Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chesterton on the Meaning and Significance of Easter

Another Chesterton reading from The Everlasting Man (1925) -- this time from Part 2, ch. 3 ("The Strangest Story in the World"):

The poor to whom he preached the good news, the common people who heard him gladly, the populace that had made so many popular heroes and demigods in the old pagan world, showed also the weaknesses that were dissolving the world [of the first century]. They suffered the evils often seen in the mob of the city, and especially the mob of the capital, during the decline of a society.

The same thing that makes the rural population live on tradition makes the urban population live on rumour. Just as its myths at the best had been irrational, so its likes and dislikes are easily changed by baseless assertion that is arbitrary without being authoritative.

Some brigand or other was artificially turned into a picturesque and popular figure and run as a kind of candidate against Christ. In all this we recognise the urban population that we know, with its newspaper scares and scoops. But there was present in this ancient population an evil more peculiar to the ancient world.

We have noted it already as the neglect of the individual, even of the individual voting the condemnation and still more of the individual condemned.

It was the soul of the hive; a heathen thing.

The cry of this spirit also was heard in that hour, 'It is well that one man die for the people.'

Yet this spirit in antiquity of devotion to the city and to the state had also been in itself and in its time a noble spirit. It had its poets and its martyrs; men still to be honoured for ever.

It was failing through its weakness in not seeing the separate soul of a man, the shrine of all mysticism; but it was only failing as everything else was failing.

The mob went along with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the philosophers and the moralists. It went along with the imperial magistrates and the sacred priests, the scribes and the soldiers, that the one universal human spirit might suffer a universal condemnation; that there might be one deep, unanimous chorus of approval and harmony when Man was rejected of men.

They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body.

There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars.

For in that second cavern [N.B.: for Chesterton, the "first" was the cave in which Jesus was born on the outskirts of Bethlehem] the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried.

It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived.

But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night.

What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener, God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Visible Power of Our Prayers

From the Christian Broadcasting Network comes this moving video illustrating the power of our prayers, in a most unexpected way:

A blessed Easter sabbath to you and your loved ones.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chesterton for Holy Week: the Riddles of the Gospel

An excerpt for Holy Week from G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man (Pt. II, ch. 2 - "The Riddles of the Gospel"):

I maintain therefore that a man reading the New Testament frankly and freshly would not get the impression of what is now often meant by a human Christ. The merely human Christ is a made-up figure, a piece of artificial selection, like the merely evolutionary man.

Moreover there have been too many of these human Christs found in the same story, just as there have been too many keys to mythology found in the same stories. Three or four separate schools of rationalism have worked over the ground and produced three or four equally rational explanations of his life. The first rational explanation of his life was that he never lived. And this in turn gave an opportunity for three or four different explanations; as that he was a sun-myth or a corn-myth, or any other kind of myth that is also a monomania. Then the idea that he was a divine being who did not exist gave place to the idea that be was a human being who did exist.

In my youth it was the fashion to say that he was merely an ethical teacher in the manner of the Essenes, who had apparently nothing very much to say that Hillel or a hundred other Jews might not have said; as that it is a kindly thing to be kind and an assistance to purification to be pure. Then somebody said he was a madman with a Messianic delusion. Then others said he was indeed an original teacher because he cared about nothing but Socialism; or (as others said) about nothing but Pacifism.

Then a more grimly scientific character appeared who said that Jesus would never have been heard of at all except for his prophecies of the end of the world. He was important merely as a Millennarian like Dr. Cumming; and created a provincial scare by announcing the exact date of the crack of doom. Among other variants on the same theme was the theory that he was a spiritual healer and nothing else; a view implied by Christian Science, which has really to expound a Christianity without the Crucifixion in order to explain the curing of Peter's wife's mother or the daughter of a centurion.

There is another theory that concentrates entirely on the business of diabolism and what it would call the contemporary superstition about demoniacs; if Christ, like a young deacon taking his first orders, had got as far as exorcism and never got any further.

Now each of these explanations in itself seems to me singularly inadequate; but taken together they do suggest something of the very mystery which they miss. There must surely have been something not only mysterious but many sided about Christ if so many smaller Christs can be carved out of him.

If the Christian Scientist is satisfied with him as a spiritual healer and the Christian Socialist is satisfied with him as a social reformer, so satisfied that they do not even expect him to be anything else, it looks as if he really covered rather more than they could be expected to expect. And it does seem to suggest that there might be more than they fancy in these other mysterious attributes of casting out devils or prophesying doom.

Above all, would not such a new reader of the New Testament stumble over something that would startle him much more than it startles us? I have here more than once attempted the rather impossible task of reversing time and the method; and in fancy looking forward to the facts instead of backward through the memories. So I have imagined the monster that man might have seemed at first to the mere nature around him.

We should have a worse shock if we really imagined the nature of Christ named for the first time. What should we feel at the first whisper of a certain suggestion about a certain man? Certainly it is not for us to blame anybody who should find that first wild whisper merely impious and insane. On the contrary, stumbling on that rock of scandal is the first step. Stark staring incredulity is a far more loyal tribute to that truth than a modernist metaphysic would make it out merely a matter of degree. It were better to rend our robes with a great cry against blasphemy, like Caiaphas in the judgment, or to lay hold of the man as a maniac possessed of devils like the kinsmen and the crowd, than to stand stupidly debating fine shades of pantheism in the presence of so catastrophic a claim.

There is more of the wisdom that is one with surprise in any simple person full of the sensitiveness of simplicity, who should expect the grass to wither and the birds to drop dead out of the air when a strolling carpenter's apprentice said calmly and almost carelessly like one looking over his shoulder: 'Before Abraham was, I am.'

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fearless Ephraim Radner+ Brings ECUSA's Ham-handedness to Court's Attention

My hat goes off to the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner. He has done what ECUSA's thought police never expected anyone to do -- he has called them on their crass witness-intimidation scheme, by writing directly to the justices of the Texas Supreme Court in the pending Ft. Worth case (click to enlarge):

 On first learning of this letter, and seeing that it was stamped "Received" -- but not "Filed" (and it looks as though the clerk doing the stamping forgot to set the proper month on the stamp, since it obviously should read "MAR 11 2013") -- I was afraid that the Court clerk would treat it as an ex parte communication, in this case from a non-party. (Any communication to a court -- written or oral -- made by a party without involving or notifying the other parties to a case is deemed "ex parte" and hence improper; judges are not allowed to receive such communications.)

However, I am reliably informed by counsel in the case that the Court has treated the letter as a supplemental amicus filing, so that it is now an official part of the record in the case. That means that the justice who is currently writing the Court's opinion in the case will have seen it, as will all the other justices on the Court. And your Curmudgeon (for one) fervently hopes it stirs up their ire against ECUSA! Ham-handed attempts to intimidate and punish testimony in court should always get the treatment they deserve.

ECUSA will now have to respond to the letter, in some fashion. Actually -- not in just any old fashion; I can predict what they will say. Indeed, I know their brazenness so well by now that I could almost write the letter for them:

"To the Justices of the Supreme Court of Texas:

"The letter you received from the Rev. Ephraim Radner, an ordained priest in The Episcopal Church, was not sent under the authority of the Bishop of Colorado, the Diocese in which the Rev. Radner is canonically resident. It constitutes yet another lapse on his part from the clerical discipline of the Church which he has made his vocation, and as such may be the subject of further disciplinary proceedings under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church -- to which all clergy bind themselves to obey upon their ordination.

"As this Court is well aware, matters of internal Church discipline are not cognizable in civil courts of law. (Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the United States v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696, 713-17  [1976], and cases cited.) Moreover, the Church's own Canons prohibit anyone who is subject to them from having 'resort to the secular courts for the purpose of interpreting the Constitution and Canons, or for the purpose of resolving any dispute arising thereunder, or for the purpose of delaying, hindering or reviewing or affecting in any way any proceeding under this Title.' (Canon IV.14.2, a true copy of which is enclosed with this letter.)

"Indeed, Section 1 of that same Canon provides:

Disciplinary proceedings under this Title are neither civil nor criminal, but ecclesiastical in nature and represent determinations by this Church of who shall serve as Members of the Clergy of this Church and further represent the polity and order of this hierarchical Church. Clergy who have voluntarily sought and accepted ordination in this Church have given their express consent and subjected themselves to the discipline of this Church and may not claim in proceedings under this Title constitutional guarantees afforded to citizens in other contexts.
"Accordingly, the actions which this Church saw fit to take in response to the civil court filings by the Rev. Radner and others 'represent the polity and order of this hierarchical Church', and may not be the subject of any kind of review by this Court, in this particular case or in any other. We respectfully suggest that this Court ignore the content of the Rev. Radner's unauthorized communication to it, and proceed to decide this matter as though the same had never been sent."

We shall see just how ECUSA chooses to respond, but I can predict that it will be along the lines just given. Whatever they do, they will brazen it out, and not back down in the slightest -- which is why one would like to see a court, for just once, give them their comeuppance!

Once again, kudos to Father Radner for being the forthright and courageous person that he is. (But I would also suggest that he consult with a canon law attorney at his earliest convenience.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Americans, Pray for Your Country

I cannot bear to embed the video on this blog. It is entitled "The Conversation [among] the Thought Leaders of Tomorrow", and Iowahawk introduces it with these words:

TGIF, and get your stopwatches ready! It's time to play...How Long Can You Take an Argument Between Campus Lefties? 
You must watch it, I am sorry to say, but you do not have to do it right now, if you just settled down for a nice, quiet read at The Anglican Curmudgeon. Better to save the link for a moment when you are appropriately fortified against what C.S. Lewis so presciently warned us of in The Screwtape Letters -- for this is truly the vision of what hell must be like:

You have been warned. The Curmudgeon accepts no responsibility for your reaction. But please do come back here to share your more sober thoughts on the irreversible (so it would seem) decline in the ability of our future citizens to entertain a rational and informed discourse.

Monday, March 18, 2013

[Comic Relief] Paper Is Not Yet Dead!

Unfortunately, Vimeo won't let anyone embed this video yet, but it is one of the cleverest commercials (given its subject) I've seen in years. Just click on the aqua link in the window, or else on this one, then click the "Play" arrow, and enjoy.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ah, the Recriminations of a Liberal Scorned

The current ECUSA rector occupying The Falls Church (pending the outcome of the ACNA congregation's  appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court), the Rev. John Ohmer, writes "An open letter to The Rev. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Anglican". He begins by quoting, of all things, from Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (5:7-8):
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.”
More about this strange selection later. Below is a partial text, with my fisks inserted as appropriate.
Dear Rev. Baucum, I’m writing in response to your "Peacemaking for Now" letter of March 14, 2013.
For some time, you’ve been reaching out in personal friendship with the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.  
In praise and recognition of this good work, you received, and posted on your own blog, many encouraging words from – in your own words – “some of the most orthodox leaders in Anglicanism,” including Nicky Gumbel and now-Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. 
You said that the reason you started this work of conversation and reconciliation were things you were seeing in your congregation, namely,  
“a reluctance to reach out to different groups in our community, and there would be theological rationalizations for some of this,”
 but then you said,
 “as I dug beneath it, what I realized was there was fear. And I saw fear in different places, and then I realized you know, I couldn’t just tell people to reach out to people and places they were afraid of. I had to lead by example.” 
Your insight -- that fear causes us to turn away from relationships with people who are different from us – is spot on. 
The writer sets up his false thesis by a wordplay on the meaning of "fear": avoidance of the heterodox ("people who are different from us") is caused only by fear -- but fear of what? Fear of just the differences, or a healthy instinct to avoid straying from the path of the Gospel? Then he misuses Tory Baucum's words to complete the set-up:
You also said, “John tells us that perfect love casts out fear. I think the corollary is also true, perfect fear casts out love.”
We will see shortly what the writer wants to do with Fr. Baucum's loosely devised corollary. The meaning of "perfect love" in the context of 1 John is very clear -- it is the perfect love of our creator, God. But what is the meaning of "perfect fear" -- especially if, as I say, the word "fear" is being used in the sense of a healthy instinct to avoid the heretical? For it was Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, who warned them that by listening to the Judaizers, and adopting their false premises, they were straying from the path he had shown to them. And notice how the writer quickly inverts the meaning of Paul's text:
But you overcame that fear, and you did, in fact, lead by example. You inspired, and gave hope to many of us around the world, including even Canon Andrew White in Baghdad, Iraq: now there’s someone who knows conflict, and how to stand up to those who would silence the voice of love. 
You were doing good, godly work.  
You were running a good race.  
But then in your letter of March 14, you said you’re ending this work with Bishop Shannon.  
As Paul asked, “Who cut in on you, who hindered you from obeying the truth?” 
Wait a minute, wait a minute. To whom did Paul direct that question?

Answer: The Galatians.

And just who were the Galatians?

Answer: They were Gentile converts in Asia Minor whom Paul had won to the Gospel of Christ.

What "truth" was Paul talking about their having been hindered from obeying?

Answer: The truth of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ died to save their sins, and that His death was a full, complete and perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

Paul was not castigating the Galatians for being fearful of heretics, but just the opposite: for fraternizing with heretics and for buying their false gospel, namely, that they could become just like the Jews, and hence saved for God, by practicing circumcision. If the Galatians could save themselves by practicing circumcision, Paul pointed out, Christ's sacrifice for them was completely unnecessary.

But our writer is undeterred by his misuse of Paul's words. For he has an ulterior motive in writing this "open letter" to Fr. Baucum: he really wants to strike at Bishop Guernsey, for having the audacity to shepherd his flock. After quoting Paul's question to the Galatians, he answers it as follows:
Wait; we know the answer to that: it was Bishop John Guernsey, that’s who.  
Bishop Guernsey, alarmed over the fact that Bishop Johnston welcomed a non-orthodox biblical scholar to speak in the Diocese of Virginia, came to a “determination that this relationship with Bishop Johnston can no longer continue.”  
This persuasion is not from him who calls you
And he quotes Galatians again! This is not exegesis, but eisegesis -- of the most infernal kind.

Translation of what the writer is actually saying: "The 'determination' made by Bishop Guernsey to cut off your dealings with Bishop Johnston was not a call from God."

Then, if not a godly admonition from one's own bishop, what in the world was it? Back to our writer:
But apparently Bishop Guernsey threatened you with discipline, and you obeyed.  
I get that: I am, after all, from a hierarchical church. 
This is too rich! One who is subject to arbitrary persecution from Title IV review committees in the world of +Katharine Jefferts Schori readily imagines how Bishop Guernsey "apparently" threatened Fr. Baucum with discipline.  There is just one problem, however: there is no evidence whatsoever of any such threat. What Bishop Guernsey actually wrote was this (bold emphasis added):
"I have talked with Tory Baucum about this. He is grieved over this situation and agrees with my determination that this relationship with Bishop Johnston can no longer continue."
So having compared the Truro congregation and Father Baucum to the Galatians, and Bishop Johnston and his Virginia Episcopalians (unwittingly) to the Judaizers, what is left of our writer's thesis? He has shot himself in the foot, but is completely unaware of how he managed to do so.

The rest of his letter is a long, tortured ad hominem argument which manages to defend John Dominic Crossan by comparing him (favorably) to former Archbishop Peter Akinola, and by pointing out that the non-celibate lesbian whom Bishop Johnston ordained in the writer's own church can author a Christian sermon when she is of a mind to. (He does not cite us, however, to any sermon of hers on the subject of Mt 19:3-6, which would be instructive.)

And then, in a final irony, he returns to Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Which raises just one question:

If the Galatians are the Truro congregation, then who is Paul, calling them back to the faith they originally received?

Somehow I don't see it being Bishop Johnston. Try again, Fr. Ohmer.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Eerie Parallels

It is now virtually a cliché to write: "As California goes, so goes the nation."

We all know that California is also the outpost of extreme progressivism (pace, Mayor Bloomberg), which seeks to protect you from (1) cigarette smoking -- even if conducted outdoors; (2) foie gras of any kind, since it can be made only by "torturing" geese; (3) plastic shopping bags; and (4) numerous other shibboleths too idiotic to relate in any detail.

Should it come as any surprise, therefore, that San Francisco (if California leads the nation, then San Francisco leads California) now wants to ban the actual words of militant Hamas jihadists from being reproduced in public, on the ground that the act of reproduction (and not the words themselves) constitutes a form of "hate speech" against Islam? Rather than admit that the words are hate speech against Jews and Israel?

No? It's no surprise? Well, I thought so -- apparently California now lacks the ability to surprise any of us. So are the nannies firmly ensconced in our political arena.

However, now comes proof as well that the speech-nannies are in full charge also of our Episcopal Church (USA). The proof is in the form of the gloriously mis-monikered "Accord" published by ECUSA late last Friday -- after the main news cycle -- and thus guaranteed to escape the notice of most Episcopalians. (It was also announced on the eve of the spring meeting of the House of Bishops, where the episcopal complainants were face-to-face with the four diocesan bishops who signed the Accord.)

The Accord has been the subject of many comments on blogs, and of one piece by the Anglican Communion Institute, but to my knowledge no one has thus far looked at its implications. Its long gestation period (the settlement of the Title IV charges against the nine bishops was announced in early January) bespeaks a protracted negotiation over its details -- or perhaps over just who would agree to sign it.

Eventually, of course, all nine bishops who were charged signed it. One of the five retired bishops explained that they agreed to sign in order to allow the charges to be dropped against the four diocesan  bishops, who had a lot more to lose. None of the clergy (affiliated with the ACI) either participated in the conciliation (which was solely at the episcopal level), or entered into any accord -- the ACI reports that disciplinary proceedings are still pending against two of their number.

The Accord is remarkably one-sided, both in tone and substance ("derisive and hostile", as one of the signers put it). As the outcome of a thoroughly flawed and conflict-riven disciplinary process, one could not have expected anything else. It will long remain a mystery why the accused did not turn the tables on their accusers, and complain that their conduct -- in filing disciplinary charges against witnesses who testified against them in court -- was itself unethical, improper and "conduct unbecoming members of the clergy."

Indeed, both the charges and the process were nothing less than overt intimidation of witnesses, and an attempt to interfere with the integrity of the judicial process. It yet remains to be seen whether the courts in question (the Texas Supreme Court and the trial court in Quincy) will be advised of what has occurred, in order that they may take proper disciplinary measures against the accusers -- who sought by bringing the charges to gain an unfair advantage in their respective civil proceedings.

It also will remain a mystery why the accused bishops did not challenge for cause the three-person reference panel who decided that the charges would go forward. Each of those members was hopelessly conflicted, as I explained in this post, and should have had nothing whatsoever to do with the process. Their very refusal to recuse themselves should itself be the subject of disciplinary charges.

So we now have a Church-sanctioned, official policy of witness intimidation in any civil case to which ECUSA is a party. The precedent has been established; the double standard announced. The nannies in charge will see to it that any speech directed against their official party line will be treated as hate speech, and render the speaker subject to Title IV discipline. But bishops who testify outside their dioceses in support of the party line -- such as the Presiding Bishop herself, who signed an amicus brief in the Dixon v. Edwards case when she was the diocesan of Nevada, and those bishops who recently signed a brief in the gay marriage case before the Supreme Court -- will suffer no prosecution whatsoever, because they are running the kangaroo court.

It comes, I say, as no surprise. This is what the left always does: employs a double standard, protects its own at all costs and shows no mercy to opponents. Alinsky rules (and does he ever!), as anyone who is not blind may see.

San Francisco has nothing on the Episcopal Church (USA) -- the nanny Church that welcomes you! (If you're on the right side, that is. All others -- just shut up and keep your heads low.)

What a despicable state of affairs. The Roman Catholic Church has a marvelously spiritual new leader, while ECUSA's leader is mired in spite and revenge. While no church is completely perfect, ours is such a contrast in desultory decrepitude as to make one ashamed.

San Joaquin - a Brief Update

Judge Hamilton of the Fresno County Superior Court heard oral arguments by the attorneys for ECUSA and the rump Diocese of San Joaquin late yesterday afternoon, after finishing with a day of testimony in a criminal trial. The attorneys did their best to convince him that his tentative ruling had got it all wrong, and the that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in Schofield v. Superior Court had really left him with nothing else to do but enter final judgment in their favor. (In the post just linked, I analyzed that contention and showed why it is just plain wrong -- but that never stopped an ECUSA attorney from arguing for it.)

Rusty vanRozeboom, the Chancellor for the Anglican Diocese, gave a brief response, after which ECUSA's attorney repeated his same points in rebuttal. The Judge asked no questions, but just sat patiently and listed to the exchange among the attorneys. Then he took the case under submission, which means he will issue a final ruling sometime within the next 90 days. He could simply affirm his tentative ruling (into which he obviously put a lot of work), in which case the order could be issued in the next few days. Or he could modify, or rewrite entirely, his earlier decision, in which case the final decision would probably not appear for a couple of months.

We shall see what the future brings. Meanwhile, at the parish level, some of the incorporated congregations in the Anglican Diocese, each of whom the rump diocese and ECUSA have sued separately, are tiring of all the dragged-out proceedings in court, and are deciding to give up their buildings and move out. A Superior Court judge in Kern County recently granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the nonsensical grounds that it was required, under "neutral principles of law," to defer to the "ecclesiastical determinations" of the Episcopal Church (USA).

The judgment would most likely be overturned by the same Court that reversed the earlier and similar summary judgment in the Fresno case, but that would mean another two to three years of litigation and thousands and thousands of dollars in costs. And that is why I tell my clients that litigation is the ultimate last resort: it is long and taxing, very costly, and offers no certain outcome. We can fight the good fight as long as there is the will to sustain us, but all can easily understand a decision to cut one's losses and move on with the mission of bringing souls to Our Savior Jesus Christ.

I will announce Judge Hamilton's final ruling once it is issued. Meanwhile, please pray for the good folk in San Joaquin.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What a Day! ECUSA Loses (Tentatively) Its Summary Judgment in San Joaquin

This has been an unbelievable day for a (long-planned) vacation -- church litigation news has virtually prevented me from beginning to relax and enjoy it yet. When the news is favorable, however, I am the last to mind or complain about the burden of sharing it with you.

Thus it is that, as I was working on the immediately preceding post about the new federal case in South Carolina, my office forwarded the tentative ruling from the Fresno Superior Court on the motion for summary judgment which ECUSA and Bishop Lamb (now Bishop Talton) brought against Bishop John-David Schofield to recover all of the property of his Anglican Diocese.

The tentative ruling was to deny the motion -- meaning that the case will have to go to trial before it can be finally decided. In short the court held that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden on summary judgment: they failed to show, in effect, that a Diocese of the Church is prohibited from leaving it as a matter of law.

ECUSA had tried all of its usual "hierarchical" arguments, but the Court indicates it is not inclined to  buy them (again, this is its tentative ruling - it may be read and downloaded at this link):
The question presented here is who owns the Church property of a formerly subordinate branch of a hierarchical church when the branch breaks off from the general church in exercise of its first amendment rights? The answer, according to California case law, depends on the interpretation of the governing documents of the branch and Church. Plaintiffs have failed to submit these necessary documents and have thus failed to meet their evidentiary burden on summary judgment/adjudication. Thus, the motion must be denied.

... Plaintiffs read the Schofield decision as supporting their motion for summary judgment/adjudication, because, as they contend, the only issue for this court is the determination of the date that Bishop Schofield transferred the Episcopal Diocese's property to the Anglican Diocese. Because it is undisputed that the retitling of the accounts occurred after Schofield was inhibited and deposed as Bishop of the Episcopal Church, plaintiffs assert that judgment must be granted, because at the time the transfers were made, Schofield lacked any authority to make them.

Defendants interpret the Schofield decision differently. They see it leaving only the issue of whether the December 8, 2007 vote of the 2007 Diocese of San Joaquin's Annual Convention was ultra vires under neutral principles of law. Because defendants assert that there can be no qualification on an individual's or association's right to freedom of association under the First Amendment, they should be free to take "their" property with them to their new denomination.

Here, plaintiffs bore the burden to present evidence establishing every element necessary to show defendants' conduct in retaining the property owned by the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin as of December 7, 2007, was unlawful as a matter of law. [Citations omitted.] They have not done so.

Plaintiffs take the position that because all the property transfers occurred after Schofield was deposed as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese, he therefore had no authority to make those transfers. The rights of departing Dioceses have not been considered in any published California opinion....
The tentative ruling goes on to review the California case law regarding departing parishes, and stresses that the cases require the courts to apply "neutral principles" in resolving such disputes. It goes back to the Schofield decision to ascertain just what those "neutral principles" are:
As the Schofield Court recognized:
These neutral principles include First Amendment rights of individuals and corporations (see Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm'n (2010) 558 U.S. 310, -, 130 S.Ct. 876, 899, 175 L.Ed.2d 753), general California statutory and common law principles governing transfer of title by the legal title holder, the law of trusts, including establishment of trusts and transfers by a trustee in contravention of a trust upon the property (if a trust is established by the evidence), and corporations law, including the law of corporations sole (see Corp.Code, § 10010) and general principles of corporate governance. Other neutral principles of civil law may be relevant; and the governing documents of the diocese and the national church, to the extent those documents may establish trust relationships and limit or expand corporate powers.

It is not enough for plaintiffs to merely state that Schofield was not the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin when he effected the transfers at issue. Plaintiffs were also required to show that, under neutral principles of law, Schofield lacked the authority to effect such transfers. In this regard, plaintiffs' Undisputed Material Fact No. 10 is inadequate. It merely states there is no rule of the Episcopal Church or Diocese permitting a deposed Episcopal Bishop to transfer Episcopal property. However, if the December 8, 2007 amendments to withdraw the Diocese of San Joaquin from the general Episcopal Church were valid, Schofield could, in fact, have retained the authority over the property of the Diocese....

Plaintiffs have utterly failed to present either facts or evidence from which this court could conclude that the December 8, 2007 amendments enacted to leave the Episcopal Church were invalid. Unlike plaintiffs' prior motion for summary adjudication, there are no facts regarding the contents of the Episcopal Church's Canons or Constitution either at the time of the disaffiliation, or in 1961, the year the Diocese of San Joaquin was accepted into the Episcopal Church. Likewise, there are no facts concerning the text of the Episcopal Diocese's by-laws, Constitution or governing documents for any relevant year. In short, there is nothing to for this court to review under neutral principles of law.

Again, this is the court's tentative ruling, meaning that the court could change it after oral argument. Nevertheless, the ruling shows that the court grasps the essence of the case, and understands why the plaintiffs have not shown they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. There simply is no evidence of any provision in any canon or Constitution of ECUSA or the Diocese of San Joaquin which would have prevented the latter from exercising its first amendment right to cease to be associated with the Episcopal Church (USA).

The court has expressly directed that oral argument will take place not tomorrow, but next Wednesday, beginning at 3:30 p.m. I shall post a further update after the argument.

ECUSA's Desperation in South Carolina Knows No Bounds

One can but marvel at the madness that drives megalomania. First of all, it knows no boundaries: no matter what the odds or the ultimate cost, everything can be sacrificed so long as the sacrifice is seen as advancing the goal, which is to annihilate anything that appears to be threatening, or that is not already under complete subjugation. And individual megalomania is as nothing compared to the institutional variety, which signals all too often the last stage of an institution's eclipse. For when the rank and file are too ensconced in their ways to see where their leaders' follies and delusions are taking them, then the outrages of those leaders grow in proportion as the institution itself declines.

So it would appear to be in South Carolina. Having learned nothing from their experience with an identically framed federal lawsuit in Fort Worth, the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor have now spotted Provisional Bishop Charles vonRosenberg to an ill-advised and futile gambit in the Charleston Division of the Federal District Court in South Carolina.

No less than three law firms were engaged (presumably at ECUSA's sole expense) to bring a complaint in that court, based on the federal trademark law known as the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. Sections 1051 et seq.), against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The claim is that Bishop Lawrence -- who just last month obtained a State court temporary injunction against ECUSA and its agents from using any of the marks or insignia of his Diocese -- is actually infringing on his own trademarks!

Only the lawsuit, you see, is structured and carefully pled so as not to reveal that ultimate self-contradiction in its allegations. For it does not recognize Bishop Lawrence as the bishop of any diocese, still less of the Diocese that elected him, and which pays his salary to be its Bishop. (At least the lawsuit calls him by his proper ecclesiastical title -- unlike the lawsuit which ECUSA's attorneys filed against Bishop Schofield in San Joaquin.) No, instead we are treated to twenty pages of allegations in 78 numbered paragraphs which sing the same one-note song: there is only one "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina", the plaintiff Bishop vonRosenberg is its only Bishop, because he is the only one ECUSA officially recognizes, and Bishop Lawrence accordingly has no right to use the marks of that diocese. His unlawful and unauthorized use of those marks, which continues unabated, is injuring the "genuine Episcopal diocese", and so he must be enjoined.

Oh, and by the way, the lawsuit also seeks (see page 20, paragraph 5 of the prayer for relief) to have Bishop Lawrence account for and turn over all of the "profits" from his alleged misuse of the marks. Thus do we see how ECUSA regards the battle it is fighting: this is not about a church whose mission is to save souls; what is at stake is nothing less than the profits one can gain from not ministering to their souls, and having them just be contributing pew-sitters (whom the complaint actually describes as "consumers of religious services"!). There is no more damning paragraph in the entire document than that one paragraph five of the prayer.

So ECUSA is attempting, by the back door, to achieve what it has not yet been able to achieve through the state courts of South Carolina: the deposition of Mark Lawrence and the takeover of his entire Diocese, with its 28,000 parishioners in some sixty separate parishes and missions. For if it could succeed in federal court, the tables would be turned, and Bishop Lawrence would be enjoined, not ECUSA, from using the ancient (and fully registered) marks and insignia of the Diocese that was founded by the first American South Carolinians in 1785.

Can such an end run possibly succeed? Well, as lawyers we learn early never to say that nothing can possibly succeed, because courts are human, and humans are fallible. But let me just opine in this particular instance that the federal lawsuit in South Carolina will meet the exact same barrier that the one in Fort Worth did -- namely, there is an earlier pending lawsuit in a nearby State court, and federal courts are generally highly reluctant, if not actually forbidden, to interfere in state court proceedings which originated before those in federal court. So I fully expect the federal court in South Carolina to issue a stay of all proceedings on the complaint until that State court action is finally resolved.

There are many good reasons for so concluding. Perhaps the strongest one is the federal statute first enacted by Congress in 1793, known as the "Anti-Injunction Act", now codified as 28 U.S.C. Section 2283. Designed to minimize the possibility of judicial conflicts between federal and state courts, the law reads in its entirety as follows:
A court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments.
But that is just what Bishop vonRosenberg's lawsuit seeks: an injunction against Bishop Lawrence's use of his own Diocese's marks, which effectively would bar the latter from appearing in any court as the "Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." So even though the lawsuit does not expressly request the stay, that is exactly what it seeks to accomplish.

None of the Anti-Injunction Act's exceptions applies in this case. To take the easiest first, there is obviously no prior federal court judgment to "protect or effectuate." And nothing threatens or impairs the federal court's jurisdiction over Lanham Act matters -- the State court proceedings do not even invoke or involve the Lanham Act.

So we come to the first exception. There is no express provision in the Lanham Act authorizing federal courts to stay proceedings in state courts, but that fact does not end the matter, as the United States Supreme Court has construed the provisions of other statutes, such as the Civil Rights Act (e.g., 42 U.S.C. Section 1983), to include such an express authorization where necessary. Nevertheless, what precedent there is (the Supreme Court has yet to decide the exact question) holds uniformly that no  provision in the Lanham Act overcomes the bar of the Anti-Injunction Act. A leading treatise on trademark law puts it this way:
If a state case on common law [trademark] issues was first filed, a federal court should stay or dismiss proceedings. Thus, a federal court should defer a decision pending resolution of similar issues in a prior-filed state court action. For example, if A has sued B in state court for trademark infringement, and the case is about to be decided, a federal court should stay proceedings in the case of B v. A brought upon similar issues. Upon resolution of the prior-filed action, the court in the second-filed action may be bound by collateral estoppel on many, if not all, vital issues. It would seem grossly inefficient for the court in the second-filed case to proceed to hear the case on the merits until resolution of the first-filed case.
(6 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition, 4th ed., sec. 32:46 [footnotes omitted].)

That quotation says it all. The reason the South Carolina (or the Texas) federal court will stay the action as filed is so that the state court action, which began earlier, may finish first. Depending on what the state court decides, there may be no issues left for the federal court to decide. For the federal court to go ahead anyway would create a risk of irreconcilable decisions on the same issue. Any such conflict is needless and unseemly -- which is why the court will stay the second-brought action.

Having gone this far, I must now address what to me is the most troubling aspect about the filing of this particular lawsuit. For as acknowledged at the outset above, and as anyone can read in the complaint itself, the lawsuit claims that Bishop vonRosenberg is the Bishop of "the [one and only] Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." Elsewhere -- and in the case caption itself -- it describes him as the Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina."

Yet just over a month ago, rather than proceed to a hearing on its right to use those words, ECUSA itself consented to the entry of a temporary injunction barring it from using those terms in South Carolina. How, then, can Bishop vonRosenberg even come into a court in South Carolina and describe himself in the prohibited terminology?

That, to me, is the $64,000 question. I am not sure what will stop Bishop Lawrence's attorneys from seeking a contempt of court citation against ECUSA and Bishop vonRosenberg and their attorneys in front of Circuit Judge Goodstein, or perhaps sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the federal district court in South Carolina. While one has a constitutional right to petition the government for redress by filing a complaint in court, one does not have the right to violate a valid State-court injunction in doing so, or to bend the facts by misrepresenting that one is under no restraint in doing so -- especially in such a blatant attempt to do an end-run around a State court.

Moreover, Rule 11 sanctions both parties and their attorneys for filing, signing or presenting pleadings to the court which are "presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation", or which present claims or contentions not "warranted by existing law" or any good-faith attempt to change existing law.  Thomas Tisdale, the South Carolina attorney who signed the federal complaint, is also the attorney who consented to the entry of the temporary injunction which prohibits his clients from representing that they are affiliated with "the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." How can his right hand not know what his left hand is doing?

This is why the megalomania currently possessing ECUSA as an institution is so dangerous. It tempts its agents to overstep the bounds which ordinary citizens and mortals must observe, and unless checked at some point, will go on until some terrible damage will result. As a church attorney, I would have cautioned any clergy bringing such a lawsuit to have beforehand a very strong opinion letter from outside counsel advising about the potential civil and financial risks of bringing such a lawsuit, together with a full indemnification agreement against any such risks. (Is this, perhaps, the reason that the Chancellor's own law firm is not on the complaint?)

Finally, there is another, and equally weighty, reason, why this lawsuit should never have been brought in the first place. Consider, first, what Bishop vonRosenberg says is the purpose of his lawsuit:
“The intention of this suit is straightforward. We are asking the court to determine who is authorized to serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” Bishop vonRosenberg said.
However, neither the state nor the federal courts has the power to answer such a question, within the constraints imposed by the First Amendment. As summed up best by the California Court of Appeals in the earlier decision involving Bishop Schofield, those constraints absolutely prohibit secular courts from deciding any such question (Schofield v. Superior Court, 190 Cal.App.4th 154, 161-62 [2010] [citations omitted; emphasis added]):
In resolving [church property] disputes, the First Amendment requires that civil courts must take care not to adjudicate questions of religious doctrine.... But if the dispute does not involve the ownership of property—if it concerns issues such as church doctrine, membership, credentials of clergy, discipline of clergy and members, or church governance and organization—the matter is to be left to internal decision-making processes of the church itself.... The dispute set forth in the [complaint], namely, whether Schofield or Lamb is the incumbent Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, is quintessentially ecclesiastical. Accordingly, the trial court erred in adjudicating that cause of action and, upon proper motion, must dismiss that cause of action. 
Thus as I observed at the outset, one can only wonder at the megalomaniacal motivations that could lie behind the decision to spend substantial sums upon such a wasted effort. The leaders of the Episcopal Church (USA) are gambling its money on a very long shot -- which is nothing less than that the federal district court of South Carolina will fail to follow the law, make a huge mistake, and allow the lawsuit to proceed as filed. And such folly is possible only because, and for as long as, the rank and file of that Church (to say nothing of its other bishops) suffer it to exist.

A Whale of a Good Read on the Alamo Anniversary

While I work on my post analyzing the ramifications of Bishop vonRosenberg's federal lawsuit in South Carolina, I will mark the 177th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo by referring readers to this admirable post by reader and frequent commenter here, The Old Gringo: San Antonio de Valero de Bexar, 6 March 1836. There is scarcely any blogger I have found who is more knowledgeable about Mexican and Texan history than he is, and I you will learn much by taking the time to read his post. (You may wish to use your browser's "View" options, as I understand many do here, to enlarge his blog's type size. Google's Blogspot tends to default to sizes that can be hard on older eyes.)

Indeed, it is fitting that we study the Battle of the Alamo as we prepare to delve into the legal complexities created by the new lawsuit in South Carolina. For, as The Old Gringo points out:
All of this defense and offense over a place that was neither worth defending nor assailing in military terms. The brother-in-law of Lopez de Santa Anna, Gen. Perfecto de Cos declared, "Con una victoria mas como el este, perdieremos no solo la guerra, pero quizas el pais." ("With another victory like this, we should lose not only the war, but perhaps even the country").
Similarly, with three separate law firms hired to bring the federal lawsuit against Bishop Lawrence (and Bishop Lawrence only) in South Carolina, one has to wonder what it is about this one man, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, that has drawn such massive fire from the forces of ECUSA, and just what those amassed forces are expecting to accomplish. Is it another Alamo?

Well, things are different in 2013, as I shall shortly explain in my next post. The words of General Perfecta de Cos may have told not only the ultimate fate of Mexico's campaign in Texas, but also the ultimate fate of the all-out campaign in South Carolina now being launched by the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori -- who stands to suffer, I wager, far more losses than Santa Anna ever did.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Curmudgeon Goes on Vacation; Hostilities Promptly Resume in South Carolina

From here:

I shall have more to say about this after I am able to see a copy of the complaint. 

News: March 5, 2013

Federal lawsuit seeks ruling 
on who is bishop of the 
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

CHARLESTON – Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint.

“The intention of this suit is straightforward. We are asking the court to determine who is authorized to serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” Bishop vonRosenberg said.