JAMAICA: Ecumenical Affairs Director Blasts TEC Litigation
By David W. Virtue
The Anglican Communion's outgoing Director of Ecumenical Affairs, Bishop Gregory Cameron blasted the ongoing litigation in the American Episcopal Church saying it is not an appropriate response to those who want to disaffiliate from their province or diocese.
During a press briefing, Cameron launched into an attack saying, "I don't think there's any Christian who can't be anything other than aghast when Christians choose to play out their differences through the law courts," he said.
A fourth moratorium on litigation in the Windsor Continuation Groups (WCG) final report was omitted from the final draft resolution of nine recommendations proposed by the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and primates (JSC) for approval by the ACC.
When asked, Cameron said he did not know why it was out. (The WCG is chaired by Bishop Clive Handford) The WCG was set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2007 at Dar es Salaam to advise him on the implementation of the recommendations of the Windsor Report, how best to carry forward the Windsor Process in the life of the Communion, and to consult on the "unfinished business" of the report.
At that time, The Episcopal Church's expressed opposition to the "Fourth Moratorium" at the Primates at Dar es Salaam. The Primates later wrote, "One of the aggravating factors in these circumstances has been the fact that a fourth moratorium requested by the unanimous voice of the Primates at Dar es Salaam in 2007 - to see the end of litigation - has also been ignored."
When John Rees, legal advisor to the ACC since 1995, was asked at a press conference about lawsuits in The Episcopal Church, he replied saying it is deeply dismaying when Christians have to resort to the courts to resolve issues they can't resolve in other ways.
"I am conscious of all sorts of disputes where many efforts are made to resolve them through mediation. The courts are there to resolve issues when they cannot be resolved elsewhere, where Christians arrive at an impasse. There are, of course, over riding legal issues which arise in certain jurisdictions."
Rees said trustees have got to act to protect their trusts. The courts should be a last resort, if they cannot. It nevertheless is deeply dismaying that Christians are in such deep disagreement that they cannot find a mutually beneficial way through.
In his address, Archbishop Rowan Williams linked the continuation of the listening process with the continuation of three-fold moratoria on same-sex blessings, the consecration of homosexual persons to the episcopate, and cross-border incursions by bishops. Without such a commitment [to listening] "we're not going to move forward at all in mutual understanding," and without the moratoria, "it's unlikely the listening process will go anywhere," the archbishop said.
Litigation is reaching new heights in various dioceses in The Episcopal Church in utter disregard for talk about moratoria.
It was revealed this week that Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno is suing St. James Anglican Church and individual members of its vestry, to pay for legal costs associated with the church's separation.
An attorney for St. James Anglican Church described the move as "threatening and bullying behavior." The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is trying to recover attorney's fees and court costs from the church and some of its members who voted to break away from the Episcopal Church in 2004, resulting in a bitter legal battle over St. James' Via Lido campus.
"They are doing this so no one ever dares leave the Episcopal hierarchy ever again," said attorney Daniel Lula, who represents St. James.
"These are volunteers - it's not like they're the board of directors at General Electric. These are retired people, school teachers and stay-at home-moms," said Lula.
The amount of money involved is $6 million, VOL was told.
In the Diocese of San Joaquin, a two-hour court hearing resulted in a stay of execution that could have seen millions of dollars worth of properties and trusts held by Bishop John-David Schofield dropped into the lap of Bishop William Lamb and The Episcopal Church.
A last minute appeal temporarily prevented that from happening. This property battle will now go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the Diocese of Colorado, a former TEC clergyman, Don Armstrong has been forced out of his church and rectory through a court decision. "We have till May 8th to vacate the rectory...so the all our furniture went into storage yesterday...cleaning today, shampooing carpets tomorrow...keys to the judge on Friday," he told VOL in an e-mail.
"In the meantime, TEC has filed a motion with the court attempting to prevent us from getting the equity out of the house on which we have made half the payments for 12 years. "Not the sort of thing nice people do," he wrote.
"The Episcopal Church may welcome you, but they sure don't show any appreciation to those of us who worked for them for 30 years and were faithful to our vows", said Armstrong.
The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York has forced a priest, his wife and family from their home.
Funds belonging to St John's, Petaluma, CA, were temporarily frozen last week at the request of TEC and the diocese by order of Sonoma County Superior Court until May 22, when the court convenes to decide whether the funds should be frozen until trial. On May 27, court will hold a formal settlement hearing to see if a trial (slated for Sept 18) can be avoided.
There are lawsuits all around the Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop, through her proxies, is suing the Diocese of San Joaquin, the Diocese of Ft. Worth, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Diocese of Quincy.
Ironically, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offered a resolution yesterday in Jamaica that was passed unanimously by the ACC during a plenary called, interesting enough, Peacemaking Dialogues.
Schori's resolution "urges Anglicans everywhere to be bold in preaching reconciliation and facilitating peace-making dialogues in every situation of war and conflict."
It goes on to support "the concept of healing through the processes of truth-telling, repentance, and restorative justice."
Her resolution then "urges all in provincial leadership positions, especially those in theological education, to implement programs of conflict-resolution skills training as a contribution to developing effective and bold prophetic voices for God's justice in all societies."
So here we have her saying on the one hand that urges "Anglicans everywhere to be bold" not only in "preaching reconciliation," but also in "facilitating peace-making dialogues" and where there is "conflict," but when it comes to her own province and her own "conflicts", these requests don't seem to apply.
This is the height of hypocrisy. She is happy to till and tender the gardens of others, but uses a backhoe to tear up the green shoots of orthodoxy that can make her church grow in the name of inclusivity, diversity and a "generous" orthodoxy.
Nobody here seems to care or see the hypocrisy in all this. Perhaps, because money talks. TEC is one of the biggest contributors to the ACC budget, and no one dares bite the hand that feeds one.
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