A.S. Haley—Fort Worth Diocese Completes Briefing in Texas Supreme Court

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....because ECUSA's governing documents do not attempt to place any restrictions on property owned or controlled by member dioceses, but only on the properties of parishes and missions, its claims to the diocesan properties are bogus, and require no "deference" whatsoever.

Texas is thus appearing as though it could be the first jurisdiction in the United States to issue a definitive ruling on the ability of Episcopal Church (USA) member dioceses to leave that organization with their property and bank accounts intact. Of course, the fact that the Episcopal Church did nothing to stop the Confederate dioceses from withdrawing en masse after the outbreak of the Civil War, and waited patiently for them to return afterward without ever going to court over the matter, speaks volumes.

The Episcopal Church (USA)'s priorities have changed markedly in 150 years -- and not for the better. That it would consume its ever-dwindling resources over such a dispute is nothing to be emulated, or admired. (Thankfully, PCUSA thus far has had to deal only with the withdrawal of individual parishes, and not regional presbyteries or synods.) Instead of chasing after dioceses no longer willing to participate in its apostasy and decline, ECUSA should concentrate on getting its own house in order.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Fort Worth* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

9 Comments
Posted March 27, 2012 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. NoVA Scout wrote:

I acknowledge that the issue of Dioceses that purport to depart the national church presents a different issue requiring a different legal analysis than the heretofore more common situation of parishioners deciding to re-affiliate and claiming property when they do so.  However, much as I always enjoy reading Mr. Haley, I would quibble with his comment that the Church’s failure to take strong action against departing dioceses of the Confederacy “speaks volumes” about the current dispute.  A number of my relatives and a few hundred thousand of their armed colleagues in uniform expended considerable effort, blood and treasure to reassert control over the departing sisters of 150 years ago.  It took them four years almost to the day.  That the Episcopal Church might have assessed the situation as one which required patience tells me little about the legality of the claims of dioceses in the Confederacy.

March 27, 7:16 am | [comment link]
2. evan miller wrote:

NoVaScout,
Am I to assume then that rather than recourse to the courts, you would advocate deciding the issue by force, as in the case of the “departing sisters of 150 years ago?”

March 27, 9:36 am | [comment link]
3. Daniel Muth wrote:

Good historical tidbit, #1 - I didn’t know that when your ancestors were invading my ancestors’ home states, they were acting on behalf of the Episcopal Church.  Perhaps if the latter had issued a statement to this effect, Mr. Haley wouldn’t have been quite so confused.

March 27, 11:40 am | [comment link]
4. NoVA Scout wrote:

Nos. 2and 3 seem to have missed my point.  I am not advocating sending the United States Army to resolve the dispute nor am I asserting that the Late Unpleasantness was about redeeming property rights of the Episcopal Church.  My point was (clear enough, I think on an objective reading) that, given the difficulties the Government was having asserting its will on the Confederacy in the 1861-1865 period, I do not think it particularly significant, then or now, that the Episcopal Church did not seek recourse in the courts of the day to address claims of parishes or dioceses who separated under the aegis of the government of the Confederacy or its tenacious armed forces.  I would have thought that a rather useless approach.  If I had been advising the Church at that point, I think I would have said that wisdom dictates that we wait and see how the political/military events play out.

March 27, 11:09 pm | [comment link]
5. Chancellor wrote:

NoVA Scout, your point is taken. The point of the post, however, was that nothing about the current state of affairs compelled ECUSA or its remnants to sue the departing dioceses, just as nothing compelled them back in the Civil War days (even assuming there were forums available for that purpose). The departing dioceses (then or now) made no claims on any remnants’ properties (I think there were some in Arkansas in the 1860’s who disagreed with the withdrawal; not sure as I write how far it went).  Those leaving now let those who controlled the respective properties keep them; those who had substantial trust funds (like Pittsburgh) offered to divide them up equably between both sides, as well.

In other words: it was not the Civil War which prevented the Church from suing in 1862 or 1863—the records of the General Conventions of that time show that they continued to call the roll of the departed dioceses. Instead, it was a thought which never entered their minds. And the question is: what changed between then and now to make ECUSA feel that it could not allow the dioceses this time to leave without a lawsuit to strip them of all their assets?

March 28, 2:11 pm | [comment link]
6. Daniel Muth wrote:

For the record, I understood #1; I just didn’t think much of the post - and thought it constituted a misunderstanding of what Mr. Haley was saying, much as his #5 points out.  I am certainly sympathize with consternation directed at the departing dioceses, who display a problematic amount of impatience.  Until, that is, theirs is compared with that of the current TEC leadership, for whom impatience appears among the chief or their shockingly many failings.  Their refusal to spend any time at all making a serious attempt to test the spirits, heed the teachings of their forebears, or develop anything resembling a defensible and recognizably Christian theology of either WO or the Homosexual Movement seems of a piece with their insistence on using lawsuits to attempt to maintain their approximation of Catholicity. 

Christopher Dawson pegged these people in Dynamics of World History: “It is the nature of heresy to sacrifice Catholic truth and Christian unity by concentrating its attention on the immediate solution of some pressing contemporary problem of Christian thought or action. The heretic goes astray by attempting to take a short cut, owing to a natural human impatience at the apparent slowness and difficulty of the way of pure faith.”

March 28, 5:56 pm | [comment link]
7. NoVA Scout wrote:

RE no. 5:  I was not around at the time, old as I am.  So my assessment of the thought processes in 1861 contains an element of conjecture.  However, from my knowledge of the period generally, which is considerable, I think there was a widespread tendency in the North to keep up the outward appearance of confidence that the Nation would reassemble itself in the near to mid-term.  Hence the Southern states stars were kept in the flag, and it may well have been that church officials in the North saw some merit in expecting that eventually the departing churches would rejoin.  In any event, the situation was quite different than that of today.  If the leadership of the Episcopal Church had determined to institute lawsuits against churches/dioceses in the Confederacy, they would have had a devil of a time even getting to court, let alone getting a Confederate court to give them a fair shake.  In the current situation, I suspect that there was not much confidence that those who purported to take Dioceses out of the Church would be back in a year or two.  Litigation was the only way to protect the assets for the use of those who did not depart.  In any event, I was focussing on the idea that what happened in the mid-19th century tells us much about what has happened in the early 21st.  I see the circumstances as sufficiently distinct that one does not inform the other greatly.  the linked article of Mr. Haley takes a very different view.

March 28, 11:25 pm | [comment link]
8. Chancellor wrote:

NoVA Scout, perhaps I was not direct enough. Let me try one more time. You say in #7: ” Litigation was the only way to protect the assets for the use of those who did not depart.” (Emphasis added.)

And what the post tries to point out is: “In the 1860’s, the national Church had no thought or concept of ‘protecting’ assets for anybody.” Such a concept is wholly foreign to the history of ECUSA.

And when you protest, I will point out to you that the first ever lawsuit brought by the Church against one of its dioceses, for any reason, was filed in 2008.  As such, it was the brainchild of one certain chancellor who happens to employ his own giant law firm to handle all the legal business of the Church which has resulted as a consequence of the adoption of his idea by those at 815. 

Saying that there were no lawsuits against departing dioceses because the Civil War would have made it impossible to bring them is like saying that the Episcopal Church never adopted a Dennis Canon before 1979 because there weren’t any courts around which would have recognized the validity of any such provision. The point is that no one in the Church before that time ever thought it could be done that way—not that they would have done it, but had no courts available in which to enforce such a claim. 

Likewise, no one before 2008 thought to sue departing dioceses until the Church Chancellor suggested that it was just as much a fiduciary duty to do so as it was for a diocese to sue a departing parish. Until that moment, the national Church had never claimed that it owed a fiduciary duty to anyone—still less, a duty it felt so strongly about that it was prepared to go to court to assert it.

March 29, 9:07 pm | [comment link]
9. NoVA Scout wrote:

Let me try to be more direct.  Had I advised the Episcopal Church in 1861, I would have counselled that the military and political situation was sufficently chaotic that I would let those elements work their way through without worrying unduly about what was happening south of the line of the Rappahannock.  If I were advising the Episcopal Church in 2006-7 or thereabouts, I would have counselled that I think one has to take a stand by protecting those who are continuing in the Church because I would have seen little prospect that the properties would be returned voluntarily in the near to mid-term, and that acquiescence in the assertion of control might, at some point, be deemed a concession.

March 29, 11:07 pm | [comment link]
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