Another congregation in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has decided to abandon its building, saying that it couldn't meet the financial or ecclesiastical demands that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh made during negotiations for the property.
On Oct. 2 the 104 members of All Saints Church in Penn Hills will begin holding services in nearby Rosedale United Methodist Church....
2. Uh Clint wrote:
The requirement to disaffiliate provides clear insight into the motivations and intent of the Episcopal diocese. They cannot, and will not, allow any other church in their “territory” which lays claim to Anglican tradition and origin. The only thing that surprises me is that they [the Episcopal Diocese] have not filed suit against any Continuing churches in the area, attempting to seize their properties in a claim that, since such churches allude to Anglican origins, they must be subject to the Canons and discipline of the Episcopal Church - even if they were never a part of it.
I’ve never been able to understand why there wasn’t more of a hue and cry about passage of the Dennis (sp?) Canon. The notion that a parish can start from scratch, put together a capital fund drive to build a church, and then be told that the resulting edifice is the property of the diocese is, IMHO, “repugnant to reason”. The right of ownership should confer upon those who have put their hearts and gifts into the work, not a Bishop who sat in an office and simply observed while others “did”.
September 1, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
3. BMR+ wrote:
For #2, I would say first that I view the situation now at All Saints Verona to represent an instance of profound failure in the long and complicated process we are engaging in here in Pittsburgh to disentangle the mess resulting from the division of 2008. I had hoped we would do better, and by a long shot.
But that said, per your comment: I do know, for instance, that here in Pittsburgh folks in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, can “start from scratch, put together a capital fund drive to build a church, and then be told that the resulting edifice is the property of the diocese . . . .” Right now here in the Pittsburgh-area community of Millvale there is a group of RC layfolk conducting sit-ins and protests because of the decision of the RC Diocese to sell as “excess property” a historic church built with the sweat, blood, and hard-earned pennies of their immigrant great-grandparents before the turn of the last century. They don’t of course contest the legal right of the RC Diocese to do this. It’s a question of moral judgment and pastoral discernment. —Also would be the case, I believe, for folks in the United Methodist Church. I’m not defending the principle, necessarily, but simply pointing out that it’s not a claim unique to the canons of the Episcopal Church.
September 2, 8:39 am | [comment link]
4. Branford wrote:
I think it’s a unique claim (that the diocese owns all property) in TEC because the Denis Canon only dates from the 1970s and there is enough murkiness in its history of passage that grave doubts remain as to its legality. The RCs have always known that the individual church buildings belong to the diocese—this has not been the case with ECUSA until fairly recently.
September 2, 9:55 am | [comment link]
5. Don C wrote:
If I remember my business law correctly, an implied trust cannot be imposed without consideration (i.e. compensation). I’m unfamiliar with the diocesan canons but, this should apply to any church built without diocesan funds prior to any property trust canon being passed.
UMC churches have been owned by the Conference since the beginning.
September 2, 9:58 am | [comment link]
6. Sarah wrote:
RE: “I do know, for instance, that here in Pittsburgh folks in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, can “start from scratch, put together a capital fund drive to build a church, and then be told that the resulting edifice is the property of the diocese . . . .”
Of course—the RC church is an actually hierarchical church and that is so demonstrated by the fact that the dioceses hold the title to the properties, the dioceses pay insurance and liability on the property, the dioceses choose the clergy for the parishes, and the dioceses can go bankrupt when the clergy screw it up—none of which is true for the Episcopal Church.
As to the content of the post—kudos and huzzahs go to the Penn Hills church for not caving to the anger-driven and anxiety-ridden and evil demands of the faux Episcopal diocese!
It’s delightful to see the sick corrupt demands of the faux diocese that congregations disaffiliate from their acknowledged competition out in the open, in the secular media.
What a disgrace.
September 2, 10:15 am | [comment link]
8. Eugene wrote:
The folks at All Saints were honest folks. They did not want to take what they were told by the courts was not theirs.
May all the parishes in the ACNA do this. It may even cause TEC to go bankrupt! Now there is an idea that I am sure that the Pittsburgh ACNA did not think about! (wink wink).
September 2, 10:42 am | [comment link]
9. Sarah wrote:
Wow—great update to the story—the faux diocese looks even worse now.
And this is getting out into the broader Pittsburgh community—wonderful!
September 2, 10:55 am | [comment link]
10. JohnA wrote:
Several months ago St. James’ Church did the same thing with their property. The Episcopal Diocese trumpeted the reopening of the church the following week with a diocesan priest. Anyone know how that is going? Two former Episcopal churches in one neighborhood are standing true to their convictions and continuing to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their community. May God richly bless the sacrifice they have made to be obedient to Him. As for the Episcopal Church and Diocese… well it doesn’t look so good. So much for keeping up appearances.
September 2, 11:24 am | [comment link]
11. Cennydd13 wrote:
I have aked this question before, and I think it bears repeating: By what legal authority does The Episcopal Church or any of its dioceses claim the right to deny any congregation or parish the right to affiliate with any other Anglican body? Accodring to the Constitution of the United States of America, the citizens of this country…..and that inludes everyone who is a member of an Anglican parish or mission outside of The Episcopal Church and which claims membership in another Anglican body…...has the right of Freedom of Assembly and association.
I therefore maintain that The Episcopal Church has been and is violating the civil rights of those who have separated from it by virtue of the fact that they were driven from it because of their religious beliefs. I also believe that all affected parishes should file suit in Federal Court, charging them with violating their civil rights, or in other words, a Federal class action lawsuit should be brought against the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society, AKA The Episcopal Church.
September 2, 12:46 pm | [comment link]
12. David Keller wrote:
cennydd—You can pretty much contact anything that isn’t illegal. My question has always been how the diocese would enfore the prohibition if the deed is given over to the church in fee simple. The common law “abhors” conditions on fee simple and very few reverters are upheld. The prime example is reverters which forbid sale of property to minorities which was struck down long ago. The good news for us in the State of South Carolina is the Dennis Canon has already been declared unenforable by our Supreme Court for two main reasons: There was no consideration given for the creation of the “trust’ and more importatnly, TEC is not a heirarchical church. BTW our chief justice is a very devout RC. That was a bad coincidence for the TEC crowd who were claiming TEC is heirarchical.
September 2, 3:12 pm | [comment link]
13. Cennydd13 wrote:
I think that the most salient thing about the Dennis Canon is the fact that parishes were never consulted or informed about its effects on their property rights when it was proposed and supposedly “passed” at TEC’s General Convention in 1973. This was at a time, of course, when TEC was in the beginning stages of transition from a Church to a society whose values ranged from a vagueness of its committment to Christianity to one of “whatever feels good.” I was quite active in my parish, both as a vestryman and a delegate to Diocesan Convention, and never once did I see or hear a single thing concerning the Dennis Canon and its effects on our parish family. As far as I was able to determine, no one ever heard of it, and our bishop never once explained its meaning to the laity, nor did our rector, or any of the other clergy of our diocese, for that matter…....and I knew many of them personally.
September 2, 5:22 pm | [comment link]
14. BMR+ wrote:
I just want to be clear—that the Dennis Canon wasn’t ever an issue in the conversation with All Saints Verona.
The Dennis Canon attempts to assert—and I’m not going to defend it here—that when parishes of the Episcopal Church own something, that ownership is intrinsically bound up in their identity as “parishes of the Episcopal Church.” I think Don in #5 has an important point, and I tend to agree with him as a matter of what seems to me to be fair and right—though I think the courts thus far have tended to find otherwise.
Nonetheless: at All Saints Verona, not an issue. The parish never owned the property to start with. The title on the property says, “The Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Period. And the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas have said, thus far (affirmed at the appellate level, but I understand there is one appeal possibly remaining with the state Supreme Court): “the Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh-TEC is the body referred to here.”
My personal desire has been that there would be a friendly resolution to this, with each side acknowledging the moral interests of the other and finding a way to make it work. I’m very sorry that didn’t happen here.
September 2, 7:31 pm | [comment link]
15. David Wilson wrote:
“My personal desire has been that there would be a friendly resolution to this, with each side acknowledging the moral interests of the other and finding a way to make it work. I’m very sorry that didn’t happen here”.
And the fault for it not working lies right smack in the lap of TEC-Pgh and their draconian “negotiating” strategy.
September 2, 8:08 pm | [comment link]
16. Don C wrote:
Thank you for clarifying the ownership on the deed. In this case, the Diocese is obviously the owner of the property. I continue to believe that the original (now Anglican) Diocese had the right to succeed from General Convention and that they are the rightful owner. However, given the facts on the ground (that there is an Episcopal Diocese, even if improperly constituted, and that the courts have recognized it as the owner), the demand that congregation disaffiliate with the Anglican diocese in unconscionable. I implore you to petition the bishop and standing committee to stop this.
Although I believe that the four dioceses had the legal right to succeed, I would have preferred that they follow the South Carolina route. I continue to attend Episcopal churches. This tactic in Pittsburgh disgusts me.
September 2, 8:13 pm | [comment link]
17. BMR+ wrote:
Thanks, Don. Just to be clear—in every conversation I’ve had about this topic, informal and formal, among friends and in the places of governance where I have a voice, I have expressed my categorical and principled opposition to any request about “disaffiliation.”
Although I regret the division of our diocese and the concurrent development of yet one more Anglican denominational entity, that all seems to me now to be water over the dam. I wish we had stuck together. But in the present reality, I will simply wish for my Anglican Diocese and ACNA friends and colleagues a rich ministry in the gospel of our Lord. And I certainly would not wish to act in any way to impair or limit their ministry.
Last year when Deacon Karen from Seeds of Hope (Anglican) began a house church here in our neighborhood of Highland Park, meeting just a few blocks from St. Andrew’s, with intention of founding a new East End Pittsburgh Anglican Diocese congregation, I took her out to lunch and said, “Blessings, friend, and let me know if there’s anything at all I can do to help.”
Of course, around here in Pittsburgh there are a lot of mixed feelings, and some not-yet-healed wounds. On both sides of the division. In some of our congregations the discernment about realignment got pretty fierce, and pretty personal, dividing friends and even families. And sometimes some hard words were spoken. Again, on all sides. And not always just in the past. In many places hard feelings aren’t under the surface at all, but more-or-less still a very difficult present-tense reality.
There are a number of places in the Episcopal Diocese, for one thing, where there is now little (or no) trust that “we are Christians together trying to find a mutually beneficial way forward” is in fact what the Anglican Diocese folks really believe, except when the question of assets is on the table. Obviously, similar suspicions exist on the Anglican Diocese side. And sadly, it may be that there isn’t really enough time or energy right now on either side to do the long hard work of trust building. “So,” many TEC Diocese people will say, “we should be fair, of course, but that doesn’t mean we should do anything “more than fair” to benefit an organization that is out in our parishes and communities actively working to undermine our ministry.”
I suspect, believe, hope, that eventually a new stability will emerge—and for those of us who can continue to work affectionately and respectfully together, I think it’s important that we do so in the meantime. As a sign not only of a rich past but of a hopeful future.
Nonetheless, just to say that so long as we’ve got human beings involved in these discussions, with all the stormy mileage we’ve put in together, I think the process is going to continue to be messy and imperfect.
September 3, 9:58 am | [comment link]
18. Sarah wrote:
RE: “There are a number of places in the Episcopal Diocese, for one thing, where there is now little (or no) trust that “we are Christians together trying to find a mutually beneficial way forward” is in fact what the Anglican Diocese folks really believe, except when the question of assets is on the table.”
And they would be right. The leaders of the faux diocese—by and large, with some exceptions—don’t share the same gospel as the leaders of the Anglican Diocese. Doesn’t mean they’re “bad people” or whatever. But they don’t believe the same gospel and that is crystal clear by their theology and practice over the past umpteen years.
I don’t think the Anglicans in Pittsburgh suffer under any illusions about that.
I expect that they *were* surprised, however, to discover that common unpretentious pagans act more civilized and with more integrity and charity than those who purport to be Christians.
The good news is that secular people are at least learning about that behavior [if not the dreadful gospel] that the majority of leaders of the faux diocese are enacting and that’s all to the good.
September 3, 10:13 am | [comment link]
19. NoVA Scout wrote:
I suspect that finds a lot of variation from parish church to parish church in terms of what the ownership documents recite concerning whether ownership lies in “Episcopal” hands whether at the Diocesan or parish level. For all the talk of the Dennis Canon, however, I doubt that there are many cases in dispute where it is the sole ground for asserting continuing Episcopalian control.
I continue to search without success for some clear basis in law (Canon or secular) that would tell us that individuals who elect to leave an Episcopal Church gain an ownership right by so doing. This is the fundamental flaw I see in these claims by departees that they gain the property. Many of the comments here just seem to assume that if someone leaves (or a large group leaves), the incidents of ownership travel with him/her/them. But the mechanisms for departure in the canons of the Episcopal Church do not seem to contemplate that result, and there seems to be no mechanism (secularly or canonically) by which those who do not depart suddenly have their rights to “ownership” (the term is perhaps an imprecise one in this context) extinguished. Usually when I express this puzzlement I get a lot of return commentary about “we paid for it” and other things that strike me as factually inaccurate or irrelevant. The people who stay in TEC, and the past generations who were strangers to current flaps also “paid for it” and I’m hard-pressed to understand how their contributions are negated by an individual or individuals leaving. But who paid what when isn’t a particularly useful method to decide who owns in the present a two-century old churh building.
On a related point, I’ve always thought that the disaffiliation bargaining point in these negotiations was not motivated by unwillingness to accommodate another denomination in the neighborhood, but was intended to discourage a process by which disaffected groups within a church advocate from within for departure until they gain majority status on the point and then get the church property as a prize. I think it a fair enough point that Episcopal Dioceses and the national church organization think it unwise to acquiesce in this. But it is, at root, only a bargining position. No one has to accept it. The reason it has been accepted frequently in these situations is that the legal position of the departees is quite feeble. If they want to cling to the physical property, they pretty much have to cave on that point. But if it is unacceptably obnoxious to them, they always have the rational option that so many should have exercised in the first instance and that would have averted so much waste and strife: When one becomes disaffected with a Church for whatever reason, depart. If one has the blessing of the company of many like-minded people, pool your resources and build a church. It’s a strenuous effort, but well worth it on any number of grounds.
September 3, 10:49 am | [comment link]
20. Sarah wrote:
RE: “I continue to search without success for some clear basis in law (Canon or secular) that would tell us that individuals who elect to leave an Episcopal Church gain an ownership right by so doing.”
Heh—love the way NOVA phrases that—nice begging the question with “an Episcopal Church”—of course, if the property is theirs legally than they’re not leaving “an Episcopal Church,” as their departure from the Episcopal denomination makes their parish no longer “an Episcopal Church.”
It’s fairly simple and easy to find the “clear basis in law” for owning property—and that is simply by discovering which name is on the title.
The only way TEC has found to try to blur that issue is by lying and claiming that it is an “hierarchical” church which fairly obviously it isn’t [blessedly we have the RC church to illustrate just what makes a “hierarchical” church].
RE: “. . . there seems to be no mechanism (secularly or canonically) by which those who do not depart suddenly have their rights to “ownership” (the term is perhaps an imprecise one in this context) extinguished.”
Oh the mechanism is pretty clear too—it’s the vestry and the congregational votes—just like what one does with, you know, real organizations which have their names on titles—the board or other internal body votes on it.
It’s really not hard to see or understand for those with a modicum of integrity and honor. At least we have the secular courts to adjudicate, rightly or wrongly, the state of affairs and don’t have to depend on TECans who don’t have a shred of either.
Better to depend on secular courts than revisionist TECans for that. And the added bonuses are the money spent by TEC and the dreadful publicity that TEC gains—both are death blows to the organization which they lead. It’s like watching the revisionist leaders of TEC repeatedly stab the organization which they lead over and over. I don’t know an organization that can recover from what these leaders have done to it.
Every five years, now, you see the further effects of the figurative blood loss and the withering away.
September 3, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
21. NoVA Scout wrote:
No. 20, I guess I have been seaching for something a bit more precise in the governing insturments of the Church. “Real organizations” have a number of differing provisions for how they deal with property transfers, and I don’t think there is any universal rule on this. However, secular groups fighting over the Moose Hall probably are governend by different types of provisions than are fracturing Episcopal parishes. If your point in the second paragraph about leaving/staying is that if the group remains an Episcopal parish there isn’t an issue, I think I would agree. However, that has not been the fact pattern that has underlain these disputes, as far as I know.
Re your third para., if the canons clearly provide for a vestry vote (or congregational vote) to place ownership in a departing group. that rather knocks my position into a cocked hat. , and I will politely recede from it. But I had ambled around the Church and my diocese for many years in blissful ignorance of those provisions. My feeling was that, without some clear element in the governing documents to control these dispositions, the assertion of property right by departees could not be valid. If the organization, however, makes provision for such an event, my position lacks force, I concede. Perhaps a reference to the controlling canon would be useful.
September 3, 5:37 pm | [comment link]
I also suspect that there are Episcopalians who possess even more than “a modicum of integrity and honor.” To imply otherwise seems irrationally harsh and not in keeping with the standards of this fine site. I share reservations about some of the positions of certain Episcopalian leaders on the issues of the day, but I continue to think a good solution to that problem is that when it becomes more compelling to leave rather than to stay, one leaves.
22. Sarah wrote:
RE: “If your point in the second paragraph about leaving/staying is that if the group remains an Episcopal parish there isn’t an issue . . .”
Oh dear—NOVA is “so confused” again—just like all the other hundreds of times he has been confused . . . of course what I said was clear—“their departure from the Episcopal denomination makes their parish no longer “an Episcopal Church.”
RE: “”. . . if the canons clearly provide . . .”
No need to refer to canons—as I stated clearly, the name on the title declares who is the owner of the property. So sorry NOVA is so “confused.”
RE: “I also suspect that there are Episcopalians who possess even more than “a modicum of integrity and honor.”
RE: “To imply otherwise seems irrationally harsh . . . “
Yes indeed it would be terribly harsh—thankfully there are many many Episcopalians who share the honorable and ethical beliefs about the ownership of the property. Those of us who share those beliefs are all in this together and understand as Episcopalians just how corrupt and evil our leaders are and support and cheer on those Anglicans who are fighting for their property.
RE: ” . . . and not in keeping with the standards of this fine site.”
Blessedly, we don’t have to be interested in NOVA’s musings about what he believes are the “standards” here as anything NOVA might believe about “standards” good or bad are deeply suspect due to the character and values he has displayed over the years on this site. I’m indifferent to what NOVA deems to be “good” or “bad” but thankfully without reference to NOVA’s values, Episcopalians who believe the Gospel and who stand together ethically can treasure this site without having to adhere to NOVA’s “standards” about anything at all.
Three cheers for the Penn Hills church! Three cheers for the Anglicans fighting for their property against corrupt and dishonest TECans revisionist leaders! Keep fighting guys—there are many thousands here in TEC who support you.
September 3, 9:11 pm | [comment link]
23. NoVA Scout wrote:
It’s a bit hard to measure, but I suspect that my character, values and devotion to the Good News of Jesus Christ are not measurably inferior to the general run of interested readers here. I continue to think that we can have these discussions without attacking each other personally. No. 22 feels otherwise, but my sense of it is that opinions rise or fall on their content, not on imaginary personal attacks on people we don’t even know first-hand.
September 4, 9:02 pm | [comment link]