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NEW YORK: A Message from the Presiding Bishop on Property Issues

NEW YORK: A Message from the Presiding Bishop on Property Issues

by Katharine Jefferts Schori
July 31, 2009

To the House of Bishops:

I am immensely grateful to all of you for the way in which we conducted ourselves at General Convention. There was enormous pastoral sensitivity and real caring for those with different opinions, and I firmly hope that kind of compassion continues to be boldly expressed. When we are in deeply faithful relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ we can indeed move mountains, as Sandra Montes reminded us in Montaña - "si tuvieras fe como un grano de mostaza, tú le dirías a la montaña, muévete, esa montaña se moverá" (if you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to the mountain, "move." and it will move).

I appreciated the conversation we had about property issues over two-plus afternoons, yet we weren't able to hear from all, and I don't think we finished. There is indeed more to be said, and a little more than an hour simply wasn't adequate to the task. The Council of Advice engaged me in a lengthy phone conference shortly before General Convention, and did reach a reasonable consensus, so I know it's possible. We can take this up again in March if you wish.

I will continue to uphold two basic principles in the work some of us face in dealing with former Episcopalians who claim rights to church property or assets. Our participation in God's mission as leaders and stewards of The Episcopal Church means that we expect a reasonable and fair financial arrangement in any property settlement, and that we do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church.

Pragmatically, the latter means property settlements need to include a clause that forbids, for a period of at least five years, the presence of bishops on the property who are not members of this House, unless they are invited by the diocesan bishop for purposes which do not subvert mission and ministry in the name of this Church.

I understand that other bishops, such as Anglican bishops in good standing (but not any who is involved in provincial border crossing) might be welcomed to preach, preside, confirm, or even ordain, but that diocesan permission cannot encourage anything that purports to set up or participate in another jurisdiction. It is my fervent hope that five years on, we will all be in a much more clearly defined position.

I continue to pray that those who have departed can gain clarity about their own identity. If and when they engage a positive missional stance that doesn't seek to replace The Episcopal Church, I do believe we can enter into ecumenical agreements that will make some of the foregoing moot.

Clarity continues to emerge in the legal realm. I note that in every case which has concluded, The Episcopal Church has prevailed. Nevertheless, this has been difficult and painful work, often excruciatingly so. I give thanks for the faithful work several of you have had to do in stewarding the legacy of The Episcopal Church.

With continued gratitude for your ministry, I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine

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