Friday, June 11, 2010

Speaking of how we can't talk to each other... and maybe how we can

Mary Ailes has two recent entries on our Episcopalian lawsuits, where Christians who can't agree on what we believe are mired in multimillion dollar litigation over title to buildings and bank accounts.

In California, the State Supreme Court is trying to unravel a bizarre appellate decision in the litigation between St. James' Anglican Church, Newport Beach, and the Episcopal Church's various lawsuit filing entities.

In Virginia, the State Supreme Court is seeking greater clarity in how to apply the law to a large scale division between a group of Anglican congregations and the Episcopal representatives there.

Sadly, the Virginia groups had negotiated an agreement before the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church entered in with a campaign of redirecting donated money to sue everybody. The newly defined "national church" not only rejects dissenters' claims to property, but refuses to allow negotiated settlements or even purchase of the buildings by congregations that built and maintained them in the first place.

In both cases, the Supreme Courts tossed matters back to lower courts, opening up the expenditure of many more years and dollars in adversarial action.

Ailes' comments on the Virginia case are moving. She lives and worships there and has many friends on both sides of the courtroom:

No one won today... It is a time of thoughtful consideration, a time of prayer and fasting, a time of listening to the Lord and to one another.

For what saddens me even more, even now, is that the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed that there has indeed been a major division in The Episcopal Church. It is severe enough for that part of the statute to be satisfied. This means that the Supreme Court could see and affirm that the Episcopal Church is indeed in very serious division.

The Presiding Bishop continues to deny that there is a division, sort of like China claiming Taiwan. Hard to know how to describe the national leaders, who only converse with a small circle of the like-minded. Sub-Christian behavior, certainly. I'm tempted to call it anti-Christian, with all the awful weight and implication of that.

But there are those little signs of a better way, even if it might have to wait for a total denominational collapse before it can be employed to start rebuilding. Ailes reports,

I will tell you however, that the first person to contact me - to want to know how I was feeling and if I was okay was a loyal and perhaps somewhat progressive Episcopalian. She's very much an advocate of what some might call innovations, she would see as acts of justice. But what seemed to matter more to her today were not positions on issues or property or lawsuits - but the welfare of a friend. Her outreach of hospitality meant so much and it's those kind of actions - still possible after everything that happened - that gives me waves hope, even now...

...Just recently, Truro [a dissenting Anglican congregation] hosted a wedding conducted in the main church by a current Episcopal rector in the Diocese of Virginia. It was an amazing opportunity to work together again.

And then there's this little gem I received from one of South Dakota's Reservations:

What do you think of Bishop Tarrant? We love him already! He's been out to our Reservation at least 3 times now! Wow! We haven't had a Bishop out since [name of bishop and date of visit]!

It's not like Jesus left us without encouragement and simple instructions:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.


Kim said...

Planting a church is hard because it requires the assurance of what is promised and the hope of things unseen. But I have never regretted for one day, one minute, leaving the Episcopal Church. I rarely see news of it now that it isn't my point of reference, so I breathe easy. Buildings and stuff aren't meaningless. But giving them back gives our God amazing space to work.

Peace to our brothers and sisters on both coasts and to you Fr. Tim

TLF+ said...

Peace to you, too, Kim! Giving God "space to work" reminds me of Psalm 18, where David rejoices that "God brought me out into an open place because he delighted in me." May you experience God's delight, even as you hope for the things unseen.