Thinking about The Falls Church and Truro Church and their decisions.

The press release from The Falls church and Truro Church has been published HERE and HERE.

Some comments on the whole and its parts:

I had earlier supposed the vote would be as much as eighty percent. I was short by a considerable amount.

Because the Episcopal Church is not a congregational church I am not sure what it means for a congregation to vote not to belong to the Episcopal Church. For members to decide to leave, and even to leave as a group, is of course totally in order. But the congregation, as a parish of the Episcopal Church remains.

That, at least in principle, is what the fights to come will be about.

Now, for several notes on particulars:

From the Press Release:

“Of the 1,348 eligible voting members casting ballots at The Falls Church this past week, 1,228, or 90 percent, voted in favor of the first question, or “resolution,” on the ballot about whether to sever ties. On the second and final resolution, 1,279 of 1,350 eligible members, or 94 percent, voted in favor of retaining the church’s real and personal property.Of the 1,095 eligible voting members casting ballots at Truro Church, 1,010, or 92 percent voted in favor of severing ties. On the second resolution, 1,034 of 1,095 eligible members, or 94 percent, voted in favor of retaining Truro’s real and personal property. Both churches used essentially identical ballots.”

Note that these numbers are large, but these are “eligible voting members casting ballots” not the total membership. It would be interesting, but not in any way very important, to know what percentage of the total possible vote the vote represented.

“Each of these churches conducted their votes as part of a congregational meeting. They followed steps recommended by a “protocol” for departing congregations unanimously recommended by a Special Committee of the Diocese of Virginia and supported by Bishop Peter Lee.”

The notion that that “protocol” was “supported by Bishop Peter Lee” is not the same as it being officially adopted by the Diocese. That seems to be in contention.

“That protocol … also states that if the vote to disaffiliate passes by the 70% majority, a second vote, also requiring a 70% majority, is needed for the “departing congregations” to be able to leave with their “real and personal property” at a price to be negotiated later.”

There is the rub. I cannot believe that the bishop or the special committee has the authority to undo the requirements of National or Diocesan Canon. Nor, it appears does Bishop Lee, who has published a response to the votes taken, with particular attention to the property issues.

“Our churches conducted our congregational votes by following the straight-forward procedures established by the Virginia legislature,” said Jim Oakes, Senior Warden of Truro Church. “Our churches have also held congregational votes in line with the protocol established by Bishop Lee’s Special Committee. We fully expect to amicably resolve all questions regarding the status of our clergy and our property.”

What are “the procedures established by the Virginia legislature?” Perhaps this is a reference to a bill taken off the floor of the Virginia legislature
about which the Daily Episcopalian has had considerable to say.

“CANA is missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican District of Virginia. It will provide oversight and a U.S.-based structure for these northern Virginia churches leaving the Diocese of Virginia.

This makes it sound as if CANA is an initiative of two entities, the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican District of Virginia. It is not, CANA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and Bishop Minns, Truro and Falls Church will soon begin to understand just how much that is true.

Two closing thoughts:

  1. I believe the people of the various congregations in Virginia that wish to vote on belonging or not belonging to the Episcopal Church have every business doing so, and that their vote, as a group, may also mean that a new congregation is being formed from membership of the old. I regret, and I suppose many of us do, that they wish to leave, but that is their wish. But the remnant, even if it is five or ten percent (in this case, say 200 people), still constitute the parish as a congregation in the Episcopal Church. Since the priest in charge of Truro Church and the Rector of The Falls Church have apparently cast their lot with the departing group, it seems to me the Diocese of Virginia will appoint interim clergy for the remaining Episcopalians and continue the work of those ministries within the Episcopal Church, the fight over the property not withstanding.

  2. The clergy of each of these parishes need to be asked if it is their intention to continue as clergy in the Episcopal Parish or to vacate that ministry and face lose of license and deposition.

We need to pray for those who voted to leave, and wish them God’s grace in their new undertaking. They have done a brave thing even if they, as I believe, have done a wrongheaded and wronghearted one. Democratic processes in the church serve no master and no program. At the same time we need to be clear that the Episcopal Church has a mission to fulfill in its continuing and expanding vision of a church that is, if not radically, at least progressively working at being inclusive.

I need also to direct you to Fr. Jake Shakes the World. Fr. Jake (peace be upon him) is a prophetic voice in a blogsphere of noise.


  1. Depose the priests (and irregular bishop) and launch civil action against the parishes now occupying the buildings as well as the clergy and indiviudal vestry members.

    They had their chance at a negotiated settlement. Why for the love of God didn't they take it? I thought evangelicals believed in the ten commandments, one of which says "Thou shalt not steal."

  2. Bill - your comment is uncharitable, to say the least.

    And wrong.

    The "chance at a negotiated settlement" is a process that is still underway, of which this vote is part, and which was agreed to by Peter Lee and his delegated representatives. His side, egged on by 815, is the only one attemtping to sabotage negotiations.

    The did "take it," "for the love of God."

    And if the decalogue is now so important to you, do you think "Thou shalt not commit adultery" applies to Gene Robinson? Should he be deposed?

  3. Phil, do you believe that "Thou shalt not commit adultery" applies to the twice-married David Roseberry?

  4. We can assume those congregations were long since decimated by the departure of most ordinary parishioners. Americans are conflict-averse if they have a choice (and these did) and will flee, leaving the field to dedicated combatants.

    Peace be with Fr. Minns as he has undoubtedly inherited the truly fractious. And prayers for all; this is ugly.

  5. Of course I do, anonymous. But, I'm not sure you're willing to accept my concept of marriage discipline, are you? Are you willing to make that exchange - I sacrifice a few leaders on my side and you sacrifice your entire project to alter Christian morality?

    Calling the bluff, as it were, on divorce has always struck me as odd coming from the Left. It would be an incovenience for me and a catastrophe for you.

  6. Bishop Robinson is faithful to his partner. I think this fulfills God's intention in giving the commandment. The Episcopal Church has long allowed remarriage after divorce.

    Charity is consistent with justice, because the virtues are one, as St. Thomas teaches. Schism is a sin against charity. Stealing is a sin against justice, though no one may hold property rights in the necessities of life when some do without. Legitimate exercise of ecclesiastical authority against schismatics and thieves is not a sin. It is the duty of the bishop of Virginia. He serves charity by holding members of the community accountable to their vows and by refusing to let mortal sin remain unrebuked. Fraternal correction is an example of charity.

    If the bishop and standing committee arrive at an appropriate settlement, these former Episcopalians would have every right to worship in the buildings. The offer, which Bishop Lee is under no obligation to make, is an example of his charity. Until then, they are occupying worship space that does not belong to them. They are parishes of the Diocese of Virginia, and Bishop Lee is the chief pastor and apostle. There is nothing conservative about the rejection of legitmate episcopal authority, nor is there anything conservative about pilfering what belongs to the Church.

  7. Then, Bill, if you really hold your comments as principles, rather than talking points to be used against those with which you disagree, you would be in communion with Rome and would be advocating the return of Canterbury Cathedral and many other churches to the same.

    I’ll bet my lunch money you’re doing neither.

  8. I have no strange definition at all, Patrick. True to being a good Episcopalian, I take my cues from the secular world. There, if a leader, at the very last moment, reneged on a very public deal negotiated by his most senior representatives and/or did not have his Board apprised of and aligned with his actions, he would be considered incompetent or dishonest.

    What’s more, the Standing Committee and Executive Board are not Lee’s representatives. But, if you think they are, Lee’s actions look even worse.

  9. Reqading the claims of 94% I immediately reacted, for such figures are only found in Dictatorships, so I wondered how this could be...

    But I know that I am an European, and this may perhaps seem dum to you, but how on God's good Earth is it possible to be a "member" without "being eligible" to vote?

    "Registered voters" or what? "Representaive"? or chosen by the parish "leadership", like the "members" the gentlemen of the press were graciously "allowed" to interview on the parking lot withtin whatching distance of the church buildings?

  10. It depends on how you read the history of the Reformation. Rome never had any legitimate claim to immediate jurisdiction over the dioceses in England. The Church of England was merely appropriately responding to illegitimate claims of papal power.

    I'm also enough of a Protestant to know that schism is sometimes better than heresy. If Truro is really convinced that we've adopted another religion, they should leave. But they should be willing to abandon the property or take it under conditions approved of by the bishop and standing committee.

    I think it would be easier to have ecumenical relationships with Bishop Minns and his primate than to be within the same Christian body. I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

    But I have no animosity toward either. They are deeply mistaken and sinful human beings. But then again, so am I.

    They've messed with the bull (Bishop Lee) and are crazy not to expect the horns. He may still extend an offer of negotiated settlement which would be the best and most charitable way forward, for both parties.

    Fairfax might get a new EPISCOPAL Church out of the deal, as would Fall Church, etc. And the secessionists would be as free to spread their homophobic Gospel as the Southern Baptist congregation down the street.

  11. According to the "protocol" that can be found at http://www.standfirminfaith.com/media/diova_special_committee_report.html

    those eligible to vote are "all adult communicants in good standing", which is defined by TEC canon (I.17.3). This requirement for voting is common in diocesan canons.

    Also, it is my understanding that those communicants in good standing who did NOT participate in voting were still counted as NO votes (that is, voting not to disaffiliate).

  12. Well, right back at you, Bill. Fairfax might get a new Episcopal church out of the deal, which will probably have a typical ASA of about 60 and will be free to spread its message, which, as near as I can tell, is that we are encouraged to believe nothing or anything, as the Unitarian Universalist congregation down the street.

    I believe your reading of the Reformation is wrong, but, if you insist on it, substitute “Orthodoxy” for “Rome” and your argument disappears. In any case, no Episcopalian, including conservatives, has any business talking about the sin of schism, the Council of Nicea or geographical diocesan boundaries, since we are flagrant violators of all three.

  13. Phil, my point regarding the divorce issue is the hypocrisy of adulterers going after homosexuals.

  14. Leonardo - Merry Christmas.

  15. CNN has just announced that the Diocese of Virginia will not take legal action against the secessionist churches of Truro and Falls Church for at least another month. There will be time for negotiation.

    John Henry

  16. I am personally not worried about the battle for church property and think that whether it should commence should be up to the remaining loyal members of TEC.

    HOWEVER I would like to know if there is a way to check the membership of these churches, say four years ago?

    I've noticed a strange phenomenon in my own church in recent months of an influx of new members--mostly conservative ex-Lutherans and it is making me wonder.


  17. "Democratic processes in the church serve no master and no program."

    What does this mean? Thank you.

  18. If there are only 60 Episcopalians in Fairfax, then so be it. Numbers don't count. Faithfulness does.

    I assume those who have left think they are being faithful. I wish them well and hope that they will come to the knowledge of the truth concerning God's love for all people and that lgbtq people don't have to deny or hide who they are in order to be part fo God's People.

    Perhaps if we can untangle from the poisonous relationships and do some healing, we can once again focus on the Lord and the Gospel. Most of my work day is spent on precisely that. I hope that Bishop Lee manages to convince these folks to negotiate. Letting them get away with theft isn't good for their souls. But I'm not much concerned with who keeps this particular piece of real estate. There are far more important things for a priest to worry about, like bringing the sacraments to the homebound, writing a Christmas sermon, making sure the Christmas bulletin includes an invitation to join the parish, or helping the altar guild clean and prepare the Church.

  19. Bill (et. al.)

    Just as the political conservatives were told to ask what they (and the USA) were doing to make the Islamofascists hate the US so, so the Liberals/Progrssives/reappraisers (LRPs) must ask themselves what they are doing to make the conservatives/traditionalists/reasserters (CTRs) desire to leave the ECUSA and leave with the property that they paid for.

    The property disputes are tricky things and probably depend more on the judge that hears the case than on the actual law (which is rather muddled).

    I suggest that the worst negiotiated outcome will be better for all sides than the best litigated one. Why transfer our wealth to trial lawyers?

    Phil Snyder

  20. >>>Why transfer our wealth to trial lawyers?

    Why hand it over to a bunch of fundamentalists who are no more Anglican than the Ayatollah Khomeini?

  21. For once, I agree with Phil, a negotiated settlement is likely to be better than a litigated one, for both sides.

    I don't agree that the progressives have done anything to make the other side behave this way. It was the whole Episcopal Church together, working through the General Convention. And traditionalists have free will and sufficient grace to keep their solemn vows. I think that these folks have been improperly formed, educated, and catechized. Those who follow the proper process have nothing to apologize for to those who subvert it.

    I have always been more than fair to true conservatives with whom I have been in ministry. I have no tolerance for those who are intentionally working for the destruction of the Episcopal Church, despite their solemn vows. There is nothing conservative about that. The only way to meet our pastoral obligations to these folks and those whom they harm is to confront and not give in.

    I understand that they don't see it that way and that they could may similar accusations from their perspective (which I take to be misguided) that I am not keeping my vows. This, precisely, is why a negotiated settlement and separation is probably the best way forward. Short of conversion, neither side is able to talk to one another anymore. But I still think that there are plenty of conservatives who are willing to agree to disagree and stay united around the sacraments and Common Prayer. On most doctrinal issues, I agree with them. In many ways, I am a socially radical, doctrinally conservative Catholic Anglican.

  22. In many ways, I am a socially radical, doctrinally conservative Catholic Anglican.

    I think that label would apply to many or even most of us.

    Unfortunately, as the secessionists see it, one is either an Anglo-Baptist or a dreaded Unitarian--nothing else is possible and thus no discussion is necessary.

  23. Bill, if you are a "doctrinally conservative Catholic Anglican," then you should have a rather "high" ecclesiology. The statements of the Church should have great impact on your theology and praxis. Can you show me a time when the Church - the whole church or more than TEC - approved of any sex outside of marriage or defined marriage as anything other than one man and one woman. In any case, we who consider ourselves "catholic anglicans" should listen to the Church when She speaks.

    The Church spoke at the Apostolic Council in Acts 15 - we haven't listened to it.

    The Church spoke regarding the moral life her members and we didn't listen.

    The Church spoke at Lambeth 98 and we didn't listen.

    The Church spoke at the Primates' Meeting in 2003 and we didn't listen.

    The Church spoke at the last two ACC meetings and we didn't listen.

    The Church spoke at Dromantine and we didn't listen.

    When will the "listening process" begin?

    Phil Snyder

  24. The Falls Church
    Baptized members: 2.800
    “eligible voting” members: 1.348 (or 1.350, cf question 2 below) = 48 % out of 2.800.
    Average Sunday Attendance: 1.900 persons

    American Statistics:
    1.228 or 90 % of 1.348 voted in favour to severing ties.
    1.279 or 94 % of 1.350 (?) voted in favour of retaining property.

    1.228 out of the 1.348 members allowed to vote voted in favour of severing ties – which means that only about 44 % out of the 2.800 members actually voted in favour of the proposal.

    1.279 out of the 1.350 (?) members allowed to vote voted in favour of retaining property – which means that only about 45,5 % out of the 2.800 members actually voted in favour of the proposal.

    Truro Church
    Baptized members: 2.500
    “eligible voting” members: 1.095 = 48 % out of 2.500.
    Average Sunday Attendance: 1.300 persons.

    American Statistics:
    1.010 or 90 % of 1.095 voted in favour of severing ties.
    1.034 or 93 percent of 1.095 voted in favour of retaining property.

    1.010 out of the 1.095 members allowed to vote voted in favour of severing ties – which means that only 40 % out of the 2.500 members actually voted in favour of the proposal.

    1.034 out of the 1.095 members allowed to vote voted in favour of retaining property – which means that only 40,5 % out of the 2.500 members actually voted in favour of the proposal.

    Now, as we probably do not count our sheep the same way, not demand that voters "register" to be allowed to vote - everybody may vote upon reaching the age of 18 in political elections and the age of 16 in church elections - I don't really understand this.

    Am I to understand that 52% of these congregations are minors?


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.