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Statement of the Vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bristol, CT
titusonenine ^ | 7/17/2005 | Dr. William G. Witt

Posted on 07/18/2005 1:48:51 PM PDT by sionnsar

We are deeply disappointed and shocked by the action you have taken in the last week in invading our parish home without announcement, and without permission, changing the locks on the doors so we are locked out of our own building, and inhibiting our rector. We cannot understand this action. It certainly does not seem to be the behavior of someone who wants to reconcile himself with this parish.

We believe that canon, civil, and criminal laws have been violated, and that we have cause for legal action against you.

We would prefer to have what is best for the future of this parish. What do we want? We want what we have always wanted.

We want to be members in good standing in the Anglican Communion. The constitution of the Episcopal Church says that it is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. We are faithful Episcopalians. We have not abandoned the communion of this church. Neither has our rector. Yet you as a bishop have taken actions that places in danger our ability to remain in the Anglican Communion.

We want to be able to worship with a rector who upholds historic Anglican and biblical faith, a rector of our choosing, not one that has been imposed on us, and who does not share our beliefs.

We want to be able to run the affairs of our parish as we have always done, and as all the parishes of this diocese do, without hostile diocesan interference.

What would it take to enable the survival of this parish?

First, we ask that the keys to our property be returned. As a vestry, we have under canon law the primary responsibility for the physical integrity of this worship space. As bishop, you are always welcome to visit this parish. We have never denied you permission to visit. But there are proper procedures for episcopal visits. Showing up without warning in the middle of the week and changing the locks is inappropriate and a betrayal of the trust between this parish and the bishop.

Second, despite Fr. Hansen’s sabbatical, our parish is not without pastoral leadership. Fr. Clayton Knapp has been providing such leadership on Sundays, and Fr. Thomas Beck has been providing pastoral care during the week. Fr. Knapp asked permission of you to continue in that position beyond the 60 days that is normally allowed for someone who is not canonically resident in the diocese, and you gave it to him. We would ask that you honor that agreement. We would ask that Fr. Knapp be allowed to continue as our priest during this time, as you promised. We do not recognize Susan McCone as our priest. We have not asked for her, and we ask that she would leave.

Third, we ask that we continue to be able to run the day to day affairs of our parish as do all other CT parishes, without outside interference by the diocese.

What will be the future of this parish if you continue with your present course of action?

If you really care about the future of this parish, we ask you to consider what the outcome will be if you do not honor our wishes in this regard.

First, as to the physical property. As you know, this is a large building. It is not paid for. There are many expenses. If we do not have control of our physical property, you will be driving the congregation out of this building. We may have to meet elsewhere or pursue legal means to get back access to our space. You are right that the present congregation is finding it difficult to meet our financial obligations. If this congregation is greatly diminished, we do not believe that those who are left will be able to maintain this building. You will end up with an empty building on your hands, as well as the mortgage, and all expenses related to its upkeep.

Second, we remember distinctly that when Bishop Curry last came to visit us, he promised that the diocese valued us and would never try to interfere with our intentions to practice biblical faith. My understanding is that when Fr. Hansen and the wardens met with you several months ago that you promised that you would never impose a rector on us against our will. Yet you are now trying to tell us that Susan McCone is our priest-in-charge. A simple web search shows that Susan McCone’s values are diametrically opposed to the values of this parish. She is the Executive Director of Affirming Catholicism, a group that has expressed its support for the ordination and blessing of practicing homosexuals, contrary to the official teaching of the Anglican Communion as affirmed at Lambeth 98 and the Windsor Report. As the Executive Director, she has given her signature to a document to the Windsor Commission in support of the election of V. Gene Robinson to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church although the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Primates, the Windsor Report, and now the Anglican Consultative Council have said that this action showed lack of respect for the Anglican Communion, and threatened its unity.

Ms. McCone has expressed in a sermon on her former parish’s website her willingness to break with the Anglican Communion over this issue. She has described the position of those who affirm historic Anglican faith as that of the “religious right.” Her theological values are clearly opposed to those of this parish. This parish will not accept her as a priest.

Finally, if our parish is not allowed to run its affairs without diocesan interference, then the vestry and congregation will be forced into a position of not being able to cooperate.

If you really care about the future of this parish, then you will not try to impose yourself on us in this way. This parish will not survive as a parish if we try to accept your plan for our future. What you have offered is a recipe for destruction, not survival.


Why have you imposed a canon on Fr. Mark Hansen that is intended for priests who are leaving the Episcopal Church for another denomination? Fr. Mark has not abandoned the Episcopal Church. The canons provide for church trials for priests who are accused of disobeying their bishop. If you believe Fr. Mark has violated his ordination vows, why have you not brought him to trial on the appropriate charges?

Why did you have someone break into Fr. Hansen’s office and go through his private papers? Is this not a violation of the vow of confidentiality that every priest takes? It is our understanding that a priest is supposed to be willing to go to jail rather than violate that confidentiality. We believe this act was illegal, since some of these documents were no doubt protected by civil laws concerning confidentiality.

Why have you removed Fr. Hansen’s name from the Church Sign in front of our building? Although he has been inhibited, he has not been deposed, and he is still our rector for six months.

Why did you not honor the agreement you made with Fr. Knapp to extend his time as our supply priest?

You have claimed that the vestry has left the parish without pastoral care. Ms. McCone lives in Washington, CT, and works another job during the week. Fr. Beck lives fifteen minutes away. Trinity Church, Bristol, is ten minutes away. Our Sr. Warden Rick Gonneville can be reached at any time. How can someone who is working another job and who lives at the other end of the state provide pastoral care when you claim that the arrangements we have made will not?

Why have you tried to impose on us a priest whose values are directly contrary to ours, and contrary to the official teaching of the Anglican Communion? Why should our members be willing to approach for pastoral care someone whose values we regard as responsible for destroying our parish, and placing in jeopardy the Episcopal Church’s place in the Anglican Communion?

Why did you enter our building with force? If you wanted to talk to our vestry, why did you not simply arrange a pastoral visit or visit a vestry meeting? Do you realize that canon law specifies that it is the vestry who have control of the physical space of the parish, not the diocese?

Why did you include as an accusation against Fr. Mark that the parish was not meeting its financial responsibilities to the diocese? It is not the rector who pays the bills. It is the vestry. Are you suggesting that the vestry is not meeting its canonical obligations to care for the building? We recently spent $8,000 to repair the restrooms. Are you suggesting that maintaining our only handicapped-accessible restrooms is less important than paying our diocesan assessment, that visitors to our parish should go without restroom facilities so that the diocese will receive the payment on its loan?

St. John’s as a parish is not intentionally withholding funds from the diocese. Why have you not taken over other parishes that have not paid their pledges? Do you think that the tactics you have chosen will make it more likely that St. John’s will have the income to meet its diocesan assessment? Is this really all about money and power?

Why have you consistently taken action against this parish and against the other CT 6 parishes within a week or two after the Lambeth Commission released its report, after the Primates called for the Panel of Reference, and, now, after the Anglican Consultative Council just met, each of which has criticized the Episcopal Church for its actions? Your timing here is puzzling, to say the least. Are you deliberately trying to show your contempt for the Anglican Communion?

Given repeated occasions when you have promised representatives of this parish one thing, and then done another, why should we trust you now?

William G. Witt, Ph.D.

Elected Spokesperson for the Vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
Pastor Leads Angry Flock: Church Divided By Priest's Removal

In the pulpit of St. John's Episcopal Church, the Rev. Susan J. McCone stood before about 50 people who came to worship Sunday morning. Some of the parishioners said they were there as a show of support, while others did not want to take sides in the bitter controversy that has rocked the Bristol church.

Whatever their reasons, McCone, in her first service since being named to replace the church pastor, said she was grateful for their presence.

McCone acknowledged the turmoil following a decision by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut last week to strip the Rev. Mark Hansen of his priest duties. She now has the unenviable task of stepping in, with many in the congregation angry at Bishop Andrew Smith and the Episcopal Church. Some vowed earlier this week not to return to St. John's.

"I know it was very difficult for many of you to come this morning, and Bishop Smith and I are very grateful for you for your devotion to your faith and to St. John's parish," McCone said.

McCone talked about her own fears during the morning service, which drew less than a quarter of the congregation of about 200 people. "I was called by Bishop Smith [to lead the church] but I also believe that I was called by God," she said. "And during this week, at times when I was alone, I asked, `Why, God, why me?'"

McCone asked members to come speak with her later in the evening at a special meeting called by Smith and open only to church members. More than 100 parishioners attended.

Many members interviewed after the meeting ended late Sunday were critical of the methods Smith used in Hansen's removal, including changing the locks on the church offices. Some members said they were not prepared to accept McCone as pastor of the mostly conservative congregation.

Hansen is one of six Connecticut priests embroiled in a dispute with the bishop stemming from Smith's vote in 2003 to support the consecration of the first openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The controversy has ignited the passion of conservative Episcopalians who believe the church has abandoned traditional teachings. The six churches have sought to be placed under the authority of a different bishop, but discussion on the matter broke down weeks ago.

Many St. John's parishioners said Sunday night that they will not return and will instead attend Trinity Episcopal Church, a conservative congregation that is one of the six in dispute with the bishop.

Smith said his decision to remove Hansen was not related to the gay bishop issue, but rather Hansen's refusal to communicate with the diocese concerning church matters.

"I don't understand why the bishop is doing this to us," Tammy Vogt, a member of the vestry, said after the meeting. "We are his flock, and he is supposed to be leading us with his staff. Instead, he is hitting us over the head with it."

Vogt said the church leadership dispute may end up in court. "We will fight this on all fronts," she said.

During the morning service, McCone thanked the members who called and those who came to the church Friday to help prepare for Sunday services.

She apologized for the lack of flowers on the altar and that there would be no coffee after the service this week, but said she believed things would be better in the days and weeks to come.

"There is genuine pain and brokenness in this congregation that needs to be talked about as we move forward together," McCone said.

Robin Hammeal-Urban, pastoral response coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese, said she will reach out to members on all sides of the issue to find ways for them to talk to one another.

"This transition is both an end and a beginning," Hammeal-Urban said. "There are feelings of deep loss and grief, and a lot of issues to discuss."

After the morning service, people gathered in the church foyer to talk. The group consisted mostly of church members, but also included some people from the diocese as well as other area churches.

"I just wish peace to everybody," said Charles Kasmer, a St. John's member for 40 years, who assisted McCone during communion.

Nancy Ryan, a member for nine years, said she felt McCone deserved a chance. "I'm not taking sides," she said. "I'm leaving it in God's hands."

Maureen O' Regan, a member for a year and a half, said it was difficult to come to church and not see many of the people she has come to know. "They're like my family - it hurts to be here without them, I don't want them to be angry with me for being here."

O'Regan said she would attend the evening meeting to hear the bishop's side of the story. "He's doing his job," she said. "He should have his turn to speak."

Afterward she said, "Both sides need to listen to each other," and right now people are not listening.

Dave Desmarais said he was concerned about what was happening in the congregation.

"There's a division in the congregation, and there's a significant number in the parish who feel different about the issues," Desmarais said. "People who disagreed are getting a voice, are getting to speak out for the first time in a long time."

1 posted on 07/18/2005 1:48:51 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; Hermann the Cherusker; ..
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-7 pings/day).
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 07/18/2005 1:49:37 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Kyoto: Split Atoms, not Wood)
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To: sionnsar
All this so that Gene Robinson can commit adultery and practice sodomy.

Pathetic how less than 1% of the population has so easily managed to destroy the oldest Church in America.

3 posted on 07/18/2005 2:07:04 PM PDT by Dems_R_Losers (If the WMD intelligence was so bad, why does Valerie Plame still have a job?)
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To: sionnsar

50 out of 200 showed up, right after the taking.
Looks as though the "bishop" will win in the middle run.
In the long run, well, that's not in our hands, is it?

4 posted on 07/18/2005 2:17:06 PM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: Vicomte13; sionnsar; All
I wonder how many of the 50 were shills, placed there by the bishop and/or McCone so as to have a congregation.

Just because they self-identified as parishioners doesn't make it true. Maybe someone who knows this parish can tell us.

5 posted on 07/18/2005 2:38:15 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: AnAmericanMother

Interesting point.

The time has come for very aggressive legal action.

The time has also come for the regular congregation, the whole 200 of them, to show up on Sunday, come inside, refuse to leave, and take over the building. The vestrymen formally have custody, right?

Well, if all 200 people are IN THE BUILDING, and the vestrymen are IN THE BUILDING, they will have taken control BACK, won't they? And they will be able to go right in and GET THE KEYS, won't they?

THEN what will the "bishop" or the priestess do, hmmmm?
She'll flee the building.
And the building will be BACK in control of the parish. Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

THAT would be the sort of "BIG THING" that Sionnsar was speaking of elsewhere.

Play the "bishop's" game by emulating his tactics. The sherriffs are not going to intervene and take sides here. It will have to be litigated, and litigation with the parish in possession of the Church (and calling on Canterbury and elsewhere) is a position that can win. Standing in the parking lot and being offended means defeat.

6 posted on 07/18/2005 2:44:18 PM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: sionnsar

It is time for criminal and probably more important, civil court action against this bishop and his SS troops.

7 posted on 07/18/2005 3:03:38 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (The MSM is trying to make us believe, Judith Miller is in jail to protect Karl Rove!)
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To: Vicomte13
The problem with that approach is that equity will not aid those with unclean hands.

If the vestry takes action that makes them no better than this storm-trooper bishop, then the judge will wash his hands of the lot of them.

While courts will not intervene in religious disputes, they WILL intervene in property matters.

Time for the vestry's lawyer to get off his behind and file an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order. That should have been written yesterday and served on the bishop this morning.

Of course, if the bishop took over the building and their papers, they may not have any money to pay a lawyer -- but the individual vestry members are just going to have to come up with it.

I would also be contemplating a suit against the bishop personally as well as the diocese . . . pleading for hefty damages for breach of contract, trespassing, RICO, and anything else that seemed colorable.

The vestry's lawyer needs to move in. NOW. Yesterday. I don't know what's keeping him.

8 posted on 07/18/2005 3:13:08 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: AnAmericanMother

Probably afraid of being called on the carpet for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Who holds the mortgage? The "bishop".
Has it been paid? No.

Who formally, legally, holds title? The "bishop".
Is it an eviction to assert your own title? No.

Back when the Russian Orthodox Church was litigating who controlled Russian Orthodox properties in America: the church leadership in Soviet-controlled Moscow, or the church leadership that had constituted itself in America, the Supreme Court didn't work too hard to award ownership to the Soviet-controlled Russian Church.

They went for form, and did not move past it.

The lawyer is trying to find a legal grounds on which to move, and he's coming up empty-handed.

That the "bishop" violated the churches own internal canons, maybe, is something the courts will defer to the court to decide. They won't wade into the religious disputes. They'll look at who has title, formally, and who has authority, formally, and rule that way. That's the problem the lawyer has.

Now, take over the church and you've reversed the situation. You've got a bishop outside claiming possession, but a congregation inside with possession. Those in possession will only be displaced after exhaustive litigation and appeals. They will lose, eventually, but the luck may turn in the wider world and the sodomite conclave of "bishops" might have other defeats dealt unto them before the final unappealable judgment is reached.

I will be stunned if a TRO is obtained, in either direction.
Which is why the parish should take back the building.

9 posted on 07/18/2005 3:48:39 PM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: AnAmericanMother; Vicomte13
I wonder how many of the 50 were shills

There is at least a hint of that in the story in comment 1: " The group consisted mostly of church members, but also included some people from the diocese as well as other area churches."

Since these were just the ones who stayed around after the service, one would think that most of the 'rent-a-congregation' slunk out to their cars and beat a hasty retreat after they were counted.

10 posted on 07/18/2005 4:32:30 PM PDT by PAR35
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To: Vicomte13
Depends if Connecticut follows the "constructive trust" theory that obtains, for example, in California, or the autonomous/hierarchical test used by Georgia. The unilateral imposition of the Dennis Canon may be a dead letter if any kind of trust theory can be advocated.

I don't know how the "frivolity" rules in Connecticut work, but even if you hold mortgage AND the title (or a deed to secure debt), you cannot just walk in and change the locks on a tenant in possession. At a bare minimum, the bishop should have filed a dispossessory, and the parish was certainly entitled to a hearing. Contesting that is NOT frivolous by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact, I think a claim for wrongful eviction would be in order. I can't imagine that a liberal state like Connecticut doesn't have landlord-tenant laws slanted in favor of the tenant.

11 posted on 07/18/2005 6:10:43 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: AnAmericanMother

All true, IF the vestrymen are a "tenant in possession".

Legally, though, the tenant may very well be the bishop and the diocese, and the congregation could be invitees, who can be excluded.

I have to expect that Episcopalians in Connecticut can get good legal counsel. So, if they haven't filed a TRO yet, I'd expect there's a reason. Maybe it's lacakdaisical lawyering, but I suspect it's that the case is not strong.

12 posted on 07/18/2005 7:23:36 PM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: Vicomte13
Poor souls.

All of this vengefulness and hatred is why we threw in the towel and became Catholics. I can't raise my kids in an environment where the fellow who's supposed to be the shepherd is shearing and slaughtering the sheep.

The bishop in our diocese has undertaken similar heavy-handed actions -- not as much publicity though.

13 posted on 07/18/2005 7:28:55 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: AnAmericanMother

The Catholic option does seem the most sensible to me.
After all, the original reason for the separation in the first place was abuses of the clergy. The Catholics have corrected official abuse (yes, of course there are pedophile priests and worse, but this is not OPEN, or tolerated anymore) for the most part.
But the Episcopalian hierarchy in North America just seems hellbent (I use the word intentionally) to be as abusive as possible.
Given that, and given the fact that the days where the Catholics dragged people back by force of arms are long past, seeking refuge in the Roman harbor makes sense to me. Why not? If Rome becomes abusive, leave. It's been done before. Same logic ought to apply to Canterbury and its American homonculi, it would seem to me.

14 posted on 07/18/2005 7:43:06 PM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: Vicomte13
I actually think the main reasons for the separation were the cupidity of Henry VIII, the political wars in England between the radical Protestant reformers and the holdover Catholics, and then the wars with France and Spain.

It was never a top-down problem. The chickenhawk priests (they mostly weren't pedophiles, rather homosexuals who fancied adolescent boys) were allowed to flourish because Rome allowed certain archbishops WAY too much rope. Now that Rome has taken the reins again (and begun severe discipline of the offenders AND their supervisors, courtesy of Benedict XVI's former office) most of the problem should be rooted out.

In contrast, the problem with ECUSA is strictly top-down. The leadership and the House of Bishops are forcing ultra-liberal sexual policies (and ultra-liberal theological policies) on a far more conservative laity and clergy.

My husband says that the Catholics have adult leadership. It won't work for the "low church" end of the ECUSA continuum, but for any Episcopalian who is "high church" it seems like the logical place to go. I was surprised how familiar everything seemed once we got here -- should have made the change a long time ago, the handwriting's been on the wall for some time.

15 posted on 07/18/2005 7:49:46 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: sionnsar
The feminazi and gaysbian-enabler McCone is a TOTAL DISGRACE!!!!
16 posted on 07/18/2005 8:33:27 PM PDT by Honorary Serb (Kosovo is Serbia! Free Srpska! Abolish ICTY!)
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To: sionnsar
`Why, God, why me?'

Because you obviously have no conscious, something you have in common with your bishop.
17 posted on 07/19/2005 3:59:05 AM PDT by Saint Reagan
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