Miss Kitty's contribution

If asked to sum up her life in one word, Catherine “Kitty” A. Tomes Pinkney, recipient of Virginia Theological Seminary's eighth annual Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans award, would tell you it has been “joyful.”

Never mind that she grew up in foster care in a racially-segregated rural community where the prospects for young African-American girls rarely exceeded working in somebody else’s home. Miss Kitty, as she is affectionately known, was determined to flourish, and to help others flourish, too.

Read it all in the Washington Window.

Bishop of Connecticut to Visit Seabury Church

The Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith, Bishop of Connecticut, wrote a letter to the clergy of that Diocese to let them know they would be receiving an invitation to the ordination to the priesthood of the Rev. Bill Hesse, in Bishop Seabury Church, Groton, and that the ordination will be celebrated with his permission.

Bishop Seabury Church is one of six congregations in the Diocese of Connecticut that has been in a dispute with the Bishop and the diocese since the consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire. The dispute included a law suit and ecclesiastical charges initiated by the congregations against Smith, both of which were recently dismissed.

The letter, which was sent electronically to subscribers of the For Clergy newsletters, also shared developments in the relationship between the congregation and clergy of Bishop Seabury Church, and Bishop Smith.

Also planned is an Episcopal Visitation by Smith at Bishop Seabury Church on Trinity Sunday, June 3rd, a meeting with the Vestry and another meeting with the entire congregation prior to the May 12th ordination.

Here is the letter:

Read more »

Fort Worth: poster diocese?

Fort Worth Weekly describes the state of The Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. Writer Eric Griffey interviews people from a variety of views on issues in the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Fort Worth and their Bishop Jack Iker.

A Great Schism?
The fight between liberal and conservative Episcopalians comes to Cowtown.

....this rich tapestry, threaded with strong strands of tolerance and freedom from clearly defined dogma, is threatening to unravel. The American-based Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion of which the church is a part are engaged in a bitter struggle over the roles of homosexuals and women within the church. This long-simmering disagreement broke out into open warfare in 2003 with the consecration of the openly gay V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. Since then, the events in this intense and increasingly less polite fight have often seemed more like something you might read while standing in the checkout line in the grocery store than in the annals of a denomination that intuitively searches for the “middle way.”

Read more »

New Bishop for OK

Former police officer, The Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny was elected bishop of Oklahoma today on the first ballot. He has served as rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Grand Junction, Colorado, and has also served congregations in the Diocese of Texas.

According to Oklahomans, his last name is pronounced: con YETCH nee

Full story HERE
Information on the bishop-elect HERE

A tale of three churches

Remember the Connecticut Six? It's now the Connecticut Five. One of the six is back in the fold. After some negotiation, another has agreed to a visit from the bishop. But tensions still run high. So reports Ed Stannard in The Bristol Press.

One town, two Episcopal churches

BRISTOL - The two Episcopal churches in this city are headed down different roads.

One, Trinity Church on Summer Street, is among five parishes in Connecticut at odds with Bishop Andrew E. Smith, especially since he voted in favor of V. Gene Robinson, a priest in an openly gay relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The other, St. John's Church on Stafford Avenue, less than 3 miles from Trinity, once was in that group but, since its rector left and was then deposed by Smith, is again on good terms with the bishop and an active member of the diocese.

Third church in the tale
Trinity's stance in opposition to the bishop will be made all the more stark Saturday, when Deacon William Hesse is ordained a priest at Bishop Seabury Church in Groton by a conservative bishop from Pittsburgh.
...
Smith agreed to allow Scriven to ordain Hesse - the diocesan bishop's permission is required according to church law - if Gauss would allow Smith to make an official visitation, celebrate Communion and preach, which he will do in June.
St. John's is back in the fold
The last member of the Connecticut Six, the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's, was deposed, but both Smith and a new lay leader of that church agreed that that had little to do with disputes over the Bible and sex.

Hansen had taken a secular job in New York and left on sabbatical with no apparent plans to return, said David Desmarais, senior warden. "Bishop Smith stepped in for many reasons, and I can tell you, from my point of view, the least of which was the theology," he said.

Since then, St. John's has hired the Rev. Audrey Murdock as a part-time vicar, and some of the 50 people who left have returned, Desmarais said. "We at St. John's have been moving on quite nicely," he said. "Our numbers are not what they were, but they're respectable."


Find Stannard's complete article here.

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Re-electing Mark Lawrence

The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon had issued a letter to the clergy of South Carolina outlining the procedures to re-elect The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence as bishop of South Carolina. Lawrence failed to receive the proper consents from the Standing Committees of the other dioceses following his first election. Diocesan rules will have to be suspended in order to re-elect. The letter follows:

Dear Friends,

I have just come from a meeting of the Standing Committee where critical decisions were made toward the re-election of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina. The position of the Standing Committee was that there was an overwhelming consensus that 1) the Holy Spirit had spoken in the election of Fr. Lawrence; 2) that the Bishops and Standing Committees had intended to consent to the election even though technicalities had prevented it; 3) and that we carefully follow our own Canons in order to strongly support the election.

In order to follow our Canons, it is necessary to re-convene the Diocesan Convention of November 2006, which according to the minutes was recessed, not adjourned. This means that the delegates from the November 2006 Convention are still in place. The date for convening this Convention is June 9, 2007. At that Convention, it will be necessary to suspend Rule 21; because it would require an entirely new election process duplicating the process we used in the first election. Rule 22 gives us the authority to suspend the Rule 21 by a 2/3 vote. After its suspension, the Convention can then call for an Electing Convention. This would then require our congregations to elect new delegates for this Convention. The former Electing Convention cannot be re-convened. It was called for the purpose of electing a Bishop for the Diocese, and this work was done.

The re-convened convention of 2006 will also be asked to affirm the appointment of Wade Logan as Diocesan Chancellor as required by the Canons. Due to reasons of health, Mr. Eugene N. Zeigler has resigned as Chancellor of the Diocese. He will remain as Chancellor until the Convention approves a new Chancellor.

This Electing Convention will then be convened later in the summer of 2007 for the purpose of re-electing Fr. Lawrence. This date will be announced when the Electing Convention is created.

Following the election, the Standing Committee will implement an intensive effort to receive the consents during the 120 day period. Since a majority of Standing Committees intended to approve in the first election, the Standing Committee has a clear field in which to work.

This process will allow a consecration date to be set so that when consents are in, we may proceed to consecrate Fr. Mark Lawrence as the 14th Bishop of South Carolina.

Yours faithfully,

(The Rt. Rev.) Edward L. Salmon, Jr.
Bishop of South Carolina XIII

Read it HERE

No throwing anyone under the bus!

News from the clergy conference in the Diocese of Los Angeles: The Rev. Michael Battle, current dean for academic affairs at Virginia Theological Seminary will become the Provost for the Cathedral Center.

The Rev.Susan Russell of All Saints, Pasadena reports that a Q and A on "what happens next with the Communion" was part of the dialogue and -- "at least for our four bishops -- there is not an ounce of interest in doing anything other than staying the course set in Camp Allen and moving the church forward without, as +Jon put it in his own inimitable style, "throwing anybody under the bus."

Other news: Bp. Chet Talton is getting married at the end of the month.

Read it all HERE.

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Suit filed in Colorado Springs

The Diocese of Colorado has taken legal action to regain control of the property of the parish of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. The vestry of the parish recently decided to follow their priest, The Rev. Don Armstrong and leave the Episcopal Church to become affiliated with CANA

From the news report in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Saying it owns Grace Church and St Stephen’s Parish, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado asked a judge to evict the breakaway congregation worshipping there.

The diocese filed an answer and counterclaim in 4th Judicial District Court on Thursday asking for possession of the church building on north Tejon Street.

It also asked the court to declare that because the breakaway leadership has renounced its affiliation with the Episcopal denomination, they have no claim to the property, worth an estimated $17 million.

The counterclaim says the group worshipping in the church, which voted to secede from the Episcopal Church in March, has no legal right to the building, which was held in trust for the diocese.

“It is a shame that a small, misguided group has forced this litigation by illegally taking possession of the church property,” diocesan Chancellor Lawrence Hitt said in a statement. “This litigation is not about theology or differences of opinion in the church, it is an effort by that breakaway group to distract attention from the very serious charges of theft and misconduct against (the Rev. Donald) Armstrong.”

The full article is HERE

There's more local and detailed information in a post on the "Faith at Altitude Blog" along with this bit of news;

Another interesting revelation was that, at least according to the presentment, Grace's longtime chancellor Derry Adams advised Grace's vestry back on Dec. 8, 2006, that the parish and its vestry was under the authority of the diocese and the Episcopal Church and that the property was the diocese's.
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Out of Grace: Of shredders, emails, deeds, and precedent

The Rocky Mountain News is reporting "as the Episcopal Diocese (of Colorado) closed in on alleged financial wrongdoings, the Rev. Don Armstrong was shredding documents and records so furiously that a shredding machine broke down (pdf), according to a countersuit filed Thursday."

The paper's report provides further insight into the competing claims the diocese and the secessionist congregation over the Grace and St. Stephens property:

The Armstrong camp argues that it’s free to join CANA because the parish is a separate non-profit corporation founded 14 years before the Episcopal Diocese. Also, it has held its own title to the property since the land was donated to the church in the 1870s by Colorado Springs founder, General William Palmer.

They regard it as relevant that the parish is incorporated under name which doesn’t include the word "Episcopal."

In its counterclaim, the Episcopal Diocese said that the parish and the congregation used the name Episcopal regularly over the years, dating back to the mid-1800s when the first Episcopalian settlers came to Colorado.

What’s more, the diocese maintains that while a local parish corporation may hold the title to the property,the parish’s purpose has always remained constant — to further the mission of the diocese and the Episcopal Church, said the diocese's attorney, Martin Nussbaum.

"This is absolutely settled law in Colorado," Nussbaum said.

The diocese is citing a 1986 Colorado Supreme Court decision which said an Episcopal parish in Denver had to return its property to the diocese. The parish, St. Mary's, tried to keep its property after it broke away from the Episcopal Church in the 1970s after it voted to ordain women.

The paper also reports on "aggressive emails":

The diocese quotes from a purported March 26 e-mail from Armstrong to vestry head Jon Wroblewski as they were preparing to break away. Referring to Episcopal Bishop Rob O’Neill, the e-mail said: "He has no army and no keys and no authority — possession is 9/10s of the law and I have the microphone."

Wroblewski sent the e-mail on to other vestry members adding his own message: "Prepare for battle. Ramming speed." Wroblewski acknowledged his e-mail today.

At the time Armstrong was not to be in communication with the congregation pending the diocese's review of allegations of financial wrongdoing.

The entire Rocky Mountain News article is available here. There's more at Faith at Altitude.

UPDATE: The motion for summary judgment filed by the diocese on Thursday is here (pdf). One extract:

Colorado law requires the Court to determine the ownership and control of church property by applying the "neutral principles" methodology described in The Bishop and Diocese of Colorado v. Mote, 716 P.2d 85, 103 (Colo. 1986). Mote held that when a faction within an Episcopal parish seeks to secede from the Episcopal Church and attach, instead, to another denomination in the Anglican tradition, the property is held in trust not for the local church but for the general church. See also Church of God of Madison v. Noel, 318 S.E.2d 920, 924 (W. Va. 1984 (secessionist "members have every right to withdraw from doctrinal unity and membership with the general church, but they cannot take general church property with them").

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Diocese of Virginia: Litigation Update

Patrick Getlein, Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia, writing in the May Virginia Episcopalian gives a "Litigation Update":

In each case the leadership of the formerly Episcopal congregations filed documents with their local courts in an attempt to take real property held in trust for the Diocese and the Episcopal Church.
...
The Diocese petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to have all these matters consolidated and transferred to Fairfax Circuit Court for pretrial motions and hearings on issues common to all cases and to gain procedural and cost efficiencies. Counsel for the separated congregations did not oppose this action, and filed a similar petition. A panel appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court approved the petition to consolidate and transfer the cases, which will take several weeks and possibly as long as a few months.

See page 23 of the May issue available here (pdf). On the same page is an article on life in the continuing congregations. The May issue also has a feature on the Bishop Coadjutor-elect, Shannon Johnston.

The same, only more so

Update: the Diocese of Fort Worth's Standing Committee released a statement around 5 p. m. that does not nearly fit Ruth Gledhill's breathless description. ("Sensational news from the United States.") They have decided to move forward in the pursuit of Alternative Primatial Oversight. In other words, they plan to keep doing what they have been doing. (Link)

Mark Harris is making a valiant effort to make sense of a recent letter from the Bishop of Pittsburgh, rumors from England's most erratic religion reporter about the Diocese of Fort Worth, and pleas from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Meanwhile we may be free to say something over on Daily Episcopalian in the next few days about the egregious op-ed former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote in today's Washington Post. But to do so now, would jeopardize our chances of reaching a larger audience.

Dissidents in Fort Worth

The vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas has issued the following statement (link):

Vestry Response to Executive Council Action

On Wednesday, May 16, 2007, the Executive Council of the Diocese of Ft. Worth met and adopted a statement from the Standing Committee concerning efforts to seek alternative primatial oversight. A copy of this statement is available on the Diocesan website.

On Saturday, May 19, 2007, our vestry met to formally respond to this statement. Fourteen of the fifteen members were present. After brief discussion, the resolution below was accepted unanimously. Later in the day the fifteenth member of the vestry gave his acceptance of the resolution via email.

Resolution of the Vestry - 05/19/07

The Vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church wishes to express its profound disagreement with the actions of the Executive Council taken on May 16, 2007, concerning alternative primatial oversight.

Trinity Episcopal Church, while affirming its place in the Diocese of Ft. Worth and in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, does not support any search for forming a new Anglican Province. Trinity Episcopal Church does not support transferring to another existing province of the Anglican Communion. Trinity Episcopal Church does not support seeking the status of an extra-provincial diocese. Trinity Episcopal Church affirms the place of the Diocese of Fort Worth in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America.

See, also, Barbi Click's analysis of life for dissidents in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

While we're talking Texas, I thought you'd enjoy this: How Dallas became Gay-Friendly.

Virginia Split Goes to Court Today

In what promises to be the first of many such days, a court battle over church property begins today in Virginia. According to a report in the Washington Times, representatives of the Diocese of Virginia and the Anglican District of Virginia will face off before Fairfax County District Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows.

There are eleven congregations, their clergy and lay leaders named in the suit, not to mention the Bishop, Diocese and lay and ordained leaders named in the response. According to Robert W. Prichard, Kinsolving Professor of Christianity in America at the Virginia Theological Seminary, this is the largest lawsuit in terms of the number of individuals named and the fair market value of the properties involved in the history of the Episcopal Church.

The departing congregations assert that, when they voted to leave the Episcopal Church, they were following the recommendations of a special commission that attempted to reconcile competing property claims within the boundaries of diocesan constitution and canons. The Chancellor of the Anglican District of Virginia, Mary McReynolds says that the Diocese made an about face alleging that they gave into pressure from the Episcopal Church headquarters.

The diocese says that the commission report was received but not formally accepted by the Diocesan Council (convention) or standing committee. On November 16, 2006 Patrick Getlein, Secretary of the Diocese said, through a news release from the Diocese of Virginia, “There is no approved protocol.” The assessment was reiterated by Col. Jean D. Reed, president of the Standing Committee.

Bishop Lee has said that the actions of the parishes including the votes to separate the congregations from the Diocese rendered the negotiations, including the proposals of the report, moot and necessitated the court actions. On January 18, 2007 he wrote that "the votes to separate from The Episcopal Church negated all the work we had done in good faith over the years to accommodate the views of the leadership of these churches and focused our attention on the only two remaining factors: the status of clergy and the status of property."

One of complaints by the Anglican District against the Diocese of Virginia is that the 21 clergy who withdrew from the Episcopal Church to become clergy in the Church of Nigeria were subsequently inhibited by Bishop Lee and so cannot function within the Episcopal Church.

In an op-ed piece published yesterday in the Richmond Times, James Oates, senior warden of the Truro Church CANA, and vice-chairman of the Anglican District, styles the fight in terms of religious freedom. “Whoever thought American citizens would have to fight for their own religious freedom against an American church in the land of religious freedom?” he wrote.

In the January 18, 2007, letter to the Diocese, Bishop James L. Lee wrote “In the structure of the Episcopal Church, individuals may come and go but parishes continue.” He stated that the votes in the eleven churches “left remaining (the) Episcopal congregations in those places without vestries, without clergy and without their churches, whether the remaining congregations numbered one or 100 souls. The spiritual abandonment of their Episcopal brothers and sisters of the past, the present and the future, is perhaps the greatest offense for which there is no redress under our tradition.”

According to the Washington Times report, Professor Prichard would not guess how these suits would turn out saying "I've got better sense than that.”

Pittsburgh: No path forward without pain

This past weekend, Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh told diocesan leaders that "we're here together to discuss our way forward in light of our failure to obtain Alternative Primatial Oversight," according to PGH.anglican.org. In other words, the diocese is admitting the path they have been pursuing will no longer work.

The diocese could simply keep doing what it has been doing, remaining on the periphery of The Episcopal Church, but not attempting to reach a concluding moment in the conflict. It could submit to the will of the Episcopal Church in its majority, reversing the diocesan convention's actions over the last four years. It could attempt to separate as a diocese from The Episcopal Church, an option a number of Anglican Communion Network dioceses are considering. It could attempt to create space for conserving parishes to negotiate an exit from the diocese.

Regardless of what option is ultimately adopted, the diocesan leadership was clear about several things. There is no path forward for the diocese that will not involve significant costs and pain. Staying with the Episcopal Church in the light of its rejection of mainstream Christianity will force members of the leadership, individuals and congregations to consider cutting their ties to the diocese. Separating from the structures of the Episcopal Church will force others to reevaluate their relationship with the diocese. Regardless of the choice, parishes and the diocese are likely to face financial challenges.

"We are facing something that we never thought we would face. We thought we would prevail. We thought that what we believed and what the majority of the Communion believed would be provided for," said Bishop Duncan.

The entire release is here.

On Message

WASHINGTON (May 26) - With the sounds of Rolling Thunder motorcycles filling the streets of the nation's capital in the background, a different sort of roar rolled through the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday when the Rt. Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston was consecrated as the bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Virginia.
...
In his sermon, the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta, urged Bishop Johnston to "wear us out! Wear us out with the promise of the resurrection!"

The consecration, Bishop Alexander said, was "an act of faith, a sign of hope, a living reminder of the mission that Jesus Christ has given to the Church. It is an act of faith in God's confidence in the Church, God's faith in us to live boldly, perhaps even daringly."

This day, he said, was a "bold reminder to ourselves and the world that the mission of Jesus continues. We are not prepared to give up, to let up, to hold back or to relax."

Bishop Jefferts Schori, who served as the chief consecrator, was joined by Bishop Lee, Virginia Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones, Bishop Alexander, Michigan Bishop Wendell Gibbs, Mississippi Bishop Duncan M. Gray III and West Virginia Bishop Michie Klusmeyer. Twenty-five other bishops also participated in the consecration.

"It was a delight to see 30 bishops of the Church gather to celebrate, and an utter delight to hear Fodor perform" Bach's Ciaccona, Bishop Jefferts Schori said.

"The music and the preaching were all right on target," Bishop Gibbs said. "It's all about resurrection. We finally got back on message. Thanks be to God!"

Throughout the service, Bishop Johnston and his wife, Ellen, exchanged glances, smiles and tears across the center aisle of the cathedral....

Bishop Johnston will make his first episcopal visit to the Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna on Sunday. "It does not get better than that, visiting that church on the Feast of Pentecost," he said.

Emphasis added. The special edition of The Virginia Episcopalian is here.

The ongoing battle for Pawley's Island

The Myrtle Beach Sun News reports:

The most recent development in the court battle came last week, when the congregation that remained with the Episcopal diocese appealed an April ruling by Judge Thomas Cooper to deny the diocese ownership of the church property.

However, Cooper said the group that stayed loyal to the Episcopal Diocese are the true representatives of the historical church and have the right to use the All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, name.

He ordered the Anglican Mission congregation to return items such as furniture, books and historical church documents, since those belong to the Episcopal Diocese.

But he upheld a 1745 deed that said the church real estate is held in trust for the benefit of the people of the Waccamaw Neck, for the establishment of an Anglican church.

That means that neither the Episcopal Diocese nor the Anglican Mission in the Americas can lay claim to the church property.

The Anglican Mission congregation will continue to call their church All Saints Church, said Senior Warden Dan Stacey.

No real estate or real property will be transferred while the case is on appeal, Stacey said. "I'm not surprised [about the appeal]," Stacey said. "The judge ruled that they didn't have any interest in the real estate and I'm sure that was a surprise to the national church."

A two acre site adjacent to the church campus is not covered under the original 1745 deed, is not held in trust, and does belong to the Episcopal Diocese, according to Cooper's ruling.

Read it all here.

One correction: AMiA is not "another branch of the Episcopal Church." Further, it is not recognized by the Anglican Communion.

Prison ministry cares for "invisible children"

This summer, Episcopalians in at least 20 dioceses are reaching out to them -- children under under the radar of government aid -- by sending them to summer camp for a week of learning and fun.

The president says there are 1.5 million of them, the smallest victims of crime. The Bureau of Justice statistics say they have a 70 percent chance of going to prison just like their parents. “If we can give them a week of unconditional love, there is hope,” says the now-retired director of prison ministry for the national church, the Rev. Jackie Means. These children bring to camp “anger, fear, insecurity, suspicion and shame” said Means. “They need to know that Jesus loves them as they are. They need a safe place to deal with the hard stuff and to be shown respect.”

Sponsoring dioceses in 2007 include: Rio Grande, Oklahoma, Northern Michigan, Mississippi, Texas, West Texas, Nevada, East Carolina, Montana, Maryland, Florida, Southwest Florida, Arkansas, Vermont, Wisconsin, Easton, Md., Connecticut, Northern Indiana, Alaska and Louisiana.

Val Hymes of the Diocese of Maryland has the story.

Diocese of Los Angeles wins appeal

Court records reveal that the Diocese of Los Angeles has won its case, on appeal, against St. James, Newport Beach, St. David's, North Hollywood, All Saints, Long Beach and others. These churches were attempting to claim ownership of parish property although the Consitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church affirm that all property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

From a source in Los Angeles:

The Court of Appeals ruled in the case of the 3 churches which believed they could disaffiliate with the Diocese of Los Angeles and seek refuge from a diocese in Uganda. The Barker decision (from the 70's - when the three parishes left over women's ordination) was overturned. Along with a reversal of the earlier rulings made by Judge Velasquez, this means that Newport Beach (St. James) , North Hollywood (St. David's) & Long Beach (All Saints) will be returned to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Under the California Supreme Court cases… the right of the general church in this case to enforce a trust on the local parish property is clear, and that right has not been affected by intervening United States Supreme Court decisions or any statute enacted by the Legislature.

From the Appeal:

V. DISPOSITION
The judgments of dismissal against the diocese and the national church are both reversed. Further proceedings shall be consistent with this opinion. Appellants shall recover their costs on appeal.

The file in pdf is here. [Or here.]

Background on the case and more information on the decision can be found at Episcopal Life Online here.

Massachusetts announces departure of rector

A letter released today by the Diocese of Massachusetts clarifies the status of the Rev. William Murdoch who has been elected a bishop of the Anglican Province of Kenya.

The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, today announced that a priest of the diocese, the Rev. William Murdoch, who has served as the rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church in West Newbury, Mass., since 1993, is leaving the Episcopal Church to serve as bishop suffragan of All Saints Cathedral, Diocese of Nairobi, in the Anglican Province of Kenya. Murdoch was elected as such on June 29 and is to be consecrated on Aug. 30 in Nairobi.

Murdoch has served since 2004 as New England dean of a network of congregations in disagreement with the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, some seeking Anglican affiliations outside of it. Murdoch will conduct his last worship service at All Saints' Episcopal Church in West Newbury on Aug. 19. He and All Saints' vestry members have been in consultation over a period of months with Bishop Shaw and the diocese's bishops suffragan, the Rt. Rev. Bud Cederholm and the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, resulting in a cordial agreement under which the congregation, should it decide to leave the Episcopal Church, will vacate the Episcopal church property at 895 Main Street and its administration will be assumed by the diocese

"My continuing heartfelt prayers are with Bill, his wife, Sally, and their entire family, as well as with the members of All Saints' who feel God calling them to this path in their faith journey," Bishop Shaw said. He noted that the discussions between the bishops and potentially departing All Saints' leadership have been characterized by an extraordinary spirit of cooperation through which all have been well served. "This process of discernment has been marked by mutual respect for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and for the different theological views that have brought us to this pass, and it is in that same spirit that we now make our way forward," Bishop Shaw said.

No decision has been made about the status of the West Newbury Episcopal church. Diocesan representatives will meet with Episcopalians from the area in early September to discuss the continuing Episcopal Church presence [in] the Merrimack Valley, which is also home to Episcopal parishes in Amesbury, Andover, Chelmsford, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover, North Billerica and Westford.

Contact:
Maria Plati
Communications Director
Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
mplati@diomass.org

The Newburyport News yesterday had reported "Murdoch will remain rector of All Saints Church even as he takes on this nationwide role."


All Saints has also been in the news because of its interest in moving to a larger site. That story is here.

A cathedral gets real

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that the cathedral for the Diocese of West Tennessee is going through some belt tightening:

"There's a myth that the cathedral is crashing and burning, but it's not going under, it's not closing, and it's not for sale," Bishop Don Johnson said recently in an exclusive interview.
...
At issue is an aging and shrinking congregation, resulting in diminished annual giving. And with fewer members, the

number of clergy and staffers needed to serve the congregation decreased.

From a peak membership of around 900 in the 1960s, St. Mary's now counts about 400 and averages 140 at weekly worship services. Half the congregation is age 60 and above and more than three-fourths are 50 and older.

To help cover expenses, the cathedral has dipped into its endowment fund, but that's not a sustainable solution.
...
"We made a conscious decision to be transparent about the financial condition of the cathedral in this parish and beyond. It must be able to address the needs of its Sunday worshipers as well as the hundreds who come here for special diocesan events," Johnson said. "Truth-telling is important, but it comes with a price. We've gone through the 'Let's get real' phase and now we're in the 'What's next' phase."

Read it here.

See, also, today's story in The Living Church about the closing of the cathedral in Diocese of Western Michigan.

Ever helpful

The Diocese of Pittsburgh is furnishing its parishes with a toolbox full of "materials, opinions and news about the choices facing the diocese and each parish in light of the decision of The Episcopal Church not to place moratoria on same-sex blessings and the election of bishops in same-sex relationships and to unequivocally reject the request of Pittsburgh and six other dioceses for Alternative Primatial Oversight."

The resources include an essay by the Rev. Geoffrey Chapman, author of the Chapman Memo, which laid out the American Anglican Council's strategy for replacing the Episcopal Church with a conservative U. S. presence in the Anglican Communion.

Meanwhile, Bishop Robert Duncan, has this to offer from a meeting of the Anglican Communion Network Council in Bedford, Texas.

What the bookkeeper saw

Monday he was praised as a "great leader" by The Right Rev. Bob Duncan, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network. Tuesday an Ecclesiastical Court in the Diocese of Colorado met for an evidentiary hearing regarding allegations of financial misconduct against him. The Rev. Don Armstrong chose not to attend the hearing. He left the Episcopal Church with a portion of his congregation and joined with CANA in March. The Grace and St. Stephens property remains occupied by Armstrong and his followers.

As reported by The Denver Post,

The Episcopal diocese's five-member court, led by the Rev. Peter Munson, ruled that it still has authority over Armstrong because he has made no formal renunciation of his Episcopal priesthood. Church attorneys have asked that the court remove Armstrong from his office and order him to pay restitution of more than $610,000.
...
The court will probably issue a written decision late this week, diocese spokeswoman Beckett Stokes said.

The diocese is seeking to resolve the matter internally before considering civil or criminal action, Stokes said.

Armstrong faces five counts related to financial wrongdoings, including fraud and tax evasion, over a 10-year period beginning in 1997.

Read it all here.

The five members of the court (3 clergy, 2 lay) are elected at Diocesan Convention and operate independently of the Bishop of Colorado.

According to the Rocky Mountain News,

The whistle-blower who entangled the Rev. Don Armstrong in allegations of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money was the parish bookkeeper, an attorney said Tuesday.
...
Hopkins, bookkeeper from 1997 to 2001, said in a written statement that Armstrong instructed that his two children's educational expenses be paid with money from the funds and trust. Armstrong has said those expenses were OK'd by church authorities.

According to the diocese's Motion for Summary Judgment, Armstrong gave detailed instructions on how payments and money transfers were to be posted in the church's books, and no one but Armstrong was allowed to open incoming mail. Armstrong would prepare the financial reports for the vestry and these did not correspond to the bookkeeper's data. He did not explain to the bookkeeper how arrived at his numbers.

More from the Colorado Springs Gazette:

What the pastor missed was the testimony of two witnesses, one of whom spelled out how Armstrong diverted money from parish accounts to pay for the college education of his son and daughter, as well as for things such as cell phones and car repairs. The other witness testified that a trust fund from which Armstrong took the college money could not legally have been used for such a purpose.

Hal Haddon and Ty Gee, serving as attorneys for the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, asked the court to recommend the maximum sentence and revoke Armstrong’s standing as an ordained Episcopal minister.
...
Haddon said he believes the IRS has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. An IRS spokeswoman said that she could not comment, and Armstrong spokesman Alan Crippen said that no one from the federal agency had contacted Armstrong.

Haddon then played the video deposition of Karl Ross, a Colorado Springs attorney who set up the Bowton Trust and has served since its inception on the board that distributes the scholarship money. Trust bylaws strictly forbid the money from going to anyone, such as Armstrong’s kids, who are studying subjects outside the ministry, and they also forbid the church from using the money at its whim without approval of the trust board, as it appears to have done, Ross said.

Bishop of Virginia removes inhibited priests

Bishop Peter James Lee of the Diocese of Virginia has removed 21 clergy from the Episcopal priesthood. These clergy members had been inhibited in January after the diocesan Standing
Committee determined that they had abandoned the Communion of The Episcopal Church, according to a release from the diocese:

The possibility of such a determination was explained by the Bishop in a December 1, 2006 letter to the clergy and leadership of the now-former Episcopal congregations. By this action, the former Episcopal clergy are "released from the obligations of Priest or Deacon and ... deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in Ordination."

Of the clergy members originally inhibited, one chose to retract his association with anything but the Episcopal Church:

The Rev. Nicholas Lubelfeld "has declared his loyalty to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church" wrote Bishop Lee in the notice lifting Mr. Lubelfeld's inhibition. Mr. Lubelfeld has accepted a call to serve as priest associate of Church of Our Redeemer in Aldie, Va., serving under the supervision of the Rev. John Sheehan, rector of that church.

In making his retraction, Mr. Lubelfeld sent a letter to Bishop Lee dated June 30 in which he states his "intention to remain a member of The Episcopal Church and of the clergy of The Diocese of Virginia." In that letter he also states, "I did not and do not intend to renounce or be disloyal to the doctrine, discipline or worship of Christ as The Episcopal Church has received them." He further states "I have not sought or received admission into any religious body not in communion with The Episcopal Church, or in any way severed my ties with The Episcopal Church."


Read it all, including the complete list of those removed from ordained ministry, here.

South Carolina re-elects Lawrence

The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence was re-elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina August 4 at a special electing convention held at St. James Church on St. James Island, South Carolina. Lawrence was the only candidate in the election since no petitions to add other names to the slate were received by the July 11 deadline.

A majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must now consent to Lawrence's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Lawrence, 56, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, was first elected September 16, 2006 to be South Carolina's 14th bishop.

On March 15, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that election "null and void," saying that a number of the consent responses did not adhere to canonical requirements since Lawrence's election did not receive the consent of the majority of diocesan standing committees.

Episcopal Church canons, which govern the procedures for the election of bishops, call for consents to episcopal ordinations from standing committees to be "signed by a majority of all the members of the Committee. (III.11.4 (b))"

Further, the canon states (on pages 101-102) that standing committee members must sign in their own handwriting: "In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this (blank) day of (blank) in the year of our Lord (blank)."

Where the signature requirement had not been met by standing committees, the consent forms for Lawrence's election were rejected for not complying with that part of the canon.

Canonically adequate ballots were received by South Carolina from 50 diocesan standing committees of the 56 required. Several other standing committees were reported to have consented, but no signatures were attached to their ballots, or the ballot itself was missing from South Carolina's records, Jefferts Schori reported in March. Any committee that did not respond to the diocese's consent request is considered to have voted no.

Read it all.

Virginia property cases in court on Friday

Via email:

To the Clergy and Lay Leaders of The Diocese of Virginia
August 8, 2007

Dear Friends:

Many of you have written, called and sent e-mails of support in recent months. I am grateful for all that you do in support of the mission of the Church to be the hands and feet of Christ at work in the world.

Our aim is to help preserve the integrity of the Church so that you can continue to do that as Episcopalians in The Diocese of Virginia and to make sure that future generations will be able to say "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You."

Clearly The Episcopal Church faces challenges as our church is beset by groups and individuals determined to hijack the legacy of our ancestors and make off with the inheritance we are honor bound to protect, preserve and pass on to future generations. We face opposition from groups that are not only leaving The Episcopal Church but are now also steering a new course away from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is very telling that Dr. Ephraim Radner, one of the founders of the Anglican Communion Network, one of the realignment groups, has resigned and distanced himself from the mission of that group.

Closer to home, this is an important week in The Diocese of Virginia's defense of its heritage and stewardship of its future. On Friday, August 10, The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church will appear in Fairfax Circuit Court to defend our claim to Episcopal Church property against non-Episcopal groups that are trying to appropriate our churches for their own uses. This Friday, those groups will press technical and procedural claims that the Diocese and the Church have failed to state a case. In other words, they will try to have our case dismissed. Naturally, we oppose their actions. Later, in November, the court will hear arguments on the lawsuits, styled as petitions, filed by the Nigerian congregations that started this dispute. The Diocese and The Episcopal Church are named as defendants in that action.

Someone recently remarked to me how sad it is that we find ourselves in court at this time. The situation we find ourselves in is regrettable and unfortunate. Nevertheless, we must protect and preserve our heritage for future generations. The truth of this came home poignantly to me in a call I received from an older woman whose congregation and property have been hijacked by forces outside The Episcopal Church. She called because she is concerned she may not be able to be buried in an Episcopal service by an Episcopal priest in the cemetery of her Episcopal Church, sacred ground where her family and ancestors are buried. It is in stories such as hers that our requirement to preserve, protect and pass on the legacy of our church ancestors has real meaning. Those of us in this generation with the responsibility of stewardship are working tirelessly to that end.

We cannot know how these matters will play out in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. We know it will take time and, even when the courts decide, the work of repairing relationships and rebuilding congregations will be in front of us for some time to come. But that is the work we are called to at this time, and it is an honor to serve you, our bishops and this diocese in these challenging days.

Faithfully,

Patrick N. Getlein

Mr. Getlein is Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia.

Armstrong guilty

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

DENVER - An ecclesiastical court on Wednesday convicted the Rev. Donald Armstrong of stealing nearly $400,000 from his Colorado Springs parish, though it cannot legally punish the breakaway pastor.

The court of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado will decide in about a month, however, whether to recommend that Bishop Robert O’Neill defrock Armstrong, a largely symbolic action that would end all ties between the church and him.

Armstrong left the diocese with a majority of the Grace Church & St. Stephen’s vestry board in March and now oversees the congregation of the Grace CANA Church that is affiliated with the more conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America. His spokesman, Alan Crippen, said the Episcopal Diocese does not have authority over Armstrong.

Read it here.

The press release from the Diocese is here (pdf). Extract:

The five members of the Ecclesiastical Court found unanimously that the Rev. Don Armstrong is guilty on all Counts included in the Motion for Summary Judgment in his case. Those counts are: Count 1 – commission of crimes, including theft of $392,409.93 from Grace Church, and causing Grace Church to issue false W-2s and underreport Armstrong’s income andbenefits by $548,097.27; Count 2 – that Armstrong received illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of Diocesan Canons; Count 3 – unauthorized encumbrance and alienation of Grace Church’s real property; Count 4 – violation of the temporary inhibition placed on Armstrong; Count 5 – the improper use of clergy discretionary funds; and Count 6 – failure to maintain proper books of account.

More on Va. ruling

Episcopal News Service is reporting on yesterday's ruling in Virginia:


Virginia's Fairfax Circuit Court ruled August 10 in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia in denying the claims of 11 separated congregations that the court should not consider the Church's Constitution and Canons in deciding property disputes.

The congregations, in which a majority of members have voted to leave the Episcopal Church but continue to occupy its property, asked the court to dismiss the complaints of the Church and the diocese.

After hearing arguments by all parties, the judge overruled all but one part of the motions. The court dismissed the claims of the diocese for a judgment that the congregations had committed a trespass by holding onto the property. Such claims, the court ruled, should be pleaded separately.

...

Also on August 10, after hearing arguments on a motion to dismiss all the individual defendant vestry members, clergy, and trustees from the litigation, all of the parties agreed that they -- together with the separated congregations -- will be bound by whatever ruling the trial court makes regarding ownership of the real and personal property. Their agreement extends to any ruling on appeal.

According to the agreement, if the court rules in favor of the Episcopal Church and the diocese, an orderly transition with respect to all property would ensue. The Church and the diocese reserve the right, however, to seek an accounting of all monies spent by the departed congregations and bring the individual vestry members and clergy back into the litigation for that purpose.

Hat tip to Simon Sarmiento for this. The whole thing is here. The Diocese of Virginia press release is here.

Virginia schism leads to answered prayers

From a letter to the editor in Sunday's Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

As the representatives and allies of four Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Virginia met in Fredericksburg last month, I was reminded of something Lincoln said: "We must settle this question now: Whether in a free government, the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose."

The Episcopal Church has weathered many storms, and emerged intact. Despite the Civil War, issues like slavery and segregation, the impact of cultural change including divorce, birth control, and the emerging role of women in society, the church existed as space where people could lay aside differences and worship together as one.

In 2003, after the general church voted to consecrate an openly gay man as the bishop of New Hampshire, the capability of the church to accommodate various views was strained. In 2006, a small minority of parishes in the diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church, yet moved to retain Episcopal Church buildings.

While the court decides property issues, those who voted to remain Episcopalian in those parishes found themselves briefly without places to worship. Some are celebrating services in shared space with other denominations, while one is worshipping in a church abandoned by a former Episcopal congregation.

The delegates to the Fredericksburg meeting came from as far away as Arlington and Ashland, from Colonial Beach to Richmond, east from the Northern Neck, south from Falls Church and Herndon. There were priests, deans, region presidents, senior wardens and our bishop coadjutor--all present to reaffirm our commitment to the Episcopal Church, tell stories, and share the support we'd received through the generosity of friendly congregations.

Read it all here. The author is Bill Mehr, a member of a continuing parish.

A conference for continuing parishes is being held this fall. More details here (pdf).

Diocese of Maine uses online interview videos

The Diocese of Maine is using online video interviews as a part of their discernment process in electing a new bishop co-adjutor. This innovation will allow many in that geographically large diocese to observe, see and hear candidates answer questions about their desire to become the next bishop of Maine.

Watch them here

What other videos or information would help you discern what you need to know in an election? What about a video of each one preaching or presiding at a meeting?

Two years after Katrina

Two years after Katrina, several churches in the Diocese of Mississippi still struggle to rebuild:

Driving along what is left of the beachfront boulevard in Bay St. Louis, one sees a lot of green. Nature has reinvented itself; flora and fauna are prolific along the Mississippi coastline. A few people dot the beaches in between ruined piers. Houses, however, are missing. Miles of vacant lots dotted with concrete pipe sections and new septic tanks bear silent witness to the ever-present loss.

Heading east from New Orleans, across the water's edge to Mobile, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has coped with its own losses and has struggled to mitigate the spiritual, emotional and physical deficits of the coast area clergy and residents pummeled by Katrina.

"Residents are still numb from the catastrophic forces which turned their world upside down on August 29, 2005," said the Rev. Canon David Johnson, Canon to the Ordinary in Mississippi. "The work to recover will be at least a decade in being accomplished. For many, the magnitude and long-term impact is just now setting in."

Many coast area clergy sustained major or total damage to their homes. Six of 11 coast churches on their beachfront properties were destroyed by the storm. Trinity Church, Pass Christian; St. Mark's and St. Peter's, Gulfport, have made long term plans and are building or rebuilding. Church of the Redeemer, Biloxi; Christ Church, Bay St. Louis; and St. Patrick's, Long Beach -- among the hardest hit congregations -- are continuing with their planning processes.

St. Thomas', Diamondhead; St. John's, Ocean Springs; St. John's, Pascagoula; St. Pierre's, Gautier; and St. Paul's, Picayune, have all participated in recovery and rebuilding projects of their own, having sustained comparably minor damage to their own structures.

While these congregations have been assisted by several aid programs, these programs are coming to a close and the conngregations face real difficulty in continuing rebuilding efforts:

However, with many aid programs' funding expiring at year's end, several affected congregations are faced with significant shortfalls in operating and rebuilding funds for 2008. The coming year will undoubtedly write the most challenging chapter of recovery yet.

"Through the generous support from Episcopalians from every diocese, we were able to continue to provide compensation and medical insurance for the clergy in the coast convocation in 2007," said Kathryn McCormick, Canon for Administration and Finance in Mississippi. "Through action of the Board of Trustees of the Church Pension Group, the pensions of the coast clergy were waived through 2007. A financial assessment is being conducted to see what 2008 and beyond will look like; yet, we already know that the financial demands are tremendous."

Funds are needed to support the clergy, which have not been covered by any other granting institution, and to fill in gaps left by rebuilding for the coast area churches.


Read it all here.

Nominees for bishop of Chicago

Five nominees for the 12th Bishop of Chicago were received from the Bishop Search Committee and announced Aug. 28, 2007 by the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago’s governing body, the Standing Committee, subject to completion of background checks:

The Rev. Jane S. Gould, Priest-in-Charge / Rector
St. Stephen’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Lynn, Mass.

The Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Rector
St. Thomas Church, Medina, Wash.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean
Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose, Director of Women's Ministries
The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Timothy B. Safford, Rector
Christ Church, Philadelphia

Additional candidates can be nominated through a petition process overseen by the Standing Committee.

Press Release by Integrity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Integrity Responds to List of Candidates for Bishop of Chicago

"The big news today is that discernment has trumped discrimination in the Diocese of Chicago," said Integrity President Susan Russell. "The inclusion of the Very Rev. Tracey Lind on the list of five extraordinarily qualified candidates for Bishop of Chicago is a bold step forward and a sign of hope and encouragement not only to LGBT Episcopalians but to the whole church. Her experience and leadership make her an excellent candidate and Integrity applauds the Diocese of Chicago for not allowing the forces advocating bigotry over ability to dominate their nomination process.

Read the rest of the release here

Episcopal Diocese of Chicago website is here

Rebuilding New Orleans

In this video, Brad Powers, executive director of Jericho Road, speaks about the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's housing initiative that transforms under-used land, rebuilds neighborhoods and empowers communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There is more news about the Church's efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast here and here.

National Cathedral's Sunday best

Washington National Cathedral is launching a Sunday morning forum this fall with an impressive line-up.

The brochure is here. The press release follows:

Series: The Sunday Forum: Critical Issues in the Light of Faith

Sundays beginning October 7; 10-10:50 am; free, more info, 202-364-6616 or www.nationalcathedral.org

Join Cathedral Dean Sam Lloyd as he hosts a weekly conversation that promises to be honest, intellectually probing and generous-spirited about major issues facing society. Each Sunday, Dean Lloyd and his guest wrestle pressing topics such as environmental stewardship, the role of faith in politics, religious pluralism, personal ethics, global justice and faith in a changing culture. The conversations include questions taken from local and national audiences. People may submit questions online at www.nationalcathedral.org/forum.

The Sunday Forum welcomes a variety of opinions and points of view. Forums take place in the nave (main level of church) and will be web cast.

October guests are:

October 7—Religious America: What Do We Believe? with Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and Washington Post Reporter Sally Quinn; Jon Meacham is editor of Newsweek Magazine, co-editor of The Washington Post’s online religion forum, On Faith, and author of the bestselling book American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of the Nation. Sally Quinn is a long-time writer for The Washington Post, co-editor of The Post’s online religion forum, On Faith, and the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction.

October 14—Ties That Bind: A Folk-Rocker and a Theologian Make Heavenly Music with Indigo Girl Emily Saliers and theologian Don Saliers; Don Saliers is William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship at Emory University and co-author with his daughter Emily of A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as a Spiritual Practice. Emily Saliers is a singer-songwriter, musician, and member of the popular folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls.

October 21—Can Faith and Science be Reconciled? A Conversation with Human Genome Scientist Francis Collins; Francis Collins is director of the National Genome Research Institute and author of the bestseller The Language of God: Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

October 28—Faith and Diversity on the Airwaves, with National Public Radio Personality Michel Martin; Michel Martin is the host of NPR’s Tell Me More. A journalist for over 25 years, Michel has worked in both print and television including ABC News where she worked as a correspondent for Nightline.

UPDATED - Pittsburgh foresees a fork in the road

UPDATE - The Boston Globe reports

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who came to Nairobi for the consecrations, said he expects to see a new Anglican province in North America that will replace the Episcopal Church.

"We are realigning," said Duncan, who added he would attempt to pull his entire diocese out of the Episcopal Church, a move that would raise an unprecedented set of legal and financial questions about the ownership of parish buildings and diocesan property.

-------------------------------
Original post

153 clergy and lay leaders associated with the diocese have signed "A Pittsburgh Compact for a Way Forward in this Season." Several phrases indicate the season: "... a season where fundamental differences of faith and practice have torn our Church and our Communion, perhaps beyond mending ... perhaps there is a fork in the road ahead that may divide our fellowship ... it appears to us that our Church is choosing to ‘walk apart’ from the fellowship and life of the Anglican Communion. In response, God appears to be calling many of us to disassociate from the Episcopal Church while at the same time He is calling others to remain as missionaries within an increasingly hostile ecclesiastical culture...."

The compact concludes:

We are concerned that the history of the church is littered with the wreckage of strife and division, and we do not wish to add to the ruins. We are mindful that our own hands are not clean in the development of this history, and we are particularly brokenhearted over the pride that has too often accompanied our witness. Even as we stand in the shadow of emerging divisions, we beg God for the forgiveness we need and the opportunity for a different future than the one we fear is rapidly coming upon us.

We are mindful of God’s weakness displayed in Christ’s Cross, and of the Apostle Paul’s consistent advocacy of the weakness of the Cross as the way of Christian life and ministry. Because of this, we forsake the spirit of condemnation and the opportunity for litigation. We look instead for clarity and charity towards all, and will work towards any prospect for just mediation. We pray to God for the heart to bear any difficulties with joyful grace, peaceful spirits, and confidence in His provision.


Among the signatories are clergy at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Bishops of the diocese did not sign the compact.

Conservative comment on the Compact is available here.

The Diocesan, Bob Duncan, was present at the cross-boundary Episcopal consecrations in Kenya and Uganda, as well as the cross-boundary consecration of Martyn Minns. The Living Church reported on July 31

“Never, ever has he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States,” Bishop Duncan said of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, adding that “the cost is his office."
Williams has not invited Minns to Lambeth 2008.

The compact is posted on the diocese's Parish Toolbox website. The website's about statement begins "Parishes and people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh face significant choices this year about our continued relationship to The Episcopal Church. http://www.parishtoolbox.org is a diocesan resource developed to help parishes and people make those choices." (July 27, 2007)

Clergy have pastoral needs, too

Churches and their clergy have played an important role in the rebuilding of New Orleans and the healing of the city's people. But these clergy are just as vulnerable to the trauma experienced by victims of catastrophe. New Orleans Bishop Charles Jenkins, talks about his experience in an Associated Press article on the pastoral needs of clergy:

The sight of misery all around them — and the combined burden of helping others put their lives back together while repairing their own homes and places of worship — are taking a spiritual and psychological toll on the city's ministers, priests and rabbis, many of whom are in counseling two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Almost every local Episcopal minister is in counseling, including Bishop Charles Jenkins himself, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jenkins, whose home in suburban Slidell was so badly damaged by Katrina that it was 10 months before he and his wife could move back in, said he has suffered from depression, faulty short-term memory, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

Low-flying helicopters sometimes cause flashbacks to the near-despair — the "dark night of the soul" — into which he was once plunged, he said. He said the experience felt "like the absence of God" — a lonely and frightening sensation.

Churches and synagogues have played an important role in New Orleans' recovery, supplying money and thousands of volunteers to rebuild homes and resettle families. But an April survey found 444 places of worship in metropolitan New Orleans — about 30 percent — were still closed 20 months after the storm because they were damaged or their congregations scattered.

The story features comments by other clergy and by mental health professionals, too:

For some members of the clergy, Katrina caused a spiritual crisis.

"I found myself praying, `My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' as Jesus did," said the Rev. Susan Gaumer, whose own home was destroyed and who has also had to help with more problems — and officiate at more funerals — than ever before among her congregants at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. "I felt distanced from God, but God wasn't the problem. I'm the problem. My prayer was, `My God, my God, why have I forsaken you?'

"Then with some time, healing time and some grieving of my own, and some good checking in with a therapist ... my prayer began to be a prayer of thanksgiving, for strength and for what I call the graces of the storm."

Jenkins, the Episcopal bishop, said he felt that the catastrophe exposed his failure before the storm to do enough to fight such evils as racism, poverty and poor education.

But helping rebuild lives proved to be a life-altering experience, he said: "This is the best time for the most authentic ministry as bishop that I've had in my 10 years."

The whole thing is here.

Bonnie Anderson visits Fort Worth, Bishop displeased

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church spoke in the Diocese of Fort Worth this weekend at the invitation of members of the diocese and Brite Divinity School. The bishop of Fort Worth, although invited to attend the events, declined the invitation saying he had an ordination to do that day. His communications representative, Suzanne Gill, was present. Bishop Iker chose to write a letter expressing his displeasure with Anderson's presence.

One of the organizers of the event, Katie Sherrod reports 250 people attended:

At NO time did anyone in that room claim to be the ONLY true "loyal Episcopalians" here in Fort Worth. Fort Worth Via Media has never claimed that.

The truth is, not everyone who was in that room "dissents" from "the stated theological positions of this diocese." Some agree with them, but aren't sure they are ready to leave TEC. Others agree with some of them, but not all, but do not want to leave TEC. Some disagree vehemently with those positions and are SURE they don't want to leave TEC. ... Where in all this have we "violated" the protocals and polity of The Episcopal Church? ...recent actions by our bishop have raised the anxiety level among people in the diocese to higher levels than usual. People wanted information from more than one source.

The purpose of the event was to inform people about national canons, especially regarding property, and to give them information from a viewpoint other than the bishop about recent events in our church and in the Communion, something not readily available in this diocese. It was also designed to empower lay people by informing them of ways to stay informed and to get involved on the parish and diocesan level. We also discussed ways to put people in the various parishes in touch with one another, including setting up a listserve not unlike the HOB/D list so they can share information and ideas.

Bishop Iker WAS informed of Bonnie's visit to Fort Worth AND invited to the event several weeks prior to yesterday. He declined to attend, saying he had an ordination to do that day.

Suzanne Gill, the diocesan communication director, attended the entire day.

This was emphatically NOT a Bash Bishop Iker event, although he WAS inevitably mentioned. I heard no disrespect for him, only disagreement with him. Last I heard, disagreement with one's bishop is still permitted in TEC.

This was an event designed to give information about the national church and the Anglican Communion [pointing out, for instance, that none of the "Instruments of Unity" have any power to force TEC to do anything], about what help might be available to people and parishes who want to remain in The Episcopal Church, about what happens if a bishop attempts to take an entire diocese "out of the church,"
Bonnie Anderson was the keynote speaker.

I then talked about the Anglican Communion and gave information about the Windsor Report, the Primates' Communiqué, invitations to Lambeth, etc. My talk will be posted on the Fort Worth Via Media web site later today.

Two lawyers talked about canon law.

My rector and one of the vestry members at Trinity Episcopal Church talked about ways lay people can get involved.

The event was completely transparent. It was open to anyone who registered, and was all videotaped.

Full report of the event is at Katie Sherrod's blog Desert's Child and will be on the Fort Worth Via Media site soon.

Bloggers Andrew Plus and Fr Jake offer their perspectives on his letter here and here.

Andrew writes a letter which replaces Bonnie Anderson's name with that of Archbishop Akinola.

This visit by Archbishop Akinola was arranged without any prior consultation with the Bishop of Chicago or any of the other elected leaders of that diocese. I consider it a breach of protocol and a violation of the basic polity of The Episcopal Church. It is a clear effort on his part to recognize and empower a small group of people who dissent from the stated theological positions of that diocese and who claim that they alone are the true ‘loyal Anglicans in our sister Diocese of Chicago.

Fr Jake comments on Anderson's visit and the letter from Bp Iker reminding all of the faithful Episcopalians of the Diocese of Fort Worth:

Let us not forget those faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth. They need our support, especially right now. Their bishop has recently declared that "the realignment moves forward."

To clarify the terminology for those who might not be keeping up with the latest Anglican trends, "realignment" is the new fancy term for a very old and sad idea, commonly known as "schism."

Pray for the Diocese of Fort Worth. Pray for the Church.

Amen.

Update: Monday: Response to letter from Fort Worth Via Media here

And from Episcopal Life, the story on Bonnie Anderson's visit here

Copies of invitation letters to and from Bishop Iker ....

Read more »

Two dioceses to consider proposals to leave national church

In separate statements issued yesterday two Network dioceses addressed the examination of proposals to cut ties with the Episcopal Church.

The press release from Quincy states the diocese

will consider proposals at its October Synod that would cut its ties with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church if leaders of that Church continue to pull away from mainstream Anglicanism.

The Archbishops of the Anglican Communion have set September 30th as the deadline for the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to give “unequivocal” assurance that they will stop advocating teaching and practices that are incompatible with Holy Scripture.
...
Fr. John Spencer, President of the Quincy Standing Committee, made it clear that the Diocese is not trying to preempt the upcoming meeting of the House of Bishops.

Emphasis added. Read the press release here.

The other statement was a letter from Bishop Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

A last minute reversal by the House of Bishops (prior to a September 30th deadline established by the Communion) seems most unlikely. In light of these events, with heavy hearts, and for the sake of our mission it appears the time has come to begin the process of realignment within the Anglican Communion.

Constitutional changes proposed for consideration at the 142nd Annual Convention would begin the process to exercise our right to end the accession of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
...
Because the accession clause is a feature of our local diocesan constitution, adoption of the changes requires the action of two successive annual conventions. The proposed changes would therefore not take effect immediately, but would open a season of planning, discussion and decision-making in preparation for the second vote in 2008.
Duncan's letter is available here. Lionel Deimel attended a diocesan event and received comments from a diocesan spokesperson on the recent Boston Globe article where Duncan said he planned to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church. Mark Harris and Father Jake very effectively dissect the proposed constitutional changes.

In recent days two mainstream Windsor bishops have issued statements looking towards the meeting of the House of Bishops. Bishop Jenkins (Louisiana) wrote,

People from radically differing perspectives around sexuality have come together in a mission of mercy, and have found their lives changed and the seeming hot button issues put in the proper perspective. Why can we as Anglicans not demonstrate the same mercy toward one another?

A failure to find a way forward together shall not simply hurt each and every one of us, but as sin is always communal in its effects, our failures will hurt the poor and needy whom we serve and to whom mercy is a symbol of hope.

For more of Jenkins' statement see the previous item in The Lead.

Bishop Howe (Central Florida) wrote,

I believe that in virtually every one of our congregations, even those in which the desire to separate is widespread, there are many who do not wish to leave The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Central Florida. If those who desire to remain can become a viable congregation, that congregation becomes the continuing body of that parish, with a claim upon the property.

So: I foresee an extremely difficult period ahead of us, in which congregations may be pulled apart, and arguments over property become horribly distracting and costly.

I am committed to being as gracious and generous as possible to those who, for conscience sake, believe they must separate. But I am pledged to stand alongside those who, for conscience sake, choose to remain, and I am committed to the rebuilding of congregations and this Diocese in the wake of any such departures.


Howe's letter is here.

Duncan's inversion

Lionel Deimel did not attend the Pittsburgh Diocesan Council meeting this week, but he received a report for someone who did. The council met to consider constitutional changes that envision (1) the option of leaving the national church and (2) admitting into the diocese churches from other geographic regions. The constitution changes do not address how a free-floating diocese could be recognized as a member of the Anglican Communion.

During the council meeting Bishop Duncan was asked about churches within the diocese who are clear they would not leave the Episcopal Church. Deimel writes,

The bishop explained that the settlement agreement resulting from Calvary Church’s lawsuit provides a procedure by which parishes wishing to leave the diocese may negotiate their exit. The bishop says that this procedure can be used by parishes who want to remain in The Episcopal Church! This, of course, stands the settlement agreement on its head, as the point of the agreement, as far as Calvary Church was concerned, anyway, was to protect Episcopal Church property. Clearly, Bishop Duncan expects not only to remove his diocese from The Episcopal Church—apparently the Boston Globe got the story right—but to claim all the property as well. This is exactly what the Calvary lawsuit was initiated to prevent. Judge James may have something to say about the matter.
Read Deimel's entire post on the council meeting here.

In Duncan's world the settlement with Calvary -- designed to protect Episcopal Church property -- could be used against Calvary and churches faithful to the Episcopal Church if the diocese merely passes through the looking glass and says it is no longer part of the Episcopal Church. The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson would have something to say about that.

California Supreme Court to hear church property cases

We earlier reported that the Diocese of Los Angeles had prevailed on appeal, against St. James, Newport Beach, St. David's, North Hollywood, All Saints, Long Beach and others. These churches were attempting to claim ownership of parish property although the Consitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church affirm that all property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

Today the California Supreme Court granted a petition for review and will therefore decide this case. The Court could have declined to hear this case, but decided that the issues in the case were worthy of its atttention. The official court docket can be found here. The Los Angeles Times has a report here.

Gen-X bishop ordained in Seattle area

It is likely to be a grand show.

More than 2,000 people, including a procession of 200 local clergy, are expected at Meydenbauer Center to attend the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Gregory Rickel as the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

Rickel, 44, who was most recently rector of a church in Austin, Texas, succeeds Bishop Vincent Warner, who is retiring after 18 years as head of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington.

"This whole thing is nothing you train for or plan for — you can't," Rickel said in an interview earlier this month. "This mantle — it's daunting."

Indeed, beyond the grandeur of the ordination ceremony, there are big challenges ahead for Rickel.

Janet I Tu of the Seattle Times has the whole story.

Archbishop of Canterbury gets a taste of New Orleans

From Episcopal News Service

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested September 20 during an ecumenical service at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that New Orleans's recovery could remake the city into God's image of the holy city.

Noting the service's reading from Zechariah 8:3-13, Williams said that the image of the holy city is not based on strength of a city's arts community, business sector, educational offerings, or social-welfare programs.

"What makes a great, godly city is that it is a safe place for older people to sit and children to play in the streets," he said, adding that few people live in that kind of city anywhere in the world today.

Earlier in the day, Williams visited the site of a former Walgreens drugstore in the lower Ninth Ward to bless what will become the new home of the Church of All Souls, founded in New Orleans' lower Ninth after Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood devastated the neighborhood. The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana helped to plant the church at the invitation of the neighborhood.

Williams said that, like the rainbow was a promise of God's everlasting presence after the Flood, the All Souls effort is a sign that "God hasn't gone away and God's people haven't gone away."

Read it all.

Same-sex blessings on the table in Ottawa

From the wires: While the Anglican Communion worldwide contemplates the U.S. House of Bishops response on the matter of, among other things, same-sex blessings, one Anglican synod in Canada—Ottawa—is tackling the issue head-on next week at their annual meeting.

The synod of the Anglican Church of Canada's Ottawa diocese will take up the issue of blessings for same-sex relationships when it meets Oct. 12-13.

Delegates to the regularly scheduled meeting of the synod, the diocese's governing body, are to vote on a motion urging them to request that their bishop grant permission for clergy to bless such unions.

The motion was put forward by Ron Chaplin, a member of the diocese's branch of Integrity, a support group for gay Anglicans, and Canon Garth Bulmer, rector of St. John the Evangelist, according to the Anglican Journal on its website www.anglicanjournal.com.

It reads: "Be it resolved that this synod requests that the bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where one party is baptized; and that he authorizes an appropriate rite and guidelines for its use in supportive parishes."

The Ottawa diocese is the first to consider the matter since the triennial General Synod, the church's national governing body, agreed in June that same-sex blessings are "not in conflict" with core church doctrine.

The synod, however, declined by a slim margin to affirm the authority of dioceses to offer such blessings.

John Chapman, the new Ottawa diocesan bishop, said in a statement that if the motion passes, "it will leave the matter with the bishop to render a decision."

Source: Canadian Press

Related story from before The Lead's inception here.

Reconstituted Virginia congregations gather

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew, me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true. God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own.

- 1982 Hymnal (Robert Bridges based on the German by Joachim Neander)

110 members of four continuing congregations met recently in a retreat to share stories, ideas, and faith, to seek healing and to look ahead. Emily Cherry reports in a special edition of the Virginia Episcopalian

For the 110 Episcopalians who shared their stories at "The Abundance of God's Love" retreat at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, Va. October 7-8, their tales were not entirely unique. Unhappy with the actions of The Episcopal Church at General Convention in 2003 and 2006, their leadership decided to reconsider their membership in The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. Parishioners noticed a shift in the climate of their congregations: Episcopal flags were removed, or rectors focused their preaching primarily on "the issues." They entered into "40 Days of Discernment"--in hindsight, with a sense of naiveté, said some participants. And they all entered into a journey categorized by confusion, frustration and, for some, hopelessness. "It's like the stages of grief," said Church of the Epiphany Episcopal, Herndon parishioner Suzanne Fichter. "Denial, anger, acceptance."

In the Diocese of Virginia, a total of 15 congregations would vote by majorities to quit The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. But in several places loyal members of The Episcopal Church remained, and in four of them - St. Stephen's, Heathsville; St. Margaret's, Woodbridge; The Falls Church, Falls Church; and Church of the Epiphany, Herndon - those loyalists reorganized....
...
These were the stories shared by the individual churches. But the two-day retreat was not just dedicated to telling stories. It was about sharing ideas. Over a plate of Shrine Mont fried chicken, members of Epiphany and The Falls Church discussed logistics: Where do you worship? How do you provide music for your Eucharist services? A group of parishioners from St. Stephen's Episcopal brainstormed the best way to build and support their internal church family.

And time was set aside for healing, too. Mr. Anderson, president and warden of the Cathedral College of the National Cathedral, asked attendees to look inwards, to examine their hearts. "How many of you feel like your heart's been broken?" asked Mr. Anderson. Hands were raised. But for the attendees present, it wasn't just a question of broken or not; it was an examination of whether or not their hearts were open. "I'm convinced my heart is open," said Winifred Gilmore, a parishioner at St. Margaret's Episcopal, Woodbridge.
...
While discussing the past, participants looked toward the future of their parishes, too.

To read it all click Read more>>

Read more »

Counterpoint from Savannah

A Savannah writer, Kevin Clark, has some opinions about the recent move by Christ Church to secede from the Episcopal Church:

Is this the same Christ Church that is the 274-year-old "Mother Church of Georgia" and occupies one of Savannah's most prime, valuable pieces of real estate, directly facing Johnson Square? (The same square that ironically was the site on Sept. 15 of the 8th annual Savannah Gay Pride Festival.)

Is this the same church proudly named after Jesus Christ, supposedly to honor and glorify the founder of Christianity by exemplifying, illustrating and following his teachings?

Are these "Christians" angry and upset enough to break away because their church is "too liberal" and has been expanding love, inclusion and acceptance to unworthy people?

Hmm...

Somehow, something seems very wrong, very twisted and distorted with this scenario. Indeed, it seems utterly preposterous.

It seems only to painfully prove, once again, that some, if not most, organized religions are confused, fearful and dysfunctional. Their ideas and preachings about God and Jesus are erroneous.

They remain blind to this fact, and see only what they want to see. They do not see the cruelty, fighting and killing going on everywhere in God's name. They are not seeing the separation, the divisions, oppression, fear and dysfunction around us.

Worse, some of them are seeing it and playing into it, using it as a means of controlling people.


Read Clark's entire op-ed here in the Savannah Morning News. It's good to see the paper giving space to opposing points of view to those expressed in its own editorials

A reason to unite

Most people don't even have shoes in Bishop Anthony Poggo's Anglican diocese in southern Sudan. His people in the Diocese of Kajo Keji struggle with hunger, malaria and the aftermath of a half-century of war. But in a living example of Jesus' teaching that the way to gain one's life is to lose it, Episcopal Bishop Paul V. Marshall of Bethlehem, and with the 16,000-member diocese in Pennsylvania are finding their lives saved by the people of Kajo Keji.

Michael Duck of the Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, writes in a Sunday front page story:

While other parts of the Episcopal Church have fractured over questions about ministering to homosexuals, Marshall's mission to help Poggo's diocese has unified the Diocese of Bethlehem, which includes 14 counties in eastern and northeast Pennsylvania.

Instead of focusing on controversies or on pricey construction projects, Marshall's diocese has come together to raise more than $2 million in pledges in just a few months to help its sister diocese of Kajo Keji.

Marshall also has led by example, saying experiences in Sudan inspired him to delay his retirement, downgrade his car, and live more simply so his family could pledge $53,000 to the campaign.

"What you are doing is giving us hope,'' Poggo told the hundreds of delegates Friday at Bethlehem's 136th Diocesan convention. ''Thank you very much for your sacrifices to your brothers and sisters, [bringing] hope to a people who have known nothing but war, poverty and disease.''

"I don't know where our diocese would be without Kajo Keji," Marshall said. "We have been changed and mobilized by that connection.''

The Morning Call contrasts this relationship to the usual stuff that makes headlines about the Episcopal Church and African Anglicans.

Poggo and Marshall's dioceses are both part of the Anglican Communion, a confederation of churches that grew out of the Church of England.

Other African bishops in the worldwide group have denounced the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion's American branch, for consecrating an openly gay bishop in 2003. Some African bishops have allied themselves with breakaway conservative American parishes that agree the Bible forbids homosexual relationships.

On Sept. 25, Episcopal bishops responded to an ultimatum from Anglican leaders by saying the church wouldn't consecrate more gay bishops or bless any same-sex unions. Marshall, who supports a larger role for gays in the church, didn't vote for the statement.

But those tensions don't affect the friendship between Poggo and Marshall, who acknowledge the conflict in the world church but see other issues as more pressing.

''When a person is dying because of lack of food,'' Poggo said, the American branch's stance on homosexuality ''is not really a concern.''

Marshall and his wife, Diana, first visited Kajo Keji in 2005, when a peace agreement halted the decades of civil wars that followed the country's independence in 1956. The fighting pitted Arab Muslims from the north of Sudan against blacks from the south, including many Christians.

''We had the privilege of being with refugees [from Kajo Keji] on the day the peace treaty was signed,'' Marshall said, ''and that is a celebration I shall not ever forget.''

''To us, when we pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' we mean it!'' Poggo said during his sermon at the Bethlehem convention's worship service Saturday. ''You cannot preach to a person who is dying and does not have food.''

Read: The Morning Call: A Reason to Unite

See a photo of Bishop Anthony and Bishop Paul at the altar together in Bethlehem, PA, here.

This is what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote to the Diocese of Bethlehem.

I believe that New Hope is representative of the bountiful harvest that comes from global relationships. It is the end result of a longstanding partnership between the Diocese of Bethlehem and the Diocese of Kajo Keji in the Sudan. Such dynamic relationships have the power to transform our priorities and renew our sense of mission. Indeed, they have the power to reawaken that spirit of generosity and compassion that characterizes new life in Christ.

I give thanks for the caring individuals and communities who have already contributed to New Hope's capital campaign ...

Find out more about A New Hope Campaign here.

Here are pictures from

At the Cathedral: Pop Music, Politics And Prayers for Peace

Linton Weeks writes in The Washington Post:

It was the coolest of church coffeehouses.

"Thanks for coming to give peace a chance," David Crosby told the crowd of more than 2,500 at Washington National Cathedral, before he and Graham Nash launched into "Lay Me Down."

To kick off last night's Pray for Peace concert, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the evening's emcee, quoted Nash: "No person has the right to take another person's life in the name of God." Churches and religions should be instruments of peace, not war, he said.

When people gather to pray for peace, "what you are praying for is an end to war," Chane said. He said it was not an antiwar event, but a moment to call on nations to lay down all arms. "War," he said, "is the ultimate declaration of human failure. What we are saying is: Enough is enough."

Read it all. CBS has a story, too.

Bishop candidates in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune has bio capsules and information about regional appearances of the eight final candidates for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago:

The slate of nominees reflects the changing face of the nation's Episcopal church, with three women and two Africans among those running. Before this election, no woman had been nominated for Episcopal bishop of Chicago.

The slate also includes someone in a same-sex partnership. The article, which speculates on the odds for each candidate, notes that the candidate, the Rev. Tracey Lind, "has credentials, pedigree and a Midwestern advantage that matters. But because of her same-sex partner, her election would not be approved by the wider church."

The finalists are:

  • The Rev. Alvin C. Johnson, Jr.
  • The Rev. Tracey Lind
  • The Rev. Timothy B. Safford
  • The Rev. Canon Robert K. Koomson
  • The Rev. Petero A.N. Sabune
  • The Rev. Margeret R. Rose
  • The Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
  • The Rev. Jane S. Gould

For each candidate, in addition to odds, the article provides information on his or her family and current position, as well as quotes that reflect his or her call to ministry and perspectives on critical issues facing the church.

You can read the whole thing here.

Montreal synod to examine same-sex blessing issue

The 148th Synod of the Diocese of Montreal convenes today, and it opens hot on the heels of Ottawa's recent approval of a same-sex blessing option, as reported here. The issue is on the table for Montreal as well, as the Montreal Anglican notes:

Part of the agenda will be devoted to a presentation on the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in Winnipeg last June, which was to a great extent dominated by the issue. Delegates in Winnipeg voted that a church blessing over a same-sex relationship does not conflict with essential church teachings but refused to affirm the authority of a diocese to allow such blessings, a razor-thin 21-19 majority among bishops being decisive in both cases.

In addition to reflecting on the Winnipeg synod, delegates at the diocesan one will be asked to request their bishop, Barry Clarke, to permit parish clergy to bless the same-sex marriages of couples already married in civil ceremonies.

The bishop would be asked to set up some guidelines for such blessings.

The proposal is to be put before the Montreal gathering by Canon Paul Jennings, on the staff of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, and Douglass Doulton, a parishioner at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Montreal. Both were delegates to the Winnipeg synod. As described by Canon Jennings, the diocesan chancellor, David Eramian, who mentioned briefly at last month’s meeting of the Diocesan Council that he had been advised the matter was coming up, and others, the proposal would not compel any clergyperson unwilling to do so to bless such a union.

The minister’s parish would also have to support his or her involvement. Just how this would work could be a contentious issue.

This is from the PDF version of the Montreal Anglican, available here.

Other sources are reporting that the vote will take place tonight, and a Canada.com wire-reported story offers some viewpoints:

Talk of a schism between orthodox and more liberal factions of the Church, which has spread since Robinson's consecration, is "a reality," Patricia Kirkpatrick, a religious studies professor at McGill University conceded.

But she says the motion by Montreal and Ottawa to put the issue of blessing same-sex unions to a vote, which does not mean parishes can marry members of the same sex, is part of the democratic tradition in Anglicanism.

"It's important to remember that this is a process of discernment and that the listening process, because of democratic function, is important," she added.

However she was hesitant to predict where Montreal's 11,000 Anglicans might stand on the issue of blessing same-sex civil unions.

"(Montreal) diocese has discussed issues of sexuality and the church for the past 30 years," said Kirkpatrick, adding delegates at the synod would be leading an informed discussion.

"There's the same breadth of opinion in both the rural and urban communities," said Rev. Paul Jennings, who is co-presenting the motion at the Montreal synod.

"I'm certainly aware this is a painful motion where people will be wounded and alienated on both sides," he continued.

But stressed that the decision to bless same-sex unions is at its core "about relationships."

"We're talking recognizing the fact God has blessed a relationship. You can't live (in a couple) for so long, without a little help," Jennings said.

The source site seems to be having some CSS problems, but scroll down this page to read the whole thing.

Some Central Fla. parishes exploring disaffiliation scenarioes

A news release from the Diocese of Central Florida reports that yesterday, the rectors and senior wardens of seven parishes of the Diocese of Central Florida and two church planters met with Bishop John W. Howe and representatives of the Diocese to discuss the possible scenarios by which all or part of the congregations may disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church.

Click the more link to read the whole thing.

Read more »

Montreal synod affirms same-sex blessing option

Updated

With a hat tip to Fr. Jake, we have news of last night's vote in Montreal, as we mentioned yesterday. As reported at the synod website:

At its annual synod or general meeting, held 19 October 2007, the Anglican clergy and laity of the Diocese of Montreal voted in favour of a motion requesting "that the Bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that the Bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes." The vote taken on Friday night was passed in the order of clergy (44 - 25) and in the order of laity (59 – 32).

Also provided was a statement from Bishop Barry B. Clarke:

The Synod – our diocesan legislative body – has now requested that I grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that I authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes.

I will need some time to reflect on today's discussions, to consult further with the other Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada when we meet later this month, and to consider the concerns of our partners in the wider Anglican Communion.

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. As in any family, we have disagreements – sometimes serious. And as a family, it is important for us to be together; to continue to meet together to discern the mind of Christ. I was elected as Bishop of all Anglicans in this diocese, and as such, I call upon all to remain at the table, working to sustain the highest level of Communion possible.

Until a decision is made, there is no change in our current policy and practice; I expect our clergy to refrain from blessing same-sex couples.

It's also noted that the Anglican Church of Canada's House of Bishops meets October 25-30 in London, Ontario. There, they are expected to "discuss not only the implications of both the Ottawa and Montreal dioceses' vote but also conflicting interpretations of the ramifications of General Synod's decision around same-sex blessings."

In his charge on Friday to the synod Bishop Clarke wrote, "I am also accountable to my fellow bishops and will consult with them next week at our meeting of the House of Bishops, taking into consideration our accountability towards the wider church."

Archbishop Fred Hiltz met in a private meeting Tuesday with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had said that in that meeting he would raise the issue of blessings as pastoral care. See here and here.

Here is coverage by the Montreal Gazette. 'When asked whether he was concerned that this would create controversy within the Anglican Church of Canada, the bishop was unphased. "Hey, why not?" he said.'

Update

Anglican Journal

The Montreal synod had separate tallies for clergy and lay delegates at the request of several delegates critical of the resolution. This meant the bishop had to say whether he concurred. He did.
...
[The sponsors of the motion] urged delegates to vote in accordance with their own consciences rather than being preoccupied with the possible political consequences of the vote at various levels of the Anglican Church. In fact, while some opponents of the resolution did refer to potential political dangers, there was no lack of scriptural argument.

Same Sex Blessing rites commended by Diocese of California convention

Updated

Integrity News is reporting the California Diocesan Convention has approved same sex blessing rites by an overwhelming margin.

Although the Convention passed the resolution, only the bishop has the power to authorize these rites.

The resolution reads:

RESOLVED, that this 158th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California commend to the Bishop of California the lectionary, rubric entitled “Concerning the Service,” and three rites endorsed by the Commission on Marriage and Blessing, and urge the Bishop to approve the trial use of these forms as resources in the Diocese of California for formalizing the blessing of same-gender unions.

More news of the Diocese of California Convention is here

Integrity is a witness of God's inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

Update

From an Oasis press release:

Clergy and lay delegates also approved by a broad majority a resolution countering recent opinions voiced by the Episcopal House of Bishops in New Orleans. [T]he resolution both affirmed "the unanimous decision of the (Diocesan) Standing Committee to refuse to discriminate against partnered gay and lesbian bishops-elect" and deplored "the lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in large parts of the Episcopal Church and the refusal of the majority of our bishops to make provision for it."
That Response to the House of Bishops’ Statement resolution is available here.

Fort Worth set to disassociate from Episcopal Church

The Bishop of Fort Worth, in his address to the Forward in Faith International meeting on October 20, 2007, states that there is no future in the Episcopal Church (TEC) for the dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy. Forward in Faith is an organization that does not believe women can be priests or bishops. However, Quincy is reported as backing off from his assertion that all three will be taking steps to separate from TEC.

According to Bishop Iker,

Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from The Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox Province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the Province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public.

Regarding Common Cause, Iker states that they will only be in full communion with those who do not ordain women and who do not receive women into the priesthood. Common Cause has committed to a theological study on the ordination of women. Forward in Faith will encourage those who do ordain women to reconsider their decision.

Although he claims 51 bishops for Common Cause, most belong to churches not members of the Anglican Communion. A list of 40 attending the Common Cause meeting is here.

The podcast of Bishop Iker's speech is here.

The text of his speech follows:

Read more »

Topic: The status of the diocese

A number of events have occured over the last several days that share a common thread: the status of the diocese in the Anglican Communion.

Last week the diocesan synods of Ottawa and Montreal and the diocesan convention of California urged their bishops to adopt rites for same-sex blessings, contrary to parameters set in the Windsor report.

Over the weekend Bishop of Iker, of the Diocese of Fort Worth, spoke at the Forward in Faith convention. He made it clear he sees no future for Fort Worth in The Episcopal Church, and said the diocese is close to sealing an oversight deal with a foreign province. He even suggested the Diocese of Quincy would be taking steps in the direction of severing ties with The Episcopal Church. But Quincy, in convention over the weekend, decided not to pursue leaving at this time.

Interspersed in these events were two statements on the status of dioceses from Lambeth Palace - an email from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Bishop of Central Florida, and a subsequent clarification from the palace press office on behalf of the archbishop. Each was made public.

The archbishop urged that there be no fragmentation of dioceses - parishes and their rector should stay within their dioceses. The incentive to stay, he repeated, is that Windsor Compliant dioceses will remain in communion with Canterbury regardless of whether The Episcopal Church loses its status in the Communion. Many pixels have been used in the blogscape examining the statement, its intent and its implications. (Follow the links in the preceding paragraph.)

To many pundits the greatest concern revolves around the seemingly diminished status given to the province. Is that what the archbishop intends, and what would it mean for dioceses seeking to leave The Episcopal Church? (Is the formula to leave, but not seek foreign oversight (which is not Windsor compliant)?) Indeed, to point to other news regarding dioceses from this past week, what would it mean in the context of the discipline of the Bishop of Harare?

Or, to come back to a question raised by the events in the first paragraph, if one diocese is not Windsor compliant does that make the province noncompliant? How much authority does a province over a diocese in the archbishop's scheme?

Finally, as The Lead covered yesterday, the convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is coming up this weekend and will consider resolutions on whether to set a course out of The Episcopal Church. The speaker at convention is from Uganda. While the archbishop's letter to Central Florida may not have been intended to apply beyond that case, it may still influence the course of events beyond Central Florida.

Digesting news from the dioceses

The Living Church rounds up developments at recent diocesan conventions.

California: Of trial rites for same sex blessings in Bishop Andrus said, "the resolution writers have honored the spirit of the Windsor Report and subsequent requests from the primates of the Communion to not develop ‘public rites’."

Connecticut: "The Bishop of Connecticut may exercise a newly canonically approved veto over parishes seeking to hire an assistant rector that do not pay their full 12½ percent diocesan assessment quota following approval of a canonical amendment by delegates during the annual convention."

Nevada: "The Very Rev. Dan Thomas Edwards, rector of St. Francis’ Church, Macon Ga., was elected Bishop.... In the Diocese of Atlanta, Fr. Edwards served on the committee on same-sex blessings and as diocesan ecumenical officer."

Southwest Florida: "For the first time since 2003, delegates to convention in the Diocese of Southwest Florida rejected a resolution which would have allowed congregations to redirect apportionment payments away from the program budget of the General Convention."

Follow any of the links for links for Living Church articles on Spokane, Quincy, and Alaska. Remember also the Diocesan Digest at Episcopal Life.

Proposed property protocol

Bishop John Howe has issued a proposed protocol applying to "a time of separations coming upon the Diocese of Central Florida." Six parishes (it had been seven) and two church plants have expressed a desire to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church.

Introducing the proposal, Howe writes:

I remain committed to provide pastoral care both to those who wish to leave and to those who wish to remain. Individuals who wish to leave the Diocese of Central Florida and form another congregation are to be honored as brothers and sisters in Christ. The Diocese will do everything in its power to make their departure from the Diocese of Central Florida and The Episcopal Church a peaceful one without rancor or recrimination.

At the same time the Diocese is bound to work within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church which state that a Parish holds in trust all real and personal property for the benefit of the Diocese and The Episcopal Church. We have a solemn responsibility to protect the interests of the Diocese and the larger church. We cannot and will not abandon those who wish to remain as members of The Episcopal Church and we will work diligently to determine whether in fact there is a sufficient number of Episcopalians in a given congregation to constitute a viable continuing congregation able to meet and worship in its own current facilities.
...
If an overwhelming majority of the members of a given congregation were to decide to leave, we might face a situation in which disposal of the property would eventually have to be considered.

I have shared the following proposed protocol with the clergy at our annual Clergy Conference at Canterbury, and it will be presented to the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee later this month. It has not yet been adopted, but I believe that it – or something very like it – must ensure that the spiritual needs of all the members of the Diocese will be protected. (This is more detail than most of you will want, but for everyone concerned we need to be as clear as possible.)

Emphasis in the original.

Howe's proposal is here.

Some Titus 1:9 readers are studying the angles here. Thoughts of Thinking Anglicans readers are here. Any thoughts from readers of The Lead?

Finding the key to unity in South Carolina

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson urged a group of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina November 3 to take advantage of an "incredible moment" in the life of that diocese to begin talking to people "whom you may not have talked to recently" so that together they might develop new models for mission, reports Mary Frances Schoenberg in Episcopal Life Online.

The moment to which Anderson was referring was created when the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence, the diocese's bishop-elect, recently received the canonically required consent to his ordination and consecration from a majority of the standing committees of the Episcopal Church dioceses and from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction.

"You have some opportunities for newness," Anderson said told nearly 150 who attended the "Connecting with the Episcopal Church in 2007" event sponsored by the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina for which she was the keynote speaker. The meeting took place in Charleston at the Inn at Middleton Place.

Joining Anderson were her chancellor, Sally Johnson, and the Rev. Francis Wade, a member of Anderson's Council of Advice and the recently retired rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral.

South Carolina Bishop Ed Salmon spoke during the day-long gathering and participated in a question-and-answer panel that closed the day. Forum President Lynn Pagliaro read the letter of greeting from Lawrence in which the bishop-elect said in part that it was his "firm conviction that in Christ's reconciling work we shall find the key to our unity."


Read the article here.

The Charleston Post and Courier story is here

Outsiders and insiders

Joel Connelly, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a member of St. Augustine's in the Woods on Whidbey Island in Washington state, writes about being a delegate to the convention of the Diocese of Olympia (western Washington). He raises the issue of the voting power of large cities in a diocese of small towns.

Straight out of the box, the convention began balloting on delegates [ed.note: Deputies] to the Episcopal General Convention...

The last diocesan gathering produced an all-King County slate of eight clerical and lay delegates: Six were from Seattle parishes, and four from the liberal bastion of St. Mark's Cathedral.

With a lot of candidates and recent staff layoffs putting St. Mark's under a bit of a cloud -- one laid-off priest made national news by proclaiming that she is BOTH a Christian and a Moslem -- a more diverse delegation seemed likely in this year's voting.

'Wasn't so. One after another, King County claimed the General Convention delegate slots.

The four priests who served as delegates to the 2006 General Convention will repeat as delegates to the 2009 General Convention. All all-King County lay delegation -- with three from Seattle and two repeaters from St. Mark's -- was elected. One delegate is reputed to be a moderate.

An interesting note occured during the usually perfunctory Courtesy resolutions when one for the Archbishop of Canterbury raised questions about thanking him for his efforts to foster forebearance. The convention amended the resolution to send greetings and prayers.

The Living Church is reporting that Olympia joined Utah in calling upon the Archbishop to delay Lambeth 2008. The report from the Living Church here

Diocese of Virginia property dispute documents available

The dispute between the Diocese of Virginia and "separated CANA congregations" goes to trial next week. The diocese has made available various court filings of the diocese, the national church, the CANA congregations, and the Court.

Regarding the upcoming trial the diocese states,

Trial Regarding Virginia Division Statute (Va. Code § 57-9)

By agreement of the parties, the Court determined that it would first address issues related to the applicability and interpretation of the Virginia statute under which the congregations claim to be entitled to the property. The trial is scheduled for trial November 13-15, 19-21, 2007.


The diocese provides the briefs filed by the parties on the scope of the trial and the Court Ruling on the scope. The Court Order re Evidence is summarized thusly:
On Oct. 26 the Court ordered that the November 57-9 trial will not involve evidence on the title of the real and personal property at issue.
The documents are available at the diocesan website here.


Chicago elects Jeffrey Lee

The Diocese of Chicago reports that the Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, from Medina, WA was elected as their twelfth bishop on the second ballot. His profile is here.

The Lead covered the nominations here.

Update. The Chicago Tribune:

"I am overwhelmed and grateful to God for the opportunity to come to such a great diocese," Lee said by telephone. "In many ways, I believe Chicago reflects the face of the Episcopal Church in all its diversity. Rich and poor, urban and suburban, black and white, gay and straight . . . and I believe I've been called to be a bridge-builder and a reconciler."
...
When asked about his stance on gays in the church, Lee said he supported full inclusion.

"I believe God is calling us to full inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry of this church. . . . There is a place for everyone in the church, and the church has to catch up with God's vision," he said.

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Rev. Kendall Harmon said, “The people in Chicago wanted the person who could function well in a large, diverse urban diocese. Jeffrey Lee came off as the best person.”

Diocese of Colorado moves to sue 18 individuals

As the Rocky Mountain News puts it the Diocese of Colorado has "turned up the heat" in its legal tangle with the secessionist group that seized the property of Grace and Holy Trinity Church in Colorado Springs:

The petition asks the court to add 18 people to the diocese's existing countersuit, which is seeking monetary damages as well as repossession of the church.

The targeted members include everyone on the parish's governing board as well as the church's main spokesman, Alan Crippen, and its rector of 20 years, the Rev. Don Armstrong.

In its press release announcing the move the diocese states

In accordance with Colorado law, which requires that all essential persons be included in a suit, the Episcopal parish and diocese are requesting that the court add as parties those individuals who have led the secessionist group in taking the property.

Read the Rocky Mountain News coverage here. Read the diocese's press release here.

The diocese also accuses Don Armstrong of financial wrongdoing. An earlier press release dated October 23 stated:

The Bishop has reported the results of the Diocese's investigation to the appropriate legal authorities, has turned over all documents related to the investigation, and is cooperating fully with law enforcement officials. Bishop Robert O’Neill today expressed his confidence that the criminal justice system will respond appropriately.

Virginia property trial opens

Matthew Barakat writing for AP has one of the better descriptions of the events of day 1 in the trial:

An obscure Virginia law from the Civil War era might play a deciding role in whether two of the Episcopal Church's largest and most prominent congregations will be permitted to leave the flock amid a standoff over sexual morality and other theological issues.

A two-week trial began Tuesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court that will determine whether the 1867 law governs the dispute between 11 Virginia congregations that voted to leave the church and Episcopal leaders who reject the validity of those votes.
...
In opening statements Tuesday, CANA lawyer Steffen Johnson said history shows that the Virginia General Assembly envisioned exactly this type of dispute when it enacted the law. At the time, Protestant churches had been torn apart over slavery and abolitionism, and the splits were never amicable or formally recognized by both sides.
...
In court papers, diocesan lawyers argue that requiring a judge to rule on whether a "division" has occurred in the Episcopal Church sets up an unconstitutional intrusion into the church's religious affairs. The 1867 law must be interpreted in light of the fact that the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical organization that vests ultimate authority in its presiding bishop and national governing bodies rather than at the congregational level.
...
The trial is expected to last two weeks. No matter how Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows rules, the property dispute likely will remain unresolved.

If Bellows rules that the Virginia law applies, the diocese can challenge the voting procedures used by the congregations or the constitutionality of the 1867 law, arguing that religious freedom is infringed when the state interjects itself into disputes over canon law.

If he rules the law does not apply, the two sides could still dispute whether the individual congregation or the diocese are the ultimate owner of the property and whether a trust interest claimed by the Episcopal Church is valid.

In a statement Tuesday, the breakaway congregations urged the Episcopal diocese to either resume settlement talks or withdraw their lawsuit, which has resulted in millions of dollars in legal fees.


Read it here in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Ironically, in contrast to many other denominations, the Episcopal Church was not split as a result of the Civil War.

The Washington Post adds: "The trial, which is scheduled to go on until late next week, is actually the first of two trials, and no resolution in the land dispute will come until early next year at the earliest. The first trial is meant to determine whether the congregations "divided" under the legal meaning of the word. ... Bellows's ruling in the first trial will help whichever side he rules for in the second, representatives on both sides said. "

See also The Living Church and this background article from yesterday's Richmond Times Dispatch.

The calendar is coming

The Diocese of Washington's fourth annual online Advent calendar will make its debut on December 1.

Beneath each "window" in the calendar, visitors will find a photograph of one of the figures from the annual crèche exhibit at Washington National Cathedral and links to a daily meditation, a daily carol (courtesy of the choir of Trinity Church Wall Street) and a giving opportunity (many of them culled from Episcopal Releif and Development's annual Gifts for Life Catalog.)

Visit the 2004, 2005 and 2006 calendars.

Phase 1 of Virginia property trial ends

The Falls Church News-Press has an extensive description. Read it all here.

For an excerpt click read more.

Update - Living Church

Read more »

The Diocese of Minnesota prepares for its future

The Bishop and people of the Diocese of Minnesota commissioned a study group and asked them to look hard at the present state of the diocese and its immediate future. The answer they found is not a happy one. But they have developed a plan to respond to what they found.

From the report:

The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota is at a critical juncture in its life. Almost every measurable trend is downward. Courageous and visionary efforts to address this reality over the past several decades have not succeeded in any measurable way. Apart from a significant change in the way the diocese conceives of its life and engages in its ministry, the BCMS holds out little hope that these patterns will be reversed in the future. That is why this process has focused on rethinking, reframing and reclaiming the identity and purpose of the diocese. Recommendations regarding these matters constitute the first part of this report. The plan outlined on the following pages is designed to build on and help implement the identity and purpose that have been named. It assumes that the following critical realities need to be understood, accepted and addressed.

The plan proposed by the Commission has four primary goals:

  • Goal 1: Spiritual Transformation and Fuller Participation in God’s Mission
    For the congregations in the Diocese of Minnesota to experience a profound sense of shared spiritual transformation and theological renewal, which leads all Minnesota Episcopalians to participate more fully in God’s mission in our world.

  • Goal 2: Renew Congregations in Context
    For every congregation to connect or re-connect its ministry directly to its particular mission field and become communities in which discipleship is a way of life for all God’s people.

  • Goal 3: Recreate the Diocese as a Network
    To redevelop the entire diocese by the end of 2009 to function primarily as a network of congregations and ministries. These networks will exercise local initiative and responsibility for shared ministry in their contexts.

  • Goal 4: Develop Effective Stewardship of Financial Resources
    For the diocese to develop and implement fiscal strategies that make the best use of the resources God has entrusted to us, and to challenge and motivate all Episcopalians to generous and faithful giving.

The full report is here in PDF format.

Bishop of San Joaquin asked to draw back from schism

Episcopal Life Online reports that the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to The Rt. Rev. John David Schofield asking that he withdraw from his quest to remove the Diocese of San Joaquin from The Episcopal Church. The Diocese meets this weekend to take a second vote and final changing their diocesan canons.

The Rev. Jan Nunley writes for Episcopal Life:

Expressing concern for his health and "evident sense of isolation," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori urged Bishop John-David M. Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin to "reconsider and draw back" from efforts to withdraw his diocese from the Episcopal Church.

As with previous letters to other disaffected bishops, the correspondence with Schofield notified him that such a step would force Jefferts Schori to act to bring the diocese and its leadership into line with the mandates of the national Church.

"You have been clear that you feel your views are dismissed or ignored within the Episcopal Church, yet you have ceased to participate in the councils of the Church. It is difficult to have dialogue with one who is absent," Jefferts Schori wrote. "…The Church will never change if dissenters withdraw from the table. There is an ancient and honored tradition of loyal opposition, and many would welcome your participation."

Read it all here

The letter from the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori follows:

Read more »

Parishioner asks, "What is this business about Uganda?”

The New York Times reports:

“I just feel a tremendous loyalty to this church, and I am confused about this situation,” said Frances R. Maclean, 85, a member of Christ Church for 55 years who saw her children baptized and then married in its century-old chapel. “What is this business about Uganda?”
...
“As a state body we have to abstain from any involvement in religious disputes,” said John Witte Jr., director of the study of law and religion at Emory University in Atlanta, and “every property dispute has a doctrinal dimension that a court can’t touch.”

Judges must decide if individual parishes own the buildings where the members worship, or if those parishes are holding their property in trust for the larger church hierarchy, an arrangement many denominations have codified in their canons.

At Christ Church, the split has created two congregations, both of which are claiming the name and assets of the parish.

Diocese of San Joaquin meets to decide

San Joaquin, one of the dioceses associated with the theologically conservative Network within the Episcopal Church, is meeting in annual convention this weekend. One of the orders of business it has will be to consider taking the final actions that could attempt to take itself of the Episcopal Church and join it with another Anglican Province.

The LA Times has a good explanation of the situation as of today:

"The bishop of a Central California diocese that is poised to become the first in the country to secede from the Episcopal Church has brushed aside a warning from the national church's leader and likened the church to an 'apostate institution.'

Bishop John-David M. Schofield, whose Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin is expected to decide Saturday whether to finalize a split with the national church over gay-related issues, complained in a letter released Wednesday that his conservative views had been ignored by church leaders for two decades.

In his letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Schofield also stated that he had long sought to shield his diocese of about 9,000 members from what he called the 'false teaching' of the Episcopal Church. He said the vote expected at the diocese's annual convention, which begins today, was the result of the national church's failure to heed repeated calls by Anglican leaders that it repent for its actions."

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: Julia Duin, writing in the Washington Times has some additional information from the diocese:

Five parishes: Holy Family in Fresno, St. John the Baptist in Lodi, St. Anne's in Stockton, St. Matthew's in San Andreas and Church of the Savior in Hanford do not want to leave, according to the Rev. Keith Axberg, rector of the 200-member Holy Family.

Saturday's outcome is not "cut and dried," he said, adding there is a "growing hesitancy" about leaving.

"Several congregations are struggling about the matter," he said. "I've been an Episcopal priest for 23 years and many of the things the Episcopal Church stands for, I appreciate. We can hold a lot of theological positions in tension and still stay together.

"But I think the bishop has been the driving force behind the way this diocese has been going for the past four years."

Her full article can be found here.

Bishop Schofield explains it all

Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin has apparenlty been consulting the same lawyers as the Bush-Cheney administration and has received the same advice: the constitution allows you to claim whatever powers you desire. How else to explain the curious argument he presented to delegates at his convention today in urging them to vote to secede from the Episcopal Church?

The Living Church reports:

Legally there is nothing to prevent the Diocese of San Joaquin seeking primatial oversight outside The Episcopal Church, Bishop Schofield said. In all likelihood, General Convention will amend its constitution and canons to prevent dioceses from breaking union with it. Since changes to the San Joaquin diocesan constitution require approval by two consecutive diocesan conventions, there will probably not be time to try again before the window of opportunity is closed, he said.

We should know some time today whether the remainder of the diocese is as unaware of what the constitution actually says: which is that all power in these matters resides with the General Convention. The window the bishop speaks of does not exist.

San Joaquin heads south

Reuters writes the story as follows:

An entire California diocese of the U.S. Episcopal Church voted to secede on Saturday in a historic split following years of disagreement over the church's expanding support for gay and women's rights

You can read it all here.

But the fact is that dioceses can't leave the Church because it is the Church which creates dioceses, and not dioceses which create the Church. What happened today is that somewhere in the vicinity of 7,500 members decided to leave the 2.2 million member Episcopal Church. That they chose to make their decision collectively does not alter the fact that they leave as individuals. At least five congregations remain, and it will be up to the Church to reconstitute the diocese.

Next the delegates will decide whether to align themselves with the tiny province of the Southern Cone, which is based in Argentina. The Southern Cone has previously laid claim to the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, but its claim is not recognized by the Anglican Communion,

Faithful remnant

Updated: Father Jake has weighed in.
Updated again: Other news sources (see end of post)
And again: Tobias Haller writes of The Immaculate Deception and the Vacant See.

Episcopal News Service carries reaction to the vote by delegates to the Diocese of San Joaquin's annual convention to leave the Episcopal Church.

"The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership."

And

Nancy Key, a co-founder of 'Remain Episcopal,' said those who wished to remain in the Episcopal Church have felt marginalized and maligned.

"It feels like spiritual violence," said Key, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Fresno, which has chosen to remain within the Episcopal Church. "All we want to do is be in the Episcopal Church that actively ordains women and is inclusive," she said. San Joaquin is among three dioceses that refuse to ordain or deploy women priests. The others are Fort Worth and the Peoria, Illinois-based Diocese of Quincy.

Read it all.

UPDATE:
Diocese splits - Sacramento Bee

Organizers decided on an unusual method for taking the vote. They sent delegates who favored the split to one side of the room, and opponents to the other side. ... Delegates also approved constitutional amendments, including an expansion of the diocese's 14-county boundaries to enable other parishes on the fringes to join in the split.

US Church splits over gay rights - BBC
Diocese Breaks With Episcopal Church - AP
Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede From Church - NYT
Church votes to secede - Stockton Record
Episcopal diocese secedes in rift over gays - Los Angeles Times
Episcopal fold loses 1st diocese - in valley - San Francisco Chronicle

Marc Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California, a 27,000-member group in the Bay Area, said it plans to help the national church rebuild in San Joaquin. "This is a small group of Episcopalians who have chosen to align themselves in a different way," Andrus said. "It's a choice that saddens me but it is not tragic in light of things we as a church and the world address....

See, also, this article in the Living Church prior to the vote.

San Joaquin Episcopalians receive letters of support

Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are receiving letters of support from around The Episcopal Church. Remain Episcopal is organized to continue The Episcopal Church's presence as the former leadership voted to leave the church.

The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, an attorney and Chair of the House of Bishops' Committee on Property Disputes has written to reassure San Joaquin Episcopalians of the "rightness and justice of their position" that the Committee will meet next week to assess the situation and implement a plan of action.

Bishops Sauls letter is here.

Other letters are here as well as a place to write a letter of support to Remain Episcopal.

San Joaquin clergy threatened it is alleged

Episcopal Life

Michael Glass, a San Rafael, California-based attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church, told Episcopal News Service (ENS) December 11 that he, local leaders, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop David Booth Beers, and leaders from Episcopal dioceses surrounding San Joaquin "are coming together very soon to finalize our coordinated efforts to provide for the leadership needs, the legal and pastoral issues, and the financial concerns of our brothers and sisters in San Joaquin, and to provide for the continuation of the diocese."

The Rev. Robert Moore will meet with the group as well. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori appointed Moore "to provide an ongoing pastoral presence to the continuing Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin," said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Moore is the husband of Bishop Suffragan Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera of Olympia, the daughter of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield's predecessor, Bishop Victor Rivera.


Threats are alleged
Glass and another person who requested not to be identified told ENS that Schofield threatened the personal livelihoods and congregational finances of priests who opposed his efforts to lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

The unnamed person said Schofield told him during a break in the convention that diocesan support of his mission congregation will stop at the end of December because he abstained in the December 8 vote. Glass confirmed Schofield's threat.

A spokesperson for Schofield denied the allegation.

More: 'San Joaquin's canon to the ordinary says parishes in the diocese can go through a "period of discernment" to "determine whether or not they are comfortable with the decisions made by their delegates."' Missions are given no such option.

As noted in an earlier post, the secession vote was not by secret ballot: 'Organizers decided on an unusual method for taking the vote. They sent delegates who favored the split to one side of the room, and opponents to the other side.'

Read it all here.

Lodi church did not vote

Lodi News

Andee Zetterbaum, Ejae Brown, Richard Cress and Jim "Corky" Kuykendall were scheduled to represent St. John's as delegates in the diocese's vote on whether to leave Episcopal Church USA, but they were forbidden from voting because St. John's vestry decided last week to not pay its dues to the diocese [of San Joaquin], Zetterbaum said. St. John's owed about $22,000, she added.

The vestry voted to not pay its dues to the diocese, Zetterbaum said, because "we didn't want the money going to some group other than the Episcopal Church."

Not only were St. John's delegates ineligible to vote on Saturday, they weren't allowed to sit with the delegates or speak from the floor, Zetterbaum said.

Meanwhile, although the Union-Democrat headline reads "Episcopal church members mixed on split" the article is mostly about the seccessionists. It does say "Many have decided, especially those opposed to the realignment, to stay quiet until the situation unfolds over the next few weeks."

The Bakersfield Californian manages to get viewpoints from both sides:

Amanda Gaona, 62, a social worker and an All Saints parishioner for the past six years, said Jefferts Schori is "biblically sound." She said San Joaquin diocesan bishop the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield and Riebe "misquote her, they mislead people, they give half-truths."

But she knows she is in the minority at All Saints.

"We've had bishops within the Episcopal Church who have said Jesus was not the son of God and he did not rise from the dead," said John Cavanagh, 50, an air traffic controller and an All Saints parishioner since 1987.
...
Gaona called Schofield judgmental and divisive. His obesity, she said, opens him up to charges of hypocrisy.

"He role models gluttony and points his finger at someone who's a homosexual," she said. "I have said that before to the bishop himself and to my priest."

Gaona is a member of Remain Episcopal.

Update. Via Media press release follows (read more):

Read more »

St. Nicholas on Christmas morning

Update: The Anglican Scotist

Father Jake points us to developments at St. Nicholas in Atwater, Calif., a mission in the Diocese of San Joaquin (previous coverage here), that transpired on Christmas morning:

The following email was received by St. Nicholas Episcopal Church on Christmas morning:

Dear Jo and Deacon Buck,

The attached document is the letter notifying Fr. Risard that his deployment at St. Nicholas is now over. We wish you to know that the Bishop and the Diocese are fully behind the continuation of your church in Atwater and will do all that we are able to support you during this transition.

Read it here.

Update on reactions to news from San Joaquin

In early December the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Province of the Southern Cone. The Lead covered this story as it developed. Although dioceses and churches cannot leave The Episcopal Church, Bishop Schofield has been steadily taking actions to close churches and consolidate his base, as the Church follows the canonical procedures for halting his actions. The latest event transpired on Christmas Day with the firing of the vicar of St. Nicholas. The blog Fr. Jake Stops the World reports:

Bishop John-David Schofield, who abandoned the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and joined the Province of the Southern Cone, made a visit to St. Nicholas Church, Atwater on December 23. The Vicar, Fred Risard, had made it clear in a letter to his former bishop that since St. Nicholas was remaining Episcopalian, it was inappropriate for Bp. Schofield to visit in the capacity of their diocesan bishop. On December 23, Bp. Schofield showed up anyway, with bodyguards. In what is being reported as an "unpleasant scene" before worship, Bp. Schofield apparently insisted that St. Nicholas was his church, and demanded the right to celebrate and preach.

Two days later, on Christmas morning, the people of St. Nicholas were informed by letter that Fr. Risard had been removed, and the locks were to be changed and all important documents confiscated.

Jake collects the reactions from the blogs here.

Other Lead stories here and here

UPDATE: Report from Modesto Bee is here.

A helpful timeline and outline of this story with links can be found at The Episcopal Majority.

Church moves to reconstitute the Diocese of San Joaquin

Episcopal Church News Service has news of the steps underway now to minister to the Episcopalians who live in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

"From Sonora to Bakersfield, from Stockton to Fresno, a growing number of remaining Episcopalians—those who opposed a December vote to realign the Central California Valley Diocese of San Joaquin with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone—are meeting in homes, community centers and other churches, excited to be 'moving on' to evangelism, mission and Gospel good news.

Fed up with years of rancor over the ordination of women and gays, they say healing is emerging after initial grief and loss over the split. So are new congregations. 'They are preparing to reconstitute the diocese; it's heartwarming because it's been a long haul for them,' said the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as a pastoral presence in the interim.

Also affirming, Moore said, is observing a flood of 'support for them (which) has come from all over the world and being able to watch the church rise up and to say, 'You do not have to do this alone, we will do whatever we have to do to help you move forward.' '

The Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, agrees: 'We want to reassure all continuing Episcopalians in San Joaquin that we will continue to be there for them as the larger Church.'

Moore will be among those offering support and encouragement at a January 26 gathering in Fresno planned for continuing Episcopalians. Also present there will be House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and representatives of Remain Episcopal, a group dedicated to reconstituting the diocese and advancing the Episcopal Church's ongoing ministries in the region.

Anderson commended the faithful laity and clergy for their 'sheer grace and hopeful courage to refrain and reconstruct the diocese and to listen to what God is calling them to do at this time in our history.

'The Episcopal Church at large has a unique opportunity to encourage and support these faithful Episcopalians,' said Anderson who keynoted a 2007 mission conference in San Joaquin."

Read the rest here.

Fort Worth examines the Southern Cone

Katie Sherrod has a post providing the text if "A Preliminary Report from the Bishop and Standing Committee on the Invitation to Join the Province of the Southern Cone." A key passage of the report:

We have now had opportunity to review the Constitution and Canons of the Province of the Southern Cone; an English-language edition of those documents is being edited and will be released shortly. Based on our review, we have concluded that the structure and polity of the Province of the Southern Cone would afford our diocese greater self-determination than we currently have under the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. This autonomy would be evident most specifically in the areas of property ownership, liturgy, holy orders, and missionary focus.
Should this group leave the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians in the Fort Worth diocese faithful to The Episcopal Church are making preparations. Via Media Fort Worth announces:
What is at Stake for Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth?
A small group unhappy with decisions made by the majority within The Episcopal Church has been working to undermine the church for nearly two decades. The leadership of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has been an active part of that effort. They have begun the process of unilaterally taking the diocese and its property out of The Episcopal Church and aligning it with another Province in the Anglican Communion, an action certain to result in expensive litigation. But many Episcopalians in the diocese have no wish to leave The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Tom Woodward will talk about what is at stake for them on Saturday, January 19, at 2 p.m. in the Sid W. Richardson Hall, Lecture Hall 2, Texas Christian University, 2840 W. Bowie Street. His address will be followed by a question-and-answer session.


Read more here.

Virginia State Attorney General intervenes in property dispute

Updated

From the Anglican District of Virginia (CANA) comes the news that the state Attorney General has filed a motion to intervene in the Episcopal Church property litigation. From the Anglican District's press release:

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell has filed a motion to intervene and a brief in the ongoing church property litigation that is being heard by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows involving eleven congregations that separated from the Episcopal Church in 2006 and 2007 and joined the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV). In his brief, Attorney General McDonnell defended the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9), thereby validating the position of the ADV churches and making it clear that there is no constitutional problem with applying the Statute in exactly the way ADV attorneys have advocated.

As stated in the Attorney General’s motion to intervene, “As a matter of federal constitutional law, the Episcopal Church is simply wrong. The Constitution does not require that local church property disputes be resolved by deferring to national and regional church leaders.”

The Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia, Patrick Getlein, provided this official response: "The Judge has asked us to respond to him with our position on the motion next Thursday and we will do that."

The attorney general's two filings are available here and here. (The Diocese of Virginia maintains the files related to property dispute here.)

Bob McDonnell is a Republican and served in the state senate before being elected Attorney General; he plans to run for governor in the next election. Examination of the document properties of the two filings reveals they are authored by William E. Thro who is state Solicitor General and a Republican lawyer.

The second in command to McDonnell is Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Mims a former state senator who stepped down to accept the appointment from McConnell. During his tenure as state senator Mims introduced a bill in 2005 (SB1305) to have sections of the Virginia Code (including 57-9) amended. He eventually pulled the bill in the face of intense opposition. Mims is (or was) a member of Church of the Holy Spirit, Ashburn. That's not one of the 11 that are in court, but it was one of the early departed congregations.

In an editorial at the time the Washington Post suggests these interventions are exactly what separation of church and state is all about:

You might expect that in its short legislative session the Virginia General Assembly would have more important business than intervening in internal arguments within the Episcopal Church over gay rights. But a bill pending in the state Senate would make it far easier for Episcopal congregations upset at the church's consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire to bolt from the national church yet keep their buildings and property. The bill, championed by Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), responds to a real problem: Mr. Mims argues persuasively that Virginia law on the subject is archaic. But his bill would make matters worse, not better. It should be voted down.

While some Episcopal congregations are angry about the church's toleration of gay clergy, they have not, by and large, left the church. One reason may be that their property is, while purchased with local money, held in trust for the national church. So if they leave, they leave their church behind physically as well as spiritually. Mr. Mims's bill would change that. It would give a congregation's property to the local congregation when it secedes from a church unless the property is specifically deeded to the national church or -- under an amendment he is proposing -- unless a trust agreement explicitly designates the national church as having its use. The bill is not explicitly directed at the Episcopalians, but it seems to respond directly to their current fight. And its result would be that conservative Virginia congregations could leave the Episcopal Church without becoming homeless.


The bill was criticized not just by the Washington Post. See this roundup from Daily Episcopalian Classic, this one at Thinking Anglicans, and this one by Episcopal News Service.

Saturday morning update

Washington Post

"Certainly there is nothing improper about the attorney general weighing in, but it does strike me as a little out of the ordinary for them to get involved in a circuit-court-level case," said N. Thomas Connally, a McLean lawyer who specializes in real estate.
...
McDonnell's office has another connection to this issue -- his deputy, former state senator William C. Mims (R), who has been a member of another Episcopal church that broke away from the national church over the same issues of how to understand Scripture as it pertains to homosexuality. Mims prompted controversy and much debate in 2005 when he -- as a senator -- proposed a bill that would have explicitly allowed congregants who leave their denominations to keep their land. The measure failed, and opponents said it was an inappropriate insertion of government into church affairs.

Mims did not return a message, and [McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker] Martin said he was unavailable for comment.

Is he or isn't he?

Updated

It's been suggested by some that the inhibition of Bishop Schofield is a case of "you can't fire me, I quit."

Yet (although the bishop was unavailable to take a call from the Presiding Bishop yesterday afternoon informing him of the inhibition) an email response was quickly disseminated to the conservative blogs. One of the last to post the email was Titus 1:9 at 10 AM this morning.

Now we read that the text of the email sent of behalf of Schofield is being revised and the new text will be made available soon:

UPDATE: The Text below is incorrect. A correct text is coming soon. In particular this line, "Bishop Schofield is currently a member of both the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone, not prohibited by either house." is in error.

Matt

[Update (4:25 PM) There has been some revision of history. In the link above the text of Bishop Schofield's statement and the reference to "a correct text is coming" has been removed. It has been replaced with the text of the statement from Venables which quoted below. At this time the key quote still appears in the comments.]

Could it be that the Bishop of Fort Worth has brought up the question in his message of support for Bishop Schofield?:

The matter is complicated by the fact that Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin, by constitutional action of their Convention, are no longer a part of The Episcopal Church.
The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone also seems befuddled by the statement from Schofield's office:
A statement from The Most Reverend Gregory Venables, dated January 11,2008:

“As of December the 8th, 2007 Bishop John-David Schofield is not under the authority or jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church or the Presiding Bishop.He is, therefore, not answerable to their national canon law but is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and under our authority.

Un fuerte abrazo.

--The Most Rev. Greg Venables, Archbishop of the Southern Cone

It would seem that after some backrooms conferring Schofield will be shifting his position from 'It's OK to be a member of two houses' to 'I'm beyond the reach of the discipline of The Episcopal Church.' It will be interesting to see if the Archbishop of Canterbury withdraws Schofield's invitation to Lambeth on the grounds that his position is no different from bishops in AMiA or CANA.

If nothing else the inhibition has finally forced Bishop Schofield to make clear his intentions.

Update. A recap of the time line:

1. Conservative blogs (Baby Blue, Titus 1:9, Stand Firm) post an email from San Joaquin that responded to the inhibition that stated "Bishop Schofield is currently a member of both the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone, not prohibited by either house."

2. Stand Firm and Titus 1:9 post an email from Bishop Iker that states "the matter is complicated by the fact that Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin, by constitutional action of their Convention, are no longer a part of The Episcopal Church. They now function under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone. Disciplinary actions cannot be taken by this Province against a Bishop who is a member of another Province of the Anglican Communion."

3. Titus 1:9 posts the "clarification" from Venables.

4. Stand Firm revises its post of the email from San Joaquin stating the sentence is in error.

5. Stand Firm revises its post of the email from San Joaquin changing its subject to the email from Venables. It removes any reference to the email from San Joaquin. Titus 1:9 erases its post of the email from San Joaquin entirely. Baby Blue changes her post, deleting the email from San Joaquin and substituting the Venable's email. As of Sunday morning none of these blogs had acknowledged the changes.

See Tobias Haller's cogent observations on this sequence of events at In a Godward Direction. Jake has also followed these events. He notes that Thinking Anglicans has some new news: the original statement was put together by a public relations firm.

Monday afternoon

Episcopal Life Online has the story. Hat/tip to Kendall Harmon.

Progressive Episcopalians see opportunity for reconciliation

A press release:

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) sees reason for hope in the statement issued yesterday by The Episcopal Church’s Title IV Review Committee certifying that, in its view, Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church. PEP believes that the canonical procedures set in motion by this decision will clarify issues of polity that have become confused in this diocese.

Under Canon IV.9, the House of Bishops will, at its fall meeting or at a special meeting called earlier, give or withhold its consent for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to depose Bishop Duncan.

“The action of the Review Committee gives all of us in Pittsburgh serious cause to reflect,” said Dr. Joan Gundersen, President of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. “This can be an opportunity for all of us to consider how we can change course and restore relations with one another and with The Episcopal Church.”

The Rev. Diane Shepard, First Vice President of PEP, commented, “We understand that Bishop Duncan must follow his conscience regarding the kind of church he believes is faithful to the Gospel. Whether he can resume his role in The Episcopal Church or must relinquish it, we pray that he finds a way to serve Christ’s Church in peace and good conscience.”

The Lead's coverage of the certification of abandonment is here.

Judge sets date for second phase in Virginia property dispute

Via the Diocese of Virginia e-communique of January 16, 2008:

The Hon. Randy I. Bellows has set Oct. 6-30, 2008 for the second phase of the trial over ownership of Episcopal Church property.

In late November 2007, Judge Bellows presided over the first phase of litigation regarding Episcopal property in Virginia. The Trial was held in Fairfax Circuit Court and focused on the civil actions (also known as 57-9 filings for the section of the Code of Virginia) filed by the leadership of the CANA congregations in an effort to take Episcopal Church property with them when they decided to leave the Church.

The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church defended Episcopal Church property, stating that no division in the Church has occurred. While members of the Church are free to leave, the CANA congregations acted inappropriately when they asked the Court to let them take Episcopal Church property with them. Judge Bellows has not indicated when he will rule on the 57-9 matter.

In this second phase The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church seek declaratory judgment regarding the property, a ruling that requires the CANA congregations to vacate Episcopal property, transfer of title and a full accounting of all property.

Filings, motions and other updates can be found in the newsroom on the Diocese of Virginia Web site (http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml) in a special section under the link "Property Dispute." The newest items are posted on the bottom of the page on an ongoing basis.

Here's the link to Property Dispute section. There are additional dates to note there:
At the conclusion of the November trial on the interpretation and application of Virginia Code 57-9 to the CANA congregations' effort to appropriate Episcopal Church property, the judge ordered that each side file three post-trial briefs which restate each side's argument and also address constitutional issues according to the following deadline schedule: Dec. 31; Jan. 11; Jan. 17. The briefs [Diocese and CANA] will be made available through the links below which will be activated as briefs are filed.
...
On Thursday, Jan. 10, Attorney General Robert McDonnell filed a motion to intervene in the dispute to defend Virginia law and oppose the position of The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. The Judge has asked that the Diocese and The Episcopal Church respond with their position on the motion on Thursday, Jan. 17.
The Lead's coverage of the Attorney General's motion is here.

Meanwhile, back in Fort Worth

A couple of quick notes about things unfolding in the Fort Worth diocese. First, ELO reports on Bp. Iker's response to a letter from the presiding bishop—or perhaps, more accurately, notes the response and reports on the letter itself, here:

The letter, dated January 9 and received by Iker on January 15, was intended to be a pastoral exchange between the Presiding Bishop and Iker, according to Episcopal Church Public Affairs Officer Neva Rae Fox.

In a short statement posted on the Fort Worth website along with a copy of the letter, Iker termed the letter "a second threatening letter."

Jefferts Schori wrote that she continues to assert that "individuals may leave" the Episcopal Church "but congregations and dioceses do not."

She wrote that she believes that "any encouragement of such a belief, or action toward departure, as I believe it to be a violation of the vows we have both repeatedly taken to 'conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church."'

In that short response from Iker, however, he added that "Fort Worth is in the same position as Pittsburgh" and:

BISHOP STANTON OF DALLAS AND I had a very good meeting yesterday at St. Vincent’s, where we discussed how to make provision for any parishes in this Diocese that may choose to remain in TEC if the Diocesan Convention votes to separate from The Episcopal Church. We were joined by our Canons to the Ordinary, the Presidents of our respective Standing Committees, and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas. You will be hearing more about this in due course.

Food for thought: is this a proposition for a merger, as Father Jake has suggested? Or is a different economy metaphor more appropriate, such as feudal lords swapping vassals?

Iker's message is here.

Anderson writes San Joaquin faithful

House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson has written a letter in support of Remain Faithful in San Joaquin, urging individuals and dioceses to remember the diocese in their prayers and to spread the word about the situation there:

The future will be revealed through the grace and abundance of God's inclusive love. Remain Episcopal is working to rebuild and renew the diocese with those who wish to remain within the Episcopal Church. Its vision is one of a church that welcomes all, regardless of theological perspective.

There are a number of ways General Convention deputies can provide much needed support to our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. You can pray regularly for Episcopalians in San Joaquin, and urge the people in your diocese to do the same. Part of the charge to all deputies is to help keep the members of their dioceses informed. You can urge people to read the information listed above so that they understand what is happening in San Joaquin.

The entire message, including the specific needs of those remaining in San Joaquin, is below in the extended entry.

Read more »

About that Virginia Attorney General...

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia today announced its opposition to the Attorney General's intervention in the ongoing cases being heard in Virginia courts. What's particularly notable is that it's not just the Episcopal diocese that's speaking out—the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is weighing in, as is the Bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, citing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the trust clause.

In stating their opposition, the Diocese and the Church noted that the Commonwealth had failed to meet the requirements that govern intervention in such a dispute and that the state “lacks any right or interest in the subject matter,” namely the property unlawfully occupied by individuals in the CANA breakaway congregations. The Diocese and the Church raised no objections, however, to the Attorney General filing an amicus curiae or friend of the court brief on the matter of the constitutionality of section 57-9 of the Code of Virginia which is at issue at this stage in the case.

The Diocese and the Episcopal Church have argued that it would be unconstitutional for the court to apply section 57-9 in such a way to rule that a division had occurred within the Diocese or the denomination at large. Such a ruling would be an unconstitutional intrusion by the state into the affairs, doctrine and polity of a hierarchical church.

A trial was held in November on the interpretation and application of that section of the Code of Virginia. The judge has not yet issued a ruling. The third and final post-trial brief ordered by the judge also was filed today.

The briefs by the diocese and by the CANA congregations are available here, at the bottom of the page under "post-trial briefs" and "Attorney General Moves to Intervene".

In the Diocese's statement, they note the recent precedent set by Judith Williams Jadgmann, who was Attorney General in 2005 when she notified then-State Sen. Bill Mims that “Constitutional principles dictate the least possible involvement of the state in church matters.” Mims, who is now Deputy Attorney General of the commonwealth, was trying to change a key piece of legislation that would allow churches departing a larger body to take their property with them—and was, at the time, senior warden of a church mission that has since "quit the Episcopal church."

You can read the entire statement under the extended entry here.

Schofield fires most of San Joaquin Standing Committee

Updated

Dan Martins is reporting on his blog, Confessions of a Carioca, that six of the eight members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin have refused to become members of the Province of the Southern Cone. Bishop Schofield has renounced his membership in The Episcopal Church and joined the Province in South America.

The message from Bishop Schofield:

On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America, who writes:

“In welcoming you to the Province of the Southern Cone on December 8th it is my clear understanding that even though you are allowing a period of discernment for those clergy who are still undecided, it would be highly inappropriate for any officer or leader within the Diocese of San Joaquin to be currently undecided or clearly within the Episcopal Church and continue as an officer or leader. The requirement governing each diocese of the Southern Cone is that all members of Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, and those selected as representatives at Synod be recognized Members of this Province.”

Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, ---------, at the Diocesan Offices.


Then we have this , from the duly-elected president of the Standing Committee:
During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members.

The Presiding Bishop's representative and the President of the House of Deputies are scheduled to meet with members of the Diocese of San Joaquin to discuss the future of the church in central California.

More stories from The Lead here and here.

Read Dan Martins' comments at Confessions of a Carioca. Until a recent call to another diocese Dan was a priest in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

UPDATE: more details emerge on the "firing" - read it at Fr Jake Stops the World

FURTHER UPDATE: Dan Martins offers a further update to the story here, including the following from Michael McClenaghan, Rector of St Paul's in Modesto:

Just a quick clarification regarding the changes that took place with the Standing Committee this morning.

Bishop Schofield informed the Standing Committee that members must be composed of clergy and lay members who have openly declared that they are members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. His letter following the meeting states: "The Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America."

We were told that this standard for serving on the Standing Committee applied to both clergy and lay members, not just clergy, and the clear message was that any members of the Standing Committee who were in discernment regarding their affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone or The Episcopal Church, or anyone who had made a decison to remain in The Episcopal Church was disqualified from serving on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. No resignations were made by any members of the Standing Committee, either verbally or in writing. Rather, the majority of the Standing Committee members were removed by the Bishop, including all four of the elected clergy members, one lay member, and possibly another lay member who was not able to attend the meeting. There was no misunderstanding about the process of removal during the meeting and the action of the Bishop was recorded in the minutes of the meeting by the Secretary, Ted Yumoto.

Monday Afternoon - John-David Schofield responds here. An excerpt:

certain members of that Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications, by their own conscience, understood that they were not qualified to remain in those positions unless and until they can accept fully their membership in the Province of the Southern Cone. Every one of these former members of that Committee are strong, faithful and orthodox leaders within this Diocese who are taking the opportunity afforded them for discernment as parish priests and we thank them for their past, present and future service. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, Mr. Ted Yumoto, at the Diocesan Offices.

Presiding Bishop to greet continuing Episcopalians in San Joaquin

Episcopal Life Online:

When Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin gather on Saturday, January 26 for "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California, they will welcome an online audience.

Viewers may access the live video stream, to be carried via Episcopal Life Online, by logging on to http://www.episcopalchurch.org/.

The video stream will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central California Valley historic church, starting about 10 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. Mountain, 12 a.m. Central, 1 p.m. Eastern), said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

Read the entire story here.

The Lead's previous reporting on this upcoming conference is here.

North Carolina and Botswana

The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina has entered into a companionship relationship with the Diocese of Botswana.

The News Observer, a local North Carolina newspaper has a long article that discusses the significance of the relationship between the dioceses:

[In] the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, one of the most liberal in the nation, a new experiment is taking shape. Last week, Bishop Michael Curry and the Anglican bishop of Botswana signed a historic companion partnership agreement.

It will enable members of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, stretching across 39 Piedmont counties, to work with their Anglican counterparts in Botswana on youth programs, medical missions, day-care centers, schools and university chaplaincy programs.

The article continues with a brief history of the controversy that is found at present in the Anglican Communion, and then concludes by stating that the Diocese of North Carolina's stance on the issues is not seen as something that should block its ability to work alongside Anglicans in Botswana:

"The crisis is far from over, and it's not clear what may happen at the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, when leaders of the Anglican Communion gather in England this summer. One thing is clear: The diocese of North Carolina is not backing down. At last week's convention in Greensboro, delegates approved a resolution asking the national church to support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians and to encourage the development of liturgies to bless same-sex unions.

That didn't seem to bother Bishop Mwamba of Botswana. During a convention speech, he received enthusiastic applause when he said, 'Let us beware of excommunicating each other here on Earth, for we shall find in heaven we are still bound together at the table of Christ's love -- Archbishop Akinola sitting next to Gene Robinson.'"

Read the rest here.

The ENS reporting on the same story can be found here.

Bp. Lee addresses Virginia Council

During a pastoral address that summarized the mission work of the Diocese of Virginia and illustrated the problems faced when giving doesn't add up to diocesan needs, Bishop Peter James Lee, noted the following about the the funding of ongoing litigation with breakaway parishes, reiterating statements from the parish about the court case and the Va. Attorney General's recent intervention in it:

Defending our heritage and securing our future is expensive. We have spent so far nearly two million dollars on litigation costs as a defendant. We are blessed with dedicated and very effective lawyers, a number of whom are either working pro bono or at discounted rates as a gift to the church. Mike Kerr, our chief financial officer, with the authorization of the Executive Board has obtained a line of credit for the legal fees so we are current in paying them. The interest on the line of credit is being paid by endowment income so that no pledge money from churches or individuals is used for legal fees. At the conclusion of this litigation, we expect to pay off the line of credit by selling undeveloped and unconsecrated property, a process that is already under way. No one likes lawsuits but at the same time, our generation has a stewardship responsibility to protect the property of our churches for Episcopalians in the next 400 years.

This case involves Virginia’s historic tradition of religious liberty. Virginia is the home of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, adopted by the General Assembly in 1786. The recent motion of Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell to intervene in the case represents an intrusion by the state into the freedom of the church. The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, as well as other faith communities from across the Commonwealth, oppose this intrusion. Whether the Attorney General will be permitted to intervene is the subject of a hearing today in Fairfax Circuit Court. If the Attorney General’s view of the law prevails, it will mean that the Commonwealth of Virginia gives preference to churches with congregational governance, discriminates against churches that are hierarchical or connectional in their governance and intrudes into the doctrine and discipline of communities of faith. We are involved in a legal case that has serious consequences for religious liberty.

But the hot topic at the annual council was immigration. R-9s, "Working for Just and Humane Immigration Policy," generated passionate debate over whether the resolution should contain a stipulation that it apply to legal immigrants only, in light of recent legislation proposals that could criminalize humanitarian assistance to undocumented aliens. But the resolution ultimately passed without any changes, resolving that the Council joins the 75th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church in adopting the policy principles set forth in Resolution 2006-A017 supporting opportunities for undocumented aliens in response to recognized labor force needs as well as policies that support families and due process for all persons.

The complete text of Bishop Lee's pastoral address is here.

Webcast provided for San Joaquin Remain Episcopal event

Updated

The "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" gathering of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin is being broadcast online, live today at 10 a.m. Pacific. The video stream will bring live coverage of the gathering at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California. It will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central
California Valley historic church, said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

"The situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin is something that is on the minds of Episcopalians across the country," Collins said. "We felt it was important to provide live streaming coverage to the wider church as well as to show support for those who remain in the diocese."

A direct link to the webcast is here, or you can access it directly from the Episcopal Church website. A full release on the webcast is http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_94267_ENG_HTM.htm

Updated Saturday afternoon: More developments unfolding from the diocese, as Jefferts Schori has written to the members of the standing committee who unanimously voted to disaffiliate the diocese from the national church that she does not recognize them as the standing committee and is supporting those seeking to reconstitute the diocese:


"The Presiding Bishop has asked for the formulation of a broad based steering committee on the local level who will work with her and her Office in a variety of ways, including working with her on a process for the calling of a special convention," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

"This convention will, among other things, elect a new Standing Committee and make provision for an interim Bishop. It is unclear when the special convention will be called," Robertson said.

The response comes in part to earlier reports that Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin had closed mission congregations and fired vicars who did not support his move away from the Episcopal Church.

"The Episcopal Church is prepared to provide financial support to those mission priests who are dismissed and remain loyal to the Church and to assist in expenses related to the reorganization of the Diocese," Robertson added.

More on that here.

The implication is that those Standing Committee members who were removed by Schofield as members of his standing committee (because they are members of congregations who are exercising the option to decide whether to follow Schofield out of the Episcopal Church) would not automatically be members of the standing committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin; the Anglican Communion Office listing for the Diocese of San Joaquin lists the diocese under The Episcopal Church, and states that the position of diocesan bishop is vacant. See also The Lead's story from Thursday in which the seat of a member of TEC's Excutive Council was declared vacant he reported he "had voted to amend canons and the constitution of the diocese" to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

A weekend of hope and information

After weeks of waiting the fog in the Central Valley of California is beginning to clear. In December, the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) to join the Province of the Southern Cone (Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America). San Joaquin Episcopalians who have opposed this move have wondered as clergy were threatened, vicars were removed from churches by Bishop Schofield, the Standing Committee fired by Bishop Schofield, and Bishop Schofield was inhibited by the Presiding Bishop and awaiting deposition by the House of Bishops. Plans for reconstituting The Episcopal Church were revealed.

Now the first weekend of the new era has passed. Actions and comments from bloggers and news sources reveal a bit more clarity although many of the details are still in various stages of execution.

The Fresno Bee reports on the gathering held Saturday, January 26, that brought new hope to Episcopalians in Central California. The morning session of worship and talks by the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the Presiding Bishop's official pastoral presence and others was broadcast and can still be seen here.

"I'm beginning to hear there's hope," said (Steve) Bentley, youth director at St. Anne in Stockton. "It's beginning to sound better than in the past."

About 250 people came to worship and to hear representatives of the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Fresno-based Remain Episcopal organization. The message was clear: Don't feel abandoned.

"You are not alone," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a video message shown during the gathering. "God is always with you."


The Lodi News Sentinel reports:
As bishop, Schofield refused to allow women to be priests or serve Communion at Episcopal churches within the diocese, but on Saturday, three women served Communion during the Eucharist, said Andee Zetterbaum, an active member at St. John's who made the trip to Hanford on Saturday.

Other news reports here and here.

Jake at his blog Father Jake Stops the World, has extensive coverage of the weekend and its events. He comments on the Presiding Bishop's letter to the former Standing Committee members and live blogs with others through the comments section.

Dan Martins, former priest in San Joaquin who is currently serving in Indiana, comments here with several posts on the situation through the eyes of one who remains loyal to The Episcopal Church but is good friends with those who continue to live in San Joaquin and have served as leaders. He sees missed opportunities for reconciliation. It seems there is surprise and dismay as the consequences of approval, acquiescence and/or silence about the actions of Bishop Schofield and the former diocesan leadership closed the door to remaining in the Episcopal Church.

Katie Sherrod reflects here on the events and how they are seen by loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth as Bishop Iker and that diocesan leadership follows in the footsteps of San Joaquin.

Along with many Episcopalians in Fort Worth, I watched the live video stream from the "Moving Forward, Welcoming All," gathering of the Remain Episcopal group in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin.

It was full of hope, and even better, information.


Mark Harris comments on the Standing Committee status at Preludium.

Episcopal Life Online reports on the Gathering, the Presiding Bishop's letter to the Standing Committee, and ongoing coverage here. ELO also has this story on House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson's Sunday-morning visit to the Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno.

Rift amongst conservative Episcopalians is showing

Updated Monday morning

From this morning's Pittsburgh Gazette

In the first public sign of disagreement among theologically conservative clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh over the leadership of Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., 12 such rectors and priests told him this week they disapprove of his effort to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and will, instead, remain with the denomination.

The 12, including the president of the diocese's clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the "reformation of the Episcopal Church ... we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of" it.
...
"This [action by the group] was not unexpected," said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Bishop Duncan, "but it's still sad to see friends signal their intention to end in a different place than many of their fellow priests.

"The bottom line is that we all face momentous decisions in the Episcopal diocese this year."


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has informed Bishop Duncan he faces the prospect of being deposed (removed from office) by the House of Bishops if he does renounce his advocacy for removing the diocese from the Episcopal Church. (See this earlier story in The Lead.)

Monday morning update

One signatory of the letter - The Rev. James Simons, St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier - recently met with St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Somerset after its rector left to start a church outside TEC. Until recently Simons had been a perennial Deputy to General Convention. He has also been active in the American Anglican Council and has had a relationship with the Institute for Religion and Democracy. Most important, he is on the Standing Committee of the diocese.

Another signatory - The Rev. Scott Quinn, Rector, Church of the Nativity, Crafton - signed the 2007 Pittsburgh Compact. Like Simons long served the diocese as a Deputy to General Convention.
The open letter follows:

Read more »

Letter is a "signal"

Updated Wednesday evening

Episcopal Life Online adds important information to this morning's news of a clear rift amongst conservatives in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The key paragraphs from the ELO report

[The Rev. Dr. James Simons, rector of St Michael's of the Valley in Ligonier, Pennsylvania] said the group would like to be involved in any discussions that might take place within the diocese to establish what he called a "protocol" for how people and congregations would stay in the Episcopal Church. Simons added that the letter was also meant to signal the Presiding Bishop that there are people in the diocese who would like to be involved in and would support any talks she might have with those who want to remain in the church.

Simons, who has served in the diocese for 23 years, said the Pittsburgh diocese has not in the past been "monochromatically" conservative and that the members were able to express their faith in a number of ways. Until recently, he added, the diocese's efforts to protest the wider church's direction and to prompt reform did not involve an attempt to leave the Episcopal Church.

That stance changed, Simons said, during a meeting of the diocese's leadership in May. Now the perceived need to leave the Episcopal Church is a "widely held belief by a majority of the leadership in the diocese."

Read it all here.

Earlier coverage and the text of the letter signed by Simons and 11 other clergy is here. Besides conservatives interested in staying in TEC, there is also Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh.

Wednesday evening update

The conservative Christian Post has its take

But Bishop Duncan believes the dissenting clergy will be terribly disappointed in their line of action, said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Duncan.

"The place that the majority of the diocese is at is a different place than these priests are ending up," Frank told The Christian Post. "That's difficult where most of the Diocese of Pittsburgh say 'let's get on with ministry and not continue what has been a 30-year losing struggle to reform The Episcopal Church from within.'"

The clergy's public statement this week about was not unexpected, said Frank. The 12 - out of 180 clergy in the diocese - were part of the minority who did not favor leaving The Episcopal Church during last November's vote. Discussion with the dissenting group began last summer and the diocese has been aware of their stance, according to Frank.

It appears from this statement that Duncan is not in favor of reversing course.

What the Christian Post fails to mention is that of the 180 clergy others are in progressive parishes and were not part of this group of 12 conservatives. It has been estimated that together the opponents of the course Duncan is taking could represent as much as 45 percent of average Sunday attendance in the diocese.

New bishop for Rochester

[ENS] The Rev. Dr. Prince Singh was elected February 2 to be the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester (http://www.rochesterepiscopaldiocese.org).

Singh, 45, rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Oakland/Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, in the Diocese of Newark, was elected on the second ballot from a slate of five candidates. An election on that ballot required 75 votes in the lay order and 33 votes in the clergy order. Singh was elected with 77 lay votes and 35 clergy votes.

Singh will succeed Bishop Jack McKelvey, who has spent the past eight years as bishop of Rochester. Prior to being called to Rochester, McKelvey had spent eight years as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Newark. McKelvey will retire in this spring and Singh is due to be
consecrated May 31 at the Eastman Theater at the University of Rochester.

Singh was ordained a priest in the Church of South India (http://www.csichurch.com) (CSI) in 1990. CSI was inaugurated in 1947 by the union of the South India United Church (itself a union of Congregational and Presbyterian/Reformed traditions), the southern Anglican diocese of the Church of India, Burma, Ceylon, and the Methodist Church in South India. It is one of the four United Churches in the Anglican Communion.

After serving congregations in rural south India, in the Diocese of New Jersey and elsewhere in the Diocese of Newark, Singh was called to St. Alban's in 2000.

Separation of church and politics

Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff E. Schapiro has some pointed observations about the intervention of the Virginia Attorney General's office into the property dispute between the Diocese of Virginia and churches from CANA:

McDonnell's entry in the church case, intentionally or not, may have a political dimension: He is a devout Catholic, highly regarded by religious conservatives on whom his Republican gubernatorial ambitions could depend.

Perhaps that is making for closer scrutiny of McDonnell's arguments.

For example, the Episcopal Church's lawyers, in their response to his motion to intervene, noted that the attorney general's office under his predecessor, a fellow Republican, questioned the constitutionality of the church-division law and urged caution in state action.

That was three years ago, when the General Assembly was considering revising protocols for dividing church property if a congregation secedes.

Mainstream churches branded it a breach of the separation of church and state. The bill died quietly. But its demise would augur a discomfiting aspect of the current struggle: that religion can be taken very personally, no matter what one does.

The senator who wrote the controversial 2005 measure is now McDonnell's chief deputy.

Bill Mims also was a member of a breakaway Episcopal parish in Loudoun County, though it is not a direct party to the Fairfax suit. Since moving here, Mims, a prospect for the Virginia Supreme Court, has joined a Presbyterian church.

The suspicions of Episcopal Church lawyers notwithstanding, Mims is steering clear of the Fairfax case. You will not find his name on the paperwork. He has had no contact with lawyers on either side. Mims also is not commenting.


Read it all here.

Chicago consecration sends clear message on gay clergy

The Chicago Tribune reports Chicago's new bishop, Jeffrey Lee, and the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a clear message about where they stand on gay clergy and on the issues facing the Episcopal Church.

Wrapping up a five-day tour in honor of Jeffrey Lee, the new Chicago bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that the American church will not stand alone in its support of gay clergy during an international meeting in July in Lambeth, England.

"Many more [bishops] than you might expect are sympathetic," Jefferts Schori, the presiding Episcopal bishop, told parishioners at St. Nicholas Church in Elk Grove Village. "They are not, however, the loudest voices."

At his installation at the Cathedral, Lee reminded the congregation of their call to ministry by virtue of their baptism, not their liberal or conservative interpretations of Scripture.

That's one of the tragedies afflicting the church right now," he said. "So many of us seem to think that salvation depends on our theological correctness.

The Rev. Alex Seabrook, 82, who was ordained in 1954 and attended the service at St. Nicholas to watch the presiding bishop baptize twins said:

I've seen the church of the past. The whole service today was the church of the future.

Read it all here.

Diocese of Northern California files lawsuit to regain church property

The Diocese of Northern California and Bishop Barry Beisner have filed a lawsuit to regain church property in Petaluma, California. In a press release issued February 4, the bishop states that although the diocese has been negotiating with the breakaway parish the former leaders have filed name and status changes leaving the diocese with no other option:

"Please let me underline that the former leaders of the parish took the first steps in bringing this into the legal system by filing to change the name and status of the parish with the State of California. We are calling upon legitimate civil authority to assist us in undoing the effect of a legal action already taken by fellow Christians, and taken in disregard for this Church's willingness to seek reconciliation, with the help of God."

HT to Susan Russell.

The complete press release follows:

Read more »

Civil courts grant injunction for Diocese of Lake Malawi

Received by email from anglican-information.org:

At last some common sense emerges in the Diocese of Lake Malawi:

Unfortunately, it is not as a result of wise episcopal leadership, but as a result of a Court Injunction granted earlier today. The Injunction stops the forced elections for a Bishop of Lake Malawi Diocese, hastily called by acting Dean of the Province of Central Africa, Bishop Albert Chama and scheduled to take place in far-off Malosa in the Diocese of Upper Shire on 16th February.

It is ironic that it is a civil court that has insisted that the elections be halted and that all parties come together to sort out their differences before proceeding any further. ANGLICAN-INFORMATION has reported the grave concerns in the Diocese of Lake Malawi regarding Bishop Chama's attempts to circumvent synodical processes and to sneak in a preferred new candidate, Henry M'baya (who has been lobbying vigorously, to the annoyance of the clergy) as bishop. This forced election has now rightly been stopped before enormous and permanent damage is done.

Sensibly, the people of Lake Malawi have, as a last resort, appealed to the civil courts and been granted an Injunction. This means that Bishop Chama will now have to enter into meaningful dialogue and not act as he did, for example, at the last diocesan Standing Committee when he ordered members not to speak.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION respectfully says that there is a lesson here for Bishop Chama in the way in which traditional African chiefs conduct business on behalf of the people. Tradition determines that their role is to allow everybody to speak and give their views. Only then do they speak last, summing up the majority decision and thereafter enabling it. A good example of this process at work was undertaken by the then Dean of the Province, Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana who succeeded last year in getting all parties to agree to a synodical process and a subsequent referral to an independent Provincial Court.

Upper Shire Diocese
Meanwhile it is thought that the also hastily arranged elections, scheduled for the same 16th February, for a new Bishop of Upper Shire (former Archbishop Malango's see) will still take place. However, things are not going according to the intended plan of selection for a preferred candidate, as no less than three frontrunners have now emerged who are respectively, an English priest, an American Episcopalian and a local priest.

Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe
Sunday, 3rd February saw a tremendous and well-organised 'enthronement' of Bishop Sebastian Bakare held in the City Sports Centre. Thousands joyfully celebrated this mass affirmation of the diocese as part of the Central African Province, as opposed to those few who have followed dissident Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who has declared independence.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to enthrone Bishop Bakare upon the Cathedral 'cathedra' as Nolbert Kunonga had camped overnight in the building with a gang of thugs to prevent access. Two brave souls who tried to enter were roughed up. This is all despite the fact that the High Court had ruled that the swearing-in of Bishop Sebastian Bakare, should go ahead and Bakare's followers should be allowed to worship in the Cathedral.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that support of the authentic diocese by the people is most encouraging. Nevertheless, until legal possession of the diocese is obtained and the accounts, keys, property and vehicles are back with the Province the problem has not been resolved. Kunonga remains a dangerous man - prayers please for Bishop Bakare.

Neuroscience and the Christian community

Perhaps you were unaware the neurology plays an essential role in congregational development, especially during times to transition. In this presentation to the annual Convention of the Diocese of Washington, Peter Steinke explains to you why individuals and communities resist change, no matter how obvious the need for such change might be. And he will make you laugh as he does so.

Some Pittsburgh laity make a statement

A group styling itself as "Pittsburgh Laity" has written a statement signed by over 100 lay leaders of the Diocese of Pittsburgh supporting their Bishop in the proposition that the diocese is an independent entity and can be moved at will from the Episcopal Church. The letter also castigates twelve conservative rectors for together writing a letter in January urging the Bishop to not attempt to separate the diocese from the Church.

Lionel Deimel, a lay member of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and past-president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, points out that many of the signers have close ties to Bishop Duncan or close ties to Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry or to parishes whose rectors make continued, impassioned arguments for separation. He says:

The new letter is endorsed by approximately 175 people (and counting, I’m sure they would assure me). It is interesting to see how the signers have identified themselves. (Or not. Peter Frank, who is Communications Director for the diocese, fails to note the fact, perhaps out of modesty.) Nineteen people hold significant official positions in the diocese. (I discounted many minor offices. All these counts are approximate, by the way.) Three are former office holders or staff members. Eight seem to be paid staff members in their respective parishes; one is the spouse of a staff member; three are relatives of conservative clergy. Six are associated with Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Two are from “Anglican” congregations in the diocese but already out of The Episcopal Church. One lists himself as being in New York. Forty-eight are from Church of the Ascension, a large church led by the Rev. Jonathan Millard, an insurgent rector who has argued passionately for leaving The Episcopal Church and taking Ascension’s property with him. (Millard made his case for this at a workshop at the November convention and had a letter published in the Post-Gazette on the subject on Friday.) Several very small congregations are represented by ten or more members.
He reminds us that the lay of the land is more complicated than it appears:
...there are three significant parties in the Pittsburgh diocese—the insurgents, the enthusiastic loyalists, and the reluctant loyalists. The Episcopal Church is certainly more liberal than most Pittsburgh Episcopalians, and the loyalist camp that has just come out of the closet knows that its members are destined to feel somewhat uncomfortable and marginalized in their chosen church for the foreseeable future, no matter how “inclusive” that church is. Such is the fate of minorities, and no one has figured out how to change it. When the Pittsburgh schism actually arrives, I suspect that additional revolutionaries will get cold feet and join the reluctant loyalists, albeit reluctantly.

Deimel believes the document is designed to keep the separatist camp in Pittsburgh unified. The language is written not to change minds or attract new adherents to their cause but rather to unify people who have also signed on. He also punctures the impression that this group represents "the many Pittsburgh Episcopalians who attend church regularly in the vain hope that their church—their diocese, at any rate—will not self-destruct in the near future."

Read Lionel Deimel's blog entry here.

Here is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette write up of the petition and the letter by the twelve Pittsburgh clergy.

This is the new blog "Pittsburgh Laity".

Here and here are the past Cafe posts on the situation.

San Joaquin roundup

Episcopal Life Online reported on February 11th on the formation of a steering committee representing a "broad theological spectrum" which would "begin to reconstitute the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin." A listening tour is scheduled, beginning February 19th.

The article goes on to provide a review of recent events. In particular,

On January 25, [the Presiding Bishop] wrote to members of the standing committee who, along with Schofield, had in December 2007 voted to realign the Central California diocese with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone....Unconfirmed reports circulated the same week that Schofield had, himself, fired six of the eight-member standing committee who, although supportive of disaffiliation with TEC, questioned the move to the Southern Cone. Because of their doubts, Schofield in a statement on the diocesan website, had allegedly determined they were unable to serve.
Tobias Haller wonders
The question comes down to, and has been posed as: does casting an improper vote or failing to exercise due diligence in preventing improper actions by others cause one automatically to abdicate an elected office? I would say not, for there are canonical procedures in place to address these failings; there is no mere ipso facto deposition absent an action by those with the authority to impose such a sentence. Even if the charge is abandonment of the communion of this Church (which is well appropriate if one voted to leave it and join Cono Sur) this should properly be addressed by the use of the canon next after the one already applied to the errant Bishop.

The situation is complicated by the fact that it is the Standing Committee itself that normally brings charges in such a case. As the old Latin tag has it, Qui custodet ipsos custodes — who will guard the guardians?

What is your opinion?

About the Southern Cone, see also Katie Sherrod's latest on the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Woman to celebrate Eucharist in San Joaquin

The Bakersfield Californian reports that a woman will preside at the Eucharist in the Diocese of San Joaquin for the first time.

... a visiting female priest from Los Angeles will celebrate Communion toward the end of the Mass.

"In this diocese that IS a big deal," Vivian wrote to The Californian in an e-mail.

The Rev. Elizabeth Davenport, of St. John's Episcopal Church, who has also been the senior associate dean of religious life at USC for the last five years, said the San Joaquin Diocese under seceding bishop the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield did not allow women priests, including visiting priests, to celebrate Communion.

But because Schofield's duties are currently constrained or "inhibited" by Jefferts Schori during a 60-day waiting period before a possible ecclesiastical trial, the Episcopal remnant within the local diocese is at liberty to employ the services of female priests, whom Jefferts Schori supports.

Read it all here.

Not locked out of church

More news on our story from yesterday about the church that allegedly locked out members. New information now comes from the diocese about these events. The priest and members of the church cancelled services because of safety concerns. The group who got the television out there evidently faxed its intention to gather in front of the gates to all stations and news organizations in the Houston area. They were aware that the bishop's committee had voted to not hold services until they could get a security service to be at the church and keep these people out. They have threatened the treasurer at work and sent letters to his employer, they have threatened the vicar and his family. There is video from the previous week of these folks bodily throwing the vicar out of the pulpit.

Clarification of the situation comes from the diocesan news director, Carol Barnwell:

I'd like to offer some clarification for you and those to whom you have forwarded e-mails about St. Joseph's, Houston.

We have been dealing with this for some time now, had many meetings and are still working through it. Below is the response I sent to the news director at the television station yesterday. The news station was really played by this group of people. They were aware there was no service, called the station and then gathered in front of the church to make a scene. They also went way out of their way to send the link to everyone they could think of. All this after meeting with the bishop and refusing to have background checks. They walked out of that meeting (we had to have a guard at the office during it). They are very good at disseminating the bad news. What a wonderful thing it would be if they could share the Good News with such enthusiasm.

[The Rev.] Emeka [Agim] is one of the most kind people I have ever met, he has refused to allow us to put restraining orders on the people who have threatened him and his family with bodily harm because he doesn't want that kind of action associated with his church. The sheriff told him last week that he needed to have the orders in place so they could protect him. This group is out of control and I would love to not be part of the machine that further spreads their ugly story.

Below is the message I sent to the news director but it doesn't make as good a visual as a group chanting in front of the locked gates...it would be better to have the story first and pass around the true information before helping several dozen people bully a priest, his family and the treasurer.

When this group bodily ousted Emeka from the altar during a church service on Feb. 10, there were more than 150 people in the church worshipping. It was after this altercation that the bishop's committee voted to not hold services again until the church could be secure.

Letter to the television station:

I became aware of a story reported by Mark Garay on Sunday regarding St. Joseph's Episcopal Church and wanted to clarify a few things. The vicar, Emeka Agim, with the support of Bishop Don Wimberly, put in place a transparent system of accountability for finances of the church and had asked members of the bishop's committee to have background checks, which they refused to allow.

After a meeting with the bishop last month, some of the members of the bishop's committee still refused to have background checks and resigned from the governance committee of the congregation. They placed very negative stories about Agim and the church in the African newspaper, heckled him from the back of the church on several occasions during services and last week, the 10th of Feb., came in and accosted both him and the treasurer. It was this altercation that preceded Agim pulling the fire alarm to summon help.

Following a meeting with our multicultural ministry staff person, the sherriff, our diocesan chancellor and Agim last week the current bishop's committee voted to not hold worship services until we can secure the church because this group of people is out of control. Agim sent letters to former bishop's committee members and the church members who sided with them, asking them to not come back to the church or else a restraining order would be filed.

The Rev. Agim and his family have been physically and emotionally threatened by these folks to the point that we had to install an alarm system in the Agim's home. They have small children and his wife is pregnant with twins.

Our annual diocesan meeting was held in Galvleston this weekend and our offices are closed today because of this and the holiday. Your story only served to empower a group of people who have absolutely terrorized their own congregation and sought to maintain power and control where there are church canons to the contrary. The vicar has the bishop's full support in the matter.

I think it speaks to a larger story of trying to do multicultural ministry in a city with 80,000 Nigerians and the difficulty that exists in maneuvering other cultures own prejudices and notions of what is acceptable behavior in Church.

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas regrets the disorder of a few members who have threatened the priest and the treasurer and disrupted services on a number of occasions at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, Houston. As soon as security can be provided for the church, it will reopen.

Schofield tells pastoral visitors to stay out

John-David Schofield has written a letter to the Rev. Canon Brian Cox and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, warning them that they are not to meddle in the affairs of the diocese. He paints them into a rhetorical corner, saying that if the argument was San Joaquin couldn't remove itself from the Episcopal Church, that he and the diocese are still in TEC and that the canons' presence was intrusive--but if they had legitimately left the diocese, then they were still intruding into another province's diocese:


In either case, at present, The Episcopal Church has begun attacking both me and this diocese. Your coming here is unconscionable in that you are meddling in the affairs of San Joaquin with neither the courtesy of requesting my permission as bishop nor even troubling to inform me of your plans. Such actions are hardly those of men with honorable intentions.

Even though you have already taken it upon yourself to be in contact with clergy and parishes, under no circumstances are you welcome to hold meetings in this diocese or to ask permission of clergy or other leaders to do so.

If indeed your proposal is to seek reconciliation with the goal to reduce the “threat of law suits” you are approaching the wrong persons. Why do you not come directly to me with your concerns and offers, for such lawsuits – presumably – would be lodged against me?

Should you choose to deal directly with me concerning the above mentioned proposals I would be willing to set aside time to meet with you in my office in Fresno. Apart from this, I ask you to desist from entering this diocese.

It bears noting that if the first assertion is true, that San Joaquin is still in TEC, then Schofield also needs to remember he's been inhibited.

The letter is here.

Southern Cone constitution includes impediments

The Living Church has examined a newly available English translation of the constitution and canons of the Southern Cone and sees impediments:

The situation seems especially complicated for the Diocese of San Joaquin which already approved the switch at its annual convention last December. Article two of the Southern Cone constitution limits membership in the province to dioceses “that exist or which may be formed in the Republics of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay and which voluntary declare themselves as integral diocesan members of the province.” Article four of the constitution requires that amendments “be submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and then to each diocesan synod for approval.”
...
Another complication involves a Southern Cone canon on bishops which states they “should definitely retire by 68 years of age.” In a recent interview with TLC, Bishop John-David Schofield, who will turn 70 in October, said he had been previously been informed by the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone that the primate could waive the mandatory retirement age requirement on a year-to-year basis, but there is nothing in the constitution or canons to suggest the possibility of such an exception.

The Rev. Van McCalister, public relations officer for the Diocese of San Joaquin, said Bishop Schofield and the delegates to the diocesan convention operated in good faith.

“From our perspective we were invited to join unanimously by the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone,” he said. “We proceeded under the assumption that they had the authority to invite us and that they knew what they were doing.”

Read it here.

Venables to visit Fort Worth

Following on earlier news that the constitution and canons of the Southern Cone pose impediments to those who would propose to create US-based affiliates, the Diocese of Fort Worth today announces that the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone will visit the diocese in May:

On Friday, May 2, Archbishop Venables will meet with all the clergy of the Diocese at the Church of the Holy Apostles, and then on Saturday, May 3, he will address a specially-called Convocation of the 2008 convention delegates at St. Vincent’s Cathedral. The purpose of the convocation is to provide information: Archbishop Venables will answer questions from the delegates, but no legislation will be considered.
...
The Diocese of Fort Worth is considering aligning with the Province of the Southern Cone, and this visit will help clarify the practicalities, benefits, and possible drawbacks of such a move.

Read the full announcement here.

Bishop Sisk responds to New Yorker's story on Paul Moore

Bishop Mark Sisk of New York has written to members of his diocese about a story in The New Yorker magazine by Honor Moore in which she revealed that her father, the late Bishop Paul Moore, had an affair with a man during his marraige. To read the letter click "Read more."

The key paragraph follows:

But there is more. It appears as well that Bishop Moore violated his ordination vows in another respect. The long term extra-marital relationship that his daughter describes was begun, according to her account, with a young man who had come to the Bishop for counseling. That inappropriate relationship is a fundamental violation of an ordained person’s vow to minister to the needs of those entrusted to his or her care; never is this more so than when working with the vulnerable who have come seeking pastoral care. Sadly the violation of trust that Ms Moore reports is consistent with behavior recorded in complaints about Bishop Moore’s exploitative behavior received by the office of the Bishop of New York. As Canon Law required, the concerns of those complainants (who wished their identities held in confidence) were duly conveyed to the then Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning for disposition.

Read more »

Canon 32 explained for the Diocese of Fort Worth

Bishop Iker and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth have released guidelines for churches to leave the diocese in the midst of the diocese's attempt to leave The Episcopal Church for the Province of the Southern Cone. While these are very detailed and specific they seem to overlook the fact the the diocese is a creation of General Convention of the Episcopal Church and churches do not have to do anything to stay in the Diocese with the Episcopal Church. Dioceses cannot transfer congregations to other dioceses without the approval of General Convention. The arrangement between the Diocese of Dallas and the Diocese of Fort Worth is an impossibility without that approval. Katie Sherrod comments on all this from within the diocese at her blog Desert's Child.

Canon32Land is a place where a bishop who is leading a schismatic movement expresses his concern for "the unity of the church."

It is a place where Episcopal parishes which already are part of The Episcopal Church must apply to "return" to The Episcopal Church and jump through multiple hoops to do so.
....
It is a place where a canon developed in the Diocese of Dallas to deal with parishes wanting to leave a diocese of The Episcopal Church has been twisted to apply to parishes who want to stay in The Episcopal Church while the diocesan leadership tries to take the diocese out of The Episcopal Church.

The letter from Bishop Iker follows:

GUIDELINES FROM THE BISHOP AND STANDING COMMITTEE FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF SEPARATION UNDER CANON 32 OF THE DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH

Introduction

The Apostle Paul urges Christian believers to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” and it is his words that we recall at the beginning of every service of baptism and confirmation: “There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.” (Ephesians 4: 3-6)

Striving to maintain the unity of the church is of particular concern to a Bishop in his ministry, for he is charged at his consecration “to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church.” Whenever the peace and unity of the Church are imperiled, it is the Bishop’s special vocation to address it as pastor and chief shepherd of the diocese.

In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a “basic conviction of catholic theology” is that “the organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese.” It is in the context of life together in the Diocese that tensions or estrangement from one another over faith and order first come to the surface. In such cases, all are obligated to work for reconciliation and healing. Separation comes as a last resort when such efforts have failed, and if it must come, it must be agreed upon in a respectful and non-litigious manner.

It is the responsibility of the Bishop to deal pastorally with any parish that feels estranged from the Diocese, as a focus and instrument of unity. If reconciliation is not possible, he should act in the best interest of both the Diocese and the parish in question, in so far as possible.

The following guidelines (as called for in Canon 32.3) are offered as a way forward in addressing the prospect of a parish seeking to separate from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. They are guiding principles rather than hard-and-fast rules. It is expected that all parties will comply with them in a spirit of love and respect, dealing with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ in a time of conflict and estrangement.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
March 3, 2008

Episcopal Life Online reports more here.

The Lead reported on Fort Worth here.

Andrew Plus comments here.

Jake comments here.

For more information from the Diocese of Fort Worth check the diocesan website here and Fort Worth Via Media here.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has sent Bishop Iker two letters warning him of the implications of such actions.

See a copy of the Guidelines for Canon 32 below:

Read more »

South Carolina visit in audio and video

Audio and (some) video of the visit of the Presiding Bishop to the Diocese of South Carolina is now on YouTube. They are framed as "Charity and Clarity."

Check them out here.

Hooray for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin

It has a new Web site! Including a Church finder.

Hat tip: Father Jake.

San Joaquin Episcopalians greet bishop recommended for provisional role‏

Episcopal News Service:

Continuing Episcopalians filled Fresno's Holy Family Church on March 14 for a get-acquainted meeting with Bishop Jerry Lamb in preparation for the March 29 special convention where they will be asked to confirm him as their provisional bishop.

Click more for the entire report.

Later: The story is now posted at ENS.

Read more »

San Joaquin diocesan convention scheduled

Updated Wednesday morning

The Lodi News reports on the upcoming Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin. The Rt Rev. Jerry Lamb will be confirmed as provisional bishop and new committees will be elected and appointed as the diocese organizes itself in the aftermath of the departure of Bishop Schofield and other leaders who have chosen to move to the Province of the Southern Cone and leave the Episcopal Church.

The San Joaquin Episcopal Diocese will conduct what its leaders consider a historic convention to appoint a new bishop, reorganize as a diocese and begin the healing process of a divisive split within the diocese.

The convention, to be held next weekend in Lodi, will consist of the 18 of parishes and missions that chose to remain in the diocese, which extends from Lodi to Bakersfield and east to the Nevada state line.There were 47 parishes and missions in the diocese until a majority of delegates, through the leadership of Bishop John-David Schofield, voted to leave Episcopal Church USA for the more socially conservative-leaning Southern Cone of the Anglican Church, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The schedule of the convention is planned as follows:

Friday March 28
5 to 6:30 p.m. — Reception for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, 1020 W. Lincoln Road, Stockton.

6:30 to 7:15 p.m. — A service of healing and forgiveness.

7:15 p.m. — Question-and-answer session with the presiding bishop.

Saturday March 29
8 a.m. — Registration at St. John's Episcopal Church, 1055 S. Lower Sacramento Road, Lodi.

9 a.m. — Business meeting. Highlights include:

Presiding bishop leading prayer and giving remarks.
Convention delegates considering appointment of officers.
Delegates considering resolution to adopt constitution.
Confirmation of Jerry Lamb as provisional bishop for the diocese.
Appoint new delegates for the 2009 national Episcopal convention.

Afternoon session: Eucharist and seating of the provisional bishop.

Read it all here.

Wednesday morning update - The Record has a report on the upcoming convention.

Diocese of Los Angeles partners with former Broadcom exec

Orange County Business Journal

Henry Nicholas, cofounder and former chief executive of Irvine chipmaker Broadcom Corp., is set to give $10 million to start after-school programs for low-income students.

The money is slated to build and operate the Nicholas Academic Center at 412 W. Fourth St. in Santa Ana. The center will serve 60 students from Santa Ana Unified School District high schools.

The center will provide transportation to and from area high schools, be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and be staffed by teachers and counselors.

Nicholas’ foundation is finalizing plans with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to open similar centers in San Juan Capistrano and the Echo Park section of Los Angeles.
...
In addition to the academic centers, Nicholas’ foundation in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles plans to open “entrepreneurial centers” to provide inner-city businesses in the food services industry with facilities, accounting expertise, training and distribution channels.

The Security and Exchange Commission is reportedly continuing to build a case against Nicholas and others over backdating of options at Broadcom. Read an earlier report on Broadcom here.

Maryland elects new bishop

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland today elected the Rev. Canon Eugene Taylor Sutton, canon pastor at the Washington National Cathedral, to be its 14th bishop on the first ballot.

From Episcopal Life Online:

Sutton has served parishes in the dioceses of New Jersey and Washington. He has also taught homiletics and liturgics at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and General Theological Seminary. He’s also served as assistant to the bishop in the Diocese of New Jersey. Sutton is a frequent leader of retreats and conferences on prayer, preaching, spirituality and mission. Married to Sonya Subbayya Sutton, their family includes four children and stepchildren.

...

"I am both honored and humbled to be elected your bishop in the wonderful Diocese of Maryland. I, Sonya and our family look forward to being among you as fellow travelers in this exciting journey," Sutton said following the election. "I would like to express my hopes and dreams for our new ministry together in the form of a prayer. We continually give thanks to God, who in Christ makes "a new creation…the old has passed away, behold, all things have become new.'"

Sutton's complete address to the diocese is here. The ELO article is here.

Updates on San Joaquin

Updated 9:15 p.m.

Some notes from around the internet/blogosphere on the special convention for San Joaquin, starting with some words from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

... Remember that you are not alone. This part of the Body of Christ is only one limb. The rest of the Episcopal Church is with you, and will continue to be with you. A few people have joined you here today as incarnate evidence of the love of Christ, known in community. We stand with you in the firm and constant hope that this body will grow and flourish and bless the central valley of California in ways you have not yet dreamed of. And we will celebrate with you as that becomes reality.

Episcopal Life online has her full address here and also has coverage of last night's events.
Aghaveagh recaps the Q&A and promises more today.
Father Jake has posted some of the comments he's received from participants.
Thinking Anglicans has links to some of the other reactions in the blogosphere.

We may update this post as more comes in this evening/tomorrow, so check back.

First update: 6:30 p.m., also from Episcopal Life (story here):

The members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin ... chose their provisional bishop and other officers, and passed organizing resolutions during a convention filled with cheers and applause, and rooted in the message of resurrection.

"I am awed by the opportunity" that the Diocese of San Joaquin has to transform itself, said Nancy Key, a member of the steering committee that worked towards the convening of the special convention, during a lunch break. The diocese has "a lot of momentum" that can now be channeled into concrete action, she added.

Second Update, 9:15 p.m.
Lamb installed as provisional bishop, according to Episcopal Life Online:


"What you have been about and what I have been about these last months, weeks, days, even hours is not really about building a new diocesan structure," Lamb said during his sermon. "As I understand it, what we are about is the proclamation of the Good News that Jesus is the Christ and that we do this from within the base of our Episcopal and Anglican tradition because that's who we are: members of the Episcopal Church and members of the Anglican church."

Most of the more than 400 people who attended the convention remained for the Eucharist. Individuals from the Episcopal dioceses of Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, El Camino Real, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Nevada, Northern California, Rio Grande, San Diego and Olympia also attended.

Half of the offertory was assigned to Lamb's discretionary fund and the other half, Lamb told the congregation to loud and sustained applause, would be given to the Diocese of Louisiana, which continues to rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori led Lamb and the congregation through his formal seating as provisional bishop. That part of the service included recognition that Lamb had been duly chosen and accepted by the members of the diocese.

Read it all here.

Father Jake again highlights his commenters who attended, here.

Audio of the press conference here.

Church closes, ministry continues

Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal (Southern Ohio) writing in the Cincinnati Enquirer:

As some know, the parish of St. Michael & All Angels has been closed, owing to dwindling numbers. This is understandably a sad time for those who are losing their accustomed weekly gathering for worship in a place they love. But this is not the whole story. The Episcopal Church is not leaving Avondale. On the contrary, we are convinced that now, more than ever, we are called to stand with those who seek peace and justice and the possibility of common life in the inner city. God has provided us in St. Michael's with a strategic location for such a ministry, and we intend to move forward as quickly as possible to make this a reality.

I know there are Episcopal parishes in Cincinnati who stand ready to pledge financial and personal resources to create an effective urban mission at St. Michael's. I dream of a powerful ministry to children in Avondale - providing a space on St. Michael's ample property for tutoring, athletics and after-school events. A focus on children would make great sense, given the proximity of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

But these are just my thoughts. We cannot know what St. Michael & All Angels should become until we have sat with the people of Avondale and learned from them what their needs are and how we can fit into that.
...
It will take time - six months or more - for these conversations to take place and for a clear vision of the future role of the Episcopal Church in Avondale to emerge. In the meantime, the ministries operating out of St. Michael & All Angels will carry on. These include a health clinic and a food pantry, both of which have been fully funded by the diocese, and both of which will continue to receive funding.

One thing is clear: the church cannot turn its back on the city. The Bible and Christian tradition see the city as a central image for the kingdom of God.


Read it all here.

Virginia judge to rule Friday

The Falls Church News Press reports on this notice from Judge Bellows' clerk:

Judge Bellows has asked me to advise you that the Court anticipates it will issue its opinion regarding the applicability of 57-9 this Friday, April 4. It may, however, issue the opinion a day earlier or later.

The ruling is expected to be on the first phase of issues to determine ownership of the church properties, pertaining to whether an 1867 Virginia statute (57-9) applies in the current case although other rulings may be included.

Read the article here.

Recent stories and background from The Lead here and here.

22 priests deposed in Florida

The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Florida reports on the deposition of 22 priests in the Diocese of Florida by Bishop Samuel Howard.

A Jacksonville bishop has sacked 19 priests and three deacons from his Northeast Florida diocese, saying they abandoned the Episcopal Church by joining or starting parishes aligned with theologically conservative bishops in places as far away as Africa and South America.

The March 25 action may largely represent the culmination of nearly five years of discord between Howard and theologically conservative Episcopalians who have joined a national movement abandoning the denomination since an openly gay New Hampshire priest was elected a bishop in 2003.

Being deposed means the ministers can no longer function as clergy in any Episcopal church and that they can no longer contribute to the denomination's pension fund, Howard said.

The Rev. Neil Lebhar, one of the deposed priests, said the ministers can both still draw their pensions and contribute to retirement funds created for ministers who have left the denomination.

Howard said he was merely making official what the ministers have done by aligning themselves with Anglican bishops. He inhibited, or suspended, the clergy six months before deposing them to give them time to reconsider.

"They did not desire to remain in the Episcopal Church and this just makes it official," Howard said. "Not one of them came to me and said: 'I want to be an Episcopalian.' "


Read the article here.

San Joaquin, a corporation sole

Amended

John-David Schofield has changed the name of his corporation back to "The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin The Living Church reports:

California law provides a somewhat unique form of incorporation for church denominations. Under a “corporation sole,” there is one shareholder, one officer and one director, who are one and the same person, usually the diocesan bishop in an Episcopal diocese.

After a majority of clergy and lay delegates voted to leave The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone last December, Bishop John-David Schofield filed an amendment to the diocese’s charter, changing the name of the corporation from “The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole” to “The Anglican Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole.”

Since then, the name has been changed back to “The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole.” Earlier this month, Bishop Lamb swore to the California Secretary of State that there was only one Diocese of San Joaquin and that he had been elected provisional bishop of that diocese on March 29.
John-David Schofield has a history of not anticipating the consequences of his actions. Will the real Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole please stand up?

Amendment - A reader suggests that it was not John-David Schofield and friends who changed the name back. It's not clear from the article, but that is a possible reading of the Living Church article. We welcome further clarification.

Other denominations support Diocese of Virginia

Several national hierarchical denominations, including the United Methodist church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, filed an amicus curie (or "friend of the court") brief yesterday supporting the position of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia that the §57-9 division statute of the Virginia Code “cannot withstand constitutional challenge.” The other denominations on the brief are the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Worldwide Church of God. This statute is the basis of the CANA congregations' claim that they--and not the Diocese--own church property.

The amicus curie brief makes two arguments:

Section 57-9 violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by requiring civil courts to conduct an extensive inquiry into, and then resolve, fundamentally religious questions.
“Indeed, §57-9 is so hopelessly infused with religious concepts that it gave the Court little choice but to take the nearly unfathomable step of receiving testimony from experts on church polity and church history, in order ‘to assist the court in its obligation to interpret 57-9.’’ Amici Brief at page 2 (quoting Letter Opinion at 63 (emphasis added)).

Section 57-9 discriminates among religious denominations in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The choice to be a hierarchical church “is not motivated by purely ‘administrative’ concerns; rather, the choice reflects a belief – a belief that ‘religious activity derives meaning in large measure from participation in a larger religious community…’” (Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 342 (1987) (Brennan, J. concurring). Amici Brief at page 5.

Section 57-9 cannot withstand such strict scrutiny. As the Court has correctly noted, “the legislature defers completely to the independent church’s constitution, ordinary practice, or custom, whereas in [the clause in §57-9 applicable to hierarchical churches], the legislature shows no such deference” to “a hierarchical church’s constitution or canons.” Ltr. Op. at 48 (emphasis added). On that basis alone, the statute clearly violates the prohibition against denominational preferences. Amici Brief at 10.

Read the Diocese's press release about the brief here. The brief of Amici Curiae is here. All of the other court filings, including the CANA congregations' reply brief can be found here.

The issue of the constitutionality of the statute will be heard by the trial court on May 28, 2008. Then follows part III, the property hearing, in October. See our earlier post and the comments therein.

Diocese of San Joaquin sues to reclaim diocese

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has issued this statement:

Michael Glass, Esq., Chancellor to the Diocese of San Joaquin has announced the filing of a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Fresno County Superior Court to reclaim all property currently being held by John-David Schofield, the former Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin

Michael Glass, Esq., Chancellor to the Diocese of San Joaquin has announced the filing of a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Fresno County Superior Court to reclaim all property currently being held by John-David Schofield, the former Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, according to a Press Release issued April 25, 2008 by the Stockton-based temporary headquarters for the Diocese.

In a related matter, the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, has sent a letter of protest to Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the April 22, 2008 letter, Lamb reminded the Archbishop that his visit to the Diocese of San Joaquin is a violation of the traditions of the Anglican Communion and of the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

Follow the links above to the Complaint, the press release and the letter to Venables.

Additional coverage of this action can be found:

(We'll update this article as additional information comes online.)

Tornado relief fund established

By email:

For Immediate Release

Subject: Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia – Tornado Relief

The Episcopal Church in Southern Virginia has set up a fund for immediate relief for victims of the tornado in the Suffolk area. An initial emergency relief fund of $10,000 from the diocese is being administered through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 213 North Main Street, Suffolk, VA 23434. The Rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. Dr. Keith Emerson, is serving as relief coordinator for the Diocese of Southern Virginia. Relief contributions may be made payable to: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and marked “Emergency Relief Fund”. All contributions will go directly to aid victims of the tornado disaster. For further information please call St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 757-539-2478 or email office@saintpauls-suffolk.org.

Lighting to Unite

We don't typically promote local events, but this one seems particularly cool. For three nights beginning on May 9 the south and west faces of Washington National Catheral will be lit in ways that require a visit to the Web site to appreciate.

Lord Eames speaks on reconciliation

holyground.jpg
Shrine Mont Episcopal Retreat Center
Orkney Springs, Virginia

Over the course of three days ending today, Lord Robin Eames, former Anglican Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, spoke at the Diocese of Virginia clergy conference on the subject of reconciliation. In his introduction, Bishop Peter Lee recounted Lord Eames' contributions for the church including the Eames Report (on women's ordination), the Virginia Report, and the Windsor Report, and in the negotiations of peace in Northern Ireland. Lee drew laughter from the crowd saying unlike Archbishops of Canterbury, Eames became Lord Eames on the basis of merit. He also drew laughter when he observed that Lord Eames was probably chagrined that in some circles the Windsor Report had taken on a status superior to the 39 Articles.

In his talks on reconciliation, Lord Eames took most of his illustrations from his experience in the Northern Ireland peace talks rather than the unpleasantness in the Anglican Communion. For his text throughout the conference he choose John 21:15-17 (Do you love me?; Yes; Feed my sheep.)

Some of his observations:

  • The institutional church is in the shallows. The shallowness of our faith is exposed in times of trial in the communion.

  • God weeps for the Anglican Communion. The secular world is laughing at us.

  • Reconciliation requires that people trust each other.

  • Not all people have the same potential for reconciliation.

  • Don't be surprised if your efforts at reconciliation are misunderstood.

  • Laws cannot bring about reconciliation.

  • I choose "bringing about the kingdom, feed my sheep" over the "thou shalt nots".

  • When we consider scripture we should see something different every time.

  • We must be prepared to move on.

  • I have been dealing with principles, and won't tell you what to do. There has been too much outside interference.

  • I believe the explosive growth in the Anglican Communion would have led to division sooner or later.

  • The strength of the Anglican Communion has been our lack of cohesion, its elasticity.

  • Everyone thinks they're the victim. They're all oversensitive.
  • Padre Rob has more extensive notes here and here.

    An invitation

    If you are going to be in the Washington D. C. area on June 7, please join us at the Diocese of Washington's Evangelism Conference, featuring a keynote presentation by Brian McLaren, who gave a preview of his presentation in an interview with the Washington Window. You can register here.

    The conference is being held at the 4-H Youth Conference Center, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, and registration begins at 9 a. m.

    The conference also will feature a workshop on personal faith sharing led by the Revs. Heather Kirk-Davidoff and Nancy Wood-Lyczak, authors of Talking Faith: An Eight-Part Study on Growing and Sharing Your Faith, and a how-to session on parish communications and marketing, led by Carol Barnwell, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Carol is also a member of the Cafe's editorial board.

    The Cathedral lights

    The light show we alluded to last week is up and running at the National Cathedral. But this is no ordinary light show--Swiss artist Gerry Hofstetter paints the entire Cathedral facade using light. The results are stunning; the Washington Post has a gorgeous flash photo essay here.

    Virginia property case supplemental briefs filed

    In preparation for the second of the three phases of litigation between the parties in the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the CANA churches, the parties have filed supplemental briefs. The trial on the constitutionality of the 57-9 stature is scheduled for May 28. Whatever the outcome of that trial, a third trial is scheduled for October to decide the ownership.

    Briefs of all parties can be found at the diocesan website. The supplemental briefs recently filed include,


    See The Lead's earlier coverage here.

    There's also news about another property dispute:

    An El Paso County District Court judge ruled today that the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and officials of Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish in Colorado Springs must resolve their $17 million property dispute at trial.

    District Judge Larry E. Schwartz concluded, after reviewing six volumes of documents filed in the last year, that he cannot make a decision based solely on matters of law because "there is virtually no agreement as to the facts."

    Diocese of Virginia has more "friends" in court

    From the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which is locked in a legal battle over church property with breakway congregations:

    Over the past four days, eight more religious denominations and judicatories, as well as the two other Virginia Episcopal dioceses have asked the Court to allow them to join the Amici Curiae brief supporting the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in recognizing that the §57-9 division statute is unconstitutional. All churches in Virginia are threatened by this statute, which discriminates against hierarchical churches in favor of congregational ones, in violation of their faith and the right of churches to structure and govern themselves based on their religious beliefs. All churches in Virginia must have the right to structure themselves according to their faith beliefs without the intrusion of the government.

    The following denominations joined the Amici brief on May 12 and 15, 2008:

    The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), by Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
    The General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists
    The National Capital Presbytery, by The Rev. Dr. G. Wilson Gunn, Jr., General Presbyter
    The Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, by Elder Donald F. Bickhart, Stated Clerk
    The Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    The Metropolitan Washington DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    The Virlina District Board—Church of the Brethren, Inc.
    The Mid-Atlantic II Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
    The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia
    The Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

    They join the following denominations, which filed the Amici Curiae brief on April 24, 2008:

    The United Methodist Church
    The African Methodist Episcopal Church
    The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
    The Worldwide Church of God
    The Rt. Rev. Charlene Kammerer, Bishop of the Virginia Council of the United Methodist Church
    W. Clark Williams, Chancellor of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

    Of especial note, the Seventh-day Adventists, despite not being directly threatened by the statute, recognize the dangers inherent in the law, namely “the ultimate and very real danger posed to all religious groups if the legislature is permitted to resolve property rights by reference to inherently religious criteria, much less to ‘defer’ to the rules of some religious groups but not others.” (Motion for Leave to Join Brief of Amicus Curiae, page 3)

    As the Episcopal Dioceses of Southern and Southwestern Virginia point out in their filing, “A statute that singles out the legally binding organizational documents and property arrangements of churches whose property is titled in trustees, and permits a court to invalidate those provisions on grounds not applicable to other types of religious or secular organizations or entities, cannot pass Constitutional muster.” (Motion of the Dioceses of Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia for Leave to Join Amici Brief, page 6).

    By making these filings, these denominations and dioceses support the Diocese of Virginia’s and the Episcopal Church’s argument that matters of faith, governance and doctrine are to be free from government interference. This statute is clearly at odds with and uniquely hostile to the concept of religious freedom. We hope that the Court will recognize that the statute is an attack on America’s First Freedom and thus unconstitutional.

    To read these motions in their entirety, visit http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml and click on “Property Dispute.”

    Direct access to Property Dispute page here. Scroll to the end for latest briefs.

    ENS provides further background to this story. See also our story on the scheduled trial that appeared earlier this week.

    A conversation in Pittsburgh

    The Rev. Dr. Jay Geisler, a member of the group of conservative clergy that declared to the diocese and its bishop that they intend to remain in The Episcopal Church, was invited to be guest speaker at a meeting of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh meeting last week, and his visit occasioned a useful exchange of ideas, writes Lionel Deimel.

    Acknowledging that conservatives have sought a place of “safety” within The Episcopal Church, Geisler offered his own solution, at least for the short term. As a mechanism to avoid schism and lessen conflict, he explained that he would like to see the establishment of a non-geographic diocese of conservative parishes within the church, led by a conservative bishop. He admitted that this plan is problematic. He did not say what effect he thought such an innovation would have on Pittsburgh, an interesting question, in retrospect, that no one pursued. He related that Bishop Duncan had discouraged him from advocating his plan because it would, in Duncan’s words, “weaken our position.”

    This was an interesting revelation. I do not favor the non-geographic diocese “solution,” but not for the same reason that Duncan opposes it. (I will have more to say about this another time.) Duncan’s opposition, I think, is to any reconciliation or mechanism that gives even the appearance of unity, since such a scheme would ease tensions in the church and blunt his efforts to engineer a schism that ultimately could place him in the position of leader of his own Anglican province in North America.

    Read it all.

    Virginia law threatens hierarchical churches

    The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has produced a cogent media release for reporters covering the May 28 hearing on the constitutionality of the law at issue in the case involving the diocese and breakaway parishes that have joined Archbishop Peter Akinola's Anglican Church of Nigeria.

    Read more »

    From Utah to Myanmar

    From KSL TV in Salt Lake City:

    Getting help for cyclone victims in Myanmar has been difficult, but one church in Utah has been in the country since the cyclone hit and has a very good relationship with the people there.

    Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah has been to Myanmar twice. The church has a sister diocese there, and this past February she took a group to distribute aid to a region in the north.

    The story is here.

    Hopeful sounds?

    Writer Doug LeBlanc has wondered about the future of conservatives who remain in the Episcopal Church. He says that recently released audio of a two-hour meeting that included Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina offers encouraging signs.

    Hat tip: Episcopal Life Online.

    Virginia's allies

    The Washington Post covers a story we've discussed earlier. The hearing on the constitutionality of the law in question will be held on Wednesday in Fairfax County.

    A half-dozen national Protestant denominations are supporting the Episcopal Church in a multimillion-dollar Virginia property dispute, saying a state law at the heart of the case could threaten them, too.

    The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA), among others, have filed court briefs in the past few weeks supporting the Episcopal Church, which is fighting 11 breakaway Virginia congregations that say the national church has become too liberal on issues from salvation to sexuality. Majorities of those congregations voted to leave and are now in Fairfax County Circuit Court over who gets to keep the property.

    Albany resolutions on ordination, marriage

    The Diocese of Albany convention in June will consider two resolutions on marriage and the priesthood. Featured speakers at the convention include the Coordinating Bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. This week the Diocese of Virginia is in court with CANA for a hearing on the freedom of a denomination to organize itself hierarchically, commensurate with its theology.

    Albany Times Union

    The Episcopal Diocese of Albany is weighing changes to local church law that will likely touch off fresh controversy around homosexuality and marriage issues when they come up for a vote next month.

    One resolution mandates that only a person who is in a heterosexual marriage or "celibate and abstinent" can be eligible for ordination as a priest or consecration as a bishop. Another holds that only heterosexual marriages can be celebrated or blessed in the diocese -- and marriage between a man and a woman is the only kind of union permitted on diocesan or parish property.

    Clergy and lay delegates will vote on the proposals during the 19-county Albany Episcopal Diocese's annual convention June 6-8 in Speculator.
    ...
    Neva Rae Fox, spokeswoman for the 110-diocese Episcopal Church, said the policy is "we do not discriminate in the ordination process." But the Episcopal Church does not have a rite for same-sex blessings, she added.

    "There is talk that the idea of having a rite for same-sex blessings will come up again at the next General Convention," Fox said. "But there has been no legislation proposed at this point."
    ...
    National church canons express an ideal, but the reality on the ground varies from diocese to diocese and bishops have a lot of local autonomy. Three dioceses still do not ordain women even though female ordination was officially adopted more than 30 years ago and national resolutions have mandated that bishops allow women into the process.

    The board of Albany Via Media, a group of liberal-to-moderate local Episcopalians, described the proposal that would allow only heterosexual unions in the diocese as a "defensive" move likely based on "the rumor that New York state will soon pass laws making same-sex unions, and perhaps marriages, legal."


    Read it here.

    Bishop Love writes that "This year’s guest speakers include several very dear friends of mine. The Most Reverend Ben Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, and his wife Gloria, will address the Convention on Saturday...."

    As previously reported on The Lead, quoting the Dallas New Religion Blog, "Bishop Kwashi is the Coordinating Bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. He's on the board of Trinity School for Ministry and is chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) International. It's unclear what the difference in roles is (or will be) betweeen Bishop Kwashi who serves as coordinating bishop of CANA and Bishop Minns, who is to be installed as "Bishop Missionary Leader" of the same organization."

    Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial: "dubious legacy of interposition"

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch on the constitutionality of the Virginia law of division:

    The situation in Northern Virginia focuses on property and denominational governance. After leaving the Diocese of Virginia, the breakaway churches affiliated with African branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. They continue to occupy their buildings. Therein lies the legal irritation. The Episcopal Church is hierarchical. Individual parishes are neither truly independent nor fully autonomous but emanate from the diocese. The bishop serves as the foundation's head. Rectors and priests represent him or her at the parish level. We will not delve further, as in this instance church structure flows from denominational belief and thus falls under the purview of theologians.
    ...
    Neither camp has made any of its decisions lightly. The decision to leave a church, or a diocese, is not an idle act; the decision to defend institutional interests is not idle, either -- especially when the interests embody reliance on Scripture, tradition, and reason.

    Virginia prides itself as being the birthplace of religious liberty -- America's first freedom. The Virginia law under review interferes with an intradenominational debate and violates the spirit of church-state separation even as it resurrects the dubious legacy of interposition. If the commonwealth acted wisely when it disestablished the Anglican Church, then it errs when it implicitly tells the Diocese of Virginia how to run itself.


    Read it all. The trial on the constitutional question opens today.

    Virginia church property case focuses on constitutional issues

    The Episcopal Church and a number of other religious denominations squared off in court yesterday against 11 breakaway congregations and the Virginia attorney general's office over the constitutionality of a Civil War-era state law governing religious property disputes.

    Coverage is here, here and here.

    I attended the hearing and was struck by the careful, probing questions of Judge Randy Bellows, by the quality of lawyering on both sides (although Virginia Solicitor General William E. Thro seems to form very strong opinions before mastering basic facts, such as the name of the Episcopal Church's property canon--it's Dennis, not Dean--and how authority is distributed within the church) and by the intellectual rigorousness of the hearing.

    It seems that the case could turn on whether the state has made sufficient provisions in its laws for hierarchical churches to hold property in a way that honors the church's polity. In the Episcopal Church, many parishes hold their property in trust for their dioceses. The Virginia law isn't comfortable with that. It wants the diocese to hold property in the name of the bishop or another official, or else via a corporation.

    It seems obvious to this Episcopalian that putting all property in the name of the diocese would tip the carefully constructed and unevenly maintained balance of power within our Church decisively toward the bishop and away from the laity and clergy, and that this constitutes an infringement of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. But it wasn't clear to me that the Diocese of Virginia’s lawyers made that point as strongly as they could have. Assertions by the breakaway congregations and the state that the church held property as it did out of administrative convenience, and that changing the nature in which we hold property was primarily an administrative matter weren't countered as forcefully as they could have been.

    Another argument, advanced most effectively by the diocese's "friends," including a number of religious denominations, holds that whether the law places too great a burden on the diocese is immaterial because in making the law the state created a special standard for adjudicating religious property disputes, while no similar standard exists for adjudicating similar disputes within secular organizations such as labor unions or fraternal organizations. As a result, this argument goes, the state deprives the religious organizations of the legal protections available to secular organizations (such as having the question of property resolved within the organization via a study of the deed to the property and reference to the organization's own bylaws) and thereby discriminates against the church.

    Three things seemed certain: Judge Bellows’ ruling will be appealed; he is well aware of this; and the ruling will be so tightly tethered to Virginia law that it is unlikely to affect litigation elsewhere.

    I heard speculation that the ruling would be released in late June or early July.

    Property cases elsewhere

    While litigation rolls on in Virginia, the Episcopal Church is quietly regaining property in other dioceses. Members of the congregation of a Trinity Church in Bristol, Connecticut ended their legal fight with the diocese this week by giving up the church.

    Controversy over Wisconsin camp closing

    The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee stopped using the "ecologically diverse" Camp Webb as a diocesan camp and retreat several months ago and began exploring options to sell it, provoking community opposition when it started entertaining an offer for commercial development (i.e. condominiums), according to an interview with the leader of the opposition group PreserveCW featured on enewschannels.com.

    The diocese’s Executive Council discussed the possibility of sale in early May after receiving a report from diocesan officials who had met with a commercial developer to discuss potential development of condominiums. A formal vote to put the camp up for sale is the first agenda item for June 5th Executive Council meeting. After learning of the situation, PreserveCW, a group formed to preserve the camp, asked supporters to contact Bishop Steven Miller and Executive Council members to ask that they seriously consider non-commercial options for the camp before considering sale to commercial interests.

    “We don’t question any right of the Diocese to sell the camp” stated Matthew Payne, Chair of the PreserveCW Steering Committee and former Camp Webb board member, staff member and camper. “Our concern is the Diocese’s fiduciary duty, especially as a church and not-for-profit corporation in the State of Wisconsin. To consider sale to commercial interests before giving due consideration to non-commercial options is both irresponsible and careless and may have possible legal ramifications. Until and unless the Diocese of Milwaukee has exhausted all avenues of non-commercial options, it should not consider sale of the camp to any commercial interest.”

    Steering Committee member Connie Ott who has been connected to the camp since 1966 is also a current member of the Executive Council. She noted that, “This ecologically sensitive land should be preserved for generations to come. Any hope for preservation would be destroyed by a sale to any commercial interest.”

    More information is here.

    Lambeth invite for provisional bishop of San Joaquin

    From Bishop Jerry Lamb:

    I received great news three days ago from the office of the manager of the Lambeth Conference [Sue Parks]. The e-mail says "we are expecting you at the Lambeth Conference". I was wondering when the invitation would arrive or even, some days, if it would ever come to Jane and me. Well, it is here and we are making plans to attend....

    I am pleased to be going, but I am more pleased because this a clear sign from the Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is the only Anglican Diocese in all of inland Central California. I received this invitation because I am your Bishop and, therefore, entitled to attend the Lambeth Conference as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Read the rest. Has former Bishop Schofield's invitation been sent? Retracted?

    $4 million transferred by former Bishop of San Joaquin

    The lawsuit against John-David Schofield, deposed bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, seeking recovery of diocesan real estate and financial assets, has been amended to add Merrill Lynch and the "Anglican Diocese Holding Corporation" as defendants.

    "The main reason for the amendment is that we have obtained information that John-David Schofield has actually been transferring both real property and investment accounts (the latter held by Merrill Lynch) to non-Episcopal entities, including specifically a new corporation known as the Anglican Diocese Holding Company," said Heather Anderson, an attorney with the Goodwin Procter law firm based in Washington, D.C.

    The San Joaquin diocese, along with TEC, sued Schofield and several Episcopal legal entities that he asserts the right to control on April 24 "to establish who is the true incumbent of Corporation Sole, which owns most of the real estate of the diocese and accounts such as the investment fund and trust fund" containing more than $4 million in cash, diocesan chancellor Michael Glass told a gathering in San Joaquin on May 31.

    He said Merrill Lynch was named as a defendant because it "is the institution which holds the accounts for the diocese. We are working with Merrill Lynch, even though they are a defendant," he said.


    Read it all here.

    On the subject of attendance at the Lambeth Conference, The Living Church reports John-David Schofield has been invited to the conference.

    “Bishop Schofield received and accepted his invitation to Lambeth shortly after the invitations were first issued,” Canon Gandenberger said. “Shortly thereafter he received the study material common to all the bishops.”

    Canon Gandenberger said he had no knowledge of any further correspondence from either Archbishop Williams’ office or the Lambeth planning committee.

    The Lead previously reported on the invitation sent to Bishop Jerry Lamb, the current provisional bishop of San Joaquin.

    The last great theological debate in Pittsburgh...

    Lionel Deimel covers a forum on realignment held in the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

    What was striking was the contrast, particularly in the question-and-answer period, to the dialogue that took place at a similar meeting in the same space. One of the aforementioned district meeting (that for District VII) was held at St. Andrew’s. It, too, was well attended and was similar in format, though the presentations were even more weighted in favor of realignment. The audience was almost uniformly opposed to this point of view—only one of the questions could be considered at all sympathetic or neutral—and the session became progressively more acrimonious as it wore on, with questioners angrily hurling charges and posing questions designed to embarrass the presenters.

    The mood on June 1, however, was one of resignation to some sort of division of the diocese. The first question, in fact, was about whether there is a way to part gracefully. The consensus was that there likely is not, an answer disputed by no one. Some perfunctory words were said about being gracious to one another and possibly sharing projects and resources, but the words seemed to lack conviction.

    Perhaps most surprising was the absence, both in the initial presentations and in the subsequent questions, of discussion related to the canonical or legal propriety of realignment. There was little concern expressed for the effect realignment might have on the Anglican Communion, and no talk at all of the likely effect on The Episcopal Church. These concerns had seemingly become irrelevant, as if everyone was part of a Greek tragedy, and no one had control over his or her fate.


    Read it all here.

    Merrill Lynch freezes disputed San Joaquin diocesan accounts

    ELO:

    Merrill Lynch has frozen the financial accounts it manages for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin until the courts decide the rightful owner of those accounts, an attorney for the financial institution said June 3.

    "Merrill Lynch has placed an immediate freeze on those accounts held in the name of the Diocese and related entities," according to Eric J. Glassman of Mennemeier, Glassman & Stroud, in a letter to diocesan chancellor Mike Glass, and to Russell VanRozeboom, who represents former bishop John-David Schofield.

    The San Joaquin diocese, along with The Episcopal Church (TEC), on June 2 amended an earlier lawsuit against Schofield, "on the basis of new information gathered about recent transfers of real and personal property and assets to entities formed by Mr. Schofield and his attorney sometime in early April of 2008," Glass said.

    According to the amended complaint, Schofield had been transferring real property and investment accounts into a non-Episcopal entity called the Anglican Diocese Holding Company. The holding company was also added as a co-defendant in the June 2 amended complaint.

    The original lawsuit, filed April 24 in Fresno County, seeks to recover from Schofield control of the diocese's "Corporation Sole," which holds title to most of the real estate of the diocese along with liquid assets valued at between $4-5 million in cash, as well as other diocesan entities such as the Diocesan Investment Trust.

    According to a diocesan press release,
    Merrill Lynch has frozen the accounts indefinitely until the Court issues a ruling on these issues. This freeze will not affect any of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin's assets, accounts or operations.

    The Diocesan Office in Stockton, California announced that it is seeking an arrangement with Merrill Lynch that would allow staff purportedly working for Mr. Schofield to continue to be paid in hardship cases.

    Nicely done, Bishop Smith

    The Anglican Communion has been keen to insure that conservative Episcopalians have "alternate" episcopal options that allow them to minimize contact with liberal bishops. But to date, Rowan Williams, Tom Wright and company have shown no such pastoral sensitivity to liberal church members in conservative dioceses--or, for that matter, to gay Christians in provinces that actively persecute them. Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota, however, understands that accommodation is a two way street. He writes to his diocese:

    June 4, 2008

    Dear Friends:

    *I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace *(Ephesians 4:1-3).* *

    I am pleased to announce that Bishop Carol Gallagher has accepted my invitation to assist in providing episcopal pastoral care in the Diocese of North Dakota. She has agreed to reach out especially to congregations and clergy who feel alienated and hurt by me due to different understandings of human sexuality. I am most grateful for Bishop Gallagher's assistance. .... View her blog at mamabishop.blogspot.com.

    We find ourselves in the midst of a discernment process, seeking the mind of Christ, about whether the Holy Spirit is leading us to new understandings of human sexuality or not. As this discernment continues through the canonical processes of The Episcopal Church and the conciliar processes of the Anglican Communion, I urge patience, kindness and respect in our dealings with one another. I also pray our energies will be focused on
    engaging the mission of the church as we are sent into the world to serve the poor and to share our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am,

    Yours in Christ,

    +Michael Smith


    Update, Thursday afternoon: The ELO reports.

    Diocese of El Camino Real guidelines for same sex marriage

    The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real in California has issues for clergy of the diocese and same sex marriage following the California Supreme Court ruling.

    I write to let you know of my reflections as well as of new liturgical guidelines in light of the new opportunity for gay and lesbian persons to marry in the state of California. First of all, let me express my personal joy in the Supreme Court decision. While this victory is not yet complete, the Supreme Court's decision is a deep breath of freedom that has been long awaited and fought for. Take in its refreshing spirit and all that this means for gays and lesbians not only here in California but for those around the world who do not experience a fraction of the freedom we enjoy in our country.

    After reflecting with our Standing Committee, other California bishops, the chair of the Massachusetts task force on same-gender marriage and Bishop Tom Shaw, also of Massachusetts, here are the guidelines - for now. You may have a same-gender civil marriage and blessing in your church provided an Episcopal priest does not officiate at the marriage itself or sign the marriage license and the Book of Common Prayer is not used.

    Article here.

    Read the complete letter below:

    Read more »

    No same-sex blessings in Albany

    The Diocese of Albany met in convention last Saturday and, among other business, elevated two existing policies to the level of diocesan canon: one prohibiting same-sex blessings and another reserving licensed ministry to clergy who are "married, celibate or abstinent."

    The Times-Union of Albany reports:

    The hundreds of clergy and lay delegates who converged for their annual convention in this lakeside Adirondack community resoundingly approved a resolution that lays down this rule: Only heterosexual marriages can be celebrated in the diocese.

    Speakers who lined up at two microphones in a rustic auditorium at Camp-of-the-Woods debated the issue in often personal terms. The Rev. Brad Jones, who supported the resolution, spoke of his personal journey from a young man consumed with homosexual desire to a married father of seven with a passion for God.

    "If the Episcopal Church had proclaimed to me then that God would bless my lustful passions and desires, I would likely not be standing here alive today," said Jones, rector of Christ Church in Schenectady. "I would certainly be dead in my sins."

    The resolution sets down in local church canons a diocesan policy that already existed in practice. Supporters called it consistent with scripture and necessary because diocesan leadership could change in the future, as could state law.

    But critics blasted it as unnecessary, discriminatory and divisive. One spoke of a gay relative's love for her partner. A rector from Saranac Lake described the "cry of anguish" of a gay parishioner who learned of the proposal.

    The new canon on marriage reads:

    Celebration or Blessing of Marriages by Clergy

    1.1 Members of the Clergy Resident in or Licensed to Serve in this Diocese shall neither officiate at, nor facilitate, nor participate in, any service, whether public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except between one man and one woman. Unions other than those of one man and one woman in Holy Matrimony, even if they be recognized in other jurisdictions, shall be neither recognized nor blessed in this Diocese.

    Marriages on Church Property

    1.2 Properties owned, controlled, managed, or operated by this Diocese, or any Parish of the Diocese, or any legal entity established by the Diocese or a parish of the Diocese, shall not be the site for any service, public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except those between one man and one woman.

    The canon on ordained minsitry within the diocese reads as follows:

    Standards for Election, Licensing, Ordination and Consecration

    This canon requires that those persons who are ordained, or consecrated, and clergy who are elected, licensed or appointed, be married or celibate.

    Canon 11.8

    Standards for Ordination and Consecration

    11.8.a To be eligible to be ordained to the Diaconate or Priesthood, or consecrated a Bishop, a person must live within the covenant of Marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.

    Standards for Election, Appointing, and Licensing

    11.8.b To be eligible to be elected, appointed or licensed to any position of ordained ministry in the Diocese, a member of the clergy must live within the covenant of Marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.

    The Times-Union interviewed Bishop William Love after the convention:

    In a brief interview after convention business wrapped up, Albany Bishop William Love said the resolutions were "not intended to be divisive."

    "The main reasons the resolutions were presented were to provide clarity during a time of great confusion both within the church and society at large," Love said.

    "The important thing that everyone needs to know is that God loves all people, regardless of where they might be in their life. That doesn't necessarily mean he approves of all of our behaviors."

    Read the Times-Union: Diocese rules on gay unions

    See the resolutions on the Diocese of Albany convention web-site here.

    Bishop Andrus of California: same sex marriage guidelines

    The following letter has been sent to all Diocese of California clergy by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus. It encourages all couples, whether gay or straight, to be married in a civil ceremony with blessing to be performed by the clergy. Andrus also encourages all members of the diocese to become volunteer Deputy Marriage Commissioners. He intends to volunteer in this capacity.

    Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage
    June 9, 2008

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry. I am writing to you now to recommend a path to use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers, and our continued witness to God’s inclusive love.

    Clergy and lay leaders in the diocese have been working for the rights of LGBT people and for their full inclusion in our Church for more than forty years. Today, we continue to walk a journey that includes:

    Bringing the witness of our LGBT sisters and brothers to this summer’s Lambeth Conference,
    Combating a ballot initiative this November that will attempt to take away the rights recently recognized by the California Supreme Court,
    Providing leadership at next summer's General Convention to bring our marriage practices and theology in line with our fundamental baptismal theology.

    For far too long the onus has fallen on marginalized people to bear the burden of inequalities that exist within the Church, and the decision by our state’s Supreme Court has given us the opportunity to level the playing field.

    To that end, the Diocese of California seeks to provide, by advocacy and example, a way forward for The Episcopal Church so that the marriage of same-sex couples will be a part of our official marriage rites, without distinction. Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples be treated equally by the Church, as they are equally loved by God.

    I therefore provide you with the following pastoral guidelines:

    I urge you to encourage all couples, regardless of orientation, to follow the pattern of first being married in a secular service and then being blessed in the Episcopal Church. I will publicly urge all couples to follow this pattern. For now, the three rites approved for trial use under the pastoral direction of the bishop, adopted by resolution at the 2007 Diocesan Convention (see appendix below), should be commended to all couples (again, regardless of orientation) to bless secular marriages.

    All marriages should be performed by someone in one of the secular categories set forth in California Family Code, section 400 (see appendix), noting that any person in the state of California can be deputized to perform civil marriages. The proper sphere for Episcopal clergy is the blessing portion of the marriage.

    The understanding of The Episcopal Church currently is that blessings are an extension of the pastoral office of the bishop. I ask that you continue to inform me of all same-sex blessings.

    Couples who have been married under the auspices of the California Supreme Court ruling must have the same pre-marriage counseling as that required of any couple seeking marriage or blessing of marriage in The Episcopal Church. This should be understood as an offering of the Church’s support for marriage.

    I urge Episcopalians, clergy and lay, to volunteer as Deputy Marriage Commissioners. There are over 4,000 civil same-sex marriages planned in a short period of time in the city of San Francisco alone and the city is asking for help in meeting demand. I intend to volunteer for this at my earliest opportunity. This would be one sign of affirmation for the Supreme Court ruling from our diocese. By city requirement, clergy will not be allowed to wear collars when presiding at secular marriages. (For more information about how to be deputized, see the attached appendix.)

    All people receiving blessings of civil marriages in the Diocese of California are free to use the same degree of publicity (e.g., newspaper notices).

    These are interim measures as the Diocese of California and The Episcopal Church continue our journey in the context of this prophetic opportunity provided by the California Supreme Court’s ruling. I have already initiated a process to arrive at a more studied, permanent answer for Episcopal clergy presiding at same-sex marriages in this diocese. That process includes the formation of a panel of diocesan clergy to make recommendations about how to move toward equality of marriage rites for all people. These recommendations will be discussed across the diocese resulting in an official diocesan policy.

    In the coming days, I will publicly state my opposition to the initiative to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. The Diocese of California will publish advertising around June 17 celebrating the Supreme Court ruling and inviting same-sex couples to our churches for pre-marital counseling and nourishment in communities of faith.

    As always, I welcome your wisdom, your insights and your input on these matters, and I continue in my commitment to work for a Church that sees all of God’s children through the same eyes that God does.

    Peace,
    The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
    Bishop
    Diocese of California

    Appendix to Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage

    Deputy Commissioners of Marriage in the County of San Francisco

    If you would like to assist with marriages in the County of San Francisco, you will need to be deputized as a Deputy Marriage Commissioner. Help is needed from June 17 - 28, and you will be asked to work one of the following complete shifts: 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 12:30 to 5 p.m.; 5 to 7:30 p.m. If you would like to volunteer, send an email to olga.ryerson@sfgov.org: include "Deputy Marriage Commissioner" in the subject line.

    In other counties, you can contact the County Clerk's office for information about how to become a Deputy Marriage Commissioner. As of June 9, 2008, there is no expressed need from other counties within the Diocese of California for volunteer Deputy Marriage Commissioners.

    Blessing Rites
    The three rites approved by Diocesan Convention 2007 can be downloaded here. Click on the link "CMB 2007 Report" to download a PDF. The Rites are found on pages 11 - 43 of the report.

    The State of California code follows:

    Read more »

    Bishop Shaw blesses Pride marchers

    Ethan Jacobs of Bay Windows writes:

    After the high-energy spectacle of the Pride parade about 30 revelers headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a more subdued but no less heartfelt celebration of Pride. Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw, fresh from marching in the parade, led worshippers in song and prayers. During the service worshippers lined up in the center aisle of the cathedral, coming up as individuals and as couples, and Shaw laid his hands on them and blessed them.

    A message from Bishop Sisk

    Via email, a letter to the clergy of the Diocese of New York:

    June 23, 2008

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Some of you may have seen an article in The Daily News of June 15, 2008, entitled "How Crips, Bloods & Latin Kings 'baptize' kids Baby gangstas." The claim of the article is that babies are being blessed into gangs in one of our churches by a priest of this diocese. If the facts are as reported, this is extremely distressing and completely contrary to the longheld stance of this church. I am taking immediate steps to review and address the matter.

    I believe deeply in the importance of mission and creative outreach to the community and strongly encourage such initiatives. However, if accurate, the actions as reported in the Daily News are damaging to our common life.

    Faithfully,

    +Mark


    Read the Daily News article here.

    Same sex marriage and Christian theology

    From Bishop John Bryson Chane's op-ed column in today's issue of The Guardian:

    Archbishop Rowan Williams has tried to take the issue of gay marriage off the table at the Lambeth Conference, which begins in three weeks. But the celebration of a gay relationship at one of London’s oldest churches last month, and the well-publicised gathering of anti-gay Anglicans in Jerusalem this week, suggest the controversy must eventually be faced squarely.

    Conservative Christians say opening marriage to gay couples would undermine an immutable institution founded on divine revelation. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the excitable primate of the Church of Uganda, calls it blasphemy. But, theologically, support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition, but a recognition that the church’s understanding of marriage has changed dramatically over 2,000 years.

    Read more »

    CANA wins another round

    A Virginia circuit court judge has ruled that the statute governing possession of church property in case of a division is consititutional. An appeal to the state's Supreme Court is likely.

    Judge Randy Bellows' opinion concludes:

    Today, this Court finds that 57-9(A), as applied, is constitutional. Specifically, this Court finds that the statute, as applied in the instant case, does not violate the Free Exercise or Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment, nor does it violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, nor does it violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

    For 141 years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has had a statute available to congregations experiencing divisions for the purpose of resolving church property disputes. 57-9(A) did not parachute into this dispute from a clear blue sky. Its existence cannot have been a surprise to any party to this litigation, each of whom is charged with knowledge of its contents and, more significantly, its import. That the Commonwealth of Virginia, in enacting and reenacting a "division" statute, may be unique among our fellow states is of no considerable moment, for in a federalist system each State is free to determine its own path for the resolution of church property disputes within constitutional boundaries. Whether 57-9(A) would be constitutional absent the ability of a church to hold property in forms that would place such property beyond the reach of 57-9(A) is a hypothetical question which this Court need not address; the Code of Virginia most certainly does provide for such alternative forms of church property ownership. That the Diocese availed itself of this alternative ownership in some cases but chose not to do so in others (and not in the instant cases) does not turn a constitutional statute into an unconstitutional one. Nor is the statute rendered unconstitutional because it requires this Court to make factual findings in a matter involving religious organizations. It is not mere semantics to observe that there is a difference-a constitutionally significant difference-between a finding involving a religious organization and a religious finding. While it is true of course that 57-9(A) requires the Court to make factual findings involving religious entities, each of those findings are secular in nature. Hence, for this and all the other reasons cited in this Opinion, 57-9(A) is constitutiona1.69

    The diocese statement reads:

    Today’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Division Statute in Virginia is regrettable and reaches beyond the Episcopal Church to all hierarchical churches in the Commonwealth. We continue to believe that this Division Statute is clearly at odds with and uniquely hostile to religious freedom, the First Amendment and prior U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court rulings. We are unwavering in these beliefs and will explore fully every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia.

    The Diocese remains steadfast in its commitment to current and future generations of loyal Episcopalians and will continue to pursue every legal option available to ensure that they will be able to worship in the churches their Episcopal ancestors built.


    The CANA press release states:
    “We are pleased with Judge Bellows’ ruling today. After meticulous examination, the judge ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute against all of the Free Exercise, Establishment, Equal Protection, and Takings Clause challenges raised by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Diocese of Virginia. The Division Statute states that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when a group of congregations divide from the denomination. Therefore, TEC and Diocese had no legal right to our property. We have maintained all along that our churches’ own trustees hold title for the benefit of these congregations. It’s also gratifying to see the judge recognize that the statute means what it says—it’s ‘conclusive’ of ownership. We’re thrilled to see this litigation nearing an end,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV.

    The Opinion can be read here:
    Court Issues Opinion on Division Statute Constitutionality and Other Statutory Issues (June 27).

    Updated with Reuters.

    Updated with Washington Post.

    Whither Pittsburgh?

    Lionel Deimel, an Episcopal layperson in the Diocese of Pittsburgh writes of some of the preparatory steps being taken in that diocese by laity and clergy from across the spectrum who wish to remain Episcopalian should there be a vote by other members of the Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church.

    Deimel reports the formation of a new broadly representative group:

    "In January of this year, 12 right-leaning clergy wrote ‘to the people and clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’ that they intended to work within The Episcopal Church, rather than leaving it. This communication had been a long time in coming, and it provided the opportunity for the group that had been meeting with church officials in Western Maryland to invite the 12 priests and representative laypeople of similar persuasion to join the discussions about the future of the diocese.

    The group that had been meeting with church representatives in Maryland, joined by conservative clergy and an increasing number of conservative laypeople, began conversation tentatively and with some mutual suspicion. Initially, the group deliberately remained nameless—thereby avoiding a potentially divisive discussion—though it has come informally to be called the ‘Across the Aisle’ group. Although there is some reluctance to use the terms, the part of the group that developed from the original PEP*-initiated discussions is know as the ‘Gospel side,’ and the group of more-recently-added conservatives is known as the ‘Epistle side.’ Happily, these terms are being used less and less, as the ‘sides’ are increasingly concerning themselves with the mechanics of reorganizing the diocese so as to discourage the divisiveness that have characterized Pittsburgh in the recent past.

    PEP has perhaps become known for its rhetoric because its marginalization within the diocese provided little opportunity for it to accomplish very much, at least through diocesan institutions that have been firmly in the hands of the bishop and his supporters. The Across the Aisle group, on the other hand, sees a realistic opportunity to gain power only a few months from now, and it has neither the time nor the established mechanisms to articulate for the wider diocese and church what it intends to do with that power. The increasing harmony and dedication of the group to the task at hand, however, is quite encouraging."

    Read the full article here.

    *[PEP stands for Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh -ed]

    Calvary petitions the court for monitor of Diocese of Pittsburgh

    Lionel Deimel:

    As the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh heads toward a “realignment” vote on October 4, 2008, when Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan plans to declare the entire diocese removed from The Episcopal Church to become a diocese of the province of the Southern Cone, loyal Episcopalians in Pittsburgh are becoming increasingly anxious about the looming apocalypse. Yesterday, however, they were given some reason to cheer, as Calvary Church attorney Walter P. DeForest rode to court on his white horse to file papers with the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Calvary is petitioning the court to appoint a “monitor to inventory and oversee property held or administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to assure compliance with this court's order of October 14, 2005,” as well as to request “creation of an additional escrow account(s)” for parishes concerned about the use of their funds by the diocese for the benefit of a church other than The Episcopal Church.

    Recall that Calvary sued Bishop Duncan and other leaders of the diocese in October 2003, as resolutions proposed by the bishop and passed by a special convention in September were clearly designed to facilitate the removal of property from the control of The Episcopal Church.

    Read Deimel's post for a full account including links to the filing.

    For further background check out this Daily Episcopalian post from December 2006.

    Addendum: ENS has a thorough report with background.

    Lamb to San Joaquin clergy: Are you in?

    The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin reports that Bishop Jerry Lamb, who leaves for Lambeth tomorrow, has asked all deacons and priests of the Diocese of San Joaquin to decide whether they will uphold their ordination vows to “...conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church“ and to make this commitment, in writing, by August 5.

    The letter outlined three choices: 1) remain a clergy member of The Episcopal Church, 2) no longer “exercise ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church ... for reasons not affecting my moral character” or 3) declare no longer consider self to be a clergy in The Episcopal Church. While stating his hope clergy would elect to remain clergy members in The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lamb noted that the second option leaves the door open to return. In his letter Bishop Lamb stated he is “committed to providing you every opportunity to communicate with me regarding these issues.... It is important that we reach clarity so that we each may move forward.” Noting that he had made numerous attempts to invite priests and deacons into conversation, he again stated his willingness to talk with anyone.
    The complete release and a copy of the letter itself is available from the home page of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

    Pa. Standing Committee wants Bennison deposed

    John T. Connolly of the Philadephia Bulletin writes:

    The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has issued its opinion that the bishop should be deposed for covering up the sexual abuse of his brother.

    Read more »

    Update on Pittsburgh

    Lionel Deimel, a lay person in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who is opposed to efforts to realign the Episcopal Diocese and remove it from the Episcopal Church, and perhaps from a connection with the Archbishop of Canterbury, has posted his analysis of the latest filing by that diocese in response to a lawsuit brought by one of the congregations.

    Read more »

    Backtracking in Fort Worth

    As we reported last week, there was an apparent attempt to take the Diocese of Fort Worth to the Roman Catholic Church. Katie Sherrod, who lives in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and who first broke this story, now reports that the following email was sent to clergy in the Diocese last night:

    Read more »

    Bishop of Pittsburgh has concerns

    The Bishop of PIttsburgh, Bob Duncan, currently charged with abandonment of this church, has written a letter regarding his concerns about the Windsor Continuation Group:

    Read more »

    Getting off the fence in San Joaquin

    Episcopal Bishop Jerry Lamb sent a letter dated yesterday to the active clergy in San Joaquin who have not yet recognized his authority within the Diocese—giving them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they are still undecided, but also giving them a date by which they need to make up their minds. From a diocesan press release:

    Bishop Jerry Lamb directed all active clergy who have not indicated their recognition of him as the duly authorized ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of San Joaquin to do so by September 5, 2008 or potentially face disciplinary action.

    In his letter Bishop Lamb stated that he did not "relish" using disciplinary action, adding "I would prefer to engage you in conversation and reconciliation."

    This is a followup action after his July 10 letter asking, Are you in? We covered that one here. According to the release, some one-third of the priests answered that yes, they are staying.

    The release and the letter are available from the San Joaquin website as PDFs here.


    This letter follows a previous letter mailed July 10 requesting each clergy member to confirm his or her status in the Episcopal Church. About one-third of the active clergy members living in the diocese responded to this letter by stating their desire to remain in the Episcopal Church. According to the Canons of the Episcopal Church, clergy who do not comply with a directive of their bishop may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline for violation of their ordination vows or other offenses. They also may lose their eligibility for church medical insurance as well as further contributions to the church's pension fund.

    Prior to the letters of July and August, Bishop Lamb extended invitations to all clergy to participate in the Special Convention held in March of this year, and personally invited clergy to talk with him individually or through a "reconciliation tour" in June 2008. Letters were not sent to clergy who are inactive, or who are no longer residing in the diocese.

    A copy of the letter is posted on the diocesan website (www.diosanjoaquin.org ).

    Court maintains freeze on San Joaquin Diocesan accounts

    Updated to include Living Church story

    The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has issued a press release (pdf) reproduced in full below:

    August 26, 2008

    Court maintains freeze on Episcopal Diocesan accounts pending litigation

    In April the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin filed a lawsuit to recover the property and the assets of the Diocese from its former bishop, John-David Schofield. As a result of this lawsuit several of the disputed investment accounts and related funds belonging to the Diocese were frozen.

    In a hearing yesterday, the Court adopted a stipulation and ordered that these accounts may only be accessed with the consent of the Episcopal Diocese and/or by further order of the Court. Several of the affected accounts included those critical to the operations of the Evergreen Conference Center in Oakhurst (ECCO).

    Bishop Jerry Lamb called the continuation of ECCO’s ministry “critical.” At the direction of the Episcopal Diocesan Council, the Chancellor for the Diocese and attorneys for the Episcopal Church contacted Mr. Schofield’s attorneys to negotiate terms for interim access to funds to support camp operations, including staff salaries, daily operations and certain capital improvements. According to the order and stipulation, the ECCO management will provide operational and financial information to the Episcopal Diocese and report to Diocesan Council.

    Copies of the Court’s Order and Stipulation are posted on the diocesan website (www.diosanjoaquin.org).

    The Court has set a tentative date of August 24, 2009 to hear the lawsuit.

    Direct links to the Court's Order (4 page pdf image file) and Stipulation (14 page pdf image file).

    See this Living Church story on the court's decision.

    Annnoucement: Unity event for Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese

    Updated: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A unity event is planned for those in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh who are opposed to constitutional changes that would purportedly take the diocese out of The Episcopal Church. The press release issued by the group Across the Aisle issued today reads, in part:

    A coalition of Episcopal clergy and laypeople today invited everyone in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to an event promoting diocesan unity. “A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternative Solution” will present the case for rejecting proposals that, purportedly, would remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church. Speakers will explain how continuity of the diocese as a judicatory of The Episcopal Church will be maintained irrespective of the outcome of the vote on “realignment” at the October 4 diocesan convention.

    “A Hopeful Future” will be presented at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Rd., Mt. Lebanon, Pa., from 1 to 3 pm on Saturday, September 13, 2008.
    ...
    Most elected leaders of the Episcopal diocese have supported constitutional and canonical changes promoted by Bishop Robert Duncan to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church. The constitutional changes will be voted on for the second and final time at the October 4 diocesan convention to be held in Monroeville.

    The Episcopal Church has taken the position that individuals may leave the church but that parishes and dioceses are integral components that cannot separate. Those who vote for “realignment” and plan to leave The Episcopal Church may neither hold office in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh nor retain control of its assets. If convention approves the proposed measures, vacated leadership positions will have to be filled by Episcopalians staying in the church, and core diocesan functions will be performed under new leadership until the diocese regains control of diocesan assets.
    Read the entire press release here.

    Lionel Deimel explains, "event has two main purposes: (1) to encourage deputies to vote against “realignment” and (2) to explain how the diocese will be reorganized if the vote succeeds."

    The Guardian takes note

    Riazat Butt of the Guardian has written a brief article about Bishop John Bryson Chane's column on the Lambeth Conference that appeared on the Cafe earlier this week.

    She writes:

    His comments, in an article called Stop the Scapegoating, published on a US website, are the most scathing yet about Williams, and he is the first US liberal to break ranks with his church and condemn Lambeth. Bishops from the Episcopal church maintained a united front at Canterbury, despite internal divisions over central issues, and remained on-message by stressing the positives. His assessment is more critical than the one issued by primates from the breakaway conservative movement the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon).

    Do you agree with her interpretation of the column?

    Joint meeting between Quincy and Springfield

    Last weekend there was a meeting between the clergy, bishops and laity of the Dioceses of Springfield and Quincy. The meeting was described by the bishops as forum for assessment rather than a decision making body.

    Both Bishops Ackerman and Beckwith reported on their experiences at Lambeth and at the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem. An open forum followed where members of the laity and clergy of the dioceses asked questions of a panel which included the bishops.

    The most interesting bit of news from the meeting is that Bishop Beckwith explicitly stated, according to the reporter who sent us notes from the meeting, that he intended to remain canonically part of the TEC House of Bishops and that he did not believe that a bishop had the authority to take a diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

    You can read an edited version of the notes from the meeting below:

    Read more »

    Property case reaches top NY court

    AP:

    With about 100 similar cases in courts around the country, diocese attorney Thomas P. Smith said this appeared to be the first to reach a state's top court. At issue is whether the parishioners who built the church own it, or whether they simply held it in trust for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA and the diocese under the national church's 1979 Dennis Canons.
    ...
    Trial and midlevel appeals courts sided with the diocese, concluding it was entitled to the property under the canon rules.

    The parish in suburban Irondequoit quit supporting the diocese and the Episcopal Church of the USA after the 2003 ordination of its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

    In November 2005, a majority of delegates at the Rochester diocesan convention voted to end their relationship with All Saints.

    The Rev. David Harnish, the All Saints rector, notified the diocese a month later that the parish had been placed under the authority of Archbishop Henry Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda.

    The diocese sued and has since sold the building to another Protestant denomination for about $450,000. Smith said they're holding the funds depending on how the Court of Appeals rules. He said the case could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
    ...
    Philip Fileri, chancellor of the Rochester Diocese, told The Associated Press that five or six parishes from Long Island, Binghamton and the Buffalo area, out of 300 to 400 statewide have taken similar steps. "Nationally, it's also very small, too," he said.


    Report from Fort Worth Bishop and Standing Committee

    Excerpt:

    After months of prayerful discernment and extensive consultation with others, both within our own diocese and beyond, we have come to the following conclusion. We recommend that this Diocese affiliate with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone as a member diocese, on a temporary, pastoral basis, until such time as an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion can be established in North Americsa (sic).

    We have been in conversation about this matter with the Committee on Constitution and Canons, and they will be presenting to Convention the necessary changes to our constitution and canons to enact this realignment.

    Read it and previous related reports at the diocesan website.

    In a message to clergy, convention delegates, and vestry members, the Executive Committee gives its endorsement and states, "The recommendation will be presented to clergy and delegates to the upcoming 26th Annual Convention for consideration on Nov. 14 & 15, 2008."

    Katie Sherrod writes the reports from the bishop and Standing Committee lead "to the absolutely unsurprising recommendation that the diocese affiliate with the Southern Cone -- which it can't legally do, but that little reality does not bother these guys one teeny bit."

    Diocese will forgo voting issue, prepares for appeal

    In advance of the October 6th trial the Diocese of Virginia made news by announcing in a statement that it plans an appeal of the 57-9 "Division Statute," and in order to move expeditiously to appeal it will not contest "the validity and fairness of the voting procedures used by the CANA congregations." As a result, "In a trial beginning on October 6, the Court will examine precisely which property is subject to the Division Statute petitions filed by CANA congregations."

    The basis of the appeal will be freedom of religion and the constitutionality of 57-9:

    The Diocese is steadfast in its goal of returning faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and restoring the full and time-honored protections of the First Amendment and the Virginia Constitution for religious freedom.

    "The court proceedings of the past several months have shown that the Division Statute, which exists only in Virginia, is uniquely hostile to religious freedom and our faith. We are resolute in our commitment to pursue every avenue in seeking the return of Episcopalians who have been exiled from their church homes," said Bishop Lee.
    The full statement is available here.

    Southern Virginia elects new bishop

    The Rev. Herman (Holly) Hollerith was elected on the sixth ballot as the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia.

    Hollerith's biography and answers to the Diocesan Search questions are here.

    According to the local news sources:

    The six candidates collectively represent the full spectrum of views - from opposition to support - around the national Episcopal Church's 2003 endorsement of the ordination of a gay man, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, as bishop in New Hampshire.

    Positions on gay ordination and marriage, and how to interpret Scripture, divide the Episcopal Church from much of the rest of the global Anglican Church of which the denomination is a part.

    Bane, who became bishop in 1998, voted against allowing the Robinson ordination, while the Southern Virginia parish and clergy delegates at the 2003 national meeting voted in favor.

    The internal fight that grew around Bane in 2004 and 2005 was more about personality and management than gay issues.

    In 2004, a diocesan review panel sharply criticized his leadership and cited "major ineptitude" in financial management and a near-total absence of accountability in diocesan operations.

    Bane disputed the critique, saying detractors opposed his leadership style and his stance on Robinson. In 2005, two top diocesan boards called for his resignation.

    A report in fall 2005 by a panel of outside bishops said dysfunctional relations among clergy, lay leaders and bishops had plagued the diocese for decades and required "deep systemic change."

    Bane announced shortly before the report that he would retire in February 2006.

    ... most of the candidates cited the diocese's past feuding and described themselves as bridge-builders and uniters.

    "That was certainly something we were aiming for that, whoever was nominated would come in as a healing presence," said the Rev. John A. Baldwin, who was on the candidate nominating committee. He leads Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach.


    Read it at Pilot Online

    Nominees for bishop were:

    The Very Reverend Edward H. Harrison
    Dean, St. John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, FL

    The Rev. Herman “Holly” Hollerith, IV
    Rector, Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, VA

    The Rev. Dr. Ladson F. Mills III
    Rector, Christ Church, Saint Simons Island, GA

    The Rev. Canon E. Daniel Smith
    Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Missouri

    The Rev. L. Murdock Smith
    Rector, St. Martin’s, Charlotte, NC

    The Rev. Mary C. Sulerud
    Canon for Deployment and Vocational Ministry,
    Diocese of Washington, DC

    The San Joaquin precedent

    Ann Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes: Although much about San Joaquin's experience is unique, its story is instructive about the problems that may lie ahead for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, which will vote Saturday on whether to join San Joaquin in seceding.

    A taste:

    For those who remain part of the U.S. church, hard work lies ahead to ensure that the new leadership never becomes as lopsided toward one point of view as the old was, Ms. [Nancy] Key said.

    "Those of us who have been in this from the beginning have been a little bit like cowboys exploring the wild West. We are used to taking charge and being a little bit counter-establishment. Now we are the establishment," she said.

    "We have families that are divided. You have close friends in parishes where one thought the Episcopal Church was correct and others thought the bishop was correct. They were forced to choose sides, so it is painful. We have had a lot of fun rebuilding, but there is a lot of healing that needs to go on."

    Meanwhile in Pittsburgh

    October 4, the Diocese of Pittsburgh will take its final vote on whether members will follow their former bishop, Bob Duncan, to the Province of the Southern Cone. Meanwhile Episcopalians are planning for their future with The Episcopal Church according to Dr. Joan Gundersen, a leader among these Episcopalians. She reports on the current state of the diocese:

    1. Since his deposition, Bishop Duncan has been acting as a paid “consultant” to the current Standing Committee and has been received into the Southern Cone as a bishop; Bishop Henry Scriven also has a consulting contract, since his status as Assistant Bishop ended with Bishop Duncan’s deposition. Bishop Scriven leaves for a new position with SAMS, [a missionary society] at the end of the year. There will need be no negotiation with Bishop Duncan about leaving. He has already left, and should the realignment vote pass, is expecting to be invited back by the realigned group as bishop.

    2. While most of the Standing Committee favors realignment, we are sure that at least one member is voting against it. We also have members of Diocesan Council and the Board of Trustees who are staying. This means that we will have an unbroken chain of governance to go forward as a diocese within TEC should the realignment vote pass. It will take a short time to confirm with each member of the various governing bodies whether they have realigned or remain Episcopalians, and then our remaining member(s) of standing committee will begin appointing people to essential vacant spots. We will be able to run our own reorganizing convention. Thanks to planning by the Across the Aisle group which has brought together everyone we can find who is staying (liberal, conservative, or in-between), plans for a continuing presence of TEC are well in hand. We will need to negotiate with the realigned group over access to office information and issues such as insurance. We are putting plans in place for everything from office space and web site to lay-reader training and the care and tending of parishes who are without clergy. It won’t be easy, and we are sure to be short of funds at first. However, passage of realignment is not a sure thing. There is a strong core of congregations and individuals committed to staying.

    3. Should the realignment vote fail, we will have a bishopless diocese that is internally divided and in need of healing. We will also experience a rolling set of resignations as certain leaders and congregations individually withdraw. Should the vote pass, we will have an externally divided diocese and a number of deeply wounded parishes. Either way, we will need everyone’s prayers.

    4. Those of us opposed to realignment have at every convention tried to have the chair rule that the amendments concerning the accession clause are out of order, and have at every convention reminded people of their fiduciary duties. We are prepared to do so again.

    5. Because of the lawsuit filed in 2003 by Calvary Episcopal Church (and others), a signed stipulation on property resulted in 2005. The return to court by Calvary in 2006 resulted this fall in an appointment by the court of a special master who is inventorying diocesan property and reporting to the judge supervising the case. Thus, the status of property issues in Pittsburgh is very different from San Joaquin or Fort Worth. The 2005 stipulation signed by Bishop Duncan states that all diocesan (not parish) property belongs to the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.” We believe that the meaning of this is clear and have every confidence that the judge will enforce this agreement. On the other hand, institutions such as Sheldon Calvary Camp will not turn away a child from a realigned group, and so the camp will, in that sense (but not in a governing sense), remain available to all in the region. The stipulation also includes a process for negotiating property settlements with parishes leaving TEC.

    6. Our Cathedral parish has announced a plan where they would be neutral, serve the entire region, and participate in both the realigned and continuing dioceses. It is not clear whether this will be workable, but they are certainly going to give it a good try.

    The best thing TEC can do for Pittsburgh should the realignment measures pass at convention is to recognize and support those who are going to ensure a continuing presence of TEC in this part of Pennsylvania.

    Read more here.

    Fort Worth members: NOT time to realign

    In the most recent Forward in Mission, the diocesan newsletter, Bishop Jack Iker give 10 reasons why now is the time to realign. John S. Morgan, a founding member of Fort Worth Via Media, responded with 10 Reasons Why is NOT the Time to Realign. Read it all below...

    HT to Desert's Child.

    Read more »

    Quincy standing committee votes to realign

    While the Bishop of Harare is encouraged by developments at Lambeth, and the Archbishop Ian Ernest has "called upon the African church to put aside its differences and engage with its theological opponents within the Anglican Communion," another American diocese moves forward on plans to disengage.

    The Living Church:

    The standing committee of the Diocese of Quincy has recommended that the diocese seek realignment with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone based in Argentina, while continuing as a member of the Common Cause Partnership, according to Fr. James Marshall, president of the standing committee.

    Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy is on sabbatical through the end of October.

    Diocese: Falls Church deeds held by Christ Church

    Washington Times, Julia Duin:

    The diocese [of Virginia] will cite 18th-century cases to argue that the Falls Church, a 276-year-old congregation that is the oldest of the departing parishes, cannot lay claim to its property on 5.5 acres in the city of Falls Church. Attorneys have produced two 18th-century land deeds that say Christ Church possesses the property.

    The deeds, dated March 19 and 20, 1746, say the land was owned by

    Read more »

    Diocese of Western New York: Separation without property dispute

    Updated: The Buffalo News

    The Diocese of Western New York reports:

    On Tuesday, October 7, 2008, the Rt. Rev. J. Michael Garrison, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, met with the Rev. Arthur Ward, rector of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. During that meeting, Ward informed Bishop Garrison of his desire to disaffiliate himself from the Diocese of Western New York, and to transfer from the jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church to a different Anglican entity.

    He also declared that other clergy affiliated with St. Bartholomew’s and some portion of the congregation also intend to leave the Episcopal Church. Ward and others who share his convictions plan to vacate the property at Brighton and Fries Roads before the end of this year.

    “People may come and go, but St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Tonawanda will continue,” state Bishop Garrison. “We are ready and able to carry on with worship, pastoral care and administration. We stand ready to support and work with continuing Episcopalians who have been a part of St. Bartholomew’s, as well as those who have felt disenfranchised by the position of its leadership.

    Read it all here. (PDF version here.)

    Church statistics on St. Bartholomew's here; statistics for the diocese are here.

    Breaking: New day dawns in Pittsburgh

    Updated at bottom with Presiding Bishop's letter

    [From the Rev. Dr. James B. Simons:

    Later in the day, I received a letter by e-mail from David Wilson informing me that the remaining seven members of his Standing Committee consider themselves to be aligned with the Province of The Southern Cone.

    This information was conveyed to the Presiding Bishop’s office and today we received recognition as the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church and because of the absence of a Bishop, the ecclesiastical authority.

    I am also pleased to announce that the Standing Committee has made several staff appoints. Andy Roman has agreed to be our Chancellor, Rich Creehan is Director of Communications, Joan Gunderson is the Treasurer, and Scott Quinn is the Director of Pastoral Care.

    I am also pleased to announce that The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be holding a reorganizing Convention on Saturday December 13th. Details as to time and place will follow shortly.

    This is an exciting time and there is much work to be done but I know that we are equal to the task. Keep all of this in prayer as we move forward in grace as the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    The Presiding Bishop's Letter

    The Rev. Dr. James B. Simons
    St. Michael’s of the Valley Episcopal Church
    P.O. Box 336
    Ligonier, Pennsylvania 15658

    Dear Jim:

    Thank you for your letter of 8 October 2008, advising that you have appointed the Rev. Jeff Murph and Ms. Mary Roehrich to the Standing Committee, and that you are working together to lead the reorganization of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. I give thanks for your efforts, and I pledge my support and that of this Office in this vital task.

    As a first step, and in response to the specific request in your letter, I have asked the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews, Bishop for Pastoral Development, to meet with you and your colleagues on the Standing Committee to assist in obtaining appropriate Episcopal assistance for the Diocese in the coming months.

    I give thanks for the work that the Standing Committee has undertaken and look forward to learning of your progress as you move forward in this mission. You and the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh continue in my prayers and those of Episcopalians across this Church. I remain

    Your servant in Christ,

    Katharine Jefferts Schori


    Visit the diocese's new Web site. To read the diocese's press release, click Read More.

    Read more »

    CA Supremes hear church property case

    The California Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a case that pits the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles against parishes attempting to depart from the church but keep the property. If you are exceedingly interested in this issue (and perhaps rather lonely), you can watch the arguments online. Presbyterian Blogger Steve Salyards tuned in. Among his impressions:

    [T]he general impression I got was that the justices seemed more sympathetic to the denomination's arguments so I would not be surprised to see this decision come out in their favor, not withstanding the justice who sided with neutral principles but was pointing out the "forever bound."

    I must admit that in listening to the arguments I was bothered by the way the argument was made that the property was somehow separate from the ecclesiastical law. I do realize that this was an argument from a legal perspective, but it just hit me wrong that somehow the property was separated as different in the mission to follow and serve Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

    As I mentioned, if I had to bet on this one hour alone I would expect the denomination to win. However, there are a lot of other parts to this case and it was clear that different justices were focusing on different aspects. When the decision finally comes down it will be interesting to see what of today's proceedings is found in it.

    For background on the case check our earlier post.

    Addendum. Thanks to reader Rodney Davis we have the Cal Law Reporter's take on the court proceedings: "The California Supreme Court indicated strongly during oral arguments Wednesday that parishes don't keep their property once they leave. That stays with the greater church based on canons that place all parish property in trust when the local parish originally joins the overall church."

    Real San Joaquin stands up

    Episkofest 2008 is the name given the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin to be held at Church of the Saviour in Hanford. The annual diocesan convention includes election of Standing Committee and Executive Council members, approval of the budget and resolutions. Among the eleven resolutions submitted in advance of convention are a resolution on conduct of clergy and a resolution calling for the creation of an equality commission. The business portion of convention is scheduled for Saturday morning, October 25.

    Convention also includes 33 workshops, most presented by individuals in the diocese, a carnival-style event and hamburger dinner on Friday night, a chili dinner on Saturday night, and worship services throughout. Episkofest will conclude with Eucharist at 10 am on Sunday morning. Over 200 people are expected to attend.

    Additional information, including resolutions submitted, proposed budget and Episkofest schedule, is available on the diocesan website: http://www.diosanjoaquin.org/convention/index.html

    Devlin in Wonderland

    Parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have received a very strange letter from former Bishop Robert Duncan's chancellor, Robert G. Devlin. Lionel Deimel advises them to ignore it.

    Also check out the interview Bob Duncan gave to Christianity Today.

    Fort Worth and Dallas sought to usurp role of General Convention

    The Bishop of Fort Worth writes that he and other diocesan leaders have been discussing associate status in the Diocese of Dallas for congregations in Fort Worth who want to remain in The Episcopal Church when he and others move into the Province of the Southern Cone.

    In late January, I asked 12 of the senior, most respected priests of the Diocese to begin meeting together as a clergy discussion group to assist me in addressing the tensions and conflicts involved in the life of our Diocese as we move toward a Diocesan Convention vote in November to separate from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. I am sorry to report that after several meetings over the months, they have been unable to agree on any proposed remedy for the divisions that face us.
    .....
    At the same time as these conversations were going on, a group of diocesan officials from Fort Worth were meeting with our counterparts in the Diocese of Dallas to see if a pastoral agreement could be worked out between our two dioceses, whereby parishes in Fort Worth that wanted to remain in TEC could do so as part of the Dallas Diocese. These meetings included the Bishops, Chancellors, Canons to the Ordinary, and Presidents of the Standing Committees of the two dioceses. We came up with a proposal whereby, under certain conditions, Fort Worth parishes and clergy could have “associate membership” in Dallas, including seat, voice and vote at their Convention, and their property could be placed temporarily in the name of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, to be held in trust for their use.
    ...
    Mr. Beers stated that neither the PB nor the General Convention would support such a plan, and without their support, the Fort Worth parishes [we thought would like to pursue such an arrangement] were unwilling to continue steps to implement the plan.

    According to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church only General Convention can approve rearrangement of congregations and the dioceses to which they belong. The Diocese of Fort Worth will continue to be a diocese of The Episcopal Church regardless of the vote of the diocesan convention and the bishop.

    Read it all here.

    The Dallas Morning News reports here. Some of those commenting seem to understand the situation better than the bishop and his associates.

    From Bishop Bruno

    Dear Sisters and Brothers,

    The Supreme Court of California has determined that all citizens of our state should have equal access to marriage as a civil right based in our state constitution. The Court's ruling provides the Church with an opportunity to reflect on our own theology of marriage. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, we have sought to provide the Church's blessing to all the baptized people of God.

    Among those are people who have sought to have same-sex relationships blessed in the community of faith. I know that the acceptance of same-sex unions has caused spiritual struggle and questioning for some members of our Diocese, our Church and the Anglican Communion. My policy has been to allow clergy to respond to the needs of their community with pastoral sensitivity including the blessing of these unions as they deem appropriate to the pastoral context.

    Earlier this year, when the court made same-sex marriage an option in civil law, I felt it necessary to convene a task force to develop a diocesan policy by which clergy in our Diocese might officiate at same-sex marriages. The task force has developed educational materials that I hope will help you and members of our Diocese to reflect on the issues involved in same sex-marriage as we discern our way forward.

    I hope that all clergy in our Diocese might educate our congregations about marriage and have conversations about it.

    Performing and blessing these marriages is not simply theoretical. There are real people in congregations large and small who have waited sometimes for many years for this opportunity, and the witness of their faithful love has been an inspiration to me. Other couples will step forward in the future. I hope you will take the opportunity in the next several weeks to listen to their stories. Many among these couples are members of our congregations.

    While no one in this Diocese will be forced to move beyond what his or her conscience allows, we seek to provide that gracious space for those whose conscience compels them to bless the marriages of all faithful people as together we discern the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead us into all truth.

    Your Brother in Christ,
    J. Jon Bruno
    Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles

    Diocese of Virginia will appeal Fairfax court rulings

    A letter from Bishop Peter James Lee (emphasis added)

    October 16, 2008

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    Every day God calls us to remain faithful together at the foot of the cross. The mutual support and community we share in the Diocese of Virginia is a clear sign of our faithfulness to this call. Especially important in these challenging times is the support we offer the faithful Episcopalians in our continuing congregations as they serve the mission of the Church.

    The Circuit Court of Fairfax County has heard evidence related to ownership of disputed church properties. Despite our claim that these properties are held in trust for many generations of Episcopalians, from the past to the future, we have received some unfavorable rulings, including one this week which declared that property acquired for the Church of Christ Redeemer was transferred properly to Truro Church. Next week the Diocese will present evidence which we believe shows that Christ Church, Alexandria is the owner of the historic church of the Falls Church. The trial will conclude next week and we expect a ruling in late November or early December.

    While these legal rulings have been disheartening, I pray that you remain mindful of our larger common mission. It is our duty to band together to see that all Episcopalians may worship in their own churches. It is our privilege to live and worship here in Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom. We must not allow the government to dictate how people of any faith organize and govern themselves nor where they may gather in prayer.

    Let me assure you that the Diocese of Virginia will vigorously appeal every court decision that denies any Episcopalians their rightful church homes. The Diocese of Virginia has experienced challenges in the past and we have always come through renewed and strengthened in our mission to serve Christ's church. Virginia will do so again.

    Please continue to keep all those affected by this trial in your hearts and prayers.

    Faithfully,

    Peter James Lee
    Bishop of Virginia

    Church property: we are stewards, not owners

    A brief essay by Dean George Werner, former President of the House of Deputies via Lionel Deimel's blog:

    I reluctantly, and with sadness, find I must reply to an argument being offered concerning the property of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The claim has been made that the property belongs to those who are currently tending it. One of the clearest of principles in The Episcopal Church (and many others) is that we are stewards, not owners. It is a scriptural concept, that we are the temporary managers whose job description is to maintain and enhance (see Parable of the Talents, Mt. 25:14–30) that with which we have been entrusted and then pass it on to our successor.

    It has worked brilliantly for centuries. Clergy are entrusted with Church buildings, land, chalices, vestments, linens, and other appointments of worship and community. Our generous forebears have left behind dedicated funds for music, for scholarships, for endowments, for personnel positions, and for maintenance of all the above.

    Unfortunately, from time to time, some group makes the judgment that “this time is special” and that “we are more able, more effective, more holy, more scriptural, more just, or more righteous than others. Therefore, we must take ownership of that we once accepted in trust as stewards.” But I would think that such a self-praising judgment needs to be left to the One true Judge, who will separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the chaff.

    I question neither the sincerity nor the commitment of such folk. I understand that I am a dinosaur who actually believes that vows should be taken seriously. At my Ordinations to Diaconate and Priesthood, not only did I respond orally and positively to accept the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church, but I also signed the documents of that vow before the ceremony could be continued.

    I believe in the Communion of Saints. For me that includes the hundreds and the thousands of wonderful lay people who gave so much of their time, talent, and treasure to build these communities and then passed them on to another generation. In both our sacred and secular worlds, there are too few voices of gratitude for those who have given us so much and too many shouts of “mine” in this difficult moment of God’s history.

    This is my thirtieth year as part of this Diocesan family. When I arrived, we were just completing the last significant Diocesan fund raising for mission. Though other campaigns were proposed, none came to fruition. So the property and funds in question were the product of decades and centuries. (I was a steward for Trinity Cathedral for more than twenty years of Trinity’s twenty-five decades of history.)

    Serving as a steward was a great honor and privilege for me and I never felt the need or desire to be an owner of such a treasured place and gloried history. But then, I am a dinosaur who believes in vows and commitments, and dinosaurs are best known for being extinct.

    — George Werner, 31st President of the House of Deputies; Dean Emeritus, Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh

    LA Diocese produces education materials on same-sex marriage

    The education materials that Bishop J. Jon Bruno mentioned in his letter posted Thursday are now available. An extract:

    While churches are allowed to oppose the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage and refuse to engage in same-sex marriage ceremonies, it is the position of the authors that it falls within our own historic/biblical teaching and practice to support the state’s legislation and to solemnize same-sex marriage as now allowed by the state. Some of the following questions and answers are directed to explaining why we believe this is the case.

    San Diego diocese wins on appeal

    North County Times:

    St. John's Parish broke away from the Episcopal Church USA in July 2006 and aligned with an Anglican diocese in Uganda. After the change, the congregation continued to meet in the same church.

    The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and some members of St. John's who did not want to break away from the Episcopal Church sued St. John's Anglican in September of that year, claiming the Anglican congregation did not have the authority to claim ownership of the building.

    A trial judge ruled in favor of the breakaway members. But the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that the breakaway members "lacked the power and authority" to change the bylaws and articles of incorporation in place when it affiliated with the Episcopal Church in 1973.

    Read the decision (37 pages).

    Unlike some other cases the central issue of this case was control rather than property ownership per se. The court decided which the loyalist vestry was in control.

    This may be the key paragraph in the decision:

    Read more »

    Va. suffragan to "consult" with new Pittsburgh diocese

    The Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones, the bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, has accepted an invitation from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to serve as a "consulting bishop" as it rebuilds.

    Bishop Jones will provide the Pittsburgh diocesan Standing Committee -- the current leadership team -- practical advice on the details of diocesan administration, clergy deployment, and support for congregations remaining in the Episcopal Church in the United States.

    "Bishop Jones's experience in Virginia, especially his pastoral care for congregations that continued with the Episcopal Church, provides us a great resource and guiding hand," said the Rev. James Simons, President of Pittsburgh's Standing Committee.

    The Diocese of Virginia, like Pittsburgh, has seen a handful of parishes seek to "realign" with other Anglican churches outside of the United States. As the bishop suffragan, or assisting bishop, in Virginia, Jones's primary responsibility is for missions and church planting, and he is known to be passionate about church growth.

    "I believe my strongest spiritual gift is the gift of encouragement," Bishop Jones says. "Throughout my entire ordained ministry I have been a listener and a guide. I now offer that to the Episcopalians of Pittsburgh to use as they see fit in rebuilding their diocese. I do not come with any predetermined expectations."

    As a consultant, Bishop Jones will have no ecclesiastical authority in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. That jurisdiction remains with the Standing Committee. He will begin his consulting role immediately. Jones will continue as Virginia's bishop suffragan and maintain his residence in Virginia, spending time in Pittsburgh as needed. He may, on occasion, be asked to perform sacramental duties for Pittsburgh churches.

    Congregations representing twenty Pittsburgh parishes are on record as remaining in the Episcopal Church, with more likely to be identified by the time the Diocese holds its Special Convention on December 13, 2008. At that meeting, vacancies in all elected diocesan offices will be filled. In the coming months, the Standing Committee will name an Assisting Bishop to serve until a permanent diocesan bishop is called – a period that could take up to two years. Bishop Jones is expected to lend advice on naming the Assistant Bishop and continue serving as a consultant until that person is in place.

    Jones, 65, was consecrated the bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia in 1995, making him one of the more senior bishops of the Episcopal Church. He has held numerous leadership positions within the House of Bishops and General Convention. Jones holds degrees from West Virginia University and Virginia Theological Seminary.

    The Bishop has close connections to the Pittsburgh area, but until now, never had an official tie to the Diocese. Born in Youngstown, raised in West Virginia, he visited Pittsburgh often. "I bought my first suit at Kaufmann's downtown," Jones recalls, "and rooted for the Pirates and Steelers."

    Additional information on The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of The Episcopal Church in the United States is available at www.episcopalpgh.org.

    Quincy votes to leave

    The Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy has voted this afternoon to leave the Episcopal Church.

    The vote was announced as

    Clergy 41 yay - 14 nay
    Laity 54 yay - 12 nay

    The resolution (2008-RM-1) that they were voting on can be viewed here.

    The Diocese has also voted to associate with the Province of the Southern Cone. The vote was announced:

    Clergy 46 yay - 4 nay
    Laity 55 yay - 8 nay

    The Diocese was immediately received into the Southern Cone and a Canon of the Diocese was appointed the Ecclesiastical Authority until a new bishop could be elected. The entire diocese was invited to a party in Argentina this evening to celebrate the anniversary of Archbishop Venable's enthronement. New licenses for the clergy will be distributed tomorrow. All clergy resident in the Diocese is automatically now part of the Southern Cone unless they individually act to refuse that transfer.

    In related news, the portion of the Diocese of Pittsburgh which voted to leave the Episcopal Church and become a part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone has elected Bob Duncan to serve as their bishop.

    Addendum: Living Church report on Quincy here.

    And Episcopal Life reports here.

    Addendum 2. Episcopal Life has a very complete report.

    Quincy cathedral reported to remain in The Episcopal Church

    According to the Quad City Times four churches, including the Cathedral, will continue as part of the Episcopal Church. Quoting the Presiding Bishop “We are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs.”

    It now appears that four churches, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., the largest in the diocese, will continue to align with the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, which includes churches in the Iowa Quad-Cities, has no intention of leaving the national affiliation, officials have said.
    ....
    “We pray there will be no litigation,” the Rev. Ed den Blaauwen said Monday. Den Blaauwen, the rector of Christ Church in Moline, is also the newly appointed vicar general of the diocese that is now aligned with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, based in Argentina.

    Church resources would be better used for Christian activities than in the courts, he added.

    The Episcopal Church will protect its history and heritage, said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop of the national church in New York City. Church officials will not give away property to a foreign province, he said, adding, “This is our heritage and, more than that, the heritage of those who have not even come our way yet.”

    The Episcopalian (sic) Church still exists in the Quincy Diocese, Robertson stressed. “Our first concern for followers is that they know that our church continues,” he added.


    According to Episcopal Church statistics Diocese of Quincy membership in 2007 was about 1850 with an average Sunday attendance of 1000 and St. Paul's Cathedral in 2007 was about 400 with an ASA of 220.

    Read the article here.

    Members of Diocese of Fort Worth set to leave -UPDATE

    UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. ET - Fort Worth: members and clergy vote to leave The Episcopal Church

    Clergy and lay delegates, by about an 80 percent margin, approved the secession at the diocese's annual convention, held in a packed school gym in Bedford.

    They were to decide later today on whether to realign with a conservative, Argentina-based province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.


    Read it here.

    UPDATE:
    Address to the Diocesan Convention by The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth:

    I will not attempt to rehearse all of the reasons and explanations for this course of action. By now, we have heard them many times before, and most of us are tired of debating them. The clergy and lay delegates to this Convention are probably the most well informed and best prepared in the history of this diocese when it comes to the issues that are before us. I doubt that anyone’s vote will be changed by any of the debates that take place here today. Our minds are made up. The time for discussion has come to an end, and the time for decision is upon us.

    Read it all here.

    Statement by those who will remain:

    I have been asked to present remarks on behalf of many of your fellow delegates who will remain as members of the Episcopal Church. We thank Bishop Iker for graciously designating a place on the agenda for us to make this summary statement of our continuing opposition to the propositions that are before the convention today and for including this statement as part of the formal record of the convention. As a result, those of us who adopt this statement will not present statements when debate opens on the individual propositions.

    Specifically we will vote against, and we urge you all to vote against, the propositions which purport to amend our diocesan constitution and canons and the resolution regarding membership in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Those of us who will remain in the Episcopal Church respectfully but profoundly disagree that passage of these propositions will in fact “remove” the Diocese itself, as well as church property in the diocese, from the Episcopal Church.


    Read it all here or below.

    The Diocese of Fort Worth is expected to be the fourth diocese to announce its departure from the Episcopal Church today. With its stance against ordaining women priests, to say nothing of certain developments in other dioceses and in church leadership in recent years, Bishop Jack Iker's diocese will vote on its secession today. The Dallas Morning News takes a long look at Iker's actions, putting them up against those of his neighboring bishop, James Stanton of the Diocese of Dallas, who has stated that they will remain with the church.

    The Episcopal Church officially permitted female priests in 1976, and the Diocese of Dallas had its first in 1985. But the Fort Worth Diocese still hasn't had one.

    "It's a departure from the biblical witness," Bishop Iker said, noting that Jesus chose 12 male apostles, "and from the historical practice of the church."

    The Episcopal Church decided in 1997 that dioceses must allow female priests. Though that hasn't been enforced in Fort Worth, Bishop Iker is sure the Episcopal Church would eventually force the diocese to comply.

    As more evidence of a church galloping down a liberal, nonbiblical path, Bishop Iker points to the 2003 decision by top church leaders to allow an openly gay bishop (the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire) and the 2006 election of a woman as presiding bishop (the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori).

    "We're not leaving the Episcopal Church," he said, echoing Ronald Reagan's quip about the Democratic Party. "The Episcopal Church has left us."

    But many within the Fort Worth Diocese support the national church's direction as showing Christian acceptance and justice to women and gays. Or they at least believe the Episcopal Church remains a big tent under which people of different views can worship and serve together.

    Katie Sherrod argues that under Bishop Iker and his predecessors, the Fort Worth Diocese has become a refuge for priests who oppose women's ordination and take every chance to criticize the Episcopal Church.

    "There's been this huge disinformation campaign," said Ms. Sherrod, a Fort Worth writer active in local groups advocating loyalty to the Episcopal Church. "Voices that would offer a counterpoint have not been heard."

    Iker estimates about 1/5 of congregants are likely to remain with the Episcopal Church, and also expects the Episcopal Church will arrange alternate leadership for those congregants and take action to maintain and rebuild those congregations. He says he expects, in the long term, some kind of settlement.

    This is all from here. We may update this post as things unfold.

    Read more »

    A reply to Jack Iker as he leaves The Episcopal Church

    Katie Sherrod, well known journalist from Texas and lay leader in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth responds to the former bishop of Fort Worth, Jack Iker, at her blog Desert's Child.

    Here is the statement that the former bishop of Fort Worth wanted read in all parishes today. My responses are in italics.

    Read more »

    Bishops Iker and Wantland change their minds

    William Fleener, Jr. highlights some interesting facts about the former leadership of the Diocese of Fort Worth on his blog Est Anima Legis (The Spirit of the Law). Bishops Jack Iker and William Wantland, two of the leaders of the breakaway movement in the Episcopal Church once asserted in a lawsuit that the Dennis Canon - which holds that parish property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church- should be regarded as having the force of law in secular courts. Now they are arguing that the Dennis Canon is irrelevant as they try to take Episcopal Church property to the Province of the Southern Cone.

    Read more »

    Atlanta resolutions pass

    At its recent convention the Diocese of Atlanta passed several resolutions of note:

    The council handled seven resolutions, two of them sending a message to the 76th General Convention next summer that the Diocese of Atlanta supports "development of appropriate rites for the celebration and blessing of sacred unions for gay and lesbian persons" and the repeal of General Convention Resolution B033, which, authors said, had "run its course" and brought pain to the gay community. Hearings held on both matters revealed few objections, and the resolutions passed without floor discussion by substantial margins.
    The council also "Also approved was a new canon (39), which gives the bishop authority, when warranted, to declare an emergency in a parish." The new canon (39) states, in part,
    In the event that the vestry or other authorities of a parish are unable to function adequately due to natural disaster or other emergency, loss of personnel, or abandonment of The Episcopal Church (TEC) by parish officials, the Bishop, in his discretion, may declare an Emergency in the parish. Disputes among parish officials who remain within TEC shall not in themselves constitute an Emergency within the meaning of this Canon.
    In explanation:
    Emergencies of this type have arisen in most of the dioceses of Province IV in the last few years, and it is thought to be valuable to have the emergency powers of the Bishop in such a situation recognized and incorporated into the Canons of the Diocese. These situations frequently have legal implications with possible court interpretation by a judge who probably will not be an Episcopalian.
    ...
    Examples of where emergency powers have been needed recently in various dioceses in the Church include situations where the vestry has been scattered by natural disaster, and where vestry members have abandoned the church en masse, leaving no Episcopal Church authority in the parish.

    Diocese ignores bigger issues in Quincy

    In the midst of economic disaster in Illinois, Tom Ehrich reflects in the Indianapolis Star, "With Detroit imploding and farmers struggling, people are watching Caterpillar Corp., the area's major employer, not a fringe church's opinions on sexuality."... "I doubt that much sleep was lost, in heaven or on earth, when the tiny Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, Ill., recently voted to secede from the national Episcopal Church for being too liberal"

    With 1,800 members scattered over a large area bordering the Mississippi River, the diocese has long been a recalcitrant outpost of the fading Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church. Its stern refusals -- no to women as priests, no to gays, no to theological diversity -- have played poorly in Peoria.
    ....
    If a church wanted to walk the walk of Jesus as savior, it wouldn't be debating sexuality. It would be helping people deal with economic deprivation and correct the values that led to this. It would promote community and sacrifice.

    A church that truly accepted the authority of Scripture would know that God "hates and despises your festivals" and condemns those who live "at ease" and exploit others. It would know that the more ancient Israel became effete and self-focused, the more God welcomed invading Assyrians and Chaldeans.

    A truly evangelical church would embrace all of Scripture and not just cherry-pick the few verses that confirm a cultural stance on homosexuality. It would risk seeing why Jesus was rejected by the religious establishment and stop seeking to be the religious establishment.

    A church truly concerned about "historic Christian teaching" would look at Christian history -- the gap between Jesus' circles of inclusion and the early church's hierarchy and exclusion; the gap between Jesus' call for peace and church-sponsored wars; the gap between Jesus' humility and prelates' pride -- and conclude that, yes, perhaps it's time to take a fresh look at what they claim and what they are.


    Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal priest, can be contacted here.

    St. John the Divine restored

    After nearly seven years of restoration after a December 18, 2001 fire, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine today is returned to its full glory:

    The rededication signifies the return of the whole cathedral — all 601 feet of it — to useful life.

    Since a fire on Dec. 18, 2001, one part of the cathedral after another has been closed for cleaning, refurbishing and restoration. Now, from the bronze doors on the west front to the stained-glass windows in the easternmost chapel, the cathedral seems to have shed not only the mantle of destructive smoke, soot and water stains (for the most part), but also the general dulling brought on by more than a century of hard use.

    . . .

    It does not seem unreasonable to think that the cathedral has not looked this good since it was first dedicated, on Nov. 30, 1941, after the nave was completed. As 10,000 people watched, immense gray curtains parted at the east end of the nave, permitting a view all the way to the apse.

    “The entire length of this building, America’s greatest cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, now stands open for the worship of God and for the blessing and inspiration of men,” Bishop William T. Manning declared in his sermon that day. He added that he hoped the towers, the crossing and the north transept might be finished while he was still bishop.

    Read it all here. Other coverage here and here.

    Cluett to assist in reorganizing dioceses

    Rick Cluett, Archdeacon emeritus of the Diocese of Bethlehem, has been asked to serve in a new role at the Church Center.

    According to the press release:

    "Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named the Venerable Richard I. Cluett as Pastoral Assistant to Reorganizing Dioceses. In this capacity, Cluett is a member of the staff of Bishop Clay Matthews in the Office of Pastoral Development.

    In this new position, Cluett, who hails from the Diocese of Bethlehem, will provide pastoral guidance and assistance to dioceses of the Episcopal Church who are in the process of reorganizing and reconstituting."

    Read the full release here.

    We're staying says Quincy's Cathedral

    The members of St. Paul's Cathedral, Peoria, Ill., in the schismatic Diocese of Quincy, have spurned their standing committee and Bishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone. By a lopsided margin of 181 to 35, they have elected to remain in the Episcopal Church. Four hundred of the tiny diocese's 1850 members belong to the cathedral parish, and it accounts for 22 percent of Quincy's average Sunday attendance.

    Visit the new diocesan Web site.

    Addendum: Read the ENS story.

    Read more »

    Same-sex blessings authorized in Diocese of Los Angeles

    Susan Russell, at her blog, An Inch at a Time, reports from the 113th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles:

    Bishop Bruno has authorized the distribution of a Service for the Sacramental Blessing of a Life-Long Covenant. Approved for use in the Diocese of Los Angeles, this service may be used to bless the covenant of a man and woman, two women or two men.

    The liturgy was accompanied by a document entitled:

    Policy Regarding the Sacramental Blessing of Life-long Covenants in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

    Here are a few key paragraphs:

    In response to our theological understanding, it is the policy of the Diocese of Los Angeles that any priest canonically resident or licensed to function may officiate at the sacramental blessing of the life-long covenant of persons of the same sex following the provisions of this policy despite the civil law of our state at this time. While the state will not allow us to officially marry same-sex couples, we believe the same blessing ceremony afforded to men and women should be afforded to same-sex couples.

    Parochial clergy shall provide education, information, pastoral care and discussion within their congregations before solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples especially if such marriages would be the occasion for confusion, misunderstanding or any other spiritual crisis for members of the congregation. Educational materials have been developed by the Bishop’s Task Force on Marriage for use in congregations.

    At the same time, congregations are encouraged to move forward in prophetic witness and in justice towards same-sex couples who have been denied both the church’s blessing and the state’s benefits of marriage for so long.


    More information to follow on the Diocesan website here.

    Integrity, USA [is] "'greatly encouraged that the Diocese of Los Angeles has taken such strong steps forward on the full inclusion of the LGBT faithful in the Body of Christ,' said the Reverend Susan Russell, president of Integrity and a member of the Task force on Marriage Equality convened by Bishop Bruno to craft the policy and draft the liturgy."

    Full statement below

    Read more »

    Pittsburgh gets back on its feet

    The Honest to God Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be reorganizing itself at a special convention this weekend. Read the diocesan news release by clicking "Read more" and don't miss Mark Harris' thoughts.

    Note this passage in the press release:

    At least 27 congregations will take part in the convention. That number is substantially higher than the 18 parishes that said they would remain in The Episcopal Church when a majority of diocesan leaders and clergy opted to leave the church in early October 2008.

    This higher participation represents 40% of both the number of parishes and total membership -- as measured by the benchmark Average Sunday Attendance -- in the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to October.

    Read more »

    Pittsburgh calls assisting bishop

    Lay delegates from 27 congregations and 42 clergy gathered Saturday to reorganize the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    The Rt. Rev. Robert Hodges Johnson, the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, has accepted the diocese's call to serve as Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

    Read more »

    Bishop Ely interviewed on Vermont Public Radio

    Bishop of Vermont, The Rt. Rev. Tom Ely, was on Vermont Public Radio, Monday, December 15, where he spoke about current events in the Anglican Communion, various initiatives of the diocese of Vermont such as the Millennium Development Goals, support for the church and people in El Salvador and the Sudan, and environmental activism. The interview was introduced:

    The split within the Episcopal Church in America intensified recently when conservative congregations took the unprecedented step of splitting away to form their own province. The division stems largely from a decision five years ago to ordain a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

    Listen here.

    Tutu visits new DC diocesan school

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited the Bishop John Walker School for Boys in southeast Washington, D. C. last week. The Nobel-prize winner described himself as an "ambassador" for the school, which is operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Founded in September, the school offers a free education to boys in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the District. The Washington Informer has the story.

    Falls Church (Episcopal) priest writes his flock

    From the Rev. Michael Pipkin, priest-in-charge of The Falls Church, Episcopal:

    Read more »

    How I found my church

    Tucked into Sara Mosle's commentary for Slate on the Rick Warren imbroglio is a description of her ingenious method of finding a congenial congregation in unfamiliar surroundings.

    Colorado church loses rector as trial nears

    From The Gazette of Colorado Springs:

    If ever a church needed a strong leader, it was Grace & St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

    Read more »

    California Supreme Court decides unanimously for TEC

    Updated: to read Bishop J. Jon Bruno's statement, click Read More at the end of this article. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's statement is also online.

    In a decision issued today, the California Supreme Court held unanimously in favor of the general church, affirming in full the judgment of the appellate court in the case between the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and three disaffiliated parishes including St. James, Newport Beach. In its opinion the court stated,

    Applying the neutral principles of law approach, we conclude that the general church, not the local church, owns the property in question. Although the deeds to the property have long been in the name of the local church, that church agreed from the beginning of its existence to be part of the greater church and to be bound by its governing documents. These governing documents make clear that church property is held in trust for the general church and may be controlled by the local church only so long as that local church remains a part of the general church. When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it.
    In a separate opinion Judge Kennard states, "I agree with the majority that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Episcopal Church) owns the property to which St. James Parish in Newport Beach (St. James Parish) has held title since 1950. This conclusion is compelled by Corporations Code section 9142, subdivision (c)(2). But I disagree with the majority that this provision, which applies only to religious corporations, reflects a “neutral principles of law” approach."

    The decision makes clear that parish property is held in trust for the general church, a finding that would seem to make it unlikely that churches that left the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin to join the Anglican province of the Southern Cone will be successful in retaining their property.

    From Episcopal News, Diocese of Los Angeles:

    John R. Shiner, attorney for the diocese, said Monday’s ruling “will apply to all parishes throughout the State of California” and influence church property disputes nationally. “It’s been a long and arduous journey over the past few years,” he said. The decision, which upheld a 2007 appellate court ruling, is “final, conclusive, definitive,” he added.


    (The Orange County Register story is here. See also The Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press. See also Howard Friedman's analysis over at Religious Clause blog. Also, Michael Conlon writing in Reuters. Episcopal Life says it is "a landmark ruling that could have national implications.")

    St. James' former rector is David Anderson, who is now a bishop in the Church of Nigeria. The church itself is a member of the Church of Uganda. It was (and perhaps remains) the home church of Howard Ahmanson, the California savings and loan heir who has helped finance the breakaway movement. Ahmanson's wife Roberta, is president of the board of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which has supported the breakway movement, and once shared offices with Anderson's organization, the American Anglican Council.)

    The justices affirmed the so-called Dennis Canon, the validity of which has been questioned by breakaway parishes:

    Under the neutral-principles approach, the outcome of a church property dispute is not foreordained. At any time before the dispute erupts, the parties can ensure, if they so desire, that the faction loyal to the hierarchical church will retain the church property. They can modify the deeds or the corporate charter to include a right of reversion or trust in favor of the general church. Alternatively, the constitution of the general church can be made to recite an express trust in favor of the denominational church. The burden involved in taking such steps will be minimal. And the civil courts will be bound to give effect to the result indicated by the parties, provided it is embodied in some legally cognizable form.” (Jones v.Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at p. 606, italics added.)

    Shortly after this decision, and in apparent reaction to it, the Episcopal Church added Canon I.7.4, which recites an express trust in favor of the denominational church. This occurred some 25 years before the instant dispute erupted. Defendants focus on the high court’s reference to what the “parties” can do, and argue that Canon I.7.4, to be effective, had to have been enacted by the parties — in other words, that some kind of agreement must have been reached between the general church and St. James Parish (and presumably every other parish in the country) ratifying Canon I.7.4. We do not so read the high court’s words. Use of the passive voice in describing the possible “alternative[]” of making the general church’s constitution recite the trust suggests the high court intended that this could be done by whatever method the church structure contemplated. Requiring a particular method to change a church’s constitution —such as requiring every parish in the country to ratify the change — would infringe on the free exercise rights of religious associations to govern themselves as they see fit. It would impose a major, not a “minimal,” burden on the church governance. (Jones v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at p. 606.)

    Thus, the high court’s discussion in Jones v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at page 606, together with the Episcopal Church’s adoption of Canon I.7.4 in response, strongly supports the conclusion that, once defendants left the general church, the property reverted to the general church. Moreover, Canon I.7.4 is consistent with earlier-enacted canons that, although not using the word “trust,” impose substantial limitations on the local parish’s use of church property and give the higher church authorities substantial authority over that property. For example, permitting a disaffiliating local church to take the property with it when it reaffiliates with a different church is inconsistent with the prohibition of Canon II.6, section 2, against encumbering or alienating local property without the previous consent of higher church authorities. Thus, a strong argument exists that Canon I.7.4 merely codified what had long been implicit.

    More:

    In short, St. James Parish agreed from the beginning of its existence to be part of a greater denominational church and to be bound by that greater church’s governing instruments. Those instruments make clear that a local parish owns local church property in trust for the greater church and may use that property only so long as the local church remains part of the greater church. Respect for the First Amendment free exercise rights of persons to enter into a religious association of their choice, as delineated in Jones v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. 595 (as well as the provisions of section 9142) requires civil courts to give effect to the provisions and agreements of that religious association. To adapt a similar conclusion in a recent Court of Appeal decision involving a different religious association, “In summary, [St. James Parish] is bound by the constitution, laws, rules and regulations of the [Episcopal Church]. Historically, it has accepted the authority of the national church and submitted itself to the national church’s jurisdiction.”

    On attempts to delegitimize the Dennis Canon:

    Defendants also suggest that the Episcopal Church did not properly adopt Canon I.7.4 under its own rules. It is a bit late to argue that Canon I.7.4 was not effectively adopted, a quarter of a century later, and, in light of the consistent conclusions of the out-of-state cases that that canon is, indeed, part of the Episcopal Church’s governing documents, the argument seems dubious at best. But, in any event, this is one of those questions regarding “religious doctrine or polity” (or, as we phrased it in Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 32 Cal.4th at page 541, “religious doctrine and internal church governance”) on which we must defer to the greater church’s resolution.

    The justices were not persuaded by the "we built it,we own it," argument:

    Defendants state that, over the years, St. James Parish “purchased additional parcels of property in its own name, with funds donated exclusively by its members.” They contend that it would be unjust and contrary to the intent of the members who, they argue, “acquired, built, improved, maintained, repaired, cared for and used the real and personal property at issue for over fifty years,” to cause the local parish to “los[e] its property simply because it has changed its spiritual affiliation.” But the matter is not so clear. We may assume that St. James Parish’s members did what defendants say they did for all this time. But they did it for a local church that was a constituent member of a greater church and that promised to remain so. Did they act over the years intending to contribute to a church that was part of the Episcopal Church or to contribute to St. James Parish even if it later joined a different church? It is impossible to say for sure. Probably different contributors over the years would have had different answers if they had thought about it and were asked. The only intent a secular court can effectively discern is that expressed in legally cognizable documents. In this case, those documents show that the local church agreed and intended to be part of a larger entity and to be bound by the rules and governing documents of that greater entity.

    And:

    As stated in one of the out-of-state cases involving the same Episcopal Church, “[t]he individual defendants are free to disassociate themselves from [the parish and the Episcopal Church] and to affiliate themselves with another religious denomination. No court can interfere with or control such an exercise of conscience. The problem lies in defendants’ efforts to take the church property with them. This they may not do.” (Protestant Episc. Church, etc. v. Graves, supra, 417 A.2d at p. 25.)

    Read more »

    More reactions CA Supreme Court ruling

    Reactions to the California Supreme Court's unanimous ruling on property in the Diocese of Los Angeles in favor of The Episcopal Church continue, including a statement from the churches who lost the case.

    From the Los Angeles Daily News:

    When the Rev. Jose Poch learned a high court ruling Monday could spell eviction of his 78-year-old parish from St. David's Church, he was prepared to pack his bags and Bibles.

    The California Supreme Court unanimously decided that a breakaway parish like his could not hang onto church property.

    "We have to find a place," said Poch, rector of the North Hollywood church. "We must worship the Lord in any way we can."
    ...
    A lawyer for the breakaway Southland churches said despite the ruling, he would continue to fight for church property when the case returns to a lower court.

    "The Episcopal Church has never contributed a dime to buy properties, to build buildings and to maintain the property - all things that property owners have to do," Eric Sohlgren said.
    ...
    St. David's Church owns deeds to a half-block complex at 11605 Magnolia Blvd., which it has inhabited since 1953. Like the other breakaway churches, it abandoned the L.A. Diocese for an Anglican diocese in Uganda.
    ...
    Poch said he would comment on church plans after consulting with church leaders and attorneys.

    "Today is a day to focus on the church," he said, "and prayer and our people."

    H/T to Titus 1:9.

    Also being reported from Kendall Harmon's blog is a statement from the churches who lost their case:

    Nor is the saga over for St. James Anglican Church. “While we are surprised that the Court seemed to give some credence to the Episcopal Church’s purported rule confiscating local church property, the battle is far from over,” lead attorney Eric C. Sohlgren said. “The matter will now return to the Orange County Superior Court for further proceedings, and we look forward to presenting evidence and additional legal arguments that St. James Church should prevail under neutral principles of law.”

    The leadership of the Newport Beach congregation is also evaluating a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and is meeting to discuss other possible steps. Today’s ruling also affects All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David’s Church in North Hollywood, whose cases were put on hold pending the outcome of the St. James case. Together with St. James Church, these congregations never agreed to relinquish their property to the Episcopal Church upon changing their affiliation, and have consistently maintained that they have the right to use and possess the property which they have owned and maintained for decades.


    Read the entire statement here. Few believe that the US Supreme court will accept this case as no point of constitutional law is at issue and the ruling is consistant with those in many other jurisdictions.

    The Bakersfield Californian reports:

    The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin said the California Supreme Court ruling Monday on property held by seceding Southern California parishes gives him hope regarding similar lawsuits in his diocese. The court ruled that the property in question belongs to the Episcopalian (sic) Church, not the Anglicans who seceded and transferred rights to the property to themselves.

    The Living Church writes that Bishop Bruno says his next step will be to initiate dialogue individually with the clergy and lay leadership of the three churches in the hope that it will lead to reconciliation and perhaps the eventual voluntary return of those congregations to The Episcopal Church.
    “I want to see if they are willing to talk; to see if they want to return to The Episcopal Church,” Bishop Bruno said. He added that the offer of dialogue carried no preconditions.

    “Attorneys handle legal issues,” he said. “This is now a pastoral issue."

    The Fresno Bee captured reaction from Schofield group:

    Read more »

    Affidavit says Armstrong misappropriated $392,000

    Colorado Gazette:

    The Rev. Donald Armstrong funneled money earmarked for "single, unmarried seminarians" from a Grace Church trust fund to pay for his two children's college tuition, according to Colorado Springs police investigators.
    ...
    The affidavit, returned by detective Michael Flynn to the court Tuesday, outlines the 18-month police investigation from May 2007 - when they were notified by the Episcopal Church, Diocese of Colorado that it suspected financial wrongdoing by Armstrong - and Nov. 25, when a judge signed the warrant authorizing the search.
    ...
    "The Bowton Trust was a restricted trust fund providing scholarships for single, unmarried seminarians from Colorado, and was administered by Grace Church," according to the affidavit. "Father Armstrong's children were not seminarians. The police investigation determined Donald Armstrong was in control of parish finances and the Bowton Trust with no effective oversight and/or internal controls, and misused trust income (averaging about $9,000 a year) from about 1992 until 2001 when the trustee stopped further disbursements (because Armstrong could not prove he was in compliance with the trust fund)."

    Armstrong headed the Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish before he and his followers broke away in early 2007 to affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

    The trial over the church property occupied by the breakaway is set for February 10.

    CANA is affiliated with the Church of Nigeria led by Archbishop Peter Akinola who has been an outspoken critic of corruption, mocking the Nigerian government for its ineffectiveness in rooting it out, and blaming the West moral weakness and for abetting corruption in Africa.

    Previous coverage of the Armstrong saga can be found here, here,here, here, here, here and here.

    Retired Bishop MacBurney to lead breakaway diocese as interim

    Bishop Edward MacBurney, whose brief inhibition by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was a cause celebre among conservative Anglicans, has agreed to lead the breakaway diocese of Quincy on an interim basis, the Cafe has learned.

    MacBurney, 80, was Bishop of Quincy from 1988-1994. He was inhibited by the presiding bishop in April 2008 for performing confirmations in the Diocese of San Diego in June 2007 on behalf of Bishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone without seeking permission from the Bishop of San Diego, the Rt. Rev. James Mathes.

    Venables has claimed authority over numerous parishes in the United States and Canada in the wake of the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. He had previously claimed authority of the Diocese of Recife in the province of Brazil.

    Response to the inhibition, which occurred two days after the death of the bishop's son, was heated among conservative Anglicans. The Forward in Faith chapter in the United Kingdom said the "purported inhibition" was "nothing less than contemptible, confirming our view that a ‘graceless and totalitarian’ mindset now holds sway in the upper echelons of TEC."

    The Rev. Robert S. Mundy, Dean of Nashotah House Theological Seminary wrote: "What is going on right now is a cold, calculated show of force; and no amount of dressing it up with language about compassion is going to change that reality. Those who for decades spoke of tolerance, compassion, and inclusion are now running the Episcopal Church; and it is turning out just like George Orwell's Animal Farm."

    MacBurney's inhibition was lifted on September 9, 2008 after he apologized. According to Episcopal Life Online:

    Jefferts Schori's September 9 order admonishe[d] MacBurney to not make any other such visits and to apologize in writing to Mathes "for not respecting his authority as Bishop of that Diocese."

    In November, he agreed to assume some of administrative responsibilities in the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy when the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman resigned just three days before the diocesan convention at which a majority of delegates voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join Venables' Province of the Southern Cone. Ackerman, who cited health concerns in resigning, was named an assisting bishop in the neighboring Diocese of Springfield, which is led by a fellow conservative, Bishop Peter Beckwith, a month later. However, Ackerman continues as president of Forward in Faith--North America, which is a member of the recently-founded Anglican Church of North America, which is seeking recognition as an Anglican province.

    Diocese of Pittsburgh move to regain assets

    Updated with a full set of links from Thinking Anglicans.

    A press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (internal link added):

    Pittsburgh – Today the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh asked a court for control of church assets still held by former diocesan leaders who have left the Episcopal Church.

    The request was made in the context of an existing court order which stipulated that local Episcopal property must stay in the control of a diocese that is part of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

    "We're not asking for anything the court has not already addressed, or for anything former leaders have not already agreed to," said the Rev. Dr. James Simons, President of the diocesan Standing Committee, the group currently leading the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese.

    The original court order was issued in October 2005 as a result of a lawsuit filed by Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty. The order prohibits any group that separates itself from the Episcopal Church from continuing to use or control Diocesan property. The order specifically defines the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as being part of "the Episcopal Church of the United States of America." In negotiations leading to the 2005 Order, former Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and his attorneys agreed this stipulation would apply regardless of the circumstances surrounding any separation, even if every parish were to leave.

    In October 2008, supporters of Bishop Duncan purportedly attempted to remove the entire Diocese from the Episcopal Church. However, the Episcopal Church maintains that parishes and dioceses cannot leave the church, only individuals may do so. Duncan and his supporters are now attempting to organize a competing church entity. The group continues to call itself the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    "Whatever Robert Duncan and his followers may claim to be, they cannot claim to be 'the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America'," the Diocese argues in its papers filed today.

    At issue in today's request is access to approximately $20 million in diocesan endowments and bank accounts, as well as other resources, some non-financial, used in conducting day-to-day diocesan business. The use of church buildings is not directly addressed in today's filing, but Diocesan leaders say ownership issues will need to be resolved in the future. Since October, attempts to complete an orderly transition of assets to those who remain in the Episcopal Church have been ignored by those who left it, the Diocese filing contends.

    Calvary Episcopal Church joined the Diocese in today's filing with the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County. The request was made to the Special Master overseeing the Calvary case.

    Approximately 27 congregations, or about 40% of the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to the October separation, remain active in the life of the Episcopal Church.

    For more information about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, visit www.episcopalpgh.org.

    The Cafe's previous coverage of the litigation in Pittsburgh is here.

    Lionel Deimel has also commented on this development.

    Presiding Bishop calls special convention in Fort Worth

    The Presiding Bishop has called for a special convention of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Fort Worth for Feb. 7th. The convention is tasked with electing a provisional bishop and reorganizing the diocesan government to replace those who have left to join the Province of the Southern Cone.

    The ENS story is here.

    From the story:

    "Jefferts Schori's announcement said that "all qualified clerical and lay delegates to the convention are urged to attend," adding that criteria for qualification would be announced soon. The Steering Committee's diocesan website lists 13 congregations as remaining members of the diocese.

    The Presiding Bishop convened a similar meeting in the Diocese of San Joaquin in March 2008 after the former leadership of that diocese left the Episcopal Church to align with the Southern Cone province. Prior to the beginning of that meeting, Jefferts Schori recommended retired Diocese of Northern California Bishop Jerry Lamb to become provisional bishop for the diocese. She recommended him in accordance with Canon III.13.1. That canon states in part that "a diocese without a bishop may, by an act of its convention, and in consultation with the Presiding Bishop, be placed under the provisional charge and authority of a bishop of another diocese or of a resigned bishop."

    Katie Sherrod writing on her blog has some thoughts as well:

    What you won't read [in the ENS story], because there is simply no way for a reporter to document it, is the incredible sense of joy and liberation being experienced here, as happy Episcopalians reach out to one another and to others, sharing their love of God and of one another in ministries new and old.

    Finding a bishop on the Web

    The innovative folks in the Diocese of Minnesota are searching for their next bishop via Web site. Candidates are encouraged to apply online before February 18.

    A gay ordination in Colorado

    The Denver Post:

    Ending several years of restraint by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado in ordaining openly gay and partnered priests, Bishop Robert O'Neill will ordain Mary Catherine Volland, along with three others, to the priesthood at St. John's Cathedral on Saturday.

    A Pittsburgh timeline

    On Thursday, January 8, the Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh took steps to reclaim the property of the diocese. The diocesan press release is found here.

    The group that left TEC has posted a response here.

    Joan R. Gundersen, a Lay Deputy to the 2009 General Convention from Pittsburgh, wrote to the House of Bishops and Deputies listserve (reprinted here with permission):

    Let me assure you all that The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the TEC is not "attempting" to join the Calvary law suit. Our Chancellor was recognized by Judge James (who is the Allegheny County Judge who has been riding herd on all the filings since a group including Calvary Episcopal Church first filed suit against Bishop Duncan and other diocesan leaders in 2003 in order to prevent removal of diocesan property from TEC) at a hearing held within days of the October 4, 2008 convention. Also we are definitely NOT a new diocese. This diocese has been around since 1865. We are in a start-up mode only because we do not have access to the files, mailing lists, insurance records, office supplies, etc. owned by the diocese since Bishop Duncan's group has retained physical possession of them, and will not give us any access.

    Calvary Episcopal's 52 page Request to the Special Master was filed January 9. The first nine pages setting forth the diocese's request for access to the funds are here. Also filed in the request are the judge's previous comments on the matter.

    If you have not followed the legal maneuvers in Pittsburgh, here is a very quick summary written by Dr. Gundersen:

    Read more »

    Bishop Lamb, San Joaquin: CA Supreme Court decision

    The Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, bishop for the Diocese of San Joaquin has sent out letters to the clergy, leaders and others in the Diocese following the California Supreme Court ruling on property in the Diocese of Los Angeles. To the members of the diocese he writes:

    The decision by the California Supreme Court was very clear, and it may result in some people rethinking their decision to leave the church. I urge the laity and clergy of the Episcopal Diocese to engage their friends and acquaintances from the other group in personal conversations, and based on long-standing friendships, move toward healing in the diocese.

    To all affected persons he writes:
    I write to you to invite you into conversations with me regarding your relationship with the Episcopal Church in view of the January 5, 2009 California Supreme Court decision on property. I am, of course, not an attorney, but the decision is clear that all property and assets of a parish are held in trust for the wider Episcopal Church, and upon any attempted disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church, such property must be returned to the Episcopal Church and its Diocese.

    There has been enough pain and suffering on all sides of the issue of separation from the Episcopal Church. It is time for us to speak to one another face to face about returning to the fold of the Episcopal Church or setting forth a plan for gracious leave taking.

    I remain ready to speak to clergy, the laity, those in leadership, or congregations.

    Please be in touch with me.

    In peace,
    +Jerry A. Lamb
    Bishop of San Joaquin

    Episcopal Church, Church of Sudan strengthen, expand relationship

    Those who follow interAnglican strife will no doubt recall that during the Lambeth Conference, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bull, primate of the Church of Sudan called on Bishop Gene Robinson to resign for the sake of the Anglican Communion. This statement was portrayed in numerous media reports as furhter evidence that relations within the Communion were deteriorating and that the Episcopal Church was losing friends, etc. We did our best at the time to suggest that this interpretation was incorrect, and that the relationship between the two churches would continue.

    It is gratifying then, to read the lede of this press release from the Diocese of Virginia. To read the entire release, click Read more.

    The Episcopal Church of Sudan has 24 dioceses in an area roughly the size of the United States east of the Mississippi. Four dioceses are located in the northern part of the country, while the other 20 are clustered in the southern portion. Of these 20 dioceses, only six have relationships with U.S. dioceses in the Episcopal Church. This February, a mission team from the Episcopal Church, including members of the Diocese of Virginia, will travel to South Sudan for a month to develop relationships with many of the remaining 14 dioceses.

    Read more »

    Deposed bishop Bob Duncan's funds frozen in Pittsburgh

    UPDATE: To read the statement of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (the real one) click Read more.

    In the item below, the "Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh refers to the entity now lead by deposed bishop Robert Duncan, and not to the parishes in the Pittsburgh area recognized by The Episcopal Church.

    From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

    Financial services firm Morgan Stanley has frozen the accounts of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh because it is unsure who should be allowed to access them.

    In a letter Jan. 13, the firm's legal and compliance division said the company would not allow any further distributions until it received a court order listing those authorized to use the accounts.

    Read more »

    Bishop Lee sets departure date

    From the Diocese of Virginia
    To read the entire release, click Read more

    RICHMOND, Virginia (January 23, 2009) – The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee announced today that on October 1, 2009, he will step down as bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, leaving the Diocese in the capable hands of his successor the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston.

    In January 2006, Bishop Lee called for the election of his successor, and Bishop Johnston was elected and consecrated the next year. Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, a bishop must retire either by age 72 or no more than three years after the consecration of a bishop coadjutor; both dates occur in the next year.

    In making the announcement, Bishop Lee said, “I cannot refer to these plans to leave the Diocese of Virginia without placing them in the context of thanksgiving for you, the clergy and the lay leadership of the Diocese of Virginia. I thank God daily for you and I am grateful for the privilege of serving among you.”
    ______________________

    His announcement and reaction can be viewed at The Diocese's youtube channel.

    Read more »

    Virginia coadjutor considers gay ordination

    Earlier Friday The Lead carried the story of Virginia's Bishop Peter Lee and his retirement plans. Further news from the diocese gives the Pastoral report of Bishop Shannon Johnston to the Diocese.

    Read more »

    Diocese of Virginia concludes 214th Annual Council

    The Diocese of Virginia may be the only church council where both the treasurer and the chancellor receive standing ovations. But the longest applause came during the closing remarks of the chaplain for this year's 214th Annual Council. Archbishop Barry Morgan, Primate of Wales, said Wales was in the same boat as The Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church and he would resist the formation of an alternative North American province with, in his words, "every fiber of my being." The room jumped to its feet with applause and cheering.

    At its concluding day of the 214th Annual Council the Diocese of Virginia debated several resolutions including a number on sexuality and addressing issues flowing from the Windsor Report. Complete resolution results can be found here.

    R-4a: Blessedness of Covenanted Relationships was adopted as amended. Debate centered on the second resolve but the resolution passed as submitted (with the addition of the words "and blessedness"):

    Resolved, that the Diocese of Virginia recognizes our responsibility to respond to the pastoral needs of our faithful gay and lesbian members in a spirit of love, compassion and respect, and in so doing seek to fulfill our baptismal commitment to respect the dignity of every human being; and, be it further

    Resolved, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms the inherent integrity and blessedness of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons, when those relationships are “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” (Resolution 2000-D039 of the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church).

    Two resolutions, R-5: Allowing Clergy To Exercise Pastoral Care In Blessing the Unions Of Same-Gender Couples and R-6: Inclusiveness in Ordained Ministry were combined by the resolutions committee into R-9sa. The effect of R-9sa was to refer R-4 and R-5 to the diocese's Windsor Dialogue Commission. The Council followed the lead of the resolutions committee and passed R-9sa. Among the whereas statements in R-9sa: "we are in the midst of episcopal transition."

    On the first day of business, the diocese's Windsor Dialogue Commission submitted a report. The report includes, in Appendix 2, liturgies In Thanksgiving for a Committed Relationship.

    The Council also passed resolutions concerning the Sudan and on advocacy for the poor in the state of Virginia. A resolution that would have urged a special General Convention between 2009 and 2012 to consider the Anglican Covenant was not adopted.

    The balanced budget passed by Council preserved all diocesan staff positions although there will be no salary increases for the year.

    As the Council learned on Friday, Bishop Lee will retire October 1st. In May he will be honored for his 25 years of service to the diocese. Lord Robin Eames, former Anglican Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, will preach.

    PB nominates Gulick as provisional bishop in Fort Worth

    A press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has recommended the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick Jr., bishop of Kentucky, to be the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. If elected by the special meeting of the convention of the diocese, Bp. Gulick will be installed during the meeting. Bishop Gulick will serve part time as he continues to serve as bishop of Diocese of Kentucky.

    The special meeting of the convention of the diocese has been called for Saturday, Feb. 7, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive S., Fort Worth, 76109, because the former bishop and some diocesan leaders have left the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

    Delegates also will fill other diocesan vacancies, including members of the Standing Committee, deputies to General Convention and trustees of the Corporation for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

    Read more »

    Prominent Dallas priest asked Texas legislator to change property law

    Update: Two friends in Texas inform us that the Roman Catholic Church is lobbying against the bill, as are the Baptists, who, while not hierarchical in the same way as Catholics and mainline Protestants, could have property at stake.

    On Tuesday the Café reported on a bill introduced in the Texas legislature that would allow courts to disregard Church law in deciding property cases arising from doctrinal issues.

    The bill, introduced by Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), a close ally of new Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, would allow the court to divide property and other assets "in a manner that the court considers just and right."

    If passed, the bill would significantly strengthen the hand of individual parishes trying to break away from hierarchical churches. However, it would not go into effect until September 1, too late to help former Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker in his efforts to take the property of the diocese he once led with him as he enters the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, headquartered in Argentina. That led us to wonder who might have asked Rep. Cook, a Southern Baptist, to file a bill that seems aimed at causing problems for more hierarchical churches.

    Sam Hodges of The Dallas Morning News was wondering, too, and he didn't have far to look. As it turns out the Rev. Canon Ed Monk, of St. John's Episcopal Church in Corsicana asked him to file the bill. Monk, a protégé of Bishop Keith Ackerman, former bishop of Quincy, is a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of Dallas and immediate past president of Bishop James Stanton's Standing Committee.

    Monk's rapid rise in the Diocese of Dallas, and his close relationship with Ackerman, who named him a canon at St. Paul's Cathedral in Peoria, raises questions about whether either bishop was involved in or had knowledge of the bill. Neither Stanton, who founded the conservative American Anglican Council, nor Ackerman, who is president for Forward in Faith, a group that opposes the ordination of women, has spoken publicly about the proposed legislation.

    According to the Dallas News:

    Some Episcopal Church officials are weighing in negatively on the bill.
    "Our [Episcopal] Church strives for unity, and this bill is divisive," said the Rev. Andy Doyle, bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which covers the Houston area. Officials affiliated with other denominations also express concern.

    Other bishops in Texas have yet to speak on the bill.

    The legislation seems unlikely to pass for several reasons, not least among them that it would likely be viewed as a fairly straightforward violation of the separation of church and state. Additionally, as Hodges notes, the Texas legislature passes only about a quarter of the 6,200 bills that are filed each session, and this one is likely to face opposition from the Catholic Church, and most mainline Protestant denominations.

    If nothing else, this incident makes clear precisely why the state should stay out of church property matters. A single priest with a powerful ally in the legislature has set in motion a bill that would put hierarchical churches in danger of losing control of their assets to any dissatisfied group that can wrap its complaint in doctrinal garb. The First Amendment exists in large measure to protect churches from this sort of interference.

    Finally, if experiencing a sense of déjà vu , that is because the Anglican right has pulled this move before. In February 2005, a Virginia legislator with close ties to the breakaway churches in that state filed a bill that would have made it easier for those congregations to leave the Episcopal Church and keep their property. It was withdrawn amidst bad publicity, and the breakaway churches in Virginia have thus far succeeded in court without it. But that effort, like this one in Texas, is evidence of the Anglican right's discomfort with the First Amendment.

    Post script: I forgot that the Virginia legislator who proposed the legislation is now the top advisor in the state attorney general's office, and the AG has joined the case on the side of the breakaway congregations.

    Brian McLaren: sneak preview

    Brian McLaren is giving the keynote address today at the Diocese of Washington's annual convention. The diocese will have video available in the not-too-distant future, but here is a little taste of what McLaren proposes to talk about, lifted from my story in the recent Washington Window:

    Internationally acclaimed evangelist Brian McLaren has a few questions he'd like to ask:

    "What if the Episcopal Church is poised and positioned for its greatest season of ministry ever?

    "What if difficulties of recent years were actually like pruning on a vine, making way for great fruit and new wine to come?

    "What if historic values and virtues have become like a treasure hidden in the Episcopal Church, waiting to be rediscovered and shared?

    "What if there were a few obstacles or barriers that needed to be removed so that future could unfold?

    "What would it mean to rise to that occasion?"

    It is so refreshing to hear from someone who is optimistic about the future of our church, especially someone of McLaren's stature. Stay tuned.

    Bishop Lambert takes a pass

    The suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Dallas spoke with the Corsicana Daily Sun about a legislator's bill that would override the Dennis Canon. The bishop did not come out against the bill.

    As reported by the Daily Sun:

    “We’ve had five break away,” said The Right Rev. Paul E. Lambert, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. “We allowed them to keep their property in two instances, and in the third instance they didn’t want the property, but they wanted to rent it back with us. “We’ve dealt with it pastorally instead of legally,” Lambert said.

    An internal Episcopal law called the Dennis Canon states that all parish property is held in trust for the diocese and the national church. “We’ve always held that we uphold the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church,” Lambert said. “We may not agree with the Dennis Canon, but it is part of the constitution and canons. It has to play out to see whether or not the bill passes, and if it trumps the canons of the Episcopal Church.” “It’s an interesting concept, though, to be sure,” Lambert added.

    Read it all. The reporter has developed the story along other dimensions as well.

    See The Lead's earlier story on the bill: Prominent Dallas priest asked Texas legislator to change property law

    Diocese of Virginia files appeal

    The Diocese of Virginia filed formal notice on Feb. 3 of its intent to appeal a Fairfax County Circuit Court decision issued last month which ruled that 11 congregations that disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church were the rightful owners of the local church property under Virginia law, according to The Living Church.

    Read more »

    Fort Worth to elect provisional bishop Saturday

    The people of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth will meet tomorrow to continue the process of reorganizing the diocesan structure after their bishop and a large part of the diocese decided to leave the Episcopal Church late last year. The Presiding Bishop will be attending the meeting.

    Chief among the tasks of the Special Meeting will be the election of a provisional bishop to help guide the remaining Episcopalians through the process. There is one candidate for the position, Bishop Ted Gulik, the former Bishop of Kentucky.

    Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round up of articles that provide background to what is expected to happen at the meeting. You can find the resources here.

    Fort Worth open for business; celebrates, introduces transparency

    As the Episcopal News Service reports, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is back to business:

    About 400 delegates and overflow visitors who filled the 116-year-old Trinity Church and its parish hall on Fort Worth's south side for a February 7 special organizing convention celebrated being "called to life" anew and getting back to the business of being the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. About 19 clergy and 62 lay delegates representing 31 congregations unanimously elected the Rt. Rev. Edwin "Ted" Gulick, bishop of Kentucky, as provisional bishop by a voice vote in clergy and lay orders.

    Read more »

    The man who might be Virginia's next attorney general

    The news that Virginia's chief deputy attorney general William C. Mims may succeed his boss Bob McDonnell, who has stepped down to pursue the Republican nomination for governor, brought to mind this previous post about Mims, who seemed, at one point, more than willing to use the machinery of the state to advance the agenda of his church.

    Mims was a member of one of the breakaway Episcopal Churches when he introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have made it easier for such churches to maintain their property when they left the church.

    In an editorial, The Washington Post suggested that Mims' intervention was exactly the sort of thing that the separation of church and state was meant to prevent:

    You might expect that in its short legislative session the Virginia General Assembly would have more important business than intervening in internal arguments within the Episcopal Church over gay rights. But a bill pending in the state Senate would make it far easier for Episcopal congregations upset at the church's consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire to bolt from the national church yet keep their buildings and property. The bill, championed by Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), responds to a real problem: Mr. Mims argues persuasively that Virginia law on the subject is archaic. But his bill would make matters worse, not better. It should be voted down.

    While some Episcopal congregations are angry about the church's toleration of gay clergy, they have not, by and large, left the church. One reason may be that their property is, while purchased with local money, held in trust for the national church. So if they leave, they leave their church behind physically as well as spiritually. Mr. Mims's bill would change that. It would give a congregation's property to the local congregation when it secedes from a church unless the property is specifically deeded to the national church or -- under an amendment he is proposing -- unless a trust agreement explicitly designates the national church as having its use. The bill is not explicitly directed at the Episcopalians, but it seems to respond directly to their current fight. And its result would be that conservative Virginia congregations could leave the Episcopal Church without becoming homeless.

    For more information, see this item from Daily Episcopalian Classic and this round-up from Thinking Anglicans.

    How we spend our time

    Episcopalians sometimes complain that all anybody ever learns about our Church is that it is conflicted over the issue of homosexuality. It is almost impossible, this line of argument goes, to get the mainstream media interested in other facets of our life. But every once in a while, a hometown newspaper simply shows up and offers some fairly straightforward coverage of Episcopalians being Episcopalian, and it is a welcome relief. In that spirit, we point you toward the Hattiesburg American's coverage of the Diocese of Mississippi's annual council, which was, reportedly, "grand."

    1967: Virginia allows women to serve on vestries

    The Diocese of Virginia has a reputation for seeking a middle way. But if in the 60s "the diocese could be labeled centrist on issues of race, it was decidedly conservative on women's participation within the church" until late in the decade. The quote comes from The Episcopal Church in Virginia by Edward Bond and Joan Gunderson, commissioned by the diocese and published in 2007. They go on to say, "bishops and male leaders consistently feared that admitting women to [positions of leadership] would result in a withdrawal of men and a takeover by women."

    Read more »

    Legal affairs round-up

    Incremental developments in the legal action in Virginia and Colorado, where the Episcopal Church is attempting to reclaim its property from people who think they are entitled to parting gifts when they leave a church.

    From the Fairfax Times:

    A two-year-old church property dispute between Episcopalians and Anglicans appears to be on its way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

    On Feb. 3, The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia together filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court hoping to overturn a Dec. 19 decision by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows in favor of the Anglican District of Virginia, known as ADV.

    From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

    Grace senior warden Jon Wroblewski and Grace rector Donald Armstrong are expected to testify on Thursday about breaking ties with the Episcopal Church to align with the Anglican Communion province in Nigeria, and how this act suggests that the parish is its own corporation. The trial begins at 8:30 a.m. at Fourth Judicial Court, Judge Larry Schwartz's courtroom.

    Meanwhile, Lionel Deimel has the latest from Pittsburgh. The diocese has recently written to its clergy and lay leaders:

    Please remind your parishioners that we are stewards not owners of assets entrusted to our responsibility and that, at least for assets of the Diocese, a stipulation was signed three years ago defining clearly the outcome of any dispute. We are hopeful that a determination will be reached quickly so that the mission and ministry of our Diocese may be freed from further distraction.

    And, finally, there is this from Milwaukee.


    Northern Michigan bishop-elect controversy

    The announcement of the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, pending consents from a majority of Standing Committees and Bishops of the Episcopal Church, has created a stir in the blogosphere. The two questions about the election are about the process and about his participation in Zen meditation practices.

    Read more »

    PA Court asked to remove priest from church property

    The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has asked a civil court to remove the Rev. David Moyer as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, and to declare the diocese as owner of the parish's property.

    Read more »

    Meditating on the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan

    Ruth Gledhill reports on the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan praising his ability to meditate as a needed skill for the office of bishop in that part of the world and mystified at those who are all upset about it.

    Read more »

    Closing arguments in Colorado Springs court case

    KRDO News in Colorado Springs, Colorado reports that the trial to resolve ownership over a multi-million dollar church is one step closer to being decided.

    Read more »

    Vermont clergy voice support for gay marriage bill

    The Rev. Linda Maloney of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is among those featured in a report from WPTZ in Burlington about 185 clergy of various faiths who support a bill legalizing civil marriage for same-sex couples in Vermont.

    Violence in Sudan: the LRA strikes

    I just had a call from Tom Bair, who is married to Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island. He and his wife visited the Diocese of Ezo in southern Sudan in December to begin a companion diocese relationship with the Church there. They've been in close contact with people in that diocese since their return.

    This morning Tom got a call frmo Ezo saying that on Friday the Lord's Resistance Army attacked a village nine miles from Ezo, killing nine people and taking six hostages. This is the latest in a series of attacks that began late last year and have continued sporadically since then.

    We've been able to locate a couple of media reports about the situation in the southern Sudan. Additionally, the Church of Sudan has a Web page with information about recent attacks. And here are some photos from Ezo.

    Archbishop Daniel Deng has appealed to the government of the United Kingdom and to the Primates of the Anglican Communion of help. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's statement is here. The Episcopal Public Policy Network has also been active on this issue.

    Breakaway church in Virginia needs help with legal bills

    The wardens of the Falls Church, Nigerian, have written to parishioners who donated to a capital campaign several years ago, asking them for permission to divert those contributions to help pay legal bills incurred by parishes that have broken away from the Episcopal Church and placed themselves under the authority of Archbishop Peter Akinola.

    Read the letter.

    A Falls Church newspaper has some background about the capital campaign.

    Diocese of Virginia makes its appeal to the state Supreme Court

    The Diocese of Virginia has filed its appeal of the Circuit Court decision involving the diocese's property dispute with CANA (Nigerian). From the diocese's press release:

    The Diocese is appealing on a number of grounds, including a challenge to the constitutionality of Virginia’s one-of-a-kind division statute (Va. Code § 57 9(A)) and the rulings of the Circuit Court in applying the law.

    Read more »

    Episcopal Church files brief in Virginia case

    Updated 4/9 at 2:20 p. m. with amicae briefs from the Episcopal Dioceses of Southern and Southwestern Virginia, and a number of other denominations, including the Lutherans, Methodist, Presbyterians, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the AME Zion.

    The Episcopal Church has filed a brief with the Virginia Supreme Court, asking it to reverse a Fairfax County Court judge who ruled that the Church's property now belongs to congregations affiliated with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The Diocese of Virginia has also filed an appeal.

    The brief is online here, and friend of the court filings are expected soon. An account from Episcopal Life Online is also available.

    Breaking: Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth files suit

    For Immediate release
    April 14, 2009

    THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH

    The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth files suit to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church

    On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Episcopal Church filed suit in 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas in part to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church. The defendants are former members of the corporation’s board and the former bishop of the diocese, all of whom have left the Episcopal Church.

    Read more »

    The Episcopal Church: an invitation on film

    Because the canon for communications in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (that would be me) is a bear of very little brain, it only recently occurred to him to put the movie that the marvelous Hugh Drescher made for us five years ago on You Tube. You can see the entire extravaganza here, in seven bites of about 75 seconds a piece. But here is a taste.

    Read more »

    Krista Tippett visits Cleveland cathedral

    Krista Tippett and the staff of Speaking of Faith visited Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland yesterday and tweeted all about it.

    The company they keep

    An interesting tidbit from the OC Weekly on the litigation between the Diocese of Los Angeles and the breakaway parishes led by St. James, Newport Beach. It seems the lawyer representing St. James is John C. Eastman, dean of the Chapman University School of Law, who recently teemed with the "visiting professor and Bush White House 'torture memo' author John Yoo in April to debate two other Chapman law profs in Memorial Hall about presidential power in wartime. One thing Eastman rejected that day was a government investigation of Yoo and others because he did not believe the U.S. ever tortured anyone.

    The case raises questions about St. James' constitutionally protected, First Amendment rights to religious freedoms, according to Eastman, who told the [Daily] Pilot, "By taking their church away that makes it hard for them to practice their religion."

    Dean Eastman has to be smarter than this quote suggests.

    Tarrant elected bishop of South Dakota

    ENS reports:

    The Very Rev. John Tarrant was elected on May 9 to serve as bishop coadjutor (bishop with right of succession) of the Diocese of South Dakota.

    Virginia recalls missionary to Sudan

    A Statement from the Bishop's Office, Diocese of Virginia:

    Read more »

    Northern California church gets property back

    Press release

    SACRAMENTO, CA., May 20, 2009-The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California has announced a settlement agreement with a group calling itself "St. John's Anglican" church, which has occupied the parish buildings at 40 Fifth Street in Petaluma, CA, since December 2006.

    The agreement follows peaceful and respectful settlement discussions. Under the agreement, property will be returned to St. John's Episcopal Church.

    Further details of this settlement and the re-opening of St. John's Episcopal Church will be made available through diocesan communications. The parish will return to the church building on or before July 1, 2009. Until then, St. John's Episcopal Church continues to worship on Sunday evenings as the guests of Elim Lutheran Church in Petaluma.

    Hat tip: Bible Belt Blogger.

    The real Diocese of Fort Worth gets back on its feet

    From the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:

    Read more »

    Unravelling a sordid history

    The Houston Press News unfolds the story of the Rev. James Lydell Tucker, a pedophilic priest who worked in Episcopal schools in the Diocese of Texas in the 1950s through the early 1990s, and examines the diocese's response to the allegations against him.

    Breaking: CANA priest, former ACI leader, indicted for theft

    Updated with the Denver Post:

    A theologically conservative pastor in Colorado Springs who led his congregation in a split from the Episcopal Church has been indicted by a grand jury on felony-theft charges.

    Colorado Springs police recently wrapped up a two-year investigation into "financial mismanagement" of church funds by the Rev. Donald Armstrong, according to a department media release issued today.

    The police investigation was turned over to the Pueblo district attorney's office to avoid possible conflicts of interest, and a Pueblo grand jury returned a 20-count indictment Wednesday against Armstrong, police announced.

    Read more »

    Remembering Thurgood Marshall

    Saint Augustine's Church in southwest Washington, D. C., is attempting to have Thurgood Marshall commemorated in the Episcopal Church's book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts . Last weekend, as part of the effort to keep the justice's memory alive, members of the church participated in the dedication of a safety call box in his honor. Watch video below:

    Read more »

    Pittsburgh hearing held

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Hearing Conducted in Diocesan Assets Case

    May 27, 2009

    The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh presented its case in court today for regaining control of diocesan assets still held by former leaders who have left the Episcopal Church.

    Read more »

    Controversial Rev. Cutié joins Episcopal Church

    Updated with news links and CNN video.

    The Miami Herald reports:

    The Rev. Alberto Cutié (KOO'-tee-ay), the celebrity priest removed from his Miami Beach church after photos of him kissing and embracing a woman appeared in the pages of a Spanish-language magazine earlier this month, will leave the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami to join the Episcopal church.

    The small and private ceremony will happen early Thursday afternoon at Trinity Cathedral, the church's South Florida headquarters in downtown Miami. Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, will officiate. ....

    Cutié will initially be a lay person in the Episcopal church … not a priest. The process of a Catholic priest becoming an Episcopal priest takes at least a year, experts say.

    While not having the same authority as a priest, Bishop Frade plans to give Cutié special status as a lay minister, meaning he can preach in Episcopal churches but not celebrate the Eucharist, the symbolic body and blood of Christ.

    Read more »

    Waters of Hope riders peddle a good cause

    Members of the Diocese of Missouri are peddling 650 miles this week to bring clean water to a diocese in Sudan.

    Read more »

    Thew Forrester's chances dim

    We have stopped charting every twist and turn in the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester's saga, but this development reported by Frank Lockwood seems significant:

    Read more »

    Nedi Rivera called to serve as bishop in Eastern Oregon

    Bishop Rivera, suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Olympia, has been asked to serve as a part-time provisional bishop in the Diocese of Eastern Oregon. Eastern Oregon has been without a bishop since the resignation of Bishop William Gregg in 2007.

    Read more »

    Good news from Fort Worth

    Here is an encouraging press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

    Read more »

    San Joaquin to ordain first woman priest

    The Fresno Bee reports that with the change in leadership in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, women are breaking the stained glass ceiling imposed on women by the former bishop.

    Read more »

    Alleged 1960s cover up leads to sex abuse suit

    The Houston Press:

    A fourth man has filed a $15 million lawsuit against the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and St. Stephen's Episcopal School for allegedly covering up his sexual abuse at the hands of the school's chaplain.


    Surfing for a bishop

    The use of websites and the internet for Diocesan Bishop Search processes is becoming more and more the preferred method for gathering and disseminating information.

    Read more »

    24 Episcopal clergy urge recognition of same-sex marriages in DC

    Bishop John Bryson Chane, retired Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon and 22 Episcopal priests are among the 135 religious leaders who have signed a statement supporting the recognition of same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia.

    Read more »

    Diocese in California reclaiming Church's property

    The beat goes on on the legal front in California where today brought news of two significant property transactions.

    Read more »

    Making awful even worse

    Radio station KYW has the bare bones of an extremely distressing story from the Diocese of Pennsylvania:

    Read more »

    San Joaquin to ordain first female priest

    A new day has come to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. With the departure of former Bishop John-David Schofield and his supporters, the priesthood in that diocese is now open to women.

    Read more »

    Bishop Allen writes from Honduras

    Bishop Lloyd Allen of the Diocese of Honduras has written to the other bishops of the Episcopal Church assuring them that “so far” he, his clergy and lay leadership and their families are safe, in the wake of the military coup on Sunday that deposed President Manuel Zelaya.