Thursday, November 10, 2011

Despite surpirse legal action, Diocese of Connecticut seeks way forward with leadership of St. Paul's, Darien

Editor's note: Follow the money to understand this story. St. Paul's is very rich and very conservative. For years they have participated in diocesan convention but refused to pay their fair share of the cost of running the diocese. The parish has filed yet another suit challenging "the legitimacy of a trust that the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut claims it has regarding the Parish's Darien church grounds and assets." Big bucks are at stake here.Bishop Douglas has been very nice to St. Paul's so far, offering them oversight by a more conservative Bishop. And he has nudged them toward paying up. Their response is described below. Do they really think they look like Jesus when they sue to keep more of their money in Darien? 

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, and the rector and vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Darien, Conn., are working within the existing structure of the Church to find a way forward for the clergy and lay leadership of St. Paul’s to remain validly within The Episcopal Church.  The Bishop and other diocesan leaders have maintained and expressed a strong desire that St. Paul’s rector, the Rev. Christopher Leighton, and all of the present members of St. Paul’s continue their historic and present witness to the power of the Holy Spirit within The Episcopal Church.  The lay and ordained leadership of the congregation of St. Paul’s have recently expressed a similarly strong desire to continue as members of The Episcopal Church.

In recent months, Bishop Douglas has met with the Rev. Leighton, the officers of the parish, and the vestry of St. Paul’s to discuss how the present congregation of St. Paul’s can be faithful to their theological commitments within the structure of The Episcopal Church.  Bishop Douglas has outlined that all Eucharistic communities in the Diocese need to maintain a relationship with a bishop of The Episcopal Church, participate in the life of the wider Church including diocesan councils and committees, and contribute financially to the work of the diocese.  To that end, Bishop Douglas has offered St. Paul’s, Darien the possibility of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) by which another bishop of The Episcopal Church who is more theologically aligned with St. Paul’s oversees the parish at the invitation of the Bishop of Connecticut.

Bishop Douglas has been working closely with the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany to offer pastoral oversight to St. Paul’s.  On October 19th, 2011 Bishops Douglas and Love met with the rector and vestry of St. Paul’s to consider the possibilities of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight for the parish.  Specific steps were offered by which the people of St. Paul’s could maintain their relationship with The Diocese of Connecticut.

Nonetheless, on October 27, St. Paul's rector and vestry filed a lawsuit with the Connecticut Superior Court against the Diocese of Connecticut and The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Connecticut believes that the lawsuit is misguided and asks the court to resolve a dispute where none exists; and that the lawsuit appears to ask the court to give its opinion on ecclesiastical questions that are not appropriate or necessary for it to consider, such as whether the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut and The Episcopal Church are part of the Anglican Communion.

Surprised by the legal action, Bishop Douglas responded: “I am shocked and saddened that the ordained and lay leaders of St. Paul’s, Darien have decided at this point to sue the Diocese and The Episcopal Church; especially as I am laboring so hard to find a way for them to remain in The Episcopal Church.  Still, I believe that the love of Jesus can redeem even the most difficult of circumstances and so I will continue to work with Bishop Love and the leadership of St. Paul’s to try and effect a Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight arrangement as soon as possible.”

A 2005 suit by the same parish is described here.

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