The Truth - what are you going to do about it?

Late Thursday night, April 3rd, a decision was finally rendered in the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the 11 congregations supported by the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North American (CANA).  

The decision before the court was whether or not a "division" had occurred in the Episcopal Church, and was it legal for the 11 dissenting congregations to apply the odd statute known as 57-9.

I say "odd" because Virginia is the only state in the union (and I'm happy to be proven wrong here) that has a law like this.  Roughly, the law (Virginia Statute 57-9) says that when a religious group experiences a "division," member congregations may determine, by a majority vote of its members 18 years and older, which branch of the divided body they wish to remain a part of.

This is odd because most states' laws suggest that the church property and assets must remain with the originating branch of the division, and that dissenting members must strike out on their own.  But I digress...

In his 83 page Letter Opinion, Judge Bellows denied the Episcopal Church's claim that our current fight is small potatoes (my words), and affirmed CANA's claim of a division in not only the Episcopal Church, but in the Anglican Communion, writing:

"[The Court] blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude, especially given
  • the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country
  • the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves "taking sides" against their brethren
  • the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to "walk apart" in the language of the Church
  • the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines
  • the rapidity with which the ECUSA's problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world
  • and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations.
Whatever may be the precise threshold for a dispute to constitute a division under 57-9(A), what occurred here qualifies." [Note: the bullet points are mine]

These are very strong words, indeed - and it reads like an indictment.  A point by point replay of the entire ordeal is recounted in Judge Bellows' opinion (accounting for most of the 83 pages), making for heart breaking reading, I assure you.  And, for the most part, I think that his recounting is true.

In receiving this opinion, however, there is a vast chasm of difference between the Diocese of Virginia's reception of the opinion and CANA's reception of the opinion - nee, I dare say, there has been, all along, a campaign of misinformation perpetrated by CANA that has completely skewed the reality of the whole ordeal.

Yes, I know, BOTH sides are engaged in propaganda...clearly.  One would have to be blind to not see that.  But there is a kind of propaganda that has truth on its side, and then there's a kind of propaganda that is so pernicious that it is worthy of the best Soviet-era information campaigns (or, humorous that it rises to the level of Baghdad Bob claiming that the Americans were being killed by the thousands even as we drove through the streets of Baghdad in tanks) - and it is my claim that CANA has been engaged in a pernicious campaign of lies, backed up by emotional and spiritual claims of superiority, yet all-the-while living in complete denial, and claiming to be utterly the victim.  Woe is me.

Here are some examples of what I am talking about:

1.  The 11 Churches in Virginia are being sued by the Diocese.

In the current actions regarding 57-9, currently before the court, the Diocese of Virginia is the DEFENDANT.  Now, for all you legal newbies out there - when someone is the Defendant in a case this means that the other party is the Plaintiff, and Plaintiffs are the ones who bring legal questions before the court for suit.  If you need me to break it down further... the Diocese is being sued.

This claim, that CANA is "being sued" is one of the most pernicious because it makes them out to be the victim of "Big 'Ol Diocese" in their insatiable pursuit of money and property.  You can find this claim in writing in almost every single press release that CANA has made about this court action (here, for example).

But, in the spirit of TRUTH, it should be noted that the Diocese DOES have a suit pending against the CANA churches.  This suit regards Statute 57-15 of the Virginia Code, and is a move to prevent the transfer of church property out of the name of the Diocese of Virginia and into the name of CANA churches.  Only when this case comes before the court - and only then - would it be TRUE to say that CANA is being sued... but for now, the Diocese is a defendant.

2. "The Episcopal Church and the Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations in January 2007 and filed lawsuits against the Virginia churches, their ministers and their vestries."  

This, too, is false.  While it sounds like the truth, it is not, and here is why:

The 57-9 Lawsuits were filed in January 2007 by the CANA churches FIRST - dates don't lie.  A parallel action on the 57-15 question was filed AFTER CANA filed the 57-9 suit.  

The "abrupt" end to the settlement negotiations is also false in the sense that the Diocese of Virginia some how walked away from the table without provocation or reason. 

While it is TRUE that the Ministers and Vestries were named as parties in the suits, what is lacking is the whole truth that there was a settlement a few months later that removed them as named parties to the suits.  Half truths are what we call lies.

3.  CANA is a Victim.

 "We do not harbor any ill will toward anyone" - Jim Oakes, vice chairmain of CANA's Anglican District of Virginia, has said.  And while, you, Jim, do not harbor any ill will toward anyone, I'd like to point out that "we" is probably an overstatement.

I'm pointing this out as FALSE under the heading of "Statements that make CANA sound like a victim".

If "WE" do not harbor any ill will toward anyone, then how do you explain...

Stand Firm - On many occasion, the articles and especially the comments of CANA-minded Anglicans on this blog are down-right unChristian, and certainly don't seem to support the idea that you (in the plural sense) don't harbor any ill will toward anyone.  Wishing ANY other human to be punished by burning in hell, insulting other people, disrespectful and slanderous comments and intentionally allowing people to publish and comment with FALSE information is and out and out sin by even the most liberal of standards.

And from a recent posting on Babyblue - "The Washington Post quotes comments from a political organization called the 'Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.' That is the organization that the [Former] Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia, Patrick Getlein, has just joined as a key staff member. His responsibilities there include directing the organization's strategic communications. Watch that space very carefully." [Emphasis mine]

How can you claim to NOT harbor any ill will, and yet your own people, writing anonymously I might add, single out a person like Mr. Getlein for this kind of smear campaign?  

The truth is that CANA is so hell-bent on making themselves out to be the victim of big ol' baddy Episcopal Church that it has ignored its own sin and dis-grace.  The truth is that CANA is not a victim.  Speaking from my own experience:

CANA churches in the Diocese of Virginia began a strategic withdrawal campaign about 10 years ago, beginning by refusing to support the larger church with financial contributions even before the consecration of Gene Robinson.  Further, CANA leaders refused to have conversations with people that they disagreed with.  They isolated themselves and their churches from the community, pulled away from the table, and they created an environment of hostility that made it impossible to listen (on either side, mind you).

The TRUTH is that CANA churches harbor AS much of the blame for this whole thing as does the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia (notice that I do not hold TEC or DOV harmless).

But this campaign of misinformation has got to stop.  Start telling the Truth.

4.  God is on "our" side.

The first thing to say is that God is not on either side of this tragedy.

Look at the Letter Opinion by Judge Bellows again.  He admits to stopping short of using the word "schism" because, and only because, of its religious connotations.  What we have here is a schism - a rending of the Body of Christ into, at least, 2 parts.  What we have done, on both sides, is that we have ripped our Lord in two.

Even as we both salivated, waiting for the judge to render a decision on who gets what, we have left the Body of Christ in pieces, re-crucified so that one of us could claim that we were "right."

Hypocrites.  Pharisees.  Brood of Vipers!

All of you - all of us!  How dare we do this to the church?  How dare you claim a victory when your brother and sister Anglicans across the street or across the world are hurting and in need?  How dare WE split and divide the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ into neat little pieces?

You say that GOD is on your side - or in John Yates' letter to the Falls Church, "God has provided wonderfully" - but I say that God must be tragically disappointed in us all for what we have done to the church.  He is not providing for you - he is weeping over our inability to live and worship together in unity (John 17).


I am sick to death of CANA trying to claim innocence in this whole ordeal.  There is your truth, and there is THE Truth - and believe me, you have a long way to go, at least in the public.

This is the truth.

What are you going to do about it?  


Warren said...

Your version of the truth is a chillingly distorted and, therefore, could be characterized as the "Big Lie." I believe that you know it.

The CANA Churches filed there 57-9 petitions in December after a spending a 40 Day period in discernment. The Diocese was both invited and encouraged to participate in that process. It is the Diocese that characterized the filings "as suing the Diocese." No one is named in these filings. In January the Diocese did withdraw from the agreed upon standstill and did file suit against me and every member our churches vestry.

It is past time to face reality and for you to admit that it is TEC/DVA that are the schematics who are tearing the Anglican Communion apart. Move of the Holy Spirit>>>I think NOT>

Doorman-Priest said...

Or alternatively it the other viewpoint.

Malt Viquor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Malt Viquor said...

Hmmm ... I probably should have read my previous response THREE times before hitting "post."

I humbly beg everyone's apology for my sarcasm.

Pastoral Disorder, please feel free to remove my previous post.

Axis II Pastoral Disorder with Priestly Features said...

Actually, Warren, your facts are wrong. The CANA churches filed their 57-9 petitions in January. If you can provide proof to the contrary, I ask that you do so, but I have done my homework and I actually know what I'm talking about.

As for your "40 Days of Purpose" and the invitation for the diocese and others to participate, it is my opinion that the 40 Days was a way to cover up for a foregone conclusion. But, for the sake of argument, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, that you were honest in your desire to really discern God's direction during those 40 days. I don't believe that everyone was as honest as you, though, as your leaders had too much to lose by staying in relationship with ECUSA.

While it IS true that "No one is named in these filings", that wasn't always the case. There were names attached to the suits at one point, but BOTH sides negotiated a change to that.

I have nothing to gain by distorting the truth. Much to the contrary. As proved by the history in South Africa and the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", by telling the truth we all gain a foundation on which to find reconciliation - and if you're not interested in reconciliation, then I ask you, what are you interested in?

As for my colleague, Mr. Malt Viquor, I can only ask that you accept his apology and offer him forgiveness. This is a highly emotional issue for all of us.

As for the others, don't be so quick to believe everything that you are told by the leaders of your congregation. Look at the documents for yourself and ask objective questions. I don't believe everything that MY leaders tell me - I know that ECUSA isn't completely innocent - but I can tell you that forasmuch as CANA portrays itself as a martyr and a victim, they are also perpetrators of some of the most heinous lies in church history. I say that dispassionately and sincerely, and I urge you to seek out the facts. Don't believe what they are telling you.