Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Schori's Legal Doberman
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 12/13/2006 | David W. Virtue

Posted on 12/13/2006 6:12:07 PM PST by sionnsar


News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The title of Presiding Bishop had barely been conferred on the head of Mrs. Katherine Jefferts Schori, the new Presiding Bishop, when from the shadows emerged the figure of David Booth Beers, now her chancellor, to play a new, unaccustomed public role - that of legal Doberman with a no holds barred approach to property disputes.

For the nine years that he was Frank Tracy Griswold's chancellor, Beers was restrained, staying in the shadows, refusing to return phone calls, maintaining a low profile, largely because Griswold kept a muzzle on his legal pit bull. He was there, but he was not there.

With the ascendancy of Mrs. Schori to lead the church, Beers has taken on a more public role, leaping almost breathlessly into the fray over property ownership; in turn advising, bullying, coercing and threatening.

Just four days before Mrs. Schori's investiture Beers brought pressure to bear on two traditionalist dioceses, Fort Worth and Quincy (IL). In letters to the dioceses, he asked them to change language in their governing regulations that can be read as undermining "unqualified accession" to TEC's constitution and canons. Should the dioceses fail to do this, he said, the presiding bishop would "have to consider what sort of action she must take in order to bring your diocese into compliance."

That was just for openers.

Beers was on a roll. On the very weekend that Mrs. Schori was enthroned, Beers made his first ferocious attack at a meeting of the Episcopal Majority in St. Columba's Church in Washington, DC. He had held his peace till then but with Mrs. Schori in control he now apparently felt free to cut loose.

He said that under The Episcopal Church canons, dioceses are "a creature of General Convention" and "can't leave" TEC or align with another Anglican province without the convention's okay.

Flanked by Sally Johnson, chancellor to the president of the House of Deputies, Beers said that the 1979 "Dennis Canon" (Title I, Canon 7, Sec. 4), declared that all parish property is held in trust for the diocese and national church, and other canons that Johnson said deal with dioceses and the church's polity. She asserted that (as church lawyers have frequently argued in court) TEC is a "hierarchical" (as opposed to congregational) church, and courts therefore generally defer to the denomination in property disputes.

On that occasion Beers discussed instances of litigation that had arisen in the last few years after congregations had sought to leave TEC with their church building. He said that the TEC had prevailed in all situations that had already been decided except for one in Los Angeles (involving three parishes), although there have been some unfavorable developments in cases in San Diego, South Carolina and Central New York. Beers said at the time that he expects the Los Angeles decision to be overturned on appeal and a favorable final verdict in the other cases. In fact that has not happened and because of "neutral principles" that seems most unlikely.

He also said that church officials were watching four other potential church property conflicts, which he did not identify. (Interestingly enough the case against the Diocese of San Diego was again thrown out this past week when the court ruled in favor of St. John's Anglican Church and rejected the corporate takeover bid by Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.) Click here for the full story:

But Beers stuck to his guns maintaining that this was not an epidemic; "it's not a flow of victories" for conservatives, he said. He also noted that, of the total number of congregations that have quit TEC in recent years, more have not tried to take property with them than vice-versa.

But what Beers omitted to say was that while the parishes might seem few in number the numbers of parishioners leaving was disproportionately high. One parish, Christ Church, Plano, that had fled the Diocese of Dallas and the national church for instance, has more active parishioners than the entire Diocese of Nevada!

When confronted by Christian Challenge reporter Auburn Traycik about future uncharted legal territory, and asked if courts might judge church property cases differently, might TEC's claim to be hierarchical take on a different legal hue, if Anglican primates - a higher hierarchy - deem TEC out of the Communion, placing it in violation of the preamble to its constitution?

"I don't think it would change anything," Beers told TCC privately. He said that "they" (presumably potentially seceding parishes) have "committed themselves to the Episcopal Church."

But Johnson did speculate during a workshop that conservatives might in future argue that the hierarchy goes up to the top of the Anglican Communion and "litigate the meaning of the preamble," which declares that TEC is a "constituent member" of the Communion. The opposite argument, Johnson said, is that "our hierarchy goes up to General Convention and stops there." She added: "I don't know how this will play out."

This issue of how high the hierarchy goes has been a sticking point with Dr. Louie Crew, the Episcopal Church's lay premier sodomite, who first noted that if such an argument could be substantiated in a court of law, then the buck does not stop with 815 2nd Ave., but goes right up to the Archbishop of Canterbury himself who might just see things differently for revisionist ECUSA bishops caught in property disputes with orthodox parishes.

But the legal knives were drawn when it was announced recently that two large, highly visible parishes, Falls Church and Truro in the Diocese of Virginia said they would enter a 40-day process of discernment and consider their future within the Episcopal Church.

This was the ultimate red rag to David Booth Beers.

Up to this point Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee had shown himself to be receptive to alternative oversight for some of his parishes and had, in fact, cut a deal with one parish, Christ our Lord Episcopal church in Woodbridge which evolved into New Christ Our Lord Church in Woodbridge affiliated with an Anglican Province. A deal was cut and everyone went away happy.

Then the issue of two parishes with properties valued at more than $27 million and some 4,000 congregants emerged on the horizon, voting to recommend separating from The Episcopal Church. This represents some 20 percent of Virginia's Episcopal worshippers. If all go the number of communicants is 14 percent, says the Bishop. Fr. Yates maintains that the figure is closer to 20 percent.

Behind the scenes, and without fanfare, the two sides had been working on a protocol in the eventuality that they might leave the diocese and denomination. A 40-day process of prayer and discernment then began for both churches.

The Vestries of Truro Church, Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church, finally announced that their congregations had decided to sever ties to The Episcopal Church following the "Discernment" period.

Bishop Lee said he was very, very sad that the vestries were going to recommend to the congregations that they sever ties to The Episcopal Church" and in a letter to the congregation the Rev. John Yates, rector of Falls Church communicated his feelings.

Yates told his congregation that he was following a protocol approved by the Diocese that set out a procedure for congregations considering whether to sever ties with The Episcopal Church.

But then, without notice, the diocese suddenly backtracked. Patrick Getlein, Secretary of the Diocese said there was no approved protocol. "The Executive Board and Standing Committee both voted to receive the report but it is inaccurate to say it was endorsed or approved," explained Mr. Getlein. And this despite the fact that the report of the Special Committee set up by Bishop Lee in late 2005 contained a section entitled Protocol for Departing Congregations.

Col. Jean Reed, president of the Standing Committee, echoed Getlein saying "There is no protocol". He said The Standing Committee intended to meet with those churches proposing to separate from The Episcopal Church and review their situations on a case by case basis.

An insider who asked not to be named told VOL that the Diocese of Virginia's goal on both sides was a peaceful, amicable, charitable approval by both the bishop and the Standing Committee and this was concluded Nov. 9 without dissenting vote and amendment.

So what happened? Enter David Booth Beers.

Said the source, "obviously Beers, whose office is in Washington, DC and next door to northern Virginia didn't like what was going on and told Lee so.

As a result on December 1 Lee hauled several conservative leaders over the coals and on the same day sent a scorched earth letter to those parishes considering leaving the TEC, stating his concern that any decision to leave the Episcopal Church "will be a source of regret for future generations."

The letter also explained some of the potential legal and canonical consequences of a decision to separate from the Episcopal Church, addressing issues of property and personal liability. "Along with the damaging effects any split would have on the Diocese as a whole and these churches in particular, we are concerned that these congregations may not fully understand the potential legal consequences of their actions," said Russell Palmore, chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia. "The decision to leave the Diocese should be a fully informed one."

This was a bombshell to the two departing parishes who though they had a deal in the works.

On December 2, Falls Church and Truro Church issued a response to Bishop Lee's bombshell "expressing profound disappointment and sadness" but they made it abundantly clear that they would not back down however egregious the decision of the bishop might in the future be. The two churches stiffened their responses and wrote back to the bishop saying that his letter appeared to undermine months of hard work and prayerful efforts by his own leadership and their congregations to reach agreement.

They urged Lee to step back from the tragic course they were about to embark on.

"We desire to continue to act consistently with the process and protocol of the Special Committee Report, which does not provide for any intervention from the national church, and urge the bishop to meet personally with us at his earliest convenience," they wrote.

The sudden change in Bishop Lee's tone from the Standing Committee meeting of Nov. 9 to Dec. 1 shocked many on both sides of the discussion. Lee began using the Diocesan newspaper mailing list to reach individual members and by-passing his clergy to try and persuade them to rethink their position.

The inside source told VOL that several members of the Standing Committee and the Executive Board of the diocese got irritated at Beers' sudden interjection of the national church into a Virginia protocol and concords and saw it as both egregious and unnecessary, mindful too, that it was former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold who had said, some four months earlier that property matters were entirely a diocesan matter and not a national church issue. But with Griswold gone and Mrs. Schori giving Beers his head, things were about to change.

Mrs. Schori had emerged from a small diocese in the west and she meets the formidable David Booth Beers, who, with his legal smoothness says 'so let me handle this for you.' She had no past experience in these issues and Beers saw an opportunity and took off with it. She has no experience and appears to rely on Beers more than Griswold.

The truth is the canons do not give absolute authority over a diocese to the national church, but the Dennis Canon says all properties are held in trust for the national church.

In 1973 the courts adhered to neutral principles regarding property issues. The dioceses were there first and created the national church and came together to form the national church and not the other way round. "David Booth Beers and his legal ilk believe the reverse; that the National Church has sole control." But the truth is the Episcopal Church is a loose confederation of dioceses, said another legal observer. It is not nearly so cut and dried as the National Church thinks.

This idea has also been challenged as historically untrue by retired Eau Claire (WI) Bishop William Wantland, a lawyer and canonist. Wantland pointed out that General Convention was organized by pre-existing dioceses, and still treats new dioceses seeking admission as pre-existing entities. "General Convention does not create dioceses - it simply admits into union with itself those dioceses which ask to be admitted," he said.

In the Diocese of Virginia about 20 parishes are said to be considering their future with the diocese, with some nine parishes voting this week. It is pretty well guaranteed that all will vote to go.

Lee is frustrated VOL was told. Lee reportedly asked Beers 'is the national church going to pay for all the lawsuits you want.' We have no idea of the answer.

If the Diocese of Virginia proceeds with the protocols cut with parishes who buy their way out, the diocese stands to make literally millions of dollars. Falls Church and Truro together are worth $27 million and there would also be no legal expenses if they follow the protocol.

If on the other hand Beers creates a fight by demanding the diocese goes to court the question is who will pay the bills? The diocese does not want to pay all those legal bills for court cases, cases they could lose and they will get nothing in cash and be out the legal bills if that happens.

If the Diocese wins in court they still have the legal bills to pay with a lot of properties they can sell but could not entice congregations back to fill and support these now huge, empty mausoleums. It is a lose-lose for the Diocese of Virginia.

But Beers apparently wants a fight that Bishop Lee does not necessarily want. The question remains who is going to pay for the fights for some 20 parishes, the Executive Council of the TEC or the Diocese of Virginia?

If the diocese goes to court and loses, Lee has to pay court costs and legal bills and for his troubles gets nothing at the end of the day. Just ask Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison. He has a beautiful, historic church in St. James the Less which is closed and he has to pay to keep the place up. He also spent nearly a million dollars to get rid of Fr. David Ousley. His victory was entirely pyrrhic.

But if the diocese cuts a deal and collects some portion of the value of the properties, they become financially rich, and can use the money to presumably start new congregations elsewhere in the diocese.

It hardly matters to Beers. He is sitting in a safe place and letting the contestants fight it out while he collects $350.00 hour.

The two parishes, Truro and Falls Church have been working on a Protocol for a year. And now it has been rubbished by the diocese. VOL was told that they have hired an internationally respected law firm with offices around the world including Washington DC. These attorneys have a deep understanding of Virginia property laws, VOL was told.

For Beers the game might be to win the properties, but the victory will be entirely hollow. The diocese will lose 4,000 dues paying Episcopalians anyway the legal outcome is cut, and not even a lawyer as slick as Beers can win them back with his or Mrs. Schori's "gospel".

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant; Other non-Christian

1 posted on 12/13/2006 6:12:11 PM PST by sionnsar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ahadams2; rogue yam; neodad; Tribemike; rabscuttle385; cf_river_rat; fgoodwin; secret garden; ...
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 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 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:
More Anglican articles here.

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 12/13/2006 6:13:12 PM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar
I told you a couple of days ago that Lee was a weak sister who would listen to whoever talked to him last.

Looks like Beers got to him.

BOY is this getting ugly.

3 posted on 12/13/2006 7:21:07 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: AnAmericanMother
As a result on December 1 Lee hauled several conservative leaders over the coals and on the same day sent a scorched earth letter to those parishes considering leaving the TEC, stating his concern that any decision to leave the Episcopal Church "will be a source of regret for future generations."

Bishop Lee, TEC's departure from Biblical truth and the worldwide Communion is a source of regret (and utter shame) for all generations, past, present, and future.

4 posted on 12/13/2006 7:32:44 PM PST by rabscuttle385 (Sic Semper Tyrannis * Allen for U.S. Senate in '08)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
Tell me about it.

In some ways it's actually a good thing that they ran completely off the rails like this, because the 2003 General Convention finally got our family off our comfortable duffs and into the Catholic Church!

We should have made the switch years ago, we saw the handwriting on the wall with the acquittal of Spong, the ravings of Pike, and the revision of the BCP . . . but it took all this nonsense to get us moving.

And it's only going to get worse. I prefer to watch a train wreck from the safe refuge of a nearby hill . . . not from inside one of the cars!

5 posted on 12/13/2006 7:39:17 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

Beers sees the fatal flaw in his argument.

Yes, the Episcopal Church IS hierarchical, but that hierarchy goes PAST the Episcopal Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion.

Relatively few judges are Episcopalians. Chances are, whatever judge is hearing whatever case will be some other form of Christian (the plurality are Catholics), or will be Jewish.

Now, the old "hierarchical organization" argument has always been a relatively good one. It's why the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, despite being under the heavy control of the Soviet Union, was found to be the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in America, with all of its property. The US Courts and looked and did indeed see a hierarchical organization. Catholic judges reasoned by analogy, and so do others. Baptist judges, who don't have such hierarchy, still want to be judicious: if a church HAS hierarchy (and most people instinctively think of Pope-Vatican-Rome-Bishops-Parishes as the model here, and then lateralize the model to other churches), then respecting that rule makes sense.

That has worked legally for the Episcopalian leadership thus far.

BUT, there are good property arguments which are making headway in some cases, and Beers is worried about it. The far more dangerous specter on the horizon is that Canterbury will express its disapproval of something. THEN the Episcopalian leadership is in deep trouble. For they have argued relentlessly that they are a hierarchical church, and the American courts have bought that.

To argue, when the hierarchy ABOVE them, tells them something, that they don't have to listen, because the hierarchy stops with them...well...that dog don't hunt.

What Catholic judge sitting on the bench is going to buy that piffle? The case law out there highlights the Russian Orthodox issue, and the Russian patriarch WON. Beers can't have it both ways. He probably knows it. The position of the Episcopalian leadership is extremely vulnerable and will lose IF Canterbury can be persuaded to say that churches who want to switch diocesan leadership for doctrinal reasons may do so and should not be interfered with, something like that.

Because then the Episcopaplian leadership in the USA will LOSE on the hierarchy argument. SUPERIOR authority in their hierarchy has countermanded them. Indeed, if they persist, perhaps the EPISCOPAL properties can be siezed and turned over to the Orthodox, using regular court proceedings. Hierarchy is hierarchy, claim it to win some court cases, and its in the case law. It won't work to claim that hierarchy stops with you. It's too convenient, too pat, and not an adequate legal standard. Also, you won't find a judge other than maybe a liberal Episcopalian who will rule for you.

6 posted on 12/14/2006 8:06:04 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vicomte13
Yes, the Episcopal Church IS hierarchical, but that hierarchy goes PAST the Episcopal Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion.

Organizationally it doesn't reach beyond TEC. The wwAC is an association of churches, per invitation by the AoC.

7 posted on 12/14/2006 8:09:35 AM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

Says the TEC.
But they don't get to set the law.

Do the African Bishops who are taking over agree?
Does Canterbury agree that the hierarchy ends with the TEC?

There is some legalism going on here that is too neat and too pat. Just because a legal document says so, doesn't mean it IS so. It is only so if a judge says that's what the document means.

Does CANTERBURY think that it is superior in hierarchy?
Do the Churches going to African dioceses think so?

TEC has to be straight up challenged on its assertion that it is the top. It can wave around a paper that says so, but if Canterbury says "No so fast!", or if a substantial number of the constituent members say "That is NOT what this means. TEC is twisting the meaning of the document", the issue has to be litigated.

The issue should not be conceded, because it is the whole game.

8 posted on 12/14/2006 8:48:43 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Vicomte13
May I direct you to this posting from Peter Toon (among many posted to this list or otherwise referenced):
PANEL OF REFERENCE: Too little too late


By Peter Toon
October 14, 2006

We are being constantly being told that the Anglican Family ("Communion of Churches") is gradually developing a Conciliar Polity, where autonomy with interdependency (not autonomy with independence) will characterize each Province ("Church"), and where Provinces will be held together by an Anglican Covenant, that all sign, even as the "Instruments of Unity" (e.g., Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates Meeting) seek to keep relations within and between Provinces sweet and smooth.

This Conciliar Polity can only work, and will only succeed, if there is present throughout the whole Communion of Churches the presence and the exercise of the grace of patience. ...

TEC sets the law in the USA if the courts agree (which they haven't necessarily done).

The African bishops have no authority in the U.S. outside of the churches that have left TEC for the ABs' authority.

Canterbury does agree that the hierarchy ends with TEC. Rowan made a statement to that effect recently. He is not an Anglican pope, "merely" the foremost among the Anglican Primates and accorded this respect for being the leader of Mother Church (CofE).

I suggest also Wikipedia:

The Anglican Communion is a world-wide affiliation of Anglican Churches. There is no single "Anglican Church" with universal juridical authority, since each national or regional church has full autonomy. As the name suggests, the Anglican Communion is an association of these churches in full communion with the Church of England (which may be regarded as the "mother church" of the worldwide communion), and specifically with its primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury. With over seventy seven million members, the Anglican Communion is the fourth largest communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Pentecostal Churches.

The status of full communion means that all rites conducted in one church are recognised by the other. Some of these churches are known as Anglican, explicitly recognising the link to England (Ecclesia Anglicana means "Church of England"); others, such as the American and Scottish Episcopal churches, or the Church of Ireland, prefer a separate name. Each church has its own doctrine and liturgy, based in most cases on that of the Church of England; and each church has its own legislative process and overall episcopal polity, under the leadership of a local primate.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, religious head of the Church of England, has no formal authority outside that jurisdiction, but is recognised as symbolic head of the worldwide communion. Among the other primates, he is primus inter pares, or "first among equals." He has no jurisdiction outside his own province. Nonetheless, churches are not considered to be in the Anglican Communion unless they are in full communion with him. ...

9 posted on 12/14/2006 9:32:57 AM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

Then there isn't any argument.

All of the property of the Episcopalian Church in America, every church, rightfully belongs to the pro-sodomy TEC, and the American Anglicans should respectfully depart from that sinful church and leave all of the property and possessions behind, starting anew with their own property, just like their ancestors did when they politely left the Catholic Church and left all of that property which was unquestionably the rightful property of the Church of Rome and the Pope, behind, and went and built all new churches in England to replace the buildings and universities, etc., still belonging to the (putatively) sinful and evil Catholic leadership. After all, rules are rules, and property is property, and we can't be just siezing property from the legitimate owner, be it the TEC or Rome...

Sounds like the Episcopalians made a bad deal, and won't break bad Church law (like they DID break Roman Church law long ago) in order to TAKE property from the Devil. Oh well. I guess indulgences in 1500 are worse than sodomy.
I don't recall God destroying cities over simony though.

10 posted on 12/14/2006 10:21:46 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Vicomte13
All of the property of the Episcopalian Church in America, every church, rightfully belongs to the pro-sodomy TEC

Not necessarily. *\;-)

The "ownership" rests in the Dennis Canon, passed ca. 1980 in order to staunch the tide of departing churches. Prior to the Canon the churches clearly owned their properties.

Questions have been raised about whether that Canon was properly passed; by canon law there were to be two votes on it and there is no apparently definitive record of the second. This has not been litigated yet, as far as I know -- at least there's no final resolution.

There are also situations (California, for example) where state law takes precedence and churches have left with property.

So there are cases where churches have left with, and cases where they have (for whatever reason) left without. Church ownership in TEC is not a study in black and white.

11 posted on 12/14/2006 10:31:31 AM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

Roman Catholic Church ownership of Oxford University and Westminster Abbey and all of the old churches, convents and chantries of old England was absolutely black and white, but the new Anglican Church siezed it all anyway.

Grounds? According to the Anglicans of the day, the Church had lapsed into apostasy, particularly over the matter of simony.

Today, the Episcopalian Church endorses sodomy. God destroyed Sodom and Gemorrah over sodomy. (He never destroyed anyplace over simony).

So, where is the spiritual drive to do to the TEC what was done to Rome? The grounds are certainly better today.

12 posted on 12/14/2006 10:48:15 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson