Monday, March 22, 2010

An Infernally Symbolic Act

People who follow Stand Firm closely may have noticed a couple of times when I've tangled with Matt Kennedy. I don't know all the details of his long battle with his bishop, and I've been reluctant to endorse his "we can take this parish and attach it to some other bishop" ecclesiology. He and I have rather different views on Rowan Williams.

That said, possibly no act more perfectly epitomizes the current conflict between the presiding bishop's office and her subjects than the fate of the buildings in Binghamton, New York, formerly occupied by the Kennedys' parish. While they have been graciously accommodated by the local RC parish, the former Church of the Good Shepherd has not reopened. It has come out, instead, that it is being sold to a muslim group, one presumes for use as a mosque, at a price one third of what the departing parish offered to pay for it.

Thus we defend our faith.


Anonymous said...

Some of the commentators on the right assume the particular sale was done out of spite. I doubt that, as DCNY is in poor financial shape, and they probably were cutting their losses. But I can't help but wonder if anyone in the bishops office thought about the logic of what they were doing. Not just the money. For example, the group they sold too is almost certainly less GLBT friendly than the group they kicked out.

What I find interesting is the reaction to this story that I've seen from some commentators from the left in the Anglican blogs I've perused - who can't seem to see the symbolism at all, accidental or not that it may be.


C. Wingate said...

I doubt it was done specifically to spite the old parish. Of course, if they were that hard up for money they could have cut the price by half instead of two-thirds. But that would have cut against the Dictate From On High that properties were not to be sold to competitors for the Anglican brand name.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is no way to directly compare, given different heirarchical structures, but I wonder if other mainline churches (Presbyterians?) also treat breakaway parishes in a similar graceless manner.

In DCNY (my former diocese) there were 3 parishes wishing to disaffiliate; all 3 church buildings eventually were returned to the diocese (by now they may all be sold), all 3 congregations are doing fine in their new homes from what I understand. I believe one of them (Vestal NY - Fr Tony Seel's parish) didn't put up a legal fight; the other two did, and the diocese must have paid a considerable sum to evict them, as +Adams hired top dollar Syracuse lawyers, and the cases went on for quite some time. The details of Good Shepherd are pretty well known around the Anglican blogosphere - I think much less was publicized about the legal battle with St Andrews in Syracuse. I remember that one because +Adams legal strategy included suing the individual parish member of St Andrews, a move which the judge hearing the various motions threw out. There's something unsettling about a bishop targetting church volunteers, and presumably being willing to bankrupt them over the disagreement.

Whatever one might think about +Adams, it's clear he didn't count the costs, as is probably the case with the other bishops that are going along with the take-no-prisoners legal strategy of 815.

- Steve

C. Wingate said...

There have been some similar fights over the years with various Presbyterian churches. I haven't followed the details but IIRC a lot of precedents relied on by 815 involved Presbyterian conflicts. OTOH the conflicts in those cases weren't so personalized: Presbyterian ministers are completely powerless, and there are no bishops at higher levels. And there is no intrinsic legitimacy issue with splitting, not just because of the lack of a notion of sacramental continuity, but also because Presbyterians in this country were always split up. PCUSA only dates from 1983, and there were conservative Calvinist septs (e.g. the Orthodox Presbyterians) long before that.