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Legal setback for Diocese of Fort Worth

Legal setback for Diocese of Fort Worth

Bishop High’s statement on decision of 141st District Court

On Tuesday, March 2, 2015, the Hon. John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, denied the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgments. He granted the breakaway parties’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, except as to the claims of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Fort Worth.

Order on Motions for Partial Summary Judgment

“We are disappointed with this decision but quite hopeful for the future. This sacred property was built up over 170 years in this part of Texas by generations of Episcopalians for the use of The Episcopal Church so it will be available for use by generations of Episcopalians to come as they do the work of the Church,” said the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. “That remains our purpose in this litigation, and we are confident going forward under the rulings of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals and Texas Supreme Court that are already in place in our case.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was formed by The Episcopal Church in 1982-84, after the new diocesan leaders promised unanimously to accept and use the Episcopal property only for The Episcopal Church’s mission and ministry. In November 2008, former Bishop Jack L. Iker and other diocesan leaders left The Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with another church, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Since then they have been using the name and seal of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and occupying Episcopal Church property, even though they are not Episcopalians and hold no offices in The Episcopal Church or any Episcopal Diocese. This lawsuit was brought by the local, loyal Episcopalians of the diocese to protect their historic name, seal, and property for the future generations of Episcopalians in Texas. Under basic neutral principles of Texas law, former officers like the breakaway Defendants are free to leave an institution, but they cannot take its name and property with them, in violation of all the commitments that came before.

In January, 2011, Judge Chupp granted the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgment. That decision was appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court by the breakaway parties.  In August, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court, in a split decision, sent the case back to Judge Chupp, ordering it be heard on different principles. That hearing was on Friday, February 20, 2015.

Bishop High said today, “Be of good heart. The Episcopal Church, including its continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, welcomes everyone, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey. The mission of The Episcopal Church is to reconcile the world to God through Jesus Christ and that work continues.“


Posted by John B. Chilton


Photo by Mark Fisher

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Gary Paul Gilbert

Regarding homophobia, I like what Desmond Tutu says, "God does not discriminate among members of our family. God does not say black is better than white, or tall is better than short, or football players are better than basketball players, or Christians are better than Muslims… or gay is better than straight. No. God says love one another; love your neighbour. God is for freedom, equality and love."

http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/archbishop-desmond-tutu-god-is-for-freedom-equality-and-love

I would add Jürgen Moltmann's notion that you cannot add anything to justification by faith alone. Heterosexuals do not get extra points.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Philip Snyder

Here is an interesting article from the conservative side about the difference between a congregation leaving a diocese and a diocese leaving General Convetion (TEC).

http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2015/03/ecusa-and-freedom-of-association.html

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Ray Martin

I wish TEC would use the money to win souls for Christ, instead of spending it to keep property. This has been a bad 'smudge' on the name of TEC that will follow it forever. If the majority of people in a given congregation want to leave the mother church, let them go, and let them have the property. It seems to me this is the right thing to do. It seems, too, the courts have agreed. Even the headline of this article is misleading. It was not a 'legal setback.' TEC lost.

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walter combs

You are spot-on, Ray! I couldn't agree with you more. It is time to stop these lawsuits. They have cost our church an OBSCENE amount of money. How many people could have been clothed with that money? How many fed or provided with medical services? And, you are absolutely right. TEC lost BIG in this lawsuit. Let's stop wasting any more of our resources. From what I can tell, we have very little chance of winning on appeal.

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Walter Adams

That is very gracious. I agree. It was previously the case that Bishops were left to deal with individual parishes as they saw fit.

It is also the case that when it comes to a Diocese as such (not a parish) courts are getting sufficiently up to speed to realize that TEC is a voluntary association of independent dioceses (legally speaking).

So quite apart from spending money in litigation, there is also the scandal of spending money on fruitless litigation. That is what one is now seeing in these Diocesan cases.

The present PB is soon to step down. With that could come a decision to spend no further funds on this misadventure. And perhaps to provide a clear accounting of where the 40M has actually come from.

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Thomas Coates

Please do not forget about the many people left out of the break-off dioceses. For the sake of the Gospel and for women, LGBT persons, and all those excluded by the break-off dioceses, including the few churches that remained with The Episcopal Church, the TEC's presence and resources are vital in the area.
Abandoning the (loyal) Diocese of Ft. Worth would set a precedent that will impact all connectional, hierarchical churches in the US.

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Anne Coletta

For David Streever: In 2006 ECUSA formally joined (as an entire church) the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (formerly named the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights). ECUSA was the first Christian church to join--in the past various groups from Christian denominations had joined, but never before an entire church body.

The RCRC supports abortion at any time for any reason. For several GCs after ECUSA's membership became official, there were attempts to pass resolutions either eliminating ECUSA's membership or at least bringing to a vote at GC whether ECUSA should remain a paying member of an organization that supports abortion at any time for any reason. None of those resolutions were allowed to come to a vote of both houses.

So when people say ECUSA supports abortion, they are correct. The entire church has pledged their support and their money to an organization that advocates for and supports abortion at any time for any reason.

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Elizabeth Kaeton

Thank you, Ann Fontaine and David Streever, for accurately describing both the position of The Episcopal Church as well as RCRC on the issues of reproductive justice. I am privileged to serve as the representative of TEC to RCRC on the national board which will be meeting next week in D.C.

Whenever hyperbolic and inaccurate language around abortion is employed - such as we have seen here - one can be quite certain that it is being used as a red herring for a desperate argument about something else.

Let's be clear: the argument here is not about reproductive rights - or, for that matter, blessing the covenants made by two people of the same sex - but about property litigation and jurisprudence and schism.

Let's be clear: A woman does not choose abortion as one chooses the color and style of a shoe or which article of clothing she might wear that day or what flavor of ice cream might amuse her palate. No woman makes an "abortion on demand" stamping her pretty little foot with a petulant scowl on her pretty little face. A woman chooses abortion with as much heartfelt seriousness and agonized thought - well, with at least as much heartfelt seriousness and agonized thought but perhaps much more - as one makes the sacrificial, loving choice to leave one's denomination and church property because the theological position held there is not in keeping with what one understands about a loving God and how one chooses to respond with one's life to that understanding of God.

To suggest anything less for either party involved in their separate, different decisions is to be deeply insulting to the intelligence and integrity of both.

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David Streever

Anne Coletta:
I'm sorry, but you couldn't be more wrong.

The Religious Coalition believes:
"At RCRC, we believe the decision to become a parent or become a parent again, when and under what circumstances are deeply personal decisions best left to a woman to discern for herself, in consultation with her family, her faith and others she might bring into the conversation. Becoming a parent – becoming a good parent – is an aspiration for many; likewise, abortion is irrevocably intertwined with one’s ability and desire to parent."

Believing that it's a personal choice which you don't understand as well as the person making it is not the same thing as believing it's "the right choice" or "correct". The RCRC acknowledges that it's unlikely that they'll know better, as outsiders, but that a woman who has access to her faith leaders, doctors, and family will make a better choice for herself than an outsider will.

I'm sorry, but acknowledging that you don't know something is not the same as "supporting abortions on demand", which is the statement I responded to negatively.

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Ann Fontaine

Anne Coletta: you are incorrect in your understanding of The Episcopal Church's stance on abortion as well as the main mission of RCRC. Here are all the resolutions from General Convention: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_search.pl?user_query=abortion&collection=The+Acts+of+Convention and here is the mission statement of RCRC: As an organization committed to actualizing reproductive justice, RCRC is expanding beyond the bitter abortion debate to seek solutions to pressing national problems such as disparities in access to reproductive health services, unintended pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs in already marginalized communities, inadequate health care, and severe attacks on privacy and the moral agency of women. We support access to comprehensive sexuality education, family planning and contraception, affordable child care and health care, and adoption services as well as safe, legal, abortion services, regardless of income or any other unique circumstance. We work for public policies that ensure the medical, economic, and educational resources necessary for healthy families and communities that are equipped to nurture children in peace and love.

Having grown up in a time of illegal abortions and seeing their killing effects on friends I fully support women's ability to make wise choices for themselves and I support safe legal abortion.

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Philip Snyder

To speak of "loyal" dioceses and congregations is false. What about the loyalty to Holy Scripture (both in the case of same sex blessings and in the case of bringing lawsuits against brothers and sisters in Christ)? What about loyalty to those who are practicing what the Church has always taught.

There now is no longer a sufficient base of people in the area to constitute a viable diocese. I recommend that Fort Worth be rolled into North West Texas - as that is another diocese struggling with declining ASA and resources.

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JC Fisher

"Where is homosexual sex talked about in any terms other than negative in Holy Scripture."

{Sigh}

PhilipS, I almost don't respond at all to your demand, because it is so offensive to reduce a ***spousal covenanted-relationship*** to ANY kind of "sex".

Nevertheless, your question has such an EASY answer, that I can reproduce it w/ little necessary effort:

Your PRESUPPOSITION IS INCORRECT. "Homosexual sex" is NOT "talked about...in negative terms...in Holy Scripture", simply because ***sex between homosexual persons*** is NOT ADDRESSED in Holy Scripture.

What we have, in the infamous "Clobber Verses" (to which I'm sure you mentally refer), is *possible sexual practices* (texts are of unclear translation), likely abusive, between *men* who are ASSUMED to be (what we would call) "heterosexual".

[The imposition and projection of modern terminology onto past contexts, are (just) one of the sins of Fundamentalism, from which we Episcopalians are well free.]

Any kind of spousal relationship between persons of the same-sex, in this highly patriarchal culture (a culture where women are little more than objects to be traded between fathers and sons) isn't rejected. It simply isn't considered---in the same way female-chosen marriage isn't considered, either.

Let us all PRAISE GOD that the Will of God IS being, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, being more and more "worked out" by the People of God!

HTH.

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David Streever

Philip Snyder:
Two questions.

One.
When you claim it is plain that the vast majority favor abortion on demand, what are you really saying?

How is it 'plain' that the vast majority favor abortion on demand?

I know a few dozen Episcopal priests & 5 bishops. Not a single one of them is in favor of abortion.

Do you have, perhaps, a study or some other methodological work that illustrates how 'widespread' support for 'abortion on demand' is amongst the leadership of TEC?

Question number two is several questions rolled into one. Mea culpa!
Legally, scientifically, and linguistically, 'child' is a term which refers to a human being between the stages of birth and puberty. Why do you use it for an unborn fetus? How does your religious view trump the scientific, linguistic, and legal consensus? Do you have any facts or evidence that support the notion that a fetus is an independent living creature with agency?

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Philip Snyder

Harry M. Merryman - it was also the "official" position of TEC (then ECUSA) that we should not approve the blessings of same sex unions nor the ordination of men or women engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage without further buy in from our partners in the Anglican Communion. You see how well that was regarded.

Whatever the "official" position of abortion, it is plane that the VAST majority of leadership in TEC (Bishops, priests, lay leaders) approve of abortion on demand and will do nothing (or very little) to see that atrocity ended or regulated or curtailed. I do not recall ANY leaders from TEC rebuking that particular comment from the Dean of one of our Seminaries.

Today, you are almost persona non-grata if you do not fully embrace the changes to the very definition of marriage, the ordination of women, and the right of a woman to kill her unborn child for any reason at any time.

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Harry M. Merryman

Philip Snyder: You are certainly entitled to respect for your opinions regarding TEC’s official positions which you feel have strayed from the endoxa. However, to imply that TEC has officially characterized . . . “the approval of abortion on demand as a “blessing,”” is not accurate. It is true that the soon-to-be ex-Dean of EDS made this statement, but it is in no way the official position of TEC.

TEC’s official position on abortion is best captured in General Convention Resolution 1994-A054. The entire resolution may be found at: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution.pl?resolution=1994-A054

In part, the Resolution reads: “While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.”

I hardly think this is an endorsement of abortion as a “blessing.” It would be better to characterize TEC’s position as pro-choice, but not pro-abortion.

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Philip Snyder

JC Fisher - Perhaps you can succeed where everyone else I have ever talked to has failed. Where is homosexual sex talked about in any terms other than negative in Holy Scripture. Where are the Apostolic Fathers talked about blessing same sex unions? Where are the Councils of the Church on blessing same sex unions?

Homosexual sex has ALWAYS been condemned by the Church. You can't find one of the Ecumenical Councils that speak for it. You can't find it spoken of positively in any of the writings of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Anglican Churches - until very recently. It is a spiritual innovation that is not in line with either Natural Law or Revealed Law.

Having said that, it is by no means the worst of sins nor is it even in the top 10. The sin that is worst than homosexual sex (in any context) is spiritual pride - deciding that YOU know better than 2000 years of Tradition and what Holy Scripture says - or even saying that YOUR (always relational to the speaker) sin is worse than my sin.

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JC Fisher

If you're trying to say, Philip, that same-sex blessings (or preferably, MARRIAGE) are not loyal to Holy Scripture, I disagree strenuously! [Certainly, as there no record of them being against "what the Church has always taught", same-sex marriage is a faithful practice for Christians, also.]

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Philip Snyder

Thomas - The Church has always taught that marriage is between one man and one woman. It has also always taught that sex is to be confined to marriage. Further it has always taught that Holy Communion is to be given only to baptized members and that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine and that he was born of a virgin - Mary. Today, there are many priests and not a few bishops who deny all of that - regardless of their vow to be loyal to the "...doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church *has received* (note, not may construe, but has received) them."

Women's ordination did not drive Fort Worth and Qunicy and San Joaquin and South Carolina out of TEC. It was the wholesale denial of morality (both sexual morality and the approval of abortion on demand as a "blessing.") and the persecution of good priests and bishops who would not be silent in the face of TEC's leaders abandoning the Faith for what the world teaches.

You can say that they left TEC, but more accurately, TEC left what the Church has always taught on many subjects - and all for sociological rather than theological reasons.

For example, can you give me a scriptural warrant for the blessing of same sex unions? Can you give me a scriptural warrant for calling abortion a blessing? Can you give me a scriptural warrant for saying that "I am not resigning my orders" to mean "I have resigned my orders."

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Thomas Coates

What the church has always taught? If we apply that to other forms of discrimination, and past justification for laws and wars of harm, we are in deep trouble.
Further, it ignores the apostle Junia, Phoebe the deacon/minister, the contribution of women in consecrating at the table and the hidden history of the role of women in the church. Regarding LGBT persons, a similar statement can be said: How many saints of the church were deeply closeted LGBT persons?
Too, too many. God forgive us all.
Nevertheless, perhaps I should say the diocese in full communion with The Episcopal Church, instead of "loyal".
The breakaway dioceses and parishes have also sued and have taken advantage of the law. Again, this and similar ruling have devastating consequences for hierarchical denominations where synods, conferences, missional areas, and dioceses can now succeed with impunity.

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J. Samuel Knopf

Maybe yes, maybe no. But my point is that this constant stream of litigation is expensive, draining money, time and energy. The fine points of the law are interesting, but given the scarcity of resources to extend the work of the Kingdom, is suing people our priority?

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Heather Angus

J. Samuel,

I agree with almost all of your comment (except that "the fine points of the law are interesting." They're not.) 🙂

Seriously, I feel it is a scandal and a disgrace that TEC has spent tens of millions of dollars, and is prepared to spend more, to squabble over property! St. Paul says somewhere (I'll look it up if anyone wants) that we Christians should rather let ourselves be injured than go to law against other Christians. Fat chance, eh?

But in these cases, it doesn't even come to that. How hard is it to figure out that if a few parishes want to split up over the gay/women issue, we can just let the "leavers" have one of the physical churches, and the "remainers" one of the others. Imperfect, but do-able.

But no! We have to battle over "stuff" while millions of the suffering poor all over the world die for lack of the resources we *could* give them. I am ashamed.

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Philip Snyder

Ann - I would appreciate it if you would throw a few bible verses or citations from Church Councils at me regarding blessing same sex unions. Perhaps you can't because they don't exist.
Your entire argument is the argument from silence and is based on sociology (where is society going) rather than theology (what is God doing). Since Scripture is silent on a lot of things (such as homophobia) does that mean that these things can now be blessed or should we stop trying to circumvent scripture by qualifying it enough. Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church demands respect for all people (but not their deeds). Since it doesn't say "don't hate xxxx" (any specific sub-group of people) that does not give us leave to hate that group of people.

Likewise, Holy Scripture and the Church both say that homosexual sex (same gender sexual relationship) is sinful. If there were an exception to this, don't you think that God is smart enough to say "... but not in this case" or Jesus would have said "you have heard it said.... but I say to you....." Since Jesus knew the OT law AND knew the will of the Father, it follows that if Jesus thought something was wrong with what the Jews wrote down, then Jesus would correct it.

But, then, I believe that Jesus is and was uniquely fully human and fully divine (following the teachings of the Church and Holy Scripture). If you don't believe that Jesus is divine, or you don't believe that the Holy Scriptures to be the Word of God, your mileage may vary.

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David Streever

Philip:
Please follow our guideline of 4 comments per day.

Most of what you're saying here you've already said (and had answered). That is why the guideline exists; it is rare to see someone write something original or novel with their 4th comment. Our goal is to foster respectful dialogue, not to allow argument by assertion. You are not an ancient Hebrew scholar; your assertions that the Bible said "Homosexual sex" is incorrect. The word, the phrase, did not exist in that context. You've asserted it multiple times now; I understand that you strongly believe it. Many linguistic experts disagree with you and have produced original scholarship to support their claims.

Regardless of your views, you are crossing the line in questioning Ann's faith. She hasn't done that to you. While I think you are incredibly incorrect in your interpretation of the Bible, and myopic in focusing purely on the English translations, I have not questioned your faith. None of us have questioned your faith or any qualities of you as a person. Please refrain from doing so to us. It's a hard line to judge as a moderator, but you as the person writing the comment know when you're crossing the line. You know when you're not arguing in good faith. You know when you're being unkind or unfair or uncharitable.

We are volunteers. It's hard for us to assess exactly when a line is crossed, but it's apparent to you, because you know what you're thinking and feeling as you write these comments. Please show us a modicum of respect in appreciation for creating the place where you can share your view, and be aware of your tone and feelings to the extent that you avoid crossing the line.

Please attempt to maintain a civil tone, and work towards reasonable dialogue in good faith with other commentators and contributors. Our comment policy is quite clear about that. We will moderate your comments if you are rude or posting in excess of 4 comments per day.

Thank you.

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Ann Fontaine

Please do not question my faith in Jesus. I do not question yours and I find it very offensive that you project your ideas of what I may or not believe. I am a priest - of course I believe that Jesus is the incarnation of God and the Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation. I just don't agree with your interpretation and am not going to toss Councils or Bible verses back and forth. The Councils declared that the sun goes around the earth. They were human. As are you and I. I think both of us are over the 4 post limit today.

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Bro David

I agree with David Streever and others here;
TEC ... has laid out a very strong and compelling argument in favor of blessing same-sex unions. It’s predicated on “discernment”, a traditional process that our Church has used for millennia to discern the will of God in contemporary times, influenced by Scripture and theological understandings.

And based on that discernment, I believe that the Church was given authority from Jesus Christ himself through the keys given to Peter that "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Mt 18:18)

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Philip Snyder

Ahh yes. The best argument is the argument from silence. Since there is nothing about homosexual sex within a specific context, then it MUST be OK. There is nothing in Holy Scripture about stealing automobiles or about oppressing people because of their political beliefs or about dioceses leaving TEC. So are those also OK?

Are you serious that Jesus and Paul don't believe Marriage to be a good thing? Paul is the one who likened the union of husband and wife (marriage) to the union between Christ and the Church - that seems like a pretty good thing to me. Jesus performed his first Miracle at a wedding and Jesus taught that God created man and woman for each other (Matt 19:4-6). It seems like Jesus also believed marriage to be the union of one man and one woman designed for life and that God designed that union in creation.

Since Matthew calls Jesus "pais" (Matt 12:18) does that mean that Jesus or Israel is God's sex slave? Or is it more likely that the Centurion had an actual servant?

The opinion I hold regarding the blessing of any sexual activity outside of marriage and that marriage is the union of one man and one woman is not "my opinion" but is the opinion of the Universal Church and the Vast majority of the Anglican Communion. The positions I hold are based on Holy Scripture and the unbroken Tradition of the Church. It is not just something that occurred to me at a specific day or time or that I "grew" into.

Having glanced through the document than Ann linked to, I did not see any justification other than "Society is moving towards this, so we must also." (Not a direct quote). I did not see any scriptural warrant nor quotations from the Councils of the Church.

Every time the Church has changed its teaching on morality, it has provided citations from Scripture and Tradition to show how the new teaching is better than the old. In this case, we just like gay people and want to celebrate their erotic love for each other, so we are going to change the teaching of the Church and throw away entire dioceses because we won and we have the political will to do so.

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Ann Fontaine

Well, yes, Philip, there was no scriptural warrant for freeing slaves nor that the earth is not the center of the universe - but the church changed anyway. And scripture is very clear about not making images of anything - but we have icons and sculptures, etc. Paul says it is better to marry than to burn - not a rousing endorsement of marriage. We can throw Bible verses and church councils at each other but it is clear neither of our minds will change. I admit I may be wrong but at the end of time standing before God - I am willing to take whatever happens. I go with love- the greatest commandment.

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Philip Snyder

David Streever - Have you ever read the Wedding service? It specifically mentions "Man" and "Woman." Paul talks about the union of "Husband and Wife" not of two people. Jesus talks about bride and bridegroom (woman and man). I did not only Holy Scripture's vision of Marriage, but the Church's definition - which has always been one man and one woman.

This is not about personal interpretation of Holy Scripture but about what the Church has always taught.

As the person who is advocating a change to the definition of marriage, is it up to you to show why your proposed definition is more true to the Church's teaching and to God's revelation in Holy Scripture. (BTW, if you will look at all the cases of polygamy in HS, you will find that they rarely end well - that should be a warning to us about monkeying with the definition of marriage.)

So, I will ask you one final time. Either cite something from within Holy Scripture or within the Ecumenical Councils or from the Apostolic Fathers that talks about blessing same sex unions or admit that you don't really care what Holy Scripture or Tradition says - that you don't care what has been revealed to us and that TEC is simply a "make it up as you go along" religion (or at least your version of "Christianity" is a make it up as you go along religion).

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Ann Fontaine

Read this for yourself to see the history of marriage and the Episcopal Church thinking about the theology. https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/12485.pdf As others have stated there is nothing in the Bible about same sex unions as we are doing them today. There was no recognition of loving mutual adult relationships between same sex couples. Maybe: The passage about David and Jonathan (a relationship surpassing the love of a woman). The Centurion who brings his beloved "slave"to be healed. But there are plenty of heterosexual marriage practices in the Bible that we find horrific and do not follow. To say that the Bible, and therefore God, only approves of one man one woman unions is to ignore most of the Bible. Jesus and Paul do not seem to think that getting married is even a good thing.

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David Streever

Hi Philip,

I apologize, but I have no need to "either cite something" ... "or admit that (I) don't really care". As I stated before, I think your argument is specious, and predicated on a strawman position which is neither coherent nor consistent. I'm not debating *in favor* of same-sex blessings. I'm merely exploring your argument for internal consistency.

We don't have to solely do the things that are in the Bible. You don't have to marry your widowed sister-in-law. You agree with this, so it is hard for me to accept the thrust of your argument.

Your argument is predicated on the infallibility of the authors of the Bible. As I do not accept the infallibility of the authors, I simply am unmoved by your argument; it isn't that I "don't care". I'm not convinced by an argument that asks me to treat the translated words and ideas of councils, operating much like TEC operates today, as infallible and literal.

TEC agrees with me, and has laid out a very strong and compelling argument in favor of blessing same-sex unions. It's predicated on "discernment", a traditional process that our Church has used for millennia to discern the will of God in contemporary times, influenced by Scripture and theological understandings.

I'm not trying to convince you of my point of view; TEC has already outlined and laid out a comprehensive, cohesive, and consistent argument in favor of blessing same-sex unions. If that didn't convince you, it is an impossibility for me to do so. I'm pointing out what I perceive as logical holes in your argument.

I believe that your argument against same-sex marriage is logically and rationally flawed. I've tried to discuss the merits of the idea as an idea.

I'll take a break from replying, however, as we're trying to limit comments to no more than 4 per day. Thank you!

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Elizabeth Kaeton

I'm always slightly amused by this "shame on TEC for spending so much money defending its property" argument.

The shame belongs on those "breakaway" churches who think they can "leave" - like a husband who has found a new lover, one that is more obedient to his desires - and take everything with them.

There is no shame if fighting, not for what is "yours" but for what has been entrusted to you as a good steward.

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Heather Angus

David Streever,

I appreciate your answering me. (I wish I knew how to make my answer appear after yours, but I don't.)

I just don't see how stopping the battles would mean "that newly elected Vestries/newly appointed Priests could in essence run away with entire parishes assets." Wouldn't that be illegal? Wouldn't we (I'm a newly-elected vestry member) be arrested? Robbing a church (or anyone else) is not legal under any circumstances. Can you explain further?

In answer to your question of why don't we just leave, I can only speak for myself. In the first place, I didn't join TEC 20 years ago because "it’s a hierarchical organisation with less individual freedom than other denominations have." Quite the contrary, I joined it after quite a bit of thought because, in addition to the beauty of its liturgy and the depth of its tradition, I saw that it allowed a great deal of liberty for the individual conscience in regard to doctrinal issues. The overall church structure was the least of my concerns.

Also, I really loved, and love, the people in our little congregation.

In the second place, if it's true we have "less individual freedom" than other churches, does that mean *no freedom* to even discuss the actions of the hierarchy? Are we like Roman Catholics who must "pray, pay, and obey," without permission to disagree? Prove that, and I'll be out of here in very short order.

But I doubt it. I truly believe that some things the higher authorities of TEC are doing are simply wrong, and I feel free to say so without fear of repercussions from the PB or anyone else.

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David Streever

Hi Heather,

Happy to discuss! I'm sorry I disagree with quite nearly all of what you wrote.

1. It's not a crime, actually, for a vestry that disagrees with part of the congregation on an issue to shut out the congregation & effectively re-create the Church. I don't mean they'd go to Tahiti. I mean they can (and are!) taking Churches out of the diocese or convention, financially and in mission. It's currently perfectly legal, and the courts have decided in their favor on several occasions. TEC created the implied trust to force Vestries to be responsible to the entire Church, not just their immediate congregation. The hope was to set a legal precedent that would block runaway churches.

2. The Episcopal Church does not historically operate the way that some wish it did. It's a hierarchy, like the Roman Catholic church. Congregationalism arose precisely to give congregations more power and eliminate hierarchies. Why try to force TEC to be something it isn't? Because people like the incense? I'm sorry, it just seems incredibly self-centered of vestries, congregants, and priests to treat TEC like it has the structure of a Baptist or Congregationalist church. If it does, it undermines and destabilizes the entire TEC; all because some members of the Church don't agree with the majority on an interpretation of scripture? We're all still Christian, aren't we?

Of course you have freedom to discuss; what you shouldn't have is freedom to rip apart the Church financially, which is precisely what the runaways are doing. Having failed to convince their fellow Christians of their interpretation of theology, they've simply absconded with the money. Your response to being asked to consider the historical structure of the Church is how much you love some individuals and your history with your local church. Is that relevant? It that sounds like an individualistic perspective, but we are talking about a church that predates you by hundreds of years. If you feel no commitment to your brothers & sisters in Christ who disagree with you, why claim to be their sister in the first place?

You shouldn't fear repercussions for voicing your disagreement. However, at some point, I think you need to acknowledge that your arguments may not be sound, and come into a good faith conversation with TEC, and acknowledge that the runaway churches are destabilizing the entire system. If you think your current reservations about the current PB justify chucking the centuries-old system out the window, I'm honestly not sure why you think it's valid or appropriate for you to belong in TEC.

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Philip Snyder

David,

If I could be shown where in Holy Scripture they find the approval of blessing same sex unions, then I would gladly reconsider my stand on the subject. The problem is that not even the Presiding Bishop could share a scriptural warrant with me in a question and answer session.

The base of all our theology must be Holy Scripture - it is the norm that norms all other norms. You seem to assume that the people who support blessing what the Bible calls "sin" did the hard theological work to come to their stands. Yet no one on the conservative side has ever seen any of the theological work (based in Holy Scripture) that was done. Thus, I can only assume that such work does not exist. Others have told me it is self-evident that both the Church and Holy Scripture accept the blessing of gay unions. Yet when asked where in scripture they see it, they cannot answer.

Since you are so strongly in favor of blessing same sex unions and ordaining men and women who are sexually active outside of marriage, perhaps YOU could share the scriptural basis for this innovation.

You mention 3 possibilities. First it they didn't like shunning LGBT people and thought it was a mistake. This is not about "shunning" anyone. Where the members of the church excluded and shunned men and women who were sexually active outside of marriage, the church was wrong. But there is a huge difference between welcoming the sinner and blessing the sin. There is also a difference between being told that what you are doing is a sin and you not believing it.
Second, you mentioned that they thought Holy Scripture was wrong or it doesn't apply in THIS specific case. This is probably the most accurate, but they still have not built a positive case as to why it doesn't apply or why it is wrong. They start out with the assumption that they are right and Holy Scripture is in error. They are engaged in cultural and temporal imperialism - reading our secular culture onto Holy Scripture and trying to make that fit their idea.
Third, you mention the possibility that they just don't care about Holy Scripture. I wouldn't put it that way. I believe that they care more about not hurting the feelings of they LGBT friends than what God says about this specific topic.

I believe that this is the direct result of the self-esteem movement in that we can't be seen to hurt the self-esteem of almost anyone. The only "sins" that are discussed are sins of greed, racism, misogyny, and/or homophobia. Our Church has been too successful at being the Church that helped to mold the nation and the national thinkers (in the last 200 years). Thus, we became identified with the cultural leadership and as that leadership started to change its opinions on LGBT persons, our church began to do so as well. Instead of leading the culture, it became captured by the culture. The Church has been captured by the culture many times. Anthony went to the desert because the church had become to focused on power and wealth. Benedict reformed monasticism for the same reasons. Dominic and Francis each led a reformation because the Church had become lazy and wealthy and powerful. Luther did the same. The Anglican reformers fought the same battles. The Weslyian reformers fought against the idea that it really doesn't matter what you believe as long as your are not too zealous about it. The Oxford movement was a direct result of the surge in evangelical zeal from the Weslyians. The cycle repeats over and over again. We are at (or close to) the nadir of that cycle today within TEC. We see a focus on power and money and political activism rather than on mission and spreading the Gospel. The gospel of TEC's leadership is "conform or we will sue you into oblivion."

All of it starts because leaders and people believe they know better than Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.

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David Streever

Philip:
There are many rites we use, as Christians, which are not in the Bible. The Bible has not solely defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Bible includes many depictions of marriage, including some we'd be loathe to keep today. Would you marry your brother's widowed wife?

What you fail to acknowledge in your argument is that you are assuming that your interpretation of Scripture is sound & accurate & reflects God's will. When we acknowledge this, we are left with the conclusion that your last sentence condemns yourself as well--"people believe they know better" indeed.

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Philip Snyder

David - the expression of the faith has changed - whether priests can/must/should be celibate, vestments used, even what was considered in the Canon of Scripture has changed. But the change has always (until recently) been brought about by arguments from within the revelation. When it was determined whether or not Gentiles should have to become Jews and follow the OT ceremonial laws (Acts 15), Peter's arguments (which won the day) came from within Holy Scripture. When the Church affirmed the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the arguments came from within Scripture and Tradition. When the Church affirmed the two natures in one person of Jesus, the arguments came from Holy Scripture and Tradition.

When the Church decided that the Trinity was not that important (between I Nicea and Constantinople), the arguments were sociological in nature and, ultimately, failed. When the Bishop of Rome determined that he had universal jurisdiction, the arguments were political in nature and caused the Great Schism and (ultimately) the Protestant Reformation.

The arguments that outlawed slavery came from within Holy Scripture.

So, were are the arguments from within the Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church for changing the morality of homosexual sexual contact? I have heard zero arguments that stand up to the slightest scrutiny. I have heard David and Jonathon (as if David was our example of Biblical sexual morality) and the healing of the Centurion's pias (the two issues with that are it is a master/slave relationship and Jesus is referred to as God's pias a little later in both Matthew and Luke. In the Septuagint, the word for Servant in the Servant songs of Isaiah is "pais."

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David Streever

Hi Philip,
From your response, I'd broaden my understanding of your argument to be:
1. The Church traditionally held x point of view.
2. In your opinion, there is no scriptural support for changing x point of view.
3. Therefore, the point of view shouldn't change.

It's a very subjective argument, which is why so many people in authority at the Church seem to see it differently, I suspect. Right? Subjective interpretation is subjective; it will change based on who is doing it.

We can presume that one of the following occurred for each member of the Convention:
1. They saw no scriptural reason to shun people in LGBT relationships in their reading of the Bible.
2. They thought the Bible got this wrong or that the Biblical language did not apply to modern, healthy, LGBT relationships, but rather to contextually specific situations occurring in pre/early Christian society.
3. They weren't concerned with Scripture.

The third seems unlikely; we're talking about highly educated theologians and influential laity, so I'm uncomfortable dismissing them with that 3rd possibility.

What we're left with is people of faith interpreting and understanding the Bible in a way that is different from how you've interpreted the Bible. There is linguistic support for their interpretation; the word 'homosexual' does not appear in the Bible in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic. Because of this, many scholars see it as a mis-translation, and point to the rampant homophobia of the King James period as further support for that theory.

Of course reasonable people can disagree on this. However, one sign of a 'reasonable person' is that they debate in good faith, without reducing the opposing argument to a strawman. I will endeavour to bear that in mind, and I hope you can, too!

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Walter Adams

"I think that’s a bit of speculation on both of our parts."

I am not speculating in the least! The rulings are there for all to see. Kindly speak for yourself.

At issue is acknowledging -- difficult for you and others to do --that introducing departures from the former BCP understandings will leave those who wish to remain in this teaching and pastoral counsel. Do you understand this?

To decide on a novel path can be called by you 'prophetic.' Others will decide they want to stay where the church has articulated its view on marriage.

So at issue is whether to let those not willing to walk out on this trail the gracious space to stand aside and continue with what TEC has traditionally taught.

The alternative is to demand others conform.

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David Streever

Walter:
I said "The idea". I was speaking about the intentions of TEC in forming these. I've said it twice now! I apologize if I'm being unclear, but yes, we're both 'speculating' when we talk about the point of the trust & the aspirations for it.

I didn't use the phrase prophetic, so you're either misunderstanding what I'm writing, or responding to someone else! Sorry about the confusion.

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Philip Snyder

David Streever - you realize that you advanced the "They will have to accept .... because it is where society is going", don't you?

What does it matter where society is headed when it comes to where the Church is? Society knows less about The Truth (Jesus) than the Church does. The question is whom will we follow? Society or the Church? Your post seems to say that the Church should follow society rather than call society back into relationship with God.

If that were true, the Elijah would never have invited the prophets of Baal to a contest. Paul would not have spoken out against the culture in his era. The early martyrs would not have had any problem with pinching incense and saying "Caesar is Lord."

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David Streever

Hi Philip:
I'm completely aware of the words I'm writing. What a strange question to ask me!

You believe that, historically, the broader Church has *always* been correct in their pronouncements? Do you also hold the view that Priests must be celibate, that the communion wafer can not be touched by your teeth in any way, and that divorce & re-marriage is a mortal sin?

Things change. Church policy changes. The Church discerns God in different places.

You may not agree with the Church on this matter, but I don't think it sells your argument to frame it as something which you've independently confirmed & know beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I may have misunderstood your argument, but I take it to be the following:
1. The Church traditionally held x point of view.
2. Therefore, any deviation from x point of view is wrong.

If you truly believe this, I'd ask you if you're familiar with the earliest laws and customs of the Christian church, and if so, if you follow them all to the letter. Otherwise, I feel that your argument is neither consistent nor compelling.

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Walter Adams

"the idea of the implied trust seems to be something which is important in keeping parishes and dioceses together."

If you mean, keep them together re: property ownership by a hierarchy, then an implied trust will not do that.

That is what the judges are ruling. Trust law requires more than that.

If you mean, 'keep them together' as Christians in mission, and not constraining them against their convictions about that mission, then of course there'd need to be a shared mission in Christ.

When it comes to moving out beyond BCP marriage to accommodate a new development (if such it is), then 'keeping together' becomes harder.

That is what we are witnessing.

So if you want a 'keeping together' along the lines of property ownership, it will be necessary to create express trust relationships.

Whether this is the same thing as shared Christian mission is by no means clear.

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David Streever

Walter:
I think that's a bit of speculation on both of our parts. My point was that the idea behind the implied trust was to keep the property within the hierarchy; while the courts currently don't see it that way, I do think that was the idea behind it.

As to remaining together in mission, I think that these congregations will eventually change and reflect the mainline church, in the same way that the Anglican church accepts women's ordination & the mainline Episcopal church accepts LGBT clergy.

Social acceptance of LGBT partnerships and relationships is on a growing trend, and seems to be continuing to do so.

I don't think that we're going to see the trend reverse. We might, but it seems unlikely, and it seems that it'd be better in the long-run for these parishes to remain a part of the hierarchy that made them possible in the first place.

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David Streever

Heather:
I initially agreed with that point, but I've read a number of analyses that suggest that not fighting these battles would open TEC to all sorts of financial abuses; that newly elected Vestries/newly appointed Priests could in essence run away with entire parishes assets.

I don't know if that's true or if it would work out that way, but it made me think there was more going on in the legal battles than is apparent at first glance. Ultimately, the idea of the implied trust seems to be something which is important in keeping parishes and dioceses together, which I see as a key element to TEC; it's a hierarchical organisation with less individual freedom than other denominations have. That's a chief difference between TEC & other denominations.

Part of me thinks... if priests/congregants don't want that, why are they Episcopal at all? Aren't they the ones trying to fit a round peg in a square space?

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