Insufficient funds

"Insufficient funds" Continued...

Issue: "California's new governor," Oct. 4, 2003

Some other dioceses were taking similar steps. In a resolution calling for intervention by the primates, the traditionalist-led Diocese of Fort Worth sought recognition for conservative U.S. dioceses, bishops, clergy, and congregations as "the bona fide expression both of the Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Communion in the U.S.A." (As many as a dozen or more entire dioceses could eventually vote to secede from ECUSA, some observers say.)

The conservative Diocese of Pittsburgh was expected late last week to embrace six resolutions offered by Bishop Robert Duncan, an evangelical. The most eye-popping one would return control of church property to the parishes.

Property, pensions, and health insurance are ties that bind many parishes and clergy to ECUSA; the denomination likely would fight fiercely to retain local church property. Under the "Dennis Canon," added in 1979 to the ECUSA constitution, all parish property and assets (including bank accounts) are held in trust for the denomination through its dioceses. So far, U.S. civil courts have respected this provision, even though ECUSA may not have contributed a dime to building a particular church, and even in cases where churches were chartered prior to the founding of ECUSA.

A nationwide plan regarding "re-direction" of giving by dioceses and parishes is beginning to jell. Many clergy-including rectors (pastors) of some of ECUSA's largest and most affluent parishes-are circulating a check-off slip among their members. It provides options for giving in a manner that would withhold funds from dioceses whose bishops voted for Rev. Robinson, and from ECUSA headquarters.

ECUSA stands to take a big hit when redirection fully kicks in. By some accounts, conservative churches make up one-third of ECUSA's 7,364 congregations but account for 70 percent of ECUSA income.

At St. Timothy's in Catonsville, Md., Rev. Steven Randall denounced the ECUSA actions and said his parish would no longer send its $5,000 monthly pledge to the Maryland diocese. He also said he no longer would obey his bishop, Robert Ihloff, who voted to approve Rev. Robinson and to recognize same-sex blessings. After meeting with Bishop Ihloff, Rev. Randall resigned to organize a new church nearby. He predicted most of his parish members would join him.

"The gay issue is not the real issue," Rev. Randall told reporters. "The real issue is: Does the Bible mean what it says, or can you make it mean whatever you want?"

Meanwhile, in some predominantly conservative dioceses, another kind of backlash is building. Handfuls of liberal clergy and lay members are protesting and publicly disassociating themselves from actions and pronouncements of their bishops and diocesan leaders.

The ties that bind are stretching thin.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman


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