Read it all and follow the links.
Category : Michael Curry
Brand new TEC in SC Diocese’s motion for reconsideration in Lawsuit with Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina is denied
Monday, July 13 Judge Dickson denied the TECSC Motion for Reconsideration of his ruling. They promptly filed their Notice of Appeal and a further motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to take the appeal directly.
The Diocese continues to give thanks for the clarity of Judge Dickson’s ruling and forward progress towards the conclusion of this litigation.
In a comprehensive and unanimous thirty-page decision filed Friday morning, May 22, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bishop Jack L. Iker and reversed the Court of Appeals’ earlier decision to the effect that ECUSA’s rump diocese, and not Bishop Iker’s diocese, controlled the Texas corporation which holds title to the properties of those parishes which in 2008 voted to withdraw their diocese from the unaffiliated and unincorporated association that historically has been called the (Protestant) Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
The decision is as straightforward an application of “neutral principles of law” (espoused by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jones v. Wolf) as one could find among the courts to which ECUSA has presented its “hierarchical church” sophistries. It repudiates those sophistries in a succinct passage (pp. 24-25):
In sum, TEC’s determinations as to which faction is the true diocese loyal to the church and which congregants are in good standing are ecclesiastical determinations to which the courts must defer. But applying neutral principles to the organizational documents, the question of property ownership is not entwined with or settled by those determinations. The Fort Worth Diocese’s identity depends on what its documents say. To that end, the Diocesan Constitution and Canons provided who could make amendments and under what circumstances; none of those circumstances incorporate or rely on an ecclesiastical determination by the national church; and nothing in the diocese’s or national church’s documents precluded amendments rescinding an accession to or affiliation with TEC. Applying neutral principles of law, we hold that the majority faction is the Fort Worth Diocese and parishes and missions in union with that faction hold equitable title to the disputed property under the Diocesan Trust.
The opinion then makes short shrift of ECUSA’s remaining arguments. It demolishes ECUSA’s Dennis Canon, first by holding that a beneficiary like ECUSA cannot declare a trust in its favor in Texas on property that it does not own, and second by holding that even if the Dennis Canon could be said to create a trust in ECUSA’s favor, the Canon does not, as Texas law specifies, make the trust “expressly irrevocable”. Thus it was well within the power of Bishop Iker’s Fort Worth Diocese to revoke any such trust, which it did by a diocesan canon adopted in 1989 — to which ECUSA never objected in the twenty years following that act.
The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ holding that ECUSA could not assert title to the parishes’ properties by way of any “constructive” trust (a creation of the law to prevent a wrongdoer’s “unjust enrichment”), or by the ancient doctrines of estoppel or trespass-to-try-title, or by accusing Bishop Iker and his fellow trustees of the diocesan corporation of breaches of fiduciary obligation allegedly owed to ECUSA. Each of those claims would involve the civil courts unconstitutionally in disputes over religious doctrine.
In conclusion, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals on the grounds last noted, reversed its principal holding that as an ecclesiastical matter, ECUSA got to say which corporation under Texas civil law was the entity which held the parishes’ property in trust, and reinstated the trial court’s judgment that Bishop Iker’s corporation was in law the trustee of the properties of the parishes in his diocese.
Tx Supreme Crt Makes Major Ruling in favor of the reasserters in the #EpiscopalChurch case in Ft Worth https://t.co/ngrnWYd8Aw (photo: Tx Supreme Court) “No provisn in any of the organizational documents, including those of the natl church, precluded” the diocese from withdrawing pic.twitter.com/Ox3XFqtxSV
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) May 22, 2020
A Recent TEC Liturgy called the Way of Love up North used by the Presiding Bishop and gathering at Northern Center at Northern Michigan University this Fall
Read it all (from the long line of should-have-already-been-posted material).
— Dennis Lennox (@dennislennox) December 3, 2019
In accordance with Canon IV.7.10 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, I do plan to appeal the above disciplinary action taken against me by the Presiding Bishop and in so doing, I will also be challenging the authority and legality of Resolution B012 passed at the 79th General Convention. I have already verbally informed the Presiding Bishop’s Office of my plans. This will soon be followed by an official written appeal as required by the Canons.
While I obviously would rather not have had disciplinary actions taken against me, and hope to see it overturned in the near future, I will abide by the restrictions placed on me by the Presiding Bishop during the appeals process.
With that said, as your Bishop, it is important that you understand I have not changed my understanding or teaching regarding the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The official teaching of this Church as outlined in the rubrics of the Marriage Service in the Book of Common Prayer is that: “Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God” (BCP 422.) Canon 16 of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Albany upholds this teaching and remains in effect until it is either changed by the Diocesan Convention, or is legally proven to be over-ridden by the legitimate actions of General Convention; none of which has yet taken place.
The TEC Presiding Bishop’s response to Bishop William Love’s November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Directive
“If we focus on what divides us, we will be destroyed. If we focus on what unites us—our Lord Jesus Christ—He will get us through to the other side.” – Bishop William H. Love pic.twitter.com/W2CcGwxyat
— Fr Jonathan R Turtle ☩ (@turtology) November 12, 2018
We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings. For as St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3, “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage. It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact.
In all matters, those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the Church.
Letters from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Standing Committee about the Appeal of our Case to the US Supreme Court
“The [new diocese of the] Episcopal Church in South Carolina has frequently stated that they..[have] always been seeking reconciliation in this present legal conflict. However, one should be aware of what their words suggest. I would paraphrase it thusly — ‘Of course, you may remain worshipping in your Church buildings. All you have to do is surrender to the national Episcopal Church and we will receive you back.‘ Frankly, I believe a more honorable goal would be a charitable parting of the ways enabling each diocese to get on with its mission to a needy world. In the absence of this, we are compelled to move forward with a petition for the higher court’s review.”
Read them both and read them all (emphasis his).
Ltrs from #SouthCarolina Bp Mark Lawrence+the Standing Committee abt the Appeal of Case to the #USA Supreme Court https://t.co/UozFwhLVVI ' I believe a more honorable goal wd B a charitable parting of the ways enabling each diocese to get on w its mission 2 a needy world #SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/JU4syND3Ht
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 22, 2017
It is with the weight of decision but conviction of heart and mind that I write to tell you the Standing Committee, after prayerful deliberation, and with my full support, has voted unanimously to proceed with a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. I remind you that this long process first began with our stand for Gospel truth—holding firmly to the faith once delivered to the saints. All too soon, we were thrust us into a battle for Religious Freedom. As Justice Kitteridge has aptly stated about the State Supreme Court’s recent denial for rehearing “…to disallow a full court from considering the rehearing petitions is deeply troubling and, in my opinion, raises constitutional implications as the Court has blocked a fair and meaningful merits review of the rehearing petitions.” So we have before us our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ to which we are unwaveringly wedded; a civil concern for religious freedom for ourselves and others; and a public duty to petition for constitutional due process to be upheld. Any of these might justify taking the next step down this legal road. Together they make a three-fold cord not easily broken.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 22, 2017
Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today legal counsel for the Diocese received written notification that both our motions for Recusal and for Rehearing were denied by the State Supreme Court. The former was denied 5-0. The latter was denied 2-2 with Justice Hearn abstaining and no fifth justice appointed to fill the vacancy.
For those parishes that are parties to the litigation, I encourage you, at this stage, to consult with your parish chancellor. All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process. Our press release for this evening can be found here.
As you will remember, we began our week with our Annual Clergy Conference reflecting together on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and 12:9-10. Now this final ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court coming as it does at the very end of the week presses us once again with the need to find comfort, strength, and courage from the Lord through these words of Holy Scripture. May I encourage you to revisit them—I believe they were prophetic in their timing for us. Meanwhile please know that I have spoken with our lead counsel, Mr. Alan Runyan, Fr. David Thurlow, President of the Standing Committee, as well as with Canon Lewis. A Standing Committee meeting has been called for this Tuesday morning, November 21, 2017.
I will write further to you and to the diocese once I have met with the Standing Committee and have more thoroughly examined the options before us. For now we will continue to stand forthright for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the faith once delivered to the saints!
Please continue to hold our Diocesan Leadership and Legal Counsel in your prayers.
Your brother in Christ,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
Bp Mark Lawrence’s Letter 2 the Diocese of #SouthCarolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions #religion #law #Anglican #ministry #bettermentstatute #ethics #stewardship #episcopal https://t.co/b3HbqP7IMK pic.twitter.com/M551dIkn46
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 20, 2017
Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“Friday’s brief illustrates well two essential problems with the current ruling of the Court. Because there is no legal consensus among the Justices, the ruling as it stands is, as stated in the brief, a “recipe for endless litigation.” As a consequence of misapplying neutral principles of law as intended by the U.S. Supreme Court, it violates rather than preserves, the First Amendment protections of religious liberty they are meant to ensure. Resolving these significant issues merits rehearing by the Court.”
The Diocese also provided the following list of additional details from Friday’s filed Brief:
- “For over 300 years, since before the Founding of this Nation, members of the Respondent’s congregations contributed land, money and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law – only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination. This outcome was possible only because the Court fashioned a new rule of law solely for this case, and this denomination. But that rule of law departs from this court’s precedents and imposes special burdens on religious associations relative to secular ones. Those burdens violate the First Amendment.” [p. 1]
- “Amici believe strongly that churches freely associated with each other can also freely choose to disassociate. And the exercise of that freedom should not come at the price of the tools for ministry established by local sacrifice… ” [p. 4]
- “… the Court’s fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion…. This confusion is a recipe for endless litigation.” [p. 2]
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Jones vs. Wolf established the use of neutral principles of law to settle church property disputes… “A court applying a neutral principles approach can only apply state law as it normally would; any other approach would be the opposite of neutral principles.” [p. 9]
- As the Court has done in this case, “Giving legal effect to trusts declared in denominational documents is not even mere deference. It is giving denominations power to rewrite civil property law.” [p. 14] and that is in violation of the free exercise of religion.
- “If that conception of “neutral principles” is correct, then no church can join a denomination without jeopardizing its property.” [p. 16]
- “Any denomination could pass a retroactive internal rule that would appropriate congregants gifts and church property.” … “Without secure property ownership, many rounds of future litigation are inevitable.” [p. 18]
- “If ownership no longer turns on publicly recorded deeds and trust instruments, but on the meaning of internal church rules and relationships, no one can know for certain who owns church property.” [p. 18]
- “Moreover, the Court’s ruling could eviscerate otherwise clear titles” and harm “the rights of insurers and lenders” all with “not a single justice agreeing as to exactly how State title and property law apply in this dispute.” [p. 19]
Read it all and please take the time to read the full brief.
Mediation Update–Both the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina+the new Episcopal Church Diocese in SC announce its recessed until early December
Both “sides” involved have stated the mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. has been recessed until December 4-5, 2017.
(Local Paper) Edward Gilbreth–Strong judicial disagreements fuel the South Carolina Anglican/Episcopal controversy
Another petition supporting the rehearing filed Sept. 25 by various churches and the Diocese, includes these arguments:
“The sole basis on which Appellants have argued, and the Court has so held, that St. Philips (as an example) should be divested of its property is that St. Philips Church, in 1987, acknowledged the purpose of the parish corporation as being ‘in accord with the Articles of Religion’ of the national church (or more precisely the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, according to the Articles of Restatement filed with the SC Secretary of State by St. Philips in 1987.)
“The Articles of Religion of the national church were established in 1801, one hundred and seventy-eight years prior to the Dennis Canon. The articles of Religion, similar to those for other Protestant Churches, contain nothing more than a summary of the religious doctrine, theology and beliefs of the national church and St. Philips Church. The Articles of Religion do not mention the constitution or any of the canons of the national church, let alone the Dennis Canon adopted 178 years after the establishment of the Articles of Religion.”
Interestingly, The Episcopal Church has never required subscription to the Articles, which now appear in a section called “Historical Documents” in the back of the Book of Common Prayer.
All this, along with the controversy surrounding Justice Hearn’s participation in the initial ruling due to her family involvement in a church with ties to the national church, makes for interesting consideration as the mediation for and possible rehearing of the Diocese’s case approaches.
Read it all.”>Read it all.
The Diocese of South Carolina has called that…ruling into question because of state Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn’s involvement in the Episcopal Church. In fairness, the motion for a rehearing should be granted, and Justice Hearn should recuse herself. But the rehearing request has yet to be acted on.
The purpose of mediation beginning Monday is to determine how to implement the August decision as amicably as possible. Even so, it still offers an opportunity for the disaffected church groups to preclude further legal battles over the valuable and historic properties in question.
Neither the Diocese nor the Episcopal Church in South Carolina may ever bridge the spiritual and philosophical divides that caused their separation. Nor need they do so. Both groups are free to worship as they see fit — a principle enshrined in the Constitution.
But an agreement should be reached that lets the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina part ways while remaining in the churches they have called home for so many generations.
Failure to do so would do further harm to the Christian spirit of unity and goodwill that ought to bring Lowcountry churches together rather than tear them apart. Reaching a mediated accord could avoid years of additional lawsuits and appeals and divisions among friends and neighbors.
It has been publicly announced that the Diocese of South Carolina will enter into mediation with The Episcopal Church (TEC) at the Federal Courthouse in Columbia November 6-8. All parties to the ongoing litigation in both the State and Federal courts have agreed to participate. Many understandably hope this will bring an end to years of litigation. What is an appropriate expectation of the outcome?
A word often used by the TEC bishop and legal counsel is “reconciliation”. While an attractive word to readers and pleasing to the ear, it creates false expectations. To be reconciled implies, by definition, coming back together. It requires one or both parties to repent of their past actions and positions. That is unreasonable in this case.
Neither the Diocese of S.C. nor TEC has shown any evidence of changing course on any of the issues that created the initial divisions years ago. The Diocese has moved on, becoming formally affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and TEC has continued with its own theological agenda. The two are not compatible and are, if anything, further apart than ever.
And nothing in the behavior of TEC suggests their goals with departing parishes and Dioceses have changed over time. They continue to litigate in the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois despite having lost at the highest level in the state courts there. In the Diocese of San Joaquin, California, after spending $15 million to recover the parish properties, only 21 have been declared “viable” with the other 25 reported as going up for sale. In Bishop Adams former diocese, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY were denied the purchase of their former church, seeing it sold for 1/3 their offer to become a mosque instead. The pattern of behavior is clear. For TEC, “reconciliation” has meant, “surrender, return the property and we’ll forgive you so you can rejoin us”. That is not a viable way forward.
So what is a reasonable expectation? What might be sought, and could work, is a “settlement” that ends all the litigation and enables both dioceses to go their separate ways in peace. The Diocese of S.C. granted that grace from the beginning in 2012 to parishes wishing to remain with TEC. The 80% who chose to disassociate from TEC should be allowed to do the same. The two opposing dioceses share a common history in S.C. and a heritage each has some claim to. Perhaps there is a way to honor that reality outside the “winner takes all” setting of the courtroom.
The resources of both groups would be preferably spent on the work of ministry to which each feels called. A workable settlement would allow each to go its way in peace to pursue their separate callings. If that is the goal of the mediation, by both parties, then much good could come of it. Failing that, expect the litigation to continue.
[The] Rt. Rev. Dr. C. Fitzsimons Allison is 12th Bishop (ret.) of the Diocese of South Carolina.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) October 30, 2017
I write to join with many Christians in South Carolina to express deep concern, shock, and sorrow regarding the recent state Supreme Court decision which attempts to strip titles of 28 churches in the Diocese of South Carolina and award them to the National Episcopal Church. The situation is tragic in terms of its presentation of the church to the world and poses at least three important questions:
1) How can three judges overturn a previous court ruling and 300 years of sacrificial stewardship?
Consider that a number of these parishes existed a century before there was a National Episcopal Church. Consider, too, that Justice Jean Toal is quoted in reference to “the leading opinion in this case,” calling it “nothing less than judicial sanction of the confiscation of church property.”
Also, a careful review will show that a number of the congregations involved did not accede to the Dennis Canon of the national church which concerned ownership.
2) How can such a decision stand in a nation whose Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of religion?
Many of the first European settlers came to this country fleeing persecution and seeking a haven where they might have freedom of conscience and religion. They established churches.
For centuries, their descendants and other devoted parishioners have maintained these houses of worship despite fires, floods, earthquakes, wars, pestilence, poverty and hurricanes while also supporting home and world missions. The national church has not borne these expenses. Can a secular court give it ownership?
3) How can confiscation of places of Christian worship where the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and articles of religion are upheld be consistent with the teachings of Christ? This is the most important question.
Theological aspects have frequently been neglected by much of the media, but bishops, clergy, and lay people have long been troubled by the national church organization’s apparent departure from basic principles of the faith.
Christians and Jews have been taught that they should love the Lord with all their being and their neighbors as themselves. For Christians, respecting and loving all does not mean forsaking belief in the unique divinity of Jesus Christ and the validity of Scripture. In fact, only by God’s grace can we love and forgive others.
We are taught, too, that there is a higher court and a supreme judge. We come before Him in great humility, acknowledging that we are all in need of mercy. Many of us are praying that God’s will be done, whatever that may be, and that we may be faithful.
Catherine O. Jones….
Being “given over to the courts”and being “thrown out of the synagogues” (our churches) are some of the “peculiar honors” St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s congregations and others are facing. Jesus said his disciples would face such trials before he returned.
Why did we break away from the Episcopal Church? We had already voted that we supported theologically our bishop’s stand for orthodox theology that has been held by the church for over 2,000 years, come what may with the prevailing winds of the culture.
When the House of Bishops voted overwhelmingly to redefine certain sacraments and to approve new liturgy accordingly, Bishop Mark Lawrence being present wrote his name down in a blank book of the House of Bishops as having a concern over the departure of the Episcopal Church from particular tenets of the faith. He was in communication with the presiding bishop, seeking to work with each other side by side.During what he thought was open communication with the presiding bishop, he was surprised to receive without forewarning a letter from the House of Bishops barring him from his duties as bishop. Because our diocese had already voted to support our bishop come what may, we were out of the Episcopal Church with his barring.
We only recently joined the Anglican Church in North America, comprised of similar congregations who have not buckled to doctrines once considered inconceivable by instructed man. The ghost of every dead and buried heresy does squeak and gibber as on our ghost tours of Charleston.
Certainly there are some “brethren” at Grace and the few other churches that remained with TEC who would not like to see us kicked out of our church properties over freedom of conscience and free exercise of religion, which are unalienable rights to all Americans. As the Charleston poet, Elizabeth Verner Hamilton said, “You’ve got to love your neighbor when you live this close together.”
What we are being found guilty of is remaining in the faith, remaining in the Bible Belt, even in the Holy City’s most historic churches, not breaking away from the “Faith of our Fathers, Holy Faith.”
“We will be true to you till death.”
Laura Wichmann Hipp…
[Bp John] Taylor, however, wrote that the panelists and their advising attorneys “evidently did not take fully into account the existence of a binding contract, nor all the ways the dispute begs for wider reconciliation.”
Parishioner Walter Stahr, who has been active in the congregation’s allegations of misconduct against Bruno and the effort to reclaim the building, said diocese leaders did not say when escrow would close on the property when they met Monday with him and St. James pastor Cindy Evans Voorhees. The sale price also has not been disclosed.
“They assured us that if St. James the Great wishes to continue as an Episcopal congregation, they will support us — just not in our building,” Stahr told his fellow parishioners in a statement Monday. “I know how devastating this will be for many of you, but the story is not over.”
We understand that the Hearing Panel’s ruling, which awaits the possibility of Bishop Bruno’s appeal, calls on us to return the congregation to the building. The four concurring Hearing Panel members and the attorneys who advised them evidently did not take fully into account the existence of a binding contract nor all the ways the dispute begs for wider reconciliation. (One panel member dissented and supported Bishop Bruno.)
Their advocacy bespeaks a commendable pastoral connection with the people of St. James. As recently as the filing of the church attorney’s brief after the hearings in Pasadena in March, those conducting the proceeding against Bishop Bruno made it clear that he could avoid being sanctioned if he would relent on his intention to sell the property. This is not to understate the significance of the panel’s findings against Bishop Bruno. But we trust that from the painful experience of the Diocese of Los Angeles, The Episcopal Church will learn lessons about how, in disciplinary settings, to differentiate between actions by a respondent which deserve sanction and a complainant’s wish to reverse an operational decision.
We share the panel’s profound concern for the people of St. James. Bishop Bruno asked them to start a new congregation, and under the leadership of the Rev. Canon Cindy Voorhees, they accepted the challenge. They praised, worshipped, and served, as they continue to do. We are not here to relitigate Bishop Bruno’s actions or the Hearing Panel’s verdict. In all likelihood, after 40 years of ordination, including many moments of courage and vision, he will lose the right to say Holy Eucharist and to baptize, confirm, and bless for three years. It is also outside the realm of Bishop Curry’s charge to assess how long it would have taken St. James to achieve sustainability. Suffice it to say that it was making good progress and that losing its church building was a disappointment and shock….
A disciplinary board for the Episcopal Church has upheld a lower panel’s order blocking the bishop of the Los Angeles diocese from completing a planned sale of the St. James the Great church property in Newport Beach.
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno appealed to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops after an ecclesiastical hearing panel warned him in June not to sell the property before that panel reaches a decision on misconduct allegations related to a separate attempt to sell the church site in 2015.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, the top bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, issued a similar sale-blocking order late last month.
The top bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States has barred the bishop of the Los Angeles diocese from completing a planned sale of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church property in Newport Beach.
The pending sale, which was set to close July 3, came to light this month as Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was already under scrutiny by an ecclesiastical panel considering whether he committed misconduct in a separate attempt to sell the site in 2015.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, issued an order Wednesday banning Bruno from closing the latest planned sale until the misconduct matter is resolved.
The ever-litigious bunch at 815 Second Avenue, the New York headquarters of ECUSA, may be getting a taste of their own medicine. Or it may just be a case of litigation inculturated beyond the point of no return: the litigators at ECUSA have been sued by the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, one of their own (and a former lawyer in his own right), who worked there as Chief Operating Officer until the Presiding Bishop terminated him last April.
The complaint, unusually filed in Alabama’s Mobile County Circuit Court (see remarks below), makes for an absorbing read (or maybe that’s just a lawyer talking): you may download it here. (A big tip o’ the Rumpolean bowler to The Living Church, which first broke the story.) It names ECUSA and its corporate arm, the DFMS, as defendants, along with 30 unidentified “John Does”, who allegedly participated in some manner in the actions alleged
Read it all and note the download link.
The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal Church’s former chief operating officer who was placed on administrative leave in December 2015 and lost his job, has filed a lawsuit alleging a conspiracy by senior leadership of the Episcopal Church.
Now that the case will return to Adams County (assuming the Church litigators do not waste everyone’s time and money with a request for leave to appeal again to the Illinois Supreme Court), the stay against those actions will be lifted, and they can proceed. However, like the claim to the moneys in the bank, the claims in these suits will not be proceeding in a vacuum. Twice now the Illinois Court of Appeals has held that ECUSA had no enforceable trust interest in property held for parishes. The first of those decisions also dealt with the ineffectiveness of the Dennis Canon to create any such trust under Illinois law. It is likely, therefore, but not certain, that these last few isolated claims will fare the same fate as the others. (No one ever made anything by trying to predict what a particular court will decide to do.)
It is nonetheless deplorable that the new Presiding Bishop of ECUSA sees fit to allow his litigators to continue to waste the Church’s trust funds and pledge income on litigation for purely punitive purposes. One has to wonder, when it comes to going after realigning dioceses and parishes, just who is in charge of ECUSA after all these years. The irony is that a person who acts as his own attorney (or lets his attorney make all the decisions, which comes to the same thing) has, as those of us in the profession happily admit, “a fool for a client.”
By saying nothing about what types of violations occurred, the church heightens the risk that wrongful behavior will be repeated elsewhere as McDonald and Baumgarten move on, according to Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel for the Victim Rights Law Center, a national nonprofit that provides free legal services from its offices in Boston and Portland, Ore. The silence also discourages other victims from coming forward and saying “this happened to me, too,” she said.
“They’re glossing over what is a big problem, but what the big problem is, obviously no one is to know,” Bruno said. “All of this cover-up might not be good for the future.”
McDonald and Baumgarten have not been charged with any crime and did not respond to requests for comment. A third administrator, Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls, will remain on staff but will not continue as COO. The investigation found Sauls was unaware of the misconduct and violated no policies.
From December through March, independent investigators from the New York law firm Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud pored over thousands of pages of documents and interviewed more than 40 people, according to Curry. Workplace investigations of such scope are often looking for patterns of sexual harassment, Bruno said.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry read this statement to the staff of the Episcopal Church Center in a meeting at 2 pm Eastern today.
The strength of the Church of Nigeria (CON) is not just from its massive size, though massive it is at more than twenty million active members! This statement demonstrates their ability to think clearly, and communicate articulately. It also demonstrates the lie of Jack Spong’s assertion at the 1998 Lambeth Bishop’s Conference that the African Bishops were operating out of ignorance. Besides the fact that the Nigerian arguments are rock solid, anyone who correctly uses “ palaver” gets a tip of the hat! Besides that, an overwhelming percentage of Nigerian (and other African Provinces’) Bishops have earned advanced degrees. Far more than in the US, Canada, or England.
Notice that in response to the inability of the Communion to deal with the theological crisis adequately, the CON had the vision to modify their constitution to limit their relations to those Provinces and Dioceses that maintain historic, Biblical faith.
Here they rightly put the focus on The Word of God instead of on institutional decisions and/or loyalties.
Quite bluntly, Presiding Bishop Curry is resurrecting a 20 year old term to further dilute the teaching of the Anglican Communion. The message from TEC is that if it’s not part of the “Core Doctrine” of the Christian faith everyone should agree to disagree and just move on. You see, “core doctrine” is yet another attempt by TEC to refashion Anglicanism into something that is entirely other than Biblically faithful.
This is the problem with the term “core doctrine” and how Presiding Bishop Curry is using it. It can mean anything you want it to mean, or need it to mean, for your purposes. It has no objective standard or rule against which it can be measured””other than the thin gruel the Righter Court stated in its bullet points.