The right of congregations to control of their temporalities should be firmly and constitutionally recognized and protected."
The following report is shocking. Bishop Leo Michael commented on The Continuum once. He and the other players are free and able to comment here on this blog, and explain their actions- if they can. They may explain, as well, how they differ in principle from TEC's Katherine Jefferts-Schori, whose confidence has been evidently fortified by Beers (David Booth Beers, that is). How many Beers do these allegedly Continuing Church bishops need? The following was prepared by a correspondent and verified by reliable sources.-Fr.Robert Hart
Bishop seizes local congregation’s property to prevent vote to leave his jurisdiction
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- On Friday, May 2, Diocesan Bishop James McNeley and Bishop Leo Michael (Assistant Bishop already named by Bishop McNeley to be his successor) seized the building, bank accounts, and personal property of St. James Church, Kansas City, under a court order they obtained without prior notice to the congregation, its Rector (Rev. John Cochran), Senior Warden, or Vestry.
Although the suit was signed by another Kansas City lawyer, it was planned and written by James F. B. Daniels, St. James’ Junior Warden, who also acts as an attorney for the two Bishops and their diocese. Prior to the actual seizure, Daniels did not notify other officers of the parish that the suit had been filed.
Bishop McNeley and Bishop Michael sought this temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent St. James’ holding a special parish meeting on Sunday, May 4. That meeting had been called to vote on St. James’ separating from or remaining with the Bishops’ Diocese of the Holy Trinity and Great Plains (DHTGP) of the Holy Catholic Church (Anglican Rite) (HCC[AR]).
The Circuit Court of Jackson County scheduled a hearing on the Bishops’ TRO for Tuesday morning, May 13. The Bishops’ court filings ask the Court to issue a permanent injunction against St. James after the motion hearing and without affording the parish a trial on the Bishops’ claims. According to a letter by James Daniels, the Diocese’s Chancellor and author of the suit, the injunction proceeding aims to transfer all St. James’ parish assets to a new “foundation” independent of the parish and controlled by McNeley, Michael, and their personal appointees.
Representatives of St James say this suit is the “flight test” of a new procedure for HCC(AR) Bishops to deprive other HCC(AR) congregations of their assets. The Bishops’ suit against the parish and their attempted takeover of parish property are expressly forbidden by the HCC(AR)’s Constitution, sources said. Autonomy of parish property is common to all the “continuing Anglican churches” which began in the late 1970s by separations from the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). These were reactions to ECUSA’s ordaining women clergy, promoting homosexuality, and abandoning Scripture as the source of moral principles.
Most of these withdrawing Episcopalians lost their parishes and property to the Episcopal Church. This experience made local ownership of parish property a cornerstone of the “continuing church” movement. Since the HCC(AR) formed in 1997 in a schism from one of the original “continuing churches”, HCC(AR) members have declined to eliminate the constitutional guarantee of parishes’ freedom to leave that body with their property intact.
When the TRO was served on the parish, McNeley and Michael’s agents changed all locks on St. James’ building and seized all of the parish’s bank accounts, records, and property. This halted all parish operations including regular worship services by the parish’s Rector, one of the named defendants in the suit. The Bishops announced that services would be held in St. James’ building by Bishop Michael or his nominee.
Thus the Bishops prevented the special membership meeting that St. James had scheduled for Sunday, May 4, immediately after the Sunday morning service. That followed another such meeting the previous Sunday, April 27, at which the parish voted to remove from its by-laws all references to either the DHTGP or the HCC(AR).
These meetings arose out of confrontations with the two Bishops at St. James’ annual parish meeting on January 20 and again with Bishop Michael on April 20. At the January parish meeting, the two Bishops appeared, bringing with them four “guests” whom they insisted be allowed to participate in the meeting as though they were members, in what the Bishops called “insurance votes." Parish officers rebuffed this attempt to stack the parish’s list of voters.
On Sunday, April 20, Bishop Michael appeared without notice to the parish’s Rector or Vestry. He said he had previously arranged this visit with James Daniels, the Junior Warden who is also Michael’s lawyer in the current suit. Here, just as in the later seizure, Daniels did not give advance warning to other parish officials.
Bishop Michael came on April 20 with Daniels who was acting as the DHTGP’s Chancellor or in-house lawyer. After the Sunday service, Michael, who had previously stated he wanted St. James for his cathedral, told the parishioners “Maybe you aren’t worthy of me” and “Yes, I have the ability to take you to court and take this property.”
Michael and Daniels then threatened the parishioners with what they called "the nuclear option." Daniels has explained “the nuclear option” as the way ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, and her Chancellor, David Booth Beers, currently proceed against ECUSA parishes seeking to leave that church. This “nuclear option” is based on the fact that only communicant members can vote on church business, such as whether to withdraw from the national church. National church officials then claim that any member who casts a ballot against the national church forfiets, by that vote and retroactively, any status as a communicant member of the church and so ceases, after the fact, to be an eligible voter.
Thus, ECUSA has said and the HCC(AR) now appears to say, it is never possible to hold a valid vote to leaving either of those church groups.
Bishop Leo Michael resigned from another continuing church body, the United Episcopal Church of North America, on February 18, 2008, three days after Bishop McNeley’s pending retirement became official on February 15. The other HCC(AR) Bishops quickly appointed Michael as McNeley’s successor despite church and diocesan Canons that require a successor bishop to be elected by the clergy and people of the diocese, sources close to St. James say.