Skip to comments.Attleboro, MA: Bishop eyes sanctions at All Saints
Posted on 12/13/2006 12:25:17 PM PST by sionnsar
ATTLEBORO - A strongly-worded letter from their bishop has led the Rev. Lance Giuffrida and parishioners of All Saints on North Main Street to face the possibility that they may have to leave their parish property if they continue to operate as a separated Anglican congregation.
In a letter sent to Giuffrida and mailed to individual parishioners, Bishop Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts said Giuffrida has violated his ordination vows and parishioners have violated their covenant with the diocese by recently voting to align with the Anglican Mission in America and the Province of Rwanda, which in effect separated them from the diocese and the national Episcopal Church.
Similar divisions are happening across the country as conservative parishes and dioceses react to the liberal views of their national church on the literal interpretation of scripture and on how that applies to issues like the ordination of gays and the blessing of same-sex unions.
All Saints is the first parish to separate in this diocese, and Shaw did not specifically say what the next step would be, but he did say he is recommending to a diocesan committee that "appropriate actions" be taken under canon law, and that Giuffrida's actions be investigated.
Shaw wrote to Giuffrida that "there is sufficient reason to believe that you have committed one or more offenses under the disciplinary canons of the Episcopal Church."
The diocesan committee is scheduled to meet Thursday and may make recommendations to Shaw on what course to follow.
Maria Plati, director of communications for the diocese, said she could not speculate on any possible action the bishop could take, or on when that could happen. But she said two issues are involved - Giuffrida's standing as a priest, and the disposition of the parish property.
In his letter, Shaw reminded parishioners they do not have the right to use parish property as they choose.
Parishioners have asked Shaw if they can buy the property so they can operate as an Anglican parish at the same location, but so far no negotiations have taken place.
Giuffrida, who is meeting with members of the church vestry to draft a specific response to Shaw's letter, said Tuesday that the bishop could revoke his license to operate as a priest.
"He has no right or authority to do that," Giuffrida said. "I am not his priest. I am now licensed from the Province of Rwanda." Under that authority, he said, he could still operate as a priest outside of this diocese's jurisdiction.
But Shaw could assign another priest to All Saints. Giuffrida said if he is forced to leave, he expects 250-300 of the approximately 450 members of All Saints to leave as well.
Plati said the diocese has heard from a number of parishioners who want All Saints to again be an Episcopal church and who do not agree with the actions taken by Giuffrida and like-minded church members. That range of views will be passed on to the diocesan committee, she said.
"He has the legal but not the moral right," Giuffrida said of any attempt by Shaw to remove him. "He has the power but not the authority."
Giuffrida is recommending that the parish vestry ask Shaw if he intends to take civil action against the parishioners, and if he will negotiate over the sale of the property as they have requested in past letters.
If parishioners leave, they may initially worship at Advent Christian Church on Pleasant Street, where Pastor Bob Hett has offered temporary shelter. Meanwhile, Giuffrida plans to maintain an office at his Attleboro home, and has connected the church's telephone number to a cell phone.
As of Tuesday, he had already packed whatever personal possessions he had in his office at the All Saints parish building.
Parishioners are also preparing to leave. Henry Desautel, who has belonged to All Saints for 25 years, said it will not be easy.
"I love this building," Desautel said. "It pains me that I will not be here."
But he said, "it's okay. If that's what we have to do, we will do it. It's worth it."
The Episcopal Church has become increasingly more liberal over the years, Desautel said, and has now gone "way over the edge."
"A lot of us feel they have left us, as opposed to us leaving them," he said.
He praised Giuffrida for standing his ground.
"It's wonderful for us to have a man with the kind of courage he has," Desautel said. "So we're with him."
But parishioners like Marion Brousseau of North Attleboro see it differently. She has been a member at All Saints for more than six years but has not been attending regularly because of Giuffrida's conservative views. If he leaves and another priest is assigned there, "I will go back," Brousseau said."I feel like it is still my church. I would go back if it becomes the Episcopal church I grew up in."
But she admires Giuffrida for what he is doing.
"It takes courage to take the stand he is taking, even if it costs him his priesthood," she said.
Bet her name was provided by the bishop. Otherwise, how could anybody find her?
With all respect.
The Diocese of Providence (next door to Attleboro, MA) would no doubt welcome an "Anglican Use" Chaplaincy given their friendliness to the TLM.
Fall River may also.
While I hate to see anyone feel forced to leave the Faith tradition of their youth (and sometimes generations), we could definitely use a few more biblically orthodox Christians on the the Catholic side of the Thames.
It said she has been a member for 6 years, but hasn't attended regularly. That's much different than "hasn't attended for 6 years."
I was ECUSA for 45 years, and that's a weasel description if ever I heard one.
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