Seven Southern California congregations previously affiliated with The Episcopal Church were sued on multiple counts in civil court recently. For at least one it will be the third time it will face an ownership challenge over title to the church property.At least two of these congregations, St. James, Newport Beach and All Saints, Long Beach, attempted to leave three years ago. They decided to join the Church of Uganda.
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church USA, the corporate arm of The Episcopal Church, is a plaintiff against all seven, four of which were formerly part of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The other three were previously affiliated with the Diocese of San Diego. The seven continue to worship at the same locations they used when they were part of The Episcopal Church...
The second bit of interesting news from The Living Church is this story; Uganda to Consecrate Virginia Priest as Missionary Bishop to the U.S.:
...The Rev. John Guernsey, rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Woodbridge, Va., was selected by the Ugandan House of Bishops to oversee its 26 congregations in 12 states. He will be consecrated Sept. 2 in Mbarara, Uganda...The close proximity of these two stories makes it appear that they are related, as if having a North American bishop will give them more validity in the eyes of the California courts. In spite of my headline, I'm not sure the two stories are related. I just liked the headline.
Note that the decision to make Guernsey a bishop was made in December of 2006. Before the Tanzanian Communique. Before the Camp David House of Bishops meeting. Note also that this makes three; Minns, Atwood and Guernsey. It takes three to make a bishop. After this consecration, they can function indepedently of any foreign bishop, if they so choose.
The reasons given by Orombi for deciding to do this now are rather absurd. The House of Bishops have rejected Tanzania? I think they should, but the final word on that is not expected until September 30, the date set by the Primates, including Orombi. There's a meeting with Canterbury planned between now and then as well. And then he mentions the Executive Council. I thought he was one of those who wanted the "little people" kept out of these deliberations? He offers a very weak justification for such a schismatic act. Obviously something else is going on.
I think this was the plan developed at least three years ago. I don't think anything that has happened since 2003 has altered those plans. And I don't anticipate anything that might happen in the near future will change them, either.
What leads me to this conclusion? A document written by Alison Barfoot (who, incidently, is now attached to the Church of Uganda) entitled "Draft proposal For Overseas AEO (Alternative Episcopal Oversight)." It is dated March 3, 2004. Here's the line that I find quite interesting:
...After several conversations with Bill Atwood of Ekklesia, John Guernsey, Martyn Minns and some clergy seeking "offshore" AEO, this proposal is being submitted as a draft for consideration of a process and protocol for establishing Overseas AEO as an interim stage to the way toward the realignment of Anglicanism in North America and the re-establishment of biblically orthodox faith as normative in North American Anglicanism...There are the three, Atwood, Guernsey and Minns, named as consultants to the Overseas AEO process back in 2004. And now it just so happens that this same trio will be the first North American bishops of this attempt at "realignment." Just a coincidence? I think not.
Events are unfolding as they were initially planned, including the consecration of bishops who were most likely chosen some years ago. What was most likely left flexible was the dates of these consecration. This latest announcement is for September 2. This will mean that by September 30, the "deadline" imposed by the Primates, they will have their three bishops in place, just in case the Primates decide to allow the development of a new Province in North America.
This is unlikely to happen, in light of how many other Primates are fed up with these pillaging Primates, and certainly don't want them going on plum picking expeditions within their Province. But if it did happen, it could indeed influence some of the secular courts, especially in California, known for its unusual judgments on similar property cases.
There's about 45 churches (actually, the more accurate number is about 36, I'm told) currently being occupied by individuals who claim to have left the Episcopal Church. In most of these cases, the actual congregation; those remaining loyal to the Episcopal Church, are being forced to worship in alternative sites. This is simply unacceptable. Regardless of what happens after September 30, or after Lambeth for that matter, I have little doubt that we'll see each one of these gentlemen in court. Theft is theft, after all, regardless of your big stick and pointy hat.