Thursday, July 24, 2008
"Understandable and doable"
You are not going to believe this one. When asked by WXIA reporter Dennis O'Hayer about her view on whether departing congregations should keep their property, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that if they were going to a church that is in communion with TEC, that would "be understandable and doable." The relevant clip is with about 2:30 minutes left in this interview.
O’Hayer: "Court battles have started. Virginia has had a case where the congregation that left got to keep the property, at least in the lower court ruling. Would you rather have those properties sold, than go with the congregation that leaves the [Episcopal] Church?"
Schori: “The issue that’s often not understood is that bishops and officers of dioceses have a moral and a fiduciary responsibility to see that the legacy of the church, the assets of the church, are used for the purposes for which they were given. When a congregation, or members of a congregation, or a priest decides that he wants to set up as another church that’s not in communion with this church, we really don’t have the right to give that property away, give those assets away. If it’s another . . . you know, if it were a church with whom we are in full communion, like the ELCA, that would be much more understandable and doable. In the absence of that kind of full communion relationship, we really don’t have a choice. Our task is to see that the assets of the church are used for the ministry of the Episcopal Church.”
That should be good news for Bishop Schofield and the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, who left TEC last December for "a church with whom we are in full communion." It is a reassurance to the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and Quincy who are considering the same move.
Of course, I don't believe that our Katharine has changed her hard-line stance on departing congregations. It is interesting that she mentioned the ELCA as an example of churches with whom we are in communion. Surely other churches of the Anglican Communion would fit this category at least as well, or are we no longer claiming that TEC is a part of the Anglican Communion?
When the time comes for her to take the stand in the next church property trial, she may wish she could take that interview back.