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Diocese of Maryland reaches settlement with Anglican Use parish

Diocese of Maryland reaches settlement with Anglican Use parish

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of Maryland, has announced settlement over real and personal property issues with an Anglican Use congregation, Mount Calvary in Baltimore.

He writes today:

My dear friends in Christ,

I write you this week with some sadness but also with a sense of gratitude that we have reached a settlement with Mount Calvary Church, Baltimore, on the issues of property and use of those buildings. Since 1842 the people of that parish have witnessed faithfully as members of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. On January 22 they are to be officially received into the Roman Catholic Church. Twenty-four of the 28 members present (of a congregation of 45) voted last year to make this move, and I want them to know they go with our prayers and our very best wishes.

As your bishop I have been praying these months for our departing brothers and sisters while at the same time working with our Standing Committee and chancellor as responsible stewards of all that has been given to this Episcopal congregation and this diocese. I am grateful that we have arrived at a fair and just settlement so that our brothers and sisters may respond to the call they have heard.

All of us in the Episcopal Church are seeking to serve Christ in all persons every day. We promise to do that in our Baptismal Covenant. Our church’s polity is democratic. We elect everybody from vestry members and rectors to bishops and the presiding bishop. We vote on resolutions at Diocesan Convention and the tri-annual General Convention of the Episcopal Church. So when Episcopalians at Mount Calvary gathered to discern their future as servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they naturally followed the democratic process that has been part of their 170 year history and the charism of our communion since we formed ourselves in 1785 out of the Church of England.

Episcopalians and Anglicans throughout the world, along with our Eastern Orthodox sisters and brothers worldwide, see ourselves as fully part of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We know our roots. Theologically and liturgically the Roman, Anglican and Orthodox traditions hold much more in common than there are differences. Our polities, or the way we govern ourselves, differ. We are all still seeking the Kingdom of God that Jesus told his disciples is here. Together we are members of the Body of Christ here on earth.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today with the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter and ends next Wednesday on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I work on your behalf for Christian unity at our regular Ecumenical Leaders Group meetings in Maryland, and that includes the bishops of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. We collaborate on issues and ministries that are rooted in the gospel of Jesus. Unity may be defined differently by some around the table at that leaders group meeting. But I believe doing Gospel work together is certainly the kind of unity the Holy Spirit can work with.

Our brothers and sisters at Mount Calvary have not “converted” to Roman Catholicism. They have chosen to walk with different friends in the same one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of which they have always been a part. Let us pray for them on their journey. Let us hope that their work in the future will continue to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to respect the dignity of every human being, and help build up the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Blessings and peace,

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton

XIV Bishop of Maryland

And this release from the diocesan communications office:

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has reached an agreement with the Anglican Use Congregation at Mount Calvary, Baltimore, over real and personal property. On October 24, 2010, a majority of members of Mount Calvary voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Roman Catholic Church through the newly established Anglican Ordinariate.

Representatives from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland met for mediation on November 17, 2011, with representatives from Mount Calvary Church and the Joseph Richey House hospice. The Hon. Joseph H. H. Kaplan, a retired judge, served as mediator. Though a settlement was not reached that day, significant progress was made and negotiations continued. The agreement states that the property currently occupied by Joseph Richey House, a hospice that started as a joint ministry by Mount Calvary and the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor, will be permanently deeded to Joseph Richey House along with the parking lot shared by the congregation and Joseph Richey House. The Anglican Use Congregation will be deeded the church building, adjacent offices, and rectory, will keep all furnishings and personal property, and will retain the right to use the parking lot shared with Joseph Richey House. The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland will receive a monetary sum as part of the settlement, and will retain first right of refusal if the congregation vacates the property.

The Rev. Canon Scott Slater, on the bishops’ staff and part of the mediation team representing the Episcopal diocese, said, “This has been a thoughtful, prayerful, and respectful process by all three entities, and I am pleased that we have reached a solution that meets the needs of all three groups.”

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Jim Naughton

I can’t speak about this case, but the Diocese of Washington still owns the parish in Bladensburg. The parish is leasing the building.

I’d hazard a guess that the differences between these cases and the ACNA cases is that the Roman Catholic Church is not trying to drive the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion and take its place, and therefore has no indulged in a long, ugly and deceitful campaign to discredit it. But, as I say, that is just a guess.

The Rev. Alex Large

Doesn’t this (almost concluded) settlement, along with the Bladensburg one, conflict with the National Church policy towards the northern Virginia breakaway parishes? How come there is not settlement in that case? It seems better for both sides to avoid lengthy and costly legal battles.

Michael Russell

@Jim Naughton Thanks, I know that parish and its decades of disaffection pretty well. They tried to leave in the 1990s when I was a Rector in the Baltimore area (I grew up there too). Women’s ordination, episcopacy and inclusive language were the issues then.

Bishop Sutton is being very generous and gracious, but I am glad to see the right of first refusal. There are LOTS of Roman Rite Catholics in MD, this group is unlikely to grow much.

Jim Naughton

Mike, the details are somewhat vague, but here they are:

“The agreement states that the property currently occupied by Joseph Richey House, a hospice that started as a joint ministry by Mount Calvary and the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor, will be permanently deeded to Joseph Richey House along with the parking lot shared by the congregation and Joseph Richey House. The Anglican Use Congregation will be deeded the church building, adjacent offices, and rectory, will keep all furnishings and personal property, and will retain the right to use the parking lot shared with Joseph Richey House. The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland will receive a monetary sum as part of the settlement, and will retain first right of refusal if the congregation vacates the property.”

I don’t know this parish well, but obviously its numbers are small. I think it is possible that within a few years it will be absorbed into a larger parish and the building will come back to the diocese. I think that may happen in the Diocese of Washington as well, where a smallish parish is now leasing the church.

Michael Russell

So in this “settlement” who gets the assets? Surely 24 people are not absconding with millions of dollars of assets?

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