Category : Stewardship

Historic South Carolina Diocese files a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Friday, February 9 the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes took the historic step of filing a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  The requested review of the adverse ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court focuses on addressing the key constitutional questions in that case.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that church property disputes may be settled by applying “neutral principles of law”.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has interpreted that precedent as meaning that some religious institutions (such as TEC) are subject to standards of trust and ownership that would never be recognized under state law for anyone else. As Justice Kittredge in his opinion aptly stated, under truly neutral principles of law, “the suggestion that any of the thirty-six local churches created a trust in favor of the national church would be laughable.”

Our Petition addresses as the central issue in our litigation the following question:  Whether the “neutral principles of law” approach to resolving church property disputes requires courts to recognize a trust on church property even if the alleged trust does not comply with the State’s ordinary trust and property law.” (Petition, p. i)

As the Petition goes on to argue, the original intention of the neutral principles approach is to rely “exclusively on objective, well established concepts of trust and property law familiar to lawyers and judges.” and “embodied in some legally cognizable form.” Jones v. Wolf (1979).  Strict application of this principle would mean that it could not be determined that parish property is held in trust for the national church unless such a trust satisfied ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts.  The petition makes the point that the Jones majority expressly ruled out “compulsory deference” to national denominations, in its affirmation of neutral principles.

The plurality position in the South Carolina court unquestionably did not take this “neutral” approach.  Those justices believed that requiring a national church to comply with ordinary State trust and property law would “impose a constitutionally impermissible burden on the national Church and violate the first amendment.”  Courts and commentators call this the “hybrid approach” because it rejects application of ordinary state law in favor of deference to the national church’s unilateral rule and canons (i.e. the “Dennis Canon”).  It is compulsory deference in effect if not in name.

The State Supreme Court’s earlier All Saints (2009) ruling clearly upheld the neutral principles approach and was the basis around which the Diocese and its parishes ordered their common life and governing documents.  As former Chief Justice Toal noted in her dissenting opinion on the South Carolina court, its August ruling is a “distinct departure from well-established South Carolina law and legal precedents… appears to be driven by a sole purpose: reaching a desired result in this case.”  All Saints, embraced in name but not result, illustrates the concern raised in our petition.  “The vacillation of the Supreme Court of South Carolina from the strict approach in All Saints to the hybrid approach in this case makes clear that title to local church property is no more secure than the composition of a state’s high court.”  (Petition, p. 38)

The U.S. Supreme Court is asked to take this case, because it represents “a deep, acknowledged and fully matured split both among and within the Nation’s courts over the meaning of Jones and its “neutral principles of law” approach.” (Petition, p. 18)   The high courts of at least seven states, plus the Eighth Circuit have required the application of normal trust principles as Jones suggests.  The high courts of at least eight other States, however, now including South Carolina, have adopted the less than neutral interpretation that “courts must recognize trusts announced in church canons, even if those alleged trusts do not satisfy the requirements of state law.” (Petition, p. 18)

It is our assertion that this approach violates both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The former prevents states from burdening the free exercise of religion.  The “hybrid” approach clearly does this by conditioning congregations’ free exercise of differing religious beliefs on their willingness to surrender their property to TEC who has neither owned nor contributed to its purchase.   Similarly, the Establishment clause forbids the government from favoring one religion over another.  The “hybrid” approach irrefutably does that as well, “allowing national churches – and no one else – to skirt ordinary state trust and property law…  The law cannot then place a thumb on the scale in favor of a national church in its property dispute with a disassociating congregation…” (Petition, p. 19)   As observed by Justice Rehnquist in an earlier opinion, “If the civil courts are to be bound by any sheet of parchment bearing the ecclesiastical seal and purporting to be a decree of a church court, they can easily be converted into handmaidens of arbitrary lawlessness.” Serbian, (1976).

It is anticipated that today’s Petition will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months and the decision whether to grant review or not will be made before the end of the current session in June.   If review is granted, a hearing would be late this year or in the Spring of 2019. In the meantime, we should remain prayerfully confident as a Diocese that God is working His purposes out in all these things and will redeem them for the greater blessing of the Church and the spread of the Kingdom.  To those ends I encourage your continued prayers.

–The Rev. Jim Lewis is Canon to the Ordinary to the Bishop of South Carolina
(if necessary you may find a link for the original letter on the web there).

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Supreme Court, Theology

C of E General Synod backs motion to tackle food waste

The Church of England’s General Synod has called upon the Government to tackle food poverty and take steps to minimise waste throughout the supply chain.

Members backed a motion brought by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich outlining ways retailers and Church of England members can attempt to tackle food poverty in Britain.

The motion calls for the Government to consider steps to reduce waste in the food supply chain. It also urges parishes to help lobby retailers on food waste.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Dieting/Food/Nutrition, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(C of E) Church Investors group announces a harder line on Annual General Meeting voting policy

The CIG has tightened its voting policy in three main areas:

Executive pay

The CIG will review fairness in the workplace and will withdraw support for remuneration reports where pay ratios are not disclosed, Chief Executive pensions are excessive, or where financial services or pharmaceutical companies do not pay the living wage.

Gender diversity

CIG members will now vote against the re-election of nomination committee chairs where the board has less than 33% women and it will vote against all directors on the nomination committee where less than 25% of board directors are women.

Climate change

CIG members now vote against the re-election of the company chair when a company is making little progress to transition to a low carbon world….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Stewardship, Stock Market, Theology

(Christian Today) Church of England facing more than 3,000 abuse cases

The Church of England is facing more than 3,000 abuse complaints, the vast majority of which relate to children or vulnerable adults.

Peter Hancock, the lead bishop on safeguarding will reveal the full extent of the scandal the Church faces when he answers questions from the ruling general synod later today. Of roughly 3,300 ‘concerns or allegations’ dealt with by the Church in 2016 alone, ‘the vast majority of which related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within church communities,’ he will say.

The revelation comes as the CofE’s general synod, or parliament, meets in Westminster for three days that are set to be dominated by questions around abuse.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Stewardship, Theology, Violence

(Church Times) Cathedrals trial contactless giving

Cathedrals might enjoy a boost in donations from this year, if a pilot scheme to introduce contactless-card payment-points for visitors pays off.

Cathedrals around the UK began trials of contactless “donation stations” at the end of last year, to make it easier for congregations and visitors to support their upkeep.

The first five terminals, provided by the technology company GoodBox, were installed in Romsey Abbey, and Ely, Guildford, St Edmundsbury, and Newcastle Cathedrals, in November and December.

Three more are due to be installed in Chichester, Liverpool, and St Paul’s Cathedrals during the next ten days.

Besides posting cash into the traditional donation box, visitors to these cathedrals can now select a donation amount on a touch screen on the terminal, before holding their contactless bank card or smart phone (linked with Apple Pay or Android Pay) against the screen, to donate.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(C of E) New ideas to secure England’s cathedrals for the future

The paper from the Church of England’s Cathedrals Working Group sets out new ideas on how cathedrals could be governed and funded.

The proposals, emerging from seven months of meetings and discussions, aim to recognise and enhance the vital role that cathedrals play while building a robust framework for the future.

consultation on the recommendations opens today, seeking views from interested groups.

They range from recommendations on how the structure of Chapter – a cathedral’s traditional governing body – could be reformed to new financial auditing processes.

The Working Group was set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York after a small number of cathedrals highlighted challenges in governance and management.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, England / UK, History, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CEN) Scrap Cathedral entrance fees, Government review urges

A government review has recommended scrapping charging policies for entry to Cathedrals.

The review on ‘Cathedrals and Communities’ found that Chester Cathedral has reported increased profits since doing away with charging, while Durham Cathedral has pledged to keep its main space free to enter.

The report released by the Department of Communities and Local Government, explains that for lesser-known cathedrals, creating an active programme of events can increase visitors and income.

The report was the culmination of a year-long tour that saw the Minister for Faiths, Lord Bourne, visit all of England’s 42 Anglican cathedrals to better understand their continued importance both to local communities and wider society.

His report also recommends the use of crypts and naves for events, commending Sheffield cathedral, which transformed the space below the cathedral to help the city’s homeless.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Chicago Tribune) Chicago-area clergy defend housing allowance as it faces legal challenge

Chicago clergy are fighting a federal judge’s recent ruling that tax-free housing allowances for clergy violate the separation of church and state.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will be asked to weigh in on the challenge to the so-called parsonage allowance — an Internal Revenue Service benefit that allows clergy to exclude from their tax returns the compensation earmarked for mortgage payments, rent, utility bills or maintenance costs.

The ministerial tax break has been on the books for more than 60 years and is cited by many houses of worship, particularly smaller, independent ones, as an important financial underpinning to carrying out their mission.

But it has become the latest target of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a self-proclaimed guardian of church-state separation based in Madison, Wis., that challenged the tax break, and won, in a Wisconsin court.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

([London] Times) Church of England tells landowners it owns their mineral rights

The Church of England has laid claim to minerals beneath privately owned land covering an area the size of the Lake District, including in regions earmarked for fracking, The Times has learnt.

Since 2010 the church has officially registered its ownership of 585,000 acres of underground resources. Thousands of people have received letters warning that they do not own potentially valuable deposits under their land.

In most cases, the church has laid claim to deposits beneath land that it used to own but is now held privately. It has also exploited ancient property laws allowing it to claim the minerals beneath land that it owned under the feudal system. This gives the church the right to cash in on any profits from the extraction of stone, metals and other minerals in the earth, though it may have to compensate the surface landowners for access.

Read it all(requires subscription).

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Stewardship

(Atlantic) Low-Income Communities Are Struggling to Support Churches

If there is ever a competition for the title of Busiest Minister in America, the smart money will be on Yoan Mora, senior pastor of Primera Iglesia Cristiana, a small but vibrant Spanish-speaking congregation in San Antonio, Texas. The weeks are nuts: worship services, classes, and meetings on Sundays; a radio program on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; prayer service and Bible study on Tuesdays; house church meetings in the southern reaches of the city each Thursday; a job-training program hosted at the church on Saturdays, plus other meetings scattered through the weekend.

Those are just his top-level duties. He still has to find time to write sermons, oversee church-building maintenance, teach small groups, manage budgets, and, most of all, be with people in all the ways pastors need to be with people: births, deaths, sicknesses, celebrations, life events big, medium, and small. Being a pastor is a full-time job, and then some.

But being a pastor is not Mora’s full-time job. Most of Mora’s weekday hours are devoted to his work as an accountant at a health-care clinic in the northeast part of town. He’s also trying to finish a master’s degree in theology.

Mora believes he was placed on this earth to pastor, so that’s what he plans on doing. But for now, he can’t make a living as a pastor because the congregation he serves is in an extremely low-income neighborhood. Pastor salaries are drawn from church budgets, which are drawn from the household budgets of congregants. So in a low-income area, even when a church grows, its budget does not expand so much as stretch. Primera Iglesia Cristiana can’t pay Mora much for all his efforts, so for the foreseeable future, he’ll hustle.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Local Paper) Volunteers to deliver Christmas presents to bereaved kids in Charleston, South Carolina, area

Christmas Commandos tailor the presents to each child’s needs. The nonprofit relies on guidance counselors, teachers and hospice workers to nominate children in the tri-county area and provide the necessary details to make their Christmas personal.

If a child wants a bicycle but doesn’t have a covered place to store it, the commandos will provide a lock and a tarp. If a toddler has lost his mother, volunteers will buy shoes a half-size up that can be worn in six months. This year, each child will receive a pillow along with his or her gifts.

One special memory stands out from Deacola’s seven years of volunteering. She and other commandos were in the middle of delivering presents when a man opened his front door and asked what they were doing. The commandos explained that they were there to deliver gifts for his three grandchildren who had lost their mother that year. He let them bring the presents inside.

“He saw bikes and everything coming in. He was holding onto the chair and steadying himself and he was like, ‘I just can’t believe this,'” Deacola said.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Stewardship

(NBC) Air Force Sergeant delivers teddy bears to needy children

With the help of volunteers from MacDill Air Force Base, Sgt. Tyler Treadaway is delivering teddy bears to children in local hospitals and orphanages, reaching them when they most need a little extra love.

Watch and enjoy it all.

Posted in Children, Christmas, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces, Stewardship

(NYT Op-ed) Ann Patchett–My Year of No Shopping

The trick of no shopping isn’t just that you don’t buy things. You don’t shop. That means no trawling the sale section of the J. Crew website in idle moments. It means the catalogs go into the recycle bin unopened on the theory that if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. Halfway through the year I could go to a store with my mother and sister if they asked me. I could tell them if the dress they were trying on looked good without wishing I could try it on myself.

Not shopping saves an astonishing amount of time. In October, I interviewed Tom Hanks about his collection of short stories in front of 1,700 people in a Washington theater. Previously, I would have believed that such an occasion demanded a new dress and lost two days of my life looking for one. In fact, Tom Hanks had never seen any of my dresses, nor had the people in the audience. I went to my closet, picked out something weather appropriate and stuck it in my suitcase. Done.

I did a favor for a friend over the summer and she bought me a pair of tennis shoes. Her simple act of kindness thrilled me. Once I stopped looking for things to buy, I became tremendously grateful for the things I received. Had I been shopping this summer I would have told my friend, “You shouldn’t have,” and I would have meant it.

It doesn’t take so long for a craving to subside, be it for Winstons or gin or cupcakes. Once I got the hang of giving shopping up, it wasn’t much of a trick.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, Stewardship

Rowan Williams: Nativity is a powerful reminder of our own vulnerability and weakness

Dr Williams is chair of Christian Aid and called for support for its Christmas appeal as he said, ‘life doesn’t have to be like this. We can build a world with deeper justice, greater fairness, greater security for all.’

He said: ‘One of the most serious forms of powerlessness that anyone can experience is, of course, hunger. Take a country like South Sudan: after years of merciless and bloody civil war, food security has become a major question in South Sudan. This year, a famine was declared. Countless young people faced starvation. It’s not the only place in Africa, or indeed throughout the world, where this is a problem. Places like Burkina Faso are facing some of the same challenges.

‘But South Sudan is particularly vivid in my own memory: I visited there a couple of times in the last 10 years. I’ve seen what life is like in the refugee camps. I’ve seen the feeding programmes, combined with educational programmes, that many local churches and charities take up. The challenge is enormous, and it’s one that we are determined to face this Christmas, and to respond to. A gift of £10 will feed a family in South Sudan for a week. A gift of £40, for a month.’

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, --South Sudan, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Christmas, Poverty, Stewardship

(NBC) A Powerful example of how one parish choir director made a huge difference–Opera student raises $40,000 in performance for college tuition

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Education, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Young Adults