Saturday, September 21, 2013

Taking up the Fiddle While Rome Burns

ECUSA's House of Bishops scheduled its fall meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, starting this Thursday, with a theme of "Transforming Loss into New Possibilities." (As a Christian who strives to meet Lucan standards while still being a faithful chronicler of the Church's foibles and failings, I refrain from the obvious advantage to be gained by citing that title in conjunction with her recent setbacks on the legal front.)

The first day passed uneventfully, but with the second day, the legal machinations of ECUSA's leadership came briefly to the fore -- and it appears, at least upon a preliminary assessment, that they suffered a temporary setback. (The meeting of the HoB is not yet over, and this Presiding Bishop is not known to take "No, you can't" for an answer.)

At the very least, we may record the resistance of the House of Bishops to approving a statement that would have subjugated their individual diocesan authority to a metropolitical scheme of the Presiding Bishop, in order to buttress her stance in ongoing court proceedings.

"What does that mean?" you might well ask. Simply this: ECUSA is, and has been from its inception, a confederation of autonomous dioceses. Its Constitution provides that each diocese shall have an "ecclesiastical authority", which is the diocesan bishop (or in his absence, the standing committee of that diocese). The bishop exercises his ecclesiastical authority only within the confines of his diocese. No bishop may come into another diocese for any ecclesiastical purpose without the consent of that diocese's ecclesiastical authority.

The Presiding Bishop is an anomaly. Her only diocesan authority is over the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, which is not a true diocese, since it overlaps with other Anglican provinces. However, with the enactment by General Convention of the revised Title IV effective in July 2011, the Presiding Bishop (on paper, at least) acquired disciplinary and pastoral authority over other diocesan bishops. Such authority would make her akin to a metropolitan of the Church, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who exercises full disciplinary and pastoral authority over each diocesan bishop in the province of Canterbury.

Historically, the American Church has never had a metropolitan. Those who organized ECUSA had a healthy suspicion of the powers of bishops, and wanted nothing like their Anglican counterparts. So the 2011 changes made to Title IV have been controversial, to say the least. (They led to the withdrawal, for instance, of the Diocese of South Carolina, which refused to recognize their validity under the Constitution.)

In court cases, ECUSA's legal team has repeatedly argued that it is a "hierarchical"church, meaning that it has an ultimate authority at the very top of its structure. Its opponents, however, have recently had some success by demonstrating the lack of any real power at the top: General Convention, for instance, has no ability to order an individual diocese to do anything, and has no means to enforce its resolutions. The legal team that 815 deploys does not like this situation, and wants to do something about it.

Enter a hitherto unknown Committee of the House of Bishops which styles itself as "The Ecclesiology Committee." It has just three members -- one of whom is the former Provisional Bishop of the erstwhile, and now extinct, Episcopal Diocese of Quincy (n.b.: which never was a real diocese of the Episcopal Church under its canons).

The other members of the Committee -- the second of whom works for the Presiding Bishop and has already committed himself in print on the issue in question, and the third, who also has not exactly distinguished himself as someone who can distance himself from 815's metropolitical goals, may be seen as the rubber stamps that they are, at least (pace, Bishop Whalon) for the present purposes.

So what went on yesterday at the House of Bishops meeting? The official ENS report fails (as usual) to convey the reality:
A report was provided to HOB from the Ecclesiology Committee. Following table discussion, a panel answered questions from HOB – Bishop John Buchanan of Chicago; Bishop Bill Franklin of Western New York; Bishop Bill Gregg of North Carolina; Bishop Pierre Whalon of Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe; and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies. The House discussed the importance of the founding of the church and its past as primer for the conversation about the future of the church.
Observe the ambiguities buried in that last sentence: "The House discussed the importance of the founding of the church and its past as primer for the conversation about the future of the church." Let's dissect it:

The House discussed: Note that word -- the House discussed, instead of "the House decided." 

... the importance of the founding of the church ...

Well, it certainly is important that ECUSA was founded (in 1789), otherwise we would not be here today even to discuss the importance of such matters. I trust, therefore, that the HoB quickly came to agreement that it was indeed important that the Church to which they all belong, and to which they owe their current positions of prestige and remuneration, had at some point been founded.

"and its past as primer for the conversation about the future of the church ..." Now here a real translation is necessary. The past as a "primer" implies that the past is a necessary schooling of those now in authority -- only those who are in school need "primers." But what, pray tell, is that which the article refers to as "the conversation about the future of the church"?

The article itself gives no clue (as is typical for ECUSA's house organ). Indeed, it positively misleads the reader, because as so happens, the Task Force on Re-imagining the Church had just issued its first report on its vision for the future church. The House of Bishops had heard from that Task Force, and discussed its Report, just before it gave the floor to the Ecclesiology Committee.

One informed source who was present is the Rt. Rev. Daniel Martins, the diocesan of Springfield, who has published on his blog this account of the afternoon's proceedings:
... After some opening remarks by committee chair Pierre Whalon, TEC in Europe, we were turned loose for table discussions. When we reconvened and feedback was solicited, there was a consistent theme of discomfort with the notion--whether set forth historically or theologically--that General Convention has metropolitical authority, that we have eschewed having an archbishop, but that General Convention is, in fact, our archbishop. There were several other technical and historical errors that were pointed out as well. So my sense is that this document has effectively been re-referred to the committee that produced it, and that we will probably hear from them again down the road sometime.
Even this account, however, stops short (as it must in this situation -- see below) of giving the full background to this story. For that, we have to rely upon yet other unofficial sources -- but I must regretfully say that I cannot at this point reveal those other sources, as they would be placed in jeopardy.

What I know from these other sources is this (and there is absolutely no reason, as you will determine, for these sources to misrepresent what is going on in the House of Bishops):

The Presiding Bishop's job -- and future reputation -- is, in effect, on the line. She and her personal Chancellor have been so identified with the litigation agenda of ECUSA (because they run that agenda without interference from anyone else in the entire Church) that they are taking a hit, so to speak, on account of the reversals which that agenda has recently suffered in Texas (Fort Worth), Illinois (Quincy), South Carolina, and yes - let it be said -- in San Joaquin (even though there is as yet no final judgment there, ECUSA faces a decidedly uphill battle to convince the California court that its canons allow it to take the property of the withdrawing diocese).

In a (rather desperate, and, some would say) clumsy attempt to protect her prerogatives on the litigation front, the Presiding Bishop (and, as always, her personal Chancellor, whose law firm earns millions each year from the Presiding Bishop's continuing patronage) asked the "Ecclesiology Committee" to deliver a counter  to the "Bishops' Statement on Polity" promulgated by the Anglican Communion Institute and the Communion Partner Bishops within ECUSA. (Note that Bishop Martins is a Communion Partner bishop, who signed the 2009 Statement on Polity, and who -- along with six other bishops and three priests -- faced disciplinary proceedings for having the temerity to repeat what it said to the courts in Illinois and Texas.)

That Committee (with membership as noted above) obediently came forth with just such a "Statement", and presented it to the assembled bishops in Nashville. Wonder of wonders, however -- what seemed likely as a rubber stamp of 815's current litigation claims devolved into a rejection of the Committee's  paper. That rejection was based chiefly on the bishops' reluctance to submit themselves or their dioceses, by a simple resolution, to any claim of metropolitan authority -- but it was also based on their own personal knowledge of the Church's historical polity. As Bishop Martins noted in response to a commenter:
If we look at churches that DO have bishops who have metropolitical authority, and what that authority entails, we see that, in TEC, those functions are widely dispersed: the PB, Standing Committees, those responsible for Title IV processes, etc.
This is exactly right, and it is safe to say that until now, ECUSA collectively has always wanted it that way. And note that the Committee's paper proposed that General Convention, not the Presiding Bishop herself, be regarded as the metropolitical authority of the Church. That dovetails precisely with the arguments that ECUSA's attorneys are making (thus far unconvincingly) to the courts in the cases involving the withdrawal of dioceses. (For an example of how such an argument was cut into ribbons, see the transcript I linked at this post.)

However, as we all know, General Convention exists for a scant two weeks out of every 156 -- and there is zero continuity from one General Convention to the next, in terms of its authority. (Each General Convention may undo the work of a previous one; sometimes it may take two successive ones, but there is no way one General Convention could ever bind any future ones.)

Such a "supreme authority" in the Church needs someone to fill the vacuum it leaves during the other 154 weeks of the triennium. And guess who is ready to function as that authority, if only the bishops will cooperate?

The plain fact is that forces are afoot to turn the Office of the Presiding Bishop into something considerably more than it historically has been. (Those forces are also evident in the recent putsch against the UTO Board.) Given the history of this Presiding Bishop, and the lackluster resistance to her agenda by the House of Bishops, it is safe to predict, along with Bishop Martins, that "we will probably hear from them again down the road sometime."

Meanwhile, we may be grateful for small pockets of resistance along the way, such as they are. Will ECUSA's Bishops draw some measure of resolve from their actions yesterday? Will the Title IV canons be appropriately revised, to bring them into line with the Constitution? Only time will tell.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Federal Court in Fort Worth Closes Two Lawsuits

Federal District Judge Terry Means in Fort Worth today entered orders in two pending cases brought against the Rt. Rev. Jack W. Iker for "trademark infringement" and "unfair competition." The orders, following the Texas Supreme Court's remand to the trial court of the lawsuits by ECUSA, its ersatz diocese and member parishes against Bishop Iker and his co-trustees of the diocesan corporation, serve to close the cases administratively on the federal court's calendar, while leaving them theoretically open for reinstatement should subsequent developments warrant their reactivation.

The first federal lawsuit, filed in September 2010, charged Bishop Iker personally with infringing the trademarks traditionally used by his diocese, following its vote in 2008 to sever its ties with ECUSA. The theory was that the ersatz diocese, erected in 2009 by the Presiding Bishop and her collaborators without following ECUSA's Constitution or Canons, was the only legal entity entitled to their use -- despite the fact that the actual Diocese of Fort Worth remained a fully active entity under Texas law, and under the control of Bishop Iker and his trustees.

The second lawsuit was brought in October 2010 against Bishop Iker by a minority contingent of All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, whose majority had remained with Bishop Iker's diocese. Rather ridiculously, it alleged that Bishop Iker had "allowed" the majority members to continue as a parish "in unfair competition" with the plaintiff congregation, which retained possession of its building.

The federal court had placed both suits on hold pending the outcome of the proceedings in the principal case in Judge John Chupp's 141st district court in Fort Worth. ECUSA, its ersatz diocese and parishes had convinced Judge Chupp to enter summary judgment in their favor, based on their argument that the court had to "defer" to ECUSA's determination of who was the "ecclesiastical successor" to Bishop Iker's diocese, after it voted to withdraw from ECUSA. But the Texas Supreme Court, on a direct appeal, ruled 5-4 that Judge Chupp should have applied "neutral principles" to the dispute, rather than defer to ECUSA's post-withdrawal maneuvers and unilateral claims per se. 

Thus the principal case will now go to trial to examine -- as in Quincy, San Joaquin and South Carolina -- whether ECUSA has any rule or bylaw that would prohibit a diocese from withdrawing without the consent of General Convention. The trial court in Quincy recently found, after closely examining all of the evidence that ECUSA proffered, that there was no such rule or bylaw, and that dioceses of ECUSA were free to leave on their own.

The two federal cases closed in Texas are thus likely to be revived only in the rather remote event that Judge Chupp, making the same inquiry as did the court in Quincy, should arrive at a different conclusion.

What your Curmudgeon finds remarkable in these recent developments in the litigation over withdrawing dioceses is that there are still some Episcopalians who believe that, just because they think there ought to be an implied rule against unilateral withdrawal, the courts must enforce it anyway, just on ECUSA's say-so. Those days are over. ECUSA has shown, when push comes to shove on its claims, that it has zero evidence of any such rule ever having been enforced in its 225-year history.

And even if it could now make up such a rule, and get it passed by General Convention, the courts would be prevented from enforcing it by the developments in First Amendment jurisprudence that have occurred in the last seventy-five years. A diocese, incorporated or not, has the same rights under the First Amendment as any single individual does. And those rights include the ability to associate with whomever the person chooses to associate, regardless of what some group may claim to the contrary.

Making up "rules" after the fact has been a specialty of the current regime at 815. ("Oh, we've always done it that way." "Well, we don't need to follow the Canons in this particular instance, because we like the result we can get by not following them.") That may be the way for Calvin and Hobbes to run their exclusive club, but it is not the way to run a church governed by a Constitution and Canons. ECUSA is finding that its leaders' lawlessness will carry it only so far. And it is about time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Trying the Quincy Case (I): ECUSA's Expert under Fire

Now that the Quincy decision has been published, I shall use the next few weeks to publish selected excerpts from the testimony at the trial. In light of the efforts by ECUSA to advance -- in all of its litigated cases thus far -- a particular theory of its polity as "three-tiered" (from General Convention to the Dioceses to the individual parishes), with the claim that the structure is "hierarchical", I want to begin with the close examination of that claim made at the Quincy trial, which resulted in Judge Ortbal's careful and measured findings that I analyzed here.

The best way to do so is through the cross-examination of ECUSA's expert witness on its polity and history, Dr. Robert Bruce Mullin, who testified all day on both April 29 and April 30 of this year. His cross-examination by Alan Runyan, an attorney for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina under Bishop Lawrence, is a case study in how to break apart a structure into which every effort has been poured to make it appear as solid.

That cross-examination (on behalf of the Anglican Diocese) was followed by a further and well-honed cross-examination by Talmadge G. Brenner, the Chancellor for Quincy, on behalf of its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Alberto Morales, whom ECUSA had named individually as a counter-defendant in its counterclaim in the case. (That is what comes of suing people personally -- they get their own attorneys, who have the right to participate fully in all aspects of the trial.)

Accordingly, here is the link to the transcript of that testimony on the afternoon of April 30, 2013 (a .pdf download). In a later update to this post,  I will have more comments on its high points. (As some readers have already noted, the transcript is not without its errors -- some of them [as in "Metropolitical Sea"] unintentionally comical. The problem is that the standard reference book for court reporters does not include any official abbreviations for ecclesiastical terms, such as "dioceses", "synod", or "see" -- as in the see of a bishop. So they took down those terms as they heard them from the witness stand.)

As Long as There Are Lawyers Who Will Take its Money

It is sad, but true: a person with money to spend can always find a lawyer willing to take his money -- and ECUSA is no exception. ECUSA lost its cases in Fort Worth, Quincy and South Carolina, and now is paying attorneys to ask the courts in Fort Worth and South Carolina to "reconsider" their decisions. (There is no judgment entered yet in the Quincy case, and until there is, there will not be anything to ask the court there to reconsider.)

ECUSA obtained an extension of time until October 18 within which to file a "petition for rehearing" with the Texas Supreme Court in the Fort Worth case. (The Diocese of Northwest Texas did likewise, in the Masterson case.) Their papers are not on file yet, so we cannot discern the reasons they will give to the Court for reversing its decisions.

But in South Carolina, the motion to Federal Senior District Judge C. Weston Houck, asking him reconsider his earlier dismissal of Bishop vonRosenberg's trademark infringement suit, and filed on the latter's behalf by ECUSA's attorneys, is available for your reading enjoyment. Essentially the motion challenges two technical aspects of Judge Houck's earlier ruling, and suggests that had he followed the proper precedents, he would have retained jurisdiction of the suit, rather than dismiss it.

The reasons given for reconsideration might sound plausible on their face to a layperson, but they are nonsense to one experienced in litigation. In the first place, most judges would rather undergo a root canal treatment than admit that they got anything wrong, and change a decision once made. But in the second place, in this case Judge Houck got it right the first time.

The Bishop's attorneys attack just two of the rationales Judge Houck gave for his ruling: one factual, and one legal. Leave the legal one be -- it turns on a very technical distinction about the discretion a federal court has to entertain a suit that asks for both declaratory and other relief (Bishop von Rosenberg wants an injunction to issue against Bishop Lawrence).

It is the attack made on Judge Houck's factual reasoning in the first seven pages of the Memorandum that I would like to consider. Here the attorneys argue that under an earlier case from the same Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal which would hear any appeal from Judge Houck's decision Bishop vonRosenberg has certain prerogatives of his office with which Bishop Lawrence is allegedly interfering.

The argument is ludicrous on its face. Consider this point: Bishop Lawrence is also a bishop of a diocese -- the one that is paying his salary -- and so under that same precedent, he has certain prerogatives of his office as well. What Bishop vonRosenberg wants is to restrict Bishop Lawrence's prerogatives just so he can exercise the ones he claims are his.

And that is not all. In Dixon v. Edwards (the earlier case in question), Bishop Dixon claimed that it was the vestry and rector of a particular parish in her own diocese that were interfering with her prerogatives as its bishop, and the court decided that her claims warranted relief. But Bishop Lawrence is not in the same diocese as Bishop vonRosenberg, and is not subject to his jurisdiction. If Bishop Lawrence's activities in his own diocese are interfering with Bishop vonRosenberg's activities in his, then can a federal court supply a remedy? To do so would be to wade too far into matters that are "quintessentially ecclesiastical" (to quote the Court of Appeal's decision in the Schofield case), in violation of the First Amendment.

And just what are these "prerogatives" which Bishop vonRosenberg demands the federal court protect? The only one the memorandum bothers to mention (p. 5) is his performance of confirmations. Now pause for a minute, and consider just how ludicrous this claim really is.

Confirmation takes place in a specific parish. The candidates are screened and prepared by their own parish priest, who then invites the bishop for a specific date. Are we seriously expected to believe that his own parish priests are so confused about which bishop to call that poor Bishop vonRosenberg has not been getting any requests to perform confirmations? Or ordinations?

Consider this point also. The lead attorney filing the motion to reconsider is Bishop vonRosenberg's chancellor, Mr. Thomas Tisdale. And he argues (evidently with a straight face) that Bishop Lawrence's performance of his functions as bishop of his diocese is making it "nearly impossible" for Bishop vonRosenberg to perform his.

Remember this about Mr. Tisdale? He was the attorney first hired by ECUSA's Presiding Bishop to inquire into how Bishop Lawrence was running his diocese. So back then, he was not very jealous to guard the "prerogatives" of a sitting bishop; he worked instead to undermine them. I'm sorry, Mr. Tisdale, but your protestations on Bishop vonRosenberg's behalf now ring rather hollow.

But the bottom line here is that there are all kinds of good reasons for Judge Houck to have dismissed this ridiculous litigation, and not just the reasons he gave in his order. (I covered those other grounds in this earlier post, and have nothing to add to it now.) So attacking just the two grounds he happened to give does not do the job -- there is the little matter of the federal Anti-Injunction Act to consider, for example.

An appellate court does not have to rely on just the reasons Judge Houck actually gave in order to affirm his dismissal. If the decision was correct upon any applicable legal ground, they will let it stand. That is why this motion, at least to this church litigator, appears to be such a monumental waste of Church funds. (And note that the latest figures from ECUSA's Treasurer show that the amounts spent on "litigation to safeguard property Church-wide" is already more than double the amount budgeted for the entire year, and is well on its way to exceeding the budget by 300%! That is why I say that all of the hand-wringing over the triennial budget is just so much Sturm und Drang. The real priorities at 815 are to spend whatever it takes in order to impoverish their opponents -- the "budget" be damned.)

If either Judge Houck or the Texas Supreme Court pays any attention to ECUSA's machinations, I for one will be entirely surprised. But that is not, alas, why ECUSA is engaging in them. ECUSA's strategy is geared toward getting an appropriate case into the United States Supreme Court, in its own good time. Until then, the program is just to keep their attorneys fully employed on all fronts, at all possible times -- and hang the costs involved. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Unbelievable Incompetence in Washington

Fox News has put together a video timeline of the administration's ever-shifting stances on Syria -- the video says far more than any words could about the unbelievable incompetence that is taking this country to the absolute nadir of its long history:

[Note: If you do not have Java running, you can watch the video at this link.]

Indeed, here is a recent photo from the news (click to enlarge) which captures the essence of where Vladimir Putin and Syria -- nay, the entire Mideast -- are leaving Obama (the hapless frog in the photo):

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Decision in Quincy: ECUSA Has no Rule against Dioceses Withdrawing

We have a decision from the trial court in Quincy: Adams County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Ortbal entered on September 9, 2013 his Findings, Opinion and Order following a bench trial that stretched over three weeks last April and May. The opinion is about as thorough an analysis as we have to date of the "hierarchical" polity of ECUSA when it comes to matters involving its member dioceses. The judge's key finding is this (pp.12-14):
DOQ [The Anglican Diocese of Quincy] persuasively argues that when examining TEC's Constitution and Canons from a secular perspective, they are far from clear or evident, as to identifying the highest court or judicatory having authority over the diocese. There is no explicit provision in TEC's Constitution or Canons specifying the office or body having supremacy or ultimate authority over the acknowledged Ecclesiastical Authority of a Diocese, i.e., a Bishop or a Standing Committee in the absence of the Bishop.
There is no provision in TEC's Constitution or Canons which require prior approval of a diocesan constitution or its canons. There is no express prohibition against withdrawal of a diocese. In sum, reviewing the governing documents from a secular perspective, there is no explicit or clearly delineated expression of TEC 's claim that the General Convention is the ultimate authority or judicatory of the Church.
Based upon this record, the court finds that, despite the general hierarchical structure of TEC, the determination that the General Convention is the highest ecclesiastical authority over the disputed property issue is not readily ascertainable. To reach the conclusion sought by TEC, that the actions of the General Convention and Presiding Bishop must be deferred to as the ultimate adjudicatory of the dispute, would require the court to engage in a searching and impermissible inquiry into the historical and theological analysis of the Church's polity ...
I will have a fuller analysis of the rest of the opinion up later today at StandFirm, and will integrate that analysis with my other Quincy posts at this blog in due course. For now, this represents a great legal victory (albeit at the trial level) for those dioceses who are facing lawsuits over their actions to remove themselves from membership in ECUSA. And for that reason, ECUSA will almost certainly appeal the ruling. But as Bishop Iker reminded 815 following the decision in favor of his diocese in Texas, it is never too late for 815 to come to its senses, and stop this endless warfare in which Christians everywhere lose.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bishop Iker to 815: Just a Suggestion -- Read St. Paul Lately?

A timely message from Bishop Iker, regarding the ongoing church litigation in Texas:


Living with litigation has become a way of life for us as members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. For the past 4 ½ years, we have been under the cloud of a lawsuit brought against us by The Episcopal Church and its local supporters, seeking to deprive us of our buildings and assets. This has been a huge distraction from our focus on spreading the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and making new disciples for the Kingdom of God.  What a relief and a blessing it was to have the Texas Supreme Court overturn the trial court judgment against us on August 30. So now we head back to the local court for a reconsideration of the dispute – based this time upon neutral principles of law, and under this methodology we are confident we will prevail.  Life goes on – the litigation continues – and we learn again how important it is to trust in the Lord in the midst of distractions and threats to our security.

The national leadership of TEC has misguided and misled local Episcopalians by encouraging them to support its litigation strategy, which sought to undermine the laws of the State of Texas regarding property, trusts and corporations. They advised people to leave their local churches following the separation of the Diocese from TEC in November 2008 and to claim that they had been denied access to these churches.  Nothing could be further from the truth. No one has ever been asked to leave their church, and our services are open to all. Those who now wish to return to our fellowship will find an eager welcome.

We regret that millions of dollars have been spent on legal fees by both sides. All of this could have been avoided in an amicable separation process as provided for by the Diocese for any congregation that wished to remain in TEC.  This was accomplished in the case of three churches by a simple transfer of property title to the local congregations. However, TEC insisted on blocking further transfers and sued for everything, resulting in a long, protracted process of litigation. But now the end is in sight.

The Dennis Canon is dead in Texas. Corporations are authorized to control their own decisions and affairs without the interference of third parties. That’s the law. Perhaps in light of these rulings by our Supreme Court, those who have sued us and sought to deprive us of our property might see the wisdom of terminating their continued use of the courts contrary to 1 Cor. 6:1-7. Let’s get on with the mission of the Church and apply our limited resources to advancing the Kingdom of Christ rather than to continued litigation.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
September 5, 2013


When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So  if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. 

                                                                                                            1 Cor. 6:1-7