12/19/2008

Minns gets it wrong, again: Not the bells of freedom, but the property gong.

Over on the CANA website we find the following statement from Bishop Martyn Minns. It is titled, " STATEMENT: Bishop Minns on Court's Decision for Religious Freedom."  Religious Freedom sounds good doesn't it?  A lot better than a decision for property claims. Here is the statement with commentary in red.

HERNDON, Va. (December 19, 2008) – The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns issued the following statement in response to the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruling in the church property trial between The Episcopal Church and eleven former congregations, now affiliated with the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) and CANA, today:

“The Court’s decision is a great victory for religious freedom.  It makes it clear that we cannot be forced to leave our churches and our foundational Christian beliefs because of the decision by the leadership of The Episcopal Church (TEC) to change the core components of our faith.”
This is rot:  the decision is a great (or maybe not so great) victory for congregational rights, not religious freedom. There is no effort by anyone to force these people "to leave... our foundational Christian beliefs."

“While on paper this has been a battle about property, the division within our church has been caused by TEC’s decision to walk away from the teaching of the Bible and the unique role of Jesus Christ.  They are forging a prodigal path – reinventing Christianity as they go – which takes them away from the values and beliefs of the historical church here in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion as a whole."
This is vintage Minns, the lingo so close to GAFCON lingo as to lead us to assume that he is the primary writer of GAFCON materials as well.  It is the same tactic as always - to say that TEC has "walked away" from the church and the communion. I suppose if he continually points out the door and town the street he believes people will not notice that he and his congregations are occupying buildings and asserting their rights to do with the property as they please without reference to the canons under which those churches were formed or sustained, and under canons their clergy pledged to uphold.  

“Our position has always been that we have a right to continue to hold dear the same things that our parents and most of the leaders of the Anglican Communion have always believed.  The Bible is the authoritative word of God and is wholly relevant to all Christians today and for generations to come."

Absolutely!  CANA has every right to do so. What does that have to do with the property dispute?
“We hope and pray that TEC will refrain from causing all of our congregations to spend more money on further appeals.  The money could be used instead to provide more help to the least, the last, and the left out in our communities.”
Right. Call off appeals to the state or even federal supreme court that might have to determine if the law under which the rulings are made is constitutional.  To oppose making those appeals on the grounds that they cost money the congregation would be using on the poor is odd.  Why didn't they decide not to contest the matter in the first place if they were so all fired worried about the poor. 

This is about property and CANA is spending money to prove it. They wish they did not have to spend more. Neither do I. But we will, and they will. Nice of them to suggest that if TEC backed out everyone could go home. Oh, now I remember, except for the folk having to worship down the street.

 

18 comments:

  1. Come on, Mark. You mock CANA for what you seem to think is an unserious suggestion: “Nice of them to suggest that if TEC backed out everyone could go home.” But, in the prior paragraph, you ask, “Why didn't they decide not to contest the matter in the first place if they were so all fired worried about the poor?” Considering ECUSA initiated the lawsuit, aren’t you essentially making the same unserious suggestion – that CANA should have just backed down and let the diocese have what state law clearly says it doesn’t own?

    As far as “the folk having to worship down the street,” nobody has to worship down the street, especially considering the functioning, the worship, the beliefs, the programs and the personnel of the CANA congregations are no different that they were before they decided to leave ECUSA. But, if you’re so concerned about it, what about those of us that have “had” to go elsewhere after our mainline congregations have been taken over by another of the “Resurrection is a myth” crowd? I haven’t seen you or any other 815 loyalist shed a tear for that population, which is significant, certainly greater than the people at issue here – i.e., Northern Virginia Episcopalians that are awash in other parish options.

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  2. Hi Mark--There is also that issues that charitable contributions ususally come with a nice tax break which I sincerely doubt that any of them turned down. If they are now claiming that they "own" anything, I think the IRS should get involved.

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  3. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's over.
    The splitters have played their last hand. Four dioceses fell apart, rather than exit the Episcopal Church unanimously in lockstep behind their bishops.
    The tidal wave of defections from the evil liberal Episcopal Church didn't happen, and it likely won't.
    Canterbury threw cold water on plans to make a Third Province in North America.
    Unless some right wing billionaire is willing to fund endless litigation (not likely), then most of the property suits in these 4 dioceses will end in settlements before they go to trial.
    I'd say it's over and the coup failed.

    Maybe they'll have better luck splitting the Communion by setting GAFCON up as a rival to Canterbury.

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  4. Since CANA isn't recognized by anyone official at this point, it seems to be that the Bishop (and everything he does) isn't either.

    That WOULD send me down the street, but quick!

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  5. At Truro those who voted to remain in The Episcopal Church and those who voted to join CANA have remained together in fellowship and worship at Truro.

    In fact, I'm going to a party Monday night at the home one of the leaders who voted to stay and was very disappointed the vote went as it did. But she didn't leave Truro - we're a family. We're still family.

    The Falls Church would have stayed together as well, but Bishop Lee ordered the remaining TEC clergyman to cease and desist from ministering to those who remained Episcopalian at TEC. He was to have led services for the bishop in the historic church - it was part of the negotiations. Incredible isn't it? Instead, Bishop Lee suddenly switched gears and mandated the legal strategy to create a shadow entity for the litigation and forbade the Episcopal priest from conducting services in the historic Falls Church. The priest in question did not leave the Episcopal Church but remained - but I learned earlier this month that he too is now throwing in the towel and leaving TEC, two years after the vote.

    We had a similar proposal in place with an Episcopal clergy available to lead services as needed in our Chapel. But Bishop Lee intervened and forbade him from participating in any services on the Truro property if he wanted to stay in good graces and not be deposed as well. It was one of the saddest things I've witnessed in a litany of sadness.

    bb

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  6. Mark - Minns did not say "that TEC has "walked away" from the church and the communion". What he did say was "TEC’s decision to walk away from the teaching of the Bible and the unique role of Jesus Christ. They are forging a prodigal path – reinventing Christianity as they go". Please engage with what he actually says, not what you have projected him to say. How can you deny that what he actually said is true when so many of the senior leaders of PECUSA deny the reality of sin and Christ's atoning death, deny his bodily resurrection, deny his incarnation, full divinity and sinless perfection, speculate about his masculinity and sexual orientation, deny the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures by the Holy Spirit, and deny Christ's authority and uniqueness as the Lord and Saviour of the whole world. These are foundational beliefs which we are not free to disagree on and still claim to be Christian. We have heard more from KJS on issues of human sexuality, MDG's, environmental issues and protection of PECUA's property than on salvation to eternal life through Jesus Christ. She is a better representative of the UN and a secular Human Rights Commission than she is of a Christian church.

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  7. You're scared. You should be. His judgment cometh and that right soon.

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  8. Fr. Mark,
    Is there a full moon or what?

    Let me add that Mr. Schofield, before there were any lawsuits going on, sold a mission out from underneath projected TEC stayers and then grabbed the money for his legal defense fund. The "hocus pocus your out of focus" nonsense about lawsuits is a major foil for outright theft. Ye olde posssesion is 9/10ths of the law. It seems to me it is time to include a few primates like ++Akinola and ++Venables in the legal porceedings. Then, the next time they are in town, they are held here under a warrant for theft. Seems to me a bunch of the money from all four dicoese have ended up in the Southern Cone. Don't we want that back?

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  9. I think this is a sad situation all around, and hurting people on both sides. It all presents a terrible witness for our Lord as well. Christians taking each other to court, and spending this kind of money on lawsuits is a scandal to the gospel.

    Hey, I care about sound doctrine being taught in the church as much as anyone.

    But, what I have a difficult time understanding is because there are a minority of heretical teachers in the church, folks feel compelled to abandon our entire denomination.

    And, I mean, c'mon guys, how many leaders in TEC actually deny the reality of the incarnation, or the resurrection of the Lord??

    We are never going to have a perfect church this side of eternity. There will always be "tares mixed with the wheat." This is true of even the most conservative denomination. Trust me, there are plenty of problems, and issues in these churches too.

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  10. Christopher (P.)20/12/08 10:15 AM

    Phil said that "the functioning, the worship, the beliefs, the programs and the personnel of the CANA congregations are no different that they were before they decided to leave ECUSA." But that isn't the point, which is rather that CANA's congregations function in ways that are different from what ECUSA has established, notably on two points (though there may be others). First, in church polity--which is a "belief" as well as a "program"--CANA has departed from what ECUSA has established for the good order of the church. Second, CANA has departed from the discipline and the moral teaching of the church that "local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." These are not insignificant departures, and the fact the congregation may use the same order of service and that Sunday School goes on as usual does not mean that there is no difference. For some Episcopalians, that difference may entail having to search out a new faith community, as the CANA congregations depart from the order, discipline, and teachings of the Church.

    (I don't know the moral relevance of the fact that there are likely other parishes in NOVA close by the parishes that have left. Seems to be an argument for relative victimhood, which doesn't have much traction with me.)

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  11. Christopher,

    I disagree with you for these reasons: first, no person attending any of these parishes even before their departures should have thought, absent a complete unawareness of their surroundings, that these churches accepted the proposition that you cite below. In fact, each of them no doubt made it plain at many times, in many venues and to many people that this was so. (ECUSA also has no authority to “teach,” but that’s a separate subject.) Second, and closely related, the first allegiance of these churches, as should be true of any church, is to Jesus Christ and His Gospel, not ECUSA’s “polity.” To top it off, what ECUSA has established doesn’t promote the “good order” of anything, as the chaotic results, from seceding parishes and dioceses to the repeated lawless actions of the PB, make plain.

    It should also be obvious, Christopher, that no ECUSA defender is in a position to be lecturing anybody about “significant departures” from anything.

    As to the moral relevance of what you term “relative victimhood,” it ought to have traction with you, for reasons I gave in my initial comment. That you can only lament what your church has been imposing on its members for three decades when the shoe is placed on your own foot speaks for itself.

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  12. Christopher (P.)20/12/08 11:57 PM

    Phil-- The only point on which it might be worthwhile to dispute is your statement that ECUSA has no authority to teach.

    The statement might be circular: one must put oneself under the authority of the Church to accept its teaching, and the reality, of course, is that the CANA folks have decided to reject that authority, because they didn't like what it was saying, because that teaching was dissonant to other parts of their world-view and experience. Such is often the experience when encountering the Gospel! So I freely admit that you don't think that ECUSA has the authority to teach you, because you've rejected that authority.

    You seem to be saying something stronger, though: that ECUSA does not have any teaching authority. But it's in the very nature of the Church to teach: to pass on the content of the faith to each generation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Part of that teaching, it seems to me, is to model the faith, and in order to do that, the Church establishes rules for its common conduct--not just to have order for order's sake, but even more so that our actions can show forth, as best they can, God's Kingdom. The statement about the "bounds of our common life" seems to me to be just that sort of rule of order. It is a teaching of the Church, one that is rejected by the leadership and people of CANA. This is certainly allowable--we have free will--but one ought at least to acknowledge that that is, in fact, what one is doing!

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  13. Christopher, I'm a little uncomfortable in identifying TEC as "the Church". I'd rather see it as a small portion or representative of the Church. Also, it appears to me part of the problem is, in fact, TEC's failure "to pass on the content of the faith to each generation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." It appears that TEC has changed the content of the faith dramatically, and I don't see much evidence that the Holy Spirit has guided it in doing so. It doesn't appear to me that the Church agrees with TEC in its assertion that "local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions" -- not the Roman Catholic Church, not the Orthodox Church, and not even the rest of the Anglican Communion. It seems to many of us that TEC is actually abandoning the teaching of the Church at this point. (By the way, am I wrong in understanding the General Convention as giving the freedom to disagree about same-sex liturgies, rather than affirming the practice?)

    In terms of Mark's original article, it should be obvious by now that TEC is employing a losing strategy in these lawsuits. If they succeed, then neither side in the end keeps the churches, since the tiny remnant remaining in TEC usually will not have the means to sustain the building. Thus, nobody wins. Plus you have the bad publicity, and the continued disillusionment of TEC's own membership as we embroil ourselves in years of more internal conflict and conflict in the courts.

    A better solution would be to take the millions given to the lawyers, negotiate with the dissenters over the price of these buildings (as CANA was prepared to do), and then build new churches. Are not the lawsuits more an expression of wounded pride rather than concern over what is truly best for those involved? Please explain to me what good is accomplished by spending out all this money and extending the continued conflict in this way.

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  14. You might disagree with Bp Minns thoughts on the ADV legal victory, but how about the interesting Episcopal News Service take on the matter, "an opportunity to appeal". That certainly produced a chuckle.

    Blessings on this third Sunday in Advent!

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  15. Christopher, the fundamental error you’re making is your identification of ECUSA with the capital-C Church. At best, the appellation you can apply to ECUSA is “church” – small c.

    The Church Catholic certainly does have authority to teach. In this time of division, we might say that if Rome and Orthodoxy, i.e., the universal witness of the Apostolic Tradition, agree on a point of the Faith, we can consider it taught. ECUSA, a splinter, hyper-Protestant fragment, has no authority to bind the conscience of the believer, and, therefore, to teach, especially when it self-evidently departs from the consensus of the Faithful – as it has. Its leaders say as much about itself: that it is a church of nothing, in essence, in which everyone can believe what they wish, and nobody will have anything to say about it – the sole exception being if you’re in the Christian mainstream, in which case you very well might be hounded out over the medium term. That diversity in belief, not revealed Truth, is the standard is glorified at the highest levels.

    I note again the irony, which, I’m sorry to say, borders on arrogance, of going on about rejecting authority, “because they didn't like what it was saying, because that teaching was dissonant to other parts of their world-view and experience. Such is often the experience when encountering the Gospel!” Well, Amen, Christopher – look in the mirror. And, again, yes, the Church is to, “pass on the content of the faith to each generation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” not make it up by 50+1 vote every three years. By your own supposed standards, ECUSA fails the test.

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  16. Robroy, in your haste to appear clever, you instead appear otherwise.

    Today is the Forth (and final) Sunday of Advent.

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  17. Indeed it is, Dah-veed. Thanks. Duh, I knew that because my kids were commenting last night that we were going to lighting four candles on the Chrismas wreath tonight. (They get to put them out with a candle snuffer.)

    And a blessed Christmas to you and yours.

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  18. I'm actually glad Phil feels this way.

    Starting on his next workday, I intend to occupy his house and use his stuff while he's away at work.

    Hey! Since I know I'm right (because God speaks to me, 'natch) it's OK! If he complains, well...that just makes him "not a Christian" (because he doesn't agree with me), and I don't have to pay attention.

    Huzzah for the pure and the elect! Party at Phil's house - the drinks and snacks are on his pantry & fridge! ;->

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