Anglican Church in North America Calls Proposed Pa. Church Property Settlement “Heartbreaking”

“It is heartbreaking that even if they agree to pay a substantial settlement fee to keep their buildings, members of St. Philip’s are also being forced to separate from their Anglican family as a condition of the property settlement. Freedom of religion is at the heart of this matter and no congregation should have to stipulate that it will separate from its current body as part of a monetary property settlement,” said the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop of Pittsburgh.

“Sadly, the separation mandate seems to be specifically designed to hurt both the local diocese and the North American province. If the settlement is approved by St. Philip’s, we urge the Court to strike any provisions of the settlement that abridge First Amendment rights.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

18 comments on “Anglican Church in North America Calls Proposed Pa. Church Property Settlement “Heartbreaking”

  1. Br. Michael says:

    Let’s just remember that the first amendment acts to restrict government.

  2. Old Guy says:

    I appreciate that when the blood is up, it is hard not to strike back–especially at an injustice. Nonetheless, if the ACNA continues to strive to get its own house in order, it will hopefully be worth waiting for. Five years can pass quickly. We need to take the long view. If we are wise and faithful, time is on our side. If we are hasty now, we can weaken our foundation.

    “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” Matt 18:7 There is more at stake than the U.S. Constitution.

  3. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Let me see – wasn’t I reading something from the Presiding Bishop recently about us not being able to say to the hand ‘I have no need of you’? It must be difficult speaking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time.

  4. Ralph Webb says:

    Yes, this is indeed heartbreaking. Bishop Duncan is totally correct. May God give us the grace to feel the pain of separation.

  5. MichaelA says:

    Thanks to the Blogger who ran this story – I wonder how easy it is to be an orthodox Anglican in New York?

    I wonder how truly independent St Phillips will be? As long as they keep control over their church finances and selection of rector, they should last out the five years okay.

  6. Sarah says:

    What a pleasure, though, to note the bitterness and fear of the TECusans.

    Fear and hatred of the competition is never a good business growth strategy.

  7. A Senior Priest says:

    I don’t consider this development as “heartbreaking” at all. Why would Abp Duncan sound so wimpy? Seriously, wimpy. On the part of TEC it’s shameful, bizarre, fearful, oppressive, hypocritical, false-hearted, sinful, anathema.

  8. TomRightmyer says:

    Episcopal dog-in-the-manger policy is proably contrary to the First Amendment.

  9. Jim the Puritan says:

    The First Amendment only governs actions by the government. It doesn’t apply to agreements between private parties. Civil rights laws may in certain cases prohibit private discrimination on the basis of religion, but, again, that doesn’t apply here.

  10. old grumpy says:

    “…..In addition, the Episcopal Church diocese has insisted that St. Philip’s agree that if it starts any new churches over the next five years they cannot be Anglican. ”
    So, this tiny little scrap of a province decides who is, and who is not ‘Anglican’ Extraordinary !!!
    Chris Baker – Durham UK

  11. David Keller says:

    Its been 32 years since I took property law, but my recollection is that a deed can’t be restricted by conditions like these. Any property experts out there?

  12. billqs says:

    #11. Is it written as a covenant in the deed? I can’t access this story due to a net-nanny here at work, but the story above on this matter seemed to make it a negotiated settlement. I think then contract law would apply, and the deal, no matter how unfair many of us think it is, is probably valid and binding once it gets judicial approval.

    I don’t think the deal overly burdens the property since it can be anything in the world except a church affiliated with ACNA. The agreement to not make any church plants “Anglican” would affect property not now owned, but it would affect the church as owners and not the use of the property itself.

    BTW, I’m not making any claims on the morality of the settlement, just rather it would stand up to legal scrutiny.

    Of course anything I just said is not to be construed as an official legal opinion as I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Pennsylvania.

  13. KevinBabb says:

    David, it has been 27 years since I took Real Property, but Shelley v. Kramer says that the Courts cannot enforce racially restrictive covenants. I don’t know if that decision has ever been extended to restrictions on land use/alienation outside of the racial aspect. The difference between the Moon situation and Shelley is that the covenant in Shelley restricted the rights of non-parties to the contract (subsequent would-be purchasers of excluded ethnic groups), whereas in this case the restriction only binds the buyers themselves–it doesn’t restrict anybody else’s religious freedom, if I am understanding it correctly. This may be a distinction without a difference.

    Sounds like a good situation for a straw man purchase, in conjunction with a re-organization of the parish–good-bye St. Phillip’s, hello St. Paul’s.

    Jim the P., you’re right that the First Amendment only restricts government action, and Shelley is consistent with that….the parties are free to put any provision that they desire into a land sale agreement, but the Courts cannot enforce racially discriminatory covenants..and, of course, in the absence of the the prospect of government enforcement, contractual clauses are dead letters.

  14. David Keller says:

    #12 and 13–Trust me (pun intended), I’m not going to do any research, but I have this vague recollection of some ancient case that said you can’t put restrictions on alienation of real property, that don’t deal with the property itself, in the deed–either you sell it or you don’t. But I also know about Shelley and Texas cases where deed zoning restrictions were upheld in Houston, which has no zoning.

  15. billqs says:

    #14- You are correct that the courts will not enforce an “unreasonable restraint on alienation.” However, restrictive covenants and equitable servitudes can be put in deeds as long as they do not reasonably impede the transfer of the property.

    I’m not certain that the restriction language is written in the deed itself, but since the courts often find that restraints on alienation are reasonable when time limits are imposed to limit the restraint, even if it was in the deed, I believe it would still meet legal muster.

    (The deal still stinks….)

  16. billqs says:

    There should be an “un” in front of the word reasonably in the second sentence. It should read “However, restrictive covenants and equitable servitudes can be put in deeds as long as they do not [b]un[/b]reasonably impede the transfer of the property.

  17. David Keller says:

    Thanks billqs. As I said, I do not pretend to remember anything imporatant about property law. We spent 6 weeks in law school on the Rule Against Perpetuities and all I remember is something about octagenarians having babies! The good news is, in 30 years, its never come up. (So why did we spend 6 weeks on it?).

  18. Jim the Puritan says:

    I think such a covenant would be enforceable here. It is for a limited time, it is for a purpose germane to being a church, and generally courts don’t want to interfere in agreements within churches (the whole separation of church and state thing). In fact, on a slightly different tone, you frequently see deeds that say if a property is no longer used as a church, the land reverts to the original grantor (this is where the land for the church has been donated by someone).

    There are civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in selling residential real estate on the basis of race, sex, religion, etc., but again that would not apply. Ironically, I grew up in a neighborhood where the woman who subdivided her estate to create it required that all purchasers had to be Episcopalians/Anglicans in good standing. You’d get a whopper of a lawsuit if someone tried to do that today, but that was 50+ years ago before they had such laws.

    The downside of such an arrangement is that I grew up right next to the home of a retired Anglican priest and his wife. When misbehaving as children, we often got admonitions from our parents such as, “you wouldn’t want Father S. see you acting like that, would you?”

    This was probably one of the few neighborhoods in America that actually had a consecrated private chapel in it as well (in the home of the lady who created the neighborhood–which was a large mansion that looked something like a miniature version of San Simeon). Every Christmas Eve and Easter the children in the neighborhood got dressed up and went to a chapel service overseen by this elderly lady.

    Being an Anglican was far different back then. At least where we were, it was very conservative, with nuns in Sunday school and having to dress to the nines to go to church. So I was taught the Thirty Nine Articles, the Creeds and the Catechism and as a result, today’s Episcopal Church is pretty much unrecognizable to me today.