Monday, May 07, 2007

The Heart of Property

Daily Episcopalian has just released the report of the House of Bishops' Task Force on Property Disputes. In addition to outlining the chilling schemes that have been afoot to break with The Episcopal Church and take the property, too, the report concludes with this remarkable paragraph:

As a concluding note, it has occurred to many in the Task Force that it may have been misnamed. In truth, the matters that the Task Force has found it necessary to address are much larger than mere property disputes. Experience has shown that, at the root of every property issue, there is an issue of identity and integrity, and not merely an issue of polity. In reality, it is the church “homes” of countless loyal Episcopalians, the legacy of countless Episcopalians, past and present, and the spiritual well-being of those who always have found immeasurable comfort in their church homes, that are at issue as well as the nature of TEC and Anglicanism. The strategy at play must be revealed and understood if we are to protect the faithful from having their places of worship, and the assets accumulated by generations of Episcopalians, removed from them and removed from their use in the mission of TEC.
While I confess that I have been ambivalent about the question of property (possibly because I have never owned any) in the present mess, I find these words arresting. They point to the underlying moral issue and spiritual violence that our Presiding Bishop has alluded to in recent comments.

Spiritual violence and a sense of being rootless are the fruits of schism.

Whence the fruits of the Spirit?

Update: Andrew Gerns writes a much more substantial piece on this topic over at Episcopal Café.


Anonymous said...

30 years ago my grandparents gave a large donation of the inheritance they got from their parents to the local Episcopal church, but they no longer feel they can worship there. The current priest is a firm believer in gay marriage and a disbeliever in inerrant Scripture, Christ's literal resurrection, or the idea that Christ is the only way to the Father. Can they get their money back now that the Episcopal church preaches a different religion??? If not, maybe the orthodox should be able to keep some of their property if they paid for it before the Episcopal church changed directions??? An impossible dream of course, from a family of fools who thought giving to the church was a good idea once.

R said...

Dear NonAnglican:

Might we, for the sake of argument, suppose the current priest could be followed by someone who was opposed to gay marriage, believed in Scriptural inerrancy, and Christ's literal resurrection, and taught that Christ is the only way to the Father?

We mustn't forget that one of the oldest heresies of the Church is Donatism. The belief of the current priest does not, it seems to me, invalidate the grace of your grandparents' gift -- and certainly not in God's eyes.

I cannot imagine arguing that the priest has ultimate power over the gift your grandparents gave. Nor can he or she make them or your family foolish. Nor can he or she force you to believe anything other than what you do. That, I believe, is only in your hands and heart.

All of this said, I understand your argument regarding the trust that your grandparents placed in their gift, and hence my ambivalence in the matter of property.

The real issue here, it seems to me, is one of broken community -- why you or your family might not wish to stay and stand in your beliefs, hoping to change or at least temper the teachings you so strongly disagree with.

All of us have had to live with this question at one time or another, and I recognize it is not an easy one.

Thank you for visiting here, and God's peace to you.