Presiding Bishop steps in to prevent church sales: CEN 8.07.09 p 7. August 13, 2009Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
American dioceses may not sell parish properties to breakaway groups, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote in a letter to the US House of Bishops last week.
Bishop Jefferts Schori stated the church expected a “reasonable and fair” deal on any property settlement and “that we do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church.”
This means, the Presiding Bishop said, that “property settlements need to include a clause that forbids, for a period of at least five years, the presence of bishops on the property who are not members of [the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops], unless they are invited by the diocesan bishop for purposes which do not subvert mission and ministry in the name of [the Episcopal Church.]”
The Presiding Bishop added she understood that some American bishops might wish to permit Anglican bishops from overseas to “preach, preside, confirm, or even ordain, but that diocesan permission cannot encourage anything that purports to set up or participate in another jurisdiction.”
These principles arose as the “consensus” view of her Council of Advice, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, in a meeting before General Convention.
She added that these rules would be relaxed if the breakaway groups “gain clarity about their own identity” such that “if and when they engage a positive missional stance that doesn’t seek to replace The Episcopal Church, I do believe we can enter into ecumenical agreements that will make some of the foregoing moot.”
It is unclear by what authority the Presiding Bishop can dictate property policies to the Episcopal Church as she is not a metropolitan or archbishop, and the canons are silent as to these injunctions.
Bishop Jefferts Schori’s views come in direct opposition to those of her predecessors, who historically held that parish property disputes are internal diocesan matters, not subject to the review or oversight of the presiding bishop.
Speaking to the Diocese of Western Louisiana on May 11, 2006, former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said the interpretation of the national church’s property canons was a diocesan matter, and that the national church only became involved in parish property disputes if invited by the local bishop and diocesan standing committees.
The Presiding Bishop’s legal advice may not be enforceable in many US states, as contracts may not incorporate illegal provisions within their terms. The US Constitution and many state constitutions prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion — making a ban on a bishop a dodgy legal stratagem, American contract lawyers tell Religious Intelligence.