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?

Comments (2)

This is an interesting proposal. It appears to provide opportunity for the kind of thing that has happened in Kansas and elsewhere where some sale has taken place. It also appears to leave more control in the hands of the Episcopal Church - under the oversight of the Episcopal bishop and incorporating the opinions of the faithful remnant. It might be useful. The key issues are both parties entering this in good faith; and, of course, whether this proposal is actually received and accepted by the diocese.

Commenters at T19 seem particularly concerned about this statement from the Presiding Bishop, made at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and reported in The Living Church:

She said she has also made it clear that The Episcopal Church would scrutinize any sale of church property with the same concerns in mind.

”If a building is sold to a congregation, The Episcopal Church as a whole is not so concerned if it’s going to be a community church,” she said, although there must be assurances that stewardship was addressed and that the building was sold at fair market value. “But if a congregation purports to set up as another part of the Anglican Communion, we are concerned about that.”

We should certainly be concerned; but I don't know that this amounts to the magisterial mandate some commenters fear. I can't imagine much point in the national Church fighting too hard if the diocesan authorities are satisfied and the faithful Episcopal remnant are properly resourced and cared for.

We are coming to a place where churches in the Anglican tradition in the United States will be as fragmented as those in the Orthodox tradition. I don't like it, but I am resigned to it. We are called to be wise as serpents as well as innocent as doves. We need to choose carefully so as not to miss strategic success in pursuing tactical, possibly Pyrrhic, victories.

Marshall Scott

Marshall Scott notes that the Anglican churches in the United States will be as fragmented as the Eastern Orthodox. But the EO bishops meet in a Standing Conference and I see at least as much cooperation on the local level among the Orthodox as I see among Episcopal parishes. The Common Cause bishops appear to have found a way for Anglicans of at least 5 Provinces to include two American churches of Anglican heritage and work together. In Asheville, NC, we have three APA congregations and an AMiA as well as a dozen Episcopal churches. Of the 16 one APA church Average Sunday Attendance is 4th largest, and the AMiA congregation ASA is about the size of half the Episcopal churches. I'm sorry to see the divisions in Anglicanism in the United States expressed in separate churches, but absent conformity by the Episcopal Church to the moral theology of the majority at Lambeth such is inevitable.

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