Friday, April 21, 2006

A Heartwarming Easter Letter from the Bishop of North Carolina

This just warms the cockles of my heart. I wish I had heart smilies to sprinkle around. The ECUSA Bishop of North Carolina, Michael Curry, send out a letter to his parishes right before Easter. Did he talk about Jesus’ sacrifice for us or about His victory over death? Or about preparations for Holy Week?

Uh, apparently not. . . .

The Bishop of North Carolina

April 4, 2006

My Brothers and Sisters:

As all of you are aware, the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA) and the Diocese of North Carolina provide that “all real and personal property held by or for benefit of any parish, mission, or congregation is held in trust for PECUSA and the Diocese of North Carolina.”

Ordinarily an interest in real estate is indicated by the recordation of a document of some sort in the public records of the county in which the real estate is located. Examples of such recorded documents would include deeds, deeds of trust, easements, restrictive covenants, etc. Although many recorded legal documents concerning real property owned or used by Episcopal congregations in the Diocese contain a reference to the interests of PECUSA and the Diocese of North Carolina, we believe that the interests of PECUSA and the Diocese of North Carolina in such real estate are not adequately reflected in all counties in which Episcopal property is located. We believe that providing a public record notice of interest of PECUSA and the Diocese in such real estate will be consistent with the applicable Constitution and Canons of PECUSA and our diocese and simplify future real estate transactions.

In that regard, after consultation with the Standing Committee and the Chancellor of the Diocese, I asked the Trustees of the Diocese to request the Chancellor to prepare for signature and subsequent filing in all of the counties of the Diocese in which there are Diocesan parishes and/or missions, a “Declaration of Interest”. This would put on public record a statement of the interest of the Diocese and PECUSA in real and tangible personal property that is owned by or on behalf of parishes and missions within the Diocese. At their last meeting the Trustees of the Diocese approved a motion to do the above.

This in no way changes any ownership currently held by a parish or mission. It only places on the public records, where it might not already be, a reference to what has been in the Constitution and Canons and has governed us for a long time.

As we begin the solemn days of Holy Week may the blessing of our Crucified, Risen and Living Lord uphold, guide and direct us in our witness to the Good News of Jesus. As ever, I remain,

Your brother in Christ,

In other words: All your parish are belong to us. And, oh, Happy Easter.

As one of the astute commenters here noted, it’s not exactly a good reflection on the bishop that he used the last days of Lent to engage in a property grab. But the timing may be all too good if the intent is to intimidate parishes that are thinking about leaving ECUSA.

And as commentary here indicates, he may be lying through his teeth mistaken when he says his action doesn’t change any parish’s rights.

In any case, this letter speaks volumes about the priorities of the Bishop of North Carolina.

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