DIOCESE OF OLYMPIA: Agreement Reached between Diocese and Two Local Anglican Parishes
by Norah M. Joslyn, Mark Cutshall and Peter Strimer
SEATTLE -- A covenant agreement between the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and three congregations will allow St. Stephen's Anglican Church in Oak Harbor, Wash. and St. Charles' Anglican Church in Poulsbo, Wash. to maintain their ongoing ministries in their current, respective locations. In addition, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church ministry will return to the Oak Harbor facility in a mutually agreed-upon relationship with the Anglican congregation.
In effect until June 30, 2014, the agreement means St. Charles' Anglican Church and St. Stephen's Anglican Church will continue to use the existing church properties for a 7.5-year period. Additionally, the St. Stephen's Episcopal congregation will have use of the Oak Harbor church building for Sunday worship and other programs on terms spelled out in the agreement.
The Rt. Rev. Vincent W. Warner, Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of Olympia is grateful that this covenant agreement is accomplished. Bishop Warner has been in ongoing relationship with all parties involved since members of St. Charles' and St. Stephen's Anglican congregations decided to disassociate from the Episcopal Church.
"The agreement provides for St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to once again worship in its church," Warner said. "The agreement provides a number of years in which no action will be taken regarding property. The essence of the agreement is to provide space and time for the worldwide Anglican Communion to address the issues it faces and for the people in our congregations to be at worship with their friends and neighbors, building and rebuilding relationships." He added that putting the emphasis on our values of relationship and ministry has helped find a way to build an agreement based on faith and trust rather than litigation and judgment.
The two-day mediation sessions that took place this past July 5-6 in Seattle were facilitated by the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little, II, Bishop of Northern Indiana, and Judge Terrence Carroll, retired Washington State Superior Court Judge and a member of the Judicial Dispute Resolution Center in Seattle. Part of the mediation agreement included the acceptance of the terms by the governing bodies of the three churches and the Diocese of Olympia. The final agreed-upon covenant is the result of work that continued in the months since July.
In October 2004, members of St. Charles' and St. Stephen's voted overwhelmingly to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. To remain in the Anglican Communion, St. Charles' and St. Stephen's came under the ecclesial oversight of the Diocese of Recife in Brazil. The two congregations are also aligned with the Anglican Communion Network which represents over one thousand congregations in North America. Members of St. Stephen's who did not agree with that decision chose to continue the ministry of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in the Oak Harbor community and have been holding services in homes.
The Ven. Rev. Duncan Clark, rector of St. Charles' Anglican Church and Anglican Archdeacon said, "This agreement is significant for several reasons. It allows both Anglican parishes to continue to be good stewards of our resources, avoids a potentially adversarial relationship with the Diocese of Olympia and most importantly helps our two congregations remain focused on fulfilling the Great Commandment - to love the Lord and one another as ourselves - and the Great Commission - to spread the good news of Christ's forgiving love throughout our local communities, the Pacific Northwest and the world. In the wake of the tumultuous 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we took seriously the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation for an 'ordered and mutually respectful separation.'"
Bishop Warner and Archdeacon Clark expressed hope that this agreement may offer a model of reconciliation for Anglican parishes and Episcopal dioceses throughout the church.
---Norah M. Joslyn is Communications Specialist and Editor of Episcopal Voice of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington, Diocese of Olympia
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