Monday, September 26, 2011

How Christ the King Should Respond to Bishop Vono

Two years ago, the parishioners of St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa in Albuquerque left the Diocese of Rio Grande to found the Anglican Church of Christ the King. In doing so, they left everything behind them, including real property, furnishings and endowments worth over $ 2 million.

For the Diocesan Council of Rio Grande, however, that was not enough. It seems that St. Mark's had pledged a diocesan contribution for 2009 of $100,000 in quarterly installments, and that only half had been paid by the time of the congregation's departure. So they met and passed a resolution, which resulted in Bishop Michael Vono's writing the following letter (yes, this is real, and not a spoof -- Johnson's First Law of Episcopal Thermodynamics strikes again):

August 31, 2011
Dear Father Weber,

RE: St. Mark's on the Mesa, Albuquerque
Fair Share Obligation, Third Quarter 2009

I pray that this finds you well in the Lord! Summer is always such a gift in the ministry, a time for reflection, refreshment and anticipation for the end of the liturgical year.

On July 12 of this year, the Diocesan Council had a meeting here a [sic] Diocesan House. At that time, a group from St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque came before the Council to request forgiveness for their Fair Share obligation from the third quarter of 2009. As I am sure you are well aware, it was during this time that a good number of the clergy and congregation at St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa left to form a new congregation, leaving the remaining members with quite a financial and emotional burden to carry. What follows is the motion as it was amended and passed that afternoon.
Motion, that the -$25,000 Fair Share obligation for St. Mark's on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009 be forgiven. Moved and seconded to amend the motion by replacing it with the following: that the -$25,000 Fair Share obligation for St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009 be adjusted to $5,000 and that the Diocesan Council write a pastoral letter to the leadership of Christ the King Anglican Church appealing to them to cover $20,000 of the original Fair Share obligation for St. Mark's on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009.

The amendment passed. The amended motion passed.
As you can see, it was the decision of Council to hold St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa responsible for the entire Fair Share payment for the third quarter in 2009, requesting that the burden be split between the members that left and the members that stayed, dividing the responsibility roughly along the lines of how the congregation self-selected.

I would ask that you would prayerfully consider accepting the responsibility of paying the portion of the Fair Share that was required by the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me here at Diocesan House, or in my absence, Mr. Fred Winter or Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, 505-881-0636.

Your brother in Christ,
The Right Rev'd Michael L. Vono
IX Bishop, Diocese of the Rio Grande

cc: Ms. Debi Lester
Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, Business Manager
Mr. Fred Winter, Assistant Treasurer
The Rev'd Canon Kathleene McNellis
The Rev'd Canon Daniel Gutierrez
The Most Rev'd Robert Duncan

There is no record yet of any official response by the congregation. Permit me, therefore, to make a modest suggestion that Father Weber and his vestry respond as follows:
Dear Bishop Vono:

How nice it was to hear from you after such a long time! With you, my congregation and I are enjoying the waning days of summer -- "a time for reflection, refreshment and anticipation for the end of the liturgical year", as you say.

And I have to confess, your letter of August 31 does find us "well in the Lord." Now that we no longer have to tolerate Biblical revisionism and heresy at the highest levels of our church, we are experiencing Christ's blessings upon us more richly than ever before.

I was so glad to hear that your Diocesan Council still meets regularly, and that they still address weighty matters of concern to the whole Diocese, such as everyone's Fair Share obligation. In response to their request, which you so forthrightly conveyed to us, our vestry met, and after giving it the prayerful consideration which you asked of them, they passed unanimously the following Resolution:
Whereas, from January 2008, following the departure of Bishop Steenson to join the Roman Catholic Church, to September 2009, when the overwhelming majority of the parishioners of St. Mark's-in-the-Mesa decided that they, too, had to leave the Episcopal Church, our parish gave the total sum of $150,000 to the Diocese of the Rio Grande; and

Whereas, during that same time period, the congregation spent a further total of $100,000 on maintaining and repairing its building before turning it over to the Diocese of Rio Grande; and

Whereas, the estimated value of the real and personal property (including endowments) which this congregation left to the Diocese of Rio Grande as a result of its departure was in excess of $2,000,000; now, therefore,

Be it resolved that since this congregation has given far more to the Diocese than it has received, it is more than abundantly blessed, and does not consider that it needs still more blessings through additional works of charity for the Diocese.
The vestry has asked me to convey to you and your Diocesan Council its sincere thanks for the opportunity for additional blessings which it so thoughtfully bestowed upon us, and its deep regret that, as our cup now overfloweth, we could not avail ourselves of your generous offer.

In the name of Christ the King,

The Rev. Roger Weber
Rector, Anglican Church of Christ the King

cc: Ms. Debi Lester
Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, Business Manager
Mr. Fred Winter, Assistant Treasurer
The Rev'd Canon Kathleene McNellis
The Rev'd Canon Daniel Gutierrez
The Most Rev'd Robert Duncan

Sometimes the only response to an adversary's overweening chutzpah is to meet it with warmth and complete charity, "for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you."

[UPDATE 09/26/2011: Martial Artist's comment (see below) reminded me of one of the sharpest of responses ever made by a composer to one of his critics, which I had occasion to link to in my post "On the Proper Treatment of Arrogance." Here is the basic story:
One of the most magnificent witticisms from the arts was by German composer Max Reger (1873-1916). Responding to a negative review by Rudolf Louis of his Sinfonietta (1906), Reger is said to have shot back: "Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein." (I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.)
I do not want to undermine the Christian charity of my earlier suggestion to the Anglican Church of Christ the King, but, still -- one has to say, Reger's response was brilliant, and deserves its place in the quotation books!]


  1. An excellent response. Of course it is more charitable than the one I considered which would have promised to pay the $20,000 once the rent for the use of their former building was paid. I think a fair rental fee would be $1,666.66 per month.

  2. Dear Mr. Haley,

    You are a most charitable gentleman, indeed, for which you are to be greatly commended. Had I been tasked to draft a letter of response, I would have been sorely tempted to accompany it with an enclosure. More specifically, the enclosure would have been either an audio or a video file, recorded on suitable media, of a reading of the letter to the Vestry, or even to the entire congregation, which would have included the sounds of the uncontrollably riotous laughter of those hearing the Bishop's letter being read.

    The other change would have been an addition to the letter itself, earnestly and sincerely thanking the Bishop for the great good humor which his proposal had evoked in the Anglican congregation, to which the said recording would bear witness.

    But then I always did favor a little sardonic humor in my discourses, when applicable.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  3. Oh Mr. Haley, You are toooo kind! Were you perhaps raised in the south?? Kill 'em with kindness!! They would not how to respond to that !

  4. Mr. Haley, Was the response in the form of a resolution a nod to the "resolution" which is the reason that the Executive council has informed the Diocese of SC that our changes are null and void? Resolutions are non-binding regardless of whom makes them, right??

  5. Resolutions, Alexi, are "non-binding" in the sense that they express the views of a legislative body on a given topic, and sometimes express the reasoning for the body's taking a certain action or position. They are not laws, and cannot be enforced in the courts.

    Executive Council does not even rise to the dignity of a legislative body; it is just a glorified board of directors of a religious corporation. As such, it has no authority to bind anyone but itself and those who work for the organization -- and that is only until its next meeting, when it could decide to pass an entirely different resolution!

  6. Thanks for the explanation. That is what I thought- resolutions can reflect a group's thinking on a topic.
    So why does the Executive Council use this resolution to brow beat dioceses? I am not sure any knows that answer. In fact, I am beginning to think that there is no logic to how the highest officers of TEC make decisions. Whatever seems to work .......... i guess.

  7. Stumbled into this rewarding corner of cyber reality. As a fellow curmudgeon and an old-liner from the Diocese of West Texas, any charitable thoughts we might have about the revisionists' motives are useless, nostalgic notions about "all those who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unityof spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life".
    I firmly believe that these people were called upon by, and willingly serve to, destroy the institutions and traditions. You will find me in the back pew, but still clutching my 28 Book in my bony fingers.
    Please allow my return and grant me permission to follow such sage and refreshing observations.
    The Old Gringo

  8. +Vono's action contradicts the legal argument that 815 has been making in all of the property cases, which is that the indices of property ownership and possession do not transfer with the departing congregations. Well, if departees cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of property ownership, then they cannot be pursued to cover the liabilities, either. TEC cannot enjoy the "sweet without the bitter," as the CANA parishes' attorney put it in arguments before the court in Virginia.

  9. Yes, C. Stein -- you are right: the position of Bishop Vono and of his Diocesan Council is completely illogical and inconsistent with ECUSA's position on people leaving (which is why my draft response treated his request like one for a charitable contribution -- there is nothing to be gained by trying to point out logical defects to these people).

    The free spirits who have taken over ECUSA and its dioceses are all marked by their individual and collective inability to apply Aristotelian logic, which is why you see them contradicting themselves again and again. (For more, see this earlier post.)

  10. Yep, I am a bit late in concluding there is no logic that governs any of these so called leaders of TEC. Call me a slow learner. I agree wholeheartedly especially in their collective inability to apply logic since this absolutely absurd letter.

  11. Or, Christ the King could respond to Bishop Vono with a bill of their own. Since the Parish decided to leave everything behind and not go through a lengthy and costly court battle, didn’t they save the Diocese of the Rio Grande money? So, draft a resolution by Christ the King agreeing to pay the Diocese the “fair share” of $20,000 and same resolution asking the Diocese of the Rio Grande to pay Christ the King the amount which would have been spend to sue Christ the King for property; estimate by reviewing other similar court cases that the Diocese would have spend around $150,000 to sue in local county court. Therefore, Christ the King will send a certified check in the amount of $20,000 for “fair share” upon receipt of certified check from the Diocese in the amount of $130,000 ($150,000 - $20,000). Of course, appeals to higher courts would have cost the Diocese even more but we’ll begin with the $130,000. Hey, if TEC can come up with hair brained schemes, so can we!

  12. What a wonderful response! I enjoyed every minute of it.