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Twenty-First Century Excommunication: Episcopalian Style

October 7th, 2011
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Mollie Ziegler-Hemingway has a fantastic article today in the Wall Street Journal’s Houses of Worship section, titled, Twenty-First Century Excommunication . It is a fascinating insight into what’s going on now in the ECUSA as it handles dissenters. Apparently, the ECUSA, a church body that continues to experience declining numbers of adherents, still has enough funds left in its investments to effectively hunt down and persecute dissenting congregations. Here’s a snippet of the article:

When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque. The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn’t been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she’d rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

Read the whole article here.

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  1. Darren
    October 7th, 2011 at 11:01 | #1

    Any time I see Bishopess Schori mentioned I’m reminded that I haven’t checked out the bad vestments website in awhile.

  2. Rahn Hasbargen
    October 7th, 2011 at 13:58 | #2

    Now, you have my curiosity–What is the LCMS stance on congregations or other affiliated entities (such as seminaries, etc.) that dissent with the polices of the LCMS enough to leave synod? I seem to remember one of the conventions during the Presidency of Rev. Kieschnick passing resoultions that would allow the synod to act in a similar manner to the way the ECUSA does. Please clarify the LCMS capabilities in this situation…….

    • October 7th, 2011 at 14:10 | #3

      The LCMS, as a church body, has no ownership of, or control over, the properties of the congregations which are members of the Synod. There is nothing comparable to what is happening in the ECUSA, to what is happening in The LCMS. I’m not aware of any resolution giving any Synodical official or entity any such authority.

  3. Ken Larson
    October 24th, 2011 at 19:37 | #4

    @ Paul McCain,
    You are correct that the LCMS has “no ownership of, or control over” congregational property. Article VII, para 2: “2. Membership of a congregation in the Synod gives the Synod no equity in the property of the congregation.” (I do not know anything about LCEF loan provisions in cases of default, division, or dissolution.) However, some determination must be made if a congregation divides or dissolves.

    I am not an attorney, but it is my understanding from informal contacts that if the congregation has *not* provided for property distribution in the event of division or dissolution, state laws operate to effect transfer of property to the judicatory of which that congregation is a member. (See, for example, Florida Statutes Chapter 617, Sections 2004-2005, which appear to speak to dissolution). Congregations may be wise to check their constitutions and make provision for this event. They may also want to check with an attorney familiar with applicable state laws.

    Again, not being an attorney, I cannot give legal advice. However, for guidance, you may want to check http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1193 and search that PDF document for “dissolve.” Many / most (?) congregations have followed that particular guideline using the following or similar wording:

    “11.0 DIVISION
    It is an unhappy fact of life that disagreements occur in Christian congregations, and that at times the end result is not reconciliation but a parting of the ways. It is best to set down the principles far in advance that will govern such a situation if it should occur. Congregations should consult with local and state laws when making decision regarding disposal of properties. While the following example suggests reversion of properties to the district, the congregation is at liberty to determine the recipients of its properties.
    Example:
    If at any time a division of the congregation should take place for any reason, the
    following principles will govern.
    11.1 The property of the congregation and all benefits connected therewith shall remain with those communicant members who continue to adhere in confession and practice to the confessional standards set forth in this constitution.
    11.2 In the event that the congregation dissolves, all property shall be disposed of by the final voters assembly for the payment of debts and all just claims against the congregation, and any and all surplus and all rights connected therewith shall be conveyed to and become the property of the __________ District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.”

  4. Pr_McCanless
    October 27th, 2011 at 11:13 | #5

    Hell hath no fury, like a Bishopette spurned! [rolleyes]

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