Skip to comments.A Pastoral Letter to the People of St. Clement’s, El Paso [Episcopal]
Posted on 09/11/2007 4:56:07 PM PDT by sionnsar
This is background for Congregation exits [Episcopal to Anglican], posted earlier.
September 4, 2007
A Pastoral Letter to the People of St. Clements, El Paso
Dear Friends in Christ,
I have a pastoral obligation to communicate with you as clearly as possible before the congregational meeting of the Pro-Cathedral of St. Clement is convened on September 16, 2007. The most important thing is to assure you of my prayers and my great affection and respect for St. Clements. You have been a tremendous blessing to the Diocese of the Rio Grande from the beginning, and your friends from all around the Diocese want to join me in this greeting in the Lord.
You will be asked to vote on the question of dissolving your relationship with the Diocese of the Rio Grande and the Episcopal Church, because of the acute sense of alienation from the recent decisions and direction of the Episcopal Church and because of the concern that this relationship is inhibiting the ability of St. Clements to do effective ministry in El Paso.
Those of you who know me are well aware that I personally agree with the leadership of St. Clements about where the Episcopal Church seems to be heading. But as a bishop under the authority of this Church there are certain obligations and responsibilities to be observed, and so I need to bring before you the perspective of the Episcopal Church:
The Trustees, Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, and I agree that we are bound by these two principles of church law. We are willing to try to find a negotiated settlement that may allow St. Clements to become an independent congregation with its existing facilities. But we also have a fiduciary duty to the Episcopal Church, and so any solution we might propose requires that we in good faith have considered the mission of the Diocese and consulted with the Presiding Bishops office to represent the Episcopal Churchs interests. I am very concerned that civil litigation might follow St. Clements actions, because we have a clear word from God about this, in I Corinthians 6. The work of the Gospel is absolutely not served by lawsuits of this type. St. Pauls counsel is that all the parties work patiently and diligently within
the Church for resolution.
Because I respect the spiritual integrity of St. Clements as a vibrant Christian community, I will not pursue a divide and conquer strategy that has been used elsewhere to isolate the so-called dissidents. Nevertheless, I have a pastoral responsibility for those members of St. Clements who might find themselves in the position of wanting to remain in the Episcopal Church, should a strong majority of the congregation vote otherwise. I want to assure them that the Diocese will reach out to them pastorally.
What an extraordinarily difficult experience this must be for all of St. Clements family! Whatever you decide, I think that I can be at peace about all this, if I can be assured that you do understand that the laws of the Church are not silent in these matters, that both your clergy and your vestry do serve under its obligations, and that you are prayerfully acting with an informed conscience and with charity.
Finally, a great many members of the Diocese have asked me to convey to you their sincere desire that you would choose to stay, because of their genuine affection for you and their appreciation of the role that St. Clements has played over the years in the life and ministry of the Diocese. And I enjoy a very positive relationship with your clergy and am grateful for their passion and faithfulness in serving Christ.
Please know that you have our prayers and our love, unconditionally.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, D.Phil.
Bishop, Diocese of the Rio Grande
August 4, 2007
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The following is the legal notice that was publicly read from the pulpit on Sunday, September 2, 2007 at The Pro-Cathedral Church of St. Clement. As is required by our bylaws, it is now being sent to all members of the parish who are eligible to vote in this Special Edition of the Anchor of St. Clement.
I am grateful to our Heavenly Father for the many evidences of His favor as we have sought be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to discern and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit over this last year.
Please continue to pray for this parish, our vestry, staff and clergy, as well as our diocesan standing committee and the bishop, as we seek to conclude an agreement before September 16th.
Yours in Our Lord Jesus,
The Rev. William Cox Cobb
Notice of Special Parish Meeting To Be Held on September 16, 2007
For some time, the Rector and Vestry have been negotiating with the Diocese of the Rio Grande in an effort to reach an agreement to present to the congregation for its approval. The Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese approved the agreement as negotiated on Monday, August 27, subject to review by the Chancellor of the Diocese. The Chancellor reviewed the agreement and had several criticisms of it; to which, to the extent possible under the circumstances, the Vestry and Rector have responded.
As of now, no agreement has been completed by the parties.
In accordance with the parish Bylaws, a Special Meeting of the Parish has been called by the Rector and the Vestry. The meeting will be held in Whyburn-Roderick Hall at 11:30 A.M.., Sunday, September 16, 2007. The Vestry has recommended the approval of certain resolutions depending upon the circumstances as they might exist at the time of the meeting. The business to be transacted at the meeting will include consideration of these resolutions, and such other business as may properly come before the meeting.
The first two (2) resolutions recommended by the Vestry are as follows:
1. A resolution to approve an agreement which must be signed prior to 8:00 P.M. Mountain Time, September 19, 2007 (the Agreement) between the Pro Cathedral Episcopal Church of St. Clement of El Paso, Texas (the Pro Cathedral), the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande (the Diocese), The Trustees of the Property of the Protestant Episcopal Church of New Mexico, the Trustees of the Property of the Episcopal Church, Diocese of the Rio Grande, in Texas, and a newly formed church, the Church of St. Clement of El Paso, Texas, a Texas non-profit corporation (the New Church of St. Clement). The New Church of St. Clement is not affiliated with either The Episcopal Church, the Diocese, or any other church or diocese. (The New Church of St. Clement was formed on August 23, 2007 by Robert T. Hoover, III. The founding members of the New Church of St. Clement are the current members of the Vestry of the Pro Cathedral, which members will serve as the initial Board of Directors or Vestry of the New Church of St. Clement. The Bylaws of New Church of St. Clement which were adopted are, in essence, substantially the same as those which govern the Pro Cathedral without references to The Episcopal Church, the Diocese and persons, entities and provisions relating to them.) The Agreement, if the resolution is approved, will accomplish the following:
A. Conveyance of all of the property, real and personal, of the Pro Cathedral to the New Church of St. Clement, either by direct conveyance of the property itself or assignment of the Pro Cathedrals interest therein or right to control the property or to participate in the government of the organization owning the property. The property to be conveyed is all property of any kind owned or used by the Pro Cathedral, including the Sanctuary, the church offices, McKee Chapel, Whyburn-Roderick Hall, the property used by Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach and St. Clements Christian Resource Center, the buildings, offices, classrooms, grounds, and fields occupied or used by St. Clements Episcopal Parish School, Inc., and the furnishings, equipment, funds and personal property of the Pro-Cathedral and these entities, and all money, bank accounts, trust accounts, claims, etc. The property owned by The Watchtower of the Rio Grande, Inc. (which includes the parking lot, the St. George building and the underlying real property for the Center of Excellence) will not be conveyed, but the Pro Cathedral and the Diocese will quitclaim and release any rights to such property, and all rights of governance over St. Clements Episcopal Parish School, Inc. and The Watchtower of the Rio Grande, Inc. will be conveyed. The personal property to be conveyed does not include certain historical and service records which will be delivered to the Diocese, including records of marriages, baptisms, and weddings. However, the New Church of St. Clement may request and receive copies of such records. In general, all property of the Pro Cathedral will be conveyed if the Agreement is approved or, in the case of The Watchtower of the Rio Grande, Inc., all property will be quitclaimed and released.
B. Payment of $2,000,000 by the New Church of St. Clement to an escrow agent.
(1) Such $2,000,000 will be derived from two (2) sources:
(a) The Pro Cathedral will make a grant of $1,000,000 to the New Church of St. Clement which will pay these funds to the escrow agent for the benefit of the Diocese. The grant funds will be taken from trust funds belonging to the Pro Cathedral.
(b) St. Clement Episcopal Parish School, Inc. will lend the New Church of St. Clement $1,000,000 at a commercially reasonable rate, not less than the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) published by the IRS for the date of closing of the Agreement (for example the AFR for August 2007 was between 5.18% and 5.31% depending upon the terms) and secured by a lien on some of the property to be conveyed to the New Church of St. Clement.
The New Church of St. Clement will pay the $2,000,000 so received to an escrow agent, to be agreed upon in the escrow agreement, which will hold, invest, and disburse such funds pursuant to an escrow agreement, the terms of which will be negotiated between the parties and approved by the Vestry of the Pro Cathedral.
C. Assumption generally by the New Church of St. Clement of lease and contract obligations related to the personal property to be conveyed.
D. Mutual release by the contracting parties of all claims, except claims arising under the Agreement, of any sort whatsoever that each may have against the other, whether under civil or ecclesiastical law.
E. Dissolution of the Pro Cathedral as a legal entity at some time after the above-described conveyances and transactions have been closed and after satisfaction of the legal requirements for dissolution of a Texas non-profit corporation.
F. Certain parish records of the Pro Cathedral will be delivered to the Diocese, including records of marriages, baptisms, and weddings. The New Church of St. Clement may obtain copies of such records from the Diocese.
G. Cremated remains of deceased parishioners of the Pro Cathedral are maintained in a garden on the church property. To the extent that such remains are subject to a contract, the contracts will be assigned to New Church of St. Clement. Subject to such contract conditions, the Pro Cathedral and New Church of St. Clement will cooperate with families desiring to relocate the remains subject to such legal protections as may be reasonably required to protect the Pro Cathedral and New Church of St. Clement from possible legal liability.
H. New Church of St. Clement will agree not to interfere with Pro Cathedral parishioners who wish to remain connected with TEC, and New Church of St. Clement will agree to cooperate with the Bishop relating to the identity of such parishioners and conducting a meeting with them.
2. A resolution to approve dissolution of The Pro Cathedral Episcopal Church of St. Clement of El Paso, Texas (the Pro Cathedral) when and as provided in the Agreement. Such dissolution will, if approved, take place as contemplated by the Agreement, after the closing of the Agreement, and as set out above.
AS IS APPARENT FROM THE FOREGOING, A VOTE TO APPROVE BOTH RESOLUTIONS WILL APPROVE:
(1) THE CONVEYANCE TO THE NEW CHURCH OF ST. CLEMENT OF ESSENTIALLY ALL PROPERTY OF ANY KIND BELONGING TO THE PRO CATHEDRAL AND ITS AFFILIATES,
(2) THE EVENTUAL DISSOLUTION OF THE PRO CATHEDRAL AS A LEGAL ENTITY AS PROVIDED IN THE AGREEMENT.
As previously noted, the New Church of St. Clement was formed on August 23, 2007 by the current Vestry of the Pro Cathedral who constitute all of the founding members of the New Church of St. Clement and the initial Board of Directors or Vestry of the New Church of St. Clement. Also as previously noted, the Bylaws of the New Church of St. Clement which were adopted are in essence the same as those which govern the Pro Cathedral without the references to The Episcopal Church, the Diocese and persons, entities and provisions relating to them. It is presently anticipated that the New Church of St. Clement will extend membership status to every current member of the Pro Cathedral who does not object to becoming a member of the New Church of St. Clement.
If as of the time of the meeting on September 16 there is no signed Agreement, the Vestry recommends adoption of the following resolution:
3. If an agreement satisfactory to the Vestry of the Pro Cathedral and as outlined above has not been signed by the parties named in paragraph 1 above by 8:00 P.M. Mountain Time, September 19, 2007, a resolution approving, and effective with no further action required with respect thereto, termination of the relationship between this Parish and The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of the Rio Grande effective 8:00 P.M. Mountain Time, September 19, 2007, providing for:
A. Termination of the relationship between this Parish and The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of the Rio Grande;
B. Amendment of the Articles of Incorporation to change the name of the corporation from The Pro Cathedral Episcopal Church of St. Clement of El Paso, Texas to Church of St. Clement of El Paso, Texas;
C. Amendment of the Parish Bylaws to: (i) remove the Preamble, Article II and references to the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA), the Diocese of the Rio Grande and all offices, officers, agencies, divisions, committees, bodies, titles, functions, meetings and activities of both including, by way of example only and not by way of limitation, Pro-Cathedral, Episcopal, Episcopal Church, Anglican, Anglican Communion, Bishop, Provost, Diocese, Diocese of the Rio Grande, General Canons, Canon(s), Diocesan Convocation, Delegates, Standing Committee, Deanery, Diocesan Commission on Ministry, Episcopal Schools, Diocesan Commission on Episcopal Schools, Book of Common Prayer, etc.; and (ii) substitute, as needed, appropriate terms for those deleted and modify remaining sentences and provisions to accommodate these changes; (iii) provide for resolution of problems relating to dissolving the pastoral relationship between the Rector, Parish and Vestry by appeal to a consecrated, acting Bishop of an Anglican province or diocese other than of The Episcopal Church; (iv) delete reference to the Parish Administrator.
These proposed amendments were submitted to and approved by the Vestry on August 10, 2007 as required by the Bylaws.
AS IS APPARENT FROM THE FOREGOING, A VOTE TO APPROVE THIS RESOLUTION WILL TERMINATE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PARISH AND THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH AND THE DIOCESE OF THE RIO GRANDE, CHANGE THE NAME OF THE CHURCH AND AMEND ITS ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION AND BYLAWS TO BE EFFECTIVE AT 8:00 P.M. MOUNTAIN TIME, SEPTEMBER 19, 2007. IF THE PARTIES HAVE NOT SIGNED AN AGREEMENT AS DESCRIBED PRIOR TO THAT TIME.
Under the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act a vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the members present at the meeting in person or by proxy who are entitled to vote is required to approve the conveyance of assets contemplated by the Agreement. Similarly, a two-thirds (2/3) vote is required to approve dissolution of the Pro Cathedral. Under Article XXVIII of the Bylaws, an amendment of the bylaws requires a vote of two-thirds of those present at the meeting. According to Article III of the Pro Cathedral Bylaws, any communicant of this Church who for the previous year has been faithful in Corporate worship, unless for good cause prevented, and has been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God, whose membership is recorded on the Parish Register, who is 16 years of age or over, and who has received communion at least three times in the preceding year is eligible to vote. A quorum is ten percent (10%) of the members of the Pro Cathedral entitled to vote. A quorum may be established by count of those present at the meeting either in person or by proxy. A proxy must be in writing and signed by the member or the members duly authorized attorney-in-fact.
Thanks for posting sionnsar. The vote will be Sunday. My guess is that the Diocese’s response will depend on the vote. It should go heavily in favor of leaving. The good thing is that we may be able to buy out the diocese of the real property. I’ll keep you posted.
Our former bishop pursued a scorched-earth policy from the git go.
That is not an accurate statement by the Bishop, who knows, or should know better.
For his reference:
"All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [i.e., the Episcopal Church in the United States] and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise eixsting over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons."
I really don’t see a serious inaccuracy—unless you’re referring to a trust not being the same as ownership.
In layman’s language the bishop is correct, especially in his careful insertion of the word “asserting.”
For all intents and purposes TEC through the diocese claims to “own” (in trust) the property—but gives freedom over the property to the congregation—as long as it remains in the denomination.
It’s a claim that might not stand up to law...in the long term.
I’m reminded by the spooky line from the song “Hotel California”: “You can check out any time you like, but you can NEVER leave!”
Yes, while the law varies from state to state (and in California, apparently within the state), there is a significant legal difference between a trust interest and ownership interest. Additional paperwork would be needed before the bishop would have marketable title.
In North Florida, the Bishop even made the local congregations title the property in the diosese - no worry about litigation when the congregations left there.
I am not sure what the current law is in Texas on the issue. Stanton settled quickly (and fairly) with ChristChurch Plano, but I'm not sure that a settlement has been reached with the Allen congregation.
I've always felt that a fair settlement (without regard to the law) would be about 3 years worth of annual payments, paid over about 4 or 5 years, or else a tithe of 10% of the equity value of the real estate.
I’m convinced that Beers and the rest of TEC leadership (with some exceptions) are not interested fairness to leaving congregations, they just want to cause as much pain as possible—to get their pound of flesh. They know that if all churches were allowed to leave when they wanted, perhaps only a minority would stay.
I agree with that. Fairness isn’t in the lexicon. Money and power are the driving forces.
Thanks for posting this. I’ll pray for the good Bishop. He was my Anglican Polity professor at LTSP and an influence on my decision to set aside Episcopal orders. I’ll pray also for the people of St. Clement. This is indeed painful, but God is good and His mercy endures forever. May that mercy be felt by all!
I participated in a church split a few years ago. Those of us that left moved forward much more quickly than those who remained (who are generally fighting the same denominational battles they were fighting 20 years ago.)
The main reason I post on these threads is to encourage those who are reluctant to leave that there can be a bright future when you walk away from the carved stone and stained glass. If you can keep the real estate, great. If you can’t, go where the Lord leads you.
Certainly you have given up more than most. I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you in your journey.
Agreed. At the end of the day - stone and glass are just things.
I could not see where they had formally affiliated with a foreign diocese, although they show affiliations with the ACN (Bishop Duncan's group) and the AAC.
It appears that the retired Bishop of the Rio Grande diocese is providing services to them when needed (as for confirmations, etc). Bishop Kelshaw has left the ECUSA and joined the Anglican Church of Uganda.
So, while I couldn't see where the Parish had yet joined, it appears that they have access to adequate episcopal oversight.
Just speculation on my part, but it may be that they plan to affiliate with Fort Worth (Ilker) when that diocese completes its withdrawal from the ECUSA, and they didn't want the complications of having to realign twice.
As to why you would not be uncomfortable there, it isn't clear. It isn't the parish that has changed, it is the ECUSA which descended into heresy.
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