February 2, 2011

St. Philip’s Update

Both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this morning that the members of St. Philip’s voted last night to accept the deal with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that would leave the church independent and free of any legal jeopardy. The agreement must be approved by Judge Joseph James. (See my earlier post, “A Fair Settlement?”)

According to the Tribune-Review, the church will make a payment to the Episcopal diocese and continue to pay the mortgage. It is a reasonable guess that the amount of the undisclosed payment is based in part on the equity built up in the property since the current St. Philip’s building was constructed.

Presumably, the Anglican diocese will not sue St. Philip’s. The spokesman for the Anglican diocese is quoted in the Tribune-Review story as saying that the diocese has already “passed a resolution” allowing for St. Philip’s’ departure. What body passed such a resolution and when was not reported.

The news release from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh in which Archbishop makes his ridiculous allegation about the First Amendment does not appear on the diocesan Web site. The Rev. Scott Homer, rector of Trinity Church, Beaver, a parish of the Anglican diocese has posted it on his blog, however. The statement ends with this peevish paragraph:
“We support the people and clergy of St. Philip’s as they face into this painful decision. It is our sincere hope that The Episcopal Church will stop these abusive and unconstitutional practices so that St. Philip’s can move forward with its mission and ministry. The desire of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is simply to hold fast to the teachings of Scripture, reach the greater Pittsburgh region with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, and serve those in need,” Archbishop Duncan concluded.
Of course, it is true that St. Philip’s has been one of the largest parishes of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, and its assessment will be a painful loss to that diocese.

By the way, Homer offered his own take on the St. Philip’s settlement in a later post.

Nothing about the settlement has yet appeared on the Web site of the Episcopal diocese, but I understand that statements and documents will be released after the signing of the agreement between the diocese and St. Philip’s, which is to take place later today.

Update, 2/2/2010, 10:30 PM: The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has sent out an e-mail message announcing and explaining the agreement with St. Philip’s and today’s Commonwealth Court decision. You can read it here.

1 comment:

  1. Fr Homer's position is hilarious. The ECUSA is simply trying to recover its property. From a policy and precedential perspective, it makes sense that the church property should not be transferred under any conditions to the secessionists. Sellers are entitled to impose whatever sale conditions that they wish, and there are lots of vacant old church buildings throughout the area which need buyers, if the sale conditions are not acceptable. The prohibition by Judge James on enforcement of his ruling is designed to encourage work-outs for property transfers, and prevent the public spectacle of the removal of the squatters. The prohibition also maintained the status quo while the appeal was pending, but did not alter the fundamental finding of ownership and right to property. Calling the position of the ECUSA "abusive and unconstitutional" reminds me of the bank robber who is caught red-handed, and then claims that he is entitled to keep the stolen property because the thief frequented the bank property, but the bank manager was unwilling to give away the money. The departed parishes overly relied on the undue influence of the former Bishop Duncan, who used Fox News tactics to build support. Whether the departing parishes acted in good faith or under color of authority is not the point. Irresponsibility and a lack of logic is not going to save their possession of the property. The property has been determined not to be owned by the rebel Anglicans, and they must give it back. To advocate otherwise is to condone theft.


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