night, Johnston said he was excited and humbled beyond measure by his election.

"I'm honored beyond any expectations. I'm so much looking forward to being part of the life, witness, ministry and history of the diocese. The future of the Diocese of Virginia is boundless. We are going to be stronger and stronger."
. . .
When asked his views about the role of gays and lesbians in the church, Johnston referred a reporter to questions he had responded to for the diocese.

"One of Anglicanism's most famous and endearing qualities is our ability to 'agree to disagree' on issues, biblical and otherwise," he said. "Our commitment is to each other in Christ Jesus, not to each other's opinions in like-minded groups."

He added: "I am deeply sympathetic to the painful dilemmas at hand, but I balk at the notion that this must be a choice between the unity of the church and the inclusiveness of the Gospel. Both church unity and inclusiveness are direct Scriptural imperatives."

Johnston lists the church's priorities as starting new congregations and Christian education. He is especially interested in starting churches to attract young adults and in increasing diversities of racial, ethnic and socio-economic identities, he said.
About "his views about the role of gays and lesbians in the church" I believe Johnston is referring the reporter to this question and answer (source):
As our bishop, how will you address the various issues arising in the Diocese of Virginia regarding homosexuality, especially in light of the fact that, for many, these issues seem to require making a choice between the unity of the church and the inclusiveness of the Gospel?

The real issue in this crisis is the nature of Scripture itself. My concerns with the Church’s actions regarding homosexuality do not arise so much from the biblical texts. There is more going on there than meets the eye, and I reject selective literalism. Responsible exegesis is a norm for our tradition, and so I would promote forums for biblical studies to help reset perspective.

Because of my strong ecclesiological concerns in this controversy, I support the Windsor Report (with some reservations) as the best way forward for the Church. I also support the Lambeth Conference’s call to a respectful dialogue with the Church’s homosexual communicants.

One of Anglicanism’s most famous and endearing qualities is our ability to “agree to disagree” on issues, biblical and otherwise. Our commitment is to each other in Christ Jesus, not to each other’s opinions in like-minded groups. Facing the complexities of human life, much less the heights and depths of God, “like-mindedness” can be a small (and quite un-Anglican) thing.

I am deeply sympathetic to the painful dilemmas at hand, but I baulk at the notion that this must be a choice between the unity of the Church and the inclusiveness of the Gospel. Both Church unity and inclusiveness are direct Scriptural imperatives. Our faithfulness to our Lord and our witness as a Church envision both of them.
My emphasis.

Johnston was a delegate to GC 2003. I believe he voted in agreement with his bishop and shared his reasoning on the consent to the election of Bishop Robinson.

Burundi Province calls for relief aid

From the province's website:
The Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi is making its own appeal for support and emergency relief to assist dioceses as they seek to respond to the crisis, and asks for prayer for those most affected by the situation.
Follow the link for more information on the extent of the crisis.

Via ENS, the contact information:
Provincial Secretary Revd. Pedaculi Birakengana
The Provincial Office

Tel: +257 22 4389
Fax: +257 22 9129

Standing O's at Diocese of Virginia Council

From The Living Church:
In the case of three of nearly 20 congregations in which the majority recently voted to align with other provinces of the Anglican Communion, persons who wish to remain with The Episcopal Church elected and sent delegates to the council. The start-over congregations are: St. Stephen’s, Heathsville; St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; and The Falls Church.
Many of the 1,000 delegates and visitors present gave a standing ovation when the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee announced that both the standing committee and the executive board of the diocese voted unanimously to take legal action over property ownership in the departing parishes.

They applauded vigorously when the Rt. Rev. John Paterson, Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand, said, “If the Episcopal Church needs a strong and united Diocese of Virginia, it is no less true that the Anglican Communion needs a strong and united Episcopal Church, and The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion.”

They gave a standing ovation when the Rt. Rev. David C. Jones, bishop suffragan, read a statement of unqualified support for Bishop Lee by nearly all the active and retired bishops in Province III of The Episcopal Church (with the notable exception of Pittsburgh’s bishops).

Bishop Jones said the departing congregations had shifted their emphasis “from belonging to Christ through baptism” to “adhering to one point of view.” When he added, “That is not an Anglican development,” delegates rose again, applauding and cheering.

They applauded again when treasurer Michael Kerr said that he had approved extending the medical benefits of clergy in the departing congregations through the end of January. “This is an example of grace,” he said.
Bishop Lee spoke with bishop-elect Shannon Johnston by telephone.

“I have spoken to the Rev. Johnston and he has accepted the election,” Bishop Lee announced. Delegates stood for their most boisterous standing ovation of the day. Then Bishop Lee led them in singing the Doxology.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Remember the pardons?

The Clinton scandals are back.

Income and inequality in the US :: Tyler Cowen

Read it all.

Johnston elected bishop coadjutor of Virginia

Ballot 3 Clergy Lay Total
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Dannals 11 14 25
The Rev. Gay C. Jennings 74 34 108
The Very Rev. Shannon S. Johnston 159 210 369
The Rev. Canon Irwin M. "Win" Lewis withdrawn
The Rev. Caroline Smith Parkinson 11 11 22
zero votes ballots 3 0 3
void ballots 0 0 0
total ballots cast 255 269 524
votes necessary to elect 128 135 263

More about Johnston here.

Ballot 2, Bishop Coadjutor, Virginia

Johnston continues to lead. Has enough votes on Lay side. Needs eight more on Clergy side.

Ballot 2 Clergy Lay Total
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Dannals 25 34 59
The Rev. Gay C. Jennings 71 36 107
The Very Rev. Shannon S. Johnston 123 160 283
The Rev. Canon Irwin M. "Win" Lewis 18 22 40
The Rev. Caroline Smith Parkinson 24 19 43
votes necessary to elect 131 136 267

Ballot 1, Bishop Coadjutor, Virginia

Johnston leads.

Ballot 1 Clergy Lay Total
Dannals 39 52 91
Jennings 60 30 90
Johnston 73 110 183
Lewis 36 40 76
Smith Parkinson 49 34 83
votes necessary to elect 129 134 262

On the eve of council :: Douglas LeBlanc

I’m worried that this year’s Annual Council may make some of its decisions in a reactive spirit, one that seeks to somehow punish the clergy and laity of the parishes that already have separated themselves from the diocese. I worry that the same reactive spirit could play an unhealthy role in how people vote on who becomes the next bishop of Virginia. I worry that the diocese could slowly begin departing from the disciplined and generous spirit that I saw in 2004. I worry, in other words, that my latest diocesan home could soon become a less hospitable and safe place.

I’ve been heartbroken to see the relations between the departing parishes and the diocese enter a seemingly inevitable stage of decay, one in which they exchange barbed press releases almost once a week. The diocese cites constitution and canon and promises to go to court, if that’s what it takes, to retain the buildings in which these congregations meet. The congregations, in turn, cite a protocol for departing congregations that Bishop Lee and the diocese do not accept as binding. Neither side persuades the other on even the most minor point of contention, and it’s difficult to imagine any non-Episcopalians feeling edified by this public exchange of ill will. Rather, it’s fairly safe to assume that “See how these Christians love one another” will not cross the minds or the lips of many non-Christians while both sides lawyer up.

Despite these anxieties, I remain an Episcopalian. Why? One of the most important reasons is that I do not believe God is done with the Episcopal Church or with the greater Anglican Communion. While I think it would be foolish to expect that General Convention will, in my lifetime, reverse itself on anything of importance, I believe the cause of reform and renewal is far from lost. I’m able to believe this because I believe God is in charge of that reform and renewal and I’m not. My role is to remain present, to wait on the Lord, to remain true to what I affirm as an evangelical Episcopalian and to leave the rest in God’s hands.

Please pray for the Diocese of Virginia.

Louis Crew receives an email :: Church Times

Church Times (UK), January 26 (web version in full):
Secretary-general hints at ‘difficulties’ with Dr Williams
by a staff reporter

DISQUIET at the attitude of Dr Williams to the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) is shared by the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, it was revealed this week.

Last week, the Bishop of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Paul Marshall, criticised the Archbishop for cold-shouldering the Episcopal Church (News, 19 January). The relationship was “distant, confused, and multiply triangulated”, wrote Bishop Marshall.

In an unguarded email to Louis Crewe, who runs the pro-gay Integrity organisation in the US, Canon Kearon writes that he had sent Bishop Marshall’s criticism to Dr Williams.

“Sadly, it’s very accurate, and is almost the script for a very difficult meeting I had with him last Wednesday,” he writes. “We discussed absolute limits of appeasement, and also how a future direction might be identified.”

More cryptically, he ends his email: “Advisers (and sadly I’m not one of them) are at the heart of this.”

Via MadPriest who has more to say about Rowan Williams' advisers at Lambeth Palace.

UPDATE: I'd failed to notice that Jim Naughton at daily episcopalian also picked up this story. In his post Jim links the story above with this news:
Archbishop of Canterbury has invited Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, to attend a special session of the Primates Meeting to be held on Wednesday February 14 in Tanzania. Duncan has accepted.

Another Episcopal bishop, as yet unnamed, will also receive an invitation, the magazine reports.

This is a great public relations victory for Duncan and the Network, and the archbishop has to be aware of that.
It would be nice if the player to be named later is a bishop who has not asked for alternative primatial oversight and who wholeheartedly supports PB Schori. But the damage has been done. This is a meetings of primates. Duncan is not a primate.

At titusonenine the comments r.e. Duncan story are plentiful.

UPDATE 2: 2nd bishop named. Preludium has the story:
The choice of Bishop MacPherson is an interesting one. He is a fine bishop and has just recently been made the President of the Presiding Bishop's Council of Advice. He is conservative but a very constructive and pastoral person. His presence is, however, contrary to the Council of Advice's own read of the matter of inviting additional people from the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal News Service article on the meeting said this; "The Council was not encouraging of the Archbishop of Canterbury's consideration of additional "dissenting" bishops from this Church attending the Primates' Meeting."

So Bishop MacPherson goes as the President of a Council that advised against consideration of additional "dissenting" bishops attending the meeting. Believing him to be a person of great integrity I am sure he goes not as a "dissenting" bishop and not with the understanding that he is attending the Primates Meeting. We may rightly hope that he will be a moderate voice.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

South Carolina Suffragan Bishop William Skilton ...

... retires resigns at the request of the Standing Committee:
After much prayer, counsel, consideration, and recognition of the Canonical safeguards respecting Suffragan Bishops, I have decided to resign as Bishop Suffragan of South Carolina. This decision, freely made by me, is at the request of the Standing Committee of the Diocese and with the concurrence of the bishop-elect, Mark Lawrence. The Standing Committee has agreed to provide me with all the benefits that I requested.
From here. Comments reveal some strong divisions within the diocese and some insight into the election of bishop-elect Mark Lawrence. See also "Episcopal Forum of SC tells bishops and standing committees of concerns about the South Carolina bishop election" from October 2006:
We are writing as an assembly of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina who are working together to retain and strengthen ties with The Episcopal Church. We ask you to take seriously our concerns regarding the future of our diocese and the strength of our Church.
. . .
In our diocesan election process only candidates who had declared themselves ready to sever their ties to The Episcopal Church were on the ballot. Although several more moderate candidates were proposed by both nomination and petition, they were excluded from the election. Mark Lawrence was broadly supported as an individual, and as the best choice available. However, his election is being touted in the diocese as a mandate for separation from The Episcopal Church. We want to emphasize the fact that that is not unanimous, nor do we accept it.

Our concern is heightened by his expressed intention to separate from The Episcopal Church....
Read the whole thing.

Virginia Coadjutor Election - live ballot results

Balloting begins Friday, January 26th. The first ballot is at 10:40am (EST) and the second at 11:50am. The agenda is here. Check it for additional ballot times.

According to Virginia e-communique "Live ballot results for the Bishop Coadjutor election will be posted at"

Review the nominees here.

The nominees are
- The Rev. Robert Dannals
- The Rev. Gay Jennings
- The Very Rev. Shannon Johnston
- The Rev. Canon Irwin Lewis
- The Rev. Caroline Smith Parkinson

Anglicans: 400 years in Virginia

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The priorities of Katharine Jefferts Schori :: Luke 4 versus John 14

“(In the synagogue Jesus) opened the scroll and found the passage which says, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me; he has sent me to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; to let the broken victims go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ …’Today’, he said, ‘in your very hearing this text has come true.’”
(Luke 4:17-21)

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”
(John 14:1-6)

What is the good news?

Some time ago - speaking in blog time, that is, a few month's ago - Bishop Dorsey Henderson (Upper South Carolina) wrote "[r]ecently I had a conversation with a Bible teacher in our diocese who was incensed that, in his opinion, she did not express the correct “priority”. ... I am surprised that there is criticism about Ms. Jefferts Shori’s response. " He asked "what do you think" and received a number of comments. The first comment he received: salvation has priority over social services.

Related: Thoughts from titusonenine, I'm Christian, too, and PB Schori.

UPDATE: What is Chris Sugden trying to say at Anglican Mainstream? Does he see some contradiction in Schori's words?

Diocese of Virginia press release on the inhibited, and abandonment

The press release gives more background on the inhibition of the 21 churches that have left the diocese.

On court filings it has this to say:
As further evidence of their decision to abandon The Episcopal Church and the Diocese, the majority membership of the 15 churches have filed civil actions styled as “reports” with the respective circuit courts in an effort to transfer ownership of the affected properties. The Diocese has filed responses denying any transfer of property, citing both Virginia law and the Canons of The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. The majority membership of the 15 churches voluntarily chose to sever their ties with the Diocese and, in doing so, they abandoned the property for the purposes for which it was set aside, namely the mission of The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia.

As Bishop Lee said in his January 18 letter to the Diocese: “In the structure of the Episcopal Church, individuals may come and go but parishes continue,” for generations and generations.
Connect the dots. Who is rushing to the courthouse?

Regarding inhibition, Andrew Plus wonders what the fuss is about. (Link via daily episcopalian.) He also writes:
Archbishop Akinola himself urged the CANA clergy and their congregations to stand up for what is right, do the sacrificial thing, trust God and leave the property behind. But then again, the leaders of CANA, just like the Connecticut Six and other secessionists want it both ways.
If you pick up your ball and go home does that make you a martyr? A low budget one, I guess.

UPDATE 1/26: BabyBlue questions the timing and gives some inside info. Not sure who should be wearing the tin foil hat though.


The Sun Chronicle:
ATTLEBORO - Parishioners of All Saints church have been ordered by Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw to vacate the church property on North Main Street by Jan. 31 because of their decision to separate from the national Episcopal Church and to align with orthodox Anglicans.

The Rev. Lance Giuffrida, rector of All Saints, said parishioners will abide by the order and hold their last service at the church at 9 a.m. Sunday, then meet to decide where they will worship in the future.

"This is our last Sunday," said Giuffrida, who plans to later turn over the keys and all the parish property and assets to Shaw as head of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

The order, he said, was not a surprise, and the parish was already preparing to leave. . . .
The Rev. Gregory Jacobs, staff officer for urban ministry development for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, a former attorney and a consultant to Shaw, said Tuesday that Shaw's letter is consistent with the stands being taken nationwide.
. . .
The reason for Shaw's current actions, Jacobs said, was the decision by All Saints in September to be under the jurisdiction of the Province of Rwanda and to join its Anglican Mission in America, which is not a recognized body of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
. . .
Diocesan officials have previously said they have heard from former members of All Saints who stopped worshiping there because of Giuffrida's conservative views and who intended to return if another priest was assigned.

Jacobs said the hope is that a service will be held there by the new priest as soon as Sunday, Feb. 4.
. . .
All Saints currently has about 120 families, or 350 to 400 individuals, he said, and almost half of those families so far have signed on to the new parish. He said he hopes the remaining families choose to sign up this Sunday.

The parishioners had hoped to keep the funds they had raised since their Anglican alignment. Jacobs said they may be entitled to keep any money that was clearly raised for Anglican purposes, but he believes that any other funds belong to the Episcopal Church.

Giuffrida said that would be a fair resolution.

While Giuffrida said he is relieved parishioners will now be able to move on, he had hoped for a different outcome: that they could have bought the parish property.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bishop Lee inhibits 21 :: The Living Church

(Via titusonenine.)

The AP version:
Over the weekend, the diocese's standing committee recommended that the clergy be disciplined, and Lee responded with his decision on Monday.

The move comes ahead of Friday and Saturday's annual diocese council meeting, in which clergy will vote on a successor to Lee, who is expected to retire by 2010, when he turns 72, said Patrick Getlein, the diocese's secretary. Lee's decision means that inhibited clergy will not have a seat at the council and cannot vote, he said.

"It was our understanding that they were not planning to participate in the Council meeting anyway," Getlein said.

Jim Pierobon, a member of The Falls Church who has acted as spokesman for the breakaway churches, said he didn't think the diocese's decision would matter much. But he said it could complicate matters for some more liberal-minded clergy members.

The Falls Church had been preparing a service, presided over by an Episcopal priest who remains on the church's staff, for those who disagreed with the decision to separate from the denomination, he said.

"But Peter Lee has now cut off our ability to accommodate those whom he says need pastoral care," Pierobon said.

Jesus was the first revisionist

Bishop Ted Eastman explains.

Shouldn't our energy be directed towards the poor?

Who said it?

Statement A:
"In a world facing 40 million people dying of AIDS and an increasing gap between rich and poor, this seems like a waste of our time and energy, debating the rightness and wrongness of gay and lesbian people and their relationships."
Statement B:
"The average Anglican (45 million in the Global South, 5 million attenders in the Anglo-world) is under thirty, female, lives on two dollars a day, has three children, walks three kilometres for water a day, is related to someone with HIV/Aids and is evangelical."

Hint: Neither is Bishop Tutu.


Bonus: See this article on Horace Griffins.
In publishing a book comparing the condemnation of homosexuality in some African-American churches to the racism directed at blacks during slavery and segregation, the Rev. Horace Griffin expected criticism.

The book, titled Their Own Receive Them Not, is "slime," one gospel radio show call-in listener told Griffin, who is gay, African-American and an Episcopal priest. Another caller compared homosexuals to dogs.

Griffin — a former Vanderbilt religion Ph.D. student who drew on his experiences in Nashville black churches for the book — said he hopes the newly released book leads to conversation about a subject that is not often openly discussed in African-American churches.

PB Schori and the keys to heaven

Some good thoughts from I'm a Christian too.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

'Stuck in a "survival mode" as long as that fragmented state exists'

The Jacksonville Times-Union:
The Anglican conference concluding today in Jacksonville was described as Christian unity in action.

About 1,300 to 1,600 participants of the Anglican Mission in America conference shared a zeal for spreading the gospel and a repulsion from the Episcopal Church's growing acceptance of openly gay clergy and same-sex blessings.
. . .
With about a dozen national organizations representing Anglicans who have quit the Episcopal Church, plus nearly as many foreign bishops overseeing parishes in the U.S., many worry the movement is becoming irreparably fragmented.
. . .
On the First Coast, former Episcopalians from more than a dozen congregations have accepted oversight from bishops in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Brazil.

Meanwhile, at least 10 national Anglican organizations have been formed, including the Anglican Communion Network, the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Province of America and the Anglican Mission in America.

Some fear the longer congregations are led by different foreign dioceses, the harder it will eventually become to draw them together under a common banner.

Anglican parishes are stuck in a "survival mode" as long as that fragmented state exists, said the Rev. Jim McCaslin, a priest who led All Souls in Mandarin out of the Episcopal Church and into a Ugandan diocese in 2006.
. . .
The Rev. Sam Pascoe, rector of the Kolini-led Grace Anglican Church in Orange Park, said a new denomination is necessary eventually.

Otherwise "it's just complete disintegration and everyone goes their own way and you end up with hundreds of different jurisdictions," Pascoe said.
In other words, submitting yourself to the authority of a jurisdictional diocese serves a purpose. Hmmm. Novel idea that. But this is the age of the self, so a buffet-style choose-your-own oversight is likely to prevail. Don't like the Ugandan? Try the Bolivian, I've heard he's very good. "Described as Christian unity in action."

(Via StandFirm.)

Watson v. Jones: "The Fountainhead"

For the present day conflict the irony is rich, given that the case revolved around "a property dispute between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions of a divided Presbyterian congregation in postbellum Kentucky." For it involves whether it is biblical to exclude.

From the Religious Liberty Archive:
The Watson Court held that disputes in hierarchical churches should be decided by a rule of judicial deference to the ecclesiastical hierarchy:

[W]henever the questions of discipline, or of faith, or ecclesiastical rule, custom or law have been decided by the highest of these church judicatories to which the matter has been carried, the legal tribunals must accept such decisions as final and as binding on them, in their application to the case before them.
. . .
The Watson court rightly predicted that its decision would have "far reaching influence" and concluded that it had identified a "matter over which the civil courts exercise no jurisdiction."
. . .
the court recognized that the rule of judicial deference was appropriate because church members had impliedly consented to their respective church disciplines:

All who unite themselves to such a body do so with an implied consent to this government, and are bound to submit to it. But it would be a vain consent and would lead to the total subversion of such religious bodies, if anyone aggrieved by one of their decisions could appeal to the secular courts and have them reversed.
. . .
the Supreme Court later constitutionalized Watson's principles. Kedroff, 344 U.S. at 116 (1952).

[Watson] "radiates . . . a spirit of freedom for religious organizations, an independence from secular control or manipulation, in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.

It's not about the property, but about the faith

William Etherington, a Richmond "lawyer who devotes a substantial portion of his practice to advising religious institutions" writing in today's Richmond Times Dispatch:
In the Colonial era, the Church of England was the established church of the Virginia Colony. The disestablishment of the church followed the Revolution, and the new commonwealth asserted that the properties were properties of Virginia. The properties were subsequently conveyed to trustees - under the predecessor of current Virginia Code Title 57 - who held the properties for the use of the parishes and for the benefit of the newly constituted Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church, which is now the rule of Canon I.7.4; the trustees are fiduciaries for the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

Recent stories have characterized the current dispute as one of property ownership. In reality, the property questions are but an adjunct to a larger question that relates to church governance. Litigation probably will result favorably for the diocese, most likely not by affirmative decision, but rather by a civil court's refusal to accept subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. Historically, civil courts have deferred to ecclesiastical authorities when disputes arose within hierarchical churches.
. . .
The Virginia Supreme Court - in its 1985 decision in Reid v. Gholson, reaffirmed in Cha v. Korean Presbyterian Church of Washington in 2001 - acknowledged the hierarchical-congregational distinction, holding that hierarchical churches are guided by a body of internally developed canon or ecclesiastical law. The decisions of such churches under their internal laws may be promulgated as matters of faith and considered entirely independent of civil authority. Persons who become members of such churches accept their internal rules and decisions of their tribunals.

For that reason, the court held that civil courts must treat a decision of a governing body or internal tribunal of a hierarchical church as an ecclesiastical determination constitutionally immune from judicial review. This is the Doctrine of Church Autonomy, derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ... [The U.S. Supreme Court in 1871] recognized that the dispute ... at issue - although sounding like a property dispute - was really about which group would select pastoral leaders to inculcate the faith among parishioners. Essentially, it was a request for a civil court to side with one theological faction over another.
. . .
However, should the courts take jurisdiction, applying a neutral principles analysis, the result likely will be the same, since the secessionist parishes had, until December, accepted the canons and rules of the diocese and the Episcopal Church that are clear: Property is held for the benefit of the diocese and church, from which secessionist parishes cannot now unilaterally opt out. Their rejection of the canons of the diocese and church can be but prospective, not retroactive.

Do not rely on my edition: read the whole thing.

Aside: Mr. Etherington is rather busy these days.

UPDATE: There are many cogent comments on this article posted at titusonenine. Very much worth reading through.

Who owns the church? :: Adventus

So, under this understanding, church members who put money in the plate don't contribute to the church; they invest in it, like the stock market. They own a piece of the company, apparently, or at least make a payment on the physical assets, a payment which, at some point, entitles them to a property interst in said assets, or even in the real property. An interesting issue when a church member dies, then. If they have a property interest, it passes to their estate, no? If nothing passes, there was no interest ever created. What, then, if they leave? Does that property interest go with them? No, you say? Why not? Is it only there so long as they continue to attend regularly, donate regularly, and happen to have been doing both when they vote with the majority on that fateful day? A perplexingly ephemeral idea of property interest, indeed.
. . .
The property does not belong to the people who currently worship in Falls Church or Truro, any more than it belongs to PB Schori. It belongs to the church, and the church is not just here and now but present in the past as well as in the future. PB Schori says they have a fiduciary duty with regard to that property, and she is absolutely right. At law, that is the highest duty one can owe, and it is always owed to someone else, for your custody and control of their property. You must treat that property with more care than you treat your own; that is the standard or fiduciary duty.

Truro's PR campaign begs to differ.

The case for gay parenthood and gay marriage

Cultural mores taboos - and their reflection in religious texts - sometimes have a basis in fact and sometimes do not. (Likewise, sometimes they inform us about sin and sometimes they do not.)

William Saleton gives a nice discussion of what we know about lesbian parenthood.

Catholics rush to buy doughnuts

Latest contraceptive has a loophole.

And Canada opens the door to more immigrants.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Looking at membership in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire

It's down. Titusonenine presents some statistics to ponder. Read the whole thing.

My guess is the "people of New Hampshire" -- that is, the majority -- got the bishop they wanted. And some portion of the minority departed because they felt so strongly that their views were not respected.

Titus One Niners handicap Virginia coadjutor contest

Back on November 18th Canon Kendall Harmon who writes titusonenine wrote brief post entitled Nominees for the upcoming election of a Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of Virginia.

Some comment was generated including:

Charlie Sutton Says: November 18th, 2006 at 12:53 pm
I was a member of St Clement’s when Gay Jennings was associate there. I was on the Vestry at the time. She is quite a gifted person, in terms of ability and likability. But her theology came straight out of EDS, and the Dio of Va would probably take a nosedive into full-blown revisionism if she were bishop.

Mark Johnson Says: November 18th, 2006 at 2:02 pm
The Very Reverend Johnston calls himself that as he is dean of the the northern Mississippi clericus or something like that. Not at a cathedral or a seminary as I’m accustomed to hearing. Nevertheless, he would be a step forward for the diocese of Virginia liturgically. Strong theology, confident leader, not a politician, I don’t think either side could claim him as their own. Now that Falls Church and Truro won’t have a say in the next bishop, I’d be surprised if any conservative-leaning person would be selected.

Calvin Says: November 18th, 2006 at 5:07 pm
Bob Dannals is the conservative choice on this one, I should think. While Christ Church, Greenville is not ACN, I have the sense that it is ACN sympathetic. Corrections to this sense are welcomed.
Slightly edited by elf.

Calvin Says: November 18th, 2006 at 10:07 pm
Dear Elves and the pertinent other, My apologies for speculating. I thought that the matter I mentioned was public. Again, my sincere apologies to all.
(My emphasis.) What "matter" was "public?"

Christ Church might have ACN elements in the congregation but that's quite different than saying the parish is ACN sympathetic. Here's a great story from 2003 in the Boston Globe describing Bob Dannals and Dorsey Henderson taking it from the left and the right.

Today's freshmen reflect polarization with increasing acceptance of gay marriage

LA Times:
"Freshmen also appear to be moving away from a moderate position in their political views," said John H. Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

The percentage of students identifying themselves as "liberal," 28.4%, is at its highest level since 1975, and those identifying as "conservative," 23.9%, at its highest level in the survey's 40-year history.

However, the majority of 2006's freshman students, 43.3%, consider themselves "middle-of-the-road," the lowest percentage since first measured by the research program in 1970.

Hot-button issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, sharply divide liberals and conservatives, the survey found.

While the majority of freshmen overall support same-sex marriage, the issue divides students along ideological lines. Four out of 5 liberals support same-sex marriage, compared with 1 out of every 3 conservatives.
. . .
Acceptance of same-sex marriage grew from 2005 to 2006.

The study found that 61% of incoming freshmen last year agreed that same-sex couples should have the right to marriage, up 3.3 percentage points from 2005.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Truro-Falls Church press release

Quote (pdf):
Two leaders of the Anglican District of Virginia today urged the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, to cease both his divisive rhetoric and his march toward the courthouse and instead return to the negotiating table.
"It is still not too late for Bishop Lee and the leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to stand down from making any more threats against faithful Christians who followed the Diocese of Virginia's protocol for departing congregations, and instead to return to the negotiating table," said Tom Wilson, Senior Warden of The Falls Church and Chairman of the Anglican District. "I still have hope, even now, that we can sit down and reason together."
"I am sorry that Bishop Lee seems to have forgotten the conclusions reached by his own Diocesan Reconciliation Commission as well as his own personally-appointed Special Committee led by the diocesan chancellor," said Jim Oakes, Senior Warden of Truro Church and a member of the governing board of the Anglican District. Oakes noted that the Truro vestry had just met last week at the request of the Diocese to appoint its representatives to negotiate with the Diocese and gather information requested by the Diocese. Before the representatives could begin negotiations, the Diocese abruptly reversed its course and terminated negotiations
Both the reports from the Diocesan Reconciliation Commission as well as the Bishop's Special Committee are still available for download from the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and have not yet been taken down. "I see that as a sign that as long as the reports are still available to the public there is hope for an amicable settlement," said Oakes. "The facts and our history speak for themselves."
See also the take of Babyblue. It's not so amicable. It's ugly. What we have is good cop, bad cop.

There's something paranoid in the phrase "as long as the reports are still available to the public." The Diocese is hardly so powerful that it can overcome the power of the internet. No one is seeking to "pretend they never existed" (to quote Babyblue). And "march to the courthouse?" Declaring the properties abandoned is a necessary prelude to negotiation given the steps the departing churches have taken to claim possession. Quoting today's WaPo:
In a letter Tuesday, attorneys for the breakaway churches warned diocese officials that they would be exposed to "substantial legal risk -- including liability for trespass and unlawful entry" -- if they attempted to take possession of the property. The diocese declared the churches "abandoned" Thursday and said it would pursue the return of the property.
A final note: Read the whole WaPo article. It appears that someone who disagrees with the breakaway churches has vandalized them. That's ugly and self defeating.

Bp-elect of South Carolina :: The latest

From a Bakersfield Californian story rather intriguingly titled, "Flap keeps man from assuming bishop's post":
The controversies roiling the Episcopal Church are clouding the future of Rev. Mark Lawrence of Bakersfield, who was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina in September.
. . .
Lawrence represents the conservative values of the San Joaquin diocese, which are at odds with the U.S. Episcopal Church. Though the South Carolina diocese voted him bishop, a majority of other dioceses are questioning his election.

Bishops and committees have requested more information from and personal interviews with Lawrence to nail down his theological views, said Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the South Carolina diocese.
. . .
Further hurting Lawrence's chances, Harmon said, is that the reverend supports the highly conservative San Joaquin diocese, which last June requested to be overseen by someone other than Schori. The diocese, which oversees 50 Central Valley churches, including three in Bakersfield, is one of only three in the country that refuses to ordain women.

If a majority of Episcopal dioceses do not consent to Lawrence's election, he will not be consecrated, deepening the schism within the church, analysts say.

Because Lawrence was voted by a landslide of the clergy and laity of the South Carolina diocese, the holdup is a bitter pill to swallow.
According to the Episcopal News Service "The Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop and the President of its House of Deputies both said on December 4 they deplore the action taken two days earlier by the Diocese of San Joaquin, effectively repudiating its membership in the Episcopal Church." (My emphasis.)

Hmmm. The article makes it sound like the diocese has not repudiated its membership. And it makes no mention of the concern that Lawrence would take the Diocese of South Carolina down the same path.

Tutu on African Anglican priorities

(Cape Town, South Africa) Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday accused African Anglican leaders of ignoring the plight of millions of people on the continent by wasting time attacking gays.

"I am deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on 'what do I do in bed with whom'," the South African Nobel Laureate Tutu told a news conference in Nairobi.
. . .
"For one to penalize someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalizing someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race. I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted," Tutu said Friday.

Tutu, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, is in Kenya to attend the World Social Forum.

He said that African clergy should be concentrating on poverty and HIV/AIDS.

"The God I worship would not consider that [gay priests] to be a priority concern."'

School Choice

It's time to give all families the right to choose. They do it well.

Bishop Lee: "We have intervened in that action"

As the Archbishop of Canterbury has made clear, CANA is not a branch of the Anglican Communion and does not have his encouragement.

When the membership of these congregations voted to sever their ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with CANA, they left remaining Episcopal congregations in those places without vestries, without clergy and without their churches, whether the remaining congregations numbered one or 100 souls.
. . .
I have tried to find a way forward in our dispute over property that would keep us from having to resort to civil courts. No longer am I convinced that such an outcome is possible, nor do I believe that such a move at this time is dishonorable. Rather, I believe as does the leadership of our Diocese and of our Church, that the actions taken to secure our property are consistent with our mission and with our fiduciary and moral obligations to the Church of our ancestors, to the church we serve today, and to the church of those who will follow us.
. . .
Recently, attorneys for the dissidents sent a letter threatening action against me and any other diocesan officials who “set foot on” or “trespass” on Episcopal Church property. By contrast, your leadership has not moved to change locks or freeze assets. Rather, once again, we have moved to accommodate these dissidents at the expense of our faithful people.

Following the votes of the majority of members of these congregations, the counsel of these now non-Episcopal congregations filed reports with the clerks of the courts in their jurisdictions under a statute in the Code of Virginia that they think gives them the right to Episcopal Church property. We have intervened in that action.
. . .
In the coming days and months there will be many opinions aired in the media, in letters and in countless blogs, opinions disguised as facts. I urge you to turn away from those as the distracting noise of the world intended to take your mind and your heart off the mission of the Church.
Read all of News Release 26 here.

See also the supporting action of Executive Committee and Standing Committtee in News Release 25 here.

Here, perhaps, are some of the "many opinions." And here. And here. As in hundreds. Very few at places like this.

Washington Post:
Although the board's vote is procedural, lawsuits "are a strong possibility," diocesan spokesman Patrick Getlein said.

Jim Pierobon, spokesman for the breakaway churches, said last night that they still want to negotiate fair prices for the properties.
Richmond Times Dispatch:
Jim Pierobon, a member of Falls Church and a spokesman for the breakaway churches, said all 11 of the congregations are fully prepared for a court battle.

"We intend to protect our churches' property rights to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

Valerie Munson, a Philadelphia attorney specializing in religion-based law, said a legal dispute over church property could take as long as three or four years before it is resolved through the courts _ assuming the two sides refuse to agree to a settlement.

Pierobon said church members have filed reports with court clerks, informing the state as required by civil law, of congregations' decisions to leave The Episcopal Church.
Washington Times:
Diocesan officials didn't specify whether or when the congregations and their leadership are required to vacate the property, what the resulting consequences might be or how court action might affect that timeline.

"I think it's premature in the process to know exactly what will happen next," said Patrick Getlein, secretary of the diocese, in an e-mail to The Washington Times. "Today's action by the Board was procedural, and I think that we will have to wait and see what exactly the next steps are in due course."
. . .
Truro Church and the Falls Church were among the diocese's largest and most historic churches, with combined property worth an estimated $27 million to $37 million.

"These churches are saddened, but, sadly, not surprised at what the diocese and what the national church have elected to do," said Jim Pierobon, a spokesman for both congregations.
. . .
"Our lawyers, after assessing the law, have concluded that the law in Virginia favors congregations -- even within large denominations such as the Episcopal Church," he said. "Denominational trusts in congregational property are not valid in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
What Jim Pierobon is quoted as saying appears to be inconsistent. (Compare the portions in bold above.) Why be willing to pay fair market value if you are asserting property rights? It's news to me that Truro and Fall Church are willing to pay fair market - not that fair market would match meet the value the diocese places on these properties.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Rev. Sen. Danforth on the divisions in the Episcopal Church :: USNWR

USNWR: Some of the same social issues have also proved problematic outside of politics, even in the Episcopal Church, which has a long tradition of tolerating a broad range of views. Why has the issue of a gay bishop been so divisive?

Danforth: It's the wedge issue of all wedge issues. But I think what's remarkable is not that some people are terribly upset about this within the church, but how relatively few they are. I'm thinking of the one in San Joaquin [in California], which is a tiny, tiny diocese. Some of the other dioceses that are considering [breaking away] are also very small. So I think most people, when they go to church, they simply go to church. They're not thinking about gays all the time.

USNWR: What did you think about the decision to anoint a gay bishop?

Danforth: Who the bishop of New Hampshire is is not something that's relevant to me, and I think that's the way most people see it.

USNWR: Is there anything that the church should be doing to bring these people back?

Danforth: I think to emphasize that we are traditionally a broad church and this has been our glory. I think a lot of people would say, well, the Episcopal Church is wishy-washy, that it doesn't really stand for anything. I think we stand for a lot. I think we stand for the idea that God cannot be encapsulated in our perceptions or in our views of political issues or social issues. It's saying that God is bigger than all these issues and bigger than any of our factions, and the church is big enough to include everything.
My emphasis. When someone speaks of "the authority of scripture" they are simply saying they are the authority. That's How (not) to Speak of God (recommended reading).

The link comes via dailyepiscopalian who has this to say:
In the current conflict within the Anglican Communion, Episcopalians are sometimes portrayed by those who opposed the Church's stance on women's rights and gay rights as captives of the cultural left. Here we have a former Republican senator, key supporter of Clarence Thomas, and former member of the Bush administration defending that Church against radicals to his right. Danforth is at home in the Episcopal Church. As was Gerald Ford. As is the first President Bush, who recently gave the keynote speech at the kick-off dinner for one of our parishes' capitol campaigns. As is the current President Bush, who invited one of our rectors to give the invocation at his second inauguration.

St. Stephen's, Heathville :: WaPo

A truly painful story.

the fallout has been particularly acute in Heathsville, a tiny town on Virginia's pastoral Northern Neck. Those who voted at St. Stephen's to stay Episcopalian were a quarter of the membership, a much larger percentage than at the other churches, and that group has already voted itself new leadership as it plans to rebuild its congregation and reoccupy the building. Small groups of Episcopalians at the other churches are just starting to organize.

But in a town of 5,000 people, the effect of the vote is different from that of the bustling D.C. suburbs, where the other churches are. It has meant tense small talk in line at the Food Lion and friction between longtime friends.

Barbara Tricarico, who voted to stay Episcopalian, breaks into tears when she looks at the cracked wooden sign her husband pulled out of the bed of a pickup truck: "St. Stephen's Episcopal Church." Tricarico just happened to see men removing it in the days after the vote, to replace it with a new sign: "St. Stephen's (Anglican)."
. . .
"It cannot be shared when things are in limbo, and that's the position we're in," said Ward LeHardy, a congregant serving as spokesman for the majority group. Such an arrangement "would complicate legal and spiritual aspects."

That resulted in Meade Kilduff, who was baptized at St. Stephen's in 1918, sitting down in the quaint, baby-blue sanctuary of the town's Methodist church for last week's Episcopal healing service.
. . .
Jane Hubbard Blackwell, who lives one house down a dirt road from Tricarico, has been at St. Stephen's since she was a girl. The 84-year-old retired registrar of voters has served as senior warden, Sunday school teacher and newsletter editor, among other things. Sitting in the home she grew up in, on St. Stephen's Lane across a farm field from the church, she squeezes her hands into tight fists and takes a quick, sharp breath when she characterizes how she felt, voting to leave the Episcopal Church.
Blackwell and I are probably related somehow. The "B" in John B. Chilton is for Blackwell, a family name acquired when Chiltons lived on the Northern Neck in the 18th century.

News to me

David Virtue writes: "I was the editor of The Virginia Churchman back in the 70's."

Just to be sure, The New Virginia Church Man is in no way associated with David Virtue. More about the lineage of NVCM here and here.

Bishop Sam requested these verses on the cover of the order of service for his funeral:
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
Enough said.