Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nothing New under the Sun

With the heresies of the Episcopal Church (USA) still freshly assaulting my mind, I happened across this wisdom from 140 years ago:


When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins with toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. 
Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We agree to differ, and favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. 
From this point of view error soon goes on to to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departures from the Church’s faith but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate the faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it. 

Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1875), pp. 195-196.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Final Judgment in Fort Worth Case

Judge Chupp has entered a final judgment against TEC, its rump diocese of Fort Worth and its parishes, thereby ending the lawsuit in which they sought to claim the corporation, property and bank accounts owned and controlled by Bishop Jack L. Iker and his co-trustees. Judge Chupp ordered that the plaintiffs “take nothing” from their complaint. This leaves all real property, corporate control and diocesan bank accounts exactly as they were after Bishop Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave TEC in November 2008.

The TEC parties have said they plan to appeal the final judgment to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal. However, any such appeal will be guided by the “neutral principles of law” announced by the Texas Supreme Court when it reversed Judge Chupp’s original judgment in their favor, based upon his belief that he was required by Texas law to defer to the “hierarchical” Episcopal Church. Under neutral principles, the Texas courts look solely to the documents establishing a party’s title: whose name is on the deeds, what trusts have been recorded, and what (if anything) the Church’s governing documents say about a diocese’s ability to amend its own constitution so as to remove its affiliation with the Episcopal Church.

Such an appeal will probably take a year or more to resolve. The losing side could then ask the Texas Supreme Court to review the case, but its decision to do so is discretionary. The same would be true of any further request for review filed with the United States Supreme Court after the Texas courts have finished with the appeal.

In the meantime, the parties are settling upon terms for Judge Chupp to approve next month that will allow the TEC-aligned congregation of All Saints to continue to worship in the same church it has been using since the lawsuit began, until the appeal is decided. The congregation claimed to own title to all of its property, but an examination of the facts under neutral principles showed that the deeds to the actual church property were in the name of Bishop Iker’s diocesan corporation, which the court declared was the owner of All Saints. Bishop Iker is showing a good deal of Christian charity toward the congregation, which had written him a letter at the outset of the litigation threatening to take him personally to court should he venture on the property. Most recently, they rebuffed again his efforts at conciliation, and would not acknowledge his authority.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Rout (not Rule) of Law

I am an attorney, licensed to practice law in California (and also to appear in a number of federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court). As such, I take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and I take the oath seriously.

The Justices of the Supreme Court take two oaths upon entering their lifetime offices, which you may read here. Suffice it to say that each Justice undertakes "to support and defend" our Constitution, and to "faithfully and impartially" perform the duties of their office. After the 5-4 "decision" last month in Obergefell v. Hodges, there is a legitimate question as to whether Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan any longer respect their oaths.

Are those strong words? They are intended to be. Consider just this fact:

Well before the Obergefell case ever came to the Supreme Court, both Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan officiated at same-sex marriage ceremonies. Yet neither of them saw fit to recuse themselves from deciding whether same-sex marriages must be imposed on all States under the Fourteenth Amendment. They simply ignored the request to do so, because it was filed not by a party to the case, but by amici curiae ("friends of the court", who may offer advice, but are not actual parties).

How does the Justices' insistence on participating in the decision reflect any impartiality in the matter whatsoever? Their minds were already closed on the subject.

Imagine the left's outrage if two lawyer-obstetricians had been on the Court in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided, and their votes had changed the outcome to one that refused to make an abortion a federal constitutional right. But when two liberal Justices see no reason to recuse themselves for having already performed same-sex marriages, nobody (not even the parties!) makes a peep.

As for Justice Kennedy, he broke his oath by legislating from the bench -- i.e., climbing out of his role as judge and deciding by fiat to impose what he thought was the constitutionally required definition of "marriage" upon America. The other four Justices, including Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, signed onto his legislative usurpation without a single qualm, so they are just as complicit in the violation of their oaths.

Note for the five Justices in the "majority": the word "marriage" nowhere appears in the United States Constitution. So where, pray tell us, do you find the source of your power to define the word for the entire country?

Answer: Nowhere. Justice Kennedy and his four cohorts simply asserted that authority.

Once five Supreme Court Justices decide to abjure their oaths, and make up the law for the occasion, what is left of our much-touted "rule of law"? It has become a rout -- and nothing deserving of our respect, to say naught of allegiance.

We have a lawless President, who changes or suspends the laws at will, and ignores whatever he doesn't like.

We have a lawless Congress, who has to vote to pass laws before they can know what they contain, and who routinely (and fraudulently) exempts itself from the laws to which it subjects the rest of us.

And now we have the ultimate oxymoron -- a lawless Supreme Court.

When all three branches of the national government show such contempt for the rule of law, one might expect anarchy to result, but instead (because of the powers already vested in them) we get Animal Farm. The resulting elitism of those within the Beltway turns our country's founding principle on its head.

Once the common folk begin to grasp the fact that there is no leadership, but only lawlessness, and competition to "get mine first", the country may have to resort to martial law to preserve order. Such an extreme measure in response to an external threat (such as invasion) would be understandable. But in response to internal unrest engendered by elitist lawlessness, it will be a tragedy for the republic.

People need to use Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media not just for chatter, but to begin holding their elected leaders (and unelected judges) accountable. Without accountability, there can be no responsibility.

And where there is no responsibility, there can be no republic, but only a descent into tyranny.

Maybe Robinson Jeffers was prescient:

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire

And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.

Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly

A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption

Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.

There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say – God, when he walked on earth.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Charges Filed against +Bruno by Clergy and Parishioners

The heavy-handed treatment meted out by Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles to the parish of St. James the Great in Newport Beach, as reported in this post, has backfired. Members of the parish, as well as a number of clergy in the Diocese, have joined in filing charges against him which allege that he repeatedly lied and misrepresented his intentions to them, and that he is attempting to sell the valuable property on which their church is located without any appraisal, and at far below its market value.

A copy of the complaint is at this link, and an "emergency supplement" is at this link. The names of the signatories have not been disclosed in order to protect them from retaliation until the Disciplinary Board for Bishops can act on the charges. Under the Canons, the charges are reviewed first by Bishop  F. Clayton Matthews, the Intake Officer for the Disciplinary Board. If he finds them presentable (capable of being made a formal presentment under the disciplinary canons), he will convene a Review Panel, consisting of himself, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the Disciplinary Board. The latter is a bishop who is soon to be elected for a new three-year term following General Convention; until his successor is so elected, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, Jr. will function in that role.

There is a timeline of the Diocese's and Bishop's various dealings and interactions with the St. James parish and its Vicar on the Website organized to publicize this affair, www.SaveSaintJamesthe Also linked there are a number of letters written by the parish to other clergy in the Diocese and to the Church at large. They detail a scenario of unbelievable ham-handedness and insensitivity which has brought the matter to its current state of intensity. And so as not to be out of character, the Bishop apparently has left on a month's vacation!

The new charges will add to his recent woes. After the news came out that Bishop Bruno purportedly had arranged a "sweetheart" private deal with a developer -- no bids or listing of the property, but just terms worked out with a single buyer who wants to erect a suite of expensive townhomes on the property -- he received a letter from the original developer of Lido Isle (the area of Newport Beach where St. James is located), the Griffith Corporation. That letter informed him something he ought to have known already: that the property on which the church stands was gifted to the Diocese for use only for church purposes. Griffith stated that if he went through with the proposed sale, the property would automatically revert back to it.

The letter caused Bishop Bruno to instruct his attorneys immediately to sue the Griffith Corporation for "slander of title" -- a rather heavy-handed response to the donor of one's most valuable property. You can read the complaint and see the original deed of gift at this link  -- the deed restriction is for real, and the courts enforce them as written.

It will be interesting to watch this scenario play out -- whether the Bishop can remain on top of the situation will require that he first rein in his attack dogs, and begin treating donors and parishioners for the valued assets they are. Meanwhile, some useful information is emerging. According to this letter to the Diocesan Standing Committee, Bishop Bruno told the parish that he was trying to recoup the Diocese's litigation expenses (incurred in suing four former parishes, including the previous congregation of St. James) of Nine Million Dollars. That is five million dollars greater than I had estimated in tallying up all the costs of Church litigation, as reported in this post.

Now that original litigation has mushroomed into further lawsuits and disciplinary charges. That's quite an achievement for just one Episcopal bishop! Multiply it seventy times over, and perhaps you can begin to see why it is a wonder that there are any parishioners at all left in the Episcopal Church.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Warning

From my good friend John, who quoted this on his Orthodox blog Ad Orientem (with my own emphasis added):
The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character. We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!’
- Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and all Russia

There is really nothing more to say. I'm afraid the West is in for it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Selling Out America and Israel in 12 Lessons

This video is, quite simply, the most devastating indictment of our current "negotiations" with Iran I have ever seen. Please share it widely.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sweet Poetic Justice for the Bishop of LA

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, he of the forkèd tongue, has finally met with a degree of poetic justice worthy of his nefarious aims. I have previously reported in these pages the long and tortuous saga of the parish of St. James, Newport Beach, which had no stomach for the revisionist tendencies of either Bishop Bruno or his Episcopal Church (USA), and which voted in 2004 to leave the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The usual lawsuit by the Diocese ensued, joined later in a separate suit by the "new sheriff in town," the Most Rev. Katharine Jeffers Schori. Both maintained that the infamous Dennis Canon operated, under California law, to prevent the congregation from departing ECUSA with its property as its own.

The case found its way to the California Supreme Court, which triumphantly applied the Dennis Canon to conclude on demurrer -- i.e., before St. James had even answered the complaint -- that the trust imposed by the Dennis Canon overrode every other claim to the property. Since the parish was no longer a part of the Episcopal Church, it no longer had any ownership interest in the property (despite the deeds being all in its name), which the Supreme Court concluded now belonged to the Diocese.

The case had to undergo a further appeal to the California Supreme Court before it clarified its ruling to say that if the facts alleged in the complaints by the Diocese and ECUSA were proved true, then the parish would no longer own its property. Along the way, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take cognizance of the case, no doubt because it had not yet even gone to trial.

The parish of St. James rested a huge part of its defense on the strength of a letter its donors had requested and received from the Diocese of Los Angeles, which stated (under the signature of the Bishop's right-hand aide, his Canon to the Ordinary) that the Diocese "waived" any Dennis Canon interest in the property being purchased by wealthy donors to St. James, so that it could expand its premises without worrying about any future reversionary interest.

Finally, in 2013, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim Dunning ruled on the Diocese's and ECUSA's motions for summary judgment that the parish could not retain the property under the Dennis Canon even though the Diocese had waived the Canon's application (to at least one of the parish's parcels). She did so on the ground that because the Dennis Canon was a creation of the national Church, only the national Church could "waive" the interest it created in parish property.

Consequently, she held, the letter written by the Diocese was "ineffective" to cancel out the national Church's Dennis Canon interest. And given that conclusion, the Dennis Canon triumphed again, so that the Diocese was entitled to the real property.

After some preliminary maneuvers, the parish of St. James, in a very painful decision reached in September 2013, resolved to vacate the property, and not to take any further appeals. This left the church free for the congregation that wished to remain in the Episcopal Church (USA).

By all accounts, that congregation took over the management of the property and began, under a dedicated vicar, to grow its numbers. However, after they had been using the property for about a year, Bishop Bruno (he of the forkèd tongue, remember) announced he had sold the property to an oceanfront developer, for a rumored price of $15 million (more than twice its appraised value), who planned to raze the beautiful church buildings and put up a mixed use apartment and commercial complex on the oceanfront property.

The remnant congregation was shocked and angered by this sudden decision. Their vicar bravely filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court in an attempt to block the proposed sale. It emerged from the legal documents that although the Diocese of Los Angeles had taken over title to the property after the Anglican congregation vacated the buildings, Bishop Bruno had surreptitiously arranged for the transfer of its title into his corporation sole. By definition, such a corporation has only one officer -- the sitting bishop -- and thus he can make decisions about property it holds without having to obtain approval from any other people or bodies in the Diocese.

Despite the lawsuit and protests by the congregation and others in the diocese, Bishop Bruno and his diocese went ahead with plans for the sale. The vicar said good-bye to her parish after holding her last service there just a week ago. And it looked as though the sale would proceed, even though the buyer would (in my view) have been foolish to ignore the Superior Court's ruling that only the national Church could release its Dennis Canon trust interest in the property

And now -- enter God's poetic justice. It seems that Bishop Bruno, who is as quick as any Episcopal Church diocesan to recognize a Dennis Canon interest in property when he comes across one, forgot about an earlier reversionary interest in the St. James parish property. It turns out that the original developer of the area, Griffith Company, donated in 1945 the land on which the beautiful St. James building was erected, to the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, upon "the condition, covenant and restriction" that
The property conveyed shall be used for church purposes exclusively and no building other than a church and appurtenances shall be erected, placed or maintained thereon. The foregoing restriction shall be binding upon the [Bishop], his successors and assigns. Upon the breach of the foregoing condition, the title to said property ... shall become at once divested from the [Bishop], his successors and assigns, and shall revert and revest in the grantor [Griffith Company], its successors or assigns.   
Thus if Bishop Bruno carries out his plans to sell the property to the current developer, the only thing that developer could do with the property is maintain the existing church building on it (or build a brand-new one). And thus there is no way a developer would pay $15 million for land that is so encumbered.

Has Bishop Bruno taken the news like a man, and canceled the sale?

Bishop Bruno? Are you kidding? He has filed a "slander of title" lawsuit against the Griffith Company, in which he maintains that the donor released its reversionary interest in the property in 1984, when it agreed to allow three of the four original St. James parcels to be used for the construction of a church parking lot (an "ancillary" use). He claims that this act freed the property of its restriction, so that to revive the claim in 2015 amounts to denigrating the Diocese's free and clear title to the property ("slander of title").

Well, two can play at that game. One of the interesting features about a claim for slander of title under California law is that the party who prevails in the lawsuit may ask to be awarded its attorneys' fees.

So the Diocese of Los Angeles, already out of pocket some $4 to $5 million in its battle to recover the St. James property, and hoping to turn it into a neat $10 million net profit, may face still more legal costs and attorneys' fees, only to find out that the property has to remain a church after all. (Or, more likely, Bishop Bruno's lawsuit is just an opening gambit in a game that will end in a settlement to divide the loot from the property with the Griffith Company and leave the congregation out in the cold.)

Stay tuned as we follow the future developments of this most circuitous church property case in the entire history of ECUSA.