Category : Episcopal Church (TEC)

((JE) Episcopal Seminaries “Exploring Partnership Options”

Two historic Episcopal Church seminaries announced this week that they “have begun the process of exploring partnership options.”

While the language of the announcement offers no detail, it appears that both New York’s General Theological Seminary (GTS) and Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) of Alexandria, Virginia are now on a trajectory to eventually consolidate.

“Purposefully walking together in as many ways as possible is our goal going forward” wrote the chairs of both boards, Dr. David Charlton (VTS) and Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright (GTS).

Episcopal seminaries including Episcopal Divinity School, Bexley Hall Seminary, and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, each announced similar language before “federating” or being subsumed into a larger institution. A fourth seminary, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, was acquired by the endowed parish of Trinity Wall Street in 2019. Each points to an ongoing trend of consolidation among institutions as the Episcopal Church contracts in membership and attendance numbers.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education

(AI) Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth files responses to TEC’s appeal to the US Supreme Court

Today in Washington, D.C., attorneys for the Diocese and Corporation have filed two Briefs in Opposition with the U.S. Supreme Court, responding to Petitions initiated in that Court by the TEC parties and All Saints’ Church (Fort Worth) in October. (The property of All Saints’ Church in Fort Worth was separated by the trial court from the rest of the property suit in 2015.)

The October Petitions asked for a review of the unanimous opinion issued in May of this year by the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Diocese and Corporation.

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

(JE) Virginia TEC Diocese Signals Truro Anglican Sale is Possible

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia officials have announced that diocesan leadership initiated “confidential conversations” in late 2019 with representatives of Truro Anglican Church in suburban Washington about the future of the property, with a potential sale possible.

“The discussions have been productive and are expected to continue,” the diocese shared in a December 6 press release on its website. A member of the Truro congregation confirmed to me that the diocesan release “is substantially correct.”

I’ve reached out to Truro’s vestry wardens and will update this blog entry as I receive their responses. Truro staff confirmed that a verbal announcement was read aloud to the congregation during a parish meeting but that no written or public statement was released.

Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic Canon for Congregation and Clergy Care the Rev. Mary Maggard Hays noted that ongoing negotiations with the Diocese of Virginia are still confidential, but characterized them as “amicable and thoughtful.”

That assessment is similarly held by Episcopalians.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes

Gafcon Chairman Foley Beach’s November Letter

Bishop Love is a godly and good man. I am so thankful for his faithful stand regarding the office of a diocesan bishop and for keeping to the teaching and moral ethics of the Bible as he has served in the Episcopal Church here in North America. He is a man who has felt the full weight and responsibility of his calling and has sought to humbly follow the Lord’s direction. He has been standing alone against a rising tide of ridicule for his biblical positions, positions which have always been held by the Church.

Many would like to know the response from Gafcon. We are certainly praying for Bishop Bill Love and the many people who find themselves in provinces and dioceses with compromised and failing leadership. To everyone like him in difficult positions, you are not alone as so many around the world contend with you in prayer for the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are grateful for your faith in the midst of opposition and persecution.

A few years ago, I heard Archbishop Deng from the Province of South Sudan describe the growth of the church in his worn-torn nation. He said (paraphrased) they murder our people and the church grows. They raided our villages and the church grows. To those of us listening, his words were so clear to us: the church preaches the gospel (in season or out of it) and God builds His church. We commend these brothers and sisters who prevailed seeing more baptisms and more new churches in a very difficult spot in world history. Their example is a great reminder to the rest of us of the fruitfulness of faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in GAFCON, TEC Conflicts

TEC (The Episcopal Church) appeals the Unanimous Texas Supreme Court Ruling to the US Supreme Court

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, Supreme Court, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

Bishop William Love resigns as TEC Bishop of Albany

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and I, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany voluntarily entered into an Accord which became effective October 21, 2020, with the unanimous approval of the Disciplinary Board of the House of Bishops. The Accord resolves the matter of my case, thus discharging any further action from the Hearing Panel.

The Accord stipulates the following: I will resign as Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of Albany, effective February 1, 2021; I will begin a one month terminal sabbatical beginning January 1, 2021; I agree to continue to abide by the January 11, 2019 Restrictions placed upon my ministry by the Presiding Bishop until the effective date of my resignation as Bishop; I will work with the Presiding Bishop through the Office of Pastoral Development to help foster a healthy transition from my leadership as Bishop Diocesan, as the Diocese begins a new chapter in its history; and lastly, I acknowledge that upon February 1, 2021, the effective date of my resignation as Bishop Diocesan, my November 10, 2018, Pastoral Directive regarding B012 will lose force. Until then, however, it remains in effect.

In signing the Accord, the Presiding Bishop has agreed to allow me to notify the clergy and people of the Diocese of Albany of my pending resignation, before he sends out an announcement to the wider community. I am very appreciative of his willingness to agree to that pastoral request.

I met with Fr. Scott Garno, President of the Standing Committee, on Thursday afternoon, to inform him of my decision to resign and of the Accord between myself and the Presiding Bishop. I pledge my full support to Fr. Garno and the Standing Committee as they enter into their new role. I also pledge not to interfere with their deliberations.

Please note, that in accordance with Article IV of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, the Standing Committee serves as the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in the absence of the Bishop. In addition, in accordance with the Diocesan Canons, the Standing Committee oversees the election of the new bishop of the Diocese.

The Diocese of Albany is blessed to have an excellent Standing Committee that will serve you well. I ask God’s blessing upon them as they prepare to lead the Diocese of Albany during this period of transition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC Covenant) Facing Episcopal Church Decline – the Latest Numbers

Average Sunday attendance

Figures for average Sunday attendance (ASA) provide a more objective metric and a more striking message. During the 1990s average Sunday attendance was relatively stable but from around 2000 deep decline set in. This is ongoing. TEC’s average Sunday attendance dropped by over 40 percent between 2000 and 2019. The decline of attendance was most rapid between 2005 and 2010. But recent years have seen a very substantial drop – a fall of 61,000, over 10 percent, in the last four years

Episcopal Church Average Sunday Attendance 2000-19

2000 856,579
2005 787,271
2010 657,831
2015 579,780
2019 518,411

Read it all.

Posted in TEC Data, TEC Parishes

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Remembering Bishop Bill Frey

Episcopal bishops in the 1980s were already used to urgent calls from journalists seeking comments on issues ranging from gay priests to gun control, from female bishops to immigration laws, from gender-free liturgies to abortion rights.

But the pace quickened for Bishop William Frey in 1985 when he was one of four candidates to become presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. A former radio professional, Frey was known for his bass voice and quick one-liners. His Lutheran counterpart in Colorado once told him: “You look like a movie star, sound like God and wear cowboy boots.”

Other Denver religious leaders sometimes asked, with some envy, why Episcopalians got so much ink.

“I can’t understand why some people want the kind of media attention we get,” he told me during one media storm. “That’s like coveting another man’s root canal.”

A Texas native, Frey died in San Antonio on Sunday after years out of the spotlight. In addition to his Colorado tenure, his ministry included missionary work in Central America during the “death squads” era and leading an alternate Episcopal seminary in a struggling Pennsylvania steel town.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops

(ENS) 2019 parochial reports show continued decline and a ‘dire’ future for The Episcopal Church

Read it all.

Posted in TEC Data, TEC Parishes

Bishop William Frey RIP

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, TEC Bishops

(SF) Anne Kennedy on Bishop Love–A Faithful Witness

Let’s just pause, for a moment, and consider the substance of this—and why people like me recoil in abject horror from the cries of some that “a lot of water has gone under the bridge” and that it’s time for us to learn how to “get along” and find what “common ground” we can. Essentially, Bishop Love, in being unwilling to do anything to aid anyone in actively doing what scripture forbids—in this case, blessing the sexual relationships of men with men and women with women, which everywhere in Scripture is contrary to God’s design, which is, as Paul says, an action that will keep you out of the Kingdom of God—is “violating” the discipline of the church. He is doing something that is contrary to what the church teaches.

The church, in this case, has set itself against the revealed will of God, on purpose, after thinking about it for years and years and years, and is going to discipline those who would like to faithfully follow the scriptures and teach and admonish and help others to do so.

A long time ago, when Bishop Love first was elected and decided to stay in TEC, I confess to wondering about the wisdom of his determination. Getting out of the Episcopal Church was one of the best things that ever happened to me. A church I loved, a church where I cut my teeth on the beauty, grace, and majesty of God, a church where the Bible was read so much aloud on Sunday that many other kinds of “bible believing” Christians were often astonished, became a church that derided and mocked those who really believed what was printed there on the page. I didn’t want to leave TEC. I begged God to be able to stay. But when we finally did walk away, which to me felt more like a shove, a great weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Indeed, shortly after realizing that we were not going to be able to remain in the church that we loved, Matt and I took a short day trip to Albany, to their beautiful retreat center, for a special Eucharist. Standing in a room full of others who really believed as they said the creed, who accepted Jesus as he is as they sang, was so strange and moving that I fought back an overpowering urge to cry the whole afternoon. It had been years since I had been in a church service full of people who all believed what they were saying, without their fingers crossed or a lot of explanatory footnotes at the bottom of the page. The decision of Bishop Love to stay and fight on struck me as one that would certainly exhaust and maybe even spiritually destroy him.

But look at the great wisdom of what God has done….

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, TEC Bishops, Theology: Scripture

(AI) Hearing Panel finds Bishop Love guilty of failing to abide by the Discipline and Worship of The Episcopal Church (TEC)

The Summary of Opinion states, “This Panel unanimously concludes that TEC has met its burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that Bishop Love has violated Canon IV.4.1(c) in that his November 10, [2018] Pastoral Directive violated the Discipline of the Church, as Resolution B012 was properly constituted and passed as an authorized revision to the BCP as expressly provided for in Constitution Article X, thus requiring that all Bishop Diocesans permit their clergy the option to utilize such rites.
TEC has further met its burden of establishing that Bishop Love’s Direction also violated the Discipline of the Church in that it violated Canon I.18. The canonical legitimacy of Resolution B012 rendered Canon I.18 mandatory, requiring adherence by Bishops Diocesan in permitting their Clergy the option to perform same-sex marriage rites. TEC has also met its burden of establishing that the Direction violated the Worship of the Church in that Resolution B012 added canonically-authorized same-sex marriage rites to the Worship of the Church pursuant to the BCP.”

While I am very disappointed and strongly disagree with the Decision of the Hearing Panel, particularly their argument that B012 was passed as an authorized revision to the Book of Common Prayer, they have issued their judgement. Unfortunately, given the nature of this case, I have no reason to believe that appealing the Hearing Panel’s Decision would result in any different outcome.
A separate Hearing will be scheduled within the month to discuss the terms of discipline to be carried out. Until then, we don’t know what actions will be taken. Whatever the final outcome, it will severely impact not only me and the ministry entrusted to me as Bishop of Albany, but it will also seriously impact the life and ministry of the Diocese. I continue to pray that somehow God will use all of this for His purposes.

Read it all.

Posted in TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

(JE) Jeff Walton–No Relief for Shrinking Episcopal Church in 2019

Episcopalians continue to die “a death of a thousand cuts” as the vast majority of church dioceses report continued declines in both membership and attendance for the year 2019.

Statistics recently released by the Office of the General Convention show membership in an uninterrupted drop of 38,404 persons to 1,637,945 (-2.29%) in 2019, while average Sunday attendance declined 13,547 persons to 518,411 (-2.25%).

Across the denomination, three-quarters of Episcopal parishes now have an average attendance of fewer than 100 persons. Median attendance across the church has dropped from 53 to 51 in the past reporting year. During the past five years, 61% of congregations have seen attendance declines of 10% or more, up from 59% the prior year.

The statistics cover the year 2019 and are unaffected by expected attendance drops due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Data, TEC Parishes

The Lamb of God, a sermon by Bishop John Henry Hobart for his Feast Day

The striking and appropriate terms in which the prophet Isaiah depicts the character and offices of the Messiah, have procured for him, by way of eminence, the title of the Evangelical Prophet. He exhibits a glowing but faithful picture of the character of Christ, and all the humiliating and all the triumphant events of his life. In the chapter which contains my text, the prophet has dipped his pencil in the softest colours, and draws a portrait of the Saviour, which, while it conveys to us the most exalted ideas of his character, is calculated to awaken our tenderest and liveliest sympathy.

Let us then contemplate the character of Christ, as delineated by the prophet under the emblem of “a lamb brought to the slaughter,” that our penitence may be awakened, our gratitude enlivened, and our souls warmed with the ardent emotions of love and duty.

Under the character of a “lamb brought to the slaughter,” we are led to consider,

The innocence of Christ;

His tenderness and compassion;

His patience;

And, finally, to consider him as the victim for our sins.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Bishops

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.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Brand New Episcopal Church (TEC) Diocese in South Carolina Asks Court to Reconsider its recent Ruling

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

(Al.com) New TEC bishop takes office for the Diocese of Alabama

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Posted in TEC Bishops

Anglican Unscripted 606 – Legal Victories

Kevin Kallsen and AS Haley talk about the latest court victories for the ACNA. And, some of the challenges the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions will bring religious communities.

Posted in Anthropology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina gives a (very revealing) response to Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s ruling

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(AI) A Report on the Hearing Panel from Bishop William Love and Note of Thanks

It has been a very long and arduous process thus far, not only for me and my family, but for the entire Diocese of Albany and all those in the wider Body of Christ who have been following this case. Unfortunately, as just shared, it is not over. As Bishop, one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of the situation we find ourselves in, is knowing that regardless of what action I took in response to General Convention Resolution B012, it would be seen as divisive, resulting in hurting, angry people being left in the wake

As the Bishop of Albany, I love and care deeply for all the people of this Diocese, even those who may have a different understanding than I do regarding same-sex marriage. I know there are people of good will on both sides of this issue, and that ultimately, we want the same thing – to know how best to show God’s love and minister to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who have same-sex attractions. The problem is, we have a different understanding of how to go about it. May God give us the grace to figure it out as we work together, keeping Christ at the center of all that we do. My hope and prayer is that whatever the outcome of this Hearing / Trial, God will use it for His purposes and that He will be honored and glorified, and His Church and people be blessed.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

(TEC OPA) TEC Bishop Love of Albany’s Hearing Scheduled for this Friday

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

(JE) Anglican Bishop Ryan Reed on Seeking the Gospel Amidst Litigation

“One of the things that we have learned is the spiritual handicap or weight that comes upon you even when you are defending yourself in a lawsuit,” Reed shares. ” This Sunday on Pentecost I am calling the entire diocese to a day or penance and of repentance. We are all collectively going to pray the litany of penance together and repent of any way in which this lawsuit has kept us from being faithful to the Gospel, any way it may have hardened our hearts to those who differ with us or those who wanted to hurt us.”

“This Sunday is a day of penance and a day of re-dedication. On Pentecost we are all going to re-affirm our baptismal vows and return to 100 percent focus upon sharing the Gospel and the transforming love of Jesus because that is what is important,” Reed declares. “All of this property and these funds and the buildings — those are just tools to help us share the good news of Jesus Christ. We could do with or without them to be honest, but if we’re not doing that, then those things don’t matter at all.”

Read it all and watch the whole interview (just over 23 minutes).

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pentecost, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

A S Haley–Texas Supreme Court Repudiates ECUSA’s Sophistries

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.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

(Star-Telegram) TX court favors classical group in Episcopal Church Fort Worth-area property dispute

One group calling itself the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has won a decisive legal battle in a fight over which religious organization has control of church property.

But whether the war is over between these two religious organizations, both of which claim the title of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, is still being decided.

Both groups seek ownership of about $100 million in church property in a 24-county area….

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

The Diocese of Fort Worth Responds to Today’s Unanimous Texas Supreme Court Decision

From there:

Today we rejoice that the Supreme Court of Texas has issued a unanimous decision in our favor concerning the suit first brought against the Diocese and Corporation more than 11 years ago. After considering our Petition for Review of the 2018 opinion issued by the Second Court of Appeals, the high Court has granted all the relief requested.

Page two of the opinion says in part,

Applying neutral principles to the undisputed facts, we hold that 1) resolution of this property dispute does not require consideration of an ecclesiastical question, 2) under the governing documents, the withdrawing faction is the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and 3) the trial court properly granted summary judgment in the withdrawing faction’s favor. We therefore reverse the court of appeals’ contrary judgment.
In its opinion, the Court found that the Diocese had not violated any Episcopal Church charter in withdrawing from association to TEC in 2008, and that the actions of the Diocese and Corporation were consistent with our own charters and with the state’s trust and unincorporated association statutes, and it upheld the dismissal of the Dennis Canon as determinative in Texas church property disputes.

Plaintiffs may exercise their rights of appeal, after which a mandate will go to the trial court for implementation.

We are grateful for the Court’s hard work on this decision and for the clarity with which it was rendered. We give thanks to the members of our legal team – Shelby Sharpe, Scott Brister, and David Weaver – for their sound counsel, expertise, and perseverance throughout these proceedings.

We give thanks for our visionary founding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. A. Donald Davies, and for those who assisted him in setting the legal and temporal foundations of the Diocese and Corporation. We stand on their shoulders.

We praise God for the steadfast faith and leadership of our third Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, a true shepherd of the flock, who made many sacrifices throughout his episcopate for the sake of Christ’s holy Church.

Above all, we thank God for his eternal provision and protection for his Church and the people he has called to serve him.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

Texas Supreme Court Makes Major Ruling in the Episcopal Church case in Fort Worth

The court of appeals declined TEC’s constructive-trust claim because such relief would require the court “to delve into the mysteries of faith,” impermissibly entangling the court in a dispute over religious doctrine.We agree with the analysis.’

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

A S Haley–The South Carolina Supreme Court Rebuffs TEC Again

How do ECUSA and its attorneys manage to contend that there are any “rulings” in the August 2017 decision capable of being enforced? By vastly oversimplifying the jumble of five separate Justices’ opinions, that’s how.

I have demonstrated in earlier posts just how divided and disunited were the individual Justices (including especially Justice Hearn, who had not yet seen fit to disqualify herself — on the ground that she was an active member of one of the parishes whose property was at stake in the case, and had earlier underwritten the effort by dissident Episcopalians to remove Bishop Lawrence from his position). It is logically impossible to derive any legal result from the five opinions other than that three of the Justices (including the one now disqualified) voted to reverse the trial court’s judgment.

So Judge Goodstein’s judgment awarding the property is now reversed. What comes next? Ah, that is the question — and one looks in vain for a mandate (direction) from any three of opinions as got what the Circuit Court should do on remand towards entering a new judgment. As Judge Dickson said at the outset of the arguments on the motions before him:

The Court: The first motion that I have today, going through the list that y’all gave me the last time y’all were here, and I think the one I am most interested in is the motion to decide what I am supposed to decide. The clarification motion, okay.

In response to the contention by ECUSA’s attorney, Mary Kostel, that the Court’s ruling as to who owned the property was “clear”, Judge Dickson responded: “We would not be here if it was clear.”

And indeed, as pointed out in Bishop Lawrence’s response to the petition for mandamus, just one day before filing its motion for enforcement with Judge Dickson, ECUSA had filed a brief in opposition to Bishop Lawrence’s petition to the United States Supreme Court for a writ to review the August 2017 decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court (p. 4):

On May 7, 2018, Petitioners [in the Circuit Court, i.e., ECUSA and its diocese] argued to the United States Supreme Court that it should not grant Plaintiffs’ Petition for Certiorari because the Collective Opinions were “a poor vehicle for review.” Brief of Respondents in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Certiorari, 2018 WL 2129786 at 23-26. Petitioners [ECUSA and its diocese] contended this was so because the Collective Opinions are based on an “incomplete record”, which “contains significant ambiguities.” Id at 2, 23. The Collective Opinions are “fractured not only in rationale but even on facts.” Id at 2, 9. The absence “of a majority opinion on the standard of review” creates “ambiguities” making it “difficult to discern which of the trial court findings stand.” Id. at 23-24.

This is just another example of ECUSA’s unabashed hypocrisy in making diametrically opposed arguments to different courts, depending on the occasion. (For another egregious example, see this post.) For the US Supreme Court, the jumbled South Carolina opinions were “ambiguous” and “difficult to discern”, but in the South Carolina Circuit Court, just one day later, all was suddenly “clear.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Anglican Diocese of SC) South Carolina Supreme Court denies Petition for Writ of Prohibition by The Episcopal Church

The South Carolina Supreme Court announced yesterday that it has denied the Petition for a Writ of Prohibition submitted on February 21st by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), which sought to prevent Judge Edgar W. Dickson from ruling on the Diocese’s and parishes motion to clarify the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling. If granted, the petition would have prevented Judge Dickson from ruling on the case as he has indicated he was about to do. The Supreme Court’s order succinctly states: “Petitioners seek a Writ of Prohibition to prevent the circuit court from clarifying this Court’s decision in Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, 412 S.C. 211, 806 S.E. 2d 82 (2017). The petition is denied.”

This ruling by the Supreme Court allows Judge Dickson to proceed with clarifying the Court’s earlier August 2017 ruling, which was comprised of five separate opinions. That situation is unprecedented in the history of the court. This open-ended denial of the petition by the Supreme Court places no restrictions upon the appropriateness of Judge Dickson’s work in interpreting the meaning of the original ruling.

Ironically, this ruling comes almost exactly a year after TEC and TECSC filed a similar Petition with the high court for a Writ of Mandamus meant to force Judge Dickson to rule in the case. The Mandamus Petition asked the Supreme Court to require the Circuit Court to interpret the Supreme Court’s August 2, 2017 ruling favorably for TEC and TECSC. That petition was also denied by the Supreme Court in July of last year.

As before, the Prohibition Petition was an attempt to end run Judge Dickson’s exercise of his discretion in interpreting the August 2, 2017 decision in a manner that may differ from TEC and TECSC’s interpretation.

The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina welcomes this decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court affirming that the Circuit Court is the proper venue to resolve the many uncertain issues arising from the August 2, 2017 decision.

The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, President of the diocesan Standing Committee observed, “In this time, our focus is on caring for our people and praying for a world deeply rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we are profoundly grateful that the Supreme Court has denied the request for a Writ of Prohibition, and hope this ruling helps move things along. We pray for Judge Dickson and the complex issues he has to deal with, even as we continue to focus on concerns far more pressing to most people.”

The brief in support of the motion by the Diocese to dismiss this Petition can be found on the Diocesan website, along with further background on the earlier Petition for Mandamus. The August 2, 2017, ruling by the Supreme Court may also be found here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(GR) Ryan Burge on unique coronavirus fears in pews of America’s aging ‘mainline’ churches

Several years ago, I spoke to a rather typical group of Episcopalians in a church forum and I would estimate that roughly 75% of the people in the room were over 60 years of age.

I would love to see more nuanced statistics, at this point in time, because I suspect that the gold 36-64 years old band in the middle of that Burge chart leans toward the older end of that niche. Burge notes that the average Episcopalian is 59 years old. There are now three retired United Methodists for every member under the age of 35. More Burge:

Demography is destiny for many of these denominations. They will become dramatically smaller in the next two decades based on attrition alone, whether or not they are hit by COVID-19.

But if the disease can’t be curtailed, it could become a turning point for some of these denominations: Their houses of worship are prime targets for the spread of disease.

This passage hit me hard, as well:

Connection to their fellow members is especially important for older Americans. Data from Pew Research Center indicates that the average 80-year-old spends at least eight hours a day alone, double the time a 40-year-old does. For many of the older generation, the institutions that held society together for them during the formative years have already crumbled. One of the few things that has remained constant for them is their church home, seeing the same people in the same pews every Sunday, taking the bread and drinking from the cup the same way they have done for decades. They need that consistency and community — and COVID-19 might take that away from them.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Health & Medicine, Lutheran, Methodist, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

A S Haley–The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina Attempts an End Run by filing a request with the SC Supreme Court in their lawsuit vs. the historic Anglican diocese of SouthCarolina

By invoking the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction over its inferior courts, the ECUSA parties at this point are demonstrating outright that they no longer have any confidence in Judge Dickson’s integrity to reach an impartial resolution of the puzzle presented to him by the five scattered opinions that came from the Court. Just as they requested the Court last June, ECUSA’s attorneys want to have the Court step in now and put an end to further delay in implementing what they claim was the Court’s “clear mandate.”

The problem is, the Supreme Court’s membership has changed since it rendered its fractured decision. Two of the then Justices (Toal and Pleicones) have retired from the Court, while a third (Hearn) belatedly recused herself from taking any further part in the case. That leaves only Chief Justice Donald Beatty and Justice John Kittredge out of the original panel, and those two were at odds with each other: the Chief Justice supported the official ECUSA line about the Dennis Canon, while Justice Kittredge was having nothing to do with any sort of remote trust that could be imposed on a parish’s property without its written consent.

Under those circumstances, the success of the petition filed by ECUSA will at the outset turn upon the view of it by the two new appointees to the Supreme Court: Justice John Cannon Few and Justice George C. James, Jr. If they agree between themselves on how to deal with the petition, their votes will carry the day by making the tally 3-1 (whether to deny the petition or to grant it). And if they disagree? The result (presuming that the C.J. and Kittredge are still at odds) would be a 2-2 tie, with the result that the writ could not issue.

Long and short of it: The Court will issue the petition restraining Judge Dickson only if the two new appointees both vote with the Chief Justice to grant the writ.

After all, there is nothing compelling the Court to be as impatient as ECUSA is to get a result; the Justices will each still collect their paychecks regardless of how they rule. And after all the time and effort Judge Dickson has expended to get to the point where he is now ready to take up ECUSA’s motions, one would think that the Court will be in no great hurry to take the case away from him, either.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina