Monday, January 5, 2009

An end to Schism II?

Katharine Jefferts Schori and her sidekick David Beers seem to have won a knockout blow against Schism II churches with today’s unanimous ruling by the California Supreme Court against parishes seeking to keep their property after leaving the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Since the decision sends the case back to Superior Court, St. James Anglican hopes to win in trial court, but with the Appeals and Supreme courts against them, it’s definitely an uphill fight.

The California justices seemed quite uninterested in two seemingly strong arguments. First, local donors paid to build and support the churches, effectively saying “we don’t know what their intent was so we’ll ignore that fact.” Second, that the land is titled in the name of the local churches (a sleight of hand that was called out in a concurring opinion by Joyce Kennard).

The justices relied heavily upon the infamous Denis Canon (Canon I.7.4), but perhaps without considering evidence that the Canon might have never been passed into church law. As the Anglican Curmudgeon notes, they also ignored 400 years of common law that requires both parties to assent to a change in the terms of a deed.

If the California decision holds — and it will take years to say for sure — this is likely to strip real property from at least four Los Angeles and three San Diego parishes that have left since Schori was elected Presiding Bishop. It also puts the Diocese of San Joaquin into jeopardy, assuming that 815 is allowed standing (as it was here, and contrary to 1500+ years of the bishopric) to join litigation.

More importantly, the PB and her chancellor can now deter any future parishes from leaving PECUSA. (The success of Virginia parishes is unlikely to set a precedent that influences courts in other states). Instead, individuals will leave their parishes and the empty churches will be sold to raise money to support an increasingly top-heavy hierarchy.

To me, this ruling will stall the momentum of the Schism II (i.e. the Anglican Church in North America aka Common Cause) for a decade. The endowment gifts made by good loyal Christians will accrue to the benefit of the revisionists who now control PECUSA. And the CC faithful will be scrambling to find buildings to house and maintain their existing parishes rather than planting new ones.

I wonder whether this will instead strengthen the Schism I provinces and parishes, which while small and fractured, are stable and tend to own their property. Will PECUSA refugees join established parishes rather than try to build new sanctuaries?

What does this have to do with this blog? At some point, the Continuing Anglicans will need to create a new hymnal to replace Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982, if for no other reason than to stop paying money to augment KJS’ retirement fund. (We may have to start with the New English Hymnal or Hymnal 1916, since copyright on these books has expired).

If the revision is controlled by Schism II, it will have the same compromises as the 1979 prayer book and Hymnal 1982, including “inclusive” language mangling of old favorites. The TEC-sponsored Hymnal 2020 could be so beyond the pale that even the Evangelicals will recoil in horror — limiting our revisionism to 1982 rather than 2020 — but that would be a small consolation.

If, however, the revision is controlled by Schism I — perhaps augmented by FiFNA defectors from PECUSA — we may have an update to the early 20th century hymnals without incorporating the Baby Boomer and feminist “modernizations” of the culture and theology.

Don’t get me wrong. I grieve for all the time, money and energy that the Schism II faithful will have to expend over the next 20 years to get back to where they were before 2003, and pray that they somehow gain a reasonable settlement (as was once proposed in Virginia) and are able to devote their energies to saving souls from modern-day heresies.

However, I would just as soon avoid importing the PECUSA liturgical controversies (between Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics) into efforts to create a New Anglican hymnal for US parishes. A more focused group of Anglo-Catholics would produce a more faithful compilation of traditional Anglican hymnody for use in the 21st century.


Elephantschild said...

Knowing the wrangling and years of hard, hard work that go into putting a decent hymnal together, I'll be watching (and praying for!) this situation.

(I'm an LCMS lurker here. Our own new hymnal was some 10 years in the making, I believe - but it was worth the wait.)

9.West said...

Dear EC,

My LCMS pastor friend definitely thought the 2006 Lutheran Service Book was an improvement over the 1982 Lutheran Worship, which he skipped.

One blogger remarked that the main benefit of the LSB was that it undid the errors of LW, but overall it was only slightly better than The Lutheran Hymnal (1941). Would you agree?

Still, it’s remarkable that the LCMS was able to reverse the trend of going from bad to worse.

I really wonder whether Schism II — without a common denominational hierarchy — could ever pull off a new hymnal. Also, whether there’s enough qualified people to do it. Certainly, as your comment suggests, we will have to wait until the pent-up demand becomes irresistible.


Elephantschild said...

My husband, a choir director, and I both think that moving from the 1941 hymnal to LSB can be considered a *lateral* move. Like your Hymnal 1940 and the 1928 BCP, our 1941 TLH has become a standard by which everything else is measured. Where LSB is better is in little things, like clarity of type, and readability; the page numbering, font choices, and other formatting is lovely. Oh, and some of the best and most talented new hymn writers in Christendom, if I do say so myself!

Where LSB really shines is in congregations who were cursed with Lutheran Worship and can now leave it behind them! LW was a mess. There were many of us quite relieved that the newest hymnal was not another Lutheran Worship; we all had good reason to fear that it would be!

Leland Bryant Ross said...

It is my hope that you will see the parallel between the unfairness of the court's decision, in this matter, and the unfairness of the ISP's hijacking of, and that you will change your links to The Cyber Hymnal™ to point to its true current location at rather than, as you currently have it, pointing to the ISP that stole the domain name from the actual hymnalist.

Haruo aka Leland