Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We Win! ACNA Loses, Episcopalians Still In-Between.

But we win.  That's the important part.

A California judge has ruled that the Episcopal diocese of San Joaquin, and its bishop Jerry Lamb, are the legal owners of the property now held by schismatic bishop John-David Schofield and the 40 parishes that have taken his side and left the [DFMS of the] PECUSA.

We are experts in neither canon nor canon nor civil law, but this accords with our limited understanding of the case.  (It is apparently parallel to the provisions governing those Lutheran congregations that were formerly part of the LCA, although the church constitutions are surely quite different.)  

Needless to say, this judgment does not end the standoff, even in San Joaquin.  The case at hand was only the first, albeit the weightiest, of five brought by the Episcopal diocese against Schofield and his adherents.  So there are more cases to judge, and -- as the Modesto Bee gently puts it, Lamb acknowledged that he doesn't expect Schofield or priests in those 40 parishes to give up their properties soon.  

No, we expect not.  Possession is nine points, and all that..

So even though Schofield lost in court, it is hard to say that Lamb actually won.  It's more accurate to say that he and his team have taken the first hill in what will likely be a long and bloody battle.  Fratricide usually is.

But we won, and here's why:

Father Anonymous is a frequent reader of GetReligion.org, a website devoted to press coverage of religious affairs -- with a heavy focus on Christianity.  It is run by a team of professional journalists who are transparent about their own religious commitments, and interested in the way their colleagues often seem to report the wrong story when religion is concerned.  The site is excellent, although the correspondents do occasionally seem to read through a doctrinally conservative lens.  And the comments, as opposed to the actual stories, not infrequently devolve into arguments about doctrine, rather than sticking to media criticism.  But these are minor complaints, at best.

Anyway.  Months and months ago, somebody on GR argued that the press was ignorantly taking sides every time it referred to the group of former Episcopalians who would later become ACNA as "breakaway" parishes, priests or dioceses.  After all, argued whoever it was, it is the claim of these fine people that they have not left their church, but that it has left them; and further, that they remain part of the global Anglican family.  So how can anyone say they have broken away?

Father A. pointed out, delicately, that they were breaking away, as a legal and institutional matter, from the church body of which they had long been constituent parts, by which their priests were ordained, and which in many cases had provided the money and personnel with which their parishes had been founded.   Their position in the Anglican Communion was unclear (and is much less so now, by the way).  No; they had left their old church to form a new one.  Just ask the IRS, which surely required them to apply for a new recognition of their tax-exempt status.  Or the Church Pension Fund.

Needless to say, this argument was not received with much enthusiasm at GR.  An initial condescending "explanation" of the doctrinal argument, followed by a polite silence.  We were mildly annoyed.

No more, however.  Thanks to Fresno County Superior Court Judge Adolfo Corona, our cause has been vindicated.  The law agrees with us -- they have broken away from the institution of which they had formerly been part, and, as a matter of law, lost claim to their title.  We're right, the GR commenters were wrong.  So there! 


mark said...

Mmm, that a Fresno County California court judge agrees with you may not be a ringing vindication of your differences with the GR commentary.

Father said...

Hah and double-hah. Not only does the law agree with me, but so, apparently, does GR:


Contributor E.E. Evans mentions "the breakaway ACNA." Of course, she is new since the exchange I described above. And I think she's an Episcopalians.

mark said...

A low level state court judge is not "the law". And yes, Sr. Evans is very much TEC (PECUSA).

Judith Clarens said...

I came to this post while searching a completely unrelated issue (you came up when I googled "ELCA" "sermons" and "envy" -- of all things). After spending the last half hour reading your blog, I'm perplexed that a man of the cloth would take this tone. There is a smugness that permeates so many of your entries -- as if anyone who disagrees with you is some illiterate clod. The glee you take in a truly TRULY sad issue is ... well ... sad. I don't know many good pastors who do a verbal "touchdown" dance after, essentially, a divorce hearing. I also find it perplexing that your writing is so divisive and lacking in grace and charity towards anyone who doesn't agree with you on every issue. Why condescension and snideness rather than humility and an attempt at understanding?

All I can say is every little petty "humorous" aside trying to make your opponents look like ignorant yahoos saddens me and makes *you* look so much worse than these clueless nameless opponents. (And it's not just this post, although this is a rather blatant example; the tone persists throughout every petty little dig at others on the blog).

I don't know who has it "right so there!!" in the overall scheme of this particular argument, but I'm pretty sure this blog is as ugly (in an "elevated" and ostensibly understanding way) as anything I've seen on the other side. Very sad to me.

Try not to let your glee at your righteousness get in the way of understanding one another.

Father said...

Dear Judith,

While I'm sad that the blog seems cruel to you, I hope that you'll keep reading. There's more to it than just the snarkiness, I promise.

It may help for you to understand that, for many years, I have worked, and prayed, very closely with people who disagree deeply with me on some of these issues. We are, in many cases, good friends, despite our differences. Some of the humor is just brotherly rough-housing.

In fact, what you perceive as "divisiveness" and "verbal touchdowns" are intended as something else entirely -- whistling in the darkness, we might call it. I am extremely sad about the plight of the Anglican Communion, as well as about the possibility of the LWF heading in the same direction.

And I certainly don't consider those who disagree with me to be "ingnorant yahoos." (If I *were* going to get Swiftian, I would compare them to the Houyhnhms -- but perhaps another day, hm?). Many are thoughtful and serious people, who believe they are doing the right thing. (Others, I must hasten to say, are something else again.)

But. And this is important -- BUT, in the cases that I choose to make fun of, they are not doing the right thing. They are doing things that are at best misguided and at worst -- in a few specific cases -- genuinely wicked. (Those are my feelings about the ringleaders of, for example, ACNA, the SSPX, and the WordAlone Network).

Now, there are various ways to respond to wickedness. A good one is to turn the cheek, and another is to gently prompt the wicked to repentance. I have done both, and continue doing so, in other forae.

But there are also times -- especially when the wickedness in question is accompanied by good publicity and exceptionally shallow intellectual work -- when the best response is mockery.

So, for example, what you may perceive as a "touchdown dance" when a minor local judge finds against the newly-reconstituted ANCA Diocese of San Joaquin is intended as a playful way of demonstrating that, so far, the foolish claims made by the schismatics have not held up to objective scrutiny.

It may be that they will, eventually -- or, more likely, that the law wil be changed to permit such a finding. But for now they don't, and I think that's important.

It may also do your heart good to know that I don't speak this way with my own church, or in other public places. To a very large extent, this blog -- like most others -- exists as a sort of relief valve, to release the pressure that builds up from a ministry that so often requires suffering fools gladly.

And anyway, the Egg does have other interests. If you don't like my comments on ACNA, you may enjoy what I have to say about poetry or pop stars.

Jay said...

I came to your blog by accident as well and have come to enjoy it very much. I do, however, fundamentally disagree with your admiration for GetReligion.org, which I think of just a shill for some right-winger who funds them. Although they pretend to be interested in the mainstream media's reporting on religion, they really take every opportunity to spout conservative positions. Their homophobia is patently clear, especially that of Mollie. (She got her knickers in a twist last year because the NYTimes had an article on Rosie O'Donnell's cruise for gay families. She thought it was biased because it didn't quote someone opposed to gay families!) I check on it frequently because their intellectual contortions fascinate me the way an open wound fascinates one. In any case, I enjoy your humorous and humane approach to religious issues. Thanks.

Father said...

Jay: You're quite welcome. We do what we can.

And you may be on to something regarding GetReligion; I've never been able to decide on this myself. On one hand, the site's mission -- to review the press coverage of religion -- is an extremely important one. Anybody who has ever seen a hash made of his or her own church's latest actions understands the importance of training journalists to do a better job in this area.

But on the other hand, the actual concern of the GR contributors sometimes -- note the "sometimes" -- seems to be about equally divided between actual coverage and shilling for the "orthodox" positions as defined by moderately conservative church bodies (Mollie, for example, is part of the LC-MS). And as I've said, the comments generally lean heavily in the latter direction.

Do you actually know anything about their funding, or are you speculating? Because of course there is Scaife Foundation money, and lots of it, behind a lot of conservative religious media. And that would be an interesting angle on GR.