Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dog in the Manger (II): Good Shepherd



In praesepi faeni pleno decumbebat Canis. Venit Bos ut comedat faenum, cum Canis, confestim sese erigens, tota voce elatravit. Cui Bos: “Dii te, cum ista tua invidia, perdant (inquit): nec enim faeno ipse vesceris, nec me vesci sines.”
[In a manger full of hay a dog was lying. There entered an ox to eat the hay, when the dog at once rose up and barked as loudly as he could. Said the ox to the dog: "May the gods destroy you and that envy of yours, for you yourself do not eat the hay, and you do not let me eat it."]


THE MORAL. Envy pretends to no other Happiness than what it derives from the Misery of other People, and will rather eat nothing itself than not to starve those that would.

* * * * *
[Note: Part I of this series is here.]


After being granted summary judgment in its lawsuit against the parish of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York, the Diocese of Central New York, through its Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gladstone "Skip" Adams, served notice on the parish rector and his spouse, the Revs. Matt and Anne Kennedy, that they had to vacate the church property -- including the rectory, which was home to the Kennedys and their four children -- on extremely short notice. (You may read more about the details of the forced move here.)

One might think that the Diocese had an urgent and pressing need for the parish property, because of the abruptness of the notice. One would be wrong. The buildings were padlocked; agents for the Diocese even took down the signs which referred the homeless to the new temporary location of the parish's weekly soup kitchen. Through the bounteous intervention of the local Catholic Church and its monsignor, the Kennedys and their flock (both literal and spiritual) were soon relocated in a much larger, newer and better-equipped premises, complete with a four-bedroom rectory and rooms for meetings and Sunday school classes. Life picked up for them, and soon the Church of the Good Shepherd was boasting a higher Sunday attendance than ever (more than double what it had been when the Kennedys first came to Binghamton).

Now comes word from Binghamton that the Diocese has sold the church. Before going on to the details, let us first look at some pictures. Here is the exterior:



And here is a picture of the sanctuary:



Now, thanks to Father Tony Seel of the DCNY blog, here is what is known of the sale of the building:
Demonstrating their all-inclusive love, the DCNY has sold the church building of the former Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd to a Muslim group. You remember the pecusa claims of inclusive love - the kind that puts into contracts that buildings vacated by departing congregations can never be sold back to Anglican congregations. But they have no problem selling buildings to Muslims.
And curiously enough, under New York law the sale will not be final until that State's Attorney General has been duly notified of it, and signs off on it (h/t: a reader, via Religion Clause):
The New York Religious Corporations Law, Sec. 12(a)(1), requires religious corporations to obtain court approval for sale, mortgage or lease of real property. The procedures for court approval, in Sec. 511 of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law, call for the court to require at least 15 days notice to the attorney general.
[UPDATE 03/17/2010: Father Seel also quoted Father Kennedy about the transformation he recently saw in his old church, made by the purchasers:
Just learned that the Diocese of CNY sold our former building to Muslims. Heard rumors before but today I passed by and saw that the doors were painted green. There was a crane there removing the cross from the bell-tower and hanging over the back door to the parking lot was the following sign "Islamic Awareness Center"
Here is a picture of the church as transformed, via Pat Dague at Transfigurations:



In court the Diocese's complaint alleged that the parish was no longer using the property for the purposes for which its Episcopal ancestors had acquired and built it, and had spent money to maintain it over the years. But as we see, this was the hypocrisy of the dog in the manger. The Diocese could not put the property to any such use; it lacked sufficient parishioners to support the property. So under the twisted and hypocritical logic of the Dennis Canon, the Diocese is seen as upholding the purposes of the original donors better by letting the property become -- what, a mosque? -- rather than allowing it to be used by those who were more faithful to that tradition than was Bishop Adams. (The hypocrisy in central and western New York does not seem to be confined just to Episcopalians.)

[UPDATE (Cont.): Over at the MCJ, Christopher Johnson adds this very telling point:
The Curmudgeon points out that other churches have done this sort of thing. But there’s a major difference. Other churches have sold empty buildings. But to my knowledge, no allegedly-Christian church has ever gone to court to evict a thriving, Christian parish from its meeting house only to turn around and sell the building to non-Christians.
Exactly right, MCJ. - END UPDATE]

This is one of the principal reasons I cannot subscribe to the leftwing lurches of the Episcopal Church (USA). Those on the left are incapable of perceiving the hypocrisy between what they profess and what they do. They move in with their agenda, and inevitably make things much worse for the Church than they were before. And as the Church slowly fails in its great mission, dragged down by the enormous expense of unmitigated lawsuits, and led by people who would rather see Muslims than Anglicans make use of their property, they refuse to accept any responsibility whatsoever for the decline.

Aesop had their number over 2,500 years ago.

29 comments:

  1. I have long thought that in this case those who left TEC and thought that they could keep the property well poorly advised. In New York the law is clear and I have yet to hear of a departing group being successful. I am glad that the building has been sold to another religious organization. There are two other parishes in Binghamton, so the selling of this property makes sense.

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  2. I'm thinking that Fr Daniel's comment is a fitting epitaph to your article AC.

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  3. So, Fr Weir, you don't care to whom the property might be sold? Is there any purchaser who might make you draw the line? A strip club, perhaps?

    Was it legal for TEC to repossess the church? Undoubtedly. To sell to a Muslim organization? Also undoubtedly. Will this action damage their credibility? You'd better believe it. Just because something is legal doesn't make it right. The best parallel I can come up with would be someone who wins an ethically iffy lawsuit in court, takes the money, and blows it on alcohol and parties. Equally legal, equally wrong.

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  4. They've sold their souls to you know who, they might as well sell him their churches as well...

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  5. I am crying right now and cannot comment. Fr. Weir, please reconsider your gladness.

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  6. This is about as low as you can go. Selling to those who long for our eventual disappearance. May the scopion's tale come back to sting itself.

    With Lenten sorrow,
    NW Bob

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  7. I am sorry to hear that selling a church building to a Muslim organization will damage the credibility of the Diocese of CNY. And what aboout the veiled comparison of a Muslim organization to a strip club? Whatever Dr. Alice's doctorate is in,it doesn't seem to be in religious tolerance. If that seems harsh, think how my Muslim friends would like these kinds of comments?

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  8. Religious tolerance? Please. While other churches may sell their buildings to non-Christians from time to time, this is the first case I can recall of an alleged Christian diocese suing a group of Christians out of their meeting house and then turning around and selling the building to non-Christians.

    What, Gladstone "Skip" Adams couldn't have sold it back to the original parishioners? Or, God forbid, played the Christian and given it back to the people of Good Shepherd?

    While this might be the most disgraceful thing any outlet of the Episcopal Organization has done in a very long time, it does have one positive aspect. It proves that TEO's "protecting the heritage of Episcopalians who have gone before" line is absolute garbage and that TEO's word is worthless.

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  9. This angers me more than the lesbian "bishop".

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  10. Fr Weir, my comments were directed against the appalling willfulness and blindness exhibited by TEC and yourself, not against Muslims. However if it makes you feel better to view them in that light, be my guest.

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  11. May the LORD deal swiftly with those in DIO CNY would would take a house of prayer and allow it to become a satanic stronhold! They couldn't have done worse if they sold it to a brothel keeper. Yes, I said it and stand by it.

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  12. I was not privy to the all the details of the negotiantions bertween the diocese and the departing congregation and now find that my first comments on this thread might have been reasonably seen as defending the diocese's original decisions. I still know so little, that I can venture no opinion about whether those decisions were morally justified. The opinion which I stand by is about the current decision to sell the property. I concede that sale to a Chrsitian congregation would be preferable, but what is wrong about selling it to a Muslim congregation? In a region with declining population and two Episcopal parishes in Binghamton, holding on to the buildings would, IMV, be poor stewardship.

    I accept Dr. Alice's assertion that her comments were not reflective of anti-Muslim prejudice. I hope, in light of my assertion that I am not in a position to venture an opinion about anything other than the current plan to sell, that she will decide that I have not been appallingly willful of blind.

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  13. I can only say that I am sad that bb apparently approved of Andy's comment. Where is Hagrid when we need him?

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  14. The diocese had an..."urgent and pressing need" for MONEY!

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  15. Folks, be sure to follow the comments over at Baby Blue's and at the MCJ, where there is even more of the story. Father Matt writes at the former blog:

    "Hi Fr. Weir, the fact is that Good Shepherd had doubled in size from 2002 to 2009 when we lost the building despite the poor demographics in town.

    "And, during negotiations, we offered three times the amount for the property than did the mosque which eventually bought it.

    "Instead the diocese sued us, kicked us out of the building and my family out of our home, and sold the church building cut rate to those who teach that Jesus is not God, did not truly die, did not rise, and is not Lord.

    "Any way you do the math, the diocese comes out looking very very small."

    There is no defense of the current sale, Fr. Weir, if as you say it was to dispose of "surplus property", because the Diocese turned down an offer that would have been for a price three times as high. It's the pious posturing about "interfaith respect", while under the table doing all that is possible to make it hard for the departing parish and its leaders, which makes the commenters here and on the other blogs so incensed.

    Hagrid, I'm afraid, was capable of getting very angry in the face of injustice, and I think he'd be angry here, too.

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  16. I apologize for forgetting where I was and posting an almost totally incomprhensible comment. I am sad that our gracious host approved Andy's comment.

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  17. Fr. Daniel,
    I mean no offense to the gentle readers of this blog. I have to state though, in light of the unceremonious dealings with the Kennedy family, the move on behalf of the diocese seems to smack of malice and aforethought. I am personally saddened by any deconsecration/sale of house of Christian worship (irrespective of denomination), I experience a sense of anger when that facility has been given over to a heretical sect that is bent on silencing the "faith once delivered", and the death of those faithful to the saving Gospel of our Lord.

    There are any number of worthy enterprises that could have slid into this once hallowed structure. The idea that it has now become a celebration of infidelity is especially grevious.

    If Dio CNY wanted to demonstrate to the community that they actually held stock in the faith they claim, they would have moved heaven and earth to plant a mission in that space.

    My true apologies if my comments offended you or any other reader. We've been made stewards of the Gospel and the words of salvation. Allowing this sanctuary to become another islamic beachead approaches an act of dhiminitude

    Deacon Andy

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  18. Fr. Weir -
    I am afraid your comments are sadly naive. Apparently you are ignorant of the background of this shameful episode.

    I second Deacon Andy.

    Really!

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  19. It seems to me as I read the comments that there are people who know things that I don't know, e.g., that there were other and more appropriate current offers for the property that the diocese rejected; that haveing acting immorally in refusing to sell to the departing congregation and then suing it, any decision to sale is completely tainted; that every Muslim organization is dedicated to destroying the Church. If there are better current offers, I would agree that the diocesan decision reflects poor stewardship, but I doubt there any such offers. I reject the notion that because the diocese acted immorally (an assertion about which I can make no judgement given my limited knowledge), any decision it amkes about the property is to be condemned. I accept that there are Muslims who want to convert or wipe out all infidels, but I know Muslims who don't and not knowing the character of the group that seeks to but the property, any negative judgment that I would make about them would be simply prejudice. One might make the same argument from the other side becasue there are Christians who want to convert or wipe out all Muslims. My comments may be sadly naive, but the comments of some others are, IMV, hateful.

    Having exhausted myself and my patience in responding to this thread, I will now return to lurk-mode.

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  20. "Religious tolerance".

    Toward Muslims. Fair enough. I am all for religious tolerance. When Hurricane Katrina came through I headed over to the Islamic center (housing several evacuee families) with a couple Chinese congregants, greeted them in Arabic, asked what they needed, the next day we provided most of what was on their list.

    But not toward fellow Anglicans. Who offered 3x what the Muslim group offered. A congregation that was thriving (how are the other 2 parishes in B'hamton doing?*) and ministering among the poor and hungry. Who had been maintaining and caring for that property for a long time.

    Clearly the issue here is not "religious tolerance".

    Assume for the sake of argument the legality of such moves. The ginormous elephant of a question in our living room is "But *why* is this so dang important to TEC leadership?" They can spare talk of "fiduciary responsibility" and the Dennis Canon. Because that does not really answer the question of *why* (motivation). Adherence to the letter of the law does not explain this all consuming crusade that overrides all other considerations.

    Including religious tolerance. Toward other Christians.

    *If selling a property because there are 2 other parishes makes sense, why not sell another and leave just one? Because B'hamton needs more than one? Well okay. Why not 3? Not seeing the logic there.

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  21. I don't know wht the diocese broke off negotiations. What is true is that the early offers from the congregation were with funds that were ultimately detrmined in court to belong to the diocese (Fr. Matt Kennedy affirmed this in a post at BabyBlue). Knowing the law,I can understand why the diocese declined to accept those offers.

    Church starts are difficult. There were, I think, few members of the parish who did not leave TEC and without a core of people committed to rebuilding, the decision of the diocese seems reasonable.

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  22. Hi Fr. Weir,

    It seems you are quite selective in your quotations. Here is what I wrote at BB:

    "That is partly true...but all lies are I suppose.

    Our first two offers did include money from the trust fund that later the diocese would claim.

    But you leave out, of course, the little detail that at the time we were operating on assurances from the bishop that our assets could be exchanged for property.

    When we realized he was not being upfront with us we offered to get financing and pay with separate funds.

    This offer was made in the context of the very same meeting in which we were told, for the first time, that the asset/property swap would be impossible and that they were giving us time to make arrangements and get out or they would sue.

    In reality it was an ambush meeting. We knew our first two proposals had been rejected but did not know why. We went up with the express purpose of meeting face to face and maintaining what we thought had been honest friendly negotiations.

    Instead, we were met by two lawyers and a stipulation document.

    I published all of the details of our "negotiations" in a series of posts entitled "Rector's Journal" which you can easily find on SF.

    Matt"

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  23. Just like a liberal revisionist claiming naivety yet posting opinions on things he later comes back to say he has no knowledge of and then lobbing a "tolerance" bomb in the middle of his verbal mess thinking that "All we need is love" ...well that maybe true but I seem to remember Jesus over turning the money changers and showing that he too can become very angry...and He did rebuke Peter and a few others. So yes we all need to "Love one another" but we are also told to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves...TEc is hell bent on removing any conservative traditional Christian from it rolls and strip them of any property and money so they can use it for their law suits (also unchristian)and for promoting their agenda of LBGT and their Unitarian Unilateralist One World Religion concept. Wormwood is jumping up and down with joy and glee.

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  24. I am amazed by your comments Fr. Weir. The circumstances have been well document and are easily available if you care to research the matter. No matter what the secular laws of the state are the diocese has done a grave disservice to the people of Good Shepherd. As Ambassadors of Christ, the Bishop and the Diocese have failed miserably. And yet, you continue to argue for religious tolerance.

    The leadership of the EC and the Diocese have no religious tolerance for the people of Good Shepherd or its priest and his family.

    There was no Christian charity. There was vindictiveness.

    Yet, even though others are gracious enough to inform you of what happened, you continue to twist in the wind.

    It is a sad state of affairs when a priest makes such misinformed comments.

    Lord have mercy on us all.

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  25. This will be the last post from me on this topic - which is probably a welcome development for many. I have ventured only two opinions on this sad story - here or anywhere else. The first was that the diocese was almost guaranteed to prevail in court. The second ws that - in the absence of any evidence that there were better current offers for the property or that the Muslim group was hostile to Christians - I could see nothing wrong with the diocese's decision to sell. I have been criticized for refusing to venture an opinion about other matters and for not taking the time and efort to learn enough about other matters to venture an informed opinion. I have been open to evidence that the diocese is wrong to accept the current offer, but most of what I have received are statements about how wrong the diocese was to refuse earlier offers and to sue the congregation, none of which have much bearing on the current decision to sell.

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  26. Daniel+ --

    Okay, so we're all mad, and we're taking it out on you (who had nothing to do with it) unfairly. And your refusal to affirm or criticize the diocese's action in taking the church from the congregation suggests that -- well, that you refuse to affirm or criticize that decision. Somehow you can separate that action from the action of selling the building to the Muslims. I can't seem to get there; it all looks like part of the same sequence of events from here -- force out the congregation, sell it to someone else.

    I read on Babyblue that you were happy that Good Shepherd found a new church home. And I'm willing to believe you, and to assume that you are a gracious and generous person -- for which, no doubt, you will be severely punished. And, like many generous and gracious people, you wish to believe that your peers in the priesthood who share your views also share the same characteristics.

    If the Diocese of CNY was motivated by the best of intentions, and not by spite, then I would have to say that they are incredibly naive, and have made a very foolish PR move. I frankly think many within the surrounding community will come to the conclusion many of us here have done. And, frankly, not being as gracious and generous as you are, and having serious misgivings about human nature, I still strongly suspect that their naivety was in fact a blindness brought on by less than the best of intentions.

    Yes, I know Muslims don't hate Christ. They revere him not as God incarnate, but as a great prophet and spiritual leader, as actually do many Episcopal priests. That knowledge doesn't help me much here, however.

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  27. "Because of your tolerance we will invade you! Because of our religion we will triumph over you!"

    Briish Imam Aubery Chaudhry

    We die for our faith, but we kill over doctrine.

    Is Fr. Daniel familiar with orthodox doctrine of the Islamic faith concerning dealing with infidels (Christians and Jews).

    Perhaps some research of the term dhimmitude and taqqiya may prove enlightening. He may be unfamiliar with the evidence produced in the Holy Land trials by the US Justice Department. The Muslim Brotherhood's agenda of subvering America were brought to light. Most Islamic organizations (CAIR, ISNA,MSA etc.) were in the blue print. These organizations are almost 100% funded by foreign (Saudi Arabian) interests. Like an army, we are being invaded. Islam represents a foreign interest to America.

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  28. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna [Binghamton] write: These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich), and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews [believers], and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan, Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. --Jesus

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