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Author Topic: Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of South Carolina  (Read 3274 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: October 17, 2012, 07:47:39 PM »

Quote
On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops  had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention. That Convention will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17, 2012.
....
We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt resolve our differences peacefully. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2012, 07:48:38 PM by Jetavan » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2012, 08:37:03 PM »

What are the issues/differences?
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2012, 09:11:36 PM »

What are the issues/differences?
I think, for one, that the diocese of SC refuses to follow the national Episcopal Church in terms of accepting same-sex ceremonies/marriages and accepting openly homosexual bishops. Thus, the national church claims that the diocese of SC and its bishop have "abandoned" the national church.

Lawsuits over property and such may follow.
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2012, 10:55:21 PM »

Lord have mercy.

Perhaps some of the hierarchs, clergy and laity of South Carolina will consider coming home to Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2012, 11:54:26 PM »

Lord have mercy.

Perhaps some of the hierarchs, clergy and laity of South Carolina will consider coming home to Orthodoxy.
Well, there's a very nice parish in Charleston, which is having an "Orthodox Christianity for Anglicans" (and Episcoplians) this weekend. Smiley
« Last Edit: October 17, 2012, 11:56:43 PM by Jetavan » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2012, 12:03:31 AM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2012, 12:06:47 AM »

What are the issues/differences?
Oh, and one more thing. The diocese of SC declared in September that if the national church ever tried anything like this (declaring "abandonment", e.g.), then the diocese would automatically disaffiliate itself from the national church.
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2012, 09:34:29 AM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2012, 09:46:29 AM »

Lord have mercy.

Perhaps some of the hierarchs, clergy and laity of South Carolina will consider coming home to Orthodoxy.

It's not home if you've never lived there.

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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2012, 09:48:30 AM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Thank you very much for this, Podkarpatska. It is appreciated.

It was depressing to see another round of "Oh look at those awful Episcopalians" etc

Ebor  (sigh)
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2012, 10:01:32 AM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Thank you very much for this, Podkarpatska. It is appreciated.

It was depressing to see another round of "Oh look at those awful Episcopalians" etc

Ebor  (sigh)

Yes, Ebor old friend. But it is painful for us to watch the disintegration of the ECUSA and I suspect a lot of the perceived attitude about "those awful Episcopalians" is really "hope this doesn't happen to us" over the same issues.  Undecided
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2012, 10:30:18 AM »

I agree, making fun at the pain within another brother's home is never a good thing. I have family who are Episcopalians - primarily due to litigation and turmoil within my own family during the 1930's and 1940's. For my 93 year old uncle to deal with this at this point in his life- and the parish he and his family have been a part of for decades is old line, High Church, but it is east coast old time diocesan and never likely to be allowed 'out' by their ruling Bishop - is just a sad, sad thing.
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2012, 04:37:39 PM »

It is now clarified that it was not the national church that initiated this action against the diocese of SC and its bishop; it was a group of parishioners of the diocese who asked the national church to take action:

Quote
[Episcopal News Service - New Brunswick, New Jersey] The 12 lay people and two priests who filed complaints with the Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops alleging that the Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence had abandoned the Episcopal Church said Oct. 18 that they filed those complaints “with great deliberation” because certain actions he and other diocesan leaders took “seemed to be going too far out of bounds.”
....
Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, South Carolina, area and an active communicant in the diocese, said in the letter that the complainants “do not want possible misunderstandings” and stressed that no one from elsewhere in the Episcopal Church encouraged or initiated the complaint.”
....
Generally, names of individuals who initiate these requests are held in confidence through privacy provisions of the Episcopal Church’s canons, the release said. “However, the complainants in this request gave their approval to allow themselves to be made known to the bishop,” the release said, “as a courtesy to Bishop Lawrence, so as not to be cloaked in a shroud of secrecy.”

The complainants hope that their disclosure “will prevent any suppositions that may be asserted in the upcoming days or weeks that the Episcopal Church may have initiated or encouraged the filing of this request,” the release said.
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2012, 05:17:18 PM »

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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2012, 05:25:40 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Never said we didn't. Sheesh.
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2012, 07:24:15 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Thank you very much for this, Podkarpatska. It is appreciated.

It was depressing to see another round of "Oh look at those awful Episcopalians" etc

Ebor  (sigh)

Yes, Ebor old friend. But it is painful for us to watch the disintegration of the ECUSA and I suspect a lot of the perceived attitude about "those awful Episcopalians" is really "hope this doesn't happen to us" over the same issues.  Undecided

Perhaps for some it is painful (and I thank you for the "old friend").  But sometimes it seems that things are not as you wrote but that there are some who might be seen as enjoying that another Church is having trouble, "Schadenfreude" as it were.


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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2012, 07:27:47 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Never said we didn't. Sheesh.

But the crack about lawsuits and "holy" would not be taken without comment if someone made against it an EO jurisdication.

Just for information's sake, there are Anglican traditions and holiness and lawsuits aren't part of the Book of Common Prayer, or Lesser Feast and Fasts or any other custom that I know of.  Undecided
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2012, 07:55:34 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Never said we didn't. Sheesh.

But the crack about lawsuits and "holy" would not be taken without comment if someone made against it an EO jurisdication.

Just for information's sake, there are Anglican traditions and holiness and lawsuits aren't part of the Book of Common Prayer, or Lesser Feast and Fasts or any other custom that I know of.  Undecided

Nevermind.

Just saying it's unfortunate. St. Mark's in Denver, a historic church, became Orthodox (or a significant portion of the congregation did), but they were sued and had to abandon the building, which is now a night club. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, may he live forever, would probably have no qualms doing the same thing, and Metropolitan Platon fought for his cathedral in the courts.

The Book of Common Prayer is missing a lot of things embraced by the Episcopal Church.
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2012, 08:08:49 PM »

As a former Episcopalian, I think I'm going to enjoy following the news on this one. South Carolina precedent should net a "win" for this diocese.

Yes, as an Orthodox Christian were it one of our Dioceses I'd be calling schism. But as a former reformer, I love seeing corrupt Protestant hierarchy get a spanking.
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« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2012, 08:50:59 PM »

I try to not derive pleasure from unfortunate or painful occurrences myself. 

 Sad

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« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2012, 08:53:09 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.

Never said we didn't. Sheesh.

But the crack about lawsuits and "holy" would not be taken without comment if someone made against it an EO jurisdication.

Just for information's sake, there are Anglican traditions and holiness and lawsuits aren't part of the Book of Common Prayer, or Lesser Feast and Fasts or any other custom that I know of.  Undecided

Nevermind.

Just saying it's unfortunate. St. Mark's in Denver, a historic church, became Orthodox (or a significant portion of the congregation did), but they were sued and had to abandon the building, which is now a night club. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, may he live forever, would probably have no qualms doing the same thing, and Metropolitan Platon fought for his cathedral in the courts.

The Book of Common Prayer is missing a lot of things embraced by the Episcopal Church.

Are you former Anglican? or have a familiarity with the BCP?  that you make such shots at another Church?

The Prayer Book still has a lot of basics like the Psalms, and prayers and some words of Our Lord.



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« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2012, 09:00:07 PM »

I try to not derive pleasure from unfortunate or painful occurrences myself. 

 Sad



Well, I think the pain for the Diocese of South Carolina will be short-lived after all is said and done. More painful, I'm sure, was trying to walk the tightrope of being an orthodox diocese in a denomination that has made it very clear orthodoxy is no longer an option. Bishop Mark Lawrence did his best to avoid the inevitable, but tEC seems intent to purge those not willing to walk in lock-step with their "progressive" ideals.

Now, pain to the wallet of tEC when it loses South Carolina, and the howling of their lawyers after the inevitable court loss? I feel no guilt about taking pleasure in that pain  Cool
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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2012, 11:25:50 PM »

Wait. The local Episcopalian Bishop allows local Episcopalian priests to have same-sex marriages if/when Ohio (aka not in the South) legalizes them. How does that play into this mess?
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« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2012, 11:31:53 PM »

Wait. The local Episcopalian Bishop allows local Episcopalian priests to have same-sex marriages if/when Ohio (aka not in the South) legalizes them. How does that play into this mess?
Source?

Not knowing the details, I would say that that bishop likely won't be brought up on any charges by the national church. The Episcopal Church is quite friendly towards same-sex ceremonies; I don't think that it has an actual same-sex marriage rite, just yet.
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« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2012, 11:43:01 PM »

Wait. The local Episcopalian Bishop allows local Episcopalian priests to have same-sex marriages if/when Ohio (aka not in the South) legalizes them. How does that play into this mess?
Source?

Not knowing the details, I would say that that bishop likely won't be brought up on any charges by the national church. The Episcopal Church is quite friendly towards same-sex ceremonies; I don't think that it has an actually same-sex marriage rite, just yet.

Sorry, I did make one mistake: it allows the BLESSING of a same-sex union (on a trial basis as of 2010), but not the marriage itself. And there may be more recent information that I'm not finding.

Sources:
http://www.diosohio.org/digital_faith/dfcfiles/1400213
Quote
Does the diocese allow blessings of same-gender unions?

Yes. The bishop and a task force developed policies and procedures for requesting permision for the blessing of same-gender unions. Read the policy and find other information.

http://www.diosohio.org/How%20we%20work/blessing-of-same-gender-unions.html
Quote
This group has gone far beyond my initial request in stating the theological convictions that underlie the policy, in developing a rite of blessing for trial use,

This is the apparent PDF of the rules for the rite of blessing:
http://s3.amazonaws.com/dfc_attachments/public/documents/1400959/Same-gender_unions.pdf
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« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2012, 09:03:30 AM »

Reactions of local Episcopalians:

Quote
For many, the ongoing fights over biblical interpretations have become impossible to reconcile.

“The media tends to focus on the gay issue,” Susanne Lemke said. “This is important, but let us not be distracted from the main issue.”

To her, the larger issue is over the national church’s liberal leanings.

“It is the national church that has rejected and abandoned the truth of the Gospel,” Lemke said.
....
Anne Hawkes, a lifelong Episcopalian, calls herself a “moderate liberal” and attends Grace Episcopal Church, which supports the national church.

She notes that she and her siblings are theologically divided. Her two brothers lean conservative, and her two sisters lean liberal.

“But we are still a loving family,” Hawkes said. “We don’t think we need to part ways.”
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« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2012, 03:37:28 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.
Does each Orthodox parish own its property?

The interesting thing about the SC diocese case, is that the SC diocese last year formally acknowledged that each parish owns its property, making it hard (if not impossible, I guess) for the national church to claim SC diocese property.

From November, 2011:
Quote
The distance between The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina widened last week when the diocese relinquished its legal oversight of all church property, sending what’s called a quitclaim deed to each parish.

The move merely formalizes an arrangement already in place, according to Bishop Mark Lawrence. “A quitclaim deed isn’t giving someone something they don’t have if they already own the deed,” he said. 
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« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2012, 09:07:10 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.
Does each Orthodox parish own its property?

The interesting thing about the SC diocese case, is that the SC diocese last year formally acknowledged that each parish owns its property, making it hard (if not impossible, I guess) for the national church to claim SC diocese property.

From November, 2011:
Quote
The distance between The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina widened last week when the diocese relinquished its legal oversight of all church property, sending what’s called a quitclaim deed to each parish.

The move merely formalizes an arrangement already in place, according to Bishop Mark Lawrence. “A quitclaim deed isn’t giving someone something they don’t have if they already own the deed,” he said. 


That is a loaded question and a contentious one indeed and complicated. I suspect that in attempting to present a simplified answer I may make things more confusing, but I will give it a shot. In theory, the organizational and canonical structures as they apply to the status of real and personal property owned by hierarchical Christian Churches, both of the east and west, are similar among the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. All three traditions follow the ancient Christian mode of diocesan organization in which the local Bishop is entrusted by the larger church governing body with the title to property -real and personal - held for use by the diocese, including local parishes.

In each case the Bishop is the legal trustee, as the representative of a larger body. This would be a national church in the case of the Orthodox and the Anglicans and a global one in the case of the Romans. Local parishes should be incorporated with the diocesan bishop as the sole trustee and the parish is bound, part and parcel, to the diocese. The actual legal process differs from nation to nation and in the case of the USA from state to state.... HOWEVER.....

Reality often interferes with theory. In North America when the earliest Orthodox and Greek Catholic congregations settled here in the late 19th century, there were no state laws governing the establishment of an Orthodox Church or a Catholic church which was neither under the trusteeship of the local diocesan ordinary or a monastic order like the Franciscans or Jesuits. Hence many of the early Orthodox or Greek Catholic parishes were founded under the same laws governing self ruled Protestant communities on a local level similar to Congregationalists or even as fraternal religious organizations. This became a problem and led to much litigation, most of which was successfully defended by various Bishops and diocesan lawyers over the years.

Since the middle of the 20th century most parishes founded thereafter were incorporated with the consent of the Bishop and with a clear legal understanding that the property was not vested in the local congregation.

There was much litigation when parishes tried to leave Greek Catholicism for Orthodoxy or to switch from one Orthodox body to another - particularly during the Cold War. Much passion remains on the local level where these cases were litigated. (It's also why you will find five or six similar churches in any given Pennsylvania steel or coal town.)

However, it is pretty much settled law in the United States since the 1950's that the civil courts will absent themselves from asserting jurisdiction in disputes between a hierarchical body like an Orthodox or Roman diocese and a local congregation over interpretations of church law. I would casually call this the 'duck' rule - if it looks, quacks and swims like a duck - it's a duck. In other words, if a congregation has bound itself to the rules of the higher church body through practice - like accepting pastors, participating in diocesan councils or Sobors etc... it accepts all of the rules of the higher body and is bound by them,  so ownership is sort of a moot point - you can't pick up your church and switch teams easily or close down and sell off the property for the benefit of the local parishioners..... (Not that it hasn't been tried from time to time.....)

This takes us to the South Carolina situation where the local Episcopal  Bishop is obviously concerned that he will be removed by the National Church body - in anticipation of the same he signed off his 'title' through quit claim deeds - a dubious idea, but given some of the ways state courts in the south have tried to get around established case law to benefit the local Anglican parishes, it was worth a try. Some of the oldest parishes in the south do pre-date the organization of Anglican chartered dioceses in pre-revolutionary America so you can't make a general conclusion....

Now, just rambling along here - with the prospect of schism being mouthed by some in the OCA - one could imagine a situation similar to that developing where a diocesan OCA Bishop not yet removed by his Synod might try a similar end around play... I hope and pray that does not happen as I have lived through the decades of anger and misery such litigation leaves as its ugly residue.

This mess is going to put a lot of lawyers' kids through college and buy more than few summer homes on some coastal island from the legal fees which are going to be generated.

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« Reply #28 on: October 19, 2012, 09:32:06 PM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.
Does each Orthodox parish own its property?

The interesting thing about the SC diocese case, is that the SC diocese last year formally acknowledged that each parish owns its property, making it hard (if not impossible, I guess) for the national church to claim SC diocese property.

From November, 2011:
Quote
The distance between The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina widened last week when the diocese relinquished its legal oversight of all church property, sending what’s called a quitclaim deed to each parish.

The move merely formalizes an arrangement already in place, according to Bishop Mark Lawrence. “A quitclaim deed isn’t giving someone something they don’t have if they already own the deed,” he said.  


That is a loaded question and a contentious one indeed and complicated. I suspect that in attempting to present a simplified answer I may make things more confusing, but I will give it a shot. In theory, the organizational and canonical structures as they apply to the status of real and personal property owned by hierarchical Christian Churches, both of the east and west, are similar among the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. All three traditions follow the ancient Christian mode of diocesan organization in which the local Bishop is entrusted by the larger church governing body with the title to property -real and personal - held for use by the diocese, including local parishes.

In each case the Bishop is the legal trustee, as the representative of a larger body. This would be a national church in the case of the Orthodox and the Anglicans and a global one in the case of the Romans. Local parishes should be incorporated with the diocesan bishop as the sole trustee and the parish is bound, part and parcel, to the diocese. The actual legal process differs from nation to nation and in the case of the USA from state to state.... HOWEVER.....

Reality often interferes with theory. In North America when the earliest Orthodox and Greek Catholic congregations settled here in the late 19th century, there were no state laws governing the establishment of an Orthodox Church or a Catholic church which was neither under the trusteeship of the local diocesan ordinary or a monastic order like the Franciscans or Jesuits. Hence many of the early Orthodox or Greek Catholic parishes were founded under the same laws governing self ruled Protestant communities on a local level similar to Congregationalists or even as fraternal religious organizations. This became a problem and led to much litigation, most of which was successfully defended by various Bishops and diocesan lawyers over the years.

Since the middle of the 20th century most parishes founded thereafter were incorporated with the consent of the Bishop and with a clear legal understanding that the property was not vested in the local congregation.

There was much litigation when parishes tried to leave Greek Catholicism for Orthodoxy or to switch from one Orthodox body to another - particularly during the Cold War. Much passion remains on the local level where these cases were litigated. (It's also why you will find five or six similar churches in any given Pennsylvania steel or coal town.)

However, it is pretty much settled law in the United States since the 1950's that the civil courts will absent themselves from asserting jurisdiction in disputes between a hierarchical body like an Orthodox or Roman diocese and a local congregation over interpretations of church law. I would casually call this the 'duck' rule - if it looks, quacks and swims like a duck - it's a duck. In other words, if a congregation has bound itself to the rules of the higher church body through practice - like accepting pastors, participating in diocesan councils or Sobors etc... it accepts all of the rules of the higher body and is bound by them,  so ownership is sort of a moot point - you can't pick up your church and switch teams easily or close down and sell off the property for the benefit of the local parishioners..... (Not that it hasn't been tried from time to time.....)

This takes us to the South Carolina situation where the local Episcopal  Bishop is obviously concerned that he will be removed by the National Church body - in anticipation of the same he signed off his 'title' through quit claim deeds - a dubious idea, but given some of the ways state courts in the south have tried to get around established case law to benefit the local Anglican parishes, it was worth a try. Some of the oldest parishes in the south do pre-date the organization of Anglican chartered dioceses in pre-revolutionary America so you can't make a general conclusion....

Now, just rambling along here - with the prospect of schism being mouthed by some in the OCA - one could imagine a situation similar to that developing where a diocesan OCA Bishop not yet removed by his Synod might try a similar end around play... I hope and pray that does not happen as I have lived through the decades of anger and misery such litigation leaves as its ugly residue.

This mess is going to put a lot of lawyers' kids through college and buy more than few summer homes on some coastal island from the legal fees which are going to be generated.



For the Episcopalians, part of the issue is just whether or not they are indeed a hierarchical church. What is going on here is as much a clash of low/high church polity as it is of liberals and conservatives. The idea of a parish being held "in trust" of the national church is a fairly new innovation in the Episcopal church (IIRC the "Denis[sp?] canon" came about in 1979) and the question of just what sort of teeth the House of Bishops has to enforce anything is certainly in question. South Carolina legal precedent, set by this denomination back in the Civil War, almost certainly guarantees a win for the diocese over the national church. TEC's recent legal wins have all depended on states with courts that follow the "duck rule" as opposed to investigating the actual canonical, constitutional, and parish laws at play in the current chaos.
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« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2012, 10:14:19 AM »

Lawsuits are part of the Episcopal Church's holy tradition.

Breaking news: "Pot calls kettle black. Pot, meet kettle." We Orthodox have our own historical litany of litigation here in North America so I wouldn't gloat over the ECUSA's problems.
Does each Orthodox parish own its property?

The interesting thing about the SC diocese case, is that the SC diocese last year formally acknowledged that each parish owns its property, making it hard (if not impossible, I guess) for the national church to claim SC diocese property.

From November, 2011:
Quote
The distance between The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina widened last week when the diocese relinquished its legal oversight of all church property, sending what’s called a quitclaim deed to each parish.

The move merely formalizes an arrangement already in place, according to Bishop Mark Lawrence. “A quitclaim deed isn’t giving someone something they don’t have if they already own the deed,” he said.  


That is a loaded question and a contentious one indeed and complicated. I suspect that in attempting to present a simplified answer I may make things more confusing, but I will give it a shot. In theory, the organizational and canonical structures as they apply to the status of real and personal property owned by hierarchical Christian Churches, both of the east and west, are similar among the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. All three traditions follow the ancient Christian mode of diocesan organization in which the local Bishop is entrusted by the larger church governing body with the title to property -real and personal - held for use by the diocese, including local parishes.

In each case the Bishop is the legal trustee, as the representative of a larger body. This would be a national church in the case of the Orthodox and the Anglicans and a global one in the case of the Romans. Local parishes should be incorporated with the diocesan bishop as the sole trustee and the parish is bound, part and parcel, to the diocese. The actual legal process differs from nation to nation and in the case of the USA from state to state.... HOWEVER.....

Reality often interferes with theory. In North America when the earliest Orthodox and Greek Catholic congregations settled here in the late 19th century, there were no state laws governing the establishment of an Orthodox Church or a Catholic church which was neither under the trusteeship of the local diocesan ordinary or a monastic order like the Franciscans or Jesuits. Hence many of the early Orthodox or Greek Catholic parishes were founded under the same laws governing self ruled Protestant communities on a local level similar to Congregationalists or even as fraternal religious organizations. This became a problem and led to much litigation, most of which was successfully defended by various Bishops and diocesan lawyers over the years.

Since the middle of the 20th century most parishes founded thereafter were incorporated with the consent of the Bishop and with a clear legal understanding that the property was not vested in the local congregation.

There was much litigation when parishes tried to leave Greek Catholicism for Orthodoxy or to switch from one Orthodox body to another - particularly during the Cold War. Much passion remains on the local level where these cases were litigated. (It's also why you will find five or six similar churches in any given Pennsylvania steel or coal town.)

However, it is pretty much settled law in the United States since the 1950's that the civil courts will absent themselves from asserting jurisdiction in disputes between a hierarchical body like an Orthodox or Roman diocese and a local congregation over interpretations of church law. I would casually call this the 'duck' rule - if it looks, quacks and swims like a duck - it's a duck. In other words, if a congregation has bound itself to the rules of the higher church body through practice - like accepting pastors, participating in diocesan councils or Sobors etc... it accepts all of the rules of the higher body and is bound by them,  so ownership is sort of a moot point - you can't pick up your church and switch teams easily or close down and sell off the property for the benefit of the local parishioners..... (Not that it hasn't been tried from time to time.....)

This takes us to the South Carolina situation where the local Episcopal  Bishop is obviously concerned that he will be removed by the National Church body - in anticipation of the same he signed off his 'title' through quit claim deeds - a dubious idea, but given some of the ways state courts in the south have tried to get around established case law to benefit the local Anglican parishes, it was worth a try. Some of the oldest parishes in the south do pre-date the organization of Anglican chartered dioceses in pre-revolutionary America so you can't make a general conclusion....

Now, just rambling along here - with the prospect of schism being mouthed by some in the OCA - one could imagine a situation similar to that developing where a diocesan OCA Bishop not yet removed by his Synod might try a similar end around play... I hope and pray that does not happen as I have lived through the decades of anger and misery such litigation leaves as its ugly residue.

This mess is going to put a lot of lawyers' kids through college and buy more than few summer homes on some coastal island from the legal fees which are going to be generated.



For the Episcopalians, part of the issue is just whether or not they are indeed a hierarchical church. What is going on here is as much a clash of low/high church polity as it is of liberals and conservatives. The idea of a parish being held "in trust" of the national church is a fairly new innovation in the Episcopal church (IIRC the "Denis[sp?] canon" came about in 1979) and the question of just what sort of teeth the House of Bishops has to enforce anything is certainly in question. South Carolina legal precedent, set by this denomination back in the Civil War, almost certainly guarantees a win for the diocese over the national church. TEC's recent legal wins have all depended on states with courts that follow the "duck rule" as opposed to investigating the actual canonical, constitutional, and parish laws at play in the current chaos.

Thank you for your elaboration - the relevance to Orthodoxy is on point. It is my recollection that when the OCA incorporated following the Tomos that local parishes were asked to reincorporate or amend their certificates of incorporation to make clear the 'trust' status of local parishes. I know of several parishes which refused to do so and which 'switched' jurisdictions at that time. I am curious as to whether the majority of old Metropolia parishes complied at that time. I suspect that the newer mission founded parishes in the west and the DOS are clearly tied into the national Church organization. This issue will also rear itself if and when a unified structure is ever to be presented and it is on the agenda of the legal subcommittee established by the EA last year. A touchy issue indeed. (Even in the RCC there have been a 'few' noteworthy parishes who were successful in challenging their status - most were created by ethnic or trade associations dedicated to one saint or another. There is a mariner's church in New England which comes to mind, but I can not recall the specifics.)
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« Reply #30 on: October 21, 2012, 12:02:03 PM »

Diocese Releases Statement Regarding Disassociation from the Episcopal Church

Excerpts:

"The Episcopal Church (TEC) has made an attack against our Bishop and Diocese, in the midst of efforts for a negotiated settlement, which has fundamentally changed our common life.
....
For many years the diocese of South Carolina has opposed the primary theological direction of the national Episcopal Church (TEC). As TEC leadership has moved away from the claim of Jesus’ uniqueness, the authority of Holy Scripture, the meaning of marriage and the nature of what it means to be human, we have had to be more steadfast in our defense of these truths, and more vocal and strong in our opposition to TEC’s disavowal of them.
....
As a result of TEC's attack against our Bishop, the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated from TEC; that is, its accession to the TEC Constitution and its membership in TEC have been withdrawn.
....
We are still the Diocese of South Carolina, holding the faith of the apostles which was handed down to us.  This radical step was taken to protect our parishes and their gospel witness.  We believe that though the future has much that is unknown, the God who has faithfully led us by his grace to this point will take us where he wants us to go.
....
To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or imagine, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory now and forever.  Amen."
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« Reply #31 on: October 21, 2012, 12:30:30 PM »

Lord, have mercy on the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina & protect it against evil.
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« Reply #32 on: October 24, 2012, 08:37:57 PM »

From Frequently Asked Questions:

Quote
If we have left TEC, why do we still use the word “Episcopal” in our names and in our documents?

The term exists in the legal incorporated names of our Diocese and many of our parishes. Its application is far broader than and not exclusively franchised by TEC. It is rightly used to designate any church which has bishops, for that is what the term refers to in the Greek and Latin from which the English word is derived. The episcopos is the bishop. An episcopal church is simply one that has bishops. We continue, both as a diocese and as parishes to be that kind of church. This is both our legal and ecclesiastical heritage and we embrace it as such. There are other churches with “Episcopal” in the name, including the Reformed Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  For many years what is now called the United Methodist Church was known as the Methodist Episcopal Church and was by far the largest church in this country with “Episcopal” in its name. Other dioceses in the Anglican Communion, not part of TEC have the word  “Episcopal” in their names: The Scottish Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church of Sudan, The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, The Episcopal Church in the Philippines, Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba and The Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain....
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« Reply #33 on: October 26, 2012, 07:37:24 AM »

Religions have the rights to govern themselves and defend their property, so I don't have much sympathy for the Episcopalians' relative conservatives like Bishop Lawrence who chose to stay. They knew what they were getting into.
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« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2012, 08:50:35 AM »

Religions have the rights to govern themselves and defend their property, so I don't have much sympathy for the Episcopalians' relative conservatives like Bishop Lawrence who chose to stay. They knew what they were getting into.

The Young Fogey know of what he speaks as he is quite familiar with the litigation failures of most of the Ruthenian Greek Catholics who sought to challenge their 'mother' Church back in the day. Very few prevailed, St. Michael's in Binghamton, NY and St. John's in Perth Amboy, New Jersey are two of the more prominent parishes which had success in the courts. Both cases turned on unique language in their charters. In the case of the New York parish the litigation took place in what was a very anti-Roman part of New York State at the time (the trial judge was a hard line Calvinist)  and the fact that in 1904 when the parish's lawyer tried to set up a corporation under laws governing Roman Catholic Churches he could not do so as there was no Ruthenian or Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop in America at that time with authority to charter the parish under then existing New York laws, so they were chartered as an independent religious association which 'freely' associated with the Greek Catholics until they left in 1938.
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« Reply #35 on: October 26, 2012, 03:01:07 PM »

^ I don't think you can pull that off today

Isn't most case law in favor of the "archdiocese" having control over the land/church & not the fragmented group? 

That's what I remember from Canon Law anyway, but perhaps the Episcoplians are different there...
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« Reply #36 on: October 26, 2012, 03:33:17 PM »

^ I don't think you can pull that off today

Isn't most case law in favor of the "archdiocese" having control over the land/church & not the fragmented group? 

That's what I remember from Canon Law anyway, but perhaps the Episcoplians are different there...

Well, for one, Episcopalians don't have an archdiocese. The Episcopalians in the US have traditionally been more of a loose association of dioceses and have had no real central authority- really the only model that works when trying to resolve the tension between high and low church philosophies. The current regime has been taking advantage of states where case law favors a hierarchical structure- and they are not alone in this, the Southern Baptist Convention has been declared a "hierarchy" in states where the case law has been determined largely based on Roman Catholic property disputes (for those who do not know, fundamental to Baptist polity is the idea that each congregation is its own determining body).

A look at the more conservative Episcopalians' outlook on their polity can be found here: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2012/10/polity-politics-or-the-rule-of-law-a-response-to-bishop-whalon/.
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« Reply #37 on: October 26, 2012, 03:36:23 PM »

^ I don't think you can pull that off today

Isn't most case law in favor of the "archdiocese" having control over the land/church & not the fragmented group? 

That's what I remember from Canon Law anyway, but perhaps the Episcoplians are different there...

Father you are correct in that American courts will abstain from determining internecine disputes between parties within a hierarchical church over issues related to doctrine and discipline - in other words property disputes. This goes back to the Cold War days. I have argued for years with friends that the successful outcome of cases like the one in Binghamton would not have occurred under current case law.

The testimony was clear and unambiguous that the first Church building in 1907 was consecrated by the Greek Catholic ordinary from Philadelphia, +Soter Ortynsky; the 'new' (and current) church building was dedicated by the apostolic administrator for the Greek Catholics in 1918, Fr. Gabriel Martyak and at the 25th anniversary of the Church's founding in 1929, the Greek Catholic ordinary of Pittsburgh, +Basil Takach came, blessed the new rectory and properly consecrated the Church. All of the priests serving the parish from 1904 through 1938 were Greek Catholic priests who commemorated the Pope of Rome in the liturgies. What saved the day was the unique wording of the 1904 charter which failed to mention anything about a Bishop or the Pope and the lawyer for the congregation successfully convinced the trial judge during the course of a three month long trial that what the non-English speaking immigrants who founded the church in 1904 really wanted was a congregational church with eastern trappings! The judge, a devout and published Presbyterian deacon, bought it and was affirmed on appeal. Under today's civil law following the Supreme Court's 1952 decision in  KEDROFF v. ST. NICHOLAS CATHEDRAL, I suspect the facts would have led to a different decision regarding the property rights.

I have had it explained to me that some of few recent successful suits regarding Episcopalian properties against their Bishops occurred in the American South and had more to do with charter issues from the time of the American Civil War and perhaps, like in the Binghamton case in the 1940's, with pre-assumed positions of the trial judges. In other words, they were conservatives who didn't like what was going on within the Episcopal Church nationally so they looked for a way through the case law and the facts.

What is sad is that up here the Episcopal Diocese was successful in keeping two large properties - but lost the congregations. The sad thing is that the Bishop GAVE one old and venerable church property to local Muslims and is suing to force the town to approve a drug rehab in-patient facility to operate in the other located in a suburban residential neighborhood. Talk about spitefulness. As a counter example, the Roman Catholic diocese of Syracuse closed a relatively modern parish in the same side of the river that these two parishes existed and gave the new Anglican congregation a sweetheart deal for the Church, rectory and school. They are thriving.
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« Reply #38 on: October 26, 2012, 03:39:28 PM »

^ I don't think you can pull that off today

Isn't most case law in favor of the "archdiocese" having control over the land/church & not the fragmented group?  

That's what I remember from Canon Law anyway, but perhaps the Episcoplians are different there...

Well, for one, Episcopalians don't have an archdiocese. The Episcopalians in the US have traditionally been more of a loose association of dioceses and have had no real central authority- really the only model that works when trying to resolve the tension between high and low church philosophies. The current regime has been taking advantage of states where case law favors a hierarchical structure- and they are not alone in this, the Southern Baptist Convention has been declared a "hierarchy" in states where the case law has been determined largely based on Roman Catholic property disputes (for those who do not know, fundamental to Baptist polity is the idea that each congregation is its own determining body).

A look at the more conservative Episcopalians' outlook on their polity can be found here: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2012/10/polity-politics-or-the-rule-of-law-a-response-to-bishop-whalon/.

You are right, the successful arguments were that the Episcopal Church USA was not really a 'hierarchical' Church like those pesky Roman Catholics or the Orthodox. That argument is as old as Henry VIII and has roiled around here and in England for centuries. High Church/ low church and so on.   The irony is that those seeking to leave are theologically sympathetic to the old 'anglo-Catholic' wing of things yet they are using the low church arguments to their advantage. I suppose it is the same tactic used successfully by a few of the Greek Catholic parishes who won their cases in the 1930's like my own.

Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania courts were very pro-Roman in the 1930's disputes, while in New Jersey and New York not so much. Connecticut courts also were highly pro-Roman. However, the Kedroff decision had a big impact and remains so to this day.
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« Reply #39 on: October 26, 2012, 03:56:21 PM »

^ I don't think you can pull that off today

Isn't most case law in favor of the "archdiocese" having control over the land/church & not the fragmented group?  

That's what I remember from Canon Law anyway, but perhaps the Episcoplians are different there...

Well, for one, Episcopalians don't have an archdiocese. The Episcopalians in the US have traditionally been more of a loose association of dioceses and have had no real central authority- really the only model that works when trying to resolve the tension between high and low church philosophies. The current regime has been taking advantage of states where case law favors a hierarchical structure- and they are not alone in this, the Southern Baptist Convention has been declared a "hierarchy" in states where the case law has been determined largely based on Roman Catholic property disputes (for those who do not know, fundamental to Baptist polity is the idea that each congregation is its own determining body).

A look at the more conservative Episcopalians' outlook on their polity can be found here: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2012/10/polity-politics-or-the-rule-of-law-a-response-to-bishop-whalon/.

You are right, the successful arguments were that the Episcopal Church USA was not really a 'hierarchical' Church like those pesky Roman Catholics or the Orthodox. That argument is as old as Henry VIII and has roiled around here and in England for centuries. High Church/ low church and so on.   The irony is that those seeking to leave are theologically sympathetic to the old 'anglo-Catholic' wing of things yet they are using the low church arguments to their advantage. I suppose it is the same tactic used successfully by a few of the Greek Catholic parishes who won their cases in the 1930's like my own.

Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania courts were very pro-Roman in the 1930's disputes, while in New Jersey and New York not so much. Connecticut courts also were highly pro-Roman. However, the Kedroff decision had a big impact and remains so to this day.

Oh, irony abounds in the Episcopalian mess. High-church sympathizers using low-church arguments; people with no claim to any form of catholicism using hierarchical language; the fact that the the current mess itself came about because neither high nor low factions could give a central authority enough teeth to define doctrine and practice, resulting in the broad faction taking control of the seminaries and General Convention and giving themselves the teeth. It is like a Shakespearean comedy and tragedy all rolled into one.

Although the dioceses that have recently left the Episcopalians have been a good mix of high and low. Pittsburgh, for example, is as low church as low church can get without handling snakes; Ft Worth is about as high as one can get without putting anything funny in the censer.
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« Reply #40 on: October 27, 2012, 08:43:43 AM »

^ I don't think you can pull that off today

Isn't most case law in favor of the "archdiocese" having control over the land/church & not the fragmented group?  

That's what I remember from Canon Law anyway, but perhaps the Episcoplians are different there...

Well, for one, Episcopalians don't have an archdiocese. The Episcopalians in the US have traditionally been more of a loose association of dioceses and have had no real central authority- really the only model that works when trying to resolve the tension between high and low church philosophies. The current regime has been taking advantage of states where case law favors a hierarchical structure- and they are not alone in this, the Southern Baptist Convention has been declared a "hierarchy" in states where the case law has been determined largely based on Roman Catholic property disputes (for those who do not know, fundamental to Baptist polity is the idea that each congregation is its own determining body).

A look at the more conservative Episcopalians' outlook on their polity can be found here: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2012/10/polity-politics-or-the-rule-of-law-a-response-to-bishop-whalon/.

You are right, the successful arguments were that the Episcopal Church USA was not really a 'hierarchical' Church like those pesky Roman Catholics or the Orthodox. That argument is as old as Henry VIII and has roiled around here and in England for centuries. High Church/ low church and so on.   The irony is that those seeking to leave are theologically sympathetic to the old 'anglo-Catholic' wing of things yet they are using the low church arguments to their advantage. I suppose it is the same tactic used successfully by a few of the Greek Catholic parishes who won their cases in the 1930's like my own.

Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania courts were very pro-Roman in the 1930's disputes, while in New Jersey and New York not so much. Connecticut courts also were highly pro-Roman. However, the Kedroff decision had a big impact and remains so to this day.

Oh, irony abounds in the Episcopalian mess. High-church sympathizers using low-church arguments; people with no claim to any form of catholicism using hierarchical language; the fact that the the current mess itself came about because neither high nor low factions could give a central authority enough teeth to define doctrine and practice, resulting in the broad faction taking control of the seminaries and General Convention and giving themselves the teeth. It is like a Shakespearean comedy and tragedy all rolled into one.

Although the dioceses that have recently left the Episcopalians have been a good mix of high and low. Pittsburgh, for example, is as low church as low church can get without handling snakes; Ft Worth is about as high as one can get without putting anything funny in the censer.

Indeed the irony is incredible. I do feel for the battered faith of those within these parishes who are truly seeking our Lord in the way that their forebearers raised them to do so. Their 'leaders' have surely abandoned them along the way.
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« Reply #41 on: October 27, 2012, 09:42:32 AM »

Religions have the rights to govern themselves and defend their property, so I don't have much sympathy for the Episcopalians' relative conservatives like Bishop Lawrence who chose to stay. They knew what they were getting into.
If they chose to stay, ipso facto, they weren't getting themselves into anything.  They were, however, depending on false hope and making a faulty judgement.
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« Reply #42 on: October 27, 2012, 10:22:35 AM »

Religions have the rights to govern themselves and defend their property, so I don't have much sympathy for the Episcopalians' relative conservatives like Bishop Lawrence who chose to stay. They knew what they were getting into.
If they chose to stay, ipso facto, they weren't getting themselves into anything.  They were, however, depending on false hope and making a faulty judgement.

I think that is a fair comment as the national church became something that they did not sign up for in the first place. That is the problem caused by several centuries of angst within the Anglican communion just trying to figure out where they fit in, that is, in terms of whether they fashioned themselves part of the broader ( and ill-defined from our point of view) Apostolic tradition or part of the reformers demolition of Patristic tradition. The center could not hold all of these competing interests in one big tent and we have what we have today.
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« Reply #43 on: November 13, 2012, 02:50:17 PM »

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has declared the ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of South Carolina vacant and has backed a faction within the diocese that is seeking to fill the “vacuum” created by the suspension of Bishop Mark Lawrence.

The loyalist “Transitional Committee” has also declared the South Carolina Standing Committee to be vacant and has formed a “steering committee” to act in its place.
....
However, in a paper released on 11 Nov, the Anglican Communion Institute noted the actions taken by the presiding bishop and the loyalist group violated civil and canonical law.  The Episcopal Church has “no canonical basis for the actions that the Presiding Bishop and pro-TEC local parishes appear to be taking. There is no canonical authority for an ‘Interim Bishop’ to be ‘appointed by the Presiding Bishop’ in an existing diocese. Nor is there any canonical basis for a self-appointed ‘Steering Committee’ to attempt to ‘reorganize’ an existing diocese, to ‘communicate with the Presiding Bishop’ or be advised by other bishops of the church.”

The ACI further stated the “absence of any canons authorizing what the Presiding Bishop and others are doing is proof that TEC is operating under a profoundly flawed understanding of the church’s polity.”
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« Reply #44 on: November 13, 2012, 06:14:44 PM »

On an interesting side-note, Schori's mother was a convert to Orthodoxy: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19980407&slug=2743852
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