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Canterbury gun control plea: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2013 p 5. January 21, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut, Crime, The Episcopal Church.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined a chorus of American church leaders calling for stricter gun control laws in the United States following last month’s Connecticut school shooting.

In his final “Thought for the Day” broadcast as Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC Radio 4, Dr. Williams acknowledged that by itself gun control will not end violence, but their strict regulation would curtail it.

“A week after the horrific killings of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, most of us are still struggling to get our minds around such a nightmare,” Dr. Williams said, adding that “nearly 6,000 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the USA in just two years.”

The problem of “gang culture” was not unique to America, he noted, but “in the US, the question is, of course, about gun laws, one of the most polarising issues in American politics.”

“And there is one thing often said by defenders of the American gun laws that ought to make us think about wider questions.  ‘It’s not guns that kill, it’s people.’  Well, yes, in a sense.  But it makes a difference to people what weapons are at hand for them to use – and, even more, what happens to people in a climate where fear is rampant and the default response to frightening or unsettling situations or personal tensions is violence or the threat of violence.  If all you have is a hammer, it’s sometimes said, everything looks like a nail.  If all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target,” the archbishop said.

Last week the Bishop of Olympia, the Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel joined the Bishop of Washington and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in calls for the government to review gun laws.

The Seattle-based bishop wrote that in the United States, “gun violence is a slow growing cancer which we have had the luxury, by and large, to ignore or at the very least show little attention to. Sadly, it has taken the loss of 20 of the youngest among us, the ones with the least power, to get our attention.”

“Up until that tragedy in Connecticut, we were starting to get used to school shootings. Will we get used to this too?” he asked.

Bishop Rickel joined Dr. Williams in rejecting the arguments put forward by the hunting and shooting community.  He stated the National Rifle Associations “solution is not surprising: arm more people. That solution grows out of a belief in the inevitability of a heavily armed society, which they have helped create. We are now the most armed nation in the world.”

The bishop said he was “not against the end of all guns. That, at this point, is probably unrealistic. But, I am very much for rational regulation of them.

Dr. Williams observed that “if it’s true that if all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target.”

The “control of the weapons trade is a start,” he said, towards ending the violence.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper-

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Connecticut school shooting leaves America in mourning: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2012 p 7. December 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut, Crime, The Episcopal Church.
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Church leaders in the United States have responded with horror to last week’s Connecticut school shooting, calling upon Anglicans to turn towards God in prayer in response to the murder of 26 people – including 20 school children.

On 14 Dec 2012, Adam Lanza (20), shot and killed his mother at their home and then proceeded to her workplace, the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Police have yet to release a timeline of events, but armed with a variety of pistols taken from his mother’s home, Lanza entered the school killing six teachers and administrators and the members of his mother’s class – 20 children ranging in age from 5 to 7 years of age.

Lanza then took his own life before police arrived on the scene.  The motive for the killings is unknown as are details of the killer’s life – though acquaintances described the young man as troubled.

Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America urged his flock to pray for the victims and their families. “Please join us in praying for the victims of and families affected by Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. “Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations,” he wrote.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote the Episcopal Church grieved with those who had died and mourned the loss “of lives so young and innocent.  We grieve that the means of death are so readily available to people who lack the present capacity to find other ways of responding to their own anger and grief.  We know that God’s heart is broken over this tragedy, and the tragedies that unfold each and every day across this nation.  And we pray that this latest concentration of shooting deaths in one event will awaken us to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day.”

Speaking at a memorial service in Newtown High School on 16 December, President Barack Obama said he was “very mindful that words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, but whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. … Newtown, you are not alone.”

“These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change,” the president said, saying he would call upon law enforcement and mental health experts to “prevent another tragedy like this.”

The shooting has prompted a national debate over the causes of “rampage” killings, with some blaming a changing culture, others loose gun control laws, while others have questioned state programs of closing state mental hospitals in favor of community care.

In statement released after the shootings on Friday, the Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde announced that she was “calling on our national leaders to enact more effective gun control measures. We know from experience that such calls go unheeded. But what if this time, you and I took up this issue and wouldn’t put it down until something was done? . . . Today we grieve, but soon we act.”

However, conservative columnist Mona Charen argued the problem also lay in failed health policies as “misplaced civil libertarianism and romanticization of mental illness led to deinstitutionalization” of the mentally ill so that “now, 95 percent of the inpatient beds we had in 1955 are gone.”

There were a “a small subset of mentally ill people who are dangerous. They are responsible for an estimated 50 percent of rampage killings. In the name of personal autonomy, we have made it almost impossible to force them to get treatment. The horrifying consequences are all around us,” she said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls upon America to enact strict gun control: Anglican Ink, December 22, 2012 December 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Connecticut, Crime.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has rejected the argument that “guns do not kill people, people kill people” stating the Connecticut school shooting was facilitated by the easy access to firearms permitted by U.S. laws.

In his final “Thought for the Day” broadcast as Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC Radio 4, Dr. Williams acknowledged that by itself gun control will not end violence, but their strict regulation would curtail it.

“A week after the horrific killings of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, most of us are still struggling to get our minds around such a nightmare,” Dr. Williams said, adding that “nearly 6,000 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the USA in just two years.”

The problem of “gang culture” was not unique to America, he noted, but “in the US, the question is, of course, about gun laws, one of the most polarising issues in American politics.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

U.S. property cases may go to the Supreme Court: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2012 p 7. April 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut, Fort Worth, Georgia, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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Four of the Episcopal Church’s key property dispute cases have moved to the state and U.S. Supreme Courts for review.

Briefings have been filed in the Episcopal v. Anglican Dioceses of Fort Worth cases in the Texas Supreme Court, while the breakaway congregations in Northern Virginia have asked the Virginia Supreme Court to review the lower court’s ruling giving the diocese custody of the parish properties.

The breakaway congregations in Christ Church v. Diocese of Georgia and Bishop Seabury Church v. Diocese of Connecticut have filed writs of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court has also been asked to review a third property dispute, Timberridge Presbyterian Church v. the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, that addresses the same legal issues.

The issue before the courts, as summarized in the Bishop Seabury petition, is whether the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “requires state civil courts to enforce an alleged trust imposed on local church property by provisions in denominational documents, regardless of whether those provisions would be legally cognizable under generally applicable rules of state property and trust law.”

The American state courts are divided and have made contrary rulings based on their interpretation of Jones v. Wolf.  Five state supreme courts and one federal circuit court hand held that denominational property trust rules such as the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon should only enforced in civil court if they were in conformance to “objective, well-established concepts of trust and property law,” while four state supreme courts have enforced “denominational documents asserting a trust regardless of whether those documents are other ‘embodied in some legally cognizable form’.”

Canon lawyer Allan Haley noted the legal question being presented to the Supreme Court is the quasi-establishment of one group of churches over others that has arisen since the Jones v. Wolf decision.

In interpreting the Jones decision some state courts have permitted the canon law of the Episcopal Church, and other ‘hierarchical’ churches to take precedence over state law in property disputes.  Mr. Haley argued that “no other body or organization — religious or otherwise — has been granted the privilege of creating enforceable trusts in such a unilateral fashion.”

The state court decisions in favour of the Episcopal Church have relied upon obiter dictum (a remark made as an aside, in the course of a decision) made by Justice Blackmun in the Jones case.  This remark “suddenly become the law of the land, sufficient to override all state and local laws to the contrary? That is not how the law is supposed to work,” Mr. Haley said.

The “practical effect” has been to grant “special State privileges to just one type of church. And that ‘establishment’ of one type of church over all other types, and over all other kinds of property owners as well, quite plainly is contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as applied to the several States through the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Mr. Haley argued.

However, writing in the Washington Post, the Bishop of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston argued the issues should be seen through the lens of theology. “We are called to be good stewards of property given to us by our forebears. Stewardship is a theological concept: we give thanks for the gifts God has given to us all. Stewards are bound to preserve gifts for future generations,” the bishop said

“The matter of biblical interpretation is at the heart of the issues, and there are real differences. Differences over biblical interpretation, not authority, remain unsettled. Even so, the common, ancient tradition as to authority, polity and property stands with the diocese and its bishop,” he argued in support of the diocese’s legal campaign.

The Supreme Court is not obligated to hear the petitions from the state courts as four of the justices must agree to hear a case before it is brought before the court.  The court is expected to announce whether it will review the church cases at the close of its current term in June or at the start of the next term in October.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop Seabury case appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court: Anglican Ink, March 24, 2012 March 24, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Connecticut, Property Litigation.
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The Ven. Ronald Gauss

Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, Conn., has filed a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a review of the Connecticut Supreme Court that upheld the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon.

Last week lawyers for the former Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut congregation, which now is part of the Anglican Church of North America, filed a 44 page petition with the court asking for review.  Only a fraction of the cases appealed to the Supreme Court are reviewed, however there is a likelihood the case may be heard as it covers legal issues addressed in two petitions filed in response to rulings by the Georgia Supreme Court: the case of Christ Church v. the Diocese of Georgia and the case of Timberridge Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.

 

A copy of the 12 March 2012 U.S. Supreme Court filing of the case of Gauss v. the Diocese of Connecticut may be found here.  A copy of the petition in Timberridge Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of Greater Atlanta may be found here.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted, November 7, 2011 November 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican.TV, CANA, Church of Nigeria, Connecticut, The Episcopal Church.
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[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/g5IjgtzkcQI width=”480″ height=”300″]

Anglican Unscripted for November 7, 2011. Discussion of the Anglican Mission in America and the Province of Rwanda, violence in Nigeria, Episcopal Church statistics and legal developments in the Diocese of Connecticut.

Diocesan victory in US property case: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 14, 2011 p October 18, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut, Property Litigation.
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The Rev. Ron Gauss, Rector of Bishop Seabury Church

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a Groton parish that it be allowed to depart from the Episcopal Church with its property.

In a 30 September ruling, the court held that under Connecticut law the Episcopal Church’s property rules – the Dennis Canon – took precedence over state property laws.

Writing for the court, Justice Peter Zarella sated “we now conclude under neutral principles of law that the Dennis Canon applies and that it clearly establishes an express trust interest in the property in favour of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese.”

At the 1979 General Convention the Episcopal Church adopted a canon that gave an interest in all church property to the diocese and national Church. Bishop Seabury Church, which quit the Episcopal Church to join the Nigerian-backed Convocation of Anglicans in North America in 2007, had argued that this rule violated state law which required restrictions on the title of property to be recorded with the courts. The Connecticut court held that the Episcopal Church’s canons on property took precedence over this common law principle.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Bishop Ian Douglas said it was a “sad circumstance when other Christians are forced to resolve their disputes in court, because that draws significant resources away from our work in the wider world in service of God’s mission.

“It’s been a long and bad process. There are no victors here,” he said.

The parish released a statement saying: “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has rejected the important legal principle that the owner of property identified in a recorded deed is the true owner of the property,” the statement said. “Our members relied upon that principle in donating their time and money to build a multimillion dollar church building. Special rules should not be made for favoured religious denominations.”

Canon lawyer Allan Haley told Anglican TV the Connecticut case was ripe for review by the US Supreme Court. “New York, California and Connecticut law give the Episcopal Church the force to override civil property laws,” he said. These rules privileged the Episcopal Church over other churches and violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution, he observed.

State Supreme Courts have ruled in favour and against the legality of the Dennis Canon. South Carolina’s Supreme Court nullified the operation of the Dennis Canon in that state, holding that a trust could not be established without the written consent of the owner of land. However, New York, California and now Connecticut have held that this did not apply to Episcopal Church property cases. The appeals courts in Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana, Georgia, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania have also given differing opinions on the legality of this issue.

The parish is currently weighing its options, CEN was told, and will decide whether to file an appeal to the Supreme Court shortly.

Battle over ACC Standing Committee looms: The Church of England Newspaper, June 25, 2010 p 7. July 2, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut.
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Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut, addressing ACC-14 in Kingston in 2009

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop in Iran has quit the Anglican Communion’s ‘Standing Committee’.

Bishop Azad Marshall’s decision to stand down will come as a blow to the Archbishop of Canterbury who has sought to vest an unprecedented degree of authority in the new entity—formed by the merger of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting.

The vote of ‘no confidence’ by yet another leader of the Global South group of Anglican churches serves to isolate Dr. Williams from the conservative and liberal wings of the Communion—diminishing his authority as the political centre collapses from under him.

Bishop Marshall’s withdrawal also comes the same week as the Episcopal Church presents Dr. Williams with a new crisis over the legitimacy of the standing committee, with a fight over the seating of Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut on the committee likely to loom large at its next meeting.

The Church of England Newspaper was unable to contact Bishop Marshall, who is traveling in Iran, to confirm his reasons for withdrawing from the standing committee, but those familiar with his decision say it follows in line with the Jan 30 announcement of his primate, Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Dr. Anis said that after having served for three years on the standing committee he had come to the belief that his continued presence had “no value whatsoever and my voice is like a useless cry in the wilderness.”

The Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Henry Orombi has also absented himself from the meetings of the ACSC for the past year.  The African’ primates representative has not resigned his seat, but has stated he has no confidence in the integrity of the organization and will not attend meetings if representatives from the Episcopal Church are seated.

However, on June 21 the director of communications of the Anglican Consultative Council confirmed to CEN that Bishop Marshall had tendered his resignation from the standing committee.

On June 18 the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church elected Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut to succeed Bishop Catherine Roskam as its episcopal representative to the ACC.  Bishop Douglas had been a clergy representative from the Episcopal Church to the ACC and at last year’s ACC meeting in Kingston Jamaica was elected to the Standing Committee.

Asked by CEN in March whether he would continue as a member of the ACSC following his April 17 consecration to the episcopate, Bishop Douglas said “election to the Standing Committee by the ACC is irrespective of orders.  Therefore, if I am elected the episcopal ACC member from TEC by the Executive Council in June, then I remain on the Standing Committee.”

However, the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) has objected to Bishop Douglas’ continuing membership on the ACSC, noting it violates the language of the ACC constitution and bylaws.

In a paper released last week, the ACI argued that Bishop Douglas gave up his clergy seat on the ACC when he was consecrated a bishop.  His “membership on the ACC ended on April 17 when he retired from his presbyterial office and was ‘translated’ to a new order” of ministry, they said.

The ACI further stated that the ACC bylaws require a member of the Standing Committee to be a member of the ACC, and due to his consecration and subsequent loss of clergy seat on the ACC he “also ceased to be a member of the ACC standing committee at that moment,” under Article 2(f) of the bylaws.

Even assuming that Bishop Douglas could be re-appointed to the Standing Committee after he changed his clergy seat for an episcopal seat, the ACC bylaws require a replacement member be drawn from the “same order” of ministry as his predecessor.  Bishop Douglas could not, under the ACC bylaws the ACI said, replace the Rev. Douglas.

The ACI further noted that Bishop Douglas “is not eligible in any event to replace retiring Bishop Roskam as [the Episcopal Church’s] episcopal representative to the ACC,” as clause 4(c) of the ACC constitution states that upon termination of office, “no member shall be eligible for re-appointment nor shall he or she be appointed an alternate member until a period of six years elapses from the date when such original membership ceased.”

“Bishop Douglas may not serve again on the ACC until 2016,” the ACI said, adding even if the ACC were to ignore all of the above, Bishop Douglas’ new term does not begin until the start of the next ACC meeting under and “would not be qualified to serve on either the ACC or the standing committee under any circumstances until that time.”

The ACC’s “credibility has been badly damaged” by actions “that are widely seen as favoring [the Episcopal Church] over wider Communion convictions and sentiments. And this harm has only been highlighted by resignation and principled absence from the ACC’s standing committee,” the ACI said.

“Restoration of the ACC’s credibility can only begin by enforcing its rules in the case of Bishop Douglas’s attempt to hold onto a standing committee seat that became vacant under the rules on April 17,” it argued.

Battle over American seat on the ACC looms: The Church of England Newspaper, May 14, 2010 p 7. May 16, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut.
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Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Ian Douglas, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the April 17 consecration of Bishop Douglas in Hartford

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A battle is looming over the composition of the Anglican Consultative Council’s (ACC) Standing Committee with conservative leaders urging the chairman of the ACC declare the seat of American delegate Dr. Ian Douglas vacant.

The fight over Dr. Douglas’ seat comes in the wake of sharp criticism of the integrity of the ACC’s staff and hostility towards the usurpation of powers by the Standing Committee voiced by Global South Anglican leaders attending last month’s Singapore encounter.

While the fight over Dr. Douglas’ seat may not have the emotional intensity as the consecration on May 15 of Mary Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, moderates within the Global South leadership tell The Church of England Newspaper the continued malleability of the rules of the Anglican game in favour of the US may well prove too much.

A professor of missiology at the Episcopal Divinity School, a clergy delegate to ACC-14, and deputy from Massachusetts to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, Dr. Douglas has served on a number of pan-Anglican commissions including the Lambeth 2008 organizing committee.  One of the rising stars of the Episcopal Church and widely acknowledged as its most articulate spokesman at ACC-14 in Kingston, the ACC delegates elected the first-time American clergy delegate to an open seat on the Standing Committee at the meeting.

Last December Dr. Douglas was elected Bishop of Connecticut and on April 17 was consecrated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  The move from priest to bishop, however, has raised questions as to Dr. Douglas’ eligibility to keep his clergy seat at the ACC.

On Feb 19 the Episcopal News Service reported the Episcopal Church had postponed appointing a successor to Bishop Roskam until its June 16-18 meeting.  It quoted  Executive Council member Rosalie Ballentine as saying the delay in voting would allow the council to consider “all possible names who would be eligible for nomination,” including Dr. Douglas.  ENS stated that “Douglas is currently the clerical member of the delegation. In May, he attended the first ACC meeting of his three-meeting term.”

Asked whether he would have to step down from the ACC’s Standing Committee due to his change in status from priest to bishop, Dr. Douglas told CEN he would remain in place.

“Election to the Standing Committee by the ACC is irrespective of orders.  Therefore, if I am elected the episcopal ACC member from TEC by the Executive Council in June, then I remain on the Standing Committee,” he said.

However conservatives have pushed for ACC chairman, Bishop James Tengatenga to replace Dr. Douglas, arguing that under the bylaws of the ACC a church cannot have two episcopal delegates.  They state that upon his consecration as a bishop, Dr. Douglas ceased to be a clerical member of the ACC.

Under the three tier membership structure currently in place, churches of the largest class, including the Episcopal Church, send a lay, clergy and episcopal delegate to the ACC.  The ACC constitution requires the clergy member be either a priest or deacon.  While the Episcopal Church will appoint a successor to Bishop Roskam in June, under the ACC’s rules she remains the episcopal delegate until the start of the next ACC meeting.  If appointed by the US Executive Council, Dr. Douglas’ term as an episcopal delegate would start at the opening of the next ACC meeting.

On April 14, ACC secretary general Canon Kenneth Kearon told CEN Bishop Douglas would continue to serve on the standing committee.

“With respect to Prof. Ian Douglas’s changed order of ministry, the issue of duration of membership of the Standing Committee was dealt with in Resolution 28 of ACC-4. This states that members hold their position until such time as their successors take their place, or they retire for any other reason,” he wrote.

However, conservative critics of the ACC not that clause 4d of its Constitution states that members lose their seat when they change status: “Bishops and other clerical members shall cease to be members on retirement from ecclesiastical office.”

Article 2f of the ACC bylaws also requires members of the Standing Committee to be members of the ACC.  However, they are “subject to earlier termination in the event that such elected member shall for any reason cease to be a member of the Council.”

Asked to explain the contradiction of Resolution 4:28 and the section 2f of the ACC’s bylaws which requires those who lose their seats to give up their standing committee membership, Canon Kearon’s spokesman said the ACC secretary general would seek advice.

In their April 23 communiqué, Anglican leaders attending the Fourth Global South to South Encounter in Singapore chastised the London staff of the ACC and urged Dr. Williams to reform the communion’s failed structures.  “There is a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure,” they said, “especially the Instruments of Communion and the Anglican Communion office.”

Allowing the American church to keep its seat on the Standing Committee, in what they see as a violation of the ACC’s rules, will likely further alienate the churches of the developing world from London, and harden opinions that the Communion’s structures are corrupt, Global South leaders tell CEN.

More US Parishes Quit: CEN 6.08.07 p 3. June 7, 2007

Posted by geoconger in CANA, Church of England Newspaper, Colorado, Connecticut, Dallas, Florida, Panel of Reference, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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Parish defections and litigation are continuing to mount in the United States, with five parishes quitting the Episcopal Church last month for oversight from Nigerian and Ugandan bishops.

Members of the Diocese of Colorado’s largest parish ratified the March decision by their rector the Rev. Donald Armstrong, and the vestry to join CANA.

On May 26 the Grace & St Stephen’s Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado announced that 370 of the parishes 822 members had caste ballots in the secession referendum, with 348 voting to leave and 22 to stay. The Diocese has condemned the vote, saying it was illegal and non-binding, arguing that while individuals may leave the Episcopal Church, congregations may not.

The congregation which claimed over 1500 communicants before the conflict between the parish and diocese reached a head in March, has divided with approximately three quarters of the worshippers loyal to the parish leadership and a quarter loyal to the diocese—meeting in a chapel of nearby Colorado College under the cure of an assistant priest of the parish who did not support the secession.

Litigation over the £9 million property between the parish and diocese is on-going.

CANA announced last week that three other US congregations had quit the Episcopal Church to join the Nigerian missionary district led by Bishop Martyn Minns. One of the Connecticut 6 parishes—a group of traditionalist parishes involved in a long-running dispute with diocesan Bishop Andrew Smith, quit the diocese on May 29.

Founded in 1754, before the creation of the Diocese of Connecticut, Trinity Church in Bristol will seek to retain its property, Bishop Minns said, while moving under Nigerian oversight.

Members of Holy Trinity Church in Garland, Texas, in the Diocese of Dallas, have withdrawn from the Episcopal Church, forming Holy Trinity Anglican Church. In Florida the parishioners and vicar of St. Cyprians Episcopal Church, a predominantly African-American congregation, have quit the diocese to form Christ the King Anglican Church in St. Augustine, led by their former priest in charge, the Rev. David Allert.

The parish at the center of the Panel of Reference’s report on the Diocese of Florida has also been forced out of its church buildings following a court order from a Florida judge.

Last month a court ordered the secessionist clergy and members of the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville led by the Rev. Neil Lebhar to vacate their property, turning it over to the control of Florida Bishop John Howard. Approximately 90 percent of the congregation has followed Mr. Lebhar, with only 10 families remaining at Redeemer under the supervision of a vicar appointed by the Diocese.

Lawyer in Christ Church Greenwich Case Indicted: TLC 3.09.07 March 8, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Connecticut, Living Church.
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A prominent Connecticut defense lawyer has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly obstructing a federal investigation of a former Christ Church, Greenwich, employee who recently pled guilty to possessing child pornography.

On Feb. 16, Kevin J. O’Connor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that a grand jury had returned a two-count indictment against Philip D. Russell for tampering with evidence of potential interest in a federal investigation. Mr. Russell had been retained by Christ Church to advise it on terminating Robert F. Tate, who had served as the director of the church’s music program for the past 34 years.

According to the indictment, Mr. Russell and two unnamed church officials confronted Mr. Tate on Oct. 9 after a church employee found pornographic images of young boys two days earlier on a laptop computer owned by the church. Mr. Tate admitted ownership of the images.

After securing his resignation, the indictment states that Mr. Russell and the other two church officials permitted Mr. Tate to remove his belongings, including additional pornographic images of children, from an apartment he used on the church campus, and then helped him make arrangements to leave the state. Mr. Russell then “destroyed the computer with the intent to impair its integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding,” according to a statement by the U.S. attorney.

Mr. Tate subsequently fled to California and was later arrested in Los Angeles. On Jan. 22, he pled guilty to possessing more than 150 digital images of minors engaging in sexually explicit acts. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing on April 12.

Mr. Russell appeared before the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport and was released on a $100,000 bond. He does not dispute destroying the computer, but denies he broke the law, said Robert Casale, his lawyer. If convicted, Mr. Russell faces up to 40 years imprisonment.

It is uncertain whether other employees of Christ Church will be indicted. The U.S. Attorney’s Office notes the investigation is “ongoing” and is being conducted by the FBI and the Connecticut Computer Crimes Task Force. Several others at Christ Church have reportedly hired lawyers. The New York Times reported that Christ Church’s rector, the Rev. Jeffrey H. Walker, has been called before the grand jury at least twice.

In light of recent events, the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith, Bishop of Connecticut, and Fr. Walker will lead a parish meeting to “provide information and explore how communities of faith heal from and move forward in mission and ministry when situations like the departure of Mr. Tate occur,” according to a statement on the parish website.

Published in The Living Church.