Press Release, 14 April: The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth files suit to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church
On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Episcopal Church filed suit in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas in part to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church. The defendants are former members of the corporations board and the former bishop of the diocese, all of whom have left the Episcopal Church.
A statement from the Office of the Presiding Bishop concerning actions in Fort Worth on 14 April
The Episcopal Church, with the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, filed in court today for a declaratory judgment as the rightful owners of all diocesan property, real and personal, including funds and endowments. We feel sorrow that the former diocesan leaders took such actions that led us to this time.
However, this is a necessary step in order for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, comprised of Episcopalians of the full theological spectrum, to continue its gospel work in Texas. In other court venues, the courts have ruled in favor of
the Episcopal Church and we anticipate a favorable outcome in this case and to a continuation of The Episcopal Church’s mission priorities. The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, the Episcopal Church
Word of a legal filing against the Diocese and the trustees of its Corporation was conveyed after close of business on Tuesday, April 14, by news reporters seeking comment. The following day Bishop Iker sent this brief message from London, where he was in meetings with the GAFCON Primates and leaders of the Anglican partnership that will soon form a new Province in North America.
We are neither surprised nor alarmed by the lawsuit brought against the diocese on Tuesday. Our attorneys are reviewing the allegations and will be advising me on how to respond.
We are confident that we followed the proper legislative process in amending our Constitution and Canons and are prepared to make our case in court if necessary.
Your patience and prayers will be much appreciated as this process unfolds.
A blessed and joyous Eastertide to all of you.
Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico
Dear Bishop Iker, The clergy and people of the Diocese of Northern Mexico, gathered at our Thirty-Sixth Synod on March 6, 2009 at Reconciliation in Monterrey, N.L., send you and the people of your diocese, their warmest greetings. As you begin a new step in your journey as a bishop of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, we pray that your ministry may remain fruitful and faithful to our Lord.
We commend you for your courage in leaving the Episcopal Church. Please know that you remain in the thoughts and prayers of the people in the Diocese of Northern Mexico. May God bless you and guide you always. Yours in Christ,
The Rt Revd Marcelino Rivera
Bishop of Northern Mexico
Revd Juan Gabriel Hernandez
Secretary of the Synod
The Diocese of Northern Mexico
has been a sister diocese with
Fort Worth for a number of years.
The Vatican has quietly rejected at _ least three of President Obamas candidates to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See because they support abortion, and the White House might be running out of time to find an acceptable envoy before Mr Obama travels to Rome in July, when he hopes to meet Pope Benedict XVI.
Italian journalist Massimo Franco, of Corriere della Sera, who broke the story about the White House attempts to find a suitable ambassador to the Vatican, said papal advisers told Mr Obamas aides privately that the candidates failed to meet the Vatican’s most basic qualification on the abortion issue.
To improve relations
He said the Vatican recognized that a foreign nation is free to appoint the ambassador of its choice, but that the Pope is free to reject a proposed envoy if he believes the candidate would ‘fail to improve relations’ with the Catholic city-state.
Mr Franco, who has close connections at the Vatican, added that the rejection of the Obama candidates would suggest that, at least so far, none of the potential Democratic diplomats were considered fit to ‘improve relations’ with the Holy See.
Mr. Franco, whose book, Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the U.S., explores U.S.-Vatican relations over the past two hundred years, said Mr Obama’s predicament underscores a deeper problem the Vatican has with the Democratic Party and its pro-choice positions on abortion.
The lack of a U.S. ambassador could become embarrassing for the White House, if the position remains unfilled when Mr Obama attends a summit of the G8 in Italy in July. The White House is trying to arrange a time before or after the summit for Mr Obama to meet Pope Benedict.
Since the United States established formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1984, the ambassadorial position has been held by political supporters and pro-life Catholics under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
James Morrison The Washington Times
Within the past week, lawyers for the two dioceses claiming to be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh filed five new motions and attended a hearing in a case that was initiated in 2003 by the rector and wardens of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh.
In October, a majority of clergy and lay deputies voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone on a temporary basis. The leadership of the Southern Cone diocese has been active in the development of the new Anglican Communion province in North America. The Rt Revd Robert Duncan, who was deposed from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church, prior to the diocesan convention last fall, has been designated archbishop of the new province. Bishop Duncan was also re-elected bishop of the Southern Cone diocese shortly after his deposition.
At the heart of the dispute in the latest filings and an April 17 hearing was whether the diocese’s withdrawal from The Episcopal Church violated a stipulation order on real and personal property that the two sides signed in 2005 to settle the lawsuit. After the majority at the annual convention voted to leave last fall, members of the diocese who wanted to remain held a reorganizing convention and petitioned the court to be added as plaintiffs to the Calvary lawsuit.
The original case was reopened by the rector and wardens of Calvary in November 2006 after they learned of plans by Bishop Duncan and other leaders to remove the entire diocese from The Episcopal Church. The court declined to prevent the withdrawal motion from being voted on during the annual meeting. Instead a special master was appointed to inventory which property was covered by the stipulation order.
Lawyers for the Southern Cone diocese contend that the stipulation order does not address withdrawal by the entire diocese and they have asked the court to hold a trial to determine if the vote at the annual convention was lawful. Lawyers for the Episcopal diocese want the special master to award them the diocesan endowments and other assets. Access to most of the funds was frozen by Morgan Stanley in January.
According to a press release from the Southern Cone diocese, all parties at the April 17 hearing, including lawyers for the leadership of the Episcopal Church, agreed to a future hearing based on the assumption that the diocese’s withdrawal from the Episcopal Church was valid. No date for that hearing has been set.
The Living Church Posted on 17 April
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has pressed charges against the country’s police chief for sending armed police to drive worshippers out of churches every Sunday. Anglicans in Zimbabwe’s Diocese of Harare face harassment and violence from President Robert Mugabe’s police force in what appears to be an attempt to prevent them from worshipping.
Diocesan Registrar for the Church of the Province of Central Africa, Michael Chingore, said police commissioner general, Augustine Chi-huri, is conniving with ousted Bishop Albert Kunonga to destabilise the church.
Bishop Kunonga, a fierce Mugabe supporter backed by the police, is engaged in a wrangle for control of the Diocese of Harare. He has claimed ownership of extensive Anglican assets, despite being officially excommunicated in 2007 and replaced by Central Africa Bishop Sebastian Bakare.
Mr Chingore told inthenews the church wanted the police chief charged for instructing officers to assist the ousted Bishop Kunonga who is allegedly using his strong links with Mugabe to drive Anglicans out of their churches. ‘We have already pressed charges against [Mr] Chihuri at the high court for sending police to disturb our services,’ he said. ‘We are simply saying the police or commissioner-general should not be anywhere near our services. Mr Chihuri is sending police to provoke Anglicans and on the other hand he is saying he does not know anything about it.’
Anglican bishops from around the world last year called on renegade Kunonga, an avid Mugabe supporter, to let go the churches’ property as they did not recognize him as an Anglican bishop.
Support for Bakare
‘We do not recognize Mr Kunonga as a Bishop within the Anglican Communion and we call for the full restoration of Anglican Property within Zimbabwe to the Church of the Province of Central Harare,’ the Anglican Bishops said in a statement.
Despite the calls, the renegade bishop reportedly always moves with scores of Zanu-PF supporters and the police every Sunday to disturb church services at the Anglican Church and to force Christians at that church to listen to his sermons.
However, Anglican Christians in Zimbabwe appear to have snubbed him and reports suggest Kunonga is usually forced to conduct his rival services to Zanu-PF militiamen and police officers instead of the church congregations.
TEC to clean out conservatives
The Most Revd George L. Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991-2002, offered a sober and sometimes bleak assessment of the Communion’s future and had challenging words both for the Instruments of Communion and The Episcopal Church on April 16.
Archbishop Carey was the keynote speaker at Anglicanism: A Gift in Christ’, a two-day conference of the Anglican Communion Institute and the Communion Partner Primates, Bishops and Rectors at St Martin’s in Houston. The title of his address was ‘Holding Fast and Holding On, The Instruments of Communion.’
The four Instruments
Archbishop Carey began by tracing the history of the development of the Instruments of Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting. Each one, he argued, developed primarily in response to some crisis within the life of the Communion and a desire on the part of the members to develop unity through interdependence.
This trajectory toward greater interdependence existed until 2003 when ‘the Episcopal Church of the United States, by ordaining Gene Robinson, against the strong advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the moral authority of Lambeth ’98, [and] the appeals of the primates’ meeting, led the Anglican Communion into the worst crisis it has ever faced, and from which it is unlikely to recover.’
Addressing directly developments in the United States and Canada, Archbishop Carey said, ‘Some provinces -notably in North America – press for total autonomy theologically from the Communion, while at the same time they impose total canonical autocracy within their dioceses. Ironically and oddly, in such a democratic nation as the United States, a system of ‘prince bishops’ has arisen who appear to have unfettered control over their rapidly diminishing flocks [and] from which all who dissent from the regnant liberalism are being driven out.’
Need for discipline
Archbishop Carey posed a question directly to four Instruments of Communion: ‘What should be done about those provinces which have dissented from the mind of the majority of the Communion? Can there be no hope of discipline, apart from mild reproof?’ The implication was that if there is no hope of discipline, then there is little hope of holding the Communion together.
Granting that a reversal of the actions that precipitated this crisis is highly unlikely, Archbishop Carey then posed a question directly to the American House of Bishops and General Convention: ‘Can conservative believers be assured that they have a future place in The Episcopal Church without censure or opposition?’ Wondering if groups such as the Communion Partners, who are theologically conservative and committed to being both Anglican and Episcopal, have a future, he opined that ‘all signs suggest that over time they are likely to be cleaned out of TEC’ As evidence, he pointed to the recent difficulty the Diocese of South Carolina had obtaining the required consents for the consecration of Bishop Mark Lawrence.
Archbishop Carey sees the fate of the Communion resting in no small measure on this summer’s General Convention.
‘If the General Convention pursues its liberal agenda in authorizing same-sex liturgies and the ordination of homosexual and lesbian bishops and priests, this will confirm the worst fears of many that TEC considers that agenda far more important than the unity of our Communion,’ he said.
Given the recent developments in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC), and the response of many of the provinces of Africa and the Global South to declare themselves in impaired or broken communion with TEC and/or the ACC, Archbishop Carey asked bluntly: Are we heading ever more towards a loose federation of ecclesial bodies, united by a shared history [but] becoming more and more distant – or are we serious about being a Communion, united by doctrine and shared faith, and thus willing to pay the price will entail to recover what we have lost?’
Archbishop Carey closed with a word of encouragement to those gathered, articulating what he sees as the key role for such leaders at this time.
‘What I am sure about is that the present crisis offers the Anglican Communion Partners a real role in building bridges, encouraging growth and preparing for that day – should it come -when new leaders will arise in the United States and Canada who will value the Communion and align [The Episcopal Church] and the Canadian Church with the rest of us. We will be waiting in hope.’ The Revd Eric Turner writing in ‘Living Church Online Posted on 17 April
A potential rift within the Church of Scotland over gay relationships emerged yesterday after the Church’s house magazine backed civil partnerships and openly gay ministers. Accusing religious traditionalists of selectively quoting the Bible to support their attacks on homosexual relations, the editorial in Life And Work urged the kirk to show strong leadership in Scotland.
To influence debate
The article, by the magazine’s editor Muriel Armstrong, comes ahead of next month’s General Assembly in Edinburgh and has been timed to influence a key debate on whether openly homosexual ministers can be appointed to the C of S. Ms Armstrong rounds on the ‘selective literalists’ who use parts of the Bible to bolster their own views but ignore other parts that undermine them. She says that these commentators ‘presumably no longer accept biblical teaching on sexual matters such as polygamy and sex with slaves’ but are happy to quote Leviticus
18:22 on homosexuality: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.’
The Church said yesterday that the magazine was editorially independent. ‘It is not the voice of the Church of Scotland, which is not trying to steer debate on this important issue,’ the Revd Angus Morrison, convenor of the Council of Mission and Discipleship said. He added that he had already received ‘a couple’ of emails expressing concern that the magazine was interfering in the due process of the Church.
Fear of split
Senior figures within the Church fear that the issue of gay partnerships could prove as damaging for the Presbyterian ministry as the row that has split the Anglican Church. A minority in the Presbytery of Aberdeen has already challenged the appointment of an openly gay minister, the Revd Scott Rennie, to Queen’s Cross Church in the city. They have appealed to the Commission of the General Assembly, with a final decision on the matter to be made next month.
Time for leadership
In her editorial Ms Armstrong also champions the right of gay ministers to serve in the Church. She said that two years ago the Church had effectively shelved its decision on the issue and that the moment had come to challenge those who use the ‘familiar arguments’ of tradition, orthodoxy and the ‘plain meaning of Scripture. The question of the integrity of a relationship didn’t enter the argument. It has been suggested that if the Kirk stuck its neck out on this one, it would upset other churches that are still in a reflective no man’s land on this issue. Isn’t it time for leadership? … There are many who continue to be bound by a few biblical verses – none of them in the Gospels – about homosexuality, nowadays understood as a matter of genetics rather than lifestyle.’
The debate on gays in the Church will involve members from every Presbytery, drawn from Scotland and overseas. It is likely to polarize opinion, just as it has in other churches. The Revd Lindsay Biddle, chaplain of Affirmation Scotland a pro-gay group said, ‘This is about lifting the veil and saying, ‘We include you’ to people inside and outside the Church, regardless of sexual orientation. We are catching up the rest of society’
for the contents of the current issue of Life and Work
Between 150 and 200 Muslims convert to Catholicism each year in France, many of them the children of mixed marriages, reported a French daily. According to the 2 April edition of Le Monde, the topic has been little discussed in recent years. But the Catholic Church is now affirming that religious liberty and reciprocity are essential.
Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry is a determined participant in the dialogue with Islam. A dozen Muslims are baptized every year in his diocese. This year, one was baptized in private. Le Monde said the situation of Catholic converts from Muslim is often dire. The majority face misunderstandings from those around them, it reported, and others reproach them for having ‘disowned their culture!
Some have hid their conversion even from members of their family. In this sense, the widely publicized conversion of Magdi Cristiano Allam, baptized by Benedict XVI on Holy Saturday, brought joy to the converts in France: T bless the Pope, who has put his finger there where it hurts,’ Mohammed Christophe Bilek, founder of Notre-Dame-de-Kab-ylie Association, said. ‘Everyone should be able to be baptized. That flows from human rights.’
Despite their growing numbers, converts from Islam to Christianity, including all confessions, do not exceed the number converting to Islam. In August of 2006, the French daily La Croix reported that some 3,600 people in France convert to Islam every year.