Diocese of Virginia Faces Critical Resolutions on Sexuality, Property Negotiations

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, has made it clear in court testimony that she would rather sell church properties for “saloons” than sell to other Anglican entities and ministries.By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
January  2011

When the Diocese of Virginia meets January 20-22, high on the list of resolutions will be one affirming “same-gender unions” and another relating to current ecclesiastical wars regarding property issues.

Liberals in the diocese want to see the full blessing of same-sex unions and view it as “providing a generous pastoral response” in keeping with General Convention resolution C056 allowing bishops to bless same-sex unions though not necessarily to marry them. (An exception occurred recently in the Diocese of Massachusetts.) Virginia statutes define marriage as between one man and one woman. Voters in seven states, including Virginia, have approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

Should this resolution pass at the 216th convention, and there is every likelihood that it will, it will place the Diocese of Virginia firmly in the revisionist camp from which there is no immediate return, if at all. It means that the diocese can no longer claim to recognize those of conscience who may disagree with the diocese’s position. While it will not be mandated or coercive for a priest to have to perform a same sex blessing, it should be noted that women’s ordination was optional until it was made mandatory by General Convention, violating the consciences of traditionalist priests and forcing a number of parishes and dioceses to cede from The Episcopal Church.

It further means that any attempt to make peace with the CANA/ACNA parishes is lost forever, thus cementing the walls of exclusion between the two groups. It also means that the fence-sitting strategy of former Bishop Peter James Lee has now devolved into full blown sexual heterodoxy.

Two resolutions on property issues however, promise to see a major skirmish on the convention floor, if not a full scale battle, by those who believe the bishops should continue to litigate into an indefinite future for the nine properties regardless of the cost against a group of evangelicals and moderate priests and laity who believe the diocese ought to resolve the difference amicably without further financial costs.

They also believe that in the spirit of reconciliation and sound financial stewardship, the Bishop, the Standing Committee and the Executive Board should engage in the negotiating process so that a bilaterally beneficial outcome might be achieved avoiding the prolonged and mutually destructive process of civil litigation.

They want an amicable resolution of differences over property ownership. Congregations that have departed from the diocese believe that prolonged litigation and costs will diminish their mission opportunities. They argue that a retrial has sent the multimillion dollar legal proceedings back to the starting line. “While litigating this matter has not been a positive witness to the Kingdom of God, nor has it enhanced the evangelism and witness of the Church, the matter of financial stewardship must also be addressed. In view of the present financial environment in the Diocese and the possible need to sell properties in order to maintain the law suits, as well as the unlikely ability of our continuing Episcopal congregations in these locations to immediately assume the financial burden of such properties, it would seem prudent for all parties to pursue an amicable settlement rather than litigate outstanding property claims.”

Among the signers of this resolution are a significant number of orthodox rectors from the Richmond area along with a lay delegate, Douglas LeBlanc, Editor at Large of The Living Church magazine.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, has made it clear in court testimony that she would rather sell church properties for “saloons” than sell to other Anglican entities and ministries.

One resolution steeped in irony calls for participation in a “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” with its theme: “One in the Apostles’ Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayer,” based upon Acts 2:42–47. One wonders if such “fellowship” could not be extended to orthodox fellow Anglicans in CANA/ACNA residing in their own backyard. A resolution to “End Bullying – Living Into Our Baptismal Covenant” to those who appear “different”, read gay, failed to note the bullying of orthodox bishops like South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence by the national church hierarchy and the bullying behavior of bishops like Jon Bruno of Los Angeles and Jim Mathes of San Diego who brook no opposition to the pansexual steamroller in their respective dioceses. In the name of inclusion, San Diego Bishop Jim Mathes has all but eliminated 10 orthodox parish priests along with their ministries in his diocese.

A resolution on diocesan funding, currently voluntary, apparently is not working to bring sufficient funding into diocesan coffers. It has therefore been resolved to request monies from larger parishes with real ASA figures in order to pursue new mission opportunities and to support smaller country parishes. This would replace soliciting from inactive members some of whom have also gone to ACNA as TEC never takes your name off the rolls. Many are now interred in the rolling hills of Virginia.

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