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“No” to gay marriage, “yes” to gay blessings Bishop of Georgia rules: Anglican Ink, November 16, 2012 November 16, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, Georgia, The Episcopal Church.
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The Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase

The provisional rite for the Blessing of Same-Sex Couples adopted by the 77th General Convention in July is theologically deficient as it does not “distinguish between Holy Matrimony and a Blessing,” the Bishop of Georgia has told his diocese.

In a 16 November 2012 pastoral letter, the Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase said he would permit clergy to use a locally adapted rite for the blessing of same-sex unions, but would not permit the rite to be used for same-sex marriage.

The bishop said that his views on same-sex blessings were well known and during the search process to elect a Bishop of Georgia he had “articulated my support for the Church establishing a Blessing Rite for same sex couples. That support remains and has not wavered.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 47, August 4, 2012. August 4, 2012

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Ordinariate, Anglican.TV, Church of England, Georgia, South Carolina.
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The Diocese of South Carolina is in a 25 day waiting period before Bishop Lawrence makes a decision on the way forward following the aftermath of General Convention. Plus a church from Pawleys Island and Moultrie Georgia makes plans to move foreword. Kevin and George also discuss Archbishops of Canterbury news and the Society of Bishop Murphy. The show closes with Kevin and George addressing the international boycott of Anglican Unscripted and what you can do to help.

Both Peter and Allan have the week off, but the news and a teaser continue on. Paypal donations to anglicantv@gmail.com – comments to anglicanunscripted@gmail.com – twitter #AU47

Settlements in 2 US property cases: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 6. May 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Georgia, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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Christ Church, Savanah

The Dioceses of Georgia and Virginia have settled lawsuits brought against two of their breakaway congregations, ending five years of litigation with Christ Church, Savannah and Truro Parish in Fairfax, Virginia.

On 3 May 2012 the Diocese of Georgia and Christ Church issues separate statements announcing that the parish was withdrawing its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the November state court decision that ruled the property of Georgia’s oldest Anglican church – the one time home of John Wesley and George Whitfield – must remain in the Episcopal Church.  Approximately 78 lawsuits have been brought by dioceses and the national Episcopal Church seeking to retain the property of breakaway congregations and dioceses.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the diocese agreed to withdraw its lawsuits seeking to recover approximately $1 million in legal costs from the vestry and rector. The agreement also allowed the congregation to keep the name “Christ Church” and the church’s historic ministries to the city.

The congregation vacated the building in December and will now turn over the endowments to the diocese.  The Episcopal congregation retains the name Christ Church, Savannah, while the breakaway congregation will be called Christ Church Anglican.

“We are pleased that these remaining issues could be resolved and that all parties can move on,” Bishop Scott Benhase said.

The rector of Christ Church, the Rev. Marc Robertson, told the Church of England Newspaper that he expected there to be mixed views within the congregation over the decision to leave their building.  However, it “was time” to move forward and focus on the work of the Gospel in Savannah, he said.

On 17 April 2012 the Diocese of Virginia and Truro parish released a joint statement announcing that they had settled their lawsuit.  The statement said the diocese had given the parish a “rent-free lease of the church buildings” until June 2013, while the parish agreed to “deed the properties to the Diocese by April 30, 2012, and will pay the operating costs of the properties during the term of the lease.”

The diocese agreed to accept $50,000 in lieu of its claims for $700,000 of cash.  But in a break with previous settlement agreements, the diocese has not attempted to force the congregation to withdraw from the Anglican Church of North America while it remains in the building.  “Because the Diocese and Truro Anglican are part of different ecclesiastical bodies who share the Anglican tradition, they have

“This is an important step for the Diocese of Virginia and Truro Anglican,” Bishop Shannon Johnston said. “What the Diocese has sought since the court’s ruling has been a ‘witness’ and not merely an ‘outcome.’ The parties have carried on a public dispute for five years and it is important that we publicly begin to make peace.”

“We are grateful for the Diocese’s generosity in allowing us to continue to use the property for another 15 months at no cost,” said Truro rector the Rev. Tory Baucum. “This allows us time to make a good transition to interim facilities and then to our new church home.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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.

Court to rule on status of Georgia church: CEN 8.21.09 August 28, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Georgia, Property Litigation.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The fate of the ‘mother church’ of the Diocese of Georgia in the USA is in the hands of a Savannah court after arguments were presented last week in litigation over the secession of Christ Church, Savannah from the Episcopal Church.

Founded in 1733, the landmark church in downtown Savannah is the oldest church in the state of Georgia and numbered among its early rectors John Wesley and George Whitefield.

The primates in Dar es Salaam had given the Episcopal Church the “final call” to “return to the central tenets of Christianity,” the vestry said. The failure to conform to the church’s historic teachings had left the parish no choice but to secede, as “our first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s word revealed to us in the Holy Bible,” the parish’s senior warden said after the split.

Court to rule on status of Georgia church

On Sept 30, 2007, the vestry of Christ Church voted to quit the diocese and move under the oversight of Uganda’s US Bishop John Guernsey, after the US House of Bishops ignored the primates’ request for the Episcopal Church to conform to the Communion’s teachings on human sexuality.

Georgia Bishop Henry Louttit responded that while people may leave the Episcopal Church, congregations may not, and moved to depose the church’s clergy and replaced the parish vestry. Litigation ensued and on Aug 14 the Chatham County Superior Court heard a motion from the diocese and the national church seeking summary judgment against the congregation seeking immediate possession of the building and assets of the parish.

During the two-hour hearing before Judge Michael Karpf, lawyers for the national church and diocese argued that in property disputes within “hierarchical churches” the court must defer to the church’s canon law. The court must therefore follow the Episcopal Church’s 1979 “Dennis Canon,” which created a trust on all parish property in favour of the diocese and national church, and grant them possession.

Lawyers for the parish responded that Christ Church had been founded as congregation of the Church of England in the colony of Georgia. In the wake of the American Revolution, in 1789 the Georgia legislature transferred ownership of the congregation from the Crown to the wardens of the congregation. While the congregation had joined in union with the Diocese of Georgia, this accession to the diocesan constitution and canons was not open ended, and could be revoked, they argued.

Questions were also raised over the legal validity of the Dennis Canon, with the parish’s attorneys arguing that as a New York corporation, the national Episcopal Church must comply with statutory mandates that require associations that claim an interest in one of its member’s property to give advanced notice of that claim. When it passed the Dennis Canon, no proper notice was given under New York or Georgia law, rendering the national church’s claims legally unenforceable, the lawyers said.

A decision is not expected for some weeks, and will likely be appealed by the disappointed party.

Wesley’s church in Georgia to splif off: CEN 10.12.07 p 7. October 13, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Georgia, Property Litigation.
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The Diocese of Georgia’s “mother church” has voted to quit the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Church of Uganda, following the US House of Bishops’ failure to conform to the Primates’ request to ban gay bishops and blessings.

The vestry and clergy of Christ Church, Savannah announced on Sept 30 that it was leaving the Episcopal Church and would come under the oversight of Uganda’s US Bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey.

Founded in 1733, the landmark church in downtown Savannah is the oldest church in the state of Georgia and numbered among its early rectors John Wesley and George Whitefield.

“We have witnessed how the Episcopal Church has separated itself from the historic Christian faith over the last few decades,” senior warden Steve Dantin said.

In February the US Church “received a final call from the Anglican Communion to return to the central tenets of Christianity, and [it] failed to comply with the request by the September 30 deadline.”

Failure to conform meant that it had “abandoned the communion previously existing between [the Episcopal Church] (including the Diocese of Georgia) and Christ Church. This is a sober moment for us, but our first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s word revealed to us in the Holy Bible,” he said.

Georgia Bishop Henry I. Louttit announced that he had deposed the church’s clergy and replaced the parish vestry. “Even though some parishioners of Christ Church have chosen to leave the Episcopal Church, I will work with those who remain to ensure that they will have newly empowered leaders, vestry members and clergy to lead them and carry forward the ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church at Christ Church, Savannah,” he said.

The Diocese said it would begin litigation to regain possession of the downtown property and told an Oct 7 meeting that if at least 25 of the church’s 500 adult members desired to remain within the Diocese, he would find a new place of worship and supply a priest.

Georgia Camp Director Arrested: TLC 3.22.07 March 22, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Georgia, Living Church.
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The executive director of Honey Creek, the Diocese of Georgia’s camp and conference center, was arrested on March 21 and charged with possession of child pornography.

Agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested the Rev. James Cox after a camp staffer discovered sexually explicit photographs of young girls on his office computer.

Read it all in The Living Church.