Daily Archives: January 6, 2009
He did so by stepping in front of a train. Sad.
On this Sunday that follows the birth of the Lord, we celebrate with joy the Holy Family of Nazareth. The context is more than adequate, since Christmas is the feast of the family, par excellence. So many traditions and social customs demonstrate this, especially that of gathering together, in family, for the festive meals and the congratulations and the interchange of gifts. And, how can we not see that in these circumstances, the discontent and the sorrow caused by family strife is amplified?
Jesus wanted to be born and grow up in a human family; he wanted the Virgin Mary to be his mom and Joseph to fulfill the role of father. They raised and educated him with immense love. Jesus’ family truly merits the title of “holy,” since it is entirely focused on the desire of fulfilling the will of God, incarnated in the adorable presence of Jesus. In one sense it is a family like all others, and as such, it is a model of conjugal love, collaboration, sacrifice, confidence in divine providence, a spirit of work and solidarity. Certainly, it presents all these values that the family protects and promotes, contributing in a basic sense to form the fabric of every society.
In a brief interview with a reporter for The Living Church shortly after the decision was announced on Jan. 5, Bishop Bruno said he was “overjoyed” at the verdict and considered all issues at dispute to be decided in their favor. Bishop Bruno said his next step will be to initiate dialogue individually with the clergy and lay leadership of the three churches in the hope that it will lead to reconciliation and perhaps the eventual voluntary return of those congregations to The Episcopal Church.
“I want to see if they are willing to talk; to see if they want to return to The Episcopal Church,” Bishop Bruno said. He added that the offer of dialogue carried no preconditions.
“Attorneys handle legal issues,” he said. “This is now a pastoral issue.”
When the Rev. Jose Poch learned a high court ruling Monday could spell eviction of his 78-year-old parish from St. David’s Church, he was prepared to pack his bags and Bibles.
The California Supreme Court unanimously decided that a breakaway parish like his could not hang onto church property.
“We have to find a place,” said Poch, rector of the North Hollywood church. “We must worship the Lord in any way we can.”
The court ruled that St. David’s and two other Southern California parishes that split from the U.S. Episcopal Church over its ordination of [noncelibate] gay ministers cannot retain ownership of church buildings and property.
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. ”“ January 5, 2009 ”“ The California Supreme Court today ruled in Episcopal Church Cases that church property disputes must be resolved by “neutral principles of law,” not by civil courts merely deferring to the decrees of church “hierarchies.” This ruling has wide and favorable impact for churches throughout California that seek to change their denominational affiliation.
While adopting this “non-religious” method of resolving property disputes between churches, the Court seemed to defer to the Episcopal Church’s alleged “trust canon,” which purports to create a trust interest in church property owned by local congregations. The Court made its ruling despite the fact that St. James Anglican Church, Newport Beach, purchased and maintained its property with its own funds and has held clear record title to its property for over fifty years.
In recent years, religious denominations as diverse as the Eastern Orthodox, Baptist and Pentecostal “Assemblies of God” have attempted to confiscate the property of congregations that wish to change their spiritual affiliation. Today’s ruling falls far short of the endorsement of such tactics that the Episcopal Church ”“ and other denominational hierarchies that submitted briefs in support of it ”“ had sought. Many local churches in California will be able to exercise their religious freedom to change their affiliation without having to forfeit their property as a result.
Nor is the saga over for St. James Anglican Church. “While we are surprised that the Court seemed to give some credence to the Episcopal Church’s purported rule confiscating local church property, the battle is far from over,” lead attorney Eric C. Sohlgren said. “The matter will now return to the Orange County Superior Court for further proceedings, and we look forward to presenting evidence and additional legal arguments that St. James Church should prevail under neutral principles of law.”
The leadership of the Newport Beach congregation is also evaluating a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and is meeting to discuss other possible steps. Today’s ruling also affects All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David’s Church in North Hollywood, whose cases were put on hold pending the outcome of the St. James case. Together with St. James Church, these congregations never agreed to relinquish their property to the Episcopal Church upon changing their affiliation, and have consistently maintained that they have the right to use and possess the property which they have owned and maintained for decades.
The California Supreme Court ruled that the 2.4-million-member national church, and not a local parish in that state, owns a church building and the land on which it sits, property which members of the congregation said belonged to them when they left the church.
St. James parish in Newport Beach split from the church in 2004, a year after the national church consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than four centuries of Anglican church history.
An attorney for the U.S. Episcopal Church said that the California Supreme Court ruling will be influential in other similar property disputes across the country.
“This was a thorough and conclusive ruling,” said Episcopal Church lawyer John Shiner.
Bishop Jon Bruno, head of the 85,000-person Los Angeles Diocese, said he was “overjoyed” with the ruling and hoped it would prompt reconciliation talks with the three churches.
“I’m a Christian and I believe there is always the possibility of reconciliation,” Bruno said. “It has been devastating for both sides.”
A lawyer for one of the breakaway churches, St. James, said it will continue to fight for control of the property despite the ruling.
“St. James holds the deed free and clear,” attorney Eric Sohlgren said. “The Episcopal Church hasn’t contributed a dime to St. James in 50 years.”
Gas supplies from Russia to Europe plummeted overnight with four countries reporting a complete halt as the dispute between Moscow and Ukraine over payment rates dramatically worsened.
Kiev said that Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, had cut the flow by 60 per cent following Vladimir Putin’s threat yesterday to punish Ukraine for allegedly stealing fuel it is supposed to allow to transit through its pipelines en route to Europe.
The Bulgarian Government called a crisis meeting at 7am this morning and appealed to all consumers to limit their usage as the gas stopped flowing at around 3.30am on the coldest night of the year, as it did to Greece, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
I have just been informed that the Vicar of St. John’s Mission Church in Clearwater has announced that he and most of the communicants of St. John’s have left The Episcopal Church. This comes as a complete surprise to me. Although Fr. Hartley has shared his frustrations with me, he never indicated to me that he was on the verge of taking such a step, and I am extraordinarily disappointed not only in their decision, but that he went public with this announcement without informing me first. It is also a shock to me that he would lead this congregation away from the Church without providing me with the time and opportunity to be in conversation with them as part of their decision-making process–after all, as Bishop I am–or was–their chief priest and pastor. I not only ordained Fr. Hartley to the priesthood, but I am the one who appointed him Vicar of St. John’s, providing him with an Altar and a pulpit.
Any division in the Church weakens the Church’s mission. And when people leave they not only deprive those with different views of their voice, but they also deprive themselves of prayerful viewpoints which they need to consider. The Episcopal Church–indeed, traditional Anglicanism–respects highly the individual intellect and conscience, and I respect the decisions of Fr. Hartley and others at St. John’s as a decision of conscience. Nevertheless, it breaks my heart.
Seeking to amplify mainline Protestant influence on Middle East affairs during the Obama administration, more than half of the nation’s Lutheran bishops will launch an unprecedented tour of the war-torn Holy Land on Tuesday.
The pilgrimage, planned for more than two years, comes amid calls for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after a week of airstrikes and a ground assault in the Gaza Strip this past weekend. Lutheran leaders said they hope their trip shows their commitment to brokering a peaceful resolution in the hallowed land.
“We who are global religious leaders right now have to continue to win the day from extremists,” said Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, leader of the 4.7 million-member, Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination and fourth largest Protestant church. “We will try to do that by meeting with Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian leaders to hear and to listen and to commit to being partners in the struggle for a lasting peace, which we continue to believe is a two-state solution.”