Sacramento Bee: Breakaway churches face a new battle

For 55 years, members of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church have tithed their 10 percent, money that often went toward maintaining 12 acres of tree-lined church property.

Now they’ve been told that the church where generations have worshipped does not belong to them ”“ but rather to the national denomination they believe has lost its biblical authority and want to cut ties with.

“What about the blood, sweat and tears of the congregation ”“ all of us who have given all these years?” said Jane Constance, a member since 1982 whose four children were baptized and raised in the church. “It’s unthinkable to me, to most of us, that it could belong to them because of a clause most of us didn’t know about.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Presbyterian, TEC Conflicts

8 comments on “Sacramento Bee: Breakaway churches face a new battle

  1. Philip Snyder says:

    I’ve often said that we need to come to some for of accomodation that recognizes the Diocese’s (or national office) contributions to the congregation (and not just monetary, but all their contributions) and recognizes the congregation’s contributions to the diocese/national office. Some form of accomodation should be made such that lawsuits are not necessary.

    As an example, let the parish (or diocese) depart after paying 50% of the estimated resale value of the property (not the appraised or tax value, but what the parish/diocese could get on the market were the property to be sold).

    Phil Snyder

  2. CanaAnglican says:


    Your plan seems fair to me. There are cases though where the national church has actually harmed the local church’s ability to spread the gospel and grow. They do this when they make the denomination unattractive to outsiders who are seeking the touch of Christ in their lives. In those cases, would the national church owe the parting local church a monetary settlement?

  3. Philip Snyder says:

    CA (#2),
    While I agree that 815’s actions and words and attitudes and the actions, word, and attitudes of such august bodies of the HOB (as a whole), the General Convention, and the Executive Council have hurt many parishes’ mission and evangelism work (mine included) I would not think that financial renumeration would be appropriate. Consider this. My own parish borrowed money from the Crump Fund at a wonderfully low interest rate to build a new worship building (which we needed). If we were to decide that we needed to leave TECUSA and the Diocese of Dallas (and I don’t see that happening any time soon because we have a faithful Bishop and Rector – this is just an example), then I think we should have to payback the Crump Fund plus some of the opportunity cost of them loaning to us and not investing in the market. As an example, let’s say we borrowed $200,000 at 2% for 20 years. In the secular market, we whould have had to borrow at 6% for 20 years. We should probably pay back the remainder of the loan in full before we leave and pay some form of “penalty” (say an additional 1-2% of the load amt) to “make up” for the fact that the Church could have received better interest by investing in the money market fund or t-bills or some other stable and safe financial market.

    Phil Snyder

  4. TomRightmyer says:

    The interest of the diocese is in continuing or developing an Episcopal congregation in that place. If there are a sufficient number of people who want to be governed by the General Convention or if the ares can reasonably support such a congregation the diocese should seek to retain the property or sell it for a reasonable sum. If not, then let the people and place go in peace.

  5. CanaAnglican says:

    #3. Phil,

    I certainly agree that the diocese should be repaid all its cost even lost opportunity cost. In our case, 75% of us felt called to CANA and 25% felt they should stay with TEC. I think our CANA group would have negotiated a cash settlement either in proportion to the numbers of the two sides or even up to a 50-50 split of the resources. That should have been favorable to the diocese, and we seemed to be moving toward a settlement until TEC stepped in.

    Freed from TEC, the CANA congregation has grown to about its size prior to the split, or perhaps slightly larger with more growth on the way. We are happy for your situation in Dallas (I’m a Texas-born boy!) and pray that you can continue to have a diocese centered in Christ. My wife and I winter in FL and have found gospel-preaching Episcopal churches in which to worship in +Howe’s diocese. We praise the Lord for any congregation that is upholding the faith first given to the apostles. –Stan

  6. C. Wingate says:

    The background is that this is exactly the kind of unhistorical revision designed to suppress dissident congregations. The rule in question dates back no further than 1981, and (if you believe Wikipedia) the PCUS had to put in a 2 year escape clause for its congregations as part of the merger that created PCUSA.

    Depending exactly upon who you believe, the presbytery may be able to split off as a unit.

  7. Bill Matz says:

    The stakes before the CA Supreme Court continue to rise.
    Phil’s approach is certinly a reasonable one. However, it and all other proposals I have seen have one surprising omission. Nowhere have I seen anyone suggest any (let alone an amount) compensation is due members who simply walk away ( especially, en masse). It would be one thing if these members had a change of belief. But it is quite a different question when the church sharply changes course, effectively disenfranchising long faithful and supportive members. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see areappraising diocese say, “We recognize that we have changed the rules and driven you out; in recognition of your long and faithful support, here is a sum for you to start a new church.” How Christian, but not holding my breath. The only time there is any offer of settlement is when a reasserter congregation holds the church.

    Tom’s suggestion is a very pragmatic, Christian one too. Also not likely.

  8. Little Cabbage says:

    Bill, thanks for your cogent analysis! TEC has disenfranchised many, many of us faithful and long active members.