Thursday, January 31, 2013

ECUSA Cries "Uncle!" in South Carolina

Bishop Lawrence's Diocese has just sent out an announcement that the Episcopal Church (USA) has agreed not to oppose the issuance of a preliminary injunction (South Carolina calls it a "temporary injunction") which repeats the same language of the earlier TRO:


Judge Issues Temporary Injunction to the Episcopal Church to Block Use of Diocese’s Name, Seal and Mark

St. George, SC, January 31 - The Episcopal Church (TEC) opted to forego court on Friday and not put up a fight as South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a Temporary Injunction to replace the Temporary Restraining Order she signed on January 23 to block TEC, its continuing parishes, individuals, organizations or any entity associated with it from, using, assuming or adopting, in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

The Temporary Restraining Order would have been lifted or extended on February 1st following a hearing. The injunction will remain in effect unless the court decides otherwise until the court rules on the lawsuit filed by the Diocese, its trustees and 31 congregations, seeking to protect the Diocese’s real, personal and intellectual property and that of its parishes from a TEC takeover.

The Diocese sought legal protection to prevent TEC from repeating the behavior it has displayed in the past, when it used the courts to seize diocesan and parish property, including real estate, bank accounts, intellectual property and trademarks. The national church has filed more than 80 lawsuits against parishes and dioceses that disassociated from TEC.

The injunction was consented to by Thomas Tisdale Jr. who signed it on behalf of The Episcopal Church. Either party may ask the judge to conduct a hearing on the injunction and to request changes in the injunction.

“We are gratified that The Episcopal Church has consented to a temporary injunction protecting the identity of our Diocese and its parishes,” said Jim Lewis, Canon of the Diocese. “We pray that sentiment fuels the prompt and reasonable resolution we all seek.
This is a highly unusual development, and will doubtless sow consternation among the SCEpiscopalians and their ilk: It shows that Chancellor Tisdale can read the writing on the wall, and knows that ECUSA cannot succeed in any plan to assume the DSC's identity through its own actions. Since the injunction now accomplishes nearly all of the objectives Bishop Lawrence had when he authorized the lawsuit (all that remains is a judgment declaring that his Diocese is the lawful and exclusive owner of the registered marks), it will be interesting to see whether or not ECUSA stipulates to the entry of such a final judgment in the weeks ahead. In short, there is nothing left worth litigating. Yes, ECUSA reserved the right to request a modification in the injunction, but at most it would be only to tinker with the fine points (and I can't think of any). That stipulation was probably included to assuage Mr. Tisdale's clients.

Where things will go from here is now the question. Bishop vonRosenberg has his work cut out for him -- he has to walk a tightrope between keeping the Presiding Bishop happy, and not violating the injunction in any way. It would appear that Bishop Lawrence and his attorneys have no objection to the remnant group's use of the name "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina". But that still leaves the question: is the group a diocese within the Episcopal Church, or is it some other kind of arm of the Church? How can there be an entity which is a member of ECUSA, but which does not have the word "Diocese" in its name? How will all the provisions of the national Constitution and Canons which speak of a "diocese" apply to the remnant group?

As I did in a comment, I shall quote here the highly salient words of Sir Walter Scott:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.

Monday, January 28, 2013

With Malice Toward None, and Charity for All?

The remnant group of Episcopalians desiring to reorganize under South Carolina law, and remain (as reorganized) a diocese of the Episcopal Church (USA), met January 26 at Grace Church in Charleston, South Carolina, for that purpose. There is no problem with their having adopted a constitution and canons which revert to the text of those documents before Bishop Lawrence's diocese amended them in 2010 and again in 2011. Whatever version they adopt as their constitution and canons will govern them from this point forward.

However, they are under a temporary restraining order which prohibits them from using any of the following three names:

1. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina;

2. The Diocese of South Carolina; or

3. The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina

And so, at their convention today in Charleston, what name did they officially adopt?

"The Episcopal Church in South Carolina"

Your Curmudgeon is not a South Carolina lawyer, but then South Carolina is not an atypical state when it comes to the law.

The test of whether a name invites or engenders confusion with a protected name is based on the prospective audience to which the names are advertised. So we have to ask: given the intended audience, how likely are the following names to be confused among members of that audience?

A) The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina [trademarked by Bishop Lawrence's diocese]


B) The Episcopal Church in South Carolina [adopted by the remnant group of Episcopalians]

along with

C) The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina [registered again by Bishop Lawrence's diocese]

The audience intended by both groups is present and previous members of the Episcopal Church (USA). Thus the use of the adjective "Episcopal" has a high potential for confusion in distinguishing between the two groups, because both describe themselves as "episcopal" (i.e.,  being led by a bishop).

In the case of the owner of the registered trade names, the bishop who leads them is the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence.

But in the case of the remnant group that reorganized today, the bishop they selected to lead them is the Rt. Rev. Charles vanRosenberg.

So none of the three terms can be distinguished by the name of the bishop that uses it.  Instead, it must be distinguished by other means -- but what could those be? Is the absence of the single word "Diocese" in the title used by Bishop vonRosenberg's group enough? And if they are not a "Diocese," what are they?

Indeed: how can they even be a member of ECUSA if ECUSA does not call them a diocese? Only dioceses are members of the Episcopal Church (USA); it uses no other name for them. So the remnant group appears to have painted itself into a corner.

And there we have an ongoing problem: has the remnant group, by adopting the name "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina", really avoided any confusion among South Carolinians who want to belong to "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina"?

Given the common understanding of the adjective "Protestant", one would think not. That word, used so frequently as an adjective, describes (in the common context) a church which is not aligned with (and indeed, is opposed to the hegemony of) the Roman Catholic Church.

And that description applies both to Bishop Lawrence's diocese, as well as to the remnant group's new organization: neither, I am positive, wants to be identified with the Catholic Church. They are both "Protestant"; it is just that the remnant group conceives itself as better described without that adjective (perhaps because the parent Church also voted in 1976 to drop the word from its name).

But then a true confusion results: since the remnant group sees themselves as "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina", and are indifferent to using the adjective "Protestant", they could not distinguish themselves from a group which called itself "the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, also known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina." The former group sees the word "Protestant" as outdated, and superfluous to their identity, while the latter group sees the word as referring to the tradition they still uphold, and hence as still descriptive of their identity. Neither group rejects the adjective as part of their heritage.

The confusion appears to be intended, and not accidental. The "omission" of the single word "Diocese" from their official title turns out to have been a sham. An examination of the remnant group's Website demonstrates that it has not really tried to comply with the TRO, even after the changes made to it on the surface. If one visits their website and chooses the browser option "View Page Source", the following lines of code are right at the very top (I have bolded the parts that continue to violate the TRO, and have had to change all angle brackets to parentheses, to allow the code to print):
(title)episcopalofsc - Home(/title) (meta name='description' content='The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina' /) (meta name='keywords' content='The Episcopal Church, Episcopalian, South Carolina, Church, Episcopal, Diocese, Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina' /) (meta property='og:site_name' content='episcopalofsc' /) (meta property='og:title' content='episcopalofsc' /) (meta property='og:description' content='The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina' /)
These code lines are designed to keep the Website at the top of the various search pages for the major search engines when one uses them to find links to "the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." Thus, even if you were trying to find the Webpage for Bishop Lawrence's diocese, you would be directed to the page for the group that was supposedly prohibited from making any further use of that name. And that is not how TROs are supposed to work.

The remnant group, I submit, has therefore not complied in its choice of a name with the spirit of the court's temporary restraining order. We will have to wait until February 1 to learn if the court agrees, but if it does, then the remnant group will have to go back to the drawing board, and start all over again by adopting a new (and completely unrelated) name.

Indeed, the contempt with which the Presiding Bishop treated Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese in her eucharistic address to the convention (the subject of many astonished observations thus far -- except not, of course, on any sites sympathetic to ECUSA) appears to be reflective of an animosity that permeates the remnant group, or at least those who are in charge of it. And that animosity may cause them, to their regret, to overstep their bounds, if it has not done so already. Watch for more news after this Friday's hearing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

An Open Letter to My Fellow Episcopalians in South Carolina

Dear Committed Episcopalians in South Carolina,

As a lifelong Episcopalian myself, and as an attorney of 42 years' experience who in 1980 began to be conversant in the canon law of my Church, I write to you on the eve of your special convention in Charleston tomorrow, which will be convened by our Presiding Bishop. (Full disclosure: I am currently co-counsel to the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, and am actively opposing my own Church’s litigation against their former bishop, because I so strongly believe that what it is doing in that regard is just plain un-Scriptural, and wrong.)

I do not write with the purpose of sowing discord or confusion. There are those already in the leadership of our Church who have done more than enough of that.

I write instead because I perceive clearly that you are about to be sold a bill of goods, and the goods in the bill are not genuine. Therefore, my principal message to you is: caveat emptor! Look carefully at the motives of those who want to sell the goods to you.

This particular bill of goods was first written only in 2008. I repeat: these goods did not exist in our Church before 2008, when they were invented out of whole cloth by our Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, Mr. David Booth Beers. (He may or may not be present at your gathering tomorrow; I have no information on that point. But his presence is not necessary, because Bishop Jefferts Schori herself has become so conversant with the goods in question that she is fully capable of offering them to you as the real thing.)

And just what are these particular goods? I shall do my best to list and describe them for you, as follows:

First, that the thing called "The Episcopal Church" is greater than the sum of its parts.

This is demonstrably untrue. "The Episcopal Church", conceived in that way, is an abstraction: it does not exist as such. "The Episcopal Church" is simply a collection of individual Dioceses, united for a common religious purpose. There is no way on earth for something called "The Episcopal Church" to be "greater" than the sum of those entities -- the individual dioceses -- that make it up. Instead, "The Episcopal Church" is no more, and no less, than what its member dioceses choose to make of it.

Second, that since "The Episcopal Church" is greater than any of its parts, it follows that "The Episcopal Church" can lord it over any individual one of those parts -- and in this case, over the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, headed by the Rt. Rev. (still! -- just not within "TEC") Mark Lawrence.

Again, this is demonstrably untrue, because the first premise on which it is based is demonstrably untrue (see above). The individual dioceses are equal and autonomous partners in the association of dioceses which calls itself "The Episcopal Church." No one diocese has pre-eminence over any other, and ninety-nine dioceses acting together have no power over the hundredth diocese. In the particular area of defining a diocese's relationship with all the rest, all must act together, or else there is no agreement with respect to the affected diocese. No diocese, in consequence, may be forced to accept something which the others all want, just because they want it.

Would you like proof? Consider the example of offering Holy Communion to the unbaptized. Today there are a number of Dioceses that allow just that, despite its prohibition by Canon I.17.7, which could not be more plain in its language: "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church." (Emphasis added.)

Or consider those dioceses that are offering not just same-sex blessings, but same-sex "marriage ceremonies" in their churches. The Book of Common Prayer explicitly says that Christian marriage (the kind celebrated by our Church) is only between "a man and a woman." So how do these dioceses get away with offering same-sex marriages? Simple. They say the Book of Common Prayer does not apply to them in these circumstances.

Need a third example? It is often told to you that every diocese must make an "unqualified accession" to the Church's Constitution and Canons, as a condition of joining the Church, and that act of "accession" may not be revoked, ever. Well, please look through this earlier post on my site, which shows some 28 dioceses, always treated as members of the Church since their inception, who have never included any accession clause in their constitutions. So how can they be members, even though they never complied with ECUSA's Constitution? Perhaps you should consider that point in looking over the bill of goods you are being sold.

Third, that the thing called "The Episcopal Church" must "preserve and protect the properties which have historically been a part of it for future generations of Episcopalians." Hence, the thing called "The Episcopal Church" must file lawsuits against those who would try to take "its property" when they "try" to leave it (something which they "cannot" do).

This is an entire passel of untruths and outright lies, given our Church's history. The entity called "The Episcopal Church", abstract as it is, never laid any claim in law to any parish's individual property before 2006, which is when our current Presiding Bishop assumed office. Before that, a few individual dioceses claimed that the individual parishes held their properties in trust for the dioceses. Some were successful, but an equal number (approximately) were not.

The thing we call "The Episcopal Church" has scarcely preserved any property for any future generations. Instead, it is spending down its trust funds, which were donated to it long ago for purposes of its church "mission", to support the myriad of lawsuits which it initiated on the current Presiding Bishop's watch. It mortgaged its own headquarters, for heavens' sake. How is that an act of "preservation"?

The litigation which "The Episcopal Church" is using its trust funds to support is all being conducted by the law firm of the Presiding Bishop's chancellor. Thus far, I have estimated (based on the Church's audited financial statements) that it has spent approximately $24 million dollars on such litigation, of which the Chancellor's law firm has earned the lion's share. The value of the properties thus far "recovered," however, has been only a small fraction of that amount.

What does that tell you about whether this is all an undertaking in good faith "to preserve properties for future Episcopalians"? And what does that tell you about the motives of those who are urging you to act so that yet another lawsuit may be brought against Bishop Lawrence in the coming weeks?

In sum, I earnestly ask you, in the name of the Church which we both love and hold dear, to search deeply into the motives of those who are asking you to take certain actions, and approve certain resolutions, this weekend in South Carolina. Ask whether they are "of the Church" which we have known and served for so long. No, do not stop there: ask whether they are "of God and of His only Son, who pleaded with us that 'we all may be one'."

In His Holy Name, I remain your humble Episcopalian servant,

Allan Haley

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SC Circuit Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order to Protect Diocese's Identity

Late this afternoon (5:11 p.m. EST), the Circuit Court of South Carolina in Dorchester County (the Hon. Diane S. Goodstein presiding) issued a Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") which declares:
No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina as are set out below or any names or seal that may be perceived to be those names and seal or mark. The registered names and mark that are subject to this order are: the seal of the Diocese of South Carolina as described in its registration with the South Carolina Secretary of State; the name "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina", as registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State; the name "The Diocese of South Carolina", as registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State; and the name "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina", as registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State. Again, this seal and these names are those registered by this Plaintiff corporation [Bishop Lawrence's Diocese of South Carolina] with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
The order was issued following an ex parte hearing before Judge Goodstein yesterday, and after Bishop Lawrence's Diocese posted a bond set by the court at $50,000. A hearing may be held "ex parte" in cases of urgency, in order to prevent immediate harm from occurring. The opposing side does not need to be present; indeed, the Episcopal Church (USA) has not yet entered an appearance in the case, and does not seem to have been represented at the hearing.

The purpose of the bond is to ensure that any damages that may be caused by the Court's issuance of the TRO without first hearing from the opposite side will be covered; such bonds are required by law as a condition of the issuance of a TRO, and the amount is fixed by the Court in each instance based upon individual circumstances. 

The immediate urgency requiring the ex parte hearing, from the point of view of Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese, was the scheduled meeting this Saturday of the Episcopal remnant in South Carolina which desires to organize a new diocese within the Episcopal Church (USA) to replace the one that has withdrawn. In issuing notices for the meeting, the national Church and those working in concert with it have claimed the right to use the names and seal described in the Court's order, which belong (by South Carolina law) to Bishop Lawrence's Diocese.

The Court's reasoning for issuing the order states in part:
The Diocese of South Carolina has three registered names and one registered mark and, as shown by affidavit, the Defendant, or others appearing to act in its name or under its control, have allegedly and repeatedly used these names and mark, including those so similar that they are to be the Diocese of South Carolina. This use has clear ability to cause confusion over the identity of the corporate entity of The Diocese of South Carolina. The Diocese of South Carolina has been using these registered names and mark in the ordinary course of its business as the Diocese of South Carolina, both before and after its association with the Defendant. By affidavit Plaintiff states its concern that a meeting scheduled to be held January 26, 2013, by those purporting to be this corporate entity but who in reality are not the corporate entity of the Plaintiff, could intentionally affect the corporate status of those uninformed that the actors are not, in reality, the corporation. In order to avoid any confusion, this Order is issued. 
The issue at bar is whether the taking of action by those not authorized with corporate authority will so infringe on the rights of the Diocese of South Carolina, that the Diocese of South Carolina will suffer immediate and irreparable harm for which the law cannot adequately remedy. The Court is convinced this burden has been met. The use of the names and marks of the Diocese of South Carolina can affect its good will, its third party relationships and create confusion among those with whom it deals in the ordinary course of its business. In short, the ongoing business of the Diocese of South Carolina could be irreparably injured if corporate changes occur in its name, implemented by those without actual corporate authority.
The order goes into effect immediately, so it will essentially force the remnant group meeting this Saturday to adopt a different name for the entity it will form, and by which it will be known. The governing documents which are scheduled for approval (a Constitution and Canons based on the former diocesan version before changes were approved in 2011 and 2012) will need to be changed to remove all references to "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina" and "the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." The order will remain in effect until February 1, when a hearing will be held starting at 9:00 a.m. in the Richland County courthouse on a preliminary ("temporary") injunction, pending the trial and final resolution of the case. (I am not sure why it is not to be held in the Dorchester County courthouse at St. George; perhaps some South Carolina attorney will enlighten us on injunction procedures there.)

This order, despite its temporary nature, represents a huge advantage gained in the lawsuit which Bishop Lawrence's Diocese brought early this month, after all attempts had failed to get the remnant Episcopalians to cease voluntarily their appropriations of the diocesan names and corporate seal. (The Diocese announced yesterday that fifteen other parishes had joined in the lawsuit, and that thirteen more are considering joining it later, which would bring the total number of plaintiffs to 44. Perhaps this ruling will provide the spur they need to make their decision.) The Court has found, based just on the showing presented ex parte by Bishop Lawrence and his capable attorneys, that the plaintiff Diocese made "a prima facie showing . . . as to the likelihood of [its] success on the merits." In other words, the Diocese showed to the Court sufficient indicia of its ownership of the registered marks (the names and corporate seal) that the Court believes it will prevail in the ultimate lawsuit.

And that represents a substantial uphill burden for ECUSA and its attorneys to overcome. They start off on the wrong foot with the Court, because the remnant group under their direction simply arrogated the names and seal to their own use, without first going into a court to make their case. (Of course, they were under the disability that they will not be legally recognizable in a South Carolina court until after their organizational meeting this Saturday.)

Implicit in the Court's ruling is an even weightier and more significant finding: that the Diocese of South Carolina has the legal right, under South Carolina law, to withdraw from ECUSA and retain its corporate and individual identity. That finding, once it is formalized in this case, will put the final lie to 815's mantra that "People may leave the Church, but Dioceses may not."

Friday, January 18, 2013

End Times: Inaudible Whimpering

Once, back in 1983, the magazine Scientific American (acting through one of its then columnists, Douglas Hofstadter), ran a contest to win a million dollars.

The rules could not have been simpler. Simply address a postcard to the magazine, and send it in. If only one card was sent in, that lucky person would win the entire prize -- one million dollars. But if there were more than one entry, the prize would be equal to $1 million divided by the total number of entries.

Thus if 100 people sent in cards, the lucky winner drawn would receive $1,000,000 / 100, or $10,000. And if 10,000 people sent in cards, the winner drawn would receive $100. Whatever the prize, it was guaranteed to be paid by the magazine itself. There was only one catch -- the amount to be paid had to be paid in legal tender, i.e., in lawful money of the United States.

Oh, and there was one other simplification of the rules. You might want to send in 100 entries yourself, or perhaps 1,000 entries, in order to increase your chance of being drawn as the lucky winner. In 1983 postage, that would have cost you thirteen cents per entry, or $13.00 or $130.00, depending on whether you sent in 100 or 1,000 postcards. So the contest devisers announced that any number of entries could be submitted on a single postcard -- just write the number of entries you were submitting on the card.

After the contest closed, it turned out that some entrants had submitted cards with extremely large numbers written on them -- ten to the 30th power, ten to the 100th power (a "googol"), or even a googolplex, which is a googol raised to the 100th power. That is the quantity ten to the hundredth power raised itself to the hundredth power -- a fantastically large number, way larger than any known physical quantity (e.g., the number of electrons, or of fundamental particles, in the universe).

So who won the contest?

No one, of course. The amount of the prize, as defined by the contest rules, was $1 million (i.e.,106 dollars) divided by n(10100)100, or an amount far smaller than the smallest measurable volume in the space of the known universe. (That space is defined by the Planck length cubed, or 4.222 x 10-105 cm -- a number which is easily seen to be way larger than  1/n(10100)100cm3.) Needless to say, the United States does not have any money of a denomination that small, and so the prize could not be paid out to anyone, regardless of whose card was drawn, and regardless of how many entries were written upon it.

And the point of the contest? To show that individual greed would win out over rational communal strategy every time. The phenomenon is called a "largest number game," or a "luring lottery."

In other words, it would have been in the interest of those who heard about the contest (mainly, the readers of Douglas Hofstadter's column in the magazine) to agree to limit their entries, so that the prize award to any one of them would be maximized -- after which, if they all agreed, the winner might split his takings among them.

(Of course, the rules forbade overt collusion. And even then, any strategy to violate the rules was not likely to pay off handsomely. If, say, 30% of 1,000,000 Scientific American subscribers saw the column and colluded to send in just one entry for the benefit of all, then each colluder would receive [assuming all collusion provisions were honorably followed] exactly $3.33. And if anyone outside the scope of the collusion agreement submitted a postcard with a large number of entries, the reward would soon vanish to the diminishing point.)

So what, finally, did the "contest" demonstrate? Why would any rational person take part in it, given human behavior's natural response to its terms and conditions -- to act in such a way that maximizes one's own chances of winning, but at the same time thereby ensures that no one will win anything?

For a present-day answer to that question, consider the current relief bill for "Hurricane Sandy damages" that is just now passing Congress. By all accounts, it is loaded with local pork (the great majority of which is not even for any areas affected by Hurricane Sandy). Indeed, the amount of the pork is said to be around 80-95 % of the total legislation of $60+ billion.

(Historical note: take this current legislation as an index of how far we have slid down that slippery slope identified by President Grover Cleveland in 1887. In vetoing an equivalent relief measure voted by Congress that year -- to aid farmers in Texas stricken by drought -- he asked the timeless question: "If the Government supports the people, who will support the Government?")

Just how can this be? you ask. I thought legislators had agreed to vote for no more pork. And just who made that agreement?  Congress. It's called a "Continuing Resolution" -- to keep government operating at its current level. There's been no "new" spending in that sense until now, even though we were still spending at least $40 billion each month over what we take in. 

Right you are -- or were. If Congress never met and did nothing this month, we would still be in a situation where the Government would be spending $40 billion more than its income -- thanks to the passing of previous continuing spending resolutions by an ever-compliant Congress. We have, indeed, gone in just five years from a government with a mandated budget to one that is unconfined, and simply spends freely. Every 90 days or six months Congress authorizes further spending at the same level as before, but without adopting any budget.  (Congress adopted the last national budget in 2008, to cover the last fiscal year of the George W. Bush administration.)

As just noted, the problem is that, authorized or not, the government has been spending $40 billion more each month than it has in income (revenues). And now, in just the first month of 2013, Congress is passing a bill that will add another $60+ billion of mostly pork to that spending, which is already way beyond our means. Meanwhile, the President has, by executive fiat, raised the salaries of everyone in government -- to the tune of another $1 billion per month. On top of that, he is brazen enough to ask Congress  to "remove" the debt ceiling, so that there would be no limit whatsoever upon the amount his  administration could borrow from year to year.

All this adds up to the conclusion that the United States of America is now conducting a "largest number game," which will herald its fiscal demise. The short-term winners are those who take home the bacon (pork) to their States right now, but in the longer term, we are all bound to lose. The government, at this rate, will inevitably run out of "other people's money" to spend -- because there are more and more demanding that it spend (other people's) money on them.

The current members of Congress, and their constituents, evidently do not care. They are acting just like the people in the Scientific American contest who sent in postcard entries with impossibly large numbers written on them. Even though their actions guaranteed that no one could eventually collect the prize, they could not refrain from trying to "win" by the easiest means, no matter what a rational strategy may have suggested.

Congress, thus, has now instituted a lottery -- with your (and the Chinese government's) money. The winners send their Congressional representatives back to vote for more -- until there will be no money left, so that in the end, all of us must lose. As a result of our borrowing more than we take in, year in and year out, the countries who have historically been willing to lend us money will come to see that this is a sucker's game. And then the lending will stop.

Even if the lending from other countries stops, however, the Federal Reserve can still step into the breach, and buy all of the government's bonds. After all, it has an unlimited checkbook, which by design it can never overdraw. But if the Fed is the only entity buying government bonds, that means that the money it "pays" each month for those bonds becomes worth less and less -- and inflation takes off, eventually (and inevitably) to become hyperinflation. (The more inflation increases, the more money government has to borrow to spend, and the more the government borrows to spend, the more inflation increases. It is, perhaps, the original vicious circle.)

So that is where this government, and this Congress, are headed. But as noted above, there can be no ultimate winners in this luring lottery. Short-term, perhaps -- but long-term, no. And if there can be no long-term winners, then what happens to those profiting in the short term?

Answer: they lose as well, just as if they had not won anything. The money they gained at everyone's expense becomes worthless -- not even worth the cost of the paper and ink it will take to print it.

Unless this vicious circle can be voluntarily halted, the outcome is inevitable.

But the voices calling for a halt -- just like the voices of those who said "do not send in any postcards to the Scientific American lottery" -- are below the threshold of audibility.

And thus we shall come to our end -- not with a bang, but with an (inaudible) whimper.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aphorism for the Day (G. K. Chesterton)

This could be an unending series, because there are more aphorisms uttered by G. K. Chesterton than there are days remaining on earth to mortals like myself. Nevertheless, this one is good enough to stand all by itself:

If truth is relative, to what is it relative?

That comes from a weekly column Chesterton wrote for the London Daily News, on June 2, 1906. In nine words, it encapsulates the entire fallacy of (post)modern, subjective relativism -- such as those who want to reinterpret the truth of the Bible, in order to "adjust" it "relative" to their own desires, inclinations and lives (even with the very best of intentions).

It applies equally well to those in our country's political life who claim that the Founders expressed truths relevant only to their own time, and that the Constitution is a "living" document that must be interpreted anew by each generation. And if what the Founders embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence was not any kind of "truth", but only something "relevant for their time," then forget the quaint notion that America stands for the truth. (For an example of a "relative truth" in our Constitution, good only until 1808, see how carefully Article I, Section 9 limited Congress' immediate power to address slavery.)

Whether uttered in politics or in religion -- they are the same claim, and the same same fallacy. If in doubt, reread Chesterton quote above, and try to answer his question while still making sense.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

100 Years of Gross Mismanagement

The following needs no further comment (H/T: Oikonomika Blog; click to enlarge):

Or, one could depict the same disastrous management of the dollar since 1913 by using this picture graphic (again, click to enlarge in a separate window):

For more of my ruminations on the depredations by which the Fed wrecks The People's Money, please go to this page, and follow the links.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Annual Litigation Summary for the Episcopal Church (USA)

[Curmudgeon's Note: In the process of updating this post for the 2014 edition, it was inadvertently updated as well, to same (2014) text. For the original version as it was posted in January 2013, please go to this link.]

It is a fact well known to certain Episcopalians—both those who have left the Episcopal Church (USA) and those who have remained—that ECUSA and its dioceses have followed a pattern of suing any church that chooses to leave for another Anglican jurisdiction. But the full extent of the litigation that has ensued is not well known at all, either in the wider Church, or among the provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Your Curmudgeon proposes to do what he can to rectify this situation, by publishing an annual update on this site of the current status of all past and present cases in which ECUSA or any of its dioceses has been or is involved, from 2000 to date. Feel free to link to this post, to email links to it to other Episcopalians, and to send it to your Bishop -- and feel free to post any updates or corrections in the comments.

The lawsuits initiated by ECUSA and its dioceses to date are first listed below, followed by a list of the seven cases begun by a diocese or parish against the Episcopal Church (or a diocese). The listing endeavors to be as complete as I can make it. The first 83 cases, generally grouped by the State in which they each originated, are the legal actions filed since 2000 (of which I am aware) where the Episcopal Church (USA) and/or one of its dioceses played the role of plaintiff—the party who initiates a case in court by filing a complaint to seize the assets and real property of any church choosing to leave ECUSA. Please note that wherever possible the actual citation of any published decision in the case has been given. Also, please note the dates for the later cases, which demonstrate the acceleration of litigation by ECUSA and its dioceses in defiant rejection of the Primates’ call for a moratorium on litigation at the Dar es Salaam meeting.

1. Against Christ Anglican Church in Mobile, Alabama (plaintiff was the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast---the suit settled in 2001 before trial, and Anglican congregation moved out; they built a brand-new church in 2005, while the historic Episcopal site became the cathedral of the Diocese that same year)

2.-4. Against St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fallbrook, California (CA); St. Anne’s, in Oceanside CA; and Holy Trinity, in Ocean Beach, CA (plaintiff in all three cases is the Diocese of San Diego -- trial court ruled against the two latter parishes following the decision by the California Supreme Court in the St. James Newport Beach case; parishes decided not to appeal)

5. New case by TEC against St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fallbrook, CA: Dale W. New, Richard L. Goodlake and the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego v. The Rev. Donald L. Kroeger, et al. (following its decision in the St. James case (No. 6 below), the California Supreme Court ordered republished the decision of the Fourth Appellate District [167 Cal.App.4th 800, 84 Cal.Rptr.3d 464 (2008)], awarding the property to the plaintiff Diocese of San Diego; the defendants did not seek further review)

6-8. Against St. James Anglican Church, Newport Beach CA and two others; Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA v. St. James (Newport Beach) et al. (lead case), Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA v. All Saints (Long Beach) et al., Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA v. St. David's (North Hollywood) et al.; Episcopal Church Cases, S155094 (Diocese of Los Angeles is plaintiff, joined by ECUSA; following its decision overruling the defendants' demurrers and reversing the trial court's grant of a motion to strike [45 Cal.4th 467, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 275, 198 P.3d 66, cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 179 (2009)], the California Supreme Court subsequently reversed a judgment entered against St. James and ordered that the case go forward; trial court granted a questionable summary judgment which is now on appeal. Similar trial court rulings against the other two parishes are also on appeal.)

9. Against St. Luke’s of the Mountains Anglican Church, et al, La Crescenta CA; Patricia Huber, The Right Rev. Sergio Carranza, The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles, The Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles v. The Rev. Dr. Ronald W. Jackson, St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church, et al. (Fourth Appellate District ruled in favor of Plaintiff Diocese of Los Angeles [175 Cal.App.4th 663, 96 Cal.Rptr.3d 346]; parish decided not to appeal further)

10. Against St. John’s Anglican Church in Petaluma, CA ; Episcopal Diocese of Northern California v. St. John's Anglican Church, Petaluma (Sonoma County Superior Court; parties agreed to settle following California Supreme Court decision, parish moved to another location and is now a member of ACNA); (Diocese of Northern California was plaintiff)

11. Against Bishop John David Schofield and the diocesan investment fund in the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, CA (ACNA); Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, The Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb and The Episcopal Church v. Bishop John-David Schofield and The Episcopal Foundation of San Joaquin (Fresno Superior Court; case involves the Diocese of San Joaquin withdrawing from the Episcopal Church); (the TEC-established and -funded Diocese of San Joaquin is the Plaintiff); case is back in Superior Court after successful appeal by Bishop Schofield to the Fifth Appellate District [190 Cal.App.4th 154, 118 Cal.Rptr.3d 160]; trial was held in Fresno in early January; cases will be submitted March 17 for decision after final briefing).

12-20. Against St. Columba’s Fresno, CA and its rector and its vestry members, in Fresno County Superior Court (2010); St. Francis Anglican Parish of Turlock, and its rector and its vestry members, in Stanislaus County Superior Court (2010); St. Michael’s Anglican Parish of Ridgecrest, and its rector and its vestry members, in Kern County Superior Court (2010); the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. John’s Parish in Porterville, California, in Tulare County Superior Court (2010); St. James Church, Sonora, and its rector and its vestry members, in Tuolumne County Superior Court (2010); the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Redeemer Parish in Delano, California, in Kern County Superior Court (2010); the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Paul’s Parish in Visalia, California, in Tulare County Superior Court (2010); St. Paul’s Anglican parish in Bakersfield, California, and its rector and its vestry members, in Kern County Superior Court (2010); the Wardens and Vestry of St. John’s, Stockton, and its rector and its vestry members, in San Joaquin County Superior Court (2010); (plaintiffs are the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; suits seek an order turning over control of all parish property to the bishop of the remnant diocese; Superior Court of Fresno County denied a motion to consolidate all nine cases with the one alrerady pending there [No. 11 above]; cases are in various stages of discovery)

21-29. Against the rectors and vestry members of the same nine parishes in Nos. 61-69 above, in the same Superior Courts in CA, respectively (2011) (these are complaints in intervention filed by the Episcopal Church)

30. Against Trinity Anglican Church in Bristol, Connecticut (CT) (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Connecticut; case settled in 2008; congregation left property to the Diocese)

31. Against The Rector and former vestry of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, CT; (Plaintiff was the Diocese of Connecticut; parish lost decision in trial court, and Connecticut Supreme Court recently affirmed that decision [302 Conn. 408, 28 A.3d 302]; parish’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in June 2012, along with a Presbyterian case from Georgia [132 Sup.Ct. 2773])

32. Against Redeemer Anglican Church in Jacksonville, Florida (FL): Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Florida v. Lebhar, Case No. 16-2006-CA-002361 (Duval Cnty. Fla. Cir Ct.) (plaintiff was the Diocese of Florida; parish left property to go to other premises)

33. Against St. Andrew’s in the Pines Anglican Church, Fayette County, Georgia, Superior Court, Civil Action No. 2007-V0272C, October 2007 (Plaintiff was the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta; parish left its property behind and formed a CANA congregation)

34. Against Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia, GA; Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Inc., The Episcopal Church, et al. v. The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Christ Church in Savannah, et al., (Civil Action No. CV07-2039KA, Superior Ct., Chatham County). (Plaintiffs Diocese of Georgia and ECUSA, joined subsequently by shadow congregation formed by the Diocese, won in Court of Appeal and recently in Georgia Supreme Court [290 Ga. 95, 718 S.E.2d 237]; congregation handed over keys to property on 12/12/2011 and later dismissed petition to U.S. Supreme Court, is now building a new church)

35. Against Bishop Alberto Morales, of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy, IL, members of the diocesan standing committee, and the rectors of fifteen parishes in the diocese, individually (plaintiffs are ECUSA and its Diocese of Chicago, into which the rump diocese merged on September 1, 2013; case has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the appeal in the case originally brought against ECUSA by the Anglican Diocese -- see case number 5 in the second group below)

36. Against All Saints Church in Attleboro, Massachusetts (MA) (plaintiff was the Diocese of Massachusetts; the case settled in 2007)

37. Against Church of the Good Shepherd, Town and Country, Missouri (MO) (plaintiffs were Bishop Wayne Smith of the Diocese of Missouri and ECUSA [joined as a necessary party, due to its claimed interest under the Dennis Canon]; trial court awarded the church property to the Diocese on summary judgment in October 2004; majority of parish left to start AMiA parish at other premises; Episcopal congregation remains in possession)

38. Against St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Morehead City, North Carolina (NC) (plaintiff was the Diocese of East Carolina and those members of the parish who had not voted to join AMiA; following a jury mistrial, plaintiffs obtained summary judgment which was affirmed on appeal in Daniel v. Wray, 580 S.E.2d 711 [N.C. App. 2003])

39. Against the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York (NY); The Diocese of Central New York v. The Rector, Church Wardens, and Vestrymen of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Index No. 2008-0980 (N.Y. Sup Ct. Broome Cnty) (Plaintiff was the Diocese of Central New York, joined by TEC; trial court ruled in favor of Diocese, parish chose to move to other premises, and Diocese eventually sold church buildings to Muslim group for a mosque)

40. Against St. Joseph’s Anglican Church (formerly Trinity Church of East New York) in Brooklyn, NY, which originally separated from ECUSA in 1977, before the adoption of the Dennis Canon (plaintiff was the Diocese of Long Island, in a second action brought in 2005 after it lost its first suit, filed in the early 1980's---the case settled early in 2008, and St. Joseph’s kept its property in exchange for a below-market value payment of $275,000)

41. Against St. James Anglican Church in Elmhurst (Queens), NY (plaintiff was the Diocese of Long Island; summary judgment against the parish in March 2008 was not appealed)

42. Against All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church in Rochester, NY; Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, et al. v. Harnish et al., Index No. 2006-2669 (N.Y. Sup Ct. Monroe Cnty.) (plaintiff was the Diocese of Rochester; N.Y. Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Diocese, based on NY statute giving effect to Dennis Canon [11 N.Y.3d 340, 899 N.E.2d 920 [2008])

43. Against St. Andrew’s in Syracuse, NY; Diocese of Central New York, et al. v. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Index No. 2006-4606 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Onondaga Cnty.) (plaintiff originally was the Diocese of Central New York, and TEC's Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society later intervened---Diocese refused to settle the lawsuit by leasing property to parish, so parish walked away in 2007)

44. Against St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Omaha, Nebraska (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Nebraska; trial court denied parish’s motion for summary judgment, and granted summary judgment to the Diocese; the case settled on appeal, and parish purchased its building)

45-49. Against St. Luke's Church in Akron, Ohio (OH) and four other northeast Ohio parishes; The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, et al.v. Anglican Church of the Transfiguration, et al., Civil Action No CV 08 654973 (Cuyahoga County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas); (plaintiff is the Diocese of Ohio; trial court granted summary judgment in its favor, and parishes have left their properties)

50. Against the Church of St. James the Less, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA); In re Church of St. James the Less, 585 Pa. 428; 888 A.2d 795 (2005); (Plaintiff was the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and ultimately prevailed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2005; other than its use for a middle school, this historic church building remains still without a rector and a supporting local congregation as of 2014)

51-53. and ?? Against the 50+ churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican- Southern Cone). Plaintiff is the TEC replacement Diocese of Pittsburgh, arising out of an earlier lawsuit initiated by Calvary Church, Pittsburgh against Bishop Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh to prevent them from leaving TEC. The judgment by the trial court required the Anglican Diocese to turn over all of its property to the remnant Episcopal Diocese, was affirmed by the Commonwealth Court in early 2011, and review was later denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Two parishes have since settled with the remnant diocese, which demanded that the first (St. Philip's) disaffiliate from the Anglican Diocese, and that the second (Somerset Anglican Fellowship, which did not own any real property) return all of its personal property, and not support any litigation against the replacement diocese; a third parish (St. David's) moved out rather than agree to have to "repurchase" its property. Negotiations are ongoing to settle the claims of the remnant diocese against the properties of the other parishes.

54.  Against Bishop Mark Lawrence personally, in Federal District Court in SC, on claims of trademark infringement (plaintiff was Provisional Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg of the rump group established by ECUSA after the Diocese of SC withdrew; district judge's dismissal of the lawsuit on abstention grounds is now on appeal to the Fourth Circuit; see also No. 7 in cases brought against ECUSA below)

55. Against St. Andrew's Anglican Church, Nashville, TN (Plaintiffs were the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and Bishop Bauerschmidt) (Plaintiffs prevailed on summary judgment in the trial court, which was affirmed on appeal in an unreported decision in 2011; Tennessee Supreme Court recently denied review -- parish has vacated its prime property and associated nursery school, and Bishop Bauerschmidt has moved his diocesan headquarters there)

56. Against Church of the Good Shepherd, San Angelo, Texas (TX) (Plaintiff is the Diocese of NW Texas; parish lost below and in the Court of Appeal, and after arguments in 2012, Texas Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal and remanded for proceedings using "neutral principles" without reference to the Dennis Canon, which the Court held was ineffective in Texas to create a trust; Diocese and ECUSA moved for rehearing, and parties are awaiting decision before case will go back to trial court)

57. Against the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker and the other trustees of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, TX (Plaintiffs, the remnant diocese and its appointed bishop, were later joined by the Episcopal Church, and the lawsuit was subsequently broadened to include all individual parishes of the remnant diocese as cross-complainants, and all individual parishes of +Iker’s Episcopal Diocese as cross-defendants; the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the remnant diocese and its bishop in early 2011 is on a direct appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case for trial under "neutral principles"; parties currently await the Court's decision on a petition for rehearing filed by ECUSA and the rump diocese)

58. Against St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Ft. Worth, in Hood County District Court, TX (Plaintiff is the remnant diocese of Ft. Worth and Bishop Ohl, its provisional bishop; plaintiff seeks to have the proceeds of a trust fund left to St. Andrew’s, which remains with Bishoip Iker and his Diocese, turned over to the remnant group; the trial court stayed the proceedings pending the outcome in the case described in the previous paragraph)

59. Against the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker individually, for alleged trademark infringement, in federal district court in Ft. Worth (plaintiffs are the remnant diocese and its bishop; court dismissed the case after the ruling by the TX Supreme Court in No. 57 above)

60. Against The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, individually, and unnamed agents and representatives acting with him as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth, in federal district court in Ft. Worth (Plaintiffs are TEC funded and supported members of the vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church, Ft. Worth, as reported in a letter of January 21, 2009 published by Stand Firm; the grounds alleged are very similar to those alleged in the suit described in the previous paragraph; suit is on hold pending the outcome of the main case [No. 57 above])

61. Against Church of the Epiphany Herndon, Virginia (VA); The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, CL 2007-1235 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

62. Against Truro Church Fairfax VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Truro Church, CL 2007-1236 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

63. Against Christ the Redeemer Church, Chantilly VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Christ the Redeemer Church, CL 2007-1237 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

64. Against Church of the Apostles, Fairfax VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of the Apostles, CL 2007-1238 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

65. Against The Falls Church, Falls Church VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. The Church at The Falls – The Falls Church, CL 2007-5250 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.)(formerly Case No. 07-125, Circuit Court for Arlington County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

66. Against Potomac Falls Church, Potomac Falls VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Virginia v. Potomac Falls Church, CL 2007-5362 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.)(formerly Case No. 44149, Circuit Court for Loudoun County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

67. Against Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands, CL 2007-5364 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.) (formerly Case No. 44148, Circuit Court for Loudoun County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – parish agreed to settle with Diocese in 2011 for a five-year leaseback of its property, in exchange for its disaffiliation from CANA and agreement not to affiliate with any other Anglican entity so long as they occupy the premises)

68. Against St. Margaret’s Church, Woodbridge VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. St. Margaret’s Church, CL 2007-5682 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.) (formerly Case No. CL 73465, Circuit Court for Prince William Cnty., Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

69. Against St. Paul’s Church, Haymarket VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. St. Paul’s Church, Haymarket, Case No. CL 73466 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.) (formerly CL 2007-5683, Prince William County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

70. Against Church of the Word, Gainesville VA: The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of the Word, CL 2007-5684 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va. )(formerly Case No. CL 73464, Circuit Court for Prince William County, Va.); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit; parish agreed to settle with the Diocese in early 2011 on terms similar to those with the Church of Our Savior, Oatlands, but retained possession of its [reduced]  property by assigning to the Diocese the lion's share of a condemnation award from the State of Virginia)

71. Against St. Stephen’s Church, Heathsville VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. St. Stephen’s Church, CL 2007-5902 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.)(formerly Case No. CL 07-16, Circuit Court for Northumberland County, Va); (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below)

72-82. Against Truro Church and all of the Virginia Anglican churches affiliating with CANA above, Plaintiff is the Episcopal Church (USA); The Episcopal Church v. Truro Church, et al., CL 2007-1625 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va; case was tried again in Circuit Court in 2011 following reversal by Virginia Supreme Court in 2010 of trial court’s earlier decision in favor of parishes; trial court ruled this time in favor of Diocese; all but one defendant have surrendered their property to the Diocese, with Truro leasing theirs back for a limited time; only The Falls Church appealed to the Va. Supreme Court, which ruled against it on a strange "implied trust" theory in 2013; petition for certiorari is before the U.S. Supreme Court)

83. Against St. Edmunds Anglican Church, Elm Grove, Wisconsin (WI) (Plaintiff is the Diocese of Milwaukee) (trial court granted summary judgment against parish in 2011; parish later vacated the property, which remains vacant)

As a matter of fairness, I also list the number of cases where the Episcopal Church (USA) or one of its dioceses is the defendant and not the plaintiff. There are only seven instances, as shown below. But in all but the first, it was the diocese (or ECUSA) which triggered the filing of a lawsuit by moving to take control of the individual church's assets, and the legal actions that followed were essentially a defensive response against those moves.

1. The earliest instance of a parish starting a lawsuit was in 2000, after a dispute arose between All Saints Parish, Pawley's Island, South Carolina (SC), the Diocese of South Carolina, and TEC in connection with the formation of the Anglican Mission in America. The suit eventually found its way to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which in September 2009 issued a decision finding that the Dennis Canon did not create any kind of a trust interest in parish property under South Carolina law, and ruling that the property remained with the parish despite its disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church (385 S.C. 428, 685 S.E.2d 163).

2. An action was brought in 2005 in federal district court by six parishes and their rectors (the “Connecticut Six”) against the Diocese of Connecticut, whose bishop had suspended the priests in question and taken over some of the church properties. The court dismissed the lawsuit the next year, and the diocese has since brought the actions listed as Nos. 30 and 31 above.

3. Grace Church & St. Stephens, Colorado Springs, Colorado, sought declaratory judgment against the Bishop and the Diocese of Colorado. However, in that suit, the plaintiff church sought a simple declaration that the diocese had no right, title or interest in its property, in response to an attempt by the diocese to freeze the church's bank accounts. The response of the diocese was to file a counterclaim against the church, its rector and 17 of its vestry and leading parishioners seeking millions of dollars in damages. The trial court granted judgment for the Diocese following a trial in 2009, and the parish chose not to appeal, but to move from the property to a new location.

4. The Diocese of the Rio Grande and St. Francis on the Hill (El Paso, TX): St. Francis began the suit with a claim for declaratory relief in response to the threat of suit by the diocese to take their property. Eventually the trial court granted summary judgment to the Diocese, and the parish left its property.

5. The Diocese of Quincy sued the Episcopal Church in 2009 for declaratory relief after the latter had asked the diocese’s bank to freeze its accounts. The trial court rendered a decision in the Diocese's favor in September 2013, finding that there was no provision in ECUSA's governing documents that kept a diocese from amending its constitution to remove the accession clause; ECUSA has filed an appeal, which is pending, and has asked to join the Diocese of Chicago, into which the rump diocese of Quincy merged in September 2013.

6. The parish of St. Paul's in Groton, CT last year filed a petition with a local court for a declaration that its property was free and clear of any trust interest under the Dennis Canon. The parish remains in the Diocese of Connecticut pending the outcome of the lawsuit (note: news of the lawsuit would be welcome in the comments).

7. The Diocese of South Carolina sued the Episcopal Church in January 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas for Dorchester County after the Church began “abandonment of Communion” proceedings against the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, which action triggered the Diocese’s immediate withdrawal. The suit was filed before TEC could fulfill its announced intention to sue the Bishop and the Diocesan trustees for the Diocese’s property and bank accounts, once it reorganized a new Episcopal diocese at a special convention in January 2013. The court entered a restraining order against anyone but Bishop Lawrence and his agents using the name and marks of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which ECUSA and later the rump diocese agreed could become a preliminary injunction pending the trial or further notice. Then the rump diocese removed the case to Federal District Court, which after eight months remanded the case to the Court of Common Pleas. That court denied the rump diocese's motion to compel production of all emails and correspondence between Bishop Lawrence and his Chancellor, which order the rump diocese immediately appealed. The proceedings are currently stayed in trial court; Bishop Lawrence's attorneys recently asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to take jurisdiction of the appeal.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Gift for Your Marriage

This post may not be for everyone. Nor will it compare with the usual fare on view here. But then, these are not usual times. 

I have never, indeed, ventured into this territory before on this blog. But because it is (a) critical territory, and (b) timely territory, I could no more refrain from posting what follows than I could deny my belief in salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. After you read it (or listen to to it, read to you by your spouse), I promise you will understand.

What follows is a homily, or exhortation, delivered to an actual couple at an actual marriage ceremony. If you are currently unmarried, then simply read it through, and imagine yourself some day at the altar, listening to these words with your future betrothed, as the celebrant speaks them to you both.

And if you are already married, then the same exercise applies. As (both of) you read through what follows (perhaps alone at first, and then together with your spouse; or else together from the outset, and freely sharing with each other the emotions which the homily evokes), receive it with an open, humble, and contrite heart. And whatever way you choose to receive it, read it out loud. Its force comes from the words being spoken, and not merely read.

In short, let it speak to -- and strengthen -- your marriage, present or future.

Herewith the homily, then, as written by the Rev. Douglas Wilson -- and delivered for a recent temporal occasion, but with timeless and universal effect. Let all of us thank him for having posted it on his website, to our lasting benefit. And let a husband (present or future) be addressed by his own name in place of the "Elliot" whom Pastor Wilson addresses, and the wife similarly by her own name in place of Elliot's betrothed, "Jill." Either together, or singly at first and then together, read out loud, mark, inwardly digest, and commit to live fully the timeless truths that follow.
One of the things that married couples do, in the pleasure of God, is feed one another. Now there are two kinds of feeding, both of them pertinent to marriage. There is food at rest—what we might call sabbath food, or celebratory food. But there is also food for the journey, nourishment on the way, food for the adventure.

Today the two of you are embarking on a great adventure, one that contains all the elements of a classic adventure, except for maybe the dragons. There will be trial, there will be difficulty—all those things that are mentioned in the vows are there for a reason. We will talk about sickness, poverty, and those things that are worse over against better. These things are not an indication that something has gone terribly wrong with your story. It is an indication that your story is a story.

Today you are becoming true companions. The word companion is derived from the Latin word panis, which means bread. A companion is one who shares bread together with you—bread for the journey, bread for the way. 
So what is that food? What is that nourishment? The Bible teaches that a husband is to feed his wife with love, and she is to feed him with respect. I love you and I respect you could be taken as mere pieces of information, mere indicative statements like it is raining now, or the table is set, or the car is red.

But if these statements were simply information, why do we say them over and over again? Why don't we have the bride and groom just say these things in this ceremony and be done with it? And if you started to forget, you could just go watch the wedding video. 
Well, we say these things over and over again because they are food, not just information. If it were late in the afternoon, and you had skipped lunch for some reason, and somebody asked you to go have a hamburger with them, you would not decline because you knew what a hamburger tasted like. You would know what a hamburger tasted like, but the more “only information”you have, the hungrier it makes you.

So husbands are to nourish their wives, and they are to do so by loving them. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul summons [husbands] to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and gives the additional example of loving them as they love their own bodies. In that context, Paul notes that one mark of that love is nourishment. When a man tells his wife he loves her, he is not giving her new information. He is feeding her. When a husband sacrifices himself for her, in matters big and small, and all in imitation of Christ, it is not aimless activity. He is nourishing her.

In an analogous way, when a woman tells her man she respects him, she is feeding him. When she looks to him for leadership, not rushing in to fix things ahead of him, she is nourishing him.

All this explains how a wife can know cognitively that her husband loves her, and yet still feel hungry. This is how a man can know cognitively that his wife respects him, and still feel hungry. And for both of them, if they ever veer from this path and stop nourishing the other, the results can be dramatic. There is the sin of omission, where you simply forget to nourish the other. Untended, this is the way of slow death, slow starvation. But there are also harsh and unloving words, or overtly disrespectful ones, which have the effect of snatching food away.

But remember the distinction I made earlier between celebratory food and way-bread, food meant to nourish you on the road, on the way to your adventures.

If you understand your story correctly, you will expect candlelit dinners from time to time. But you should also learn to love and nourish her while you are late for work and looking for the car keys. You should learn to respect and nourish him when you are having trouble getting the car seats buckled. You have to learn to see true story in random events, adventure in the mundane, and the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. In those extraordinary ordinary times, you need to remember to feed one another with this extraordinary food of ordinary love and respect.

Elliot, you are a remarkable young man, and you are being called today to surrender all of that. This is the gospel pattern—give it away freely, and back it comes. Paul says that he who loves his wife loves himself. When a man gives all that he has and is to a woman, he discovers that she was created to return it to him thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. You will discover that by nourishing her you are actually growing stronger yourself.

The temptation, whenever you have something remarkable, is to think that (surely) God does not intend for that thing to die. Oh, but He does. Whenever we have a good thing, we always want to stop everything, and say that it is now “good enough.” But God doesn't traffic in good, better, best. He is after glory, and glory always follows the pattern of death and resurrection. So look at all that God has given you, and meditate on how much He has blessed you. Don't hold tight to any of it—when you have numbered all that you have, place it all symbolically on an open palm and give it all away to Jill. What was yours is now hers. It will come back to you in glory.

Jill, you have great gifts of empathy and identification. These were given to you so that you might identify with others—your family, your friends, and now Elliot. This is a great gift, meant for great blessing. But one of the things that the apostle Peter teaches wives is that they must imitate their mother Sarah, and are to do this by not giving way to fears. The alternative for wives to giving way to fear, as Peter outlines it, is wholehearted submission to their husbands.

The gift of empathy means that you can identify instantly, and at quite a distance. You are being called today to identify with your husband—with him as a person, with his strengths, with his security, with his love. We are conducting a transaction right now. We are in the process of giving all of that to you. You are being called, after Elliot gives himself to you sacrificially, to give him back to himself glorified. Give him back to him, and he should barely recognize himself when you do. This task will delight you so much, and so take you up into the work, that you will not see that you have been transformed as well.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
Amen. And thank you, Pastor Wilson, for embodying God's truth in terms so that all who wonder (or who celebrate, or who doubt, or who may have become jaded) about marriage may understand, and so understanding, may provide constant and life-bringing nourishment to the sustenance and growth of their God-blessed union.

Friday, January 4, 2013

DioSC in Preemptive Strike against ECUSA's Attempted Identity Theft

The Diocese of South Carolina and its incorporated parishes have filed a preemptive lawsuit against the Episcopal Church (USA), an unincorporated religious denomination composed of other member dioceses, whose leadership has been busily engaged in trying to steal away the Diocese's secular identity.

(What a strange opening paragraph for a church law blogger. In what other field or area of human interest under the sun could such a description apply to what is going on? And the fact that these are all Christians we are talking about in ECUSA's leadership makes this development even more paradoxical.)

ECUSA has been asking for such a response for over four months now. No sooner had the Presiding Bishop announced last October that she had restricted Bishop Mark Lawrence from functioning in his episcopal office in South Carolina than the Diocese -- having anticipated such an attempt against its Bishop -- responded that ECUSA's move had triggered a series of resolutions which automatically declared the Diocese no longer a member of the national Church organization.

And that withdrawal apparently set in motion plans by the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor which had been in the works for months before. Working closely with a small faction of dissidents in the Diocese, and an attorney hired to represent the national Church, the Presiding Bishop's office announced the formation of a "Steering Committee" to "reorganize the Diocese under new leadership." The announcement said there would be a special Convention called in March to appoint a new provisional Bishop to replace Bishop Lawrence -- apparently in anticipation of a vote by the House of Bishops at its Spring 2013 meeting to "depose" him, and so leave the see "vacant" (from ECUSA's point of view).

The "Steering Committee" and its agents immediately began acting as though they, and not Bishop Lawrence, were in charge of the Diocese -- a South Carolina organization originally formed in 1785, and incorporated under South Carolina law in 1973, long before Mark Lawrence became its 14th Bishop in 2007. They opened a Website featuring the Diocesan seal, and began sending out emails and correspondence under the same seal, purporting to come from the Diocese itself.

All of this was pursuant to a litigation strategy developed long ago by the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, in connection with the four other dioceses that withdrew from ECUSA: the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy. In each instance, the Presiding Bishop would organize the dissidents, announce a "special" convention to elect a provisional Bishop, and then immediately file papers in court pretending to be the diocese that had left (repeating ECUSA's mantra that "people may leave, but dioceses may not"). By appropriating the identities of the departing dioceses, ECUSA hoped to gloss over the fact that each of the replacement organizations was a new legal entity in the eyes of the secular law, started from scratch.

The advantage of this ploy is that if ECUSA and its pseudo-diocese (which never had to apply for admission, like other new dioceses) could convince the court that their view of things was the correct one, then the court would order the departing diocese to surrender all of its property and bank accounts to the pseudo-entity created by ECUSA. And the ploy worked in the trial courts of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth. (The latter decision is now before the Texas Supreme Court, which could issue its decision any week now; the former decision was affirmed on appeal, on the grounds of a peculiarly ambiguous stipulation which the courts chose to read in ECUSA's favor.)  But the juries are still out in San Joaquin and Quincy.

And now matters have accelerated in South Carolina. In a repeat of the canonical abuse to which she had resorted in order to "remove" Bishop Jack L. Iker of Fort Worth without a hearing or vote by the House of Bishops, the Presiding Bishop declared that she "had accepted the voluntary renunciation of his orders" by Bishop Lawrence -- on the strength only of an address he had given at a diocesan convention held November 17. The "special convention" of the new entity was moved up to January, since there was no longer any need, from ECUSA's point of view, to wait for the House of Bishops to go through the motions of pretending to  "depose" Bishop Lawrence.

The complaint filed yesterday in the Court of Common Pleas for Dorchester County by the DSC, its Trustees, and sixteen individual parishes against just ECUSA itself seeks (1) declaratory relief that each plaintiff entity owns the title to its respective properties free and clear of any interest in favor of ECUSA; and (2) injunctive relief against ECUSA and its agents (including the Presiding Bishop and her local attorney, Thomas Tisdale) to prohibit them from misappropriating the name, corporate seal and other insignia of the Diocese of South Carolina. In justification of the relief sought, it contains the following allegation:
Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr. has spoken on behalf of TEC at public meetings since on or about November 7, 2012 where he has stated, among other things, that TEC and those acting at and under its direction and control:
i. will use the name and symbols of the Diocese of South Carolina;

ii. have opened a bank account in the name of the Diocese of South Carolina.

iii. will pursue lawsuits against the Diocese of South Carolina and against its parishes.
In addition, the complaint alleges that in the case of each of the plaintiff parishes:
Defendant and those under its control including individuals claiming to be members of Defendant have assumed, used, adopted [the parish]'s name and emblems by:
i. Posting [the parish]'s name or a name substantially similar on a website and improperly asserting that [the parish] is "in union with" the Defendant.

ii. Using [the parish]'s name or a name substantially similar to it to send email and other correspondence improperly asserting that [the parish] is "in union with" the Defendant.
The sixteen incorporated parishes joining in the lawsuit, of whom half predate the founding of ECUSA in 1789, are:

1. Christ St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Yonges Island
2. Church of the Cross, Inc., Bluffton
3. Church of the Holy Comforter, Sumter
4. Church of the Redeemer, Orangeburg
5. Saint Luke's Church, Hilton Head
6. St. John's Episcopal Church of Florence
7. St. Matthias Episcopal Church, Inc., Summerton
8. The (Cathedral) Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, Radcliffeboro
9. The Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island
10. The Church of the Good Shepherd, Charleston
11. The Protestant Episcopal Church of the Parish of Saint Philip, Charleston
12. The Parish of Saint Michael, Charleston
13. The Vestry and Church Wardens of The Episcopal Church of the Parish of Prince George Winyah, Georgetown
14. The Vestry and Church Wardens of The Episcopal Church of the Parish of St. Helena, Beaufort
15. The Vestry and Wardens of St. Paul's Church, Summerville
16. Trinity Church of Myrtle Beach

Given Mr. Tisdale's stated intentions, and given the track record of ECUSA in each of the other four cases involving dioceses, the filing of the lawsuit was an excellent preemptive move on the part of the Diocese and its incorporated parishes. Instead of their being heard only in response to the complaints brought in the first instance by ECUSA and its pseudo-group of dissidents, Bishop Lawrence and his churches will be able to tell their side of the story first. And that will count for a lot in the courts -- especially in South Carolina, which has the All Saints Waccamaw decision as a definitive precedent.

The case will thus provide a significant test for the cockamamie theories of Mr. Beers and his disciples, who claim (and act as though) ECUSA's Constitution and Canons absolutely prohibit the withdrawal of any of its dioceses, even though there are no words to that effect anywhere in them. The same theories will soon be tested in the courts of Texas, California and Illinois as well. I admit to being partial, because I am one of the attorneys arguing against ECUSA's position in the San Joaquin litigation (about which more soon). But I fail to see how an unwritten doctrine of permanent union can override State statutes and the local organizations' own governing documents, and be consistent with the First Amendment's freedom of association, to boot.

We are a nation of laws, and even churches must follow local law, just like everyone else. By its outlandish conduct in attempting all on its own (without first going to court) to appropriate the diocesan identity of South Carolina, ECUSA has not put itself into a good position for arguing its case. Now they will have to put their stakes on the table, and let the courts of South Carolina decide who is right.