by Peter Menkin
|Christ Church, Savannah. Poster circa 1920.|
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States, but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe. The Episcopal Church is the Province of the Anglican Communion in the United States and most other territories where it has a presence (excluding Europe). The Episcopal Church describes itself as being “Protestant, Yet Catholic”. In 2009, the Episcopal Church had a baptized membership of 2,175,616 both inside and outside the U.S. In the United States, it had a baptized membership of 2,006,343, making it the nation’s fifteenth largest denomination. (Episcopal Church Facebook.)
The Anglican Church in North America unites some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada. The Anglican Church is a Province-in-formation in the global Anglican Communion committed to reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. The Most Rev. Robert Duncan is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. (Anglican Church in North America Facebook.)
This email was sent to Reverend Jim Elliott in the course of our conversation by phone and conversation by email:
Here from my notes of a conversation with Archbishop Duncan are a few of the theological arguments for Christ Church, Savannah leaving the Episcopal Church Communion. I spoke with him while he was in London just this week for about 15 minutes. During this appointment by phone, when he arrived in his office after a trip from another place in the city by underground, the conversation focused on theological matters. Because he had a meeting with the Primate of the Southeast Asia part of the Anglican Communion, we were unable to get to the property issue questions involved in the Georgia Supreme Court case. That was too bad, for it meets my needs and purposes for the article. Perhaps to your mind the last attribution to him in this list of notes and quotes is relevant to property issues.
|Archbishop Robert Duncan, |
Anglican Communion in North America,
called, "his Grace."
The theological issues in brief:
If you wanted to understand at the very root the theological issues are, they all surround the English reformation that the Holy Scriptures were the ultimate of the faith. The Bible is determinative of what the faith says, or what the order of the Church Christian morality would say. Everything really hangs on that affirmation of the Reformation. That was reiterated in the Chicago Quadrilateral.
The Episcopal Church has in the areas of Christology: Jesus is what he says he is. Is Jesus the Son of God? Is there any other way to go? The answer is no. The Episcopal Church has increasingly answered those questions in a different way. Towards universalism or … a multifaith way towards salvation. That is at the heart of the Christological issue.
The morality issues of marriage, chasteness, same sex (marriages)– The Episcopal Church is giving different answers (from us). You can see how this has all tied back to the scripture as understanding.
In that case, it’s true for Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, [both Episcopal Diocese that left the Episcopal Church] we didn’t leave anything [that is, these Dioceses did not leave the Episcopl Church, but the Episcopal Church left the Dioceses]. The Episcopal Church is claiming when the Church changes the parishes or diocese have to change. The Saints did not change. We would claim you can’t change from the faith once delivered. We’re thankful for their courage.
I am yours sincerely,
Its claim is based on a church law, adopted in the 1970s, called the Dennis Canon, which says that all parishes hold their property in trust for the diocese. But Christ Church, which was established in 1733, asserts that it has firm legal footing to keep control of its building and property because it existed before the Episcopal denomination, which was established in the United States in 1789.
“That would make the case a pure property case rather than a religious liberty case,” Mr. Witte said. “They will have to argue that their church is closer to the values of the late 18th century” than the Episcopal Church is today. And that, he added, is “an argument that hasn’t been tested in federal courts.”
A video showing the 70 churches, 3 chapels and convent in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, which encompasses the lower two-thirds of the state.
I am counsel to the Diocese and Christ Church Episcopal in their suit against the former rector and former members of the vestry (the local church’s governing board) who left The Episcopal Church and who remain in possession of my clients’ property.
- Christ Church Episcopal is the Mother Church of Georgia. Christ Church Episcopal remains a faithful Parish in The Episcopal Church and we want them restored to their rightful church home.
- The suit that we filed on behalf of the Parish and the Diocese is to recover the property. The suit is not and indeed cannot be about theological disagreements. The United States Constitution prohibits our courts from adjudicating theological disagreements.
- The group currently in possession of The Episcopal Church’s historic church building in Savannah is no longer part of The Episcopal Church. That group of individuals left The Episcopal Church and joined another church which is not nor has it ever been a part of The Episcopal Church. They have since apparently affiliated themselves with a different group which is not nor has it ever been a part of The Episcopal Church. They are not Episcopalians.
- That group left The Episcopal Church and joined the Church of Uganda, taking our property with them in violation of the rules of the Church and Georgia law.
- Their clergy and members of the church’s governing board all took an oath promising to uphold and follow the rules of The Episcopal Church but they have refused to do so.
- We have had to resort to the courts to regain the property in which faithful Episcopalians have worshiped for generations.
- The Chatham County Superior Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals have upheld longstanding legal precedent in our state and have confirmed that Christ Church Episcopal and the Diocese of Georgia are entitled to possession of the property that the departing group of individuals took with them when they decided to join a different church.
- The law in Georgia has held for over 200 years that churches such as ours and many other non-congregational churches hold their property subject to the rules and mode of government of the church. That was the law when Christ Church became a parish in the Diocese of Georgia in 1823 and it is still the law today.
- Churches such as The Episcopal Church (which has an elected representative form of government) and many other denominations require that the church’s property be held for the benefit of those who remain part of the denomination. Georgia law and the rules of such churches do not permit removal of property to another church or denomination.
- The Georgia Court of Appeals’ ruling upholds the longstanding rule that churches such as ours have a Constitutional right to govern themselves as they choose without fear that their property will be taken away from those who wish to remain part of the church.
- Congregational churches govern themselves differently and have local control over their property by virtue of the way they choose to govern themselves. The Court of Appeals’ ruling in our case does not change that.
- However, the Court of Appeals has said that all of our property should be returned to us and that the group that left the Church has no right to it. The decision of the Georgia Court of Appeals has been appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
- The individuals in possession of the Church’s property argue that our Supreme Court should cast aside longstanding Georgia law purportedly in the name of “religious liberty”. They ask the Court to ignore generations-old rules of the Church and the promises made by church members and clergy to uphold and follow those rules. They ask the Court to tell churches that they are no longer free to govern themselves as they choose. They ask the Court to rule that a group of local church members can deprive faithful Episcopalians and the Episcopal Church of their property. They ask the Court to deprive Christ Church Episcopal of its religious liberty because a group of people decided they wanted to join another church.
- The individuals that left The Episcopal Church are certainly free leave and join another church but they may not take with them a church which was built as a Parish of The Episcopal Church and consecrated and set aside for divine worship in The Episcopal Church. They may not deprive faithful Episcopalians of property which may only be used for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church.
- The Supreme Court of Georgia heard oral argument in May and we expect a decision before the end of 2011. Regardless of the outcome, we will remain what we as Episcopalians have always been. We will remain faithful witnesses in word and in deed to the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We believe first and foremost that we can best come to know God, our creator, through a relationship with his son, Jesus Christ. The clearest statements of what we believe are to be found in The Apostle’s Creed and The Nicene Creed. These 2,000-year-old creeds (short statements of faith) are held to be true by billions of people around the world today. Beyond that, the best place to learn what Episcopalians believe is the Bible, which is the source of our theology, and the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The BCP is not only the guide to our conduct of worship, but it is also articulates our theology.
INTERVIEW WITH THE REVEREND MARC ROBERTSONIn its websites remarks of welcome, the Parish statement reads: Christ Church, the Mother Church of Georgia, has been an Anglican house of worship since 1733. We seek to know Christ by being a Bible-based congregation, we seek to grow in Christ by being a family-focused community of faith, and we seek to go in the name of Christ by being a mission-minded parish.
In a world of confusion and unbelief, Christ Church stands for the historic Christian faith. It is our joy and privilege to join God in His mission to expand His kingdom and raise up faithful servant-leaders to minister to the last, the least, and the lost of this world. We invite you to join us in this profound mission. If you live in Savannah, you are welcomed to be a part of this Christian family. If you are planning to visit Savannah, please join us for worship – we look forward to seeing you. – Marc Robertson, Rector
1. Please tell us something of the historic nature of Christ Church, Savannah and in what ways (the how, if you will) that this move from the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Church in North America is a theological statement of historic kind? Will you also say something of the theological areas that are of positive value you’ve found outside the Episcopal Church with the Anglican Church in North America?
… “Dirt, Greed, and Sex,” was published in the early 80s. It was copyright 1988. If you stop and think about that it was over 20 years. It’s been a generation of seminary students who have been engaged with this kind of ethical thinking.
We have worshiping with us three generations or more of the same family: parents, grandchildren and children. That same family is buried [here], their parents and grandparents before them, [also]. So the prospects of being forcibly evicted from the building are enormous. Another aspect is a lot of folks are good friends with those locked up in the legal problem. That is just what happens.
While the courts cannot legally give attention to such matters, I can do so in and through the media, when they allow me. There is some resemblance to Paul’s appeal to Caesar in the book of Acts. Paul waded through the secular law courts of Rome, and while he was being tried as a seditionist and a threat to the Roman state, his message was constantly about the bodily resurrection of Jesus and its implications for humanity.
|Archbishop Robert Duncan, |
Anglican Communion in North America
In a universe where no objective Truth or Morality exists, all that is left is power and control, and words can be twisted to meet those purposes. In The Episcopal Church (and more broadly, Western society), where a universe is posited that has no objective Truth or Morality, language is a means to an end, and that “end” is reduced to who has the power or control. So we have over fifty lawsuits in The Episcopal Church, almost all of which have been initiated by TEC, in an effort to gain power and control. Our appeal to Truth and Morality seems antiquated in today’s post-modern world, but it is an appeal we believe is true to the Christian Faith.
… The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church. It is governed at the national level, with about 100 subordinate units called dioceses. Each diocese has subordinate units that are generally called parishes or missions. Most parishes are organized as individual corporations. But according to Church law, they must hold their property in trust for the next highest organizational unit (the diocese). And church law also prohibits “alienating” property without approval of the next highest organizational unit (the diocese). Christ Church agreed to all of this when the Diocese of Georgia was formed, which is how it was allowed to become an Episcopal Church in the first place. Christ Church is still a Parish in the Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, its congregation is being deprived of its own meeting place at the present time. What this legal matter is really about is the right of the continuing congregation of Christ Church, Episcopal, to occupy and enjoy its own property. Secular courts are required to recognize the authority of Church law in these matters, and the Georgia courts have done that. That is what the original trail court did and what the court of appeals upheld. Of course, individuals are free to leave the Episcopal Church at any time, and some do. However, they may not take the Episcopal Church’s real property, bank accounts and altar silver when they go.
|Rector Michael S. White, Christ Church Episcopal, Savannah|
An important question for Episcopalians is this: What of the validity of the movement, Rediscovering Christian Orthodoxy in the Anglican Tradition. The 111 page paper in PDF by George F. Woodliff III is a kind of favored work by Orthodox Christian Episcopalians. Or so I understand from the Rector of Christ Church, Georgia (ACNA) who recommends it.
the 19th century has inhibited and undermined confidence in Revelation within the churches.
Another factor is the loss of the concept of sin (cf. Carl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin?) coupled with the culture’s trivialization of God (cf. Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God).
Those filing briefs supporting the Episcopalians include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the United Methodist Church and the Church of God.
“These denominations have similar structures to that of the Episcopal Church, so their positions are very relevant. We are indebted to our Christian brothers and sisters for supporting our effort,” said Bishop Scott Anson Benhase. He added, “We remain steadfast and confident in our cause and are humbled and gratified by the overwhelming support we have received not only from our community but also from the world-wide Anglican Communion and a broad spectrum of other Christian denominations.”
The friend-of-the-court briefs ask the Georgia Supreme Court, which will hear the case on May 9, to affirm the Georgia Court of Appeals’ July 2010 ruling in favor of the Episcopalians. That ruling upheld Superior Court Judge Michael L. Karpf’s October 27, 2009 judgment that that the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia is entitled to legal possession of the historic Christ Church building and other Church assets for the benefit of those who remain faithful to the Diocese and The Episcopal Church.
[ACNA] (The Final Préces)
CANA is the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America” which is a missionary district sponsored by the largest and most vibrant province of the Anglican Communion, the Church of Nigeria which at c.19 million members accounts for about 25% of the membership of the entire Anglican Communion. CANA’s members, who reflect a wide scope of ethnic and racial identities, embody a healthy balance of the catholic, evangelical, and charismatic streams of Anglican Christianity.
Mission of CANA:
The mission of CANA is to provide orthodox clergy and congregations in North America with (a) an episcopate based in North America that has an authentic connection to the Anglican Communion, and (b) an ecclesiastical structure with representative leadership by member clergy and congregations.
Vision of CANA:
The vision of CANA is to be a building block and an incubator that works to build up the Anglican Church in North America as the provincial structure for orthodox Anglicanism in North America within the next several years.
Distinctives of CANA:
- CANA’s clergy and congregations are authentically in the Anglican Communion through the sponsorship of the Church of Nigeria.
- CANA’s clergy and congregations are full-fledged members of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), by virtue of CANA being a founder of the ACNA.
- CANA’s episcopate and ecclesiastical structure is based in North America.
- CANA’s structure maintains the Anglican tradition of the “councils of the church” with representative leadership by CANA clergy and lay delegates from CANA congregations.
- CANA offers a comprehensive competitively priced national healthcare insurance policy, 403b retirement fund, and other insurance plans for clergy and congregational employees.
- CANA’s episcopate and clergy are a blessed reflection of the diversity of the American populace, with significant numbers of immigrants and minorities.
- CANA is committed to modeling for American Anglicans the possibility of respecting both integrities regarding the ordination of women within one ecclesial body.
- CANA is a gift to American Anglicanism with no strings attached—with an American financial structure, there are no requirements to provide financial support to its founding province.
- CANA has built mission partnerships with Anglican provinces in the majority world based on decades-long relationships.
- CANA was established after TEC had rejected the Anglican Communion’s unanimous recommendations in “The Windsor Report.”
- CANA’s episcopate is led by Bishop Martyn Minns, with Suffragan Bishops Roger Ames, David Anderson, David Bena, Amos Fagbamiye; supported by two CANA archdeacons and Canon Missioner Julian Dobbs.
- CANA’s Chaplains Deanery is led by Lt. Col. Derek Jones (USAF ret.) and is an endorsing agent with the Department of Defense.
by Peter Menkin on Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:04am
Still doing some work intermittently on the piece about the breakaway Christ Church, Savannah. It occurs to me that it is still an awkward manuscript. Compiled by piecing together related material. Now at 4,408 words it needs help, including the piece that is the interview with Rector Marc Robertson. This is an important part of the article, certainly. Sometimes one reaches an impasse with this kind of process and must take a break; also one must look for more relevant material that will move the piece along and aid the reader with worthwhile material that if it doesn’t illuminate, will inform. Now I’m thinking of how to end the piece, and so far have thought of creating an Addendum. The piece is important because it is supposed to be fair and equitable, give the Christ Church, Savannah side while keeping the Episcopal Church represented well. Some people may be less interested in this dispute, as one press officer of the Episcopal Church told me, “As to the piece about a breakaway church in Georgia, I really have no interest in that as a topic. We’ve moved on.” Seems touchy, touchy, touchy in response to me. The Georgia Supreme Court rules on the property dispute at the end of the year (2011), so it is a very much a live issue. I would say others of the Episcopal Church also don’t want to hear about the subject published, as when talking to New York’s Episcopal Church national press officer, her curt and touchy, touchy, touchy response showed a similar impatience of recognizing even the existence of the breakaway Communion with one word on getting a quote or comment from the Presiding Bishop or national Church: “No.”
|Bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Georgia|
who had no current comment, either.
|AThe Reverend Jim Elliott of Diocese of Georgia,|
Chancellor and attorney
for the Episcopal Church Diocese gave a detailed statement for attribution.
Civil courts may not adjudicate ecclesiastical disputes, the California Court of Appeals has ruled. On Nov 18 the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno overturned a lower court order that had given trusteeship of the property of the Diocese of San Joaquin to a faction loyal to the national Episcopal Church.
In its 11 page decision the Fifth Court of Appeal held that while civil courts would accept the determination of the Episcopal Church as to whom it recognized as one of its bishops or dioceses, the court would not extend that power to the disposition of property. Church property disputes in California would be governed by “neutral principals of law” where the court would look to title deeds and trusts, and not to canon law or church polity, in determining ownership.
The “First Amendment rights of individuals and corporations” along with “general California statutory and common law principles governing transfer of title by the legal title holder, the law of trusts, … and general principles of corporate governance” control the disposition of church property in California.
The court held the dispute “whether Schofield or Lamb is the incumbent Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, is quintessentially ecclesiastical. Accordingly, the trial court erred in adjudicating that cause of action and, upon proper motion, must dismiss that cause of action.”
Both sides in the San Joaquin case have hailed the court’s decision as a victory. However, the ruling is likely to undercut the church’s national legal campaign. Its “strategy of claiming the property of a departing diocese because it is somehow ‘hierarchical’ today went down to defeat in Fresno,” canon lawyer Allan Haley said…
On July 21, 2009 the trial court granted a motion in summary judgment on the first count of the complaint brought by Bishop Lamb, which asked for a “judicial declaration that the amendments finally adopted by the Diocese in December 2007 were illegal and void under the Constitution and Canons of ECUSA, and that as a consequence Bishop Lamb had succeeded to the position as bishop of the Diocese, incumbent of its corporation sole, and president/trustee of its associated property-holding entities.”
Bishop Schofield and the now Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin appealed the motion, which effectively gave the minority faction absolute control of the property. However, in its ruling the Court of Appeals held the trial court erred in determining who the proper bishop of San Joaquin was.
The trial court was instructed to determine who the lawful owner of the property was by way of a review of the property transfers made by Bishop Schofield and to determine if these transfers were valid under civil law.
In a statement released after the verdict, attorneys for Bishop Lamb accounted the decision as a victor. San Joaquin Chancellor Michael Glass claimed the decision means “the defendants can no longer assert in court that a Diocese has the right to unilaterally secede from The Episcopal Church, or that Bishop Lamb is somehow not the Bishop of the Diocese.”
|Episcopal Church Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, |
shown with Bishop Jerry Lamb. Bishop Lamb came out of retirement
to lead a California Diocese that was reformed after
the original Diocese broke away from Episcopal Church
In this case regarding a property dispute, web site, Thinking Anglicans comments and reports this on their web page, quoted in part; but for the full text, look here:
Appeals Court upholds Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh
Updated again Saturday morning
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Court upholds Episcopal Diocese’s claim to assets.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has upheld an Allegheny Common Pleas decision awarding centrally held property of the Episcopal diocese that split in 2008 to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
About $20 million in endowment funds and other assets is at stake. The ruling has no direct impact on ownership of parish property, other than indicating that Anglican parishes must apply to the Episcopal diocese to negotiate for their property, rather than vice versa.
The Anglican diocese has not decided whether to pursue a further appeal.
Lionel Deimel has further details of this, see Details of Commonwealth Court Ruling.
The full text of the judgment can be read from a PDF file here.
There is now a fuller story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Episcopal diocese wins a legal round.
Episcopal Bishop Kenneth Price Jr. welcomed the decision, which arrived the day his diocese reached the first settlement with an Anglican parish. It required that parish to cut ties with the Anglican diocese for five years.
“We are pleased with the court’s findings and hope this will be the final legal challenge concerning this issue,” he said…
…The Episcopal Diocese has issued this press release: Appeals Court Upholds Diocese in Assets Case
Litigation History and BackgroundHistorical Matters
In 1823, three churches in Georgia, namely Christ Church, St. Paul’s, Augusta, and Christ Church, Frederica, created the Diocese of Georgia and contributed funds for its operations and mission. Christ Church has contributed to the financial support of the diocese ever since. The diocese has never given any financial support to Christ Church.
On March 30, 2006, the corporate charter of Christ Church was revised so as to repeal all amendments thereto since the original act of incorporation in 1789, and to add appropriate modern provisions required by the internal revenue code of 1986 and the Georgia Non-profit Corporation Code. One result of these revisions was the repeal of the 1918 charter amendment described above, and the addition of a provision that Christ Church “shall be in full communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacraments and Discipline of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the Lord has commanded in His Holy Word and as the same are received and taught in the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of 1662, and in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.”