On Pentecost Sunday, May 27, some members of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bristol, including its rector the Rev. Donald Helmandollar, voted to align themselves with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). CANA is an initiative of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, a foreign province acting outside the bonds, customs and traditions of the Anglican Communion.
Bishop Andrew Smith first learned of the vote through an Internet posting. He phoned Helmandollar and later received a letter dated May 27 stating that “he and the parish” had formally aligned with CANA.
Bishop Smith brought the matter to the clergy members of the Standing Committee and, with their advice and consent, released Helmandollar from the responsibilities and privileges of a priest in The Episcopal Church under Title III, Canon 9.8. Formal notice of the action was sent out on June 20.
After confirming that the wardens and vestry of Trinity had all also voted to align with CANA, Bishop Smith removed them from their positions under Title I, Canon 17.8 of the Canons and Constitution of The Episcopal Church.
The Bishop asked the CANA group at Trinity to vacate the buildings and surrender control of the assets by July 8. Through an attorney, the CANA group has stated that there will be no compliance and has further announced an intention to bring trespass charges against any Diocesan personnel who help recover possession of Parish property for the use of loyal Episcopalians. The Diocese has now turned the task of recovering the Parish property over to its attorneys.
On July 12, Bishop Smith wrote and sent a letter to members of Trinity Episcopal Church, inviting all who wish to continue as Episcopalians to meet with him to discuss the situation, meet a priest-in-charge for Trinity, and begin to identify new leadership.
“Trinity Episcopal Church has a long and solid history as a parish of this Diocese,” he wrote. “Its founders and members over the generations have built the parish within the family and tradition of The Episcopal Church. I truly regret that some members have seen fit to try to tear the congregation from the fabric of the Church and now lay claim to its property and assets.
“Please know that regardless of what may have been said by others, a parish in The Episcopal Church is a constituent member of the Diocese of which it is part. That is a matter of Canon law, and in Connecticut it also is a matter that has been determined by the civil courts. Trinity Episcopal Church, Bristol, is and remains a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.
“… Please do pray for the whole Church of God in these times. I am praying for all the members of Trinity Episcopal Church. My hope is that we may pray, reason and work together to serve Christ in our day, as a blessing to God and a clear witness to Christ’s redeeming love in this world.”