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:
- 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.
- 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.