Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Retired Bishops Demand the Numbers, Again

You may recall that in July four retired bishops demanded to know where the Episcopal Church was getting the money for the lawsuits being launched to recover property taken by groups of individuals leaving TEC.

Well, these same bishops, with one additional retired bishop, have issued their demands a second time.

I'm just a parish priest, with no insider information, and little knowledge about Executive Council. But, since these bishops seem to be a bit impatient, and cannot wait for a reply from the Executive Council in October, I'm more than happy to give some answers to their questions, using little more than a computer and google, which I would assume the Right Reverend Sirs also have available.

Let's take a look at their demands more closely:

Last month, four of us wrote you to express our concern with your threats of litigation against four dioceses that affirmed their membership in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to ask you to make a public report of the following...
Talk about reframing the question! The four dioceses in question affirmed that their intention is to leave TEC, through public statements, or through canonical changes. It is the responsibility of TEC to protect property that is under threat of being taken illegally. To not do so would be fiscally irresponsible.

Now, regarding their four questions, these were mostly answered in July by Jan Nunley, but, if it will help these bishops relax, I'm happy to answer some of them again.

1 ) How much money has the Episcopal Church spent on litigation against congregations and individuals who have chosen to depart TEC since 2003? What are the sources of those funds?
In most cases, it is the individual dioceses that are using legal means to protect their properties. In some of these cases, TEC has co-filed with the diocese. Consequently, I would suspect that the amount spent by TEC is rather small. No doubt these bishops will be given a figure by the Executive Council in October. One does wonder why they want this number, however. To understand that, we need to continue with their list of demands.

Oh yes, part two of question one; what are the sources of the funds? The same source as all TEC's expenditures; the approved budget for 2007, which includes line items for Title IV expenses, property protection and legal fees, for a total of $1,162,611.

2) In what budget(s) are those expenditures accounted for?
See above.

3) Has any income from trust funds been used to support these litigations? If so, how much and from which funds?
Not according to the DFMS Budget, Monthly Statement of Operations and the Audited Financial Statements, all made available by the Finance Office.

4) How much compensation has the law firm of the Episcopal Church's chancellor, David Beers, received for servicing this litigation?
I have no idea. I'm not sure how this question is relevant. It would be safe to say that the amount would not be more than $362,611, the line item in the budget for legal fees.

The rest of the letter includes the ultimate scare tactic; suggesting that Bp. Sauls claimed money was taken from the Pension Fund. Why is this the ultimate scare tactic? As any clergy person will tell you, the Pension Fund is the real glue that has held TEC together for so long. It is a very good Fund. If these bishops can float the notion that it is being raided, they just might get the attention of the 80% of the clergy that couldn't care less about our current unpleasantness.

I've not seen the quote from Bp. Sauls. I'm not sure what he was talking about. I saw no indications from the Finance Office of any such raiding going on. This week I received the Annual Report of the Pension Fund. It detailed all activities over the last year. I saw no transfers, gifts, etc. for property protection.

I have little doubt that these five bishops will receive a more authorative answer from the Executive Council in October. While they wait, maybe they might consider answering a few questions themselves?

The following list of questions for these five retired bishops has been provided by Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton, Rector of St. Augustine's-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church on Whidbey Island, WA. They are reprinted here with his permission:

Many Episcopalians are wondering who funds the Network, who administers those funds, what their qualifications are, and who provides oversight of them. On behalf of us all, therefore:

1 ) How much money has the Network, the American Anglican Council, and the other affiliated groups spent since 2003 on preparing to abscond with real property rightfully belonging to all Episcopalians?

2) In what budget(s) are those expenditures accounted for? Where have you published the information?

3) Has any income intended for mission been diverted for use in this theft? If so, how much and from what sources?

4) How much compensation has any law firm whose principles are part of your various affiliated organizations received for servicing this theft and the consequent litigation?

I raise these concerns since there is a substantial lack of transparency regarding funding for the organizations mentioned above. As Watergate proved to us, following the money is very revealing. It is obviously not possible to assess the integrity of those who handle such funds when such funding, nor its controllers, is not made public.

Or, of course, you could simply drop your absurd, time-wasting questions to Executive Council (or simply get out more and read, since all the information is readily available if you just looked).
In case the bishops require some assistance in answering these questions, I would recommend that they begin "following the money" here.


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