Well, the game’s in play in the Episcopal Church and action is in the challenges to the ownership of property. Were there bookies attending to such matters odds could be taken on the outcome of this or that local congregational battle to claim ownership of church, furnishings and funds, thereby denying that they are held in trust for the Diocese, or in turn for the Episcopal Church.
It also appears there are attempts being made in some dioceses to disengage from the canons of the Episcopal Church concerning property ownership. This, of course, raises yet another problem, one that has to do with diocesan withdrawal from the Episcopal Church, selective allegiance to or enforcement of the canons as they exist, and questions about whether or not a diocese can secede from the union of dioceses that is the Episcopal Church. Book making on these efforts is considerably more complicated.
It remains of course to question when, if ever, the Episcopal Church, by way of Executive Council, its agents, etc., or the office of the Presiding Bishop, will bring any of this to a head by challenging the continued viability of a Diocese that contravenes the clear intent of the canons. If a diocese by its own canonical changes disassociates itself from the National Church and its canons when it feels the Episcopal Church has operated contrary to Anglican values, or when it wishes to hold its property as a Diocesan or parochial entity, that diocese needs to be confronted with the reality that it has abandoned the faith and trust put in it by the Episcopal Church itself, and those persons who have done so are no longer the representative of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese question.
Thomas Bushnell’s excellent article, “What would +Rowan do?” is a good read on the future of the struggle between the realignment crowd and the Episcopal Church. In particular he spells out with great clarity why the realignment crowd is going to work hard to find ways to take property with them. The last sentences of his article says it succinctly: “This means that all their noise is not an attempt to achieve some other (essentially impossible) result, but rather an attempt to simply carry away as many toys as they can in the end. It is up to the rest of us, who don’t intend any leaving, to decide how many toys we are willing to let them steal.” Another interesting blog concerning the issues of ownership of property is A Voice in the Fundamentalist Wilderness , lots of good commentary.
The Moderator of the Network has already indicated in a Living Church article that his view of the future includes law suits: “It’ll be very interesting time. I mean, we don’t want to go to court, but it’s quite clear the Episcopal Church is always ready to go to court, and this time I think they might not be so willing to go to court, because we think there’s every reason they’lllose.”
It is reported that in the Diocese of Albany, a resolution is being proposed that states,
“RESOLVED, that the Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of
Property of any kind, either real or personal, held by the Trustees of the
Episcopal Diocese of
established by the Diocese, or any corporation established by a Parish of the
Diocese shall be subject to no trust or claim from any body or entity outside of
this Diocese, and all trusts or claims asserted by The Episcopal Church in
This of course runs counter to Canon 7 section 4 and 5 which read,
“ Sec. 4: All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish,
The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.”
Well, there it is: The resolution pending in the Diocese of Albany is raised in contradistinction to the canons of the Episcopal Church, denying the applicability of Canon 7 section 4 & 5.
Beyond the clear violation of Canon 7, the proposed resolution in the Diocese of Albany has made me think of another issue: The ultimate counter to Canon 7:4-5 is congregational. It is the argument that the congregation has control of its property. That may serve the realignment crowd in some short term way, but would any reconstituted pure North American “orthodox” church put up with a radically congregational approach to property, trust funds, etc? I don’t think so!
What the realignment crowd wants is for us to think that Canon 7:4-5 ought not inhibit congregations trying to take (as Thomas suggests) all the toys, a wildly congregational approach. At the same time the realignment crowd wants to say it is upholding Anglican Communion sensibilities that we are not a congregational church at all, and that decisions about our life, faith and common practice are not local, congregational or even national in context.
Well, good friends, you can’t eat the cake and have it too. Either the congregational rights to property are affirmed, in which case you are supporting a congregational polity, or the Canon stands, in which case property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church.
The desire to BOTH back local congregations taking their property and funds out of the Episcopal Church, and to maintain that Anglican Communion parishes do not operate outside a larger church frame, leads to an untenable position, one which is as deranged as is the whole effort to try to take the place of the Episcopal Church by claiming that it has ceased to be the “real” Episcopal Church.
This whole thing is an insult to the faithfulness of Episcopalians. If there are those who cannot agree, fine. We must learn to let go of them, bid them fair forward and move on ourselves. But if they intend to take property and funds on the basis of congregational “fairness” or diocesan disavowal of the decisions of the Episcopal Church in General Convention assembled, we ought to call it what it is: dissembling and two-faced.