Robert Munday: A hierarchical church?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Now what is my point? Am I stating that congregations should violate the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church? No, emphatically not. While I think that the Dennis Canon is a legally enacted injustice and ought to be changed by legal or democratic means, I am not suggesting that it be violated.

But I do believe that a church that claims the freedom to change something as fundamentally Christian as the definition of marriage ought to admit that it is sailing off into a Brave New World and have the grace and humility to release amicably those congregations and dioceses that cannot, in all Christian conscience, go there. And church leaders who are so fundamentally anarchic as to throw off the contraint of historic Christian teaching ought to drop the pretense that they have an authority that is, in any sense, hierarchical.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Polity & Canons

4 Comments
Posted March 30, 2008 at 1:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Joseph P Frary wrote:

I wouldn’t be so sure as Fr. Munday.  A number of Anglo-Catholic parishes in the 19th century, e.g. Church of the Advent, Boston and the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in order to avoid depradations by the low church establishment set themselves up as corporations with Boards of Trustees over the Vestry.  With the Dennis Canon, the Boards became irrelevant and were ended (at least at Advent Boston).

In many civil jurisdictions, parishes founded before the American War of Independence, have a good chance of getting out of ECUSA.

March 30, 3:54 pm | [comment link]
2. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Well, it is at best, a hire-archy.  As in hirelings….......if current actions and inactions are held up as evidence of anything.

March 30, 3:58 pm | [comment link]
3. Bill Matz wrote:

In his final paragraph, Dean Munday points out one of the great unanswered questions of this controversy. Why would reappraisers want to stay in a church that is so fundamentally opposed to their idea of authority? Personal integrity would have demanded that reappraisers have left long ago. That they stayed can only be explained by a desire to steal a church and its property, making it into their own image of a church. That is why claims about reasserters “stealing” property ring so hollow.

March 30, 4:42 pm | [comment link]
4. Mike Watson wrote:

Dean Munday writes:

Am I stating that congregations should violate the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church? No, emphatically not. While I think that the Dennis Canon is a legally enacted injustice and ought to be changed by legal or democratic means, I am not suggesting that it be violated.

Ordinarily, when we say that some provision is violated, in the legal sense, the “something” referred to is in the form of a requirement to take some action or a prohibition of some conduct (prohibition including not only a statement expressed as such but also a statement that something is unlawful or an offense). 

The Dennis canon is not expressed as a requirement or a prohibition.  It is a passive voice statement of a legal conclusion—that certain property is held in trust for certain beneficiaries.  The legal conclusion is either accurate or it is not.  One of the things disputed is whether the passage of the canon itself is sufficient to establish the trust interest.  Usually, TEC makes a slightly more modest argument—that the canon is simply declaratory or a codification of a legal relationship that already existed.  In any case, the accuracy of the legal conclusion is ultimately for the courts, not TEC, to determine.  So is it a “violation” of the Dennis canon to assert through the legal system that it is not effective to do what it purports to do?  I think not in the ordinary sense in which the term violation is used.

At bottom, the story of the Dennis canon is the story of 815’s attempt to turn the difficulty for it that was created by a Supreme Court case, Jones v. Wolf, into an opportunity.  I give some further views of my own on the Dennis canon and Jones v. Wolf here.

I think it is a hard argument to make that the result sought by Dennis canon has become effective not by means of the canon itself, but by acquiescence, estoppel or a similar theory.

March 30, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
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