An Open Letter to the Members of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

Posted by Kendall Harmon



From: The Right Reverend William C. Wantland, Bishop Retired of Eau Claire And The Right Reverend Maurice M. Benitez , Bishop Retired of Texas

This letter constitutes our final effort to obtain information from you as representing the leadership of the Episcopal Church about the amount currently being expended in the extensive litigation in which the Episcopal Church is engaged.

We directed our last letter to the Executive Council. We received our answer in a letter from two attorneys, who are members of the Council, writing on behalf of the full Council. Conveyed in a three page letter, their answer to us is:

IT'S A SECRET.

We then wrote to the two lawyer members of the Executive Council to get a specific response to our questions about the funding of the litigation. In late January, they replied, stating that no funds for litigation have come from either the Pension Fund or Trust Funds. However, they refused to disclose the amounts being expended on litigation.

We now ask you, the Executive Council, why do you feel the necessity for refusing to furnish information on the cost of litigation? You have lawyers. You clearly know that there is NO provision in Federal, State or Canon law for the Executive Council to withhold from members and officials of the Church, information on money being spent on behalf of the Church and presumably for the benefit of the Church. You cannot point to a single legal basis for concealing such information. Your answer is simply, "IT'S A SECRET".

Such an answer is not acceptable. If there is nothing wrong with these expenditures, then why do you refuse to reveal the amount? It should not be a secret, and you owe the Church and its membership the courtesy of an honest answer.

+William C. Wantland ( signed ) + Maurice M. Benitez (signed)



Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Conflicts

24 Comments
Posted February 28, 2008 at 7:58 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Dan Crawford wrote:

I appreciate Bishop Wantland’s efforts. Trying to compel truth from a corrupt hierarchy about its corrupt practices is, unfortunately, usually a losing proposition. Bishop Wantland has at least continued to focus the spotlight on the tawdry behavior of the officers for the institution formerly known as ECUSA. He will, of course, elicit nothing more than what he has already received.

February 28, 9:19 am | [comment link]
2. Albany* wrote:

At bottom, the issue is one of mindset. Is TEC a Cause or a Church. If it’s a Cause, then litigation makes sense. If it is a Church, then it is eating itself alive. Fact is, it’s become a Cause.

February 28, 9:34 am | [comment link]
3. AnglicanFirst wrote:

Some ‘straight talk’ from Bishop Wantland and Bishop Benitez. 

Notice that they did not couch their statement in ‘Episco-babble.’

February 28, 9:35 am | [comment link]
4. Albany* wrote:

Sentence two is ?

February 28, 9:35 am | [comment link]
5. Tar Heel wrote:

It’s a pluriform amount of money. Shalom.

February 28, 9:47 am | [comment link]
6. robroy wrote:

If anyone would like to join Bishops Wantland and Benitez in their call for financial clarity, I started a online petition here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/episcopal-lawsuits-costs/

Several retired bishops of the Episcopal church have called for openness with regards to the costs of ongoing litigation of the Episcopal church with numerous parishes across the country.

“We now ask you, the Executive Council, why do you feel the necessity for refusing to furnish information on the cost of litigation? You have lawyers. You clearly know that there is NO provision in Federal, State or Canon law for the Executive Council to withhold from members and officials of the Church, information on money being spent on behalf of the Church and presumably for the benefit of the Church. You cannot point to a single legal basis for concealing such information. Your answer is simply, “IT’S A SECRET”.

Such an answer is not acceptable. If there is nothing wrong with these expenditures, then why do you refuse to reveal the amount? It should not be a secret, and you owe the Church and its membership the courtesy of an honest answer.

+William C. Wantland + Maurice M. Benitez”


Thus far, this call for financial integrity has been rebuffed. Wildly varying figures are being bandied about from various sources. This is not appropriate for a church or any not-for-profit organization. We, members of the Episcopal Church in good standing, ask the members of the Executive Council fulfill their canonical duty and respond to the bishops’ requests.

Petitioners, please sign name and parish, e.g.,

John Doe, St. Francis, Anytown, Ohio

February 28, 9:55 am | [comment link]
7. Undergroundpewster wrote:

Thanks Robroy.

February 28, 10:21 am | [comment link]
8. Pb wrote:

I think TEC ought to lose its tax exempt status.

February 28, 10:26 am | [comment link]
9. Bill in Ottawa wrote:

As a complete aside, while I was researching court cases regarding church property in Canada, I ran across a case where a churchwarden filed a suit against the diocese to obtain information regarding ownership of the parish property. This happened in the midst of the wrangling over Indian residential schools and the warden wanted to be sure that the church and graveyard could not be sold to pay the settlement. The main suit appears to have been settled out of court, but the diocese tried to quash the suit using three different
grounds. 1) That it was purely and internal matter and that the courts had no jurisdiction. 2) That the parish corporation was not the Incumbent and Wardens but a corporation sole consisting of the Rector and therefore the warden had no right to even ask the question. 3) That even if the suit could be heard that the court had no rights to order that the information be produced.

The judge ruled against the diocese on all three counts.

1 and 3 were decided on precedents set in Scotland in the 1800s where the courts can hear arguments concerning property disputes surrounding both almalgamation and deamalgamation of Church societies. In another case I found, the court can even analyse the doctrine of a religious organization to see if a property conveyed by a will is still being used in accordance with the donor’s conditions.

2 was based on a complex trail of incorporation documents and amendments. The priest-in-charge was both Rector and Incumbent. The original incorporation was a corporation sole which owned the church, rectory and graveyard. The custody of the church and graveyard were transferred to the care of the Incumbent and Wardens at a later date.

Having ruled that the warden did have the right to sue the diocese to get an answer to his legitimate questions, the court record stops.

February 28, 10:42 am | [comment link]
10. celtichorse wrote:

Can the Attorney General of the State of New York get the answer?

February 28, 11:24 am | [comment link]
11. TomRightmyer wrote:

When institutions dependent on public support are not transparent about money the public support is reduced.  Those of us who were around when Bishop Browning let Treasurer Ellen Cooke steal lots of national church money have required some time to begin to trust again, and the repeated faliure to be clear on how much money - and from what source - is being spent on litigation does not help.

February 28, 11:49 am | [comment link]
12. nwlayman wrote:

I’m sure it has something to do with Fatima; the Secret is simply too shocking.  If revealed it would disrupt the fabric of civilization.

February 28, 12:19 pm | [comment link]
13. Chazaq wrote:

The Church Secret Law of the Episcopal Church is not unlike the US Executive Order 12958 defining National Security Information. Like the Executive Order, the Episcopalian law defines three levels of classification and areas of information that may be classified. The three levels of classification are:

1. Of Special Importance is the highest classification level and refers to information which, if released, would cause damage to the entire Episcopal Church.

2. Completely Secret refers to information which, if released, would cause damage to the finances of the Episcopal Church.

3. Secret is for all other classified information which, if released, would cause damage to a diocese, committee, or particular ministry within the Episcopal Church.

(With apologies to the Federation of American Scientists describing the secrecy rules of the Russian Federation)

February 28, 1:10 pm | [comment link]
14. off2 wrote:

Litigation Funding Sources:
1)  Pension funds
2)  Trust funds
3)  Investment income
4)  Contributions from diocese
5)  “Special” donations from people who want to be anonymous.

What have I left out? And cynically I ask, what Special Donors to the cause might be embarrassed or embarrassing with full disclosure?

February 28, 1:21 pm | [comment link]
15. Brian from T19 wrote:

We directed our last letter to the Executive Council. We received our answer in a letter from two attorneys, who are members of the Council, writing on behalf of the full Council. Conveyed in a three page letter, their answer to us is:

IT’S A SECRET.

It took three pages?  Is it because the words were all in capitals?

I do notice that the signatories have now declined to 2.  Mandatory retirement is indeed a fine idea.

February 28, 2:23 pm | [comment link]
16. David Fischler wrote:

It took three pages?  Is it because the words were all in capitals?

No, it’s because it was in Episcopalese. This was the English translation.

February 28, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
17. robroy wrote:

By the way, if you sign the petition linked in #6, you do not need to put a valid email address. Also, after you hit the sign petition, it takes you to a page asking you for a contribution to iPetition. You may ignore this. Your signature has already been registered. Thanks.

February 28, 2:45 pm | [comment link]
18. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Way to go, robroy!  The petition is a great idea.  You rock!

David Handy
So proud of the NRAFC cabinet

February 28, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
19. D. C. Toedt wrote:

If scripturalists were running TEC, and liberals were demanding access to 815’s financial information, these bishops would almost certainly be singing a different tune.

Brian from T19, there’s a problem with mandatory retirement: We end up with retired bishops who are still reasonably energetic. Then, when they find themselves with excess time and energy ....

February 28, 7:54 pm | [comment link]
20. robroy wrote:

I am blushing by comment #18. It would be an honor if Kendall as well as the crafters of these letters signed the petition.

I had a discussion with Sarah Hey about the topic of differentiation over at SF. It seemed to me that the only substantive differentiation action is withholding monies, and the TEc is busy amending its canons to make this illegal. Thus, we are left with only differentiation “gestures” that don’t really get the people to take notice. However, I do think this petition is more than a gesture.

The petition process would be most successful if people wrote emails to their Episcopal friends with a link to the petition and asked them to forward the message, chain letter fashion. Here is the letter that I am sending out, but please feel free to modify it:

Dear John,

Several prominent retired bishops of the Episcopal Church have sent a letter and a follow up to the Executive Council requesting financial transparency in regards to the total costs and funding sources of the mounting legal expenses in the now numerous lawsuits against parishes across the country. Any not-for-profit agency but especially a church organization must have complete transparency in order maintain the trust of the financial supporters. Unfortunately, these bishops have been rebuffed in their requests. I include their letters below. There is now a petition that one is able to sign which allows us to join the bishops voices calling for proper stewardship. It may be found here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/episcopal-lawsuits-costs/index.html

It would be helpful you could add your name to the petition and more helpful still if you could forward this note to other fellow Episcopalians. A few comments about the signature process:

1) You do not have to give an actual email address.
2) Please sign the name blank with your name and local parish.
3) After hitting the “sign petition” button, there is a page that solicit money for the iPetition.com company. You do not have to give. (I did not.)

Many thanks
—-
First letter:

Where is the Money Coming From?

An Open Letter to the Executive Council

July 14, 2007

Dear Council Members:

We, the undersigned, protest the recent actions of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. Leveling charges and threats of litigation at four dioceses of the Episcopal Church constitutes an outrageous example of exacerbating rather than reconciling the divisions in this church.

The Episcopal Church is already involved in expensive lawsuits in Los Angeles, Virginia, Florida, San Diego, New York and elsewhere. Now the Executive Council is threatening even more legal action against four dioceses who affirm their membership in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. They are trying to keep unity in their dioceses by declaring in their constitutions that they will abide by the doctrine and practice of the Historic Catholic Church and to Holy Scriptures.

Many formerly faithful Episcopalians, congregations and individuals have chosen to depart and affiliate elsewhere, including many who have gone to other Anglican Provinces. Some of you might not care about this tragic daily hemorrhaging of the life blood of the Episcopal Church, but we grieve over it. And, we, in the name of the living God, declare that by litigation you may win possession of some buildings and land, but you will never get the people back by the most potent litigation that money can buy. The Episcopal Church has the capacity to bankrupt and destroy all of the congregations and dioceses that dare to meet the Episcopal Church in court. But that will not get the people back. We would like to know, where the money is coming from in order to conduct this litigation, especially in view of the fact that the program budget is being reduced because insufficient funds are being received from dioceses.

We ask you, our Executive Council, to make a public report of how much money the Episcopal Church has spent in recent years on court costs and attorney fees in these extensive litigations. In what budget is it accounted for? Has any income from trust funds been used to support these litigations? How much and from which funds? How much compensation has the law firm of the Episcopal Church’s chancellor, David Beers, received, for servicing this litigation? An open and transparent disclosure is crucially important to avoid speculation, rumors and consequent distrust of the Episcopal Church.

+Maurice M. Benitez, Bishop of Texas, Retired
+ C.F. Allison, Bishop of South Carolina, Retired
+Alex D.Dickson, Bishop of West Tennessee, Retired
+ William C. Wantland, Bishop of Eau Claire, Retired

Second letter:


February 28, 2008
From: The Right Reverend William C. Wantland, Bishop Retired of Eau Claire And The Right Reverend Maurice M. Benitez , Bishop Retired of Texas

This letter constitutes our final effort to obtain information from you as representing the leadership of the Episcopal Church about the amount currently being expended in the extensive litigation in which the Episcopal Church is engaged.

We directed our last letter to the Executive Council. We received our answer in a letter from two attorneys, who are members of the Council, writing on behalf of the full Council. Conveyed in a three page letter, their answer to us is:

IT’S A SECRET.

We then wrote to the two lawyer members of the Executive Council to get a specific response to our questions about the funding of the litigation. In late January, they replied, stating that no funds for litigation have come from either the Pension Fund or Trust Funds. However, they refused to disclose the amounts being expended on litigation.

We now ask you, the Executive Council, why do you feel the necessity for refusing to furnish information on the cost of litigation? You have lawyers. You clearly know that there is NO provision in Federal, State or Canon law for the Executive Council to withhold from members and officials of the Church, information on money being spent on behalf of the Church and presumably for the benefit of the Church. You cannot point to a single legal basis for concealing such information. Your answer is simply, “IT’S A SECRET”.

Such an answer is not acceptable. If there is nothing wrong with these expenditures, then why do you refuse to reveal the amount? It should not be a secret, and you owe the Church and its membership the courtesy of an honest answer.

+William C. Wantland ( signed ) + Maurice M. Benitez (signed)

February 28, 9:30 pm | [comment link]
21. anglicanhopeful wrote:

Notice how the famous ‘Windsor/Camp Allen/Traditionalist bishops let a group of aging, retired bishops - immune to inhibition - do all the work for them.  If these esteemed members of the HOB are serious shareholders they would want to know whether their investment is being handled poorly.  If they are spiritual ‘fathers’ they would want to know the true spiritual benefits of spending large sums of money to bring their fellow Christians to court.  Sadly, they seem to be neither.  They are in this sense much like sea-cucumbers; quietly bending with the tides.

February 29, 12:16 am | [comment link]
22. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

The Executive Council - good for killing fetuses and supporting the RCRC and avoiding General Convention accountability.  On money, not so good, except spending it to meet in Ecuador.  Did they pay off their Al Gore calculated carbon footprint so ease their global lack of concern for climate change/global warming?  Do they even know how to keep track of a legal fee or any expenditure?  When were they last audited by an outside firm?

February 29, 1:50 am | [comment link]
23. William Witt wrote:

If scripturalists were running TEC, and liberals were demanding access to 815’s financial information, these bishops would almost certainly be singing a different tune.

If “scripturalists” were running TEC, the letter would not be necessary as they would not be suing to stifle genuine disagreement.

February 29, 8:52 am | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.




Next entry (above): From New Westminster: Don’t rush the Anglican Covenant

Previous entry (below): Roman Catholic Church faces new crisis — Ireland is running out of priests

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)