Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The ACA's Dilemma

The ACA has a potential problem I've foreseen since 2012 -- its actions in placing a group of squatters onto the parish property have been instigated and formally, repeatedly, and publicly endorsed by the House of Bishops. The same ACA chancellors who recognized that the Patrimony of the Primate was separate from the ACA in 2011 saw no conflict in Strawn and Marsh seizing a Patrimony parish in 2012. These people are incompetent and will bring considerable trouble on themselves and the ACA. I wouldn't hire any of them to get me off a traffic ticket.

There's an additional downside to the direction the court cases have taken: since 2013, Church Mutual Insurance has refused to cover Mrs Bush and her group of squatters on the basis that they were neither the policyholders nor the insured on St Mary's insurance policies. By extension, it seems reasonable to expect that officers' insurance for the ACA will not cover actions by Marsh, Strawn, Owen Williams, Anthony Morello, Frederick Rivers, the chancellors, or others on the basis that in placing a group of squatters on the St Mary's property, they acted outside the scope of their authority.

Public corporations must sooner or later hold dishonest or incompetent officers accountable. Given an equivalent legal turn of events, which was predictable once the appeals court sent the case back for retrial, a corporate CEO would have been negotiating his severance package, and in due course there would have been a quiet announcement that he was leaving to spend more time with his family.

My wife and I see no choice for the ACA but to separate itself from the legal interests of Marsh, Strawn, Owen Williams, and others. The problem is that in a public corporation, the body that would do this is the board of directors. The equivalents to corporate boards in the ACA are parish vestries, diocesan standing committees, and the ACA Executive Council. Every indication I have is that these are packed with stooges and riddled with vacancies.

A visitor pointed out to me, for instance, that the ACA Diocese of the West Standing Committee has only two clergy listed, apparently with no other clergy willing to fill vacancies. It appears that Fr William Bower has simply extracted himself. Canon Charles Slagle is on the DOW Standing Committee, though not listed at any parish in the few that are left. In fact, he is Canon Missioner of the Diocese of the Missouri Valley, which can only mean that he is there to protect Stephen Strawn's interests, not those of the DOW. Two other prominent members of the DOW Standing Committee are Mrs Bush and Mrs Creel, both presumably liable for damages in the St Mary's seizure and thus with clear conflicts of interest.

There don't appear to be enough adults on any such body who aren't thoroughly implicated in the St Mary's seizure to act effectively to protect the denomination's interests. At the time I was compiling a list of ACA parishes and missions, it was pointed out to me that few parishes actually have rectors -- many are missions or parishes with priests-in-charge, who are subject to removal at any time by the bishop. Many of the strongest parishes with effective clergy, of course, left the ACA for the Patrimony in 2011, and several have gone into the US-Canadian Ordinariate.

Beyond that, if Marsh, Strawn, and Owen Williams were to be forced out -- highly unlikely in any case -- there are no credible successors. John Vaughan appears to have some potential exposure to scandal, which could erupt if he were promoted. James Hiles is an octogenarian who doesn't seem very active currently. It doesn't seem likely that Louis Falk, also an octogenarian, would step in. The only credible possibility would be George Langberg, although even he may be tainted by the St Mary's seizure.

This is almost certainly the way Brian Marsh wants it.