News for Week Ending 6/2/2008
Government seizes churches in ZimbabweGovernment forces have completed the takeover of Anglican church buildings in the province of Harare. Only the handful of supporters of the excommunicated rogue Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunoga, who is a crony of President Mugabe, are being allowed into church buildings. The vast majority of Anglicans support Dr. Sebastian Bakare, who was named Bishop of Harare after Kunonga’s removal. Church Times also reported that Bishop Bakare was being accused of plotting a coup against the government, and that Roman Catholics were also being attacked by government forces. An earlier Pittsburgh Update story can be read here.
Diocese of Huron votes to support same-sex blessingsAnglican Journal reported May 27 that the Diocese of Huron in Ontario, Canada, has become the fifth Anglican Church of Canada diocese officially to vote support for same-sex blessings. Since June 2007, the dioceses of Huron, Niagara, Ottawa, and Montreal have voted to support same-sex blessings. The Diocese of New Westminster did so in 2002. Clergy voted 97–36 for the measure in Huron. The lay vote was 277–87. The synod also voted to devise a ritual for such blessings.
Virginia court hears arguments on constitutionality of division statuteOn May 28, The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia presented oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of a 19th-century church “division” statute on the grounds that it infringes on religious liberty under both state and U.S. constitutions. The statute is key to the property claims of 11 Virginia congregations that have affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. The Virginia Attorney General joined CANA attorneys in defending the law. The court also heard arguments from attorneys representing some of the 16 units of other denominations that filed written briefs challenging the law. No opinion is expected before late summer.
When Judge Randy Bellows ruled, on April 3, that the Virginia statute on church divisions applied to the case of the 11 congregations, he agreed to hear constitutional challenges to the law and refrained from making any decision about disposition of property. Arguments on the actual ownership of property are not scheduled until fall.
You can read Pittsburgh Update reports of the Virginia dispute here, here, and here. News stories on the May 28 proceeding are available from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Washington Times, and Episcopal News Service.
Dissenters abandon legal fight over Connecticut parish propertyThe former rector and about 120 ex-parishioners have ended their legal battle to keep the property of Trinity Church in Bristol, Connecticut. The Associated Press quoted the Rev. Donald Helmandollar as saying that he and laypeople who have left The Episcopal Church have decided to worship at an elementary school auditorium. Their first service there was set for June 1. The parish now calls itself Holy Trinity Anglican Church and is affiliated with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The Diocese of Connecticut sued the dissenting group last August to regain possession of the church property. The story was reported in the Hartford Courant.
Lambeth invitation issued to San Joaquin bishopThe provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, Jerry Lamb, announced in his Friday blog that he received an invitation to the Lambeth Conference on May 26. The invitation was issued to him as diocesan bishop of San Joaquin. Bishop Lamb, who attended the 1998 Lambeth Conference, is making plans to attend the conference with his wife.
Central Florida, Northern Indiana, Springfield dioceses join protests of Schofield, Cox depositionsLeaders of the dioceses of Central Florida, Northern Indiana, and Springfield have added their voices to protests over the recent depositions of Bishops William Cox and John-David Schofield for abandoning the communion of the church. News of the Central Florida and Springfield actions were reported May 27 in The Living Church. The Northern Indiana action was posted the same day on the diocesan Web site.
All join protests already voiced by the dioceses of South Carolina and Western Louisiana, which have asserted that an insufficient majority of the House of Bishops voted to take the actions. Both the Presiding Bishop and her chancellor, David Booth Beers, have defended the actions as canonically valid. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)
In its statement, the Northern Indiana Standing Committee said it noted “with alarm that the Presiding Bishop has publicly stated her intent to begin, at the September meeting of the House of Bishops, deposition proceedings against Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for abandoning the communion before the diocese votes to do so in November. We plead for calm and prayer in the face of temptations to escalate abuses of power in this way.”
Pittsburgh Standing Committee “saddened” by move to depose DuncanAs reported on the diocesan Web site, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, nearly all of whose members are supporting the withdrawal of the diocese from The Episcopal Church, passed a resolution May 27 expressing dismay at the move to depose Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan at a September meeting of the House of Bishops. The statement described the canons under which Bishop Duncan has been found to have abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church “misapplied” and “misinterpreted.” “Should our Diocesan Bishop be validly deposed pursuant to the requirements set forth in the canons,” the statement says, the Standing Committee is ready to assume the role of Ecclesiastical Authority in the diocese, apparently leaving open the possibility that the Standing Committee might not recognize Duncan’s deposition should the House of Bishops approve it.
St. Andrew’s forum offers little hope for diocesan unityAbout 100 people attended a nearly 2½-hour forum and panel discussion on realignment sponsored by St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, on June 1. The lines of division in the diocese seem clearly drawn, as only three members of the audience admitted, in response to a question by Bishop Henry Scriven at the beginning of the forum, to being undecided about realignment.
Bishop Scriven and the Rev. John Bailey spoke in favor of realignment. The Rev. Daniel Hall, agreed with much of the justification for realignment, but considered realignment premature since the Anglican Communion has not officially declared that The Episcopal Church has chosen to “walk apart.” The Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert disputed the need for realignment or its desirability. None of the panelists discussed the legality of realignment or its potential impact on The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Canon Mary Maggard Hays joined the four speakers in answering questions from the audience. St. Andrew’s rector, Bruce Robison, acted as moderator and offered occasional remarks.
All the presenters acknowledged that a division of the diocese appears inevitable, and there seemed to be a general feeling that a division would provide a sense of relief to those on both sides. Proponents of realignment urged a generous parting of the ways, and Bishop Scriven suggested that the resulting two dioceses could share resources and cooperate on projects.