Independent Polish Catholic congregation declines to join Episcopal Diocese

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Last week, we reported on talks between St Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri about the possibility of the independent congregation formally joining the Episcopal Church. Now, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reports at stltoday.com that a legal merger is no longer on the table:

After a meeting with Episcopal Bishop Wayne Smith and lawyers, St. Stanislaus representatives declined to agree to relinquish church property to the Episcopal Church in any future dissolution of their relationship. …

Earlier this month, nearly 60% of the 300 St. Stanislaus parishioners voted to authorize the church’s board of directors to explore a relationship with the Episcopal Diocese. The property rights provision tripped up the discussions, according to church leaders.

“Such condition is not acceptable to St. Stanislaus and for this reason the board of directors has terminated the discussion and will not be pursuing any legal relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, unless and until the parishioners demand it,” said Donna Nachefski, church deacon and chairman of the board of directors, in a statement.

At issue was the so-called Dennis Canon, adopted in 1979, by which:

All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located (Canon I.7.4)

The independent congregation and the Episcopal Diocese will continue working together as ecumenical partners, with St Stanilaus’ scheduled to host the consecration service for the 11th Bishop of Missouri next April.

Read more at the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

Featured image: St Stanislaus Kostka on Facebook

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Thomas Rightmyer
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The ACNA might be an option. The Episcopal dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy share a Catholic heritage, and the ACNA has no Dennis Canon. Some ACNA dioceses ordain women; some do not. But many ACNA members and clergy do not accept gay clergy and this church appears to welcome all. Maybe the Episcopal Church should consider repealing the Dennis Canon.

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JoS. S. Laughon
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Makes sense given that there are more amenable jurisdictions to join (the Polish National Catholic Church or the Continuing Anglican churches).

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Gregory Orloff
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Gregory Orloff

Given that even the most cursory research reveals that Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church has a female presbyter and a female deacon on staff, and bills itself as a welcoming, inclusive community ("We are married, partnered, single, gay and straight; we are families at all ages and stages of life," as its website homepage says), it does not make sense that the Polish National Catholic Church or Continuing Anglican churches would be "more amenable jurisdictions" for it to join, as those bodies are wholly or in part opposed to such openness on both those accounts.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

I don't think it's likely they will join the PNCC or Continuing Anglican groups. The Poles were kicked out of the Union of Utrecht years ago, and most of the Continuing Churches (e.g., ACNA, REC, etc.) are too Evangelical Protestant in orientation for them to be interested...

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Eric Bonetti
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Eric Bonetti

Sad outcome. The parish sounds like a wonderful place, perhaps with much to offer TEC.

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Simon Burris
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Simon Burris

Maybe they heard about how the TEC deals with break-away parishes?

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Robert Chapman
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Robert Chapman

This parish was created with special provisions in the late 1800s with the unusual provision that the parish controlled the property, not the Roman Archbishop of St. Louis. Later, the Archdiocese of St. Louis tried to take parish money designated for preserving Polish culture to pay off recent court settlements.

Of course they are touchy on the subject. Considering how long the Archdiocese tried to close the parish and use its assets, they will fear the potential of outsiders trying to close them again.

It has nothing to do with anything else.

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Gregory Orloff
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Gregory Orloff

A more likely, less insinuating explanation is a parochial preference for trusteeism (control of church property and assets by a local board of laypersons) over diocesan control of parish property and assets (the current canonical norm among Roman Catholics in the United States), as is evident from the history of prior disagreement between this parish and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis about who ultimately controls property and assets at the parish level.

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