December 17, 2006

That's My Church!


Canon Kendall Harmon reports that Truro and the Falls Church have announced the overwhelming votes of their congregations today to secede from the Diocese of Ol' Virginny:

FAIRFAX and FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 17 – The Falls Church and Truro Church reported today that both congregations voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with The Episcopal Church in the U.S. and join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA.

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. The specific text of each resolution at The Falls Church follows at the end of this release.

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.

Of course, as noted here the other day, Bishop Lee is no longer supporting this "protocol," now that new Sith Lord White Witch High Priestess Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has spread the order that all dissent within the Church is to be crushed instanter. Bishop Lee apparently is heeding that directive:

A Statement from the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

Today a small number of congregations in the Diocese of Virginia announced that they have voted to separate from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Church of Nigeria and Bishop Akinola. I am saddened by this development.

The leadership of the Diocese of Virginia has labored for three years to seek another course that would have maintained the integrity of the church and the spirit of inclusiveness that has been a hallmark of the Diocese and the Anglican Communion. The votes today have compromised these discussions and have created Nigerian congregations occupying Episcopal churches. This is not the future of the Episcopal Church envisioned by our forebears.

I have called a special joint meeting Monday of the Executive Board and Standing Committee of the Diocese, with counsel, to consider the full range of pastoral, canonical and legal obligations of the Church and our responsibilities to those faithful Episcopalians in these congregations who do not choose to associate with the Church of Nigeria.

In the interim I have asked the leadership of these now Nigerian and Ugandan congregations occupying Episcopal churches to keep the spiritual needs of all concerned uppermost in their minds at this difficult moment in our Church history, especially continuing Episcopalians. I also have directed diocesan personnel to work with the leadership of the departing congregations and with those who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church to reach agreements for the shared use of the Church property for the purposes of worship and other needs until final disposition of the Church's property can be settled.

I want to be clear on this point: Our polity maintains that all real and personal property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. As stewards of this historic trust, we fully intend to assert the Church's canonical and legal rights over these properties.

Today is indeed a sad day for the Church and for many in the Church. It is also a day of abundant hope that in our 400 years as Virginia's oldest Christian community, the Episcopal Church in Virginia will continue to serve Christ faithfully by serving his people.

Emphasis added. Go back and read this language in conjunction with the threatening letter Bishop Lee sent to the Churches prior to their vote. Translation: "I think it's time we demonstrated the full power of this station. Set your course for Alderan"

As I also mentioned the other day, I have a vestry meeting at my own Church tomorrow night. One of the topics of discussion will be this breach and the ECUSA's reaction to it. We have already received orders from our own Rector that any inquiry regarding a similar vote in our parish is to be squelched firmly.

Friends, I'm not much of an activist by temperment, but I've been stewing over how to approach this meeting all weekend. I'm frankly outraged that my Bishop is resorting to threats of personal legal liability for clergymen and vestry members of parishes that dare to question the party line. And I am deeply troubled by my own Rector's apparent desire to smother so much as a discussion of the troubles afflicting our Church and the various attempts by both dioceses and parishes (to say nothing of the global Anglican Communion) to deal with them, either through outright secession or else alternative oversight. The simple truth of the matter is this: within the next few years, the Episcopal Church as currently organized and as situated within the Anglican Communion, will cease to exist. It may go off on its own or it may split into one or more splinters, each moving in the direction it sees fit.

If my congregation wants to nail its flag to the ECUSA mast and go where ever the PB sails her, all well and good. But it's not going to be because they don't even understand the issues involved. We're a Low Church congregation, and the old 'Palie stereotype holds true for us (High -crazy, Middle- hazy, Low- lazy). And it's true: on any given Sunday, the kinds of questions raised in our adult fora indicate that many, many parishioners simply don't know much about the Church other than the general Sunday routine and an outline of the Nicene Creed.

Ordinarily, I'd let this slide. But, pursuant to the Chinese curse, we don't live in ordinary times, but instead in very interesting ones. The Church has reached the point where each and every Episcopalian has to know exactly what is going on, in order to make for him- or herself a fully informed decision about where he or she is going to go. "Eyes front, mind your own business and do what you're told," is not, I think, the tone the Rector ought to be taking. And I also don't think the parish should be relying on the Official Party Line as served up by the Rector as its sole source of news and opinion.

So. At tomorrow night's meeting, I am going to propose that a committee be set up, the purpose being to gather and collate news and opinion pertinent to the Church's ongoing controversies and to find means by which to disseminate such news to members of the congregation. I'm going to insist that such committee be independant of the Rector's oversight or control and that its membership be politically and theologically balanced.

I am also going to get shot down in flames, of course. But I'm beginning to get angry enough that I don't really care. If I can't get official sanction for such a project, then I'll do it off my own bat. And if I get threatened with personal liability as a vestryman for spreading alarum and confusion, I'll quit and carry on as a private parishioner.

The Rector mentioned in an email to me the other day that he wanted to make sure my energies as a vestry member were being directed to areas for which I felt a passion. Well, dammit, I think I've found just the ticket.

Wish me luck.

Posted by Robert at December 17, 2006 09:41 PM | TrackBack

Get that man some nails, I think he's going to have something to attach to the Church Door soon....

Of course, it'll have to be a hammer from Smith & Hawken.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at December 17, 2006 10:10 PM

Some unasked for advice from someone who has been there and had her head handed back to her on a sterling silver platter several times - steady...just go and do need to play your cards now...

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at December 17, 2006 11:03 PM

I had never heard "High-crazy, middle-hazy, low-lazy" before. That made me laugh.

And why is it that Sith Lords are never female? Can women not be Jedis/Siths? Do midichlorians only reside on the Y chromosme?

Posted by: The Colossus at December 18, 2006 07:07 AM

Careful---Jefferts will start burning heretics and schismatics at the stake, soon. An odd turn of events for a church born in the beheading of St. Thomas Moore.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at December 18, 2006 09:18 AM

Hey dude, you've already been "threatened with personal liability" in that communication from the other day.

Don't step on the land mine. Stop and defuse it first.

Posted by: Zendo Deb at December 18, 2006 09:24 AM

I think your plan to run an information campaign is a good one, if the parish really is that clueless about what is going on (so is mine, frankly). If couch it all in terms of "well, we just need to make sure people understand what is going on in other parishes," it makes it very hard to oppose.

Also, it is my view that if you use a lot of liberal buzzwords, it goes a long way, because they think you're on their side, and it confuses them. Say you just want to "understand all the perspectives You want to make sure there is "tolerance for all." Talk about how "we are all called to be reconcillers." You know. Crap like that.

Posted by: NBS at December 18, 2006 10:15 AM

Heh. Buh-lieve me, I've been on the receiving end of that "we are all called to be reconcillers" hoo-hah for so long, I'm relishing the chance to hurl it back. I reckon they can't sue me just for wanting to "dialogue."

Posted by: Robbo the LB at December 18, 2006 10:58 AM

As a fellow Episcopalian (at least I once was), I was under the impression that the Rector served at the pleasure of the Vestry and that the Vestry was the true governing body of the individual parish. If my recollections are correct, why don't the vestries of the churches in question fire their Rectors?

Posted by: Captain Ned at December 18, 2006 11:24 AM


From the RC Cheap seats, and a guy who was married in colonial era Episcopal church (w/ the 1928 BCP) it saddens me to see the Episcopal heading down this path.

You have our prayers...

Posted by: KMR at December 18, 2006 12:16 PM

If Robbo's parish is a well-heeled one, then, the vestry does have a lot of power on smaller issues. However, the bulk of power is with divided up among about a dozen very powerful families. If Robbo is from one of those families and he has four or five other families with him, then he will do well at his meeting. If he is not from one of those families but his sympathies are in line with at least 4 of those families, then he will still do very well at his meeting. If he is not from one of those families and his sympathies are not in line enough of those families, than odds are good that he will be carted from the meeting with boxers on his head, two pencils stuck in his nose while he's muttering, "wibble" over and over...

Yes, prayers are in order...

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at December 18, 2006 01:44 PM

My dear Mrs. P, the government can't afford to keep replacing my computer monitor every time I accidentally spray it with coffee whilst reading your remarks!

Alas, though, you speak sooth. And unfortunately, I am not one of the Very Important People - I was elected to the vestry in large part because the rector realized that the average age on it was about 125 and felt that some yoot needed to be brought in.

So as for my influencing Church policy? Well, don't expect too much. On the other hand, if you need paper plates and soda coordinated for the Homecoming picnic? I'm your man!

Posted by: Robbo the LB at December 18, 2006 01:53 PM

Well then, do something totally unexpected : Sue them.

Make it a class action suit with lots of emotional damages calculated in. You'll get their attention...

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at December 18, 2006 02:16 PM

Hey, I like that idea...

Isn't PB in breach of some kind of contract by overturning centuries of whatever?

Posted by: Zendo Deb at December 18, 2006 04:54 PM

Sounds like you should just get out. Now.
Before this rector nitwit causes you a
world of trouble.

Posted by: ahriman at December 18, 2006 05:00 PM