Monday, September 15, 2014

So Here's What I Think Happened

I'd been wondering for weeks why there was no announcement on the Trinity Pro-Cathedral web site that "Bishop" Williams was going to St Mary of the Angels. Now it's clear: the Trinity vestry had fired the guy and was keeping it confidential. But this raises another set of questions: whose idea was it to send him to St Mary of the Angels? And was anyone, appointed "vestry" or not, ever made aware of the circumstances at Trinity?

We don't know anything of the "unresolved moral concerns" that may have been connected with Williams's departure from Trinity, although let's face it, responsible adults (if there in fact are any) among the Bush-ACA faction at St Mary's should have been fully apprised of them, and they should have been given a full opportunity to turn down the deal. (I will say that there are ladies of advancing years among that group who are quite capable of saying "Immorality? Sounds intriguing.")

But after all, this is the ACA. St Mary's has a "vestry" that hires a rector, but not really. It also has an absentee "rector", who theoretically is the one who hires other clergy. I would assume that if he's the "rector", it would have been his decision alone to hire Williams as "pastor", whatever that means. My guess is that Frederick Rivers, in his capacity as "rector", did what Brian Marsh told him to do and hired Williams, who had to get out of Dodge in a hurry, and St Mary's was a convenient place to park him.

The best thing that could have happened that might lead to a rector's dismissal on moral grounds would be an affair with an adult female parishioner. There's no guarantee that this is what happened, though. There's also the thing that used to be quaintly called a "morals offense", which might cause greater disquiet among conservative Anglicans. And then there's ACA Canon 46, "Of Offenses for which Bishops, Presbyters, or Deacons May Be Tried"

Section 46.1 A Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon of this Church shall be liable to presentment and trial for the following offenses, viz:
  1. Crime or immorality
That happened, after all, to Williams's colleague "Bishop" Hiles, and to the author of the whole freak show, "Archbishop" Falk, when both were Episcopal priests and had gotten a bit frisky with the pew. As these bishops see things, no big deal. We all have our secrets, after all, we'll just keep this little business among ourselves.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interdict Signs

This appears at the Freedom for St Mary's site. I don't know what the "unresolved moral concerns" are, but from just poking around the fringes of this bunch, I feel certain there are plenty. If I had the mad money, I'd spend it on private investigators. On the other hand, the stuff I can find via the Internet just gets referred to ACA stooges with secrets of their own for "investigation".

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Another Blooper!

I was checking the St Mary's web site, as I do every now and then, and I discovered that the Monday Mass for September 15 is the Exultation [sic] of the Holy Cross.

This isn't up there with the page that had Cannon Morello presiding over the Angelican parish, but it's close. And at least the guy who put the earlier blooper up had the excuse that he was a loser -- even Mrs Bush eventually got tired of him. But this one had to have come straight from the "Bishop" himself!

I've heard Episcopalians described as "Catholic lite". I think I would characterize "continuing Anglicans" as Catholic dumb.

A Couple Weeks Late,

Trinity Pro-Cathedral has quietly replaced The Rt Rev Owen Rhys Williams on its web page. All news has also been purged. The Rev Andrew S Faust appears as the presumptive adult in charge. And that's it -- do you get the impression that Trinity wasn't sorry to see Williams go? As opposed to the fanfare on the St Mary of the Angels web page, this was a remarkably quiet departure.

Faust appears to be retired from Episcopal rectorships at parishes in Florida and Texas. Public records give his age at 67 and his residence in Saco, ME, which leads me to believe he's a supply priest here, at least for the time being. An easy couple hundred a week, don't ask too many questions.

Still, I keep wondering, given typical memberships, how any ACA parish can even heat the place in the winter and keep the lights on, much less pay anyone. Fr Faust, you're best off collecting your supply honorarium while you can and moving on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The ACA -- Who's Affected? -- II

Two things pop out when you start to look more closely at the ACA. One is how few parishes are in anything like metropolitan areas -- even in the densely populated Northeast, the largest parishes seem to be in also-ran cities like Portland, ME or Concord, NH, and these are by any normal standards very small. The Rector of St Paul's Anglican Portland noted in a recent newsletter,
Oh, did I mention that last Sunday, the 13th of February, we had 17 at the 8 o’clock Mass and 38 at the 10 o’clock Mass? It’s probably a record for any Sunday other than Easter-day. And in February, in the midst of all the cold and snow!
So a total Sunday attendance of 55 at one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of the Northeast is exceptional! (And that includes choir and altar party at the 10:00, which means the nave must have been pretty forlorn. Reminds me of a former Episcopal parish, where we had to lean across two rows of pews to exchange the peace.) The news item in the Concord, NH Monitor that discussed "Christian" Tutor's ordination said that parish had a membership of 45 and worshiped Sunday afternoons in a Lutheran church, itself a rather sad-looking A-Frame.

Very little in the Tri-State area around New York City -- the parish in Elizabeth, NJ comes up on Google Street View as a parking lot; maybe someone can clarify this. St Joseph's Brooklyn is the only substantial building, but not large, while the Queens parish appears to be in a storefront. So much for the biggest urban area in the US.

Pretty much every other parish in the Diocese of the Northeast is in exurban or downright rural areas. A puzzle is St Elizabeth's Chapel Tuxedo Park, which began as a family chapel of the J.P.Morgan banking family. The history here must be intriguing, since J.P.Morgan himself was an enthusiastic Episcopalian, and the chapel must have been a TEC institution until fairly recently. I also assume it has an endowment, which must be among the few actual sources of income for the ACA.

Pretty much the same goes for the Diocese of the Eastern US -- what of Atlanta, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington, Richmond, Pittsburgh, etc etc etc? Again, a scattering of little storefronts and prefabs in rural areas, the parish in Allentown, PA about the only exception.

Same for the Diocese of the Missouri Valley, roughly a dozen little prefabs or storefronts with just a few substantial buildings anywhere. And the Diocese of the West is simply moribund, a few converted residences, a couple of rentals in funeral parlors and whatnot, and two real buildings where they can't seem to hold onto supply priests.

In 2012, I estimated an average size of 60 for ACA parishes in good standing. Thirty is probably generous. To be nice, I estimated 19 as an average mission size. Ten may be closer to the truth.

Where is the membership? And following on that, where are the pledges? Where are the diocesan tithes? Where is the money? How would even seizing St Mary of the Angels, obtaining title outright, and selling the place, do anything at all for this sorry little denomination? What do Marsh and his cronies really have in mind?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The ACA -- Who's Affected? -- I

Over the past couple of years, I've come to the conclusion that the major figures in the ACA, especially the bishops, are reckless and dangerous incompetents. This has two implications. The first is that they are likely to hire priests and engage volunteers who have not had adequate background checks -- we've simply seen this over and over. The other implication is that the denomination is one major blunder away from bankruptcy and dissolution. One example is the ticking clock on the St Mary of the Angels lawsuits: the odds are better than even that the case will return to the trial court, the parish will be awarded to the elected vestry, and the clawback of plundered resources will begin.

The Armchair Detective at the Freedom for St Mary site keeps coming back to the question of criminal conspiracy. But civil penalties alone in the St Mary's legal proceedings would probably spell personal ruin for most of the ACA bishops -- and that leaves aside the potential for further personal indiscretions that would embroil the denomination in scandal.

So how many children are now at risk from priests who've been eased out of the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, ACNA, or other denominations and hired by the ACA without background checks? How many faithful parishioners will either need to find new spiritual homes when their parishes dissolve within the next few years, or how many parishes will remain viable enough to move to another pitiable "continuing Anglican" denomination? (My advice to all, frankly, would be not to wait, go into the ACNA now, and by the way, get that background check on Fr ____ when you do.)

The last time I looked at the ACA's numbers was in November 2012. I think my estimate of the time, a total membership of about 2300, was too generous -- it's probably more like half that.

Here's my count of parish building size, based on a recent tour of diocesan web sites and visits to all parish web sites. Not all have photos of their buildings; where they don't, I've tried to use Google Street View to get better information. But here's a rough tally by building type, based on personal appraisal of what I can see on the web, supplemented by specific information on parish web sites where it's available:

Inactive parishes, no building address, meets irregularly or not at all: 6

Home missions: 5

Worship in rented space (storefronts or other denomination churches during off hours): 14

Converted residences, larger than home missions: 7

Ugly prefab steel buildings: 18

Real stone or wood traditional church buildings: 13

So there's another indicator of what the denomination really is -- not much there, when you really start looking. We're back to asking where the money is, because a year or so from now, Marsh, Strawn, Williams, Rivers, and so forth are going to need to find some serious money, both to pay judgments and pay their own (if the Armchair Detective is to be believed) criminal attorneys.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Legal Update

On September 3, the last possible day, the attorneys for Mrs Bush and the ACA filed a petition for review of the appeals court's July 23 decision largely in favor of the St Mary's elected vestry. (I haven't discussed the specifics of the case or the elected vestry's legal strategy with anyone on the vestry or its legal team.) However, my wife and I think it's unlikely the supreme court will review the case.

For starters, the opinion is "unpublished", which means it can't be used as a precedent.

One of the most straightforward reasons for granting review is to secure "uniformity of decision" - to ensure that trial courts have a consistent body of law to follow. Because unpublished decisions are not considered precedent and therefore do not affect California law (Cal. R. Ct. 8.1115(a)), they are unlikely to be accepted for review under this criterion.
The appellate court also accepted the elected vestry's position that established principles of contract law and established precedent could allow a trial court to determine the facts of the case. This means that the supreme court is unlikely to decide that some new area of the law needs to be clarified as a result of the case -- California has had a fairly large number of cases stemming from ownership and control of church property in recent years, due to the large number of parish defections in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. The elected vestry's attorneys used these cases as precedent.

In addition, the appeals court took a "least drastic" approach in its decision, sending the case back for trial, rather than awarding the case to the elected vestry as it had requested. It appears to me that the appeals court was deliberately adopting a low profile in this case in order to avoid review by the supreme court, although nothing is certain in these situations.

A successful petition for review does not merely harp on errors in the lower courts. Instead, it demonstrates convincingly how the court of appeal's decision significantly affects a broad range of Californians; or presents a conflict between lower courts that must be settled; or both. At the state's high court, where only a small fraction of requests for review can be granted, nothing less will do.
The California Supreme Court will take at least 60 days to decide whether to review the case, although the likelihood is high that it will not. If it decides not to review, the case goes back for trial, which is the outcome Mrs Bush and the ACA have tried to avoid from the start.

"Bishop" (or is it "Pastor") Williams is apparently now saying mass at St Mary's. Like his colleagues, the man is reckless and a dangerous incompetent.