March 26, 2017

May 13, 2012

Hollow Gains in Los Angeles

This story broke late Thursday in the Los Angeles Times: “Episcopal Church is rightful owner of properties, court rules”. The story conveys little more than that that an Orange County judge granted summary judgment in favor of the Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA against St. David’s Anglican parish, in North Hollywood, and against All Saints Anglican parish in Long Beach.

These two cases were part of an original three which the Diocese of Los Angeles brought in 2004—the third was against St. James Parish of Newport Beach. Because of their similarities, all of them were coordinated under a single judge in Orange County Superior Court. The other two had originally trailed the St. James case while it went up twice to the California Supreme Court, but apparently no longer. The latter case has still to be resolved, while now summary judgments have been entered in the two other Diocese of Los Angeles lawsuits over church properties.

There is a complicating issue involved in the St. James case—one that doubtless prevented it, too, from falling to a judge’s gavel on summary judgment. And that is the issue of waiver. For when St. James planned to add to its facilities, and had secured a substantial donation to enable purchase of the property and construction on it, the donor insisted that St. James first obtain from the Diocese a waiver of the Dennis Canon. That waiver, signed by then-Canon to the Ordinary (and “Attorney-in-Fact” for the Bishop) D. Bruce MacPherson, was duly delivered (see Exhibit A, at p. 11), and the donor made good on his promise.

I was troubled by these paragraphs in the article:

In filing its motion for summary judgment in the cases involving St. David’s and All Saints, the Episcopal Church contended that a ruling should be issued based on the 2009 Supreme Court decision, said John Shiner, lead counsel for the diocese.

“I was very pleased with the ruling today,” Shiner said. “The court followed the precedent set by the California Supreme Court and other appellate decisions, which we have always felt are relevant to our current disputes.”

The ruling by the California Supreme Court to which Mr. Shiner refers was a ruling on St. James’ demurrer to ECUSA’s complaint against that parish. The courts are required on a demurrer (a defendant’s challenge to the legal adequacy of a complaint) to regard all allegations in the complaint as literally true—but only for purposes of determining if the complaint states a claim which a court may redress. If the complaint is found adequate, the defendant then answers it by denying its key allegations, and the parties are left to their proofs, according to their respective evidence. The one who carries the burden of proof as to conflicting evidence is the one who wins—in a civil case.

Thus the California Supreme Court’s ruling in 2009 was not a ruling based on facts found after a contested trial. It was a ruling which took the allegations of ECUSA’s complaint (including what it alleged about its Dennis Canon) as having been established, for purposes only of the demurrer. Thus its holding said, in effect, “If the plaintiff ECUSA can prove that all its allegations are true, then California law would say that it becomes the owner of the parish property when the latter leaves its jurisdiction.”

For ECUSA and the Diocese of Los Angeles to have been granted summary judgment against St. David’s and All Saints, it must have established to the court’s satisfaction that there were no disputed facts in either of those cases which required a trial. The court instead could decide the case right now, based only on the undisputed facts. (And indeed: I found out later that both sides had moved for summary judgment. This meant, to the Court at least, that both parties essentially agreed that there was no need for any trial to resolve any disputes over the facts of record.)

From the Diocese’s point of view, those “undisputed facts” included, of course, the so-called “hierarchical” nature of ECUSA, as a matter of law, etc., etc.  Once ECUSA is deemed “hierarchical” as a matter of law (i.e., no factual proof to the contrary will be allowed), then its ability, as such a church, to impose trusts unilaterally on all of its parishes’ individual properties follows. All it has to do is enact a canon declaring that such a trust exists forthwith (the Dennis Canon).

If that was the basis on which the court granted summary judgment to ECUSA and the Diocese, then we have presented, for purposes of an appeal from the decision, exactly the same grounds raised in the current petitions pending before the United States Supreme Court. That Court is expected to indicate by the end of June whether or not it will grant those petitions—in order to decide whether state courts may extend to a national church such as ECUSA, without violating the First Amendment, the ability to bypass, and be exempt from, state-law requirements for the establishment of a trust when it does not itself own the property being “placed” in a trust. The affected parishes should be praying that the Supreme Court will finally see good reason to halt this madness of allowing a single type of arbitrarily abusive church to confiscate—just because the courts say it can, solely for purposes of punishment, and for no other purpose that it factually demonstrates—a property which a local parish has acquired, paid for, developed and maintained all on its own.

After making further inquiries, I found that the court’s understanding of these cases was even worse than the bare newspaper account reflects. The arguments before Judge Kim Dunning, assigned to the cases from the Complex Civil Panel in Orange County, carried over from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning. Judge Dunning apparently announced at the start of the arguments that she regarded the nature of the Episcopal Church (USA) not open to question in her court, because it had already been decided (but on demurrer!) by the California Supreme Court, and any further inquiry would involve the court in questions of ecclesiastical governance and polity to a degree that was impermissible under the First Amendment. And with that announcement, all the rest of her conclusions were foregone conclusions, and the cases were over. She held that the passage of the Dennis Canon could not be questioned, or raise any disputed issue of fact; and she regarded the Episcopal Church (USA)—even though she refused to allow evidence as to its nature—as “a superior religious body or general church” for purposes of applying Corp. Code section 9142 (c), which allows such churches, but no others, to impose trusts on parish properties by including such a provision in their governing documents.

Thus her ruling granting the motions for summary judgment by the Diocese of Los Angeles was verbal, at the end of the arguments; it will be reduced to writing by counsel, and if all agree on its form, then it will be submitted to the judge for her signature. At that point, the losing parishes may file their notices of appeal.

It will be almost mandatory to appeal such a one-sided ruling that so ignores the law of “neutral principles” to decide disputes over church property. It is anything but neutral to foreclose all inquiry into just how a church might be regarded as “hierarchical” or not. And it is error, plain and simple, to read a higher court’s ruling on a demurrer as foreclosing all factual inquiries into matters which were simply alleged in a complaint, and which the higher court was thus required to deem as incontrovertible.

Chalk up Judge Dunning as yet one more judge who is unqualified to preside over a church property case, because she does not, or deliberately will not, understand how the law applies to such a case. But as I have observed elsewhere, such judicial obtuseness over religious questions is becoming more and more par for the course, because so few law school graduates ever acquire any familiarity with canon law in their practices. (That still does not excuse their abysmal inability to apply and follow precedent.) The unfortunate result is to make the road easy for religious bullies like the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church (USA).

Share this story:

Recent Related Posts



Sorry, I was confused by the title. I thought that all of your prayers and positive vibes for Jon Bruno had been answered. Is this any less hollow than the recent agreements reached in Virginia?

[1] Posted by RMBruton on 5-13-2012 at 06:17 PM · [top]

Hi RMBruton, I like you a lot, but you’ll need to stop trolling at various SF threads.  Sorry to see that you’re doing that and certainly there are a lot of reasons to be angry and bitter that cause people to begin trolling on blogs. But we just don’t allow it over here.

This is a warning.

[2] Posted by Sarah on 5-13-2012 at 06:40 PM · [top]

This level of failure to study jurisprudence is “par for the courts” it seems.

[3] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 5-13-2012 at 08:07 PM · [top]

How many courts have followed your view that tec is nonhierarchical mr Haley? Off the top of my head I put sc in the win column for you but pa nj ny tx cal ga va in the loss column.

[4] Posted by Ordinary on 5-13-2012 at 09:11 PM · [top]


Yes, what’s a poor bishop to do these days?  Why if the diocese didn’t own the property, then how could he coerce a parish?  They could could just take their property and leave.  How can you have a hierarchy without any means to compel behavior?  Sure, property isn’t much of a lever, but these days it’s all they’ve got.

In the meantime, I wonder what TEC will do with all these properties it can’t fill with people and can’t otherwise afford.  A few sit on prime real estate and so might be sold to developers for a hefty sum.  Perhaps a plaque can be placed near the new condominium - “A church once stood here.”  But most will remain unsold while the banks who hold the mortgages call for payments the diocese can’t afford.  And since the diocese has been declared the legal owner of all the property, the banks can sue the diocese directly to recover their loan.  Hrmm.  Maybe those trust funds currently paying lawyers could be used to pay off the banks as well.  I suppose TEC better hope that it doesn’t have a latent child molestation scandal in the closet as well.  Who knows what a court might compel to be sold in order to pay off a judgment? 

TEC will likely win its case, but at a fearsome cost to itself.  It has burned it own fields for spite.  Winter looms on the horizon, and there is no seed corn for next spring, nor food stored up for the long winter months ahead.  But at least it owns the property free and clear.  Perhaps TEC will sate its hunger by eating the deed during the famine to come.


[5] Posted by carl on 5-13-2012 at 11:09 PM · [top]

5- Yes, I suggest #4 (if he is indeed an ordinary) had better up his diocesan insurance by many 10s of millions of $$.  Because now, everyone who slips on the ice on a parish sidewalk, every worker injured while working on parish property, every person molested or otherwise abused by a parish priest, has a claim against the diocese as “owner” of the property, and ultimately, 815.  So, there will be a huge long term monetary cost, in addition to the spiritual costs, that will render this a Pyrrhic victory, even on the property front, as lawyers and injured parties realize where the deep pockets are.

Also, let us pray for our Lord’s mercy on the souls of these bishops, when the final appeal of these cases is heard by the Judge who actually owns the churches.

[6] Posted by tjmcmahon on 5-14-2012 at 08:04 AM · [top]

Ordinary, your list “off the top of your head” needs correction. First of all, it is misleading to cast the operative decisions in terms of whether or not ECUSA is “Hierarchical”, because that does not always determine the outcome of whether the trust expressed by the Dennis Canon is deemed valid or not.

For example, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its decision In re Church of St. James the Less, 585 Pa. 428 (1985), held that the Dennis Canon was ineffective to impose a trust unilaterally on parish property, without the consent of the parish expressed in some clear fashion, but it also deemed ECUSA to be hierarchical.

Again, the only court upholding a unilateral Dennis Canon trust in Texas thus far is Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas, 335 S.W.3d 880 (Tex. Ct. App. 2011), but it said it would reach that result whether it deferred to ECUSA as “hierarchical” or whether it decided the case under “neutral principles.” And that case is now under review by the Texas Supreme Court, so until that Court acts, Masterson cannot be cited as the “law” in Texas.

The decision of the California Supreme Court to which you refer was a decision overruling a demurrer by the parish to ECUSA’s complaint, which pled that ECUSA was “hierarchical.” On such appeals, the Court is required to regard all such facts pled as true and incontrovertible—so it is scarcely a “finding” that ECUSA is hierarchical.

In Virginia, Judge Bellows cited Supreme Court precedent holding that trusts like the Dennis Canon were per se invalid under Virginia law—but he went on to find that an “implied trust”, not based on the DC, had been established through conduct over many years.

A better criterion is to compare the States in which a national church has been permitted to impose a trust without a parish’s written consent, versus those States which have disallowed any such trust creation.

In favor of such trusts: CA, CT, GA, MA, NC, NJ, NY

Against such trusts: AK, AR, KY, LA, MO, NH, PA, SC, VA

States whose Supreme Courts currently have the question under review: IN, TX

Viewed in that manner, the picture looks a bit different, does it not?

[7] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-14-2012 at 10:49 AM · [top]

This should throw all real estate title insurance companies that have insured a mortgage on an Episcopal Church property into a panic.  Unless the national church has signed off on each and every mortgage, it would be next to impossible to foreclose on such a mortgage.  If the church defaults, the national church would have to be named as a defendant in the foreclosure action, and, I am guessing, that the national church has not signed off on any mortgage. 

Or, am I missing something here?

[8] Posted by observer145 on 5-14-2012 at 11:45 AM · [top]

No one has mentioned that the judge last week in this case IS AN EPISCOPLIAN!!!

[9] Posted by Already left on 5-14-2012 at 12:15 PM · [top]

observer145, Church canons require the Bishop or Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese to sign off to approve a parish’s mortgage. I assume—but I don’t know that the question has ever been formally raised—that the Bishop, as such, would be considered the local agent of ECUSA. Still, I doubt that most such consents would be in a sufficient form to satisfy the title companies.

[10] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-14-2012 at 01:10 PM · [top]

Already left (#9), then that might explain many things. Astounding that an Episcopalian would announce, in her capacity as a judge, that she was precluded from looking at the polity of her church! I do not know whether she offered to recuse herself, and the parties said “Never mind,” or what—but I will try to find out.

[11] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-14-2012 at 01:16 PM · [top]

[7] Mr. Haley,

A minor point. In the cited comment, above, you list second among state jurisdictions “In favor of such trusts” the State Postal Code CN. I am unaware of that being a valid State Postal Code, and I suspect that you intended CT, for Connecticutt.

Pax et bonum, and my best regards,
Keith Töpfer

[12] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 5-14-2012 at 03:05 PM · [top]

Thank you for catching that, MA. It’s a common foible of mine. It shall be corrected.

[13] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-14-2012 at 03:43 PM · [top]

Most clergy sexual abuse survivors, child and adult, don’t sue and of those that do, they resort to litigation only after years of institutional betrayal and irresponsibility.  And I’ve never heard of a clergy abuse survivor going after a vestry.  It’s a different situation, but survivors are probably a much less litigious group of people than senior TEC bishops.

[14] Posted by The Plantagenets on 5-14-2012 at 04:03 PM · [top]

mr. haley,
Contrary to your assertion, the pa case of St. James did not hold that the dennis cannon is ineffective.  it did not reach the dennis cannon question. Anything they said about it was pure dicta.  The orthodox departers lost their property, bottom line.  I dont think that you are accurately representing the legal landscape of the courts.  You can wow the legally uninformed who want to hear what you are saying but your arguments have not prevailed in many courts.  You should be careful not to mislead readers of this blog with false hope.  I have every reason to be and I am very sympathetic towards conservatives.  I was on the vestry of a very evangelical TEC church, I held a position in the Bush 43 administration, I am a member of the Federalist Society, I have very good friends who stand to lose their buildings in my former TEC parish, I worshipped at the Falls Church and have very good friends there and it saddens me deeply to see them lose their property. I am a sitting federal administrative law judge.  I have no sympathy for TEC.  I am morally and theological very conservative.  I sat in the room while Bishop Duncan and his lawyers stated firmly that they would prevail in the Pittsburgh case.  They did not. 
So tell me what is the score (hierachical dennis cannon issue or whatever) in the TEC vs the orthodox departers? 
again my off the top of head count is a win for the orthodox in sc , losses in pa nj ga ca tx ny

[15] Posted by Ordinary on 5-14-2012 at 08:28 PM · [top]

RE: “You should be careful not to mislead readers of this blog with false hope.”

I don’t see how Haley is giving anyone false hope.  All of us recognize that judges aren’t following the law and are aiding TEC in the legal theft of property.  What else is new?  Nobody’s sitting here thinking that the judges are suddenly going to follow the law.

RE: “You can wow the legally uninformed who want to hear what you are saying but your arguments have not prevailed in many courts.”

Nobody’s wowed.  Haley is ploddingly pointing out the errors of the courts in dealing with the law, as they come up.  It’s patently obvious that many parishes are losing their property—good heavens we report on it practically every day.

RE: “I dont think that you are accurately representing the legal landscape of the courts.”

He’s pointing out the *law* and demonstrating that the “legal landscape of the courts” as you put it does not match up with the law.

All of us are quite used to judges’ rulings being grotesquely opposed to the law.  Nobody’s surprised.  Nobody’s got false hopes.

At the same time, I’m very very pleased that the parishes in question are painstakingly going upward through the chain of command.  It’s what needs to be done, despite the results.  Good actions are good actions.

[16] Posted by Sarah on 5-14-2012 at 09:29 PM · [top]

Hi, Ordinary: It’s too soon to put Texas in either column. The Texas Supreme Court is reviewing two cases on this issue.

[17] Posted by Paul Powers on 5-14-2012 at 09:37 PM · [top]

Ordinary (#15), while I credit you with the ordeals you have been through because of judicial malpractice, and the resulting damage that such an experience may have done to your respect for the law, I cannot allow you here, on this blog, to misrepresent further what the courts have actually decided.

Fortunately, given Google Scholar’s database, anyone today may read the opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of In re Church of St. James the Less for themselves. And I trust that the trained lawyers among us can agree whether or not that Court “did not reach the dennis canon question”, as you claim in your comment.

Specifically, I would refer you to this passage of the Court’s opinion, at 888 A.2d 795, 806-07:

On further appeal [in the Beaver-Butler case], this Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, stating that “the Commonwealth Court should not have applied the broad deference rule which it chose; and that in cases where the resolution of a property dispute involves no inquiry into ecclesiastical questions, courts of this Commonwealth are to apply the same principles of law as would be applied to non-religious associations.” Beaver-Butler, 489 A.2d at 1323. We then explained that according to the well-established legal principles governing trusts, courts may only find that a trust exists where there is clear and unambiguous language or conduct indicating that the settlor intended to create a trust.

(Bold emphasis added.) Then the Court affirmed the rule in Pennsylvania, according to its reading of Beaver-Butler:

Applying this “neutral” rule of law to the facts, we found that the settlor of the local church’s property was the local church, rather than the national church, because the local church had been “created and incorporated on the local level by members of the parish” and had retained all of its property in its corporate name. Id. We then examined the National Presbyterian Church’s Book of Order and found that it neither prohibited the local church from disaffiliating from the National Presbyterian Church nor contained any express trust language at the time that the local church was a member of the national church. See id. 1324-25. Indeed, on that latter point, we emphasized that the National Presbyterian Church had recently added express trust language to the Book of Order, but that the local church had disaffiliated from the national church before the language was included. See id. at 1323-25. Thus, finding that there was no clear and unambiguous evidence showing that the local church “ever intended to convey [its] property interests to [the National Presbyterian Church],” we held that the Commonwealth Court erroneously concluded that the National Presbyterian Church had a trust interest in the local church’s property.

(Bold emphasis again added.) At the end of the quote just given, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court added footnote 26, as follows (with bold emphasis added, and an obvious typo corrected, in brackets):

We further noted that the Commonwealth Court’s reliance on provisions from the Book of Order to support its finding that the National Presbyterian Church had a trust interest in the local church’s property was misplaced as: (1) the overall intent of the book was to oversee the spiritual development of the member churches; and (2) the provisions mostly showed the national church’s wishes and were “far from constituting the clear [un]equivocal evidence necessary to support a conclusion that a trust existed.”

The Court, accordingly, had indicated, by this point in its opinion, that if the Dennis Canon were to create any trust interest in favor of the national Church or the Diocese in the parish’s property, it would be able to do so only with “clear [un]equivocal evidence necessary to support a conclusion that a trust existed.” And that meant, by the passage previously quoted (to which the above footnote was appended), that clear and unequivocal evidence would be required to show that the parish in question “intended to convey [its] property interests to [the national church].” [Emphasis added.]

Finally, the Court reached the dispositive issue: had the parish of St. James, by any of its prior actions or conduct, indicated that it had already agreed to the imposition of a trust on its property, before the enactment of the Dennis Canon? And upon reviewing the evidence, the Court found that the parish had indeed already done so. Given such prior consent to a trust in favor of the Diocese and national church, then the Dennis Canon, in and of itself, could not have operated so as to deprive the parish of a property interest without its consent:

In addition to arguing that the Dennis Canon was not properly enacted, Appellants contend that St. James cannot be bound by the canon because it divests it of its property without its consent. However, we disagree with Appellants that St. James had a vested interest in its property prior to the enactment of the Dennis Canon because St. James’ Charter makes clear that St. James had already agreed to hold its property in trust for the Diocese prior to the enactment of the Dennis Canon. In this regard, we initially note that St. James’ Charter declares that St. James’ purpose is to serve as a place to worship God “according to the faith and discipline of the [National Episcopal Church].” Exh. P-9 (emphasis added). More importantly, the Charter ensures that St. James will always be used for this purpose as it (1) states that any person who disclaims the authority of the National Episcopal Church or the Diocese can no longer be a member of St. James; and (2) requires St. James to obtain the Diocese’s consent for amendments to its Charter [footnote omitted]. See id. Accordingly, St. James effectively agreed in these provisions to always accede to the authority of the National Episcopal Church and the Diocese and to forever serve as a place of worship for those who adhere to that same authority. As such, it plainly held its property for the benefit of the National Episcopal Church and the Diocese, i.e., in trust for those entities.

(Bold—but not italic—emphasis added to original.) Then, having so concluded, the Court finds that the Dennis Canon in and of itself added nothing new, but merely confirmed the prior arrangement, and so could not be regarded as depriving the parish of any property interest without its consent (bold emphasis added):

On the basis of the above provisions, we find that St. James clearly intended to place its property in trust for the Diocese prior to the enactment of the Dennis Canon and consequently, the Dennis Canon does not deprive St. James of its vested property rights. Rather, the Dennis Canon “merely codified in explicit terms a trust relationship” that was implicit in St. James’ Charter.

I do not know how you read the law, nor would I presume to try to educate you, based on your own egregious experiences with the Dennis Canon. However, I submit to you that, based on the above, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did indeed address the application of the Dennis Canon in Pennsylvania, and found that it could not have applied on its own in the State, given prior case law, but for the parish’s previous indications of express consent to the imposition of the trust whose existence the Canon proclaimed—after the fact. 

In sum: the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared, in the case of In re the Church of St. James the Less, “that the Dennis Canon was ineffective to impose a trust unilaterally on parish property, without the consent of the parish expressed in some clear fashion”, as I stated in the comment which you criticized.

As for my spreading “false hope”, what I sincerely endeavor to do, with all of my posts, is to spread greater understanding—of what is not only wrong with the law, but also of how the Episcopal Church (USA) is unscrupulously exploiting, to its own ends, all the misreadings and false statements of the law which it is able to obtain from unknowing and unqualified judges. In that way, I attempt to put a limit on the unjustified gains which ECUSA is appropriating to itself—and (because I am myself still a member of ECUSA, striving to reform it from within) to restrain it from abusing the law further, to its own great and present damage.

[18] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-14-2012 at 11:22 PM · [top]

Mr. Haley, I realize that this is a very complex legal situation, but could you, please, provide a quick summary of what the TEC has done that is legally dubious?  What is the TEC’s positive legal case and how is it effective?  And is the Dennis Cannon even constitutional within TEC’s own lights, i.e. did General Convention have the authority within TEC to assert the Dennis Cannon?

[19] Posted by The Plantagenets on 5-15-2012 at 12:07 AM · [top]

Plantagenets, I understand your request to boil down a very complex legal subject. Let me see if I can do it here (otherwise, if still not clear, you are invited to visit my Church legal blog [topic: “Dennis Canon”] for as much detail as you can stand).

1. First, the Presiding Bishop and her own personal Chancellor (whom she illegally delegates to carry on the litigation agenda which she personally, without authority of any kind from GC, EC, HoB, or any other part of the Church has set for the Church) presume nevertheless to speak for the “whole” Church (whatever that is) in court cases, and thus misrepresent the fact that the “whole Church” has delegated that responsibility to them;

2. There is no way, given that the 7 original State churches came together to create the original PECUSA in 1789, that their creation could somehow, and without their express agreement, constitute an entity superior to, and pre-ranking, themselves;

3. Moreover, PECUSA determined, by its acts in the Conventions of 1895-1901, that General Convention could not exert any kind of “supreme” authority over the rest of the Church; and finally,

4. Despite those unarguable and thoroughly documented historical facts, the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor have, illegally and completely without any authority from the whole Church whatsoever, engaged deliberately in a campaign to distort and obfuscate those facts in the courts, and to persuade the courts to jump on a “bandwagon” of 815’s own making, while meanwhile applying scorched-earth and Machiavellian techniques to out-maneuver their Christian opponents.

5. For more detail, please read (and circulate, if you find it helpful) this post.

[20] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-15-2012 at 01:19 AM · [top]

Dear Mr. Haley, thank you very much for your response and even more so for doing all the leg work over the years to bring this constitutional crisis into the light.  I had some sense of the pieces up until now, but the big picture is even more chilling.  The details are obviously important, but the big picture goes a long way, and I encourage you in the most complementary way to keep stressing it


1) There’s so much dysfunction that it’s tempting to look for the moment where it all went wrong in the structure of the Church and culture of Anglicanism.  I think that’s the wrong instinct.  But I do wonder if the Eastern Orthodox are on to something in criticizing Queen Elizabeth’s priding herself on not looking into the hearts of men and in emphasizing unity of worship over unity of belief, instead of seeing their bidirectional connection.  We need some sort of doctrinal error correction capacity without a Pope, and I’m not sure Protestants have ever found one.  Instead we have to paraphrase Bertrand Russell philosophical subjectivity leading to political anarchy and thus tyranny.
2)  The metropolitan comparisons are apt.  But KJS’s reign also reminds me of the harshest critiques of post-industrial private equity.  She and a small core of New Yorkers have borrowed money to form a kind of corporation that controls another set of corporations without really owning anything.  Ultimate power is no longer in owning the factory or parish but in technocratic manipulation of the banks and legal system, i.e. virtual capitalism.  Her mistake is in getting stuck with useless bricks and mortar.  Goodwin Procter does not make that mistake.

[21] Posted by The Plantagenets on 5-15-2012 at 05:44 AM · [top]

[21] The Plantagenets,

You write

We need some sort of doctrinal error correction capacity without a Pope, and I’m not sure Protestants have ever found one.”

Congratulations to you. You have come to a conclusion which required of me some five and a half decades of adult (in the legal meaning of that word) life. It was, at least for me, best summed up for me in the following words:

The most obvious answer, then, to the question, why we yield to the authority of the Church in the questions and developments of faith, is, that some authority there must be if there is a revelation given, and other authority there is none but she. A revelation is not given if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given. . . . If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must humanly speaking have an infallible expounder. Else you will secure unity of form at the loss of unity of doctrine, or unity of doctrine at the loss of unity of form; you will have to choose between a comprehension of opinions and a resolution into parties, between latitudinarian and sectarian error. You may be tolerant or intolerant of contrarieties of thought, but contrarieties you will have. By the Church of England a hollow uniformity is preferred to an infallible chair; and by the sects of England an interminable division. Germany and Geneva began with persecution and have ended in scepticism. The doctrine of infallibility is a less violent hypothesis than this sacrifice either of faith or of charity. It secures the object, while it gives definiteness and force to the matter, of Revelation.*

* – John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine originally published in 1845.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[22] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 5-15-2012 at 08:04 AM · [top]

Mr. Topfer, thank you and thanks for the very interesting Newman essay.  And for pointing out on another thread the TEo’s use of pledge dollars for abortion support.  Intolerable!

I was coming from another direction.  When cells divide to grow, they must copy their DNA.  Miscopying information leads to mutation, which provides the foundation of essential difference and diversity.  But, 70% of protein mutations are harmful.  When DNA replicates, it makes about 1 copying mistake per 100,000 nucleotides.  In humans that means about 120,000 mistakes per new cell.  A mere 1,000 mistakes lead to 50% cell fatality.  So unassisted DNA replication should easily entail 100% cell fatality.  (The mechanisms are more complex, but these are ballpark numbers.)

So why isn’t all life dead many times over?  Fortunately, our cells have an unbelievably robust set of ongoing DNA error correction mechanisms “proofreaders” that reduce error rates to about 1 mistake per 1,000,000,000 nucleotides.  This is why cells invest about 2% of their energy in DNA repair—to maintain genetic stability.  And why many forms of cancer begin with breakdowns in DNA repair.

Of course, modern printing presses reproduce the Bible at high fidelity.  It’s not like our Bibles are literally falling apart.  But to extend the analogy, an enormous amount of highly regulated chemistry goes into the move from DNA to protein expression.  Much of this regulation involves determining which genes get expressed where and how often, e.g. making sure nerve cells make nerve proteins not bone matter.  Very complicated chemical pathways with lots of feedback circuits govern this process.  In the body of Christ, the TEo’s problem is that essential blocks of scriptural “genetic information” have been shut down through self-reinforcing cycles with no error correction and the Book of Common Prayer/the Canons, our RNA intermediary, is mutating with no error correction.  You’d think a trained biologist like the PB would appreciate this better.

Similar concerns affect other information based systems like computers.  The bottom line in all of them is that a high initial mistake rate with strong error correction goes much further than a brittle system that can’t fix its errors.  Most people know this intuitively which is why the coverup is worse than the crime.  I like to think that God in his infinite wisdom stresses forgiveness so intensely in part for these reasons.

[23] Posted by The Plantagenets on 5-15-2012 at 08:36 PM · [top]

Ordinary wrote:

“So tell me what is the score (hierachical dennis cannon issue or whatever) in the TEC vs the orthodox departers?”

Yes, what is the score? How many of the properties where TEC has won a law suit (even if it still on appeal - let’s be generous) now have a thriving TEC congregation in them (or any congregation at all)? 

And while we are at it, what about the flip-side: where a congegation has left TEC, been sued and lost, how many members of that dissenting congregation have gone back to TEC?

I’m not really hopeful that Ordinary will answer this because he or she generally seems to refrain from answering questions more often than not, but I would be grateful for an answer if it can be arranged!

[24] Posted by MichaelA on 5-16-2012 at 10:03 AM · [top]

“Ordinary” is just a TEC troll. That’s why he doesn’t respond. If there is a church hierarchy, then why does the national church which was once ECUSA appear to be splitting into 3 or 4 different groups with different centers of leadership?

The people who cling to leadership roles in the old ECUSA call themselves TEC now and are led by KJS; the conservatives who announced as of 2008 that they were joining the General Convention of the Southern Cone where declared ‘not Episcopal’ by 815 and they formed ACNA and are lead by Duncan (which means KJS basically created ACNA); conservatives and moderates still tied to GC but who don’t approve of GC or don’t recognize KJS’s leadership seem to have chosen Mark Lawrence as their ‘de facto’ leader (South Carolina, Albany, Central Florida, and Dallas are in this camp, and maybe Mississippi and Western Louisiana are going this way…; and then you have this sort of noncommittal group (the largest…alas) who won’t get involved in anything.

This is a mess, and the courts (without lazy judges) would be better off staying out of the whole ‘identity’ church hierarchy mess that TEC’s lawyers want them (eagerly) to enter.

Instead, judges should just stick with tried and true laws of property rights. The party who has the deeds, who paid the bills, or built and maintained the buildings and grounds gets to keep them. That’s how all other issues of property ownership are resolved. Judges are happy. Churchgoers are happy.

The only party that loses there is 815-TEC. wink

[25] Posted by All-Is-True on 5-16-2012 at 11:07 AM · [top]

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.

Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more explanation, and the posts here, here, and here for advice on becoming a valued commenter as opposed to an ex-commenter. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments which you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm site administrators or Gri5th Media, LLC.