Skip to comments.Schism looming for Anglican Communion
Posted on 12/18/2006 8:51:41 PM PST by Huber
Two of the oldest and largest parishes in the US have chosen to break from their bishop and become a mission of the Nigerian Church. Five others have also voted to split.
The congregations at Truro and Falls Church date from the 1700s and were once a part of the mother Church of England.
The former President George Washington worshipped at Falls Church.
But now they have voted to sever ties with their own church and, in a move destined to cause conflict, to fight the bishop of Virginia for their church property estimated to be worth $25m.
They will turn instead to the 17-million-member church in Nigeria for direction.
The bishop of Virginia, Peter Lee, called it a "sad day for the church".
He also stressed that the church properties are "held in trust" for the diocese and the Episcopal Church and he will insist on retaining them.
The dispute follows a decision three years ago to consecrate a gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.
Conservatives were further alienated by the election this summer of the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, who voted for him.
Seven dioceses of the Episcopal Church have refused to accept her authority and formed their own network, but it remains within the church.
These Virginia parishes have gone a step further, one that could lead to deeper division within the global Anglican Communion.
The defectors have opted to join an umbrella organisation called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (Cana).
Factfile: Anglican Church around the world
It is a Nigerian mission to America, and represents an intriguing reversal of missionary lines as a former colonial church in Africa takes a slice of the West.
The rector at Truro, the Reverend Martyn Minns, was consecrated a bishop earlier this year by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola.
He will have authority over the new organisation, which Mr Minns says he hopes will grow as he plants new churches that "work to proclaim the unchangeable truth of the scriptures".
Archbishop Akinola has in the past called homosexual activity a "satanic attack" on the church.
He recently backed Nigerian government plans to penalise gay and lesbian activity with jail terms.
The American conservatives have distanced themselves from his position, arguing that he is under pressure due to tensions within Nigeria between Christians and Muslims.
On the brink
The 77-million-member family of churches known as the Anglican Communion is now poised on the brink of schism.
Dr Rowan Williams is fighting to save the Anglican Communion Many leaders or primates of Anglican Provinces in the developing world have broken ties with the Episcopal Church in America.
A small but growing minority of US congregations have sought or are seeking leadership from them.
This poses a further challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who as spiritual head of the global church has been fighting what many now see as a losing battle to save it.
Dr Williams appealed to church leaders not to move into each other's territory. But this is precisely what has now happened.
Old geographical boundaries are breaking down as theological and political allegiances take over.
A whole diocese in California is now on the verge of leaving the Episcopal Church.
Its woes and those of the wider Anglican family continue to grow.
Fast forward to the time when half the TEC is done and gone. No one will care. The TEC is the very gay church of America and has great wealth. The resignation of several or even half the dioceses in the USA won't stop the TEC. It's full steam ahead. for the VGCOA.
The bulk of the "wealth" of the church is in property and buildings. Those need a substantial and regular income stream to maintain, especially the older Anglican Gothic buildings with their slate roofs, creaky furnaces, leaky windows, etc. (I'm pretty familiar with the cost - because a good friend of ours was Senior Warden of our old ECUSA parish and my hubby was Head Usher and helped count the money! And ours was a fairly new building, it still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars YEARLY for utilities, routine maintenance, and repairs!)
If TEC fights for real property, first it's going to have to spend a buncha bucks on legal fees. Whether it winds depends on state law, and even in states that defer to "hierarchical" churches, the disapproval from Canterbury is going to throw a monkey wrench into the whole issue of exactly WHO is the hierarchy - 815, or Canterbury?
ASSUMING TEC wins, it's going to find itself in possession of a lot of creaky old buildings that will cost a fortune to maintain. And with the denomination bleeding membership, that money is going to have to come from dipping into principal and trust funds. And that can only go on for a short period of time. They'll be able to sell some properties that have commercial value -- for example, our former bishop is salivating over the property of the only remaining "High Church" parish -- it's the last major piece of commercially zoned property in a very hot area. But most church properties are not that saleable, and TEC is going to have to balance selling the really visible properties against the public relations hit they would take.
So it's not going to be exactly EASY . . .
In line with your comments are some speculations over on this thread:
To sum, it seems more likely that this is all huff-and-bluff by the Episcopal church, in preparation to try to extort maximum short-term income from departing parishes in exchange for clear title to what is already the property of the departing parishes.
In that it's clear on which side the Christians are, and since Christians prefer to accept a modest amount of injustice visited on themselves as an alternative to all-out war, I think it'll likely work.
When you aren't loaded down with the financially responsibilities of breeding children - there's a lot more cash to go around and around and around.
They will NOT give it to the church . . . since theirs is an essentially selfish outlook, why would they want to do that?
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