A message from Bishop David Anderson
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
We have just concluded the last of three AAC board of trustees meetings for 2008. Naturally, we are beginning to plan for calendar year 2009 and the many events within the Anglican world where the voice of Anglican orthodoxy will need to be heard. Since the AAC is ministering to those still in TEC, those currently in a departure mode, and those who have already left or never were in TEC, we need to hear from each constituency about what they need and what would be helpful from the AAC.
With dire warnings about planned TEC canons to be passed at the Anaheim, California General Convention this next summer, it is imperative that orthodox (and even the not so orthodox) parishes stay on top of proposed legislation that will limit their rights and place new burdens on their common life in the church. The last time the General Convention was held in Anaheim was in 1985, and I attended as a clergy alternate from South Dakota. I was there to hear the new Presiding Bishop, Edmund Browning, say that in this church there would be no outcasts. I sensed that something was changing but it took a few more years for the real meaning of Browning's words to become apparent.
Although the Episcopal Church has Canon Law, they do not yet have Canon Law jails, so the worst that they can do to the orthodox laity and clergy is excommunication or deposition from office. New canons are expected to facilitate judgment from the bishop directly upon lay people without involving the parish priest. New provisions for deposing bishops and perhaps priests may also come, to facilitate the "spiritual cleansing" by TEC in eradicating all the orthodox Christians trying to remain in the church. The AAC would like to hear from oppressed parishes regarding what kind of help is most needed. We are able to assist in analyzing a parish's situation and to make recommendations based on the particular facts of that congregation.
Although Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles has vast wealth in the dozens of millions of the Corporation Sole at his exclusive disposal to use for litigation, the Diocese of Virginia and Bishop Peter Lee are in a different, though equally critical, situation. Bullied by the Presiding Bishop (in words captured in court depositions), Bishop Lee scuttled plans for negotiations with the departing parishes in Virginia and legally attacked the surprised parishes, who were thinking that the agreed-upon negotiation procedure was still operative. He has borrowed two million dollars and put church property in hock to fund the ill-advised litigation. His legal bills are now much higher, and the question is how, in a faltering economy, will he borrow more money and service the debt?
It was learned last week that the diocesan and TEC attorneys incorporated Christ Church, Alexandria into the lawsuit, apparently without their knowledge or permission, and then weeks later approached the vestry to ask for the vestry's permission. Many in the congregation were furious when they discovered that the very foolish vestry had voted to join the lawsuit. There is no advantage to be had for Christ Church, no up side, but there is a huge potential down side. If Virginia finally loses the suit and legal expenses are awarded, Christ Church may become a "deep pockets" along with a financially emaciated Diocese for the payment of the award. Although there was a futile and brief attempt by the Diocese of Virginia to prove that Christ Church was really the holder in due course of the original Truro Parish property grant, the secondary benefit to the diocese is having someone else with money to help pay any adverse judgment.
But wait, it gets worse! Now the diocese is demanding that Christ Church of Alexandria itself quit claim all of its own property to the bishop. Yes, that's right, give Bishop Lee all of their property... and the same strategically-challenged vestry that voted to join a no-win lawsuit recommended to the parish that they do give the Bishop all of the property deeds. Can you believe this? This is NOT a liberal/conservative issue, this is a "gone nuts" versus "still sane" issue. Why would a historic parish with the pews of President George Washington and General Robert E. Lee marked and preserved, and with the history of countless families and generations ingrained in the bricks and soil, give the title and deed to the Bishop? The parish has done quite well since colonial times down to the present, so why now give it all away because the Bishop needs money to feed the lawsuit beast?
It is so sad to see the wreckage that the national office of TEC has visited on the Diocese of Virginia and the career of Peter Lee. It once appeared that Bishop Lee would have a wonderful legacy to be remembered by, but now he has turned the landscape, both spiritual and legal, into a battlefield. I pity the parishioners of Christ Church Alexandria, who might lose their church assets because their vestry members didn't put the best interests of the parish congregation first and gave in to the bishop. Congregants, vote NO on giving the bishop your deed and quit claim.
Pohick Church beware - are you next in Bishop Lee's search for deeds and titles, cash and carry?
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep safe your hearts and minds during these times of trouble, trial and testing.
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President and CEO, American Anglican Council