Chief of Staff of Diocese of Virginia Expresses “Disappointment” with Falls Church (Anglican)

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Over the last few weeks you have received word of a cascade of settlements the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church have made with six of the seven CANA congregations that remained in the property litigation. In each case, the CANA congregation agreed to return the church property, including personal property and Episcopal funds due the Diocese of Virginia, and to withdraw their appeals. We have sought to be as generous as we can be with these congregations, particularly with regard to items necessary in the very short-term for them to continue in their ministries.

With disappointment, I report to you that we have been unable to reach a final settlement with the CANA congregation now known as the Falls Church Anglican. Their leadership has made it clear that they plan to pursue their appeal before the Supreme Court of Virginia unless the Diocese (with the Episcopal Church’s approval) pays them a significant sum of money; we both are unwilling to do so. As a result, we expect the Falls Church Anglican to file their petition for appeal at the end of this month, asking the Supreme Court of Virginia to hear their case. We must file a responsive brief three weeks later, and the Court will issue its decision on whether to take the case at some point this fall. We remain strongly confident in our legal position.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)Episcopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: VirginiaTEC Departing Parishes* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

28 Comments
Posted May 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm

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1. samh wrote:

“We have sought to be as generous as we can be with these congregations…”

Well now that’s just not true. They have been precisely as generous as they believed to be expedient or shrewd, but I doubt they have been as generous as possible.

May 23, 4:42 pm | [comment link]
2. Ian+ wrote:

They should have simply walked away from all the property in the first place, and given the diocese their cloak too.

May 23, 4:56 pm | [comment link]
3. RalphM wrote:

DioVa was benevolent in considering the return of specific items donated by departing parishioners.  That fact is true.  It is a little easier to be generous when you are pocketing tens of millions of dollars worth of cash and property.

May 23, 7:17 pm | [comment link]
4. NoVA Scout wrote:

“pocketing” seems not quite the precise word given that the departing group had no right under secular law or the governing rules of the Parish, the Diocese or the national Church to any of the “cash and property.”  The “pocketing” would have occurred if people who reaffiliated succeeded in taking things with them on their to their new place of worship.  It’s hard to imagine people even thinking of doing such a thing, but it has come up here and there. The trial court in Virginia made clear that funds and assets acquired or donated after the departure decision remained with the departing parishioners.  That seems fair.

May 23, 9:25 pm | [comment link]
5. AnglicanFirst wrote:

“We have sought to be as generous as we can be with these congregations…”

That statement boogles the mind.

The Diocese of Virginia’s lawsuit was an uncharitable act toward Christians in the first case.

It came about after the Bishop of Virginia reversed course from his commitment to a negotiated separation and joined with (or knuckled under pressure from) the Presiding Bishop to join in a hostile action against the departing parishes.

The leaders of the Diocese of Virginia should hang their heads in shame.  Nothing good can come of this action that they have successfully undertaken against Christians. 

This leadership shoild be concerned about how they will fare at their Final Judgement.

May 23, 9:37 pm | [comment link]
6. Sarah wrote:

Most excellent news. 

My favorite lines are “each of the continuing congregations . . . are experiencing significant growth.”

Heh—yup, the faux Falls Church has grown from an ASA of 64 to 74 from 2008 to 2010!

That’s certainly some “staggering richness” of “possibilities” for the libs.  ; > )

May 23, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
7. MichaelA wrote:

“pocketing” seems not quite the precise word given that the departing group had no right under secular law or the governing rules of the Parish, the Diocese or the national Church to any of the “cash and property.”

Rubbish. The only point in TEC’s favour is that it has won a judgment at first instance, which is clearly wrong in principle and now will be tested on appeal.

The reality is that this congregation owned their property in all senses.  They rejected the heresy of TEC (as they were morally and spiritually obliged to do) and TEC then used its financial and legal muscle to seize the congregation’s property. 

TEC has behaved like this on many occasions in a way that has no place in a Christian church. 

The good thing about articles like this is that it once again gives the orthodox an opportunity to remind the public in the USA (and Anglicans all around the world) how TEC has behaved.  No wonder people are deserting TEC in droves.

May 23, 10:17 pm | [comment link]
8. NoVA Scout wrote:

The court essentially ruled that donations and contributions after the split belonged to the departees and those that were donated before the split belonged to the Episcopalians, Michael.  Where is the inequity in that?  How could it be that the people who left would be entitled to confiscate property, assets, and funds from the people who stayed?  This was not some country preacher’s one-off mega-church.

May 24, 7:20 am | [comment link]
9. sophy0075 wrote:

Yet another example of Pravda-speak!

I predict Falls Church Anglican will petition the US Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari if it is denied justice by the VA Supreme Court. The TEC Dio VA will regret its mendacious claims of “generosity” then.

May 24, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
10. NoVA Scout wrote:

I think what would be regretted in that scenario, Sophy, is the continued destruction of treasure.  The Virginia matter has played out in a context that creates no federal issues that would warrant federal court review.  The Virginia Supreme Court would have to act very strangely indeed in injecting new issues (something appellate courts largely avoid) to turn this into a case that any federal court would have interest in.  If the Virignia court simply declines to hear the case (and outcome that several of us who follow these things think is quite possible), the matter as decided by the trial court has no “legs” to walk it over to the federal side.  I suppose the lawyers for the departees will try to inject such issues as they craft their appellate pleadings (as things disintegrated at the trial court, one could seen this beginning to happen at that level), but, at this stage, that would seem a very transparent stratagem to which any sentient appellate body would not react with much tolerance or amusement.

May 25, 6:18 am | [comment link]
11. Sarah wrote:

Sophy, I don’t think the diocese of Virginia will regret anything.  I think you’re severely overestimating their in-any-way-remotely similar values, foundational worldview, or gospel to yours.

It’s not only not even in the same ballpark, it’s not even the same game.

There’s a Gospel, and then there’s a gospel way way way waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy over there, so far away you can barely see it.

They’re not going to have the same reactions or fruit as those who believe the Gospel—they’ll need to have the reactions and fruit that *their* gospel brings them.  All of this is about defending and protecting their gospel, and in that sense they’re behaving and demonstrating entirely consistent actions and reactions within the cosmos of their foundational worldview.  But it’s not going to be in any way connected to our own—we simply don’t share the same Gospel.

No matter what happens, the Diocese of Virginia will feel fine—even if 100 years from now they dissolve into tiny microparticles—it will all be in keeping with the leadership’s gospel.  No sense of “failure” is going to occur—why should it, when their conceptions of “failure,” “success,” “sin,” “redemption,” “conversion,” “sanctification,” “the Holy Scripture,” and etc, etc, are antithetical to ours.

May 25, 7:56 am | [comment link]
12. NoVA Scout wrote:

The Elves appear to be dozing. 

Whoever be the “theys” in the Diocese of Virginia referenced in the last comment, I think the approach to property protection by the Diocese and the parish in the case cited in the post rests on far less grand theological divergences than is posited in the last comment.  Leaving to one side whether there is a monolithic theological viewpoint among the thousands of Christians within the Diocese (I submit that there is likely about as much variation of views on the issues of the day in that particular Diocese as there is in the commenter’s own Diocese), the reaction to departing groups seizing possession of historic properties is probably exactly the same approach that would have been taken by the most theologically conservative Diocese had “liberal” departees had walked off with properties to join another denomination or another religion.  In any event, the Diocese is an administrative unit.  Many, if not most, if not all, of its members do “share the same Gospel”  as the commenter.  The not very subtle implication that there is some uniform general subscription to an “anti-Gospel” in this particular Diocese is pure reflexive, malevolent fiction fired out for the purpose of making Virginians of the Episcopalian stripe out to be somehow alien or apart from other Christians elsewhere.  It is difficult to see how such rhetoric promotes the greater good of Christian unity, fellowship and solidarity.

May 26, 11:18 am | [comment link]
13. MichaelA wrote:

NoVA Scout wrote at #8:

“The court essentially ruled that donations and contributions after the split belonged to the departees and those that were donated before the split belonged to the Episcopalians, Michael.  Where is the inequity in that?”

Because this single judge ruled that donations that were made for the express purpose of keeping them OUT of the hands of the heretical and minority diocese of Virginia should be handed over to that Diocese.  The judge’s decision turned the law of trusts on its head.

“How could it be that the people who left would be entitled to confiscate property, assets, and funds from the people who stayed?”

You know perfectly well that this is not an accurate description of what happened, on any view, so why ask it except to be mischievous?

“This was not some country preacher’s one-off mega-church.”

Good point - I have always thought that the small number of liberals in charge of TEC and its liberal dioceses behave as though they were independent pastors subject to no law. 

But in the case we are talking about, the congregation and its clergy behaved responsibly, properly and in a truly Christian manner.  But a tiny disaffected ultra-liberal minority used a well-timed law suit backed by outside money to win a decision from a single judge.  The effect of this was to seize the property and funds belonging to the congregation. That decision is now under appeal.

May 26, 10:23 pm | [comment link]
14. MichaelA wrote:

“I think what would be regretted in that scenario, Sophy, is the continued destruction of treasure.”

I didn’t know Long John Silver had joined this conversation.  What are you talking about?

“but, at this stage, that would seem a very transparent stratagem to which any sentient appellate body would not react with much tolerance or amusement.”

Translation: NoVA Scout doesn’t want the single-judge decision to be subject to even a single level of appeal, but can’t think of any cogent reason why it shouldn’t be.  We already knew that.

May 26, 10:36 pm | [comment link]
15. MichaelA wrote:

I think the approach to property protection by the Diocese and the parish in the case cited in the post rests on far less grand theological divergences than is posited in the last comment.

Of course, but then you would, wouldn’t you?  You merely reflect the views of the Diocese of Virginia and TEC and the small minority of ultra-liberals in charge of them.  Throughout this crisis they have attempted to divert attention away from any theological issue.  Yet there has never been any other basis for the crisis!  It has always been theological, from first to last.

“the reaction to departing groups seizing possession of historic properties”

Excuse me, you keep repeating this like a senseless mantra. How did any congregation “seize possession of properties”?

“The not very subtle implication that there is some uniform general subscription to an “anti-Gospel” in this particular Diocese is pure reflexive, malevolent fiction fired out for the purpose of making Virginians of the Episcopalian stripe out to be somehow alien or apart from other Christians elsewhere.”

No, it is making out that the small minority of ultra-liberals who have secured control of TEC and its liberal dioceses (and their supporters such as NoVA Scout) are alien and apart from orthodox Anglicanism. 

You are of course welcome to disagree with that conclusion.  But to do so you will have to argue theologically, which you have strenuously endeavoured thus far to avoid.  But as I wrote above, this divergence/dispute/crisis (whatever you want to call it) has always been theological, and Sarah has accurately identified where the fault-line lies.

May 26, 10:49 pm | [comment link]
16. NoVA Scout wrote:

Yes, Michael, you are quite correct that I have not approached these property rights cases from a theological standpoint.  That is because I do not regard the correct disposition of ownership issues as turning on theology.  I have not been able to construct a sustainable principle in American law (I might do better if I used a theocratic, one-religion government like Iran) by which one could come to a principle that would apply uniformly in these cases.  Hence my point that the Diocese of Virginia, in resisting these assertions of ownership by departing parishioners, is acting precisely as the most ultra “conservative” diocese would behave if a large number of “liberals” in a parish decided they just had to depart, but asserted the right to stay on and take control of bank accounts, buildings and other properties of their local church.  I also have not found a principle in law (either secular or canon law of the Diocese or the national church at the time of the departure) by which one could justify the extinction of the interests of the people who do not choose to leave or by which one could award ownership and control to the departees if they left for a non-Christian affiliation.  I simply regard the theory that one can fan up a majority sentiment for re-affiliation on any given issue at any given time, and thus cause, under the law, a shift in legal ownership.  As a conservative myself, I regard this as an almost Trotsky-ite, chaotic approach to ecclesiastical governance.  To test my thesis, ask yourself whether, if the departing group at The Falls Church, for sincere reasons of conscience, had been led by their rector and vestry to re-affiliate with Islam, would you be comfortable with the Judge awarding them the accounts and property of the parish?  If not, how would you advise the Judge to distinguish the hypothetical situation from what really happened? 

Traditionally, these issues have always been handled relatively smoothly by those who feel they cannot stay in a given denomination moving to a spiritual home that they find consistent with their values and views.  This would have worked famously in this case, and one can make that point from any position on a theological spectrum.  That I make it as a conservative, traditionalist Episcopalian, should not be held against me.  Either the point has merit or it does not.

By the way, in American English, the word “treasure” connotes more than Long John Silver’s doubloons (your comment no. 14)  A lot of God’s treasure has gone up in smoke around here over the past several years.  It now resides in lawyers’ college funds, luxury automobiles, retirement accounts and summer homes.  It could have largely stayed put if the traditional approach I advocate had been followed, as opposed to the radical new thing of trying to take stuff when one leaves a church. 

Finally, I am very much at home with orthodox Anglicanism.  I think it a bit presumptuous (not to mention factually flat-out wrong) on your part to define me spiritually based on my view of the law and ethics of these property disputes.  But, as you say, that does become a theological position, and I don’t feel particularly compelled to argue the merits of my theological views (which are very similar to yours) with other Christians.  My point was on another topic altogether.

May 27, 7:36 am | [comment link]
17. NoVA Scout wrote:

Alas, there was a sentence fragment in that first para. of my comment.  The sentence should read “I simply regard the theory that one can fan up a majority sentiment for re-affiliation on any given issue at any given time, and thus cause, under the law, a shift in legal ownership as situational ethics that cannot survive if one values orderly secular or canonical governance.”

I’m not sure that the sentence is any more clear, but at least it now has a subject and a verb.

May 27, 11:00 am | [comment link]
18. MichaelA wrote:

NoVA Scout wrote:

“That is because I do not regard the correct disposition of ownership issues as turning on theology.”

Neither do I, nor have I suggested the same.  We have been over this many times, and by now it is obvious that you actually understand this quite well, but are simply not willing to acknowledge it. 

The *dispute* turns on theological principles, and that is why Diocese Virginia and its liberal supporters have no legitimacy as Anglicans.  It is also why the Diocese of Virginia have acted in a most un-Christian manner in pursuing this litigation.

But the *property rights* are simple: the congregation always owned its property and the Diocese never had any right to it.

“Hence my point that the Diocese of Virginia, in resisting these assertions of ownership by departing parishioners, is acting precisely as the most ultra “conservative” diocese would behave…”

Yet another assertion with no support whatsoever.

“I also have not found a principle in law (either secular or canon law of the Diocese or the national church at the time of the departure) by which one could justify the extinction of the interests of the people who do not choose to leave…”

Firstly, what is the relevance of whether or not you “have found principles in law”?  I am not trying to be rude, its just that you are trying to cast your posts as though you have some professional competence in law and can therefore speak from a position of authority.  Rather, your posts should all begin with, “I think that…” or “I assert that…”

Secondly, your formulation in this passage is irrelevant: No-one to whom you refer had any interests in the first place.  A tiny minority of ultra-liberals did not agree with the congregation and decided to leave – that in no way entitles them to attempt to seize the congregation’s property.

“I simply regard the theory that one can fan up a majority sentiment for re-affiliation on any given issue at any given time, and thus cause, under the law, a shift in legal ownership.”

Of course you regard it as a shift in legal ownership, but there is no legal support for such a proposition.  It is just an idea that you and other liberals have dreamed up because you don’t like orthodox theology.  You regard law as merely a means to an end that suits you.

“As a conservative myself, I regard this as an almost Trotsky-ite, chaotic approach to ecclesiastical governance.”

You have never given the slightest indication that you are “conservative”.  I do not see the relevance of any preference for Stalin over Trotsky that you might have. 

“To test my thesis, ask yourself whether, if the departing group at The Falls Church, for sincere reasons of conscience, had been led by their rector and vestry to re-affiliate with Islam, would you be comfortable with the Judge awarding them the accounts and property of the parish?”

Thank you for proving my point in spades.  Do you see the slightest inconsistency between the situation you describe and Episcopalian belief?

“Traditionally, these issues have always been handled relatively smoothly by those who feel they cannot stay in a given denomination moving to a spiritual home that they find consistent with their values and views.”

So now you have moved from making up whatever legal principles suit you, to making up “tradition” – very creative!

“This would have worked famously in this case, and one can make that point from any position on a theological spectrum.”

No, one cannot. You are making the point simply because it suits your purpose, which is to see liberal teaching entrenched in Dio. Virginia.

“I make it as a conservative, traditionalist Episcopalian,…”

I have seen no evidence in your posts that you are a conservative traditionalist Episcopalian.  You simply wish to be seen as such, to avoid any searching analysis of your views.

“It could have largely stayed put if the traditional approach I advocate had been followed, as opposed to the radical new thing of trying to take stuff when one leaves a church.”

Wrong again.  The only entity that has tried to “take stuff” has been the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.  You know very well that the congregations didn’t try to take anything – they simply announced that they could no longer be affiliated with a Diocese that had rejected true Episcopalianism and estranged itself from the Anglican Communion.

“I don’t feel particularly compelled to argue the merits of my theological views (which are very similar to yours)…”

From what I have read of your posts on T19, any similarity between my theological views and yours is merely superficial.

May 27, 7:12 pm | [comment link]
19. NoVA Scout wrote:

I think you mistakenly equate support for departing parishioners’ laying claim to property when they reaffiliate with doctrinal orthodoxy.  I suggest that there are other tests.  Some of your position seems to be word-play (describing an action as having Trotsky-ite implications as indicating a preference for Stalin, for example).  On the central point, however, perhaps I can put it in words that don’t excite that tendency:

Leaving to one side who “stays”, who “leaves”, “liberal”, “conservative”, “traditional” etc., my concern has been finding a governing principle under the canon law of the Diocese of Virginia as it stood in late 2006, the governing documents of the Parish, and under secular law that inevitably would be called on to mediate property disputes, to explain how a decision by a majority of a parish on a given issue (from the sublime to the ridiculous) could act to shift ownership (or confirm ownership, since you appear to believe that ownership always rests with the majority of the parish members) to a reaffiliating group of parishioners.  The principle I seek has to be one that would apply in all cases, not just those where you or I think the reaffiliation is an improvement (hence my example of a majority group that decides to become Islamic - an example I don’t think you have honestly engaged).  The principle also has to explain how one justifies evicting a minority who, for whatever reasons (profound, silly,sincere, habitual) view it as a supremely bad idea to split the church over a given issue.  I haven’t come up with it, and you haven’t given me much help in this space.

In the absence of such a sustainable principle, I have to conclude that the better course is, when individuals or groups of individuals feel a calling to reaffiliate, they should reaffiliate by going to the denomination where they are comfortable or starting their own denomination.  In the particular instance, that was the course I advocated in 2006 (I was a very small, faint minority, quite obviously, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think my counsel, though not taken, was incorrect or unwise). 

You are clearly unfamiliar with the people who decided not to depart the Falls Church.  They are a multi-variegated bunch, and I am sure that some would be, in your eyes, “liberals”.  Many, however, are quite “conservative” in their theological views and would share my sense of alignment with many or all of your views (on virtually everything other than the property dispute).  They are, by no means, “ultra-liberals” and they made no decision to leave.  Indeed, their votes were not to leave the Diocese.  In standard English (at least the way we use it around here), they decided “to stay” with the Diocese and TEC and thought the decision to depart an unwise one on many levels. 

The legal principles I deem to govern these situations (canonical and secular) are not ones that I have made up.  They are out in the world and have been for some time.  They are the reason that most of these efforts are coming to grief around the country.  Were they merely coming out of my head, there would be far more victories than there have been for seceding groups.  Of course, you are correct that the things I say here are, like the things you say here, largely matters of opinion.  That is largely understood by Dr. Harmon’s readers and does not require constant qualification or disclaimer.  But I also consider my opinions on secular law issues to be grounded in professional competence in the area. I doubt you would spot me that, given your tendency to lash out at me as a person, as opposed to coming to grips with the ideas I advance. 

There is a tendency, and I consider it a low and fallacious reflection of the inherent weakness of humanity, a weakness well understood by our Lord, to deal with unpleasant ideas on the basis of negative personal typology and attacks, rather to address squarely the content of the ideas.  We see it commonly in this space where commenters frequently exert great energy in grouping people into esteemed vs. evil categories.  Your last comment is an excellent example of this approach.  It is simply not acceptable to you that my concern on this particular issue can arise in the context of one who is no fan of the current leadership of the national Episcopal Church, who opposes same sex religious marriages, who is completely unconvinced on the merits of the so-called “Open Table” approach to communion and who is politically conservative in his secular life (by the way, I think there is an all too common urge to equate secular political conservatism with theological orthodoxy around here, but that’s another issue altogether).  I wish it were otherwise, but we humans are wired to deal in fallacious stereotypes when we try to justify our own views.  And we Christians are a most fractious lot, particularly when we deal with each other.  It is a great shame and pity.

May 28, 6:30 am | [comment link]
20. MichaelA wrote:

NoVA Scout wrote,

“or confirm ownership, since you appear to believe that ownership always rests with the majority of the parish members”

Or rather, with the parish as a corporate entity, as we have discussed numerous times before. 

“my example of a majority group that decides to become Islamic - an example I don’t think you have honestly engaged”

I actually don’t think you have engaged with my response, but perhaps I wasn’t clear enough:  If a congregation decides to become Islamic, on what basis can it be said to be Episcopalian?  Following exactly the same principle, if a Presiding Bishop refuses to teach that Jesus is the only way for salvation, or that the primary mission of the church is to spread the gospel, on what basis can she said to be Episcopalian?

“The principle also has to explain how one justifies evicting a minority”

Now this IS something new.  Are you claiming that a minority was EVICTED from any of the congregations?  On what basis?

“They are the reason that most of these efforts are coming to grief around the country.”

Except that they aren’t.  Congregations that reject the teachings of TEC leadership seem to be doing very well indeed.

“It is simply not acceptable to you that my concern on this particular issue can arise in the context of one who is no fan of the current leadership of the national Episcopal Church, who ...”

What does this (or what follows) have to do with what I wrote?

May 29, 2:38 am | [comment link]
21. NoVA Scout wrote:

I seem to be having trouble getting through.  I’ll give it one more try.  If, at The Falls Church, the majority group of departees had left to affiliate with an Islamic mosque instead of a new Christian denomination, would you continue to advocate that they should hold title to buildings and accounts and be able to expel those who voted to remain affiliated with the Diocese of Virginia?  If not, what is the legal basis for distinguishing between that situation and what did happen in the 2006-2012 period?

Perhaps things are different in Anglican structures where you are, but here, parishes are parts of Dioceses and do not exist, as, in my previous examples, as independent entities to the extent that they can simply take votes and move from one affiliation to another.  To again take The Falls Church as an example, the departing faction tried to incorporate the parish as a means of enhancing their ability to claim ownership against the Diocese, but this was unavailing.  Again, to go back to my Islamic conversion example, would your view of the hypothetical situation be that an incorporated parish could hold a majority vote to become a mosque (or Buddhist temple, or RC church), but that an unincorporated parish could not?  (By the way, you might be interested to know that a number of churches, including the Roman Catholic church, have supported the Diocese of Virginia’s legal position on the departure/seizure issues).

And yes - nothing new - the continuing Episcopalians at The Falls Church were not permitted to continue worshipping in the Diocese of Virginia at The Falls Church and were forced into exile, a more than five year exile that ended only last week pursuant to court order.  The eviction (a technically more correct word would be “exclusion” since no legal process was used to terminate Episcopal services, only a kind of squatters’ rights self-help) was pretty much total during the occupation, other than two or three funerals/burials and one wedding of which I am aware.  All accounts were seized and all property (hymnals, prayer books, office supplies, you name it) were held by the departing group and the continuing Episcopalians had no access to them until intervention by the secular courts put an end to this.  There has been previous information in circulation about this, so I am surprise this is just coming to your attention.  As I and others have noted, this hardship was not entirely a negative thing for the spiritual growth and awareness of the Episcopal congregation of The Falls Church.  But it is a fact.

The “efforts” I spoke of were attempts by seceding elements to claim property after they leave the Episcopal Church,  I, of course, in this thread, am addressing the legal disputes.  Virtually all of them have ended in defeat for the defectors.  I am quite sure that many of these departing groups are doing well in other areas and I certainly wish them well.  Had they simply left and formed their own churches, they would be doing even better, I’m sure.  The moral taint and ethical lapses of trying to take buildings and property were handicaps, not boons, to their early formational experiences.  Freed from these follies, they will no doubt thrive.

You (or someone using your handle in this thread) have attacked me as being things that I am not, rather than simply dealing head-on with the substance of my concerns.  If you are being misrepresented, speak to Dr. Harmon about it.  I must admit that I thought it unworthy of you, and I have many times seen you put up extremely learned and helpful commentary.  The Elves can distinguish between ISP nos. and will take down the comments of the impostor.  My apologies if I mistakenly thought the previous personal attacks were emanating from you.

May 29, 5:15 am | [comment link]
22. Sarah wrote:

RE: “The moral taint and ethical lapses of trying to take buildings and property were handicaps, not boons, to their early formational experiences.”

To revisionists, yes.  But then, revisionists and conservatives don’t share the same values, morals, ethics, or gospels, so it’s a yawner as to what revisionists think on any of that.

RE: “Many, if not most, if not all, of its members do “share the same Gospel”  as the commenter.”

Not its leadership, no.

RE: “The not very subtle implication that there is some uniform general subscription to an “anti-Gospel” in this particular Diocese is pure reflexive, malevolent fiction fired out for the purpose of making Virginians of the Episcopalian stripe out to be somehow alien or apart from other Christians elsewhere.”

I agree—it’s not meant to be subtle. The vast majority of the leaders do not share the same gospel or faith as I or other conservative Episcopalians.  Two gospels in one organization.

And yes—they are utterly alien and apart from those who believe the Christian Gospel.

RE: “It is difficult to see how such rhetoric promotes the greater good of Christian unity, fellowship and solidarity.”

I agree—for there is no unity, fellowship or solidarity between those who believe the Gospel in TEC and those who do not.  All that we share is the same organization, not the same faith.

The good news is that that reality is being demonstrated over and over and over again, and Christians of all denominations are recognizing it.

I am heartened.

May 29, 7:34 pm | [comment link]
23. MichaelA wrote:

NoVA Scout wrote,

“If, at The Falls Church, the majority group of departees had left to affiliate with an Islamic mosque instead of a new Christian denomination,…”

I have already responded to this.  A church that becomes an Islamic mosque is no longer Episcopalian (or Anglican, whichever term you want to use) just as K J Schori was no longer Episcopalian in any sense that matters when she denied the saving work of Christ and supported the consecration of a practicing homosexual bishop.

“Perhaps things are different in Anglican structures where you are, but here, parishes are parts of Dioceses and do not exist, as, in my previous examples, as independent entities to the extent that they can simply take votes and move from one affiliation to another.”

Says who? 

“To again take The Falls Church as an example, the departing faction tried to incorporate the parish as a means of enhancing their ability to claim ownership against the Diocese, but this was unavailing …”

You have missed my point.  A parish is a corporate entity (whether it is defined as incorporated by particular legislation or not) as opposed to an individual. 

“The eviction (a technically more correct word would be “exclusion” since no legal process was used to terminate Episcopal services, only a kind of squatters’ rights self-help) …”

In other words, they didn’t like the teachings of the congregational leadership and they left.  They were not “expelled” as you assert.

“All accounts were seized and all property (hymnals, prayer books, office supplies, you name it) were held by the departing group …”

Since the “departing group” are the congregation and its duly constituted leadership, they are entitled to all of those things.  The liberal splinter group were, what, less than 2% of the congregation, and for some bizarre reason you think that less than 2% of a congregation are entitled to be a tiny tail wagging an enormous dog…?!

“As I and others have noted, this hardship was not entirely a negative thing for the spiritual growth and awareness of the Episcopal congregation of The Falls Church.”

True, your numbers have grown from 64 to almost 80 and who knows, you might actually keep them (as opposed to other cases where liberal “activists” have become bored after the novelty of the dispute wears off and numbers go back into the usual death spiral that liberal churches experience).

“I, of course, in this thread, am addressing the legal disputes.  Virtually all of them have ended in defeat for the defectors.”

A strange definition of defeat, given that those “defectors” have thriving churches, and have often planted new churches, whereas the “stayers” have mostly vanished, and the disputed church properties sold off to various secular or Islamic groups, or whoever is prepared to make a bid!

“Had they simply left and formed their own churches, they would be doing even better, I’m sure.”

I will defer to your ability to predict hypotheticals.  But Christians are called upon to witness for God’s truth.  By staying and fighting they have brought the unchristian teaching and acts of leaders like Katherine Schori and +Shannon Johnston to worldwide attention. 

“If you are being misrepresented, speak to Dr. Harmon about it. … The Elves can distinguish between ISP nos. and will take down the comments of the impostor.”

What on earth are you talking about?  You made some rather bizarre comments and I asked how they were relevant to what I wrote.  You have still not responded or tried to justify your various complaints that you have been somehow wronged.

May 30, 4:39 am | [comment link]
24. MichaelA wrote:

I have to admire NoVA Scout’s ability to spin black into white.

Essentially he argues that a tiny fraction (less than 2%) of the Falls Church congregation were entitled to impose their will on the other 98% plus (which included the church leadership)! 

This would be extraordinary in any organisation, secular or religious.

May 30, 4:44 am | [comment link]
25. NoVA Scout wrote:

Of course, that is not what I am “arguing.”  My position is that the governing documents of the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Virginia, and the particular parish provided no mechanism by which, on any given issue, a vote to stay or leave the Diocese by a majority of the parish would act to sever the parish from the diocese or to create any particular property rights in those who chose to leave.  I have also noted that another option existed, one that has been commonly exercised throughout the history of this country (and no doubt elsewhere, at least where there is not a State church - that is one simply walks out the door).  I further have noted that the actions taken by the departees at the Virginia churches, using The Falls Church as the example with which I am most familiar, provided no accounting for how those who voted to stay could be divested of their ability to do so.  That offends my moral and ethical sense, just as the idea of forming majorities to take ownership of parish property and remove it from Diocesan structures defends my sense or orderly ecclesiastical governance.  That others feel otherwise is neither here nor there.  I am stating my opinions. 

I do sense that I perceive something of an answer to my Islam hypothetical.  You appear to be saying that a majority of a parish could decide to exit an Episcopalian diocesan affiliation and in so doing retain property rights, but only if it reaffiliates with another Episcopalian or “Anglican” grouping.  Have I got this right?  Is that your position?  Where does this position find support in our governing documents?  How close does the affiliation with the Episcopal Church or other Anglican entity have to be for this to be a valid reaffiliation conveying property?  To modulate my hypothetical, are you saying that a majority of a parish could not move (and retain buildings/accounts/etc. to a Southern Baptist church)?

Sarah, of course, assists me, as she often does, by illustrating the points I raised in nos. 19 and 12 about how we discuss issues of common concern far more vividly than I possibly could.

May 30, 7:07 am | [comment link]
26. MichaelA wrote:

Of course, that is not what I am “arguing.”

It is precisely what you are arguing. You just don’t like the harsh truth being highlighted.

Your following words are just more spin.  The fact is that the Falls Church congregation did what was right: they separated from the leadership of TEC which had abandoned orthodox Christianity (and therefore, abandoned Episcopalianism).  The orthodox congregation didn’t “take” anything, they just stayed where they had always been.  Everything was accounted for, everything was done properly.

Nothing in your post gives any reason to think that a proper “moral and ethical sense” or “orderly ecclesiastical governance” were in any way contravened.

Then, a tiny sliver of the congregation (less than 2%) walked out over the theological issues.  They then started legal action backed by TEC’s vast monetary reserves to seize the property of the Congregation and evict the faithful parishioners.  This un-Christian action has only resulted in disaster for everyone, except the orthodox Falls Church congregation, making it one of the most spectacular “own goals” in TEC ‘s rather large inventory of same.

“Have I got this right?  Is that your position?  Where does this position find support in our governing documents?  How close does the affiliation with the Episcopal Church or other Anglican entity have to be for this to be a valid reaffiliation conveying property?  To modulate my hypothetical, ... etc”

Please stop wasting my time with hypotheticals, particularly when you cannot, even after several attempts, bring them to anything analogous to the actual situation.  Suffice to say that an Islamic Church is not Episcopalian, just as liberal leaders in TEC like KJ Schori and +Johnston are not Episcopalian.  The Episcopalians are people like the congregation of The Falls Church, hence why they are entitled to their property.

May 31, 2:01 am | [comment link]
27. NoVA Scout wrote:

I guess we can end this antipodal dialogue, one apparently frustrated by inability to communicate in a common language, by saying we disagree. 

As a minor point of clarification, the remaining Episcopalian group did not participate in the litigation as a party.  They had no resources for that.  The legal action opposing the petition of the departees to have the title to property transferred by the courts was conducted by the Diocese and the national church. 

We are now several pages back and things have moved on.  If you want to try to continue to address these points, please send me a private message.  Given that English appears to be failing us, I would suggest we shift to some other language that we both speak.  Like most Americans, my repertoire is limited in that regard, so I would have to resort to either French or Spanish.  You seem to have a good classical background so, in a pinch we could correspond in Latin.

May 31, 6:36 am | [comment link]
28. MichaelA wrote:

Duly noted.

Ben Johnson wrote to WS: “And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek” - I have more Greeke but less Latin than the bard, so I will defer to others in that regard.

May 31, 9:30 pm | [comment link]


© 2014 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.

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