Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Will the Supreme Court Do with The Falls Church Petition?

The docket sheet in the United States Supreme Court tells the tale. After receiving an extension of time, The Falls Church filed on October 9 in the Supreme Court its petition for writ of certiorari (or review) of the decision rendered by the Virginia Supreme Court last April 18 (and its denial of a rehearing on June 14).

The ever-cocky Episcopal Church (USA) and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, following its lead, declined to file responses to the petition.  Four amici curiae ("friends of the court", being organizations interested in the case) filed briefs in support of The Falls Church: ACNA, the Presbyterian Lay Committee, St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach, CA, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  The case went to conference last December just on those briefs. And -- lo and behold! -- the Court ordered ECUSA and its Diocese to file a response before it ruled on the petition.

Such a request is noteworthy, because the Court's Rules explain that the Court ordinarily does not grant a pending petition without first calling for a response to it.  Had the Court taken no interest in the petition, on the other hand, it could have denied the petition outright at its December 6 conference.

On December 30, Goodwin Procter for ECUSA and local Virginia counsel for the Diocese filed their joint response to the petition. And just over one week later, The Falls Church filed its reply. That same day, the Clerk distributed the briefs to the Justices for their case conference on January 24.

Monday, January 27, came and went with no word of the Supreme Court's decision. Docket watchers next noted that the briefs were distributed again for the Court's conference of February 21. This can happen if some of the Justices want more time to study the petitions, or if they are writing any opinions to be published along with the grant or denial of certiorari.

The Supreme Court came out with a long list of orders in pending cases yesterday. But Case No. 13-449 was not on it -- although it disposed of numerous cases with a later filing number. And now we find that the briefs have been carried over to a third (actually, the fourth) case conference this next Friday.

What to make of this? It would appear that there is strong interest in the case at least among one or more of the Justices. For example, last Term the Hollingsworth case (the federal injunction against California's Prop. 8) was carried over for four conferences before the Court granted review. And the Windsor case involving the Defense of Marriage Act went through three conferences before being granted, as well.

There are certainly grounds for the Supreme Court to grant review in the Virginia case. The recent reply brief sums it up well:
Respondents do not dispute that the lower courts are deeply divided over the constitutional significance of denominational “trust” rules. Nor do they deny the importance of the questions presented to millions of Americans—a point confirmed by the amicus briefs and 30 States’ use of “neutral principles” doctrine to decide church property disputes. Respondents do not even try to rebut our showing that free exercise and establishment principles preclude enforcing denominational “trusts” not embodied in ordinary instruments of ownership reflecting all parties’ intent. Accord Becket Fund Br. 7-23. And they do not contest that, if the court below applied state law retroactively, its ruling was unconstitutional.

Instead, respondents say the decision below “does not implicate” the lower-court “conflict” because the decision is “factbound” and “turns entirely” on “state law.” Opp. 10. But that position is untenable. It evades not only the decision’s free exercise and establishment implications, but also (1) the court’s reliance on Jones’ “recognition” (in dictum) “that ‘the constitution of the general church can be made to recite an express trust in favor of the denomination[]’”; (2) its holding that it “need look no further than the Dennis Canon” (which was void [in Virginia] when enacted) to rule for the denomination; and (3) its conclusion that to “address any issues of inequity wrought [by the Dennis Canon]” would “clearly violate the First Amendment.” Pet. 15a, 18a, 21a (quoting Jones). Respondents insist that the ruling below involves no “retroactive application of a newly created rule,” and that the Dennis Canon only made “explicit” what had been “implicit” in the parties’ relationship. Opp. 10, 5. But they cannot explain how petitioner—or its grantors—could “agree” to place property in trust for respondents when “Virginia law prohibited denominational trusts.” Opp. 7.

Hoping to avoid the appearance of retroactivity, respondents say the court did not find “a trust at all,” but rather fashioned a “remedy”—forfeiture—for breach of some free-floating “fiduciary duty.” Opp. 14. But as the court explained, a “constructive trust” is “a form[] of implied trust.” Pet. 16a. And if respondents were correct, the court would not have needed to hold that §57-7.1 changed the law—the centerpiece of its decision. Pet. 14a.
Virginia Code §57-7.1 was the statute that the Virginia Supreme Court read to allow (after 1993) the creation of trusts in favor of religious denominations in Virginia.  Prior to that time -- and going all the way back to the State's founding -- its courts had refused to recognize such trusts, or to give them any legal effect. Thus the question became: if denominational trusts became legal in Virginia after 1993, how did the Dennis Canon, a "trust" enacted in 1979, come to apply to the property of The Falls Church?  The reply brief concludes:
Like the court below, respondents cite no evidence that petitioner consented to a trust after §57-7.1 was enacted. Not surprisingly, ruling for respondents required concocting a trust “‘independently of the intention of the parties’” (Pet. 16a)—a grave constitutional violation. Jones, 443 U.S. at 606 (courts must “give effect to the result indicated by the parties”).

In sum, respondents do not contend that the Court should not resolve the lower-court split—just that it cannot do so here. But respondents’ state-law premise is incorrect. And even if the court below had relied solely on state law, the free exercise implications of its decision and its retroactive nature would independently enable the Court to resolve the conflict. The only conceivable basis for imposing a retroactive trust on church property over its owner’s objection is that the First Amendment requires that result regardless of state law—the precise question that splits thirteen state high courts. However that question is resolved, guidance is needed, and this case presents an excellent opportunity for the Court to answer it.
Indeed. Watch for the Court's release of its "Order List" next Monday -- and pray in the meantime that the Court be guided to grant review at its conference this Friday.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Church of Identity Is No Church at All

Consider the following Canon of the Episcopal Church (USA), Canon I.17.5:
No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons.
(There is a similar Canon applying to the discernment process for would-be clergy.) The words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression" are the most recent additions to the list of grounds upon which Episcopalians are called not to discriminate. As this Canon's predecessor stood from its adoption in 1964 (at the height of the civil rights movement) until 1982, it read:
Every communicant or baptized member of this Church shall be entitled to equal rights and status in any Parish or Mission thereof. He shall not be excluded from the worship or Sacraments of the Church, nor from parochial membership, because of race, color, or ethnic origin.
With only slight rewording in 1982, the threefold grounds of "race, color, or ethnic origin" remained untouched until General Convention 1994, when the categories were expanded by one Resolution (1994-C020) to include "national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age." Most recently Resolution 2012-D002 added the categories "gender identity and expression."

What we see here is a progression from characteristics which define every human being, to characteristics that define only broad segments ("national origin, marital status, ... disabilities or age"), to ones that are much narrower ("sexual orientation" -- meaning, of course, "other than heterosexual"), and concluding with a category that characterizes a tiny minority indeed ("gender identity and expression").

Paradoxically, however, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the number of persons who could be placed within a given category and the sub-categories within that category.  Thus "marital status" breaks down into categories of single, married, divorced or widowed. Likewise, "race" and "ethnic origin", while capable of many gradations, are still defined by less than a dozen boxes on the census forms. But as Facebook (the largest social media site on earth) now is recognizing, there are no less than 58 sub-categories of "gender identity and expression."

Episcopalians point to this progression of smaller and smaller categories as one of increasing inclusivity. "There will be no outcasts in this Church," said Presiding Bishop Browning in 1986.

At the same time, the Episcopal Church has, since around 2000, been alienating hundreds of thousands of churchgoers, and deposing nearly a thousand of its clergy. What single characteristic do you think best identifies with those who have left or have been forced to leave?

If you responded "orthodoxy in tradition and belief," you would be correct.

And that fact speaks volumes about the Church's "inclusivity."

When the disenfranchised minorities pressed over the last ten years for their listing in the anti-discrimination Canons, where were the voices speaking up for the orthodox? It's a good question.

One could certainly put forth a modest proposal to rectify this increasing discrimination against the orthodox by those in ECUSA. It would propose to amend Canon I.17.5 (and its clergy counterpart) to read as follows:
No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, orthodoxy of belief or practice, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons.
I can see people at once objecting: "How do we define 'orthodoxy of belief' or 'orthodoxy of practice'?" To which the obvious answer is: "Difficulty of definition was not an objection to adding the words 'gender identity and expression' in 2012, so why should we get hung up on definitions? Judging from the number of clergy being deposed, the Church leadership has no difficulty whatsoever in discerning just who is 'orthodox'."

Consider: we already have attacks on bishops and other clergy who do not march with the LGBTs, or who do not speak out enough against anti-gay laws, or who will not back same-sex marriages and blessings. (Does the word "homophobe" sound familiar?)

The addition of these words to the Canon would at least furnish a basis for trying to limit or end such attacks. They would also create a "safe harbor" for those who read their Scripture as it had been read for at least two thousand years before General Convention 2003.

And do you know what? That is exactly why such an amendment would never be adopted at General Convention.

For those now in charge of the Church want to keep up the pressure on the orthodox to go elsewhere. They are all for inclusion, but not of the traditional or orthodox. Those who once held power must apparently pay for the years of oppression they (albeit unintentionally) inflicted on minorities -- simply by being who they are, and upholding their traditional understandings of Holy Scripture.

It is Father Neuhaus' Law in spades: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." The tendency to limit orthodoxy by making it optional, and then to proscribe it altogether, cannot be stopped so long as the new liberalism of self-identity holds sway.

And why is that? In the essay just linked, Fr. Neuhaus gives a very perceptive explanation:
Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others.
I think Fr. Neuhaus has it exactly right. To adhere to tradition is to adhere to standards of right and wrong. People could disagree over particulars, and it was possible to have debates about the finer points. But no longer:
With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps. An appeal to what St. Paul or Aquinas or Catherine of Sienna or a church council said cannot withstand the undeniable retort, “Yes, but they are not me!” People pack their truths into what Peter Berger has called group identity kits. The chief item in the kit, of course, is the claim to being oppressed.
Oppression means that there are victims and oppressors, and the latter must pay for their sins against the victims. But first, they must forced to acknowledge the error of their orthodox ways. Are they against "being inclusive" or "being accepting"? Who would dare so be? So hit them with guilt -- after all, they are rich, white Episcopalians:
The proponents of truth-as-identity catch the dissidents coming and going. They say their demand is only for “acceptance,” leaving no doubt that acceptance means assent to what they know (as nobody else can know!), [and] is essential to being true to their authentic selves. Not to assent is not to disagree; it is to deny their humanity, which, especially in churches credally committed to being nice, is not a nice thing to do.
The culture of identity, however, is one of increasing fragmentation. For very few others can have shared all the experiences you have gone through to make you what you are -- i.e., there is no longer any common ground of experience. And the lack of common ground is the ultimate barrier to consensus and agreement on going forward. Appeals to past tradition and Scripture fall on deaf ears:
This helps explain why questions such as quota-ized representation, women’s ordination, and homosexuality are so intractable. There is no common ground outside the experiential circles of identity by which truth is circularly defined. Conservatives huff and puff about the authority of Scripture and tradition, while moderates appeal to the way differences used to be accommodated in the early church (before ca. 1968), but all to no avail. Whatever the issue, the new orthodoxy will not give an inch, demanding acceptance and inclusiveness, which means rejection and exclusion of whatever or whomever questions their identity, meaning their right to believe, speak, and act as they will, for what they will do is what they must do if they are to be who they most truly are. “So you want me to agree with you in denying who I am?” By such reasoning, so to speak, the spineless are easily intimidated.
Those who are not intimidated simply grow weary of the endless attacks on their orthodoxy, and the  stridency of those behind the attacks. But both kinds end up leaving -- not just in the hope of finding peace and quiet, but also because being constantly on the defensive is both spiritually debilitating and physically stressful. Religion is not supposed to consist of confrontation, of having continually to justify your faith while being called a "bigot", a "homophobe", and worse.

For traditional conservatives, religion used to be a communal affair. You were baptized in the church, married in the church, and given a funeral in the church -- in the midst of your community. (Indeed, that is the only reason, for example, we know when William Shakespeare was born, when he married, and when he died: the dates are all due to carefully preserved parish records.) The church was, for better or worse, the thread that linked all of your significant life events.

But the point was not that you made the church; instead, you came to the church in all humility, as an infant, and the church thereafter sheltered and supported you as you passed and marked each of life's milestones. It had its own authority, derived from the community that comprised it and the God they  worshipped, while you derived from it the nourishment that came from being part of that community which worshipped God. Nevertheless, it is due to man's fallen nature,which makes him think that he does not need God to help him, that man eternally tries to remake the church in his own image.

There is much more to commend in Fr. Neuhaus' essay of six years ago. Not least is his longer view, in which he contrasts the forces behind today's identity-liberalism with the forces that gave rise to the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 19th century. Both took on their respective cultures. While the latter was transformed in the process, we are unfortunately not yet able to see just what kind of transformation the current ideology will undergo.

Nevertheless, the two movements differ greatly in their essential goals. Anglo-Catholics sought to travel the via media of Anglicanism on a path toward the ultimate reconciliation of Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The modern crop of identity-liberals have no common goal other than to celebrate their own individuality, and to make others respect (and even honor) it. It is difficult to see, at this juncture, just how a church can stay together when the center no longer holds.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Much Has ECUSA Spent on Lawsuits? (Updated Jan. 2014)

In September 2010, I put up an analysis, based on ECUSA's monthly statements and their annual audited statements through 2009, of how much ECUSA and its major dioceses had spent on attorneys' fees and other costs associated with the (then) 60+ lawsuits as catalogued here (see pgs. 23-26). In order to give as complete a picture as possible, I also included the latest ECUSA budget projection of legal expenses through the triennium 2010-2012.

One has to realize that ECUSA does not make it easy to discover the amounts it spends on litigation -- the leadership at 815 Second Avenue would obviously prefer that those who sit in the pews every Sunday and contribute their pledges not be aware of just how many millions have been squandered on ECUSA's scorched-earth litigation policy.

I am fully aware that those are fighting words to all those who support the current administration at 815 Second Avenue: "Prove it!" they say. Well, in the course of this post, I intend to do just that. So please suspend your judgment until you have digested the entire piece, and checked out all the links to my sources -- which are uniformly from ECUSA's own published financial statements and official minutes. I am a lifelong Episcopalian myself, and I am utterly ashamed and outraged by what the Presiding Bishop and her cohorts are doing in our Church's name.

In September 2010, I concluded that ECUSA and its Dioceses of Virginia, Los Angeles and San Diego had committed a combined total of Twenty-one Million Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($21,650,000.00) on litigation since the year 2000. This number I broke down as follows:

Amounts spent 2001-2006 (mostly during the term of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold; amounts before 2005 estimated, as no longer available online):


Amounts spent 2007-2009 (the first triennium of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori -- including deposition costs under Title IV):


This amazing total -- nearly eight times (in just three years!) what the former Presiding Bishop had spent in six years) -- was fully documented from ECUSA's audited financial statements and monthly statements of account from January 2006 through the end of calendar 2009.

To that total I added the $3 million budgeted for legal expenses in the triennium 2010-2012; the $1,003,000 budgeted (incredibly precise!) for depositions and other Title IV proceedings in that same period; and the $1,775,000 in grants extended to rump dioceses to assist them in prosecuting lawsuits through just September 2010 -- bringing the total to $16,303,584.

Thus the administration of the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori alone was responsible for the commitment of more than Sixteen Million Dollars of ECUSA's resources to suing her fellow Christians during just her first three years in office.  What an unenviable -- and completely unChristian -- accomplishment!

But we still could not yet say we had taken everything into account. For the Diocese of Virginia had taken out a $2 million line of credit to cover the litigation against eleven CANA parishes which the Presiding Bishop insisted, as "the new sheriff in town", that the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee undertake on ECUSA's behalf. Out in Los Angeles and San Diego, where Bishops Bruno and Mathes had relentlessly pursued six departing congregations for nearly six years, I estimated that they, too, had spent approximately as much. And those amounts, plus the amounts then budgeted for future "legal assistance to dioceses", brought the grand total to $21,650,000.00.

Well, that was then, and this is now -- some three years and five months later. The figures budgeted in 2010-2012 have become actual figures expended, and we have a new budget for the triennium 2013-2015 (plus actual figures through November 2013). Moreover, the number of lawsuits has increased by 50%, as catalogued in this recent post. Accordingly, I have taken this occasion to go back through all my earlier figures and check them against the available sources: in some cases (even with the supposedly audited financials!) they have changed. Thus it is high time to do a new tally, from scratch.

The amounts the Church spends due to its litigation policies come in a number of different categories. Not all the categories are shown in the same financial documents. For instance:

The yearly audited financial statements, which are the most accurate source, do not break out "litigation expenses" as a separate category, but instead lump them in with all the other general operating costs of the organization. But what they do disclose are (a) the amount of moneys loaned (not granted outright) to rump dioceses; and (b) the amount of legal out-of-pocket expenses contributed to ECUSA by the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor's law firm, Goodwin Procter.

(Note: While the IRS does not allow lawyers to deduct the value of their services rendered pro bono, it does allow them to deduct out-of-pocket expenses incurred in performing the services -- travel, hotel and meals; telephone, freight, postage and similar amounts. In order to keep track of ECUSA's full legal expenses, these contributed costs must be added back into the totals, or else those totals would appear artificially low in comparison to other corporations incurring similar legal services and related expenses. Moreover, ECUSA includes their amount in its income -- see the auditors' note -- so they have to be part of its expenses, as well.)

The monthly statements of operations, though not audited, are the best source of information for (c) the cost of Title IV proceedings -- at least until recently -- and (d) the amounts paid to Goodwin and Procter over and above their donated services, as well as to local law firms retained in various states by ECUSA.

The minutes of the Executive Council are the best source for (e) the amounts of grants and credit lines extended to the rump dioceses. (The audited financials show only the amounts actually borrowed against credit lines as of the year end; they do not disclose the total amount of credit lines extended.)

The budgets adopted by General Convention and the Executive Council are the best detailed source for actual moneys spent in the past on particular line items, and they are the only source for (f) the  future anticipated legal expenses of the Church.  These are most often wildly understated, and Executive Council is constantly having to revise them upwards.

Using those official ECUSA sources, therefore, I reckon that the accumulated total of moneys expended and committed to litigation and related events over the years 2000 through the end of calendar 2015 break out as follows.

For the Griswold years (2000-2006), the total is somewhat higher than estimated previously, because I found an entry for "Legal Support to Dioceses" paid in calendar 2006 in the amount of $443,519.  The new total is:

TOTAL 2000-2006: $ 1,777,180.00

For the first triennium under Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (2007-2009):

Title IV Expenses:  $ 1,702,222 -- i.e., almost as much as PB Griswold spent on everything legal!

Litigation Expenses (including contributed expenses): $ 8,392,584

Grants to Sustain Rump Dioceses: $1,200,000

TOTAL 2007-2009: $ 11,294,806.00

For the second Jefferts Schori triennium (2010-2012):

Title IV Expenses: $ 992,921

Litigation Expenses (including contributed expenses): $ 4,933,807

Grants to Sustain Rump Dioceses$ 575,000

Loans to Rump Dioceses:  $ 2,285,000

TOTAL 2010-2012: $ 8,786,728.00

Jefferts Schori Actual Total, 2007-2012: $ 20,081,534

Plus: Griswold Total, 2000-2006:  $ 1,777,180 

GRAND TOTAL, 2000-2012: $ 21,858,714

(Compare that with the estimated total for the same period of $21,650,000 in my September 2010 post -- which included estimated amounts spent by individual dioceses.)

We do not know yet the final, year-end figures for 2013 (the monthly statements have been posted thus far only through November). However, 2013 legal expenses alone (not including contributed expenses) total nearly $1.7 million for the first eleven months of 2013 -- almost $800,000 over budget. (This item includes in-house legal staff support, such as the salary of the Presiding Bishop's Special Assistant for Litigation, Mary Kostel.) Add in estimated contributed expenses of $500,000 and the total thus for 2013, exclusive of grants, loans, and Title IV expenses (which the Treasurer no longer itemizes), and the total spent for all of 2013 will easily come to $ 2.4 million. Now include the $735,000 authorized in grants and loans to just the South Carolina rump diocese in 2013 (after a further $300,000 increase authorized in June), the $785,000 authorized for San Joaquin, plus amounts to other dioceses, and the $270,000 spent on Title IV (per the 2014 budget, line 277), and you easily reach $4.2 million for all of calendar 2013.

There is little reason to expect the 2014 totals to be any less. The Executive Council just authorized another $500,000 to the rump dioceses for this year, and spending on litigation will continue in South Carolina, San Joaquin, Quincy and Fort Worth.

If that level of spending continues through 2015, the total for the triennium will be on the order of $12.6 million. Thus, total ECUSA legal expenses from 2000 to 2015 will amount to (roughly):

GRAND TOTAL, 2000-2015: $ 34,500,000

Just to put that number into perspective, take a look at line 362 in the latest (2014) budget. It is the same amount as ECUSA expects to spend for ALL of its operations in calendar 2013! And we are not done yet.

Now add in the amounts spent by individual dioceses (Los Angeles, San Diego, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, etc.) and you can easily see how, just by the end of 2015, the total spent on litigation-related items within ECUSA will easily be WELL OVER FORTY MILLION DOLLARS.

In other words, the total estimated amount has nearly doubled since I first estimated it three years ago. That is an unconscionable waste of non-profit resources. The puny amounts recovered in property values to date pale into insignificance compared to the amounts being squandered in seeking to recover them.

And the administration at 815 is becoming less and less transparent in disclosing the waste on this huge scale. No longer do they break out "legal aid to dioceses" or "Title IV expenses" as separate line items in their monthly statements. Will no one in the Church -- House of Bishops, House of Deputies, clergy, or laity -- hold them to account?

In the next post I shall show how ECUSA's budgeting process is an utter joke when it comes to getting a handle on these costs. If ECUSA were being run like a proper non-profit, and in full compliance with its own canons, the discrepancies between actual and budgeted legal expenses would be an accounting scandal, and would lead to firings all the way up the line.

Ultimately, the New York Attorney General is the officer who has the jurisdiction and power to look into this waste of non-profit assets, and it is high time he did so. After all, at the request of both clergy and laity he invoked his jurisdiction over the scandal involving Treasurer Ellen Cooke, and that involved only a few million dollars: chump change in comparison to what is going on now.

For over seven years now, the Episcopal Church (USA) has had an out-of-control litigation budget. It is a scandal of simply enormous magnitude. It must -- and hopefully soon will -- be brought to a halt.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Episcopal Church (USA) Annual Litigation Summary 2014

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. (Otherwise -- one would think -- it would never have been deemed to be conduct to be rewarded by this honorary degree, rather than this one.)

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. In another update to be posted in the next few days, I will publish a revised total for all of the money spent by ECUSA and its Dioceses to date on prosecuting all of these lawsuits (and, in the case of the second group below, defending them).

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. 12-20 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 pending appeal, and the parish kept 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.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Atheism Is Irrational: Alvin Plantinga

Further to my report on the 2014 Mere Anglicanism Conference, I call your attention to a marvelous interview with Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga that appeared on Sunday's "The Stone" blog of the New York Times. Philosopher Garry Gutting of Notre Dame University conducts the interview, which is entitled: "Is Atheism Irrational"?

Prof. Plantinga gets right to the point:
In the British newspaper The Independent, the scientist Richard Dawkins was recently asked the following question: “If you died and arrived at the gates of heaven, what would you say to God to justify your lifelong atheism?” His response: “I’d quote Bertrand Russell: ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’” But lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism.

In the same way, the failure of the theistic arguments, if indeed they do fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism. Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence.
To be an atheist, then, is to be irrational -- and naturally, atheists do not like having that pointed out one bit. If one claims to go by the actual evidence, then at best one can claim to be an agnostic (which is the real point of Dawkins' quote, even if Dawkins himself does not realize it).

Those whom one calls the "New Atheists" today -- Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and (the late) Christopher Hitchens -- are more properly described as anti-theists: they are militantly against the belief that there is a God. They have no positive belief of their own to uphold. Some claim  that "the physical world/universe is all there is -- there is nothing else" (à la Carl Sagan) is a positive belief -- until one points out that what is really meant by that statement is that there is no physical God in the Universe -- a statement with which (after the Resurrection, at any rate) theists would agree!

But let us return to Plantinga's interview, for there is much more to note. Asked about the evidence for God, Plantinga makes the point for which he is famous:
I should make clear first that I don’t think arguments are needed for rational belief in God. In this regard belief in God is like belief in other minds, or belief in the past. Belief in God is grounded in experience, or in the sensus divinitatis, John Calvin’s term for an inborn inclination to form beliefs about God in a wide variety of circumstances.
In a series of books toward the end of the last century, Prof. Plantinga restored theistic philosophy to a respected academic discipline. His trilogy on Warranted Belief is probably the capstone of his achievement. Essentially, he showed that there are key beliefs which we all hold, but which cannot be shown to be true by any hard evidence: for example, the belief that solipsism (the idea that I am the only thing that exists, and that everyone -- and everything -- else are just the products of my imagination) is false, and that other minds do indeed exist in the world.

No one can give any evidence for the existence of other minds, yet belief in other minds is what enables us to function every day: it is warranted belief. Such a belief is opposed to what some call "blind faith" -- belief in something despite the evidence against it. But warranted belief is not evidentiary belief -- it is a different but equally valid kind of knowledge upon which we act every day, without thinking about the evidence for or against it.

Likewise, for Christians, belief in God is warranted if (for example) the Resurrection really happened. Not only that, but as humans made in God's own image (i.e., with the faculties of reason, language and the ability to build on past achievements and acquired knowledge), Christians respond to the sensus divinitatis in them, the "sense of the divine" that enables them to appreciate and know that God exists. The New Atheists spend all their energy fighting against that sense, and maintaining that man does it all by himself, thank you!

In the key part of the interview, Plantinga responds to the criticism (as many atheists and agnostics suppose it to be) that "the world is not perfect":
Since the world isn’t perfect, why would we need a perfect being to explain the world or any feature of it?

A.P.: I suppose your thinking is that it is suffering and sin that make this world less than perfect. But then your question makes sense only if the best possible worlds contain no sin or suffering. And is that true? Maybe the best worlds contain free creatures some of whom sometimes do what is wrong. Indeed, maybe the best worlds contain a scenario very like the Christian story.

Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures.

I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.
Next, he slaps down the "God of the gaps" argument:
Some atheists seem to think that a sufficient reason for atheism is the fact (as they say) that we no longer need God to explain natural phenomena — lightning and thunder for example. We now have science.

As a justification of atheism, this is pretty lame. We no longer need the moon to explain or account for lunacy; it hardly follows that belief in the nonexistence of the moon (a-moonism?) is justified. A-moonism on this ground would be sensible only if the sole ground for belief in the existence of the moon was its explanatory power with respect to lunacy. (And even so, the justified attitude would be agnosticism with respect to the moon, not a-moonism.) The same thing goes with belief in God: Atheism on this sort of basis would be justified only if the explanatory power of theism were the only reason for belief in God. And even then, agnosticism would be the justified attitude, not atheism.
And in the final part of the interview, Plantinga summarizes the argument that he lays out in his latest book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: that materialism (the belief that the material world is all there is, as in the Carl Sagan quote above) does indeed imply atheism, but that it is logically inconsistent with the accompanying belief in evolution -- that everything somehow evolved, over eons of time, from the random interactions of inanimate fundamental particles.

Why? Read the rest of the interview for the full, and fascinating, discussion (or better yet, get his book and read chapter 10). Here is just a brief taste:
First, if materialism is true, human beings, naturally enough, are material objects. Now what, from this point of view, would a belief be? My belief that Marcel Proust is more subtle than Louis L’Amour, for example? Presumably this belief would have to be a material structure in my brain, say a collection of neurons that sends electrical impulses to other such structures as well as to nerves and muscles, and receives electrical impulses from other structures.
But beliefs, he argues, are more than just material structures, because they have content to them, and because they lead to actions. (My thirst, for example, coupled with my belief that there is beer in the fridge, leads to my getting up and going to the fridge to get a beer.) And how does one represent content materially? Even if my belief about the beer in the refrigerator were false, it would still lead me to get up and go to get one, because of my belief -- regardless of whether it was true or false. Thus, the material structure of a belief is the same, whether a belief is in fact true or false.

But if evolution is true, then our beliefs have evolved over time. And evolution cares only about beliefs that promote our survival, i.e., beliefs that enable us to adapt to our environment. It does not ask that the beliefs be true, and does not even care if the beliefs are false. (Belief in phlogiston kept a lot of scientists fed and happy for quite some time.)

Any given belief of ours has a probability of being true, say, of 50-50. But it does not matter if we say that the probability is even greater, such as two-thirds, or 0.67. Because each of us holds, individually, thousands of beliefs. And the probability that materialistic evolution has led us to a collection of true beliefs over time is simply the product of their individual probabilities of being true: 0.67 x 0.67 x 0.67 x .... = 2/3 x 2/3 x 2/3 x .... = (2n/3n), where n equals the number of individual beliefs.

Would you like to know the value of the expression 21000/31000? All you have to do is plug it in at Wolfram Alpha: the answer is 8.1 x 10-177 -- that is, 0.00000...81 where the dots stand for another 172 zeros. And that's just for one thousand beliefs! (Moreover -- to answer one of the objections to Plantinga's argument -- the number is still low even if we assume that most of the beliefs held by an individual are not independent, but interdependent. Indeed, their interdependency would make the entire rickety structure more fragile, and more dependent on more of them being true than false.)

Plantinga concludes:
So if you accept both materialism and evolution, you have good reason to believe that your belief-producing faculties are not reliable.

But to believe that is to fall into a total skepticism, which leaves you with no reason to accept any of your beliefs (including your beliefs in materialism and evolution!). The only sensible course is to give up the claim leading to this conclusion: that both materialism and evolution are true. Maybe you can hold one or the other, but not both.

So if you’re an atheist simply because you accept materialism, maintaining your atheism means you have to give up your belief that evolution is true. Another way to put it: The belief that both materialism and evolution are true is self-refuting. It shoots itself in the foot. Therefore it can’t rationally be held.
That logical conclusion, however, is sadly not the end of the story. For the interview garnered some 980 comments (before they were closed). Reading them is an education in why Plantinga's point is true: just because we are evolved does not mean that we are rational. Most of them are from atheists who deny that they hold any belief -- they insist that they just refuse to believe there is a God, and that the burden is therefore on those who claim that He exists. But that just begs the question of what they do believe -- e.g., in evolution, in materialism, and so on -- beliefs which are just as irrational as the belief they claim to be rational in rejecting.

I will let a metaphysical G. K. Chesterton have the last word (because he never really said it):
A man who won't believe in God will believe in anything.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Presiding Bishop to Receive Another D.D. Degree

The Good Samaritan School of Church Canon Law in Corvallis, Oregon announced at yesterday's convocation that it, too, will award the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) a D.D. degree honoris causa -- only in this case, the initials stand for "Doctor of Deposition."

"We certainly are not trying to compete with the likes of Oxford," the School's Dean, the Very Rev. Dewuntoo Others, explained. "Instead, the faculty decided that the Presiding Bishop deserved  recognition for the achievement that has made her the most famous primate in the Anglican world: no one else has mastered the skill of deposing bishops and clergy to the degree that she has."

"For that very reason -- that she has taken the techniques of episcopal deposition to a new level, never before seen in Church history -- this is our first such Doctorate degree ever awarded. But we feel certain that the award will ensure that other primates will be inspired to emulate her accomplishment, and so we expect to make this award a regular feature of our School," Dean Others continued.

"Indeed, thanks to generous funding received from law firms who have greatly increased  their revenues due to her actions, we have been able to establish a wholly new department here at our school. It is only fitting, therefore, that we extend an open invitation to the Most Rev. Dr. Jefferts Schori (as she will now be known) to be the first occupant, upon her leaving her current position, of the Chancellor's Chair of Depositions, Defenestrations and Purges. Having mastered her skills in the field, so to speak, she is better qualified than anyone else now living to impart those techniques to future generations of Episcopal Church leaders."

The Presiding Bishop has not indicated yet whether she will accept the School's offer. There are unconfirmed rumors that the bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) are desperate to keep her for a second term, because (it is said) they despair of finding any candidate among their ranks who could even approach, let alone attain, her track record. Apparently, they are afraid that the Church will be unable to fall apart without her, and they do not want to risk experimenting with its demise at the hands of an unknown.

A bizarre element was added to this background a week ago, when Spain's Roman Catholic Cardinal Tomás de Torquemada announced that he would be stepping down at the end of 2015 from his position as Grand Inquisitor, and that a search committee had already begun its task of finding his replacement. His announcement contained a sentence which was little noticed -- until now:
... The committee has no prerequisites or limitations, other than to find the most qualified candidate: it will accept Catholics or Protestants, and will recognize degrees the world over -- from Calcutta to Cordoba, and from Oxford to Oregon.
Close observers at the Vatican had never considered even the possibility of appointing a female to the position of Grand Inquisitor, but now several expressed themselves as no longer quite so certain. "Although the position has always been occupied till now by clergy ordained in the Catholic Church," one of them noted, "the original decree establishing the post by Ferdinand II and Isabella does not specify any such requirement. It could be that the Roman Curia wants to let another denomination take up the torch, so to speak."

Inquiries to ENS (the Episcopal Nonsense Service) were brushed aside with no comment.

Friday, February 7, 2014

South Carolina: Move to Cut Short ECUSA's Delaying Tactics

In a motion to transfer filed yesterday with the Supreme Court of South Carolina, the Diocese of South Carolina and its member parishes have requested the Court to take immediate jurisdiction of  the interim appeal filed by ECUSA and its remnant group from a discovery order entered by Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein.

Now there are quite a few legal concepts embodied in that opening sentence, and so let me try to unpack them for lay readers.

The current litigation in South Carolina began a little more than a year ago. The Diocese of South Carolina, a corporation headed by the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence and his co-trustees, joined by a number of parishes in the Diocese, filed a pre-emptive suit in the local state court in Dorchester County, northwest of Charleston.  Initially they sued only the Episcopal Church (USA), but later they added the dissident group of remnant Episcopalians (who had been responsible for ECUSA's proceeding against Bishop Lawrence in the first place) which calls itself "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina [ECSC]."

The suit sought a judgment declaring Bishop Lawrence's diocese to be the sole registered owner, under South Carolina law, of its official name, seal and other trademarks, and declaring that the plaintiff parishes owned their respective properties free and clear of claims by ECUSA. In its response to the complaint against it, ECUSA asserted claims for the very same trademarks, and also for the respective parish properties -- based on ECUSA's Dennis Canon.

The counterclaims of ECUSA showed that it refused to recognize the validity of the quitclaim deeds which Bishop Lawrence and his Chancellor had issued to the member parishes of the Diocese of South Carolina. Not only that, but it refused to acknowledge the ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2009 in All Saints Waccamaw Parish v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, which held that the Church's Dennis Canon (declaring a trust on all parish property) was of no force or effect in South Carolina.

Bishop Lawrence's Diocese and the other plaintiffs secured a restraining order against ECUSA and those working with it, to keep them from misappropriating the Diocese's name and trademarks. As noted, they later added the remnant group itself -- ECSC -- as a defendant, and then surprisingly, counsel for ECUSA and ECSC (Thomas Tisdale and his law firm represent both) agreed to make the restraining order into an injunction to the same effect, pending further notice or until the trial of the case.

Next, ECUSA's litigation strategy kicked in. After answering the complaint and asserting its counterclaims, ECSC filed a notice removing the case to federal district court. It claimed that the complaint raised issues of federal trademark law, and asked that court to enjoin Bishop Lawrence's Diocese from using its own name and trademarks. Almost simultaneously, ECSC's provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, filed a separate federal trademark infringement suit against Bishop Lawrence in federal district court.

Eventually, after almost eight months wasted litigating in federal court, that court remanded the main case back to the Circuit Court of Dorchester County, and dismissed Bishop vonRosenberg's separate action on the grounds that the same issues were already presented in the main case. Nothing ventured, nothing gained: Bishop vonRosenberg first asked the federal district judge to reconsider the dismissal of his lawsuit, and when the judge denied that motion just last month, Bishop vonRosenberg appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Meanwhile, the main case also saw repeated attempts by ECUSA and ECSC to widen its scope and to slow it down. First they sought discovery of all correspondence between Bishop Lawrence and his attorneys, which is ordinarily protected by the attorney-client privilege. But ECSC claimed that they were the "real" diocese for which the attorneys worked, and so they, in effect, were the client who was entitled to assert the privilege. Judge Goodstein entered an order denying their motion to compel production of the correspondence on November 18, 2013.

Next, ECSC moved to name Bishop Lawrence and other clergy members as defendants on claims of conspiracy to defraud (by allegedly scheming to take the Diocese out of ECUSA). Circuit Judge Goodstein denied that motion in an order entered on December 31, 2013. ECSC had also filed a motion with Judge Goodstein to reconsider her ruling on the motion to compel, which Judge Goodstein denied the same day.

Ordinarily, orders on discovery motions are considered to be interim, or "interlocutory" orders which, not being final, are not subject to appeal. ECSC, however, claimed that Judge Goodstein's order on their motion to compel in reality decided most of the merits of the case, because she found that ECSC had come into existence only in late January 2013 (when it met in a special convention to elect a provisional bishop and adopt a set of governing documents).

This finding, argues ECSC, in effect holds that it is not the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina that it claims to be, and so prejudges the main case as to who owns the name and trademarks. Therefore, it treated Judge Goodstein's order as one that decided ultimate matters and so was appealable. On January 13, 2014 it filed a notice of appeal from her order with the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

A notice of appeal at the end of a case suspends the jurisdiction of the trial court, and transfers the case to the Court of Appeals. An interim appeal does not necessarily have the same effect. Judge Goodstein, however, declined to let the plaintiffs proceed with noticed depositions pending the appeal, and so ECSC's move has effectively halted the proceedings below.

For that reason, Bishop Lawrence's attorneys promptly filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. ECSC responded, opposing the motion, and the matter is now up to the Court of Appeals to decide -- that is, until the motion to transfer jurisdiction to the supreme Court was filed yesterday.

The reader is now finally in a position to understand the strategy behind the motion described in the first paragraph above. The attorneys for Bishop Lawrence's Diocese and its parishes are asking the Supreme Court to take immediate jurisdiction of the appeal, instead of waiting to see how the appellate court will rule. They point out that if the appellate court were to grant the motion to dismiss, ECSC could then ask for a rehearing, and if that were also denied, it could request the Supreme Court to review the matter -- thus ending up just where the matter would be if the Supreme Court accepts a transfer of the appeal now.

One sees here also the wisdom of the strategy of Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese in being the first to go to court, ahead of ECSC's formation so that it could file a lawsuit. Indeed, as ECSC tells the Court of Appeals in its latest pleading:
It is only because the Respondents were first to the courthouse that they, instead of the Appellant, appear in this litigation under the name of the Diocese's corporations. Their fortuitous designation in the caption, however, should not entitle them to any advantage on the merits of this identity dispute.
ECUSA's standard tactic in the cases in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy had been to have its replacement entity assume the name and identity of the diocese that had withdrawn, and then claim it was in fact a continuing entity with no break in its existence. This strategy allows it to file papers with the State authorities in which its rump organizations claim to be the true owners of the bank accounts and assets of the dioceses that had voted to leave ECUSA. It is a strategy designed to engender confusion in the courts -- but it has not worked thus far in South Carolina, thanks to the pre-emptive move by Bishop Lawrence's attorneys.

And, as those same attorneys tell the South Carolina Supreme Court in their latest papers, at some point ECUSA and ECSC are going to have to acknowledge the effect of that Court's All Saints Waccamaw decision on their property claims. By ruling that a trust could be created on a parish's real property only by a declaration of trust in the proper form that was signed by the owner of the property in question, the Court made the Dennis Canon a nullity in South Carolina.

Far from breaching his "fiduciary duty" by giving the individual parishes deeds which quitclaimed any trust interest of the Diocese in their properties, as ECSC claims, Bishop Lawrence was simply acknowledging what the Supreme Court of South Carolina had declared the law to be in that State.

ECSC and its parent would be well advised to follow in the same path, and cease their disgracefully punitive and  wasteful litigation there. The utter lack of any probable chance for success in their claims should make Bishop vonRosenberg and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori liable to charges of breach of their fiduciary duties to their respective organizations: they are wasting their church's assets on a futile attempt to magnify the cost of leaving ECUSA for their opponents. That is not a proper use of a non-profit's assets, and the sooner they are held accountable by their own organizations, the better.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Milestone? Perhaps

A milestone is a marker. But what, exactly, does it mark?

It marks a point on a journey.

A journey that involves a number of milestones, so that each one informs the traveler about his progress toward the goal of the journey.

And it is the journey (not the goal itself) that lends meaning to the milestones along the way.

This blog has never been about a goal of fame, or even notoriety. Its sole mission has been to speak the truth on the journey, come what may, further along, as a consequence.* (And to give you reasons -- not just assertions -- as to why it is the truth.)

It began with a very simple post on March 7, 2008 -- nearly six years ago. The philosophy (worldview) announced then has not changed. We ask here continually the questions:
1) What makes anyone "Anglican"?

2) Does ECUSA's General Convention have the authority under ECUSA's Constitution to render ECUSA no longer Anglican (as defined in answer to #1)?

3) If not, does an Episcopalian who wishes to remain Anglican have any means by which to resist and/or fight what General Convention has done?

4) Specifically, what can confirmed Episcopalians do about (a) the apostate, but elected, leaders of ECUSA, and (b) the waste of ECUSA's resources being committed daily at 815 Second Avenue in New York City?
Everything published on this website (including the occasional "leavening") has been published with those questions continually in mind. They are questions which can never be buried, and which will never go away.

Thus it should be noted, in the context of the ongoing conflicts within ECUSA, and the larger Anglican Communion:
  • The previous post (about "Mere Anglicanism") was this site's one-thousand-and-first.

  • Since the site began recording statistics (in July 2010), it has now received almost 1,100,000 page views.

  • That works out approximately to 1,000 views per post.
So you 1,000 -- to the extent you are Episcopalians -- I hope you will use what you find here to make a difference in the Church to which we both belong, and love. (Let me know in the comments if there are any topics I have neglected which might help you.)

And for the rest of you, I hope that the truth spoken here will, in some small way, make a difference for you, as well -- in whatever situation brings you here in the first place.

Non nobis, non nobis, Domine,
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam,
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.

*As proof of this claim, let it be noted that I am publishing this 1,002nd post on Superbowl Sunday, during the game, when the blog's audience is guaranteed to be the lowest ever during the entire year.