Thursday, October 13, 2011

As South Carolina and Sydney goes, so will the Communion

The future of the Anglican Communion is in a real mess as I look around Anglicanland today. It is quite like a disaster happening close to one of NZ's most beautiful beachlands where the Rena, a large container ship having sailed off-course onto a reef, is breaking up, leaking oil and dropping containers with hazardous chemicals over its side. Prior to hitting the reef the container ship was successfully sailing across the ocean holding together a large number of containers with different cargoes in them. Something went wrong on the bridge, some inattention to the map which would have guided the ship away from danger if the map was followed. So too the Anglican Communion.

I agree with all critics of the Covenant (see comments to post below) who argue that the Covenant will no more repair the damage to the Communion than putting duct tape over the gash in the sides of the Rena will hold it in one piece. That repair to the Communion will take a new attitude, a new willingness, and a new engagement with one another in order to restore relationships to a point where the Covenant would be a new map for the Communion moving into a new future.

But the signs today are not at all good that there is much in the way of a new attitude, willingness or engagement with one another emerging in the Communion.

In North America, we have the emergence of a what appears to be a full scale attempt to depose +Mark Lawrence, the Bishop of South Carolina, by a panel of bishops using the canons at their disposal to fire their salvo at one who has done nothing other than steer his diocese in the direction of orthodox, traditional, Scriptural Anglican Christianity. Here in the attempt to depose is Anglicanism at its very worst: an episcopal hierarchy which harbours in its midst a diversity of theologies, some straying a long way from creedal orthodoxy uniting to impose canon law on a colleague. There are no signs I can detect in this move of a willingness to restore relationships within TEC. Perhaps worse, there are no signs detectable of TEC's episcopal hierarchy engaging with the question, 'What have we done that South Carolina should have decided not to accede to our constitution etc?'

But down here in Down Under territory, we also have notice of the Diocese of Sydney rejecting the Anglican Covenant. Now there are many opposed to the Covenant (again, see comments to post below, to find Anglicans from a variety of theological commitments united in opposition to the Covenant) so it is scarcely news that Sydney is in the ranks of the opposers. (Though it might be news to those who equate both the Covenant and Sydney with opposition to progress on issues concerned with homosexuality and women in ministry). But what is noteworthy are the reasons for opposition given in the article linked to above. These reasons are seriously confused about what it means to be Anglican. If this confusion is representative of wider thinking across the Communion, then the Communion is doomed. A 'communion' by definition is an entity with beliefs and practices held in common. But if we are confused about the commonalities of Anglicans then Anglican 'communion' is impossible. Even this supporter of the Covenant recognises that some common starting ground is needed for the Covenant to be helpful to the common life of the future Communion.

Here, incidentally, are my reasons why I think the article linked to above expresses serious confusion about what it means to be Anglican:

The article includes the following five theological objections to the Covenant, drawn from a report the Sydney motion adopts, with my observations added in italics below each objection:

"a) Failure to give sufficient attention to historic Anglican formularies: This final text of the Covenant fails to give sufficient attention to the place of the formularies (the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Ordinal and the Book of Common Prayer) in Anglican theology and practice. These ‘historic formularies of the Church of England’, while bearing authentic witness to the catholic and apostolic faith, are only ‘acknowledged and appropriated in various ways in the Anglican Communion’. While it is simply a matter of constitutional reality that the Articles do not have the same place or function in all the provinces of the Communion, the doctrine they espouse remains the doctrine of the Anglican churches. In other words they are not just further authentic witnesses to the catholic and apostolic faith; they exercise a particular function in the structure of our doctrine and life together (whether acknowledged or not). It is beyond dispute that the Articles (which, it should be noted, enjoin the reading of the Homilies) arose in a particular historical location and bear the marks of that location. England in the sixteenth century is very different from Africa or Asia in the twenty-first century. However, the few articles which are specific to that original situation (e.g. Article 37) can easily be distinguished from those articles treating biblical doctrine.

Given that this objection recognises that the 39A etc are influential in varying ways across the Communion, the Covenant gives sufficient attention to them. It cannot be expected that the Covenant gives more attention than realistically possible for a Communion of 38 member churches.

(b) Confused ecclesiology: The Covenant continues to operate with a confused ecclesiology. What is the basic unit of the denomination which would be able to enter into such a Covenant? Section 4 seems to rely upon the notion of Anglican provinces committing their member churches to this arrangement. However, such a notion of the nature and function of a province is quite novel and flies in the face of the two most enduring theological views: that the diocese and its bishop is the basic unit of ‘church’; or that the local congregation is the basic unit of ‘church’. The theological questions raised by giving provinces such a role in maintaining discipline are immense and yet this is assumed rather than established on the basis of Scripture.

This objection is itself confused. The Covenant is not a document for the church in general, but for the Anglican Communion which is an organisation of member churches. That is the basic units of the Communion are member churches and so the Covenant is for member churches to sign to, or not to sign to.

(c) Inflated view of the Anglican bishop: The final text contains a highly inflated view of the Anglican bishop. Why, for instance is the teaching of bishops highlighted in §1.2.4? They are authorised teachers within our polity but so is every priest or presbyter and even each deacon. Neither the Ordinal or the Articles presupposes a distinction between them at this point. The teaching of all is to be tested by the Scriptures themselves. Similarly, to suggest that ‘Churches of the Anglican Communion are bound together … by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of bishops in conference’ (§3.1.2) is problematic, notwithstanding the fact that this was the language of the Lambeth Conference of 1930.2 In contrast to the trend in some circles to elevate the Anglican bishop, recent history and the current crisis make clear the need to highlight the accountability of bishops to live and teach according to the Scriptures rather than to suggest they (or anyone else) stand over the Scriptures as in some way privileged interpreters.

It is not an inflated view of the Anglican bishop to emphasise the special role of the bishop in Anglican polity. The objection (b) above has precisely defined the basic unit of the universal church as the diocese, which places extraordinary specialness on the human leader of that unit! Priests and deacons are licensed by their bishop; dioceses are units because they are about a grouping of God's people bound together around an office, united by fellowship with the holder of that office, the bishop. Thus on a bishop is a special teaching responsibility because the doctrine taught by the bishop will aid, or undermine, the unity of the diocese as the basic unit of the church at large. Priests or presbyters and deacons share in that responsibility, the standard of teaching within which responsibility is determined by the bishop. (If I preach the bodily resurrection of our Lord while my bishop is headlined in the media as denying the resurrection, guess which teacher has set the standard!?). All that is to say nothing of what this objection says nothing, that the eucharistic presidency of priests/presbyters is a collegial responsibility flowing out from the role of the bishop.

(d) Inordinate power given to the Archbishop of Canterbury: This document involves ratifying an authority structure which gives an inordinate amount of power to the Archbishop of Canterbury. As mentioned above, he plays a significant role in each of the other three ‘Instruments of Communion’ which therefore cannot operate as effective counterbalances if he should himself be part of the problem at any point. His role in issuing invitations to Lambeth, chairing the ACC and also the Standing Committee, and convening the Primates Meeting raises serious questions about whether there are in reality four ‘Instruments of Communion’ or one.

There is no 'inordinate' power given to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The power of the ABC is the power of influence, not of rule. The Archbishop of Canterbury first and foremost has ordinate power according to the order of the Church of England, bound by canon and civil law of that church and of the United Kingdom, and in those interconnected domains, the power of the ABC is of influence, not of rule. Within the Communion the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury is the power of 'host' and 'chair', not the power of a ruler (i.e. an 'Anglican Pope.')

(e) Failure to give due weight to the teaching of Scripture: Perhaps most serious of all, the Covenant does not differentiate – and has no mechanism for differentiating – between those actions which are a departure from the teaching of Scripture and others which involve no such departure. The Covenant’s focus on maintaining institutional unity blurs this most significant distinction. The abandonment of biblical teaching on human sexuality is of an entirely different character to the exercise of extra-diocesan jurisdiction for the sake of those faithful men and women who are suffering at the hands of an errant leadership. Neither the search for faithful episcopal oversight outside of the normal structures nor the approval of administration of the Holy Communion by persons other than presbyters are contrary to Scripture. On the other hand, both a public denial of the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation and an endorsement of homosexual activity are manifestly contrary to Scripture."

This is very seriously confused. The Covenant's role is precisely to maintain the unity of an institution, because it is a Covenant designed for a specific institution, the Anglican Communion. That institution is not a general Christian institution (for which one might make claim that the key standard of all faith and practice was Scripture and only Scripture), but an institution with a specific character, namely, the character of being Anglican.

An Anglican institution inevitably mixes general Christian teaching and practice (e.g. creedal orthodoxy, love one another) with specific Anglican teaching and practice (e.g. permissability of breadth of eucharistic understanding, bishops and priests/presbyters preside at communion, non-subservience to Rome, acknowledgement of heritage in the Church of England through communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury).

The Covenant, with inexorable logic, is precisely a Covenant which guides the Anglican institution of the Communion on what it means to be Anglican and on what it means to be Communion. Thus the Covenant potentially speaks both to things which are a departure from Scripture and to things which involve no departure from Scripture but do depart from Anglican tradition. This is not different to the canons and constitutions of Anglican churches which both spell out the Christian doctrine of these churches and prescribe what is and is not ordered in the life of these churches.

If the Communion is not to break up, like the stricken Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, then it needs within its midst some greater tolerance than is being afforded the Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop, and some clearer thinking than is going on in Sydney at the moment.

I have to say, today, that the future of the Anglican Communion as an Anglican Communion and as an Anglican Communion, looks particularly bleak. That the Covenant looks like it will not save it, on either score, is because it seems we lack within ourselves good understanding of what it means to be Anglican, and what it means for Communion to be viable.

Oh, well, for a brighter future I can look forward to the All Blacks winning on Sunday night. It just requires mentally blacking out the fact that when we last played Australia we lost, as well as ignoring all news reports that Richie McCaw's injured foot is deeply troubling him, the team, and the nation.

Err, on second thoughts, perhaps salvaging the Rena would be the easier task to face.


Kurt said...

“In North America, we have the emergence of a what appears to be a full scale attempt to depose +Mark Lawrence, the Bishop of South Carolina, by a panel of bishops using the canons at their disposal to fire their salvo at one who has done nothing other than steer his diocese in the direction of orthodox, traditional, Scriptural Anglican Christianity.”—Fr. Peter Carroll

Oh, come on, Peter! Bishop Lawrence has done much more than simply steer his diocese in an “orthodox” direction. He is attempting to set the stage to steal Episcopal Church property on a massive scale! THIS is why action is being taken now by a panel of bishops (including retired Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina). Bp. Lawrence and his followers are free to leave The Episcopal Church at any time. (In fact, many of us would be glad to be rid of them!) They are NOT free to take our properties with them as they go into the ACNA or wherever.

Kurt Hill
Enjoying the changing fall colors
In Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
(1) What is your specific evidence that there is a plan to 'steal' property?
(2) What is your specific evidence that there is a plan on the part of the Dio. of SC to leave TEC?
(3) Has it crossed your mind that the Diocese of South Carolina, whatever it has done and may be going to do, is responding to a direction of TEC which could be reviewed by the good bishops of its House of Bishops?

Kurt said...

“Has it crossed your mind that the Diocese of South Carolina, whatever it has done and may be going to do, is responding to a direction of TEC which could be reviewed by the good bishops of its House of Bishops?”—Fr Carrell

Bishop Lawrence is undoubtedly “responding to the direction of TEC.” But attempting to challenge the Dennis Canon has only one purpose—the control of property. Unfortunately for “Orthodox ‘Anglicans’” in SC the Dennis Canon is binding on all dioceses, including South Carolina, whether they like it or not:

“All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [i.e., the Episcopal Church in the United States] and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.”

Individuals may leave the TEC, but missions, parishes and dioceses remain (along with TEC property).

Now, I personally, would be happy to negotiate a separation, including a division of property in SC, as long as TEC retained her historical e.g. oldest parish buildings. As far as I’m concerned, parishes which wished to leave could make arrangements for any buildings constructed after 1865.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Mark Baddeley said...

I think you're quite on the money when it comes to point e) Peter, and is something I've raised from time to time with people, and have had thoughts over the last couple of years to blog about.

I think the criticism you are critiquing could be better stated - that what is being protested is some kind of 'moral equivalency' between departure from the apostolic faith and departure from normal ways of operating. But as it is written I think you are on the money - it is a failure to take on board Articles XX and XXXIV - that the Church is free to set traditions in places where the Bible has not as long as it does not oppose what the Bible has said. Although the argument in Article XXXIII - the law does not require singleness so therefore clergy are free to marry, suggests that that freedom is not absolute.

But I think you've misunderstood b) and c) somewhat. Here's the question that I think clarifies the problem: who can sign the covenant - provinces or dioceses?

Only provinces can sign. ++Williams first of all floated the possibility of Dioceses within a province that had been removed from the circle of covenanted members of the Anglican Communion signing on the covenant and being recognized. But this was later withdrawn - only provinces can sign up.

But if only provinces can sign up, then why the focus on bishops? They, and their dioceses, are no longer the basic unit of the communion, it is the province.

While you can argue for an emphasis on bishops from a purely 'this is Anglicanism' kind of history, you can't really from the Bible. But the covenant would mean that you can't make it from a 'this is Anglicanism' point of view either. Because Provinces are now the basic unit. So the emphasis on Bishops in the covenant is problematic given the provincial nature of what Anglicanism would become. (Sydney also wants to reduce the height of bishops a bit as well, but that's not all that's going on.)

As for a), the motion is expressing the same conviction as to why Sydney joined GAFCON and sees it as the 'only realistic option on the table'. Sydney really does believe that the 39 articles are the theological foundations that the Anglican Communion needs to address the current problems. They're not making a descriptive argument here - 'given how it functions, it should have more airplay', they're making a prescriptive argument - 'this is what we should do'.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, your desire for 'a new attitude, willingness and engagement' towards unifying the Communion has already been compromised by the departure - or threatened departure - of those parts of the Communion that have expressed their distaste for being together as a unit. The Communion, seemingly, is not something they want to be a part of. It does take a willingness to work things out in order to maintain 'unity in diversity' - an Anglican trait.

The split has already been initiated by the departing church bodies. They did not need to go, they were not forced to go: they just went. There seems to have been no willingness to meet the conditions that would have kept the church together. South Carolina cannot blame anyone else for their disassociation from TEC.

Sydney's rejection of the Covenant should be no surprise. Sydney has been working outside of Anglican polity for some time now - not least on its negative attitude to women priests and the desire for Lay-Presidency at the Eucharist, so that if it were to embrace the Covenant as now proposed, it would have to at least abandon its policy on Lay-Presidency. (It may still have to, in order to remain within the polity of the Aussie Province).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
Challenging the Dennis Canon could also have the point that it would offer SC clarity about what it is to do with parishes/property within its midst who do not wish to remain with SC in TEC.

On one level I would be delighted to join with you in affirming the strategic importance of TEC focussing on the past.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark,

I see you points re bishops, dioceses, and recognise that Anglican ecclesiology is muddled or at least mixed on this: e.g. Lambeth is for bishops (who sort of 'bring their dioceses' with them - in their minds, to inform their contributions and receptiveness), but ACC is for provinces (who elect the reps who go), as is the Primates Meeting).

Nevertheless provinces in making their decisions to sign or not sign the Covenant will have (likely) had discussions and studies on the Covenant within their episcopal units, so provinces are not without connection to their bishops and dioceses.

Hmm - could the Covenant "work" if it was signed up to on a diocesan basis?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
All I am saying here applies to the Communion as it is, not to the Communion as it was in the past before various people departed it.

I compare the TEC/South Carolina situation to our own church and to the Australian Anglican church: in both cases we work much harder to retain, include, and fellowship with the diversity in our midst. I see nothing going on in TEC to make SC feel included, welcomed, and supported by the wider church.

hogster said...

Re Father Ron "The split has already been initiated by the departing church bodies".

Then there are those who would say the that split has been initiated by those who have departed from scripture or at the very least seem to be shaping their hermeneutic process according to the norms of popular culture, and a revisionist agenda.

Paul Powers said...

Kurt, the final authority for real estate matters involving Episcopal Churches in South Carolina is the South Carolina Supreme Court, not the Executive Council or even the General Convention. The South Carolina Supreme Court has rejected the idea that the Dennis Canon by itself creates a trust in favor of the diocese or TEC. There may be some instances where the diocese or TEC can show that such a trust relationship exists, but they will need to do more than just repeating "Dennis Canon, Dennis Canon, Dennis Canon."

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, the difference between our Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and South Carolina/TEC, is that no diocese in New Zealand has sought to distance itself, by direct inference (e.g. removal of reference to TEC by S.C. in its documents) from the polity of the Provincial Church of which we are part and parcel.

Granted, one of the dioceses has sought to retain its own specific scriptural view by opening its own local theological College, but it is still with us - so far anyway.

With regard to 'Hogster's' comment;
Most of the Anglican Church bodies have made significant departures from Scriptural authority before this: on matters regarding slavery, usury and subservience of women, and divorce. The emancipation of the LGBT community is just one more such departure. Why does it take this one to cause the schism that has already occurred?

The interpretation of Scriptures happens on a daily basis. While the Holy Spirit lives in the Church, and circumstances and customs change, fresh insights are always needed into the contemporary meaning of the scriptures as a whole - not just little bits of it that suit us.

If that were not so, there would be no purpose for continued preaching and teaching. With each Eucharistic liturgy of the Church there are usually at least 3 prescribed readings from Scripture, from which both priest and people must be open to new guidance by the Holy Spirit into their significance for TODAY.

It is in this specific context - in the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist - that the Church should be ready and open to fresh insight.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

You are missing my point: our church, the Australian church has not so pushed a point that any diocese has felt the need to not accede. Why has TEC not grasped the simple point that a diocese choosing to not accede represents a grave situation in which the whole church has likely misunderstood the counsel of God by not listening to the whole of the church.

As for new interpretations out of Scripture on a daily and weekly basis. I am trying to keep up with the old, old story which provides more than enough for me to think about and to apply in my life without any new interpretations!

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Peter,

Anglican ecclesiology is muddled or at least mixed on this: e.g. Lambeth is for bishops...but ACC is for provinces (who elect the reps who go), as is the Primates Meeting).

Yes, and I'm not querying that. But this is part of the issue of the covenant. It isn't a fifth instrument of the communion, it is something else.

And what is the something else that it is? If a province doesn't sign onto the covenant, or does but is removed later, does it lose its seats on the ACC? At the moment it seems not, given TEC's position on the committee that decides whether a province is compliant with the covenant or not. Do the relevant bishops get invited to Lambeth? The primates to the primates meeting? If the CoE is found to not be compliant with the covenant does the Archbishop of Canterbury cease to be the fourth instrument? Or is membership in the covenant completely separate to involvement in the four instruments?

I think that what is on view is eventually some kind of communion within a communion with the covenant as the gatekeeper. And if that is the case, then entry to and exit from that communion can only be on a provincial basis. And when that happens, provinces become the basic unit of the communion within a communion.

Nevertheless provinces in making their decisions to sign or not sign the Covenant will have (likely) had discussions and studies on the Covenant within their episcopal units, so provinces are not without connection to their bishops and dioceses.

That's irrelevant, I'd suggest. The same will (hopefully) be true of Bishops going to Lambeth and the parishes in their Diocese, but no-one suggests from that that parishes are the basic unit.

It works this way. Say a province has one diocese that is extremely non-compliant with the covenant. They ordain clowns, say, when everyone else has decided that is 'unanglican', and the relevant bodies have passed strongly worded condemnations of 'clown ordinations'. The province as a whole does not approve of this, but is constitutionally unable to do anything about the actions of that Diocese (the reasons varying from province to province).

That diocese remains part of the communion within a communion, and it is possible that its representative could even be on the committee that oversees compliance with the covenant.

Another diocese, completely behind the covenant and compliant with it, is in a province that is not in the communion-within-a-communion. And so it is out.

That's the basic kind of point. This isn't an additional instrument. This is something else, that permanently changes the communion to a provincial basis, and so changes the nature of the bishops' role from how most anglicans see it.

Hmm - could the Covenant "work" if it was signed up to on a diocesan basis?

Depends what you mean. It would be a headache for places like the CoE and TEC, so in that sense 'no'. But the Global South is showing that it can 'work' - their Global South encounter meetings are for the Global South provinces, but non global south bodies are invited to come along as they are seen to be theologically on board, and have the virtues of mutual forbearance and mutual responsibility and want to be part of it.

And I think they're showing far more ability to function as a communion that can do things (and not just have meetings that are ends in themselves) than the meetings around the instruments are evidencing.

It's why I think the future is with the Global South. They've just bypassed the formal structures and got on with being a communion and a fellowship and a partnership in reality. They haven't left the communion, but they've disengaged with the instruments, and by doing so are showing that it is possible to express the reality of the communion more without the instruments in their current state.

Kurt said...

“Kurt, the final authority for real estate matters involving Episcopal Churches in South Carolina is the South Carolina Supreme Court, not the Executive Council or even the General Convention.”—Paul P.

Actually, that would be the US Supreme Court, Paul.

My understanding is that SC is the only American state where the court has supported a breakaway majority. The SC Supreme Court, did indeed, overturn a lower court decision that ruled in favor of TEC and instead gave the property of All Saints’, Pawlenty Island, SC to the schismatic majority. However, it should be noted, Paul, that the decision in this precise situation was case-specific, and did not in any way overturn the Dennis Canon in SC. You see the SC diocese had formally passed legal ownership of the property to the congregation in question about a century before, hence that case-specific ruling. (Oh, and contrary to con evo rumors, the US Supreme Court DID NOT “refuse to review the decision”, since it was NEVER ASKED to do so. My understanding is that US Supreme Court case law heavily favors TEC in such real estate matters.)

Kurt Hill
Enjoying the colorful fall foliage
In Brooklyn, NY

Kurt said...

As I have said before, if it were up to me, I would be more than willing to “do a deal” with Bp. Lawrence and his followers to divide the assets of the current diocese and avoid a costly and lengthy (perhaps decades-long) court battle which, ultimately, I believe TEC would win. If Lawrence were to immediately “concede” to TEC her historic church buildings up 1865, I would let the other side have the more modern (and higher value) structures. I would aim to retain such church buildings as: St. Andrew’s Church, Drayton Hall (built in 1706); St. James Church, Goose Creek (1711); St. Helena’s Church, Beaufort (1724); Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant (1724); Strawberry Chapel, Cordsville (1725); Prince George’s Church, Winyah, Georgetown (1742); St. Michael’s Church, Charleston (1752); Pompion Hill Chapel, Huger (1763); St. Stephen’s Church, St. Stephen (1767); St. James, Church, Santee (1768); St. David’s Church, Cheraw (1770); St. Philip’s Charleston (1836).

Kurt Hill
In colorful Brooklyn, NY

Mark Baddeley said...

Kurt, you claimed:

However, it should be noted, Paul, that the decision in this precise situation was case-specific, and did not in any way overturn the Dennis Canon in SC. You see the SC diocese had formally passed legal ownership of the property to the congregation in question about a century before, hence that case-specific ruling.

From the ruling of the SC Supreme Court on the case in question:

Furthermore, we hold that neither the 2000 Notice nor the Dennis Canon has any legal effect on title to the All Saints congregation’s property. A trust “may be created by either declaration of trust or by transfer of property….” Dreher v. Dreher, 370 S.C. 75, 80, 634 S.E.2d 646, 648 (2006). It is an axiomatic principle of law that a person or entity must hold title to property in order to declare that it is held in trust for the benefit of another or transfer legal title to one person for the benefit of another. The Diocese did not, at the time it recorded the 2000 Notice, have any interest in the congregation’s property. Therefore, the recordation of the 2000 Notice could not have created a trust over the property.

For the aforementioned reasons, we hold that title to the property at issue is held by All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc., the Dennis Canons had no legal effect on the title to the congregation’s property, and the 2000 Notice should be removed from the Georgetown County records.

The ruling had dealt with the case-specific matters in the earlier parts and begins the above quote with 'futhermore', indicating that this is something further or extra. And what it states is that, under the 'neutral' approach to church property issues neither the Diocese nor the Denis Canon can simply acquire the rights to property when a different set of names were on the property deeds of a parish at the time that those canons were passed.

I italicised the key bit:
It is an axiomatic principle of law that a person or entity must hold title to property in order to declare that it is held in trust for the benefit of another or transfer legal title to one person for the benefit of another.

That is the money quote, and is articulating a principle that is not case specific.

On that basis, the Denis Canon has no force in South Carolina, and that will continue until such time as the US Supreme Court reverses its decision that State Courts are free to use either the 'deference' principle or the 'neutral' principle to decide matters of church property in favor of only the 'deference' principle.

And if the Supreme Court decides the other way - that the 'deference' principle violates the non-establishment clause in the constitution (and I think a case could be made for that, because the deference approach gives denominations like TEC a privileged position compared to other religious bodies with respect to U.S. property law - they simply don't have to follow it in debates internal to their body) then South Carolina's ruling would effectively take effect across the U.S.

South Carolina is the only state to have found this way because it is the only judiciary that, at this stage, has made the decision on pure 'neutral' principles and hasn't adopted 'deference' somewhere. I think it's an open guess as to what the U.S. Supreme Court would ever decide in that case.

But given the Obama administration's submission on the case of the sacked Lutheran teacher, and the idea of 'ministerial exclusion', I think we could safely predict that we'd have the odd situation of the Obama administration opposing TEC's case in the Supreme Court if it ever got there. They've made it clear that they think someone's right to access the civil courts should overrule all other principles. If they're opposed to ministerial exception, then they should be even more opposed to deference if they're being consistent.

Kurt said...

What you write is interesting, Mark, but I think it is beside the point. From my reading of the same material you quoted, the SC Supreme’s decision IS case-specific, since the All Saints congregation unquestionably held direct title for over a century as the result of the action of the diocese. But, legally, you may be correct. Perhaps the US Supreme Court may have the final say. My understanding is that US Supreme Court precedent heavily favors TEC. And, of course, we can note that a majority of Justices are themselves members of a hierarchical church, so Bp. Lawrence would have an uphill battle in any case. If schismatics make the retention of properties a costly effort for TEC, then TEC may take a very hard line with them in the end (e.g., Bob Duncan and Pittsburgh). As I have said, if it were up to me, I’d settle for our historic church buildings and let it go at that (along with, of course, specific local congregations which continue to adhere to TEC, in which case we would keep those properties as well).

But, quite frankly, I have more important matters on my mind than religious squabbles in a Southern backwater. I’ve been heavily involved in the Occupy Wall Street actions during the past few weeks. Tomorrow morning (our time) the City administration may try to clear out the protesters. I plan to be there at 6 am to non-violently help defend the encampment.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...

...Southern backwater.

Doesn't that phrase speak volumes.


Father Ron Smith said...

Mark Baddeley, correctly in my opinion, has mentioned the fact that the Global South entity has already distanced itself from the Communion by its severance from the Instruments of Unity. It is that very fact that has already set the pace for radical division within the world-wide Anglican Family. However, as they have little to do with Canterbury, they can hardly high-jack the title 'Anglican'. They must accept the reality of the need for another title, maybe: 'Global South Reformed Anglican-style Church': GSRASC. Then the rest of us can get on with the task of being ordinary Gospel-centred Anglicans in our own provincial areas of mission.

Paul Powers said...

Kurt, in general terms, title to real estate in the US is a matter of state law, and it's up to the state supreme court (or in the case of NY, the Court of Appeals) to decide issues of state law. The U.S. Supreme Court doesn't have the authority to overturn a state supreme court's interpretation of state law. The only issue for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider is whether the state law is in conflict with the federal constitution or a federal statute. If it isn't in conflict, the state law stands. In the All Saint's case, representatives of the TEC congregation did file an appeal with the US Supreme Court, but before the Court decided whether to hear the case, the parties reached a settlement, and the appeal was dropped. Whether the court would have agreed to hear the case, and how it would have ruled, is anyone's guess. I have my doubts that they will agree to consider any of the cases that are working their way up the judicial ladder. This means in some states the Dennis Canon will be upheld. In other states it won't be. Either way life will go on.

Anonymous said...

"Southern backwater.

Doesn't that phrase speak volumes."

Indeed. Reminds me of John 1.46.
Just been reading 1 Corinthians 1.26-29 as well. 'I thank Thee, God, that I am not as other men.

"Et maintenant - encore aux barricades! Ferme-toi les yeux et figure-toi! C'est toujours l'an '68!"


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you have spoken here of your continuing engagement with what you have called "The old, old story". The trouble is that an ongoing faith epic cannot be buried in the past. While gathering strength and validity from the past, the basic Christian community has to live, radically in the present, and into the future; learning from the past, yes, but using that learning to creatively, and imaginatively, live into the future that is still awaiting Christ's redemption.

That is why the old, old story about the need for slaves, and subservient women is no longer seen to be part of the Gospel (Good News) for today. The Church has a future to live into - with Truth and Justice - not with the 'Bad News' of inequities of the past.

The central axiom of the Gospel is located in the Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and ultimate Glorification of Jesus Christ. All the rest is only as useful as its ongoing relevance to God's Love still at work in Creation.

We read about the past; we engage in the present and the future! The epic story of Christianity is not just an historical time-based Old, old Story. It is also located in eternity - and therefore based in the experience of yesterday, today and the future.

The Holy Spirit is still living and breathing God's Wisdom into the open eyes and ears of, not only the Church, but also the world for which Christ died. If the Church is absorbed only in the past, it may lose its prophetic viability to 'Open up the Kingdom of heaven to ALL believers".

Mark Baddeley said...

Father Ron Smith,

I think you're again putting things in a fairly partisan way. I don't think the Global South has been "severed" from the instruments of unity. That's your language, so it's a bit rich to imply it is mine. I said they've stepped back from involvement, or words to that effect.

What the Global South has said is that various instruments have spoken to this issue and put forward the way ahead. Lambeth has then picked and chosen which bits of those declarations it wants to run with and ignored others, and changed the rules without consultation with primates outside the liberal west. That's hardly an idiosyncratic reading (although I agree others could contest it) - it's all on public record. On that basis, they've said that there's no point being involved as Lambeth will just do whatever it wants anyway - because that's what it's done over the last eight years.

The bigger question is whether involvement in the instruments part of what it means to be in communion?

I remember when it was looking like ++Williams might do something to TEC in line with what his words at that time seemed to indicate. At that time it was quite common to hear assertions from liberals that a province cannot cease to be part of the Anglican communion, because membership in the communion arises simply from one's heritage in being a church that had been planted by the CoE, and there are no conditions for ongoing membership in the communion.

I suppose though, that now the 'fix' is in, and authority has been removed from the Primates meeting, Lambeth, and even the ACC and moved to a new body that is, again, dominated by liberals, we should expect that all of sudden liberals would rediscover just how essential the instruments are to membership of the anglican communion.

Who says the instruments constitute membership in the anglican communion? Many of them are very recent creations, and two of them (Lambeth and Primates) have had their fundamental nature changed by ++Williams over the last decade. They're not the same things they were ten years ago.

Who says who has rights over the name 'anglican'?

It's just typical of a liberal to wax lyrical about how the doctrine and morality of the Christian faith needs to be open to be changed by the Spirit based on the needs of the present, but to see the current institutional structures as inscribed in stone tablets and brought down from a holy mountain.

Instruments do not a communion make.

Kurt said...

What “speaks volumes” to me is the complete disinterest by some of you in Occupy Wall Street and its meaning for Christians. I could quote the appropriate Scripture verse here, but I won’t bother.

For what it’s worth, let me give folks an update on Occupy Wall Street:

Brookfield Properties and the New York Police Department both backed off from a confrontation with thousands of Occupy Wall Street supporters this morning. Both Brookfield and the NYPD have stated that they will negotiate with OWS as to how any cleanup will take place.

Brookfield, the owner of the private park where Wall Street protesters are camped out had given “notice” Thursday that after it power-washes the space it will begin enforcing regulations, which prohibit everything from lying down on benches to storing personal property on the ground.

The protesters' response was to plan a demonstration for 6 am this morning, an hour before they were supposed to evacuate Liberty Plaza (a/k/a Zuccotti Park) while it was to be cleaned with power washers Friday morning. OWS supporters believed the effort was an attempt to end the protest, which has triggered a movement against unequal distribution of wealth that has spread across the globe.

Protest spokesman Patrick Bruner sent an email to supporters Thursday asking us to join the protesters at 6 a.m. Friday to “defend the occupation from eviction.”

The owner, Brookfield Properties, earlier handed out a notice to protesters saying they would be allowed back in the park after the cleanup if they abide by park regulations.
The notice lists regulations including no tents, no tarps or sleeping bags on the ground, no lying on benches and no storage of personal property on the ground. All those practices have been common at the park, where protesters have lived, slept and eaten for nearly a month.

Both the NYPD and Brookfield, which has branches in Australia and Canada, showed some common sense in backing off this morning. Every time the kops have cracked down, it has spread the protest even faster. Now, hopefully, we will be able to negotiate a reasonable outcome.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Mark Baddeley said...

yars, I've been shocked at the complete lack of mention, among commentators on this blog, of the fate of the Coptics in Egypt, the debacle that resulted in Fox resigning as defense secretary in the UK, and the new plans to revitalize stocks of bluefin tuna in Oz.

That disinterest in important issues unfolding all around the world 'speaks volumes' to me.

I'm not sure it is saying anything in particular to me, but whatever it is saying it sure is saying it loudly.

Father Ron Smith said...

Kurt, I'm certainly with you in your struggle with the Wall Street protesters against exploitative Capitalism. I am also with others who identify with the Copts in Egypt, in their struggle against government alignment with Muslim fundamentalists.

Likewise, I am sympathetic to all who have a daily struggle against religious fundamentalism of any kind - including that of so-called 'christian' fundamenatlists who seek to stigmatise homosexuals as sort sort of underclass worthy only of extinction and calumny. In places like Uganda and Nigeria LGBT people are subject to all kinds of ill-treatment, which is often aided and abetted, by the local Church - all 'in the name of Christ'.

Kurt said...

Right on, Fr. Ron!