From the Washington Post
Officials at The Falls Church in Falls Church and Truro Church in Fairfax City announced the results of the week-long vote following their worship services this morning. Their leadership has been at the forefront of a national conservative movement that has been alienated from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion, since the installation of a gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003.
At both congregations, more than 90 percent of the members voted to split from the U.S. church and to retain their church property.
The churches voted to align themselves with a new group that hopes to eventually be home to thousands of dissident Episcopalians, the Convocation for Anglicans in North America, which is led by the Rev. Martyn Minns, the last rector at Truro. CANA is formally under the Church of Nigeria and Archbishop Peter Akinola, who supports a proposed law in Nigeria that would outlaw public and private gay activity...
I've also heard that these two parishes voted to keep their property. A rather strange thing to vote on, it seems to me, especially in light of what the Constitution and Canons and their Bishop
made quite clear to them prior to this vote:
...According to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, dioceses are created or dissolved only by acts of General Convention (Articles V and VI) and dioceses create or dissolve Episcopal congregations in their midst. Congregational property is held in trust for the diocese, and the diocese holds property in trust for the wider church (Canon I.7.4 of the Episcopal Church). Canon 15.1 of Virginia's diocesan canons concurs with the national canons.
"I remind you that absent a negotiated settlement of property, an attempt to place your congregation and its real and personal property under the authority of any ecclesial body other than the Diocese of Virginia and the bodies authorized by its canons to hold church property will have repercussions and possible civil liability for individual vestry members," Lee warned in his letter...
I wonder who they've got in their hip pocket to bankroll their coming court costs?
Bp. Lee has made an initial response
Bishop Peter Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia said December 17 that he was saddened by the fact that, as of that afternoon, Nigerian and Ugandan congregations were "occupying Episcopal churches"...
...Lee said he will convene a joint meeting of the diocese's Executive Board and Standing Committee of the Diocese, with legal representation, on December 18 "to consider the full range of pastoral, canonical and legal obligations of the Church and our responsibilities to those faithful Episcopalians in these congregations who do not choose to associate with the Church of Nigeria."
In the meantime, Lee said, he has asked the leaders of "these now Nigerian and Ugandan congregations occupying Episcopal churches to keep the spiritual needs of all concerned uppermost in their minds at this difficult moment in our Church history, especially continuing Episcopalians."
He said that he will direct diocesan personnel to work with departing members and those who remain loyal to the Episcopal Church to work out agreements about sharing congregational property until those disputes can be settled.
"Our polity maintains that all real and personal property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese," Lee continued. "As stewards of this historic trust, we fully intend to assert the Church's canonical and legal rights over these properties."
Bp. Lee's complete statement can be found here
Lionel Deimel explored the matter of property issues in an essay from 2004 entitled Property Constraints
. I think many of his points are valid in regards to these two cases.
The Daily Episcopalian
has a few choice words regarding this news:
The members of Truro and the Falls Church have now declared that belonging to a church that permits gays and lesbians to become bishops is too great a tax on their conscience, while belonging to a church that believes gay people should be imprisoned for eating together in public is not.
I can suggest three reasons that Bishop Martyn Minns and his flock may have taken this decision. The first is naked bigotry. The second is a willingness to trade the human rights of innocent Africans for a more advantageous position in the battle for control of the Anglican Communion. The third is a profoundly distorted understanding of who Jesus was and what he taught...
I'll guess #1 is probably the most accurate, Jim.
Inch At A Time
(TECRev. Susan Russell)
Sometimes the media actually gets it!
Descent Into The Abyss
14 December 2006 [Falls Church News-Press
Few people in Falls Church, including many who attend the Falls Church Episcopal here, fathom how bad what the churchs leadership is asking its members to vote for this week really is. Balloting of the 2,800 church members will continue through services this Sunday, and it is expected that the vote will be overwhelming in favor of the churchs formal withdrawal from the Episcopal denomination.
This move has been coming since the Episcopal denomination, by wide majority of its bishops nationwide, voted in November 2003 to consecrate the openly-homosexual Rev. Eugene Robinson as a bishop.
Local church leaders have variously confirmed this, emphatically, and also tried to cloud the issue with theological jargon, claiming the denomination has, more generally, drifted from roots they claim are grounded in Biblical inerrancy. That is, the claim there is not a single mistake or outdated notion in the Bible. Therefore, since homosexual behavior is condemned in a handful of random Biblical verses here and there, it is anti-Biblical to consecrate a gay bishop. Youd be surprised to see what other things are condemned in different parts of the Bible.
The actions of the Falls Church Episcopals leadership, and that of the Truro Church of Fairfax and some others across the U.S., is a mild replay of the same sad history of centuries of division, slaughter, discord and tyranny within Christendom. This weeks action will not trigger another Inquisition, but the mentality is the same.
Rather than affirming a generosity of spirit and Good Samaritan compassion that can embrace and nurture a complex and multi-faceted humanity, in this case, the leaders of the Falls Church Episcopal have chosen to stand against the civil authority of the U.S. Constitution that promises equal rights for all, just as happened in all those pulpits that, in the past, denounced what they called the un-Godly acts of freeing slaves, ending segregation, or more recently, ending prohibitions on interracial marriage. Church folk experience such hate, emotionally, as a burning righteous indignation.
If this weeks vote results in the departure of Falls Church Episcopal from the Episcopal denomination, the church will go down in infamy as a regrettable and despised bastion of bigotry, prejudice and hatred.
In order to earn this legacy, the churchs leadership is willing to disenfranchise its members from access to one of the nations most historic church structures and histories. On this one issue, of the consecration of an otherwise completely qualified, but gay, bishop in New England, this churchs leadership is descending from the heights of grandiose plans for a major expansion in 2000, to years of development paralysis, to now being expelled from its property by the Diocese of Virginia following this weeks vote and its flock sent wandering. The power of hate can be so strong.