Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stemming the Tide

Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori has warned Episcopal bishops that there will be consequences if they seek to lead their dioceses out of the Episcopal Church, while imploring them to remain within the church and seek reconciliation.

A press release issued yesterday from the Episcopal News Service included the text of a letter that the Presiding Bishop has sent to Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh). Bishop Duncan is also the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network and the Common Cause Partnership, both of which seem to be seeking to establish an Anglican presence in the U.S. outside the Episcopal Church. (Several of the leaders were also active in the '90s to launch a similar effort under the "Episcopal Synod of America.") Bishop Duncan also attended the consecration of bishops in Kenya and Uganda to serve in the U.S. He has advocated for the adoption of diocesan resolutions that would supposedly sever the relationship between the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Episcopal Church.

The Presiding Bishop wrote to Bishop Duncan:

There have been numerous public references in recent weeks regarding resolutions to be introduced at your forthcoming diocesan convention. Those resolutions, if adopted, would amend several of your diocesan canons and begin the process of amending one or more provisions of your diocesan Constitution. I have reviewed a number of these proposed resolutions, and it is evident to me that they would violate the Constitutional requirement that the Diocese conform to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. It is apparent from your pre-convention report that you endorse these proposed changes. I am also aware of other of your statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead your diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. Our Constitution explicitly provides that a diocese must accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.

I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

The ENS story makes clear that other bishops will soon receive similar letters. The Diocese of Pittsburgh's convention is November 2-3, Fort Worth's convention is November 14-15, and the Diocese of San Joaquin meets December 7-8. Those who follow the Anglican blogosphere suspect that similar letters are going to Bishops Iker and Schofield, both of whom are supporting legislation similar to +Duncan's.

The ENS story also spelled out the thinking of the Church leadership, as reported to the Executive Council last week. Father Jake described it as offering "Some Answers Regarding Bishops Leaving the Episcopal Church." Faithful Episcopalians in schismatic parishes and dioceses would do well to read the ENS story. The press release outlines a process whereby schismatic bishops may be deposed and under which authentic Episcopal dioceses would be reconstituted. It appears that the Episcopal Church leadership is indeed making plans to support faithful Episcopalians, if the diocesan leaders seek to leave the Episcopal Church.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I somehow feel a settlement has to be offered by TEC which would end the acrimony and allow the church, and churches, to get on with the business of serving in God's Kingdom. Protecting property is not what we are about, doing the work of Christ is. If we have two member jurisdictions in the Anglican Communion from this country, that would be fine. If Canterbury kicks us out, or them; so what! The Lutherans did there thing with separation years ago, and both have survived. The schismatic talk and action of the "Network" is in an irrevocable stage. It is time for TEC to act to give a peaceable freedom to them, and for us to get on with what we know to be the work we need to do.

11/02/2007 10:53 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

All very well but it is not quite as tidy as let's just split the sheets and get one with it. What about those who want to remain in The Episcopal Church - just because they are fewer in number in a particular diocese and church - do they have any less claim on their "home" buildings?

11/02/2007 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The settlement I spoke of, would include some compesation for those who are disaffected, also. It would all have to be negotiated, certainly. But, it is time for TEC to act magnamimously and get on with the inevitable; and then get on with being the church.

11/02/2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Property is important -- these are not just warehouses, but places where people have known God and celebrated the most important things in their lives -- and often with relatives buried in the church yard.

If someone is sick and tired of the Episcopal Church they can resign and take up their spiritual lives in another denomination. Some have chosen to do so -- what they cannot do is decide to affiliate with another church body and take the property from the Episcopal Church with them. That's like someone on a high school basketball team who decides he wants to quit the team and go to a different school -- so what does he do? He goes to his school at night and takes all their athletic equipment with him.

No one is against treating people who leave TEC with decency and kindness -- and wishing them well on their continuing journey as Christian people. I have raised the question with dissidents about sharing church property, but without fail their response has been "How can I share space with people who have left the Christian faith and are worshiping a different God?"

All this is not about property, but our church property, like our homes is important -- and it is not up for grabs for anyone who wants to leave. When my children leave home, they do not get to put their parents out in the street do they?
Tom Woodward

11/02/2007 1:44 PM  
Blogger Barbi Click said...

Allow me to be so bold as to say that in every single parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, there are a group of people, small or otherwise, who wish to remain a part of the Episcopal Church. As the bishop of Fort Worth has so bluntly put it several times, "this is not a democracy," so it is that as long as there is one person within an Episcopal parish within an Episcopal diocese who wishes to remain Episcopal, then that parish and that diocese is Episcopal. As Tom states -- thos who no longer wish to be Episcopal should taken their non-Episcopal selves into another territory. Make their own new parish/diocese of whatever persuasion God is leading them into. Do not try to say that because you believe differently that I or others that you have a right to take that which was never yours to begin with.
Blessings to all who leave -- blessing to all who remain. There are no sheets to split so stop trying to tear down the house to get to them.

11/02/2007 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe I have seen in your comments the acrimony I spoke about. I have also seen it in the networks statements; and it is tiresome. I want my church back, whatever is to be left of it. This bickering disdain is destructive to both sides. Somehow it must stop!

11/02/2007 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Josh Thomas said...

Funny, I didn't see a bit of bickering here.

11/02/2007 5:11 PM  
Blogger Barbi Click said...

sad...just too too sad. a statement of fact is considered acrimonious...I am so sorry that you saw it that way. It is not the way it was intended.

11/02/2007 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Tom B. said...

So, Tom W., what if your children built your house? What if your children had paid your mortgage? What if your GRANDPARENTS had built your house, and had clearly stated their wishes? Would you be constrained at all by their views, or to heck with them, you know that times have changed, so their wishes no longer count?

What if the ones who paid for it, based on teachings from their elders, wanted to keep the house? is your position that they don't count? Tom B.

11/03/2007 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Chris H said...

As in all divorces, both sides lose in some way. Many "schismatics" I know honestly feel the church has abandoned the faith. They aren't just doing it to get the building. And the current crisis isn't the only thing causing the loss of property. Parishes are consolidated and property sold any time attendance,giving, etc. makes maintaining the property impossible.

Even if a small minority loyal to TEC kept the building, there is still a strong possibility the property would be sold because they couldn't maintain it.

TEC is quite proud of their democratic leanings unlike other Anglican bodies. If the majority, whichever side they are, keeps the property, chances are greater it will remain a church.

Tom, if you had to choose whether the church you were married in were made a Lutheran church or demolished and became a restaurant, which would you choose? Would your choice change if it became a conservative Anglican church instead?

11/04/2007 7:11 AM  

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