Interesting times, part II
the rest of the tapes
This is a continuation of my post from July 11, on the now-infamous May 24 meeting of the standing committee and the diocesan board in the Diocese of Central Florida.
The subject on the minds of these two bodies was how to secede the diocese from the Episcopal Church, and keep the property, too. They were told repeatedly, that because of both canon law and Florida state law, they could do the first, but not with the second. They could leave, but they couldn’t take the property with them.
The members mostly seemed to think the canons were written so the national church could keep parishes or dioceses from straying, (true, I'm sure), but without provision for the dioceses to respond when the national church strays. They believe the national church has gone "off the rails."
There was talk of changing the diocesan preamble wording from describing the diocese as a constituent member of the Episcopal Church to a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. After all, they're the same right now, Curran (?) said. But if TEC won't sign the covenant, then the diocese would automatically be out of TEC, because TEC wouldn't be a member of the Anglican Communion any more. Crafty.
Forgive me, and let me know if I misattributed any quotes. I don’t know their voices, so it isn’t always easy to ID who’s who on a recording.
There’s a new wind blowing
It was noted that under the last presiding bishop, Frank Griswold, the national church didn’t get involved in property disputes.
“Under Katherine Schori, it’s a new day.”
I'm not sure who talking here, but it provides some context:
“Suddenly, for the first time, the national church is joining the Diocese of Virginia in the lawsuit against these 11 parishes, and, it is widely rumored - I can’t verify this - that it was under pressure Peter Lee changed the direction he was moving, because there was this protocol that had been developed over a period of months. My understanding is it was not finally accepted as any official thing but it was en route to finaly becoming officially accepted by the diocese, and then for whatever reasons, a change of mind about that, and a lawsuit, and the national church has joined the lawsuit. So what’s behind all that, I don’t know, that’s new.”
Someone asked, "Were they [the national church] a party to the California lawsuits?" The answer: They intervened in at least one.
Chancellor Wooten commented on the New Covenant Church* case: "The national church was aware how we were handling things and what our understanding of the law was. And ... we’re satisfied with that, that the trust interest would be protected, and that the resources would be redirected. So. If we had not been having that communication, the answer may have been different as to whether we got (inaudible)
Howe: "We didn’t ask anybody's permission, but we kept them apprised."
*[New Covenant was the church that decided to leave the “heretical” Episcopal Church and wanted to take the church property with them. An agreement was reached in 2004, wherein the departing congregation would lease the church property from the continuing church (via the diocese), while providing space for the Episcopal Church of the New Covenant to worship and rebuild. If the diocese decided it would not use the property as a parish or mission, the diocese would sell the property to the new church entity at fair market value, with an interest-free, 30 year loan. Lease payments would be credited. I felt leery of this, that it would be setting a precedent for future moves to take church property. Maybe it was the best way to settle the matter.]
Chancellor Butch Wooten was asked if he’s been pressured by national-church Chancellor David Beers in any way. Wooten said no. He also said, in another part of the discussion, he was feeling uncomfortable with the pressure he was feeling from the committee to find a way around church canon.
Some of the members didn't seem convinced the chancellors had tried hard enough to find precedents for what the committee wanted to do.
Back to finding a way around law and canon:
Curran said, "Then we need to find our solution elsewhere ... It seems to me to me that the straightforward solution is not going to be in the civil courts. That puts us into the ecclesiastical realm to find a viable solution. Now, thus far, we have been fabulously unsuccessful in doing that. But how do we do that, how do we approach that, so that we can create a climate in which, for example, when TEC does not sign onto the covenant, that we can have an amicable divorce, at that point in time? ... What can we do now so that we have an ecclesiastical resolution, and then if the courts are going to default to the ecclesiastical decision of who the members are and who’s in control of the property, then let's create the ecclesiastical reality that's going to move us in the direction. And how do we do that, how do we make those moves?"
Howe: "I don't know the answer to that, but here's a factor that you need to think about: The leadership of the diocesan board and the standing committee are a good deal more conservative and a good deal more exercised about these issues than are an awful lot of people in our pews. And even if the delegates to a convention had a significant majority that wanted to make that separation, they would not represent, uh, let me put this very carefully, there would be at least, at least a sizable minority, if not a majority in the pews that would not want to do that. How do you protect their rights?"
[In my opinion, a little ugly undertone came into this questioning:]
"How do you know that?"
"I know that. I visit every congregation."
"Do you take a poll or a survey?"
"No, I talk to people."
"See, that’s a pretty dramatic statement."
Curran said he had a hard time restraining his people, who don't want to wait any more, and Liebler said his parishioners ask, if they give to the cathedral, will the national church “swoop in” and try to take it.
Howe said, "The answer is no, unless you’re going to try and steal the property."
And someone added, he hears from people in the parishes, when are we going to get back to doing ministry?
There was some usual TEC bashing, for example, citing a sermon supposedly preached in All Saints California that called the atonement “cosmic child abuse.”
I looked this up and saw something from a rector’s forum by the Rev. J. Edwin Bacon at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Read it here.
I really don’t get their hatred of the presiding bishop. Maybe it’s that she is a woman. And a strong one. Then, I don’t get their hatred of the Episcopal Church, either.
It was clear the majority of the Standing Committee, and apparently the diocesan board, too, is ready to jump ship to the Global South, to be with like-minded "conservatives" and "Anglo-Catholics." Now.
There was some dissent to this. Canon Ernie Bennett (?) said he didn’t paint the presiding bishop and the Episcopal Church with the same black paint brush they did. He took vows as an Episcopal, not Anglican priest, and planned to remain Episcopal.
As for the covenant process, Curran said it would have to get through Anaheim 2009, if Lambeth even happens, then a period of discernment. If TEC signed the covenant it would be 2012, and it wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.
They’re ready to go now. They want Howe on board with them. For, either at convention or special convention, it’s the bishop people will listen to, Howe was told. If the bishop tells the diocese something is a bad idea, the people will tend to think it’s a bad idea.
Therefore, the bishop should tell them schism and hooking up with the Global South is a good thing.
Somebody said the people in the pews need to be “educated.”
Howe told them he couldn't play ball with them. He likened the pain of presiding over a disintegrating diocese to that of being crucified.
He objected to their opinion the diocese is going straight to hell in a handbasket.
"Despite all this crap, there is good work being done in this diocese," he said.
Howe's concern about presiding over internecine warfare in the parishes and in the diocese was apparent. That is the future we face, if they persist in pushing schism.
Will they act like mean little kids, who, if they can't take it with them, will destroy the diocese before leaving it?
I do believe the bishop is right (it’s what I’ve been saying, after all) - the majority of parishioners won’t go along with leaving TEC, certainly not with going to the Church of Wherever (Nigeria-CANA or AMiA, as was suggested during the meeting). But the fight would be ugly, hurtful and costly on a number of levels. Little parishes like mine could well be torn apart.
And that will be a shame.