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(Michael Carreker was rector of Saint John's, Savannah Georgia at the time this was written--KSH).
The workings of God’s good providence are never failing and always glorious, but none more so than the events of these last two weeks. This past weekend we hosted a conference of the Georgia Chapter of the American Anglican Council, followed by the southeastern convocation of the Anglican Communion Network, and this coming weekend is the dedication of our newly refurbished building for Christian education, Cranmer Hall.
In the first instance, it was a joy to sponsor these conferences along with Christ Church. An enormous amount of good will was shared between our parishes: extensive preparation and flawless execution. Mostly responsible for this were Patti Victor of St. John’s and Carol Rodgers Smith of Christ Church. While significant differences distinguish our churches - in a very inadequate way we might refer to us as Anglo-Catholic and to them as Evangelical - we stand together now in solidarity with those who claim the essentials of what it means to be within the Anglican Communion and the Church Catholic.
All of this might not have been possible for our churches, if by God’s good providence, Dr. [Marcus] Robertson [of Christ Church, Savannah at the time] and I had not shared in a theological seminar for a year before the chaos of General Convention 2003. That seminar, as does all proper theological thinking, helped to establish trust, charity, and mutual joy.
The meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the American Anglican Council was very encouraging. There were a number of parishes represented from the Diocese of Georgia, and a few from the Diocese of Atlanta, as well as some from outside Georgia. We also heard from a young, courageous priest (an old friend from North Fulton High School in Atlanta), Dr. Foley Beach. His story of the gradual decline in the Diocese of Atlanta away from the Catholic faith was sobering indeed. But the story of how his faithful parish has come under the pastoral oversight of an orthodox bishop, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyon of the Diocese of Bolivia, was inspiring and hopeful.
On Monday, at the meeting of the Anglican Communion Network, Dr. Beach’s story was put in a much broader context when the Rt. Rev. Alex Dickson, retired bishop of West Tennessee, recalled for us the history of the past forty years and the gradual doctrinal decline of the Episcopal Church, something we have all come to recognize has come full force with ECUSA’s action in New Hampshire.
But what was most gratifying to me was the evidence of providence again, when we had the Rev’d Canon Michael Green, Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, preach for us
at Evensong. Lynne and I attended St. Aldate’s Church at Oxford in the late seventies when Canon Green was the rector there. It was the time of Professor Maurice Wiles and the infamous publication of his The Myth of God Incarnate, to which, in a miraculous six weeks, a volume was published refuting Wiles’ book, entitled The Truth of God Incarnate, edited by Michael Green. He was a defender of the faith then and he is now. His sermon and the most exquisite Evensong of the Choir was another glistening of our Lord’s providence.
The rest of the Anglican Communion Network meeting saw a resolve for us to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report. The ACN has as its primary goal to be an orthodox Christian fellowship which holds to the supremacy of Holy Scripture, the historic formularies of the Anglican Church, and is in communion with the worldwide Anglican Church.
As for this coming Sunday, we dedicate our newly refurbished Christian education building, Cranmer Hall. I believe this must be seen within the larger context of what St. John’s has been, is, and shall be.
Our church has been devoted first of all to the worship of Almighty God. It is wonderful when you hear, as I did the other night, people speaking of Bible studies and study groups in which they have discerned through the Bible and elsewhere that the first need that they have is the worship of God. That is why St. John’s has not given herself over entirely to practical concerns, but keeps the focus of worship primary.
Cranmer Hall represents now the commitment to educate ourselves and our children more completely in the orthodox Christen faith. Its Rose window is s symbol of what such teaching means.
At its center is the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, enveloped by the Triune God. From this center, the window moves outward through the symbols of the twelve Apostles to twelve saints and worthies who made a profound influence on the development of Anglican spirituality. It is our intention to live into that heritage more fully and to share and teach it as well.
But more is required. We as a parish must prepare ourselves for greater mission work than in the recent past. We sometimes forget that St. John’s was a mission of Christ Church, and that St. Paul’s (originally St. Matthew’s and later renamed) was a mission undertaken by St. John’s. It is time now for other mission churches to be founded and for greater cooperation with Anglican Churches throughout the wider Communion. The ministry of Elliott House is set and on its way with our fourth theological seminar coming up in January. But now it is important for us to reach out in other ways to establish Christian mission in the Anglican Way. That will not happen unless we live into the theme of the Rose Window, and cultivate our heritage as orthodox Anglican Christians with missionary fervor.
Finally, the work of the Building Committee has now come to a very happy end. We should all be grateful for the many gifts and hours of labor, a labor of love, that the members of the committee have offered to the Lord and to their Church. Our Senior Warden and I have asked George Fawcett to oversee the final interior details of the building, and Martha has graciously consented for him to do so. As George represents a long family history at St. John’s, this too is a remarkable testimony to the good providence of God. And so with our profound thanksgiving, Soli Deo Gloria.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Departing Parishes TEC Parishes Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Theology
A few years ago I wrote an article for the Moultrie Observer regarding the purple bows that were on the wreaths on the doors at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 609 South Main Street. In 2012 there were no purple bows or wreaths on the doors, as the church sat empty when the members of St. John’s left The Episcopal Church to form St. Mark’s Anglican Church. However, 2013 will mark the return of the purple bows, and the new spiritual home of St. Mark’s Anglican.
On September 30, 2013, St. Mark’s was able to purchase the building from the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market
In a statement to his congregation on Sunday, July 29, Fr. McQueen stated that he can no longer remain in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia due to serious theological differences with the diocese and national Episcopal Church. He invited all who were “willing to make a stand for the historic Christian faith” to join him in stepping out in faith to form a new church, St. Mark’s Anglican Church.
“It had reached a point for me personally where I believed that my adherence to the traditional, historic, catholic faith in a number of matters had been so compromised that I could not stay in the Episcopal Church. Though it is painful to leave the denomination in which I was baptized, confirmed, married, and ordained, I have no reservations about leaving. I firmly believe that God has been preparing me for this very day for a long time,” said Fr. McQueen.
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On Sunday, July 29, the Rev. Will McQueen resigned as Rector of St. John's, Moultrie. That evening, all seven members of the vestry resigned. They worked out an orderly transition of the property back to the Diocese of Georgia. Bishop Benhase accepted the resignations and has named the Rev. Walter Hobgood as Vicar.Also, you may find the parish website there.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention --Gen. Con. 2012 TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Theology
Christ Church Anglican (CCA) in Savannah, GA has agreed to settle a 4 ½ year legal battle with The Episcopal Church (TEC), and The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. At the heart of the dispute was a lawsuit against CCA, the Senior Pastor and fourteen members of the 2007 Vestry (Board) including money damage claims by the Diocese against these individuals in excess of $1million. “While we never agreed that our people had any personal liability, we are pleased to see these claims dropped as this threat of personal financial loss has hung over our people for more than four years. These parishioners served as volunteer directors on a non-profit 501-C3 board and made decisions to try to stand for their beliefs and fulfill their duty to protect the non-profit corporation they served,” said John Albert, CCA Senior Warden.
In 2007, Christ Church Anglican, established in 1733 and predating the formation of TEC by 56 years and the TEC Diocese of Georgia by 90 years, conducted a congregational vote by which 87% of the congregation supported the Vestry’s decision to disaffiliate from TEC over core theological differences. Subsequently, TEC sued Christ Church Anglican, its pastor, and the 14 individual members of the 2007 board. After the Georgia Supreme Court ruling on November 21, 2011, CCA turned over possession of its three buildings (including the church building on Johnson Square) and the parking lot, all worth in excess of $6 million.
As set forth in the settlement agreement, the Church will adopt the title “Christ Church Anglican.” “We see the addition of ‘Anglican’ to our name as a way of identifying our roots going back to our beginnings in Savannah as a Mission of the Church of England in 1733. God has given us the privilege of living out a truth we have always believed, that the Church is not the building but the people of God. God has blessed us in this struggle, as we have maintained the vast majority of our congregation while adding new members who are excited to be part of a church that seeks to live out its beliefs. Orthodox Anglicanism is alive and well in Savannah and we look forward to a bright future,” commented The Rev. Dr. Marc Robertson, Christ Church Anglican’s senior pastor.
Also included in the agreement, is a requirement that all litigation be dropped including CCA’s appeal to the US Supreme Court which asked the Court to decide whether the “neutral principles”doctrine embodied in the First Amendment permits imposition of a trust on church property when the creation of that trust contradicts the state’s property and trust laws. “It was a hard decision to give up our appeal as we are aware of the pain many other Anglican Churches which are being sued by TEC are experiencing, but we are encouraged by the fact that two other strong cases, (Timberridge Presbyterian Church, McDonough, GA and Bishop Seabury, an Anglican parish in Groton, Conn.) are going forward and feel we have supported their effort with our appeal. However, at this time we feel our primary call is to build a stronger Anglican presence in Savannah,” stated Albert.
Judge Michael Karp’s 2008 decision declared that all church property “was held in trust for the Diocese and the national church”, so other aspects of the settlement provide that CCA will relinquish any claim to the Endowment Funds worth some $2.3 million and return $33,000 of operating funds pursuant to an accounting of funds at the time of disaffiliation. The Diocese however agreed to assume a $33,000 debt obligation from CCA. “We have left all our material possessions on Johnson Square, but that which we have taken with us is far more valuable: our people, the historic faith and the Holy Spirit. We have no regrets,” said CCA senior pastor, Marc Robertson.
On December 11, 2011, two weeks before they were required to vacate, Christ Church held its final service in its historic building on Johnson Square. Following that service, the entire congregation of more than 400 people processed down Bull Street to Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC), where they were welcomed by 500 IPC members and Pastor Terry Johnson who stated “our faith is your faith and our buildings are your buildings.” Christ Church now holds Sunday services at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., and 9 p.m. at IPC and Wednesday and Friday noon services at St. Andrew’s Reformed Episcopal Church.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Departing Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues
Attorneys for Christ Church Savannah have filed documents asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in litigation they contend deprived them of the Johnson Square church property.
The 45-page document filed Thursday afternoon asks the high court to determine the law on local church property, which it contends has been inconsistently treated in five different jurisdictions considering the issue.
The supreme court may accept or reject the request for review.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Departing Parishes * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market
Christ Church Episcopal may be back home in its Johnson Square building, but squabbling over church property continues.
The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and Christ Church Episcopal on Monday asked Chatham County Superior Court Chief Judge Michael Karpf to hold the Rev. Marcus Robertson and Christ Church Savannah in contempt of court.
They argue Robertson and Christ Church Savannah have failed to comply with a court order to return a $2 million endowment fund and other property after the two congregations agreed to the return of the historic Johnson Square property in December.
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The Rev. Marc Robertson compared his congregation’s temporary move to Independent Presbyterian Church to a long visit with grandma.
“Since we don’t have a bed to sleep in, we’re staying at grandma’s for now,” said Robertson, rector at Christ Church Savannah.
Sunday marked the church’s first of many worship services to come at Independent Presbyterian at Bull and Liberty Streets following the the Anglican congregation’s ouster from historic property on Johnson Square.
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“While we were forced to take action when the breakaway congregation deprived the thriving congregation of Christ Church Episcopal of the property we hold in trust for them on Johnson Square, we know that both groups share faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the world,” [Bishop Scott] Benhase said.
The continuing Christ Church congregation has been worshiping at another location for four years pending a final outcome of the case.
In a statement released Monday, the Rev. Michael White, rector of Christ Church, said the congregation plans to continue to worship at St. Michael and All Angel’s Episcopal Church on Washington Avenue each Sunday at 5 p.m. while it concludes administrative matters necessary in the transition back to the Johnson Square site.
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The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of The Episcopal Church in its case against a breakaway congregation. The Georgia Supreme Court, which heard the case on May 9, affirmed the Georgia Court of Appeals’ July 2010 in a 6-1 ruling in favor of the Episcopalians. That ruling upheld Superior Court Judge Michael L. Karpf’s October 27, 2009 judgment that the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia is entitled to legal possession of the historic Christ Church building and other Church assets for the benefit of those who remain faithful to the Diocese and The Episcopal Church.
“While we are grateful that a third court has upheld our legal rights to the property held in trust for The Episcopal Church for more than 200 years, whatever satisfaction we feel in prevailing in the courts is muted by the knowledge that this decision is painful for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Bishop Benhase said referring to the congregation that disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church while continuing to occupy church property. He added, “As Christians we know that even those with whom we disagree are also seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. While we were forced to take action when the breakaway congregation deprived the thriving congregation of Christ Church Episcopal of the property we hold in trust for them on Johnson Square, we know that both groups share faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the world.”
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Christ Church, The Mother Church of Georgia in Savannah, has learned that the Georgia Supreme Court (GSC) has issued a ruling concerning Christ Church’s appeal to that body. On November 21, 2011 the GSC declared that the property of Christ Church is held in trust for the national Episcopal church and its Georgia diocese.
The litigation has been ongoing since 2007 when 87% of the Christ Church (CC) members in good standing voted to uphold the unanimous decision of its board to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church (TEC) because of its revisionist theological trends over the last several decades. In an effort to seize the property TEC subsequently sued Christ Church, its rector and individual board members personally. TEC’s 1979 passage of the Dennis Canon claimed a unilateral trust over all property of Episcopal churches nationwide without regard to title or state property laws. Christ Church has owned the Johnson Square property since the 1700s, first by land grant from the English Royal Council and after the Revolutionary War by a charter of incorporation from the 1789 Georgia state legislature.
“Christ Church has always maintained clear title to the property and has never agreed to hold its property in trust for any entity. We are reviewing the ruling and will meet to determine our next course of action which could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if warranted,” stated Jim Gardner, CC legal counsel. “At its core this case is about fundamental property rights of individual congregations in hierarchical churches,” he continued.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge S. Phillip Brown described the majority decision with these words: “Today’s majority opinion effectively eviscerates many of Georgia’s property laws, trust laws, and equity laws…”
“The Episcopal Church has sought to exploit the judicial system in an attempt to coerce local congregations to accept its revisionist theology,” stated David Reeves, Christ Church board chairman. “Our congregation is one of 57 individual congregations and 3 dioceses (groups of congregations) nationwide that have been sued by TEC. The conflict has been about our determination for God’s truth with all of its consequences and TEC’s will to embrace ever-changing interpretations of the historic Christian faith,” Mr. Reeves continued.
“Should Christ Church not have access to its property during any appeal process, Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC) in downtown Savannah has graciously offered to allow us to hold services in their building,” said Mr. Reeves.
Marc Robertson, Christ Church Rector said, “We are gratified and encouraged by the outpouring of support from the Christian community here in Savannah, as exemplified by the offer from IPC. As revisionist theology continues to make inroads into other mainstream denominations we foresee more opportunities for joining in fellowship and service with those congregations which adhere to the historic Christian faith. Throughout the last four years Christ Church has refused to allow the litigation to become the sole focus of its mission and ministry. Those efforts will continue even though our congregation may not have access to our property.”
A service of thanksgiving for all of the Lord’s provision for us during these last four years is scheduled for Monday, November 21, 2011 at 6 p.m. at Christ Church on Johnson Square. “It is our sincere hope that all those individuals and congregations who have so graciously supported us through this process will join us,” said Marc Robertson.
Here is the opinion--read it all if you so desire (warning: long pdf).
Historic Christ Church, a prominent Savannah fixture since Georgia's colonial days, now is divided in a bitter legal dispute over its future sparked by an argument about homosexuality that has riven Episcopal churches nationwide.
The congregation, which proudly embraces its nickname, "The Mother Church of Georgia," has been wrangling over the ownership of its property in the heart of downtown Savannah ever since 87 percent of the members voted to split with the Episcopal Church in 2007. They were among dozens of congregations that broke away from the denomination in the years after the national group affirmed its first openly gay bishop.
On Monday the divided church membership battled in Georgia's Supreme Court over who owns the $3 million property and the building. Many legal observers believe the case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Georgia’s top court is trying to sort out who gets to own Christ Church, the state’s oldest church, in a contest that grew out of conservatives’ disagreement with the national Episcopal denomination’s decision to have an openly gay bishop.
Monday morning, the pews were packed with bishops, clergy and parishioners as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments. The court’s justices peppered lawyers for both sides about which documents to rely on in sorting out ownership of the building.
The church was formed in 1733, and Georgia’s founder, James Oglethorpe, granted the land where it sits, on the edge of one of Savannah’s shaded squares. Among its early priests were John and Charles Wesley, authors of dozens of hymns and the Methodist movement.
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The Supreme Court of Georgia has determined that it will rule on the lawsuit brought against Christ Church in Savannah by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Georgia, which seek to seize the historic congregation’s downtown property even though Christ Church has always maintained clear title to its property. Having lost in the lower courts, Christ Church appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court this past August.
“We are gratified that the Supreme Court will hear our appeal,” said David Reeves, governing board chairman of Christ Church. “Since this case will have ramifications for all Georgia churches, regardless of denomination, we think it is appropriate for the highest court in our state to rule on these issues,” he continued.
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The Georgia Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear arguments in the ongoing property dispute pitting the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia against the breakaway Christ Church in Savannah.
The hearing will most likely take place April 4, 5 or 18, one of the only three days that month the court will hear oral arguments, according to Jane Hansen, court spokeswoman.
In August 2010, Christ Church in Savannah appealed to the state's highest court after losing its argument in Chatham County Superior Court and the State Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court will examine whether the Court of Appeals was wrong in its application of "neutral principles of law" and interpretation of state codes when it ruled in favor of the Diocese of Georgia.
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Since 2007, the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Georgia, and its former congregation at Christ Church have been embroiled in a legal dispute over the ownership of the church property, which includes the church building, an adjacent parking lot and two separate buildings located in the downtown historic district.
The congregation, which dates to 1733, acquired three other properties in the 1900s. County records estimate their combined value at over $2.7 million.
A Chatham County judge has ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church. But, the lawsuit is pending the outcome of Christ Church's August appeal to the state Supreme Court.
For now, the charities operating on the property believe they'll be able to continue their mission uninterrupted and free of charge.
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Two theologically conservative groups have filed documents urging the state Supreme Court to reverse two lower courts' decisions placing Christ Church in the hands of the Episcopal Church.
The groups argue the property rights of every Georgia church affiliated with a religious denomination could be in jeopardy if the court fails to reverse lower rulings.
"Here, the property rights of numerous PCUSA churches in Georgia will be adversely impacted if the lower court's misapplication of law and misinterpretation of polity is affirmed," according to a brief filed Sept. 17 by the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a conservative group working within the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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There are technically two Christ Church congregations in Savannah. They have dueling Internet websites -- and an ongoing legal contest.
The conservative members are meeting in the historic building -- which is associated with figures from Georgia history including John Wesley, George Whitefield, Juliette Gordon Low and Johnny Mercer. The website of the other group states: " Christ Church Episcopal is currently meeting at St. Michael and All Angels located on the corner of Washington and Waters Avenues in Savannah."
The congregation dates to 1733, and the current meetinghouse -- a majestic Greek temple -- was built in 1840.
The group meeting there has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to review a recent ruling of the Court of Appeals upholding Judge Michael Karpf's October 2009 decision that Christ Church holds its property in trust for the Diocese of Georgia and The Episcopal Church.
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Leaders of Christ Church in Savannah have asked the state's top court to review a July 8 Court of Appeals decision that the church's historic downtown property belongs to the Episcopal Church.
On Wednesday, Christ Church officials appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court a recent ruling of the Georgia Court of Appeals upholding Judge Michael Karpf’s decision issued in October 2009 against Christ Church and in favor of the Diocese of Georgia and The Episcopal Church.
That decision upheld the plaintiff’s argument that Christ Church holds its property in trust for the Diocese and the national church, based on a 1979 national church canon.
The church had until Wednesday to file documents with the Supreme Court asking it to review the case.
Read it all.
For Senior Pastor Marc Robertson the Christ Church sanctuary is his sanctuary to talk to God. It's where he spends a lot of time after losing the latest appeal to house his congregation. "It was a blow, not unexpected, but a blow," explained Pastor Robertson. "We are concerned about the message of the Episcopal Church, and sense that it is not consonant with the historic Christian faith. We would rather not see that take root in this particular venue," he said.
The battle begins, and ends, at Christ Church off of Johnson Square on Bull Street. On the outside, the church, built in 1830's, looks strong and stately. But on the inside, the building was once wrought with turmoil. Three years ago, members split from the Episcopal Diocese over fundamental differences in the teaching of the gospel, as well as its stance on homosexuality. Christ Church now aligns with the Anglican Diocese. "The congregation there was never asked to change beliefs or practice," explained Reverend Frank Logue with the Episcopal Diocese. "They just believe they could not, with integrity, within the Episcopal Church. We didn't share that feeling. In fact, we wanted them within Episcopal Church," Reverend Logue said.
Read the whole thing.
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The state's Court of Appeals issued a ruling Thursday in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and the national church in their two-and-a-half year property dispute with a breakaway congregation.
A three-judge panel upheld Chatham County Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf's 2009 decision naming the Episcopal Church the rightful owners of Christ Church in Savannah.
Church members and leaders have continued occupying the historic Johnson Square house of worship since voting to leave the denomination in September 2007, when they accused the national church of straying from the Bible.
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Like more than 100 churches nationwide, Christ Church broke with TEC over its well-documented liberalized faith ("Other Abrahamic faiths have access to God the Father without consciously going through Jesus," presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has said). The church's vestry voted unanimously to disaffiliate over "departure from doctrine" and to place the church under the Anglican Province of Uganda. The congregation approved, with 87 percent voting in favor out of over 300 ballots cast.
Division "happened over time," rector Marc Robertson told me, and 30-40 disaffected members set up a congregation downriver calling itself "Christ Church Episcopal." Last May TEC filed legal action against Robertson and the vestry, seeking to acquire the property on Johnson Square in Savannah's historic district. TEC has filed similar actions against churches in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. This case turns on state trust laws and laws of incorporation, and is complex given that Christ Church predates the existence of the state of Georgia. TEC asserts that church property should be subject to denominational "discipline," which Christ Church forfeited when it quit the denomination, it says.
Funny things happen when a church takes a stand for the gospel. Sunday attendance at Christ Church is up and it accepted 28 new families—a record—for membership this past year. "We have a corporate sense of galvanization," said Robertson, "and are doing well spiritually. Our biblical literacy has increased because we are driven back to understanding why we believe what we believe."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Anglican Provinces Church of Uganda Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Departing Parishes Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Christology
For the sake of the faithful who read widely in the Anglican blogosphere]... I thought it best to address a number of inaccuracies found within the TEC report circulated at the C of E Synod. As a bit of preamble, I am thankful to God that He sees fit to make me a target of such libel, and that my Lent begins with His blessing: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). I am flattered to receive this much ink from TEC! The document seems to imply that I secretly changed the parish charter immediately after my arrival in 1992. Actually, the change in our charter came in 2006, upon a unanimous vote from our Vestry, according to the established by-laws of the parish an in accordance with the existing canons of the Diocese of Georgia, which did not require episcopal notification. The change in charter did not alter our ecclesiastical status, but rather defined our parish theologically, not institutionally, which is the way it had existed from its founding (in 1733) until 1918. The change in charter also brought us up to date with various aspects of Georgia corporate law. The Vestry of Christ Church had for several months requested conversation with the Bishop of Georgia in order to discuss several of our theological concerns with him. After not responding to multiple requests over several months, the Bishop did indeed meet with us, and these(unproductive) discussions present the historical context of our change in our charter, though not necessarily its cause. If I was such a seditious priest, why was I appointed to assist in bringing speakers and programs to diocesan clergy conferences, or appointed dean of the Savannah Convocation (clericus), or even asked to preach at one of the Diocesan Conventions, upon the last-minute cancelation of the invited preacher? Of course, the kicker is, why would the vestry call me and the Bishop of Georgia (then the Rt. Rev. Harry Shipps) interview and approve me if I were such a destructive priest? Keep in mind that TEC was in a different place in 1992, and I am certainly willing to admit so was I. The continued theological fragmentation of TEC continued, and I believe, by God’s grace, my ability to recognize and speak to that fragmentation grew clearer.
The decision to appropriate funds from our Endowment was duly inacted through the Endowment Agreement, which is the legal instrument governing the Fund itself. It required prior public written notice to the congregation, and could have hardly been secretive.
The vote to disaffiliate from TEC was not required by our polity, but was exercised to discern a sense of confirmation from the congregation. Public notice for several weeks was put forth, describing from the by-laws what constituted a “voting member in good standing.” Anyone who wished to vote was allowed to vote, but those votes which were cast by individuals not found on our member-in-good-standing roster were received as provisional votes. The votes was 87% in favor of coming under the ecclesiastical protection of the Province of Uganda, and 13% opposed. There were 28 provisional votes cast. If every provisional vote had been in the negative, the vote would have still been well beyond a “super majority” in favor of disaffiliation. Recently, those provisional votes were opened and counted: 22 in favor of disaffiliation, 6 against. There were over 280 votes cast on that particular Sunday in October, 2007. As far as we can recognize, 22 individuals who may be recognized as somewhat active in Christ Church at the time of the vote are currently worshipping at Christ Church Episcopal.
The figures cast about regarding parish membership are most misleading. Membership roles of old congregations are hard to manage well. An on-roll membership of about 900 would be a good estimate for Christ Church today, though it means little. Our mailing list would be larger; our “members in good standing” list would be smaller. Average Sunday Attendnce (ASA) is probably the best indicator of parish involvement and common life. I checked our worship records, and our ASA for the two years prior to my arrival in 1992 are around 320-350 on a given Sunday, though the numbers were higher from September to May and quite lower in the summer. Today’s ASA at Christ Church is approximatley 375-80 per Sunday, and the variance between summer and the rest of the year is less. In our 2010 stewardship campaign, we received 28 new pledging units, the largest single-year increase in my tenure. This last Sunday, we welcomed five new families into Christ Church. We are very grateful to God for what He is doing in our midst—it is all by His grace and to His glory.
I’m not sure about intimidation. We have had a number of families leave Christ Church over the years, for all sorts of reasons. I can say this: I have never personally sued anyone; but I, along with fourteen other vestry members are being personally sued by the Diocese of Georgia and TEC, as well as Christ Church Episcopal. Would that count as intimidation?
The matter with The Rev. Susan Harrison is the most egregious mis-statement of all. Though we had substantial theoloical disagreements, it was Susan who came to me (in 2005) personlly and informed me that she would be leaving Christ Church and re-assigned to another ministry by Bishop Louttit. We prayed together, hugged one another, and she left. I kept up with her and we prayed for her regularly in Sunday worship during her battle with cancer. Upon hearing of her death, with clear support from Vestry leadership, I offered Christ Church as the venue for her funeral. When I made the phone call, the priest in charge of Christ Church Episcopal and other lay leadership from that congregation were present and discussing funeral plans. Susan’s husband graciously took my call. I went by later to visit the family and was personally informed by him that, while they were most thankful for the offer of Christ Church, they had decided upon a different venue. They repeated their thanks for our offer. I and a significant number of Christ Church parishioners attended Susan’s funeral, though I was unable to receive communion, given our sad divisions.
It is a bit awkward to launch into such personal matters on behalf of my defense. I truly believe in my heart that the Lord Himself is my defense, and though a “miserable offender,” I stand under His most gracious Lordship. Nevertheless, I believe in these conflicted and chaotic times that God is best honored with the truth, and I have done my best to offer it to the readership of Stand Firm for your edification and God’s glory.
May this lenten season bring you God’s peace and grace.
(still) Rector of Christ Church, Savannah
Read it carefully and read it all.
Leaders of a new religious body affiliated with the Anglican Communion are scheduled to speak next weekend at Christ Church on Johnson Square.
The Most Rev. Robert William Duncan Jr., Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), will deliver the sermon at the 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services Feb. 14. The church is located at 28 Bull St.
The Rt. Rev. Charles Bernard Obaikol, recently retired Bishop of Soroti, Uganda, will teach a 9 a.m. Sunday school class.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) ACNA Inaugural Assembly June 2009 Anglican Provinces Church of Uganda Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia
Christ Church in Savannah has always been locally owned. The church has never received financial support from the national organization. Savannahians paid for the construction of the church and the payment of its clergy.
A vote of the church membership - in the wake of serious doctrinal issues reaching even the unequivocal divinity of Christ - resulted in the separation of the local congregation from the national group.
The Episcopal Church, with the help of Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf, has seized property it neither paid for nor maintained in more than 275 years.
In any other circumstance, such an abrogation of the local congregation's property rights would not be tolerated. That the seizure was carried out by religious leaders who have strayed from ironclad biblical teaching makes the heavy-handed action by both church and state that much harder to countenance.
Read it all.
Leaders of Christ Church of Savannah are asking the Georgia Supreme Court to reverse a decision earlier this week granting ownership of the historic building and property to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
Christ Church member and attorney Neil Creasy said church officials filed a notice of appeal Thursday in Chatham County seeking to reverse Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf's ruling Tuesday granting the diocese "immediate possession" of the church property.
Creasy said the process should allow the congregation to remain on the property in Savannah's historic district until the state Supreme Court responds.
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Christ Church, the oldest church in Georgia, has appealed the ruling of Judge Michael Karpf, which granted control of the congregation’s property to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
“This is another step in what we knew would be a long process,” stated the Rev. Marcus B. Robertson, Rector of Christ Church. In order to maintain its fidelity to the historic Christian faith, Christ Church withdrew from the Episcopal Church on September 30th, 2007. “This decision, though set in the context of a legal contest, remains consistent with the commitment we made before God and one another at that time,” Robertson added.
Neil Creasy, Chancellor of Christ Church, said, “The Supreme Court of South Carolina is the only state supreme court to have ruled in a case involving facts, law and issues similar to ours. It ruled in favor of the local congregation. We are confident of a similar result here.”
Numerous messages of support have been given to the parish. “We are grateful for the prayers and words of encouragement we have received from churches and individuals from around the world,” said Sr. Warden Carol Rogers Smith.
Christ Church is a member of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and a congregation in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese, which came into being in August as a diocese of ACNA, covering north Florida and south Georgia.
It is a 22 page pdf--read it all.
A two-year legal battle over ownership of the 276-year-old Christ Church came to a close in Chatham County court Tuesday with a judge ruling in favor of the national Episcopal Church's claims to the historic property.
Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf rejected the argument of former members and clergy who broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2007 that the church belonged to them.
The ruling grants "immediate possession" of Christ Church Savannah and its property in the city's historic district to the Right Rev. Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
Read it all.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Parishes Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings
"I think the questions he asked showed the complexities of this case are not lost on him," said Neil Creasy, an attorney for Christ Church. "I think it went pretty well."
Diocesean bishop, the Right Rev. Henry I. Louttit, said Karpf asked "penetrating questions" of both sides, according to spokesman the Rev. James Parker.
Read it all.
There's a lot at stake for one Savannah congregation. Nearly two years ago many members of Christ Church pulled away from the Episcopal Church.
Ever since there's been a fight over who the actual church building belongs to, the congregation or the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
Today both sides headed to court where a judge will now decide. The hearing was held in Chatham County Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf's courtroom. Close to 100 people packed the room, all very passionate about this issue.
Judge Karpf made it very clear from the start of court Friday afternoon that this is a very complex issue and it will take time for him to make his ruling.
Read it all.
Without going into every detail, today's hearing was on a motion for summary judgment by plaintiffs (TEC and the Diocese) asking for immediate possession of all real and personal property of Christ Church and an accounting. The arguments centered on the disposition of church property cases by "neutral principles of law" as decided by the United States Supreme Court in Jones v. Wolf. TEC and the Diocese interpret Jones v. Wolf to read that in such a "neutral principles" case, where the governing documents of a hierarchical church are clear, they are decisive. Hence the 1979 Dennis Canon-which unilaterally imposed a trust interest in favor of TEC in the property of each local church-trumps all other principles and the property belongs to the Diocese and/or TEC.
Not so fast, said the Judge. Is this Dennis Canon "severable" from the rest of the TEC canons-including matters of doctrine into which the courts cannot inquire? Does the Dennis Canon trump Diocesan canons that cut in favor of Christ Church? In response to TEC's argument that the Dennis Canon is merely a codification of a "common understanding and practice" that the property of the local church is held in trust for the denomination, Judge Karpf asked if a "mere understanding" not expressly within the governing documents is a neutral principle? What if the rules of procedure governing the passage of a canon by General Convention were violated? What about the unilateral nature of the Dennis Canon and the lack of notice to the local congregation?
Now it was Christ Church's turn to argue against plaintiffs motion for summary judgment and in support of their cross motion for summary judgment against TEC and the Diocese. Counsel for Christ Church argued that the plaintiff's interpretation of "neutral principles" in Jones v Wolf was seriously flawed, and that their arguments ignored both Georgia law and the unique nature of the 1789 Georgia legislature's grant of property to Christ Church prior to the very existence of the Diocese of Georgia.
Read it all.
Read it all.
Back in 2003, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York consecrated a gay bishop and allowed others to perform same-sex blessings.
The Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, an Episcopal parish at the time, disagreed with this move and severed ties. Last year, the Diocese sued for Good Shepherd to leave the church building on Conklin Avenue, and in December, a state Supreme Court judge ruled in their favor.
On Friday, both sides were back in court.
"We've kind of moved on as a congregation and this is almost looking backwards now. So we were dreading it but here it is," said Father Matthew Kennedy, Good Shepherd's head pastor.
This time, the feud centers around a will by former Good Shepherd member Robert Brannan. He died in 1986 and left behind money in a trust fund for his parish.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Central New York TEC Conflicts: Central Florida TEC Conflicts: Colorado TEC Conflicts: Connecticut TEC Conflicts: Florida TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth TEC Conflicts: Georgia TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles TEC Conflicts: Ohio TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande TEC Conflicts: San Diego TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin TEC Conflicts: Virginia TEC Departing Parishes TEC Data TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils TEC House of Deputies
Late last summer I vexed a few people in the diocese with an essay...on what we should be looking for in the next Bishop of Georgia. (A reaction I probably compounded by criticizing the lamentably sub-credal tendencies in the Presiding Bishop’s teaching.) As usual, very little of this response reached me directly. (Clergy often find it hard to speak about their disagreements. With one exception, the amicable discussions I had with critics were all at my initiative.)
In the essay I laid out four parameters I thought necessary to the unity of the Diocese: (1) adherence to the historic Faith; (2) compliance with the Windsor Report’s recommendations; (3) respect for conscien-tious dissent in the ordination of women; and (4) respect for conscience in the use of historic Anglican liturgy. To give the Diocese credit, there seems to be little controversy about the fourth parameter. That is a very positive change from the hostility that used to be directed against the old Prayer Book, and I look forward to helping the Diocese in the rediscovery of its liturgical heritage. About the first two items, I have heard little, though I do not assume that silence necessarily means assent. It was the third parameter – the question of a Bishop whose orders would be acknowledged by the whole of the Diocese and Communion – that seems to have made people bristle.
The chief complaint was that I was picking a fight with the diocese. Yet my original essay was explicit that there already exists a basis upon which St. John’s has been able to remain within the diocese despite our disagreements, and I expressed the hope that we could continue on what I called this “proven basis for unity in mission”. That’s not picking a fight; it is appealing to the diocese not to cause needless division.
Far from picking a fight, I have tried to forestall one. I suggested that the Diocese might request Dr Jefferts Schori to delegate the consecration to undisputed Bishops, as she has done in other cases. I also acknowledged the possibility that the diocese might accept as Bishop someone whose liturgical ministrations St. John’s could not in conscience welcome, and I offered a solution – some form of Alternative Episcopal Oversight (AEO), whereby liturgical duties could be delegated by the new Diocesan to some other Bishop. This would maintain the Diocesan’s jurisdiction and respect St. John’s conscience. To my mind this solution has obvious merit, but to others it appears to threaten the integrity of the Diocese.
I think fear for Diocesan integrity goes together with the other complaint about my essay – that I was imposing St. John’s theological agenda upon the rest of the Diocese. I would argue that the situation is precisely the reverse. By electing and consecrating a person whose episcopal orders are in doubt, the Diocese would be imposing its theological agenda on St. John’s – the agenda that says that General Convention is free to ignore its own constitution and remake the historic Faith and Order of the church as it suits itself, thus violating its implicit covenant with its own members, with the wider Church, and – let’s not forget – its Lord. It is a little late to worry about the jurisdictional integrity of the Diocese when its theological integrity has already been compromised. You cannot expect to make unilateral changes in matters of essential common concern and expect unity to continue as before.
This leads me to the solution proposed by some persons, to whom I make this belated reply (with apologies for tardiness). It is not unlikely, they point out, that the person elected will be a man; at his consecration by Dr Jefferts Schori a number of male Bishops will probably lay on hands as well; if he does not receive his orders from Dr. Jefferts Schori then he will surely do so from someone else.
Problem solved? Not quite. I understand why many Episcopalians might find this an attractive solution. But consider what it really means: that the conscientious appeal for theological clarity in a matter essential to the church’s unity is met by… fudge! “Embrace the ambiguity.” What more could we ask for? Except, perhaps, honesty.
Let me be clear: I do not question the sincerity of my critics, for whose courteous responses I am grateful. But honesty requires of us much more than this solution: the honesty to acknowledge that – as a result of the unilateralism of the General Convention - we do not have a commonly accepted ordained ministry; the honesty to grapple seriously with the consequences of that division, instead of looking for a quick, cheap fix; the honesty to admit that this solution papers over the cracks and cannot possibly provide long-term security for conscience (For given that the number of Bishops whose orders are questionable is steadily rising, the assurance that at least one Bishop of unquestioned orders has participated in a consecration of another Bishop must steadily erode); the honesty to admit that this solution has played a long-standing part in the process of making theological conservatives into second-class citizens. Honesty is hard work, and painful: I do not like doing it any more than the next man. But it does not get easier by being put off. And it might just lead us all into a Diocesan fellowship happier and healthier for us all.
--The Rev'd Gavin Dunbar is rector of Saint John's, Savannah, Georgia
Leaving the Episcopal Church was about more than just leaving a denomination, Gene Prevatt says.
It was also about rejecting "the corruption of the church."
"One does not have to look too far to see the continuing erosion of our freedoms, rising paganism, and an increasing hostility to the Gospel," Prevatt wrote in an April church newsletter to fellow members of Christ Church in Savannah.
"God has called us out, and to those who are moving away, we have said, 'No. We will not go with you.' This is our turning point in history."
For Christ Church in Savannah, that turning point began just over a year ago when leaders voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, claiming the denomination has failed to honor the authority of the scriptures.
Read it all.
In November, the Diocese of Georgia filed a lawsuit to keep control of Christ Church’s assets, which include a $3 million historic building and an endowment estimated at $2 million to $3 million.
Its claim is based on a church law, adopted in the 1970s, called the Dennis Canon, which says that all parishes hold their property in trust for the diocese. But Christ Church, which was established in 1733, asserts that it has firm legal footing to keep control of its building and property because it existed before the Episcopal denomination, which was established in the United States in 1789.
“That would make the case a pure property case rather than a religious liberty case,” Mr. Witte said. “They will have to argue that their church is closer to the values of the late 18th century” than the Episcopal Church is today.
And that, he added, is “an argument that hasn’t been tested in federal courts.”
Read it all.
Just when I was about to commend our Episcopal Bishop of Georgia for his moderate stance in agreeing that our orthodox friends over at Christ Church continue to hold services on the property during the dispute over its ownership, I read that, contrary to Biblical warnings against Christians going to court with fellow Christians, he has decided to litigate his differences with Christ Church.
His initial position was especially to be commended because The Episcopal Church's (TEC's) Presiding Bishop and other radical TEC bishops have been quick to urge the very strongest measures against those parishes that leave TEC.
Our bishop, of course, is not one of the radicals, some of whom now so reinterpret classic Christian doctrine that, even though they dress up in traditional garb and recite a somewhat familiar sounding liturgy, they are, in fact, like the pagan priests of the late Roman Empire whom Gibbon so devastatingly described as, "Viewing, with a smile of pity and indulgence, the various errors of the vulgar, they digilently practiced the ceremonies of their fathers, devoutly frequented the temples of the gods; and sometimes condescending to act a part on the theater of superstition, they concealed the sentiments of an Atheist under sacerdotal robes."
Read it all.
November 14, 2007-- Savannah, Georgia—Today the chancellor of Christ Church released the following statement regarding the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia’s complaint regarding the status of property owned by Christ Church.
Christ Church Chancellor Neil Creasy offered the following, “While we are disappointed, we are not entirely surprised that Bishop Louttit has taken this action against us, because the national Episcopal Church has been using actual and threatened litigation to attempt to intimidate orthodox parishes nationwide. Contrary to the claims of the Diocese, Christ Church continues to own its real estate and other property as it always has. Christ Church continues to operate as an historic Anglican parish, faithful to Holy Scripture and the historic doctrine and discipline as understood by Anglicans (including Episcopalians) for nearly five hundred years. Its rector and clergy continue to serve as fully recognized Anglican priests and deacons.
“We find such aggressive legal action a departure from Christian charity, and continue to pray for the Diocese of Georgia and Bishop Louttit that a more reasonable way forward may be forthcoming. Nevertheless, we are fully prepared to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to defend our property if the Episcopal Church and its local representatives try to silence us by trying to take it.
“At this point, the Diocese of Georgia has not communicated with us directly about the actual filing of this lawsuit, and our present response is based on media reports only. We will reserve further comment until such a time that we can thoroughly review the legal documents as they become available to us.”
I would question whether this picture of Jesus is accurate or balanced on a number of fronts, but the most important aspect to consider is Jesus' primary role as a moral example. If Jesus came to be an example to humanity, it would appear from Kevin's own assessment mentioned above that Jesus failed in His mission.
But what if His mission was different?
Maybe what we need is not just an example. If Jesus was only an example, then it all depends on what we do. It is all up to us to "live up to" that incredible example, and that can lead us to frustration, disappointment, even despair.
But what if Jesus was not only an example, but also a sacrifice? And this sacrifice can restore us to God, heal our woundedness, and actually give us a new heart - a heart that can learn to love? If Jesus came to be a sacrifice, then it's not about what we do, but about what God has already done - what God has done on the cross on Good Friday.
Moreover, it is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave that we celebrate on Easter that confirms God's authority and power to transform an unloving and broken heart.
Read it all.
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?
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 it all.
Christ Church leaders canceled a late morning worship service Sunday to measure the congregation's support of their recent decision to break from the Episcopal Church.
More than 200 parishioners gathered at the downtown parish at 11 a.m. to cast ballots and find out what happens next. A vast majority of voters said they supported the split.
Senior warden Steve Dantin tried to explain to the congregation why the church aligned with an Anglican entity in Africa after its break with American Episcopalians.
"These entities represent a lifeboat. It's a temporary measure," Dantin said. "All of these lifeboats will ultimately be leading towards a mother ship, and the mother ship will more than likely be an alternate Anglican province in the United States."
The meeting follows the Sept. 30 decision by church leaders - known as the vestry - to leave the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and join the more conservative Anglican Province of Uganda. Both the American and Ugandan churches are members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
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October 14, 2007- Savannah, GA. By a decisive margin of 87% the congregation of historic Christ Church voted overwhelmingly to affirm the vestry’s September 30, 2007 decision to place itself under the pastoral care of The Rt. Reverend John Guernsey, Rector of All Saint’s Church in Woodbridge, VA and a bishop of the worldwide Anglican Communion’s province of Uganda, Africa. The action followed a prolonged process of disciplined prayer and discernment.
“It saddens us that The Episcopal Church (TEC) has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Communion. We have been an Anglican parish since the founding of the Colony of Georgia, and it is important to us that we continue to participate as members in good standing with the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion,” said Steve Dantin, Senior Warden.
TEC, the U.S. “branch” or province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, received a final call from the Anglican Communion to return to orthodox Christianity and to signify the same by taking certain actions no later than September 30, 2007. TEC failed to comply, and thus it abandoned the communion previously existing between TEC (including the Diocese of Georgia) and Christ Church. Therefore, Christ Church appealed to Bishop Guernsey and Archbishop Orombi for their pastoral care and oversight, which has been granted.
“This has been a long and arduous journey,” said Dantin. “It was gratifying to see the large number of parishioners participate in this process. Our congregation has spoken clearly.”
Along with 33 other Anglican congregations in the U.S., Christ Church is under the authority of Archbishop Henry Orombi of the Province of Uganda, which has a membership of 9.5 million people. Christ Church is one of over 1,000 congregations representing more than 200,000 U.S. Anglicans and 1,200 clergy who are associates of the Anglican Communion Network, an ecclesial, Anglican body in the U.S. Christ Church is also an affiliate of the American Anglican Council, an advocacy group for Anglican orthodoxy in the United States.
“We look forward to working to build a biblical, missionary, and united Anglicanism in North America,” said The Reverend Marc Robertson, Rector of Christ Church. “In the meantime nothing is changing at Christ Church. Our location, mission, ministry, education and worship services are continuing as usual.”
Founded in 1733 with the establishment of the Georgia colony, Christ Church is the Mother Church of Georgia and the oldest continuous Christian congregation in the state. Christ Church predates the establishment of The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Diocese of Georgia. Early rectors include British evangelists John Wesley and George Whitefield. Located on its original site on historic Johnson Square in downtown Savannah, Christ Church continues as an active and thriving congregation.
A meeting meant for current members of Christ Church drew mostly former parishioners and other local Episcopalians to discuss the decision by leaders of the historic congregation to break away from the national Episcopal Church.
Bishop Henry I. Louttit led a 45-minute question-and-answer session Sunday after a special Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church at 34th and Abercorn streets.
About 150 lay people and priests attended. Many took turns offering words of support to the bishop and the Diocese of Georgia, as well as posing questions about who controls Christ Church's downtown property.
The bishop assured the group that Christ Church belongs to the diocese and the national Episcopal Church. But taking control of the building, endowment and other assets will involve lawyers, he said.
Read it all.
It was hardly a surprise but a cause for sorrow nonetheless: the House of Bishops, meeting in New Orleans, made a response to the requests of the Primates at Dar Es Salaam that offered little to repair the “tear in the fabric of the communion” caused by the consecration of Gene Robinson. They did pledge compliance in the election of bishops (no more Gene Robinsons) – but then demanded that Gene Robinson be invited to Lambeth Conference in 2008. Their convoluted pledge not to authorize same-sex blessings is surely designed to permit local option (as is already happening). They demanded that the Global South Primates stop their pastoral interventions, but they had nothing serious to offer the conservative dissenters the Primates are trying to care for: the Pastoral Council proposed by the Primates was refused in favour of window-dressing; and the destructive policy of aggressive litigation against conservative dissent was not even addressed, let alone restrained.
Some will adjudge the result the best that could be hoped for under the circumstances. Others will even eagerly claim to find it satisfactory. But who really believes that is true? These are grudging assurances in words that inspire no trust, weasel words with built-in wiggle-room, a tactical maneuver, not a change of heart. The House has not renounced the imagined right of the Episcopal Church to do as it pleases, unconstrained by the teaching of the Bible, the historic Faith, or the Communion’s “bonds of affection”. They have not healed the breach their arrogance opened up, and that means it will only get worse.
The breach has now come to Savannah, in the decision by the Vestry of Christ Church to secure its future in the Faith, in the Anglican Communion, by placing the parish under the pastoral care of John Guernsey, a Virginia priest recently made bishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda in North America. This decision, made in conscience, cannot have been easy to make, and it deserves respect even from those who disagree with it. St. John’s Vestry has made no such decision, but I can testify to our respect for theirs; and also our continuing fellowship with them in the historic faith, and in “the bonds of affection”.
In response Bishop Louttit has asserted the Episcopal Church’s claim to Christ Church’s real property, on the grounds that parishes are “integral and constituent parts of a diocese and of the larger church.” But the obligations of “constituent” membership in the “larger church” run both ways. The constitutional obligations of the Episcopal Church - to uphold the Bible’s teaching, the Church’s historic Faith and Order, and membership in the Communion – are the covenantal basis of its canonical claims to parochial real property. If it cannot fulfil the former, then the moral basis for the latter disappears.
--The Rev. Gavin Dunbar is rector, Saint John's, Savannah
Christ Church leaders say biblical authority rests at the center of their decision to leave the Episcopal Church.
But now that they've left, the only question remaining is: Who gets the property?
According to attorneys with experience in church property laws, the odds are stacked against Christ Church.
However, church leaders say historical and current documents clearly list the wardens and vestry as its owners.
The Episcopal Church claims ownership to all church properties. The denomination considers individual parishes to be held in trust by the congregation.
Macon attorney W. Warren Plowden Jr. said he has argued cases for the United Methodist Church, which also operates under a hierarchical governance system.
"In Methodist cases, the courts will look at deeds, the discipline of the United Methodist Church and, if it's incorporated, the corporate documents," he said.
Read it all
CHATHAM COUNTY tax documents show the Protestant Episcopal Church owns six local properties. Christ Church is not one of them.
Both the Bull Street church building itself, and the nearby structure that holds the parish house, offices and children's school are owned by the Christ Church wardens and vestry.
That's an important bit of information, considering the local congregation's recent announcement that it intends to separate from the Episcopal Church of the United States.
Christ Church, the 274-year-old "Mother Church of Georgia," has had a long-running dispute with church leaders over scriptural issues.
Nationally, much press has been given to arguments over the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing homosexuals into the ministry.
However, Christ Church pastor Rev. Marc Robertson said those issues are not central to the local church's concerns.
Instead, they focus on the greater Episcopal Church's unwillingness to unequivocally back such basic tenets as the authority of scripture, the divinity of Christ and the availability of salvation through Christ's sacrifice.
American Episcopal leaders have been fairly heavy-handed in addressing those concerns.
Read it all.
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