Skip to comments.Suits as Punishment?: Truro, Others Stand on Solid Legal Ground
Posted on 01/21/2007 4:48:18 PM PST by sionnsar
Fairfax. Just before Christmas, my parish joined 14 others in Virginia that have voted this past year to separate from the Episcopal Church (TEC). This action was the result of a serious division building within the denomination over the past half-century concerning the role of Jesus in salvation and the interpretation and use of Scripture. The culmination for many was the refusal of TECs General Convention this past summer to express regret for the consecration in 2003 of an openly gay partnered bishop, an action that defied explicit pleas from the leaders of the Anglican Communion and, we believe, the teaching of Scripture.
At the conclusion of the General Convention, the recently elected presiding bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, spoke of TEC as a church with two minds, and used the metaphor of conjoined twins. She expressed concern that the two bodies could not yet be separated and live. But we and others had come to realize that we would die unless we separated.
For three years prior to our votes we met with Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia to explore ways that we might move forward together. Throughout that time he was clear in his position that if we did not remain within TEC the diocese would claim title to our property. Despite that stance, as it became apparent that separation was likely, he organized a committee to design an orderly process for parish votes and for subsequent negotiation over property. After our votes, the diocese appointed a property committee to negotiate with us, and this committee met with our representatives late last month.
While there was no guarantee that these talks would be successful, both parties had stated repeatedly in public and private that they did not want to resort to litigation. The previous presiding bishop, Frank Griswold, had treated property disputes as a diocesan not national concern. So it came as a surprise when after an all-day meeting with David Booth Beers, the lead lawyer for TEC, the diocese reversed itself and announced last week that it was ending a non-litigation agreement (a standstill agreement) designed to allow time for negotiation.
Why does the national Episcopal Church want our buildings? It certainly does not need them. In an undated report quietly released last year Average Sunday Attendance 1995-2005 by Domestic Diocese it was reported that Sunday attendance in Episcopal parishes across the country has dropped 8.1 percent since 2000, from 856,579 in 2000 to 787,271 in 2005. (During that period the U.S. population rose 5 percent.) The story in Virginia is similar: Average Sunday attendance in the Diocese of Virginia dropped 2.9 percent in that time, while the states population grew 6.5 percent. Incidentally, although TEC has tried to portray us as an insignificant minority within the church, the 15 parishes that separated in Virginia accounted for 17 percent of the dioceses average Sunday attendance. Even more startling, our average Sunday attendance is greater that that of 45 of the 100 dioceses in TEC.
Read it all.
Punishment and intimidation, no doubt. But, I suspect something even more sinister. Once those of faith are driven from TEC, then they can swell their ranks with secular humanists including a large proportion of homosexual clergy and members. No single demonination currently bills itself as the Homosexual Church, but this seems the direction that they are going, and they certainly don't want to have to start from scratch building congregations and acquiring property.
That may be their hope and intent, but I predict a massive failure. In another arena of my life I encounter (or used to encounter, I don't have as much time for it as I once had) many out-of-the-closet homosexuals and to be honest, they simply aren't looking to be affirmed in their lifestyle by a "mainstream" religion.
Why are they fighting so hard for the buildings, even if they are empty?
Elementary! Buildings and real property are WEALTH!
And what is the perfect situation for these guys? A situation where every dissenting voice is excluded from the "church", so that all that is left is themselves and their cronies, and they control all of the wealth. Then they can liquidate it, as its trustees. Naturally they are the ones in charge of deciding their own salaries, retirements, perquisites. They answer to noone.
The ideal circumstance, if you want to get very, very rich, is to be an uber-gay, uber liberal Episcopalian clergyman in charge of a parish where you have empty buildings and nobody in the pews. Then you liquidate the parish and find yourself as the trustee of all of that money, to which your hierarchical position gives you command, and none of the formal faithful have any recourse. And then being an Episcopalian clergyman is the best gig in the world: a MASSIVE endowment with full tax exemption, no pastoral duties, and the theological right (according to YOU, because you are not answerable to anyone) to have gay bondage orgies in the grandest rectories in the districts, there being nothing else left to do after all, and nobody to answer to.
If you don't believe in God but DO believe in money, you are in the best position of all to get control of a really ornate, beautiful building on a piece of prime property, completely devoid of worshippers or anyone else to answer to other than your own fellow perverts.
Do you really think these guys even believe in God at all?
They are mercenary civilians who have found a neat legal trick to acquire a bunch of property and treat themselves to the high, gay lifestyle with nobody above them, and with full IRS tax exemptions. What a gig!
I'm an Anglican, so I will restrain my answer to "It appears not."
But wealth of property, even if they acquire it out of hand, is not going to buy them much. Old buildings have very high maintenance costs, and TEC does not have the wherewithal for maintaining many such properties. If they cannot unload the properties quickly, they're going to see their available resources quickly sunk in maintaining the properties' value, leading to "fire sales" in which they get pennies on the dollar.
I've documented such situations before, in this forum. A fight for the property, even where successful, buys TEC little gain for the future.
You are assuming that they wish for the church to continue in some form. From where I stand, failure would be a tremendous victory for those who would like to make the case that church and religion are outdated and irrelevent! How many Christians have been so disillusioned by the whole TEC mess that they are giving up regular church attendance all together? While this can never be an overt part of the agenda, it is clear that many in TEC hierarchy are socialists/secular humanists first and would be more than happy to close the church on their watch.
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