In Savannah, Anglicans move services to a nearby church

The Rev. Marc Robertson compared his congregation’s temporary move to Independent Presbyterian Church to a long visit with grandma.

“Since we don’t have a bed to sleep in, we’re staying at grandma’s for now,” said Robertson, rector at Christ Church Savannah.

Sunday marked the church’s first of many worship services to come at Independent Presbyterian at Bull and Liberty Streets following the the Anglican congregation’s ouster from historic property on Johnson Square.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Georgia

23 comments on “In Savannah, Anglicans move services to a nearby church

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    Public images and perceptions are important to those seeking to join a religious denomination and to its members who are concerned about how their fellow Episcopalians are being treated and about how they are seen by others.

    ECUSA is already suffering tangible loses in members and intangible losses in potential membership as the result of its deteriorating public image as that image has evolved over the past 30 to 40 years.

    But, these acts of willful and punitive eviction of congregations and their priests that have been occuring and that are now occurring as the result of legal actions against Christian worshippers can only lead to the downfall of ECUSA in the USA and the growth of Anglican alternative houses of worship for those who cannot stomach ECUSA’s cruel actions and who wish to remain faithful to “…the Faith once given….”.

  2. Cennydd13 says:

    All of this has led to the degradation of the Episcopal Church in the eys of their fellow Christians (except of course those few who side with them), and it is a degradation from which they will never…..I repeat never……recover, despite all of their proclamations to the contrary, because no matter how hard they may try, that stain will always be there.

  3. Mitchell says:

    It appears Christ Church Episcopal had a large turn out for its first service back on Johnson Square.

    http://m.savannahnow.com/latest-news/2011-12-18/christ-episcopal-church-celebrates-return-johnson-square-site

  4. AnglicanFirst says:

    How many of those in that “large turn out” were original members of the congregation before it split?

    How many were ECUSA (I say this discriptively, not unkindly) shills?

    How many of that large turn out were essentially secular sympathizers with the secular politics of ECUSA? An ECUSA that is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from the secular progressive political leftists.

  5. sophy0075 says:

    AnglicanFirst,

    87% of the membership of Christ Church Savannah voted to separate from TEC. That should answer your question about how many at the “large turn out” were members who chose to stay with TEC.

    A more accurate sense of how many congregants will be at the TEC church will be gained after a few weeks. Especially when the diocese decides to close other Savannah churches in order to raise money to support the historic building and attempt to build up its meagre congregation.

  6. Ralph says:

    #4, the answer to your questions will come with time. I thought about driving over there for services at both churches yesterday, but as a visitor, I wouldn’t want to be thought of as a “shill.”

    If the Rector and other parish leadership of Christ Church set and maintain standards of excellence and Christian orthodoxy in every aspect of church life at the historic Johnson Square location, then the parish will continue to grow.

    Likewise, if the Rector and other parish leadership of the breakaway group can do the same, that group will also grow.

    If either group chooses the other path, then they will wither away and die.

    Savannah has room for both congregations, each with its own worship style. I pray that both will flourish.

  7. Mitchell says:

    [blockquote]How many of those in that “large turn out” were original members of the congregation before it split?
    How many were ECUSA shills? How many of that large turn out were essentially secular sympathizers with the secular politics of ECUSA? [/blockquote]

    I don’t know. Do you?

    [blockquote]I say this discriptively, not unkindly[/blockquote]
    Of course you do, I would never have suspected otherwise.

    [blockquote]87% of the membership of Christ Church Savannah voted to separate from TEC.[/blockquote]

    Is that true, or was it 87% of the people who voted?

  8. MichaelA says:

    [blockquote] “If the Rector and other parish leadership of Christ Church set and maintain standards of excellence and Christian orthodoxy in every aspect of church life at the historic Johnson Square location, then the parish will continue to grow.” [/blockquote]
    That’s almost always correct Ralph. However, the rider should be added that many TEC priests and laity don’t seem to really understand what “Christian orthodoxy” means. That probably explains why many churches that choose to stay in TEC seem to be shrinking, and many that choose to leave seem to hold their own or grow.

    Unfortunately, there are many people who actually believe that the existentialist liberal rubbish taught by Katherine Schori or Jack Spong is “orthodoxy”. They will therefore think they are doing the right thing, even as their teaching causes their churches to wither away.

    There is also the growing problem of reputation: The many in TEC who do remain orthodox seem to be having a difficult time convincing enquirers that they really are orthodox, because the public assumes that they must be extremely liberal like their denominational leaders.

  9. NoVA Scout says:

    No. 1, there also have been evictions (whether they should be described as “willful and punitive” is not necessary for me to reach, but they are no less “evictive”) of continuing Episcopalian worshippers by Occupying groups of people who decided to leave the Episcopal Church but who remained on the premises to the exclusion of continuing Episcopalian worship by those who chose not to leave. The patient, costly reclaiming of property through valid legal processes strikes me, at a minimum, as having more validity than simply seizing properties and daring the evicted to go to court to obtain redress.

  10. Ralph says:

    #8, there are still plenty of faithful TEC orthodox clergy and laity in the SE United States. The radical progressive Spongian stuff hasn’t really caught on, though there are some individuals who have fallen for it – hook, line, and sinker.

    I don’t know the rector of either congregation, so I pray for both.

  11. MichaelA says:

    No-one is “seizing properties”, NoVA Scout. The property belongs to the congregation. If the congregation decides that they don’t want to be associated with the heresy of Katherine Schori, then they are entitled to so state, without extremist liberals trying to evict them from their property.

  12. NoVA Scout says:

    What is the “congregation” under the governing documents of the parish, the Diocese and the national Church? This was a divided vote. Which part was the Congregation? Are not the people who elected not to leave at least as entitled to worship in the property as those who decided to go? If one person leaves, he can’t take things with him. At what number does a right accrue to take property from people who choose not to leave?

  13. AnglicanFirst says:

    Reply to NoVA Scout (#12).

    Well then, following the general thrust of your logic, the dissenting orthodox parishoners, clergy, and diocesans of ECUSA should have as much authority as the revisionist led majority of ECUSA.

    So, reductio ad absurdum, that orthodox minority within ECUSA, when it existed as a local majority, exercised its ‘minority right’ in a local manner in in the situation under discussion.

  14. NoVA Scout says:

    I don’t follow that, No. 13. I do think the dissenting parishioners and clergy have more authority than they give themselves credit for to influence attitudes and policy within TEC. I regret their leaving and I number myself among them in terms of the particular issues that have spawned this discord.

    But the particular context of the post and my remarks was the issue of how does a departing parishioner, priest, or group thereof come to have property rights in places of worship. The conservative, traditional approach, it seems to me, is that the disaffected party leaves and finds a new affiliation, without claiming objects, accounts, or buildings. I view these efforts to take over prior places of worship (and to exclude those who don’t leave) as a terrible moral taint on what should have been an inspirational act of conviction. The justifications I have seen so far are completely manufactured from self-serving whole cloth. I asked in comment 12 what the mechanisms for these seizures or occupations were. I had also asked previously in the thread, in response to a comment describing the Diocese’s efforts to recover the property in Savannah, why those actions were more “willful and punitive” than the actions of those who left the Diocese, occupied the property, and forced those who chose not to leave to go worship elsewhere. MichaelA says (comment 11) that this was OK because “the congregation” did it. My question then became: where in the governing documents of the church (at any level) do we find authority for a departing group to constitute itself as “the congregation” and thus acquire property rights? And where do we find justification for extinguishing the rights of those who choose not to leave?

  15. Mitchell says:

    #14 the law, in Georgia at least, is in full agreement with you.

    I think you are hitting upon the issue at the core of the debate. What does it mean to be a member of The Episcopal Church. Those who depart, dependng on who you are talking to, contend it means nothing more than being a member of the local parish or the local diocese. That you are not a member of a larger body. They contend that when people contributed money to build and maintain a church building, they did so with the understanding that their contribution was for the benefit of the local parish or diocese only, and that a governing body of the local parish or diocese is free to do with that property as they please, even if most or none of the current congregation or congregations materially contributed to the construction and maintenance of the church buildings on a historical basis. Or perhaps a better way to say that is they believe the the parish or diocese is an entity, like a corporation. That no congregant has any property rights. The entity through its governing body as constituted from time to time has the property rights, and that entity can exclude from the property anyone it pleases, including current congregants. Sort of like owning stock in GM does not give you a right to enter a plant anytime you want.

    The Episcopal Church contends that membership in the Church is greater than membership in a parish or diocese. That you are a member of a national hierarchical church, like the Catholic Church. They contend that when people contributed to the Church they were supporting the mission of the national church. They contend most of the donation whould not have been made, had the local parish not been affiliated with The Episcopal Church. Therefore all property is held in trust for the benefit of the greater Church. That the buildings are a place for all members of the greater Church to worship.

    The national church has been lax about documenting this position firmly, leaving this debate. I think they realized this and tried to fix it with the Dennis Cannon, but perhaps that was not enough for some states. I guess we will see in the months to come.

    I do think there is a serious ethical, if not legal problem, where the parish or diocese governing instruments are altered to benefit those wishing to depart and take the property with them. There were allegations of that in connection with this case, but I am uncertain as to exactly what occurred.

    I must admit that last issue took me a little by surprise. I have moved a number of times and been a member of the congregation of a new parish each time. It never occurred to me to ask to read the bylaws of the local congregation, much less the diocese prior to making my contributions. The issue has frankly altered how much I give and how I give it.

  16. NoVA Scout says:

    No. 14 – in almost all cases of which I am aware, the departing group set the rules and did so in a way that favored their position. But it cannot be that a parishioner or several parishioners who are disaffected (I will spot them that they are acting out of sincere antipathy to the church they are leaving) can make up rules on the way out the door that give them the right to oust people who do not share their aversion and who choose to stay. I haven’t made a comprehensive study, and I’m not the most learned fellow in the room when it comes to these things, but I feel fairly safe in offering a Romney-sized wager that no parish or diocese of the Episcopal Church in America had governing rules that provided for seceding members to lay claim to personal property, real property and accounts as a consequence of their deciding to leave to go to a new denomination.

  17. MichaelA says:

    NoVA Scout,

    It would be refreshing if for once, your posts were not based entirely on unsupported and a priori assumptions. But I guess we will have to wait a little longer for that…!

    Congregations are entitled to make decisions on who they are affiliated with. If a church rejects orthodoxy, as TEC has done, the congregation is entitled to sever ties with TEC. That does not give TEC a right to seize the property of the congregation.

    Of course not all parishioners will agree with the decision, any more than all parishioners will agree with ANY decision. If a congregation had to wait for 100% agreement on each decision, no decisions would ever be made. One would hope that the dissenters would nevertheless stay with the congregation. But if not, then they are welcome to leave.

  18. MichaelA says:

    Mitchell, the Episcopal Church can “contend” anything it likes – that does not make it true!
    [blockquote] “That you are a member of a national hierarchical church, like the Catholic Church.” [/blockquote]
    You really need to learn a bit about churches. The Roman Catholic Church does not consider itself “a national church”, and never has at any point in its history.

    And if you think TEC has an organisation remotely resembling that of the RCC…. :o)

    But you are right about one thing – there certainly is “a serious ethical if not legal problem” – with TEC!

  19. NoVA Scout says:

    I concede, No. 17, that people have the right to make decisions about where they will worship. But, at least in the Diocese where I have worshipped for many years, I am completely unaware of any provision under which parishioners can, if achieving a certain number or proportion of a parish, not only reaffiliate (of course they can do that at any time), but also take over the local property and exclude those who choose not to leave. I don’t know how that amounts to an unsupported and a priori assumption. Do you know of such provisions? Where in the canons does this right orginate? I welcome correction, but, after a couple of years of making this point, no one has ever pointed me to the controlling provisions. Instead, I get back nonsense such as “Well, they [i.e., the departing parishioners] paid for it,” a statement of many problems not the least of which being that those who choose not to leave also “paid for it.” Another response is to point to correct doctrine on the part of the occupiers. This may be the case, but it is an unworkable operating principle in that no faction in schism ever purports to be following incorrect doctrine, and the secular courts cannot be referees to sort these things out. I am humble enough to acknowledge that there may be parishes around the country that are in Dioceses where there is direct provision for these events, but in the cases of which I have direct knowledge, no such mechanisms exist. The takeovers by departing groups have been according to rules of their own making and have largely been accomplished simply by occupation by the side with the greater numbers. I think this is why, ultimately, most of these efforts have failed and will fail when they reach the secular courts.

  20. Mitchell says:

    #18 I concede my statement was not proper. “like the Catholic Church” was intended to refer to the phrase hierarchical church, not national. I am aware the Catholic Church considers itself the one true church of Jesus Christ.

    I am also aware the use of the word national was not even a good choice in regard to The Episcopal Church. I was simply trying to convey a sense of a greater organization than any of its constituent parts.

    I fail to understand your annoyance with my admittedly broad brushed, but I believe largely accurate, statement of the position of the Episcopal Church.

    I never discussed the organization of the Episcopal Church or compared it with the organization of the Catholic Church. My statement was the Episcopal Church contends it is a hierarchical church, like the Catholic Church. I believe that statement was correct, but the descriptive phrase is unnecessary for the sentence.

    I stick by my “personal” belief it is unethical to attempt to change the governing instruments of a body prior to a vote on disassociation.

    You remind me of a politician. If you don’t agree or like a statement attack the messenger. Its easier than engaging in a meaningful discussion.

  21. MichaelA says:

    [blockquote] “I think this is why, ultimately, most of these efforts have failed and will fail when they reach the secular courts.” [/blockquote]
    I’m not aware of all that many have been finalised. But also, if this is all you mean, i.e. a statement of what you think the outcome of various court cases in different jurisdictions will be, then why are we even having this discussion? The courts will decide what they will decide.

  22. MichaelA says:

    Mitchell at #20, you seem to be unhappy about something, but I am not sure what it is.

    You’ve modified some of your statements, so I presume you have no problem with me querying them in the first place…?

    And now you write:
    [blockquote] “My statement was the Episcopal Church contends it is a hierarchical church, like the Catholic Church.” [/blockquote]
    To which my response is the same – the episcopal church can contend it is anything it likes, but that does not make it true. Certainly, contending that its organisation or constitution somehow resemble that of the RCC is laughable.
    [blockquote] “I stick by my “personal” belief it is unethical to attempt to change the governing instruments of a body prior to a vote on disassociation.” [/blockquote]
    Are you referring to the Denis Canon? I agree, it was pretty unethical… :o)

  23. NoVA Scout says:

    I thought the reference was to departing groups staging plebescites on the wisdom of their leaving and whether they should take stuff when they left.