Via email [boldface mine]:
Beloved in Christ,
This week I want to start with the good news. Judge Bellows, who is trying the Virginia litigation between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia (EDV) and the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), has issued a ruling, finding in favor of the departing parishes with regard to the Virginia 1867 Division Statute. As one of our readers commented, "...the Court found that a division within the meaning of the Virginia Division Statute occurred in a church or religious society to which the CANA Congregations were attached. It is now a court finding that there is a division within the worldwide Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia." This is a most important and favorable ruling for the orthodox Anglicans in Virginia, and if it holds up through the Appeals Court process, important for the orthodox in many other states as well.
When other judges read the opinion, even though the overall statute at stake may not be directly relevant to another state, the body of evidence and findings within the case and the 88 page ruling are informative and useful. You can find the full ruling on our AAC website. The next stage of the same trial will deal with a second challenge that the Episcopal Church (TEC) has raised, and that is the constitutionality of the Virginia statute - whether it unconstitutionally interferes with the right of churches to order their own internal affairs. This right of churches is not absolute, however, for obvious reasons. An organization calling itself a church could decide to do things internally that violate public safety or contravene reasonable state law. You cannot, for example, reconstitute the Old Order Aztec Church, complete with daily human sacrifice, even if the victims are willing.
If churches and religious denominations wish to own property which is tax exempt because it is used for religious purposes, and have their offering income be tax exempt, and their donors receive tax exemption for those donations, then churches have already intertwined themselves to a degree with the government. This is seen as permissible because no one church is favored, and the benefits are available to all of the organizations which are formed as churches. In the same vein, it would seem that the Virginia statute, which is applicable to all churches and denominations that might find themselves in this situation, does not encroach on the U.S. Constitution's non-establishment clause, because it does not favor any one church. We will follow the development of the arguments in this case with great interest.
One of the sad things is that the litigation - initiated by the EDV under pressure from Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori - is not only using up valuable EDV mission dollars but is also forcing the ADV to spend corresponding amounts. Although the ADV has been raising its money as the case proceeds, the EDV has been borrowing the money for its legal offensive, and has now gone through approximately two million dollars. If there were promises of financial aid made to Virginia to push them into the litigation battle, apparently they have not materialized. Other TEC dioceses take note: it's not what she says, it's whether she gives you the money to litigate up front and lets you bank it in advance - otherwise you might wind up like Virginia and Los Angeles, paying for it all yourself. For those dioceses which haven't yet commenced litigation against departing parishes, you may wish to seriously consider mediation, and make some money instead of spending huge amounts you don't have.
While we are speaking of legal issues, Katharine Jefferts Schori and her chancellor, David Booth Beers, have been put on notice by an attorney representing Bishop William J. Cox, with a letter demanding that she publish a correction of her announcement concerning his deposition. Since she failed to achieve the canonically required majority of "the whole number of bishops entitled to vote," the vote was invalid. In legal terms, it was null and void. The letter goes on to require several things: first that Schori cease defamation of character of Bishop Cox by saying and distributing assertions that are not true and are injurious to him; and then right the wrong by withdrawing the pronouncement of deposition and publishing it in the same manner that she did the deposition. If she doesn't (or perhaps, when she doesn't), the implications are clear. The letter was a legal demand letter which precedes further action. This is one to watch also.
On the West Coast of the USA, the battle of San Joaquin is still in the formation stage. There appear to be three Standing Committees: the one that belongs with the Diocese of San Joaquin/Southern Cone; the Standing Committee that claims it never resigned and never left TEC; and the Standing Committee that Schori cobbled together as part of her "rump" Diocesan Convention of San Joaquin/TEC reconstituted. To our knowledge, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is the first Presiding Bishop to run roughshod over Canons, both diocesan and national, yet at the same time invoking them as gospel whenever she finds one that is useful to her. Since eventually the orthodox will leave TEC, become revisionists themselves, or die of old age, those who will eventually be left to enjoy this legacy of tyranny are the revisionist bishops, clergy and laity themselves. Pity them, for they shall finally inherit the poisoned fruit of their labor, and it will be bitter unto them.
Not only have Schori and her TEC assistants set up a Potemkin Village San Joaquin Diocese, claiming it to be the real thing, but they have now taken over the website of the real Diocese of San Joaquin/Southern Cone. Since the website was hosted by an Anglican organization, the Society of Archbishop Justus, which is friendly to TEC, they reassigned the address to Schori's group. Can they really do this? They did. If your website is hosted by any group friendly to either TEC or the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), you might wish to investigate moving to an orthodox-friendly site, or to a neutral independent provider. It is a nasty thing to wake up and discover that your internet identity has been stolen.
Adding insult to injury, the London Anglican Communion Office (ACO), which operates hand in glove with the TEC top leadership, is quite naturally listing the Diocese of San Joaquin as VACANT, to underscore Schori's contention of a deposition. It is understandable when one considers how much money flows from TEC to the ACO to keep their doors open and the lights on. Previously when we checked, one of the major ACO staffers, Fr. James Rosenthal, is actually being funded by TEC using Missionary dollars. If Jim is a missionary, we might inquire what is his message, and who is his target for conversions? Is this what TEC Mission Dollars were intended for? It appears in many ways that the Anglican Communion Office is 'TEC East'.
In the international scene the issue of free speech and freedom of religion are becoming issues in the Western world. Who would ever have thought that an English bishop would be convicted by a court for REFUSING to employ a practicing homosexual in his diocese's youth services? The Bishop of Hereford was fined 47,000 GBP (a bit over 90,000 USD) and made to attend a re-education course. We might wonder how long we can read the Bible out loud in church, especially certain passages that deal with sinful conduct. How long can we preach the 2000-year-old message from the pulpit before we are handcuffed and dragged away?
Maybe not as long as you think. Bob Unruh, writing in WorldnetDaily, reports that the Canadian government has ordered a Christian ministry which teaches doctrine and the differences between Christians and cults shut down because its reference materials were "critical" of the beliefs of those who are not Christian. The organization, MacGregor Ministries, has had to move to the USA and be re-created under the name MM Outreach Media Ministries.
With the European and British governments passing onerous legislation supposedly banning "hate speech" (but in reality banning Christian free speech about sin and its consequences), it becomes illegal not only to say certain things, but to write them, publish them, post them on the internet, etc. Is it now possible that something written in one country halfway around the world, where it is protected and legal, may be read in another far distant country and cause someone to be offended, and thus become an infraction of the law? Is the law broken where something is done or where it is received, or both? Are you ready to go to jail over free speech and free expression of the Christian religion?
And across the pond in England we are aware that the General Synod will be meeting just before the mini-Lambeths, and Lambeth itself. We have heard rumors that the Presiding Bishop of TEC and a few other liberal USA bishops might "independently" be planning trips to "accidentally" be in the neighborhood of the General Synod. Not on purpose of course, but then things being what they are, if any of them might bump into an English bishop that they know... well it would, under those circumstances, only be neighborly to ask her or them to say a word or two, to bring greetings from TEC-land to the Synod. Are these rumors true? In the past we have found that their reliability is better than half, but we shall have to wait and see. Any volunteers for Katharine spotters?
Now finally, the American Anglican Council has been assisting the Global Anglican Future Conference and Pilgrimage (GAFCON) with registration and other administrative tasks that need some attention, and we are pleased to see the number of paid registrations adding up, hotel reservations filling up, and planning shaping up. Nigeria has checked in already with its full allotment paid for by monies raised within Nigeria. Scholarships are being sought for bishops in other provinces who can only raise part of their costs to attend, and if you are able we encourage you to assist this gathering of orthodox bishops, clergy and laity who will help shape the future of Anglicanism in the century ahead. You can do this on the AAC website or at this link.
Blessings and Peace in Christ Jesus,
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President & CEO of the AAC