Skip to comments.Viewpoints : Dennis Canon...Gallup...New Hampshire...Panel of Reference...more news...
Posted on 06/08/2005 6:20:35 PM PDT by sionnsar
Schismaticus est qui separationem causat, non qui separat.
The schismatic is the one who causes the separation, not the one who separates. J. C. Ryle, Charges and Addresses (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1978) p. 69.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Dennis Canon was once thought to be the Maginot Line for revisionist bishops out to protect their diocesan fortresses from departing orthodox priests and parishes. Now, it may prove just as vulnerable as the original and can be fought in civil court with the real possibility of winning.
The 1979 property law states that all parish property belongs to the local diocese and the national church. But does it? It was passed by General Convention at that time so that the property might "be secured from alienation to those not affiliated with this Church."
The French army felt it could hide behind a so-called "Great Wall" of France, where the nation could feel secure. The wall failed the army. And if the Dennis Canon should go to a state Supreme Court or even higher there is every expectation that a revisionist bishop could lose.
Fighting may seem out of character for a denomination that has traditionally been viewed as "the church in wing tips, the church of the Scotch and soda," made up of well-bred people "worshipping God in extremely good taste," in the words of Episcopal convert Garrison Keillor.
Not any more. The Episcopal Church is in a state of civil war with itself, with one diocesan bishop after another facing, or about to face, a barrage of lawyers across a crowded courtroom.
It is ironic. In its 300-plus years of existence, the Episcopal Church USA has weathered revolution, civil war, world wars, segregation, integration, and the switch from the King James Bible to the New Standard Revised Version. It has accepted women to the priesthood and produced a theologically dumbed-down version of the Prayer Book, with relatively few splits or schisms. But now it faces the serious possibility of schism, having shot itself in the foot over the consecration of an avowed homosexual to the episcopacy.
The property issue, which for 25 years has lain dormant and was thought to be a done deal, might not be quite so "done."
The proposed change in canon law passed in one house in 1976, but it apparently failed to pass in the other. As with many state legislatures, there is a large amount of church legislation that passes through a logjam on the last day and night of the legislative session. This is apparently what happened to the property change canon.
According to Messrs. White and Dyckman, the two canon lawyers appointed by the church to compile and annotate all canonical changes effected by the General Convention, "there is no record of it (the proposed change) having passed both houses". These words were contained in a 1981 or 1982 copy of White and Dyckman's Annotated Constitution and Canon of the Protestant Episcopal Church of North America (the official and legal record of all proceedings of the convention).
What this means is that it is now feasible for a parish to fight and have the Dennis Canon heard in open court if for no other reason than that it should be challenged and possibly overturned. A United Methodist parish in California did so and won against its own denomination.
So it is probably not an insignificant matter that the Bishop of Los Angeles, J. Jon Bruno, will host a group of some 20 bishops for a four-day meeting in July to "continue the conversation" that might end not in going to that now-famous "deeper place" of Frank Griswold's but a precursor to a division of the assets. This gives the lie to the famous axiom that heresy is worse than schism. It is clearly a precursor to it.
Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has said that the Network considers itself the legitimate Episcopal Church and that by forcing a decisive vote on the communion at the 2006 GC it will be vindicated no matter which way the majority of bishops and deputies vote.
He's right, of course; no resolution will be needed, just the votes themselves will determine ECUSA's own place in the communion.
A lot of Episcopalians don't know that we are in impaired communion with the majority of primates, but they will after the next convention. The Episcopal Church will have thrown itself out; it will have walked apart on its own accord.
But the issue of who legally owns the Episcopal Church may not be so simple.
Bishop William Wantland (Eau Claire ret.) was in Washington, D.C., last weekend and told a reporter that the declaration that ECUSA is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion appears in the constitution's preamble, but it does not carry the same weight as the rest of the constitution. The conservatives could not rely on the violation of the preamble to the constitution to sufficiently change the legal picture regarding church property, he said.
While Bishop Duncan believes that the Episcopal Church is in impaired communion with the rest of the Anglican Communion, making the legal case will clearly be a lot harder. At the end of the day, the Episcopal Church will not voluntarily move away, and the Network cannot make it go.
What will happen is what is happening now -- individual parishes and their priests are making up their minds to leave the Episcopal Church, thus pre-empting what might or might not happen at any General Convention. At the end of the day it might be irrelevant what orthodox or heterodox bishops resolve to do, because orthodox priests and parishes are doing it already.
So the question of the day is, does anyone have a copy of the 1982 edition of this document?
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