December 10, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Episcopal Church

The story of Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York is widely known: the parish decided in 2007 to leave the Episcopal Church, offering to pay $150,000 to the Diocese of Central New York for the small 130-year-old property. Rather than negotiate a payment from the departing Anglicans, the diocese opted to sell the building for only $50,000 to an Islamic group, which converted the church building into an Islamic awareness center. According to the Rev. Tony Seel, the Diocese even added a legal caveat to the sale stating that the new owners of the property could never re-sell the building to the original congregation. You can read the whole story here, as chronicled by IRD’s Faith McDonnell.

This is a photo of Good Shepherd’s Christmas Eve service just before they left their building:

Parishioners of Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd celebrate Christmas just prior to vacating their 130-year old church building. (Photo: Matt Kennedy)

Parishioners of Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd celebrate Christmas just prior to vacating their 130-year old church building. (Photo: Matt Kennedy)

This is the building today:

Friday prayers are held at the former site of Church of the Good Shepherd, now an Islamic awareness center in Binghamton, NY. (Photo: Raymond Dague)

Friday prayers are held at the former site of Church of the Good Shepherd, now an Islamic awareness center in Binghamton, NY. (Photo: Raymond Dague)

“I’ve had two principles throughout this,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told NPR earlier this year when speaking about Episcopal property battles. “One, that the church receive a reasonable approximation of fair market value for assets that are disposed of; and, second, that we not be in the business of setting up competitors that want to either destroy or replace the Episcopal Church.”

By only getting $50,000 for the building, the Episcopal Church apparently jettisoned the first principle. Since Islam is not considered by the Presiding Bishop to be a competitor to the Episcopal Church — but Anglicans apparently are — the second principle seems to have weighed more heavily. As for the common refrain by Episcopal Church litigators that they are “preserving property for future Episcopalians,” it would seem that the Binghamton property will certainly not be preserved for their purposes.

Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church’s strategy of litigation against all parishes that seek to depart with their property is not going to conclude anytime soon. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina severed its relationship with the national church in October, and in January a small number of parishes wishing to remain a part of the denomination will form a loyalist diocese. This group of somewhere between 5 and 12 churches will then proceed to initiate litigation against all of their former South Carolina Episcopalians, and attempt to gain control of the church buildings they worship in. Good Christians may disagree over who these properties rightfully belong to, but hopefully they will not end up like the former Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton.

Service for the Dedication and Consecration of a Church in the Book of Common Prayer:

Through the ages, Almighty God has moved his people to build houses of prayer and praise, and to set apart places for the ministry of his holy Word and Sacraments. With gratitude for the building of (name of church), we are now gathered to dedicate and consecrate it in God’s Name.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we thank you for making us in your image, to share in the ordering of your world. Receive the work of our hands in this place, now to be set apart for your worship, the building up of the living, and the remembrance of the dead, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You can find Jeff Walton, Communications Manager, on Twitter at @JeffreyHWalton.


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  • davey wavey

    Narrow-minded analysis. Are you offended that this property ended up in Muslim hands? Why? Are you bigoted?

  • J S Lang

    This story reminds me of a saying I heard growing up in the Deep South;
    “When the Baptists split, they spread;
    when the Methodists split, they’re dead”
    – meaning, when Baptists had a falling-out, they broke away and formed a new church, whereas the disgruntled Methodists just stayed home. Obviously the creation of a new parish is the sign of greater vitality, and it does warm my heart to see that, in some cases, “When the Anglicans split, they spread.” Yes, I know there is a lot of emphasis on UNITY in the New Testament – also lots of warnings about false teachers. The faithful Christians can’t boot out the false teachers, since the false teachers are the ones IN CHARGE, so the faithful have to make the exit.

    I’m guessing that in, say, 20 years, the Episc will be in the same position as the United Church of Christ today – NO evangelicals, and thus no obstacle at all to the leftward slide. I’d also guess there will be a lot more “united” churches, cases where 2 or 3 declining mainline congregations merge because they can’t afford to maintain their properties any more. The UCC and Disciples have already merged some of their agencies. Look for more of that, and I wouldn’t rule out an eventual United Church of America – solidly leftwing, of course.

    Whatever you say about the American religious scene, it ain’t boring.

  • Beryl Moon

    This article makes me cry.

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  • Bill Wimp

    Davey, bigoted for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, absolutely!

  • http://gravatar.com/gracedme gracedme

    Davey, if you believe Jesus to be the (singular) way to heaven, and a building where this truth was once communicated, then you would not be bigoted, but instead grieved.

    • http://inaweofhimdaily.wordpress.com mrskbw

      That is exactly what we should be doing, grieving! We grieve the heart of God when we serve other gods. I wonder if the people who are still clinging to the UMC realize the agreement that was made with the Episcopal Church at the 2012 General Conference in Tampa??? There are a lot of blind people in the churches. We should be grieved!

  • Eric Lytle

    What exactly is “narrowminded” about not wanting to see a Christian church turned into a Muslim center? I just don’t get the kneejerk Politically Correct mentality, as if a person isn’t allowed to show loyalty to his own religion. If a group of Christians burned the building down, yeah, that would definitely be “narrowminded.” But to prefer one’s own religion over another – what’s wrong with that? Liberals apparently want to go beyond “tolerance” into “dont dare show any preference of any kind.” I think I have a right to adhere to a religion that hasn’t caused planes to fly into skyscrapers, killing thousands of innocent people.

  • suzyK.

    Davey Wavey! You are silly. If you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life than ask those questions to yourself next time.

  • Donnie

    Davey,

    I think 2 Corinthians 6:14 has a lot to say on this subject.

  • Eric Lytle

    How about Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation.” I guess old Paul was a bigot, but, hey, Paul is a better role model than these milksop pastors with their “gospel” of “be nice, recycle, hug trees, invite your lesbian neighbors over for brunch.” As you may have noticed, the “gospel of nice” caves in immediately to aggressive Islam.

  • Johnny Cowart

    Satan, the evil one, is clearly running the show at The Espisopal Church. Can you imagine the hate that exists in their minds from the evil one that could allow them to act so satanic? Lets pray for their souls which are surely in jeopardy.

  • James D. Berkley

    A bishop is supposed to be a spiritual leader, a shepherd who cares for the sheep. The Presiding Bishop, however, shows no concern for: 1) the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ through a well-functioning congregation; 2) the welfare of a particular set of believers within a faithful congregation; or 3) the welfare of any congregation somewhat resembling the Episcopal Church. What she values in her two priorities are: 1) the preservation of denominational wealth and 2) the protection of market share for the denomination. Ecumenism, the Kingdom of God, the greater family of faith, the spiritual nurture of the particular community in which the facility is located–none of these seems to matter a whit. This is religion gone rancid!

    Paul’s response to Simon in Acts 8:20-23 would seem the most appropriate response to the Presiding Bishop and her patently avaricious priorities:

    “May your money perish with you [or more directly: “You and your money go to hell!”], because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

  • J S Lang

    I sometimes think the reason the Episcopagans use incense is that their church is a rotting corpse. They pride themselves on being the “church of beauty” (“bells and smells”), but morally they are hideous, like the religious version of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

    I’m sure the presiding bishop (I won’t use capitals, she doesn’t deserve them) doesn’t believe in hell (most Episcopagans don’t, and that’s more true of the clergy than the laity), but I think she will find Judgment Day to be a highly educational experience. Her gown and mitre and gaggle of gay sycophants won’t be of much help at that point.

  • Gary

    wavey davey – are you an idiot? You turn down $130,000 for $50,000 and you don;t see the humor in that? Disregard the religious concepts for a minute and think about the abolsute lack of business sense.

  • Eric Lytle

    I’m surprised they didn’t go one step further and GIVE the property to the Muslims, since the goal was, apparently, to show as much contempt as possible for this group of Episcopalians who actually deserve to be called “Christian.”

    A news flash for the presiding bishop: when it comes to “competition,” you don’t stand a ghost of a chance against the Muslims, toots.

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  • http://www.netministries.org/see/churches/ch05703 frcolumba

    There is a similar practice in old public schools. The National Education Association NEA – a public “service” union) makes it so that a closed public school can not be sold to a private school organization.