Thursday, May 21, 2009

Do you know? Do your priest and vestry know?

You might be aware that The Episcopal Church is engaged in millions of dollars of property lawsuits, all over the country. They are using your donated dollars for this, as our Minnesota neighbor R.A.Livingston documents so well. You need to read his "Primer" if you are not up on these things.

And do you know that the fight is about more than buildings? Do you know that the Presiding Bishop and her inner circle are using the courts to force a new form of decision making and management on all Episcopalians?

If you have a lawyer (or at least someone who speaks the language!) in your congregation, you should pass along A.S. Haley's analysis of what the Presiding Bishop is claiming in the courtroom. Here are just a couple of them, along with my comments in italics:

"The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical religious denomination, comprising 111 geographically-defined, subordinate entities known as 'dioceses' and nearly 7,700 worshipping congregations, usually called 'parishes,' in the United States and other countries."

Have you ever told your non-Episcopalian friends about the "democratic" nature of the church, and how lay people and clergy all meet and vote on key issues? Get ready to say goodbye to all that if this Presiding Bishop gets her way. The case she is making says that the church is not at all democratic, but a pyramid with Presiding Bishop at the top and "subordinate" dioceses and congregations taking orders at the bottom. If you think that's an exaggeration, see the next point:

"The 'Presiding Bishop' is the 'Chief Pastor and Primate' of the Church and is elected by the General Convention. The Presiding Bishop is charged with leadership in initiating and developing Church policy, strategy, and programs; speaking for the Church on such matters; and carrying out appointive and disciplinary functions prescribed by the General Convention."

Ever told your friends, "My church doesn't have a Pope or that kind of absolute authority"? Well, that is set to change according to the claims of the Presiding Bishop. "Initiating policy, strategy and programs" is a vast expansion of what used to be (and on paper still is) a Presiding Bishop's very limited role. Do you know that the current church law requires the Presiding Bishop to get permission to conduct events in your Diocese? That the Presiding Bishop can't just walk in and tell your Diocesan Bishop what to do? All of this is being ignored and the initiative and decision making that have always been entrusted to your Diocese and your congregation are being taken over by the Presiding Bishop. Do you know that she's actually inserted herself into the Diocese of Minnesota's efforts to elect their next bishop?

Episcopalians are, on average, older than the members of most other churches and than the general U.S. population. Many of you say things like, "Well, I just want to know that the church will be there for comfort in my last days and to give me Christian burial when the time comes." Some of you say, "I'm tired of all the old fights and will just have to leave them to someone else."

But you are the ones who know the values that the Episcopal Church once held, including its respect for the local congregation and the regional diocese to make primary decisions for the mission of the church. If you don't stand up for these things, they will not be part of any future the Episcopal Church might have.

I am currently looking at the proposed changes to "Disciplinary Canons" for the Episcopal Church. I hope in the next few days to post some interpretation and warnings about some significant points.

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