On or about June 2010, just before the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) was to hold its Synod in Vancouver, a bizarre thing happened after Mass across the breakfast table in our little parish. One of the now former parishioners, a woman told me she hoped I would not "hog the bishop" at the Synod. "You're always hogging the bishop!" she said. "It's disgusting! He's a married man!"
These remarks came so out of the blue that I smiled politely and said a little internal prayer for her, realizing she was probably under a great deal of stress for various personal reasons. Her remarks had nothing to do with me and consequently, they rolled right off.
I am assertive and will, I hope politely, go talk with a bishop or whomever else if I wish. Maybe I inadvertently stepped on toes and was insensitive concerning people who are less direct. But the remark was especially odd since our former bishop is not "hog-able." He has always been extremely disciplined about spending time with everyone, circulating around the room to pay attention to each person and not, in my perception, ever playing favorites. If anything, he has been friendly but distant, in a professional way, with me, making the accusation all the more ludicrous.
I dubbed the phrase "nozzle of weirdness" in talking to one of my friends about this incident.
But this was just once small incident in the led up to the parish split that occurred in September of that year.
We discovered that many people, including the two wardens, were meeting offsite formulating plans to wrest our parish out of the ACCC and its Catholic-Church-trajectory by seeking new episcopal oversight. In other words, they were going after the building and seeking to push our bishop out — though they claimed they would keep him as rector as long as he shifted allegiance to another ecclesial jurisdiction and abandoned plans to join the Catholic Church.
There were also open acts of defiance — once during coffee hour a retired priest and scholar literally waved the Book of Common Prayer open to the 39 Articles and thundered his disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church. He and his wife had been a joy to have in our parish, but the decision to enter the Catholic Church was too much for them.
I write this as a long preface to why I do not hastily make judgments about what is going on in Los Angeles at St. Mary of the Angels, where it seems to me the Nozzle of Weirdness is on full blast.
My experience with falsehoods said about me or others in our parish — that were penny ante compared to what's going on in LA — has made me less inclined to jump to conclusions or to believe things that are written on blogs or on Anglican news sites that tend, for the most part, to be anti-Roman Catholic.
One site recently had a piece on St. Mary of the Angels that I could not bear to read closely. The Nozzle of Weirdness seemed to be pumping things that are downright poisonous. On a spiritual level it hurt to read.
I do not know the situation at that parish. I have never, to my knowledge, been in touch with anyone from there. Maybe there are no angels; maybe no one comes out smelling like a rose. But maybe there is a righteous group or individual who is being lied about.
Here in Ottawa, I know that our leadership protected our assets and defended the by-laws of our incorporation with firmness but they did so with integrity. We lost a third of our parish and one priest after that Sept. 2010 meeting. But we had the necessary two-thirds or whatever super majority we needed to keep the parish in the ACCC and to eventually enter the Catholic Church. I have read somewhere that St. Mary of the Angels had at least two votes of this kind and the numbers were 80 per cent in favor.
But our property is not as valuable as theirs. What would have happened if our monthly income was $20,000? Would we still be fighting with people over it? Another thing came clear from our experience — it does not take a large group to cause a lot of trouble and anguish in a parish — just a small, vocal, determined handful of people can make life almost unbearable for others and many would rather walk away than have to deal with the constant turmoil. I know I would have crossed the Tiber alone if what we had to bear continued for too long.
VirtueOnline now has a piece that outlines the other side of the story — and that version makes the situation sound more similar to ours, in that like us, St. Mary of the Angels is independently incorporated and that it had voted by a clear majority to enter the Ordinariate. The differences: the money involved and the fact that the Patrimony of the Primate was summarily dissolved, leaving them without clear episcopal oversight during their transition into the Catholic Church.
What would we have done if, after choosing to move into the Catholic Church, a bishop who was opposed to the move, swooped down on us, told us we were under his jurisdiction and we could not take our property with us without a lawsuit, or without the police being called in? I have no idea whether this is in fact the case in L.A. I am just wondering.
Here is the latest news, in an opinion piece by Martha Eischen:
For God is not a God of confusion, but a God of peace.” I Corinthians 14:33
Many wild accusations and pronouncements have been swirling around about St. Mary of the Angels, Hollywood, CA, and especially its rector, Fr Christopher Kelley. It has been anything but peaceful in Hollywood. The following sentence from “An Open Appeal to Bishop Marsh,” by the Rev Lawrence B. Wheeler, Holy Cross, Honolulu, sums it up rather accurately:
“The people of St. Mary’s, Hollywood are now suffering greatly from the wounds of division. The congregation has been polarized over the issue of their transition into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and Fr. Kelley’s leadership in that direction.”
An attorney involved in the case said, “It is a complicated legal situation.”
Actually it’s not at all complicated. Two very opposing parties actually came together for two very different reasons to support the chaotic upheaval of this well-heeled parish of true believers, led by a very humble, godly priest, to advance their disparate, but parallel, agendas. Each of the parties sought, by any means, to upset both the course of the parish into the Ordinariate and the path to ordination and continued leadership of the rector. Strange bedfellows they were. Personal ambition and the lust for possession of the good land.
The end, which is still unfolding, voices have spoken above the din of the claims. In the end, who has the authority to restore the flock, with its shepherd, that shepherd that it may safely graze? In the end, does the continued existence of the Patrimony of the Primate, to which St Mary’s clearly belonged, even matter? Did it affect the status of St Mary’s today?
Hoping to capitalize on the court order of June 13, 2012, in which the judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, made a statement that judicial interference in a dispute within a hierarchical religious organization was unconstitutional, Bishop Brian Marsh, as presiding bishop of the Anglican Church in America (ACA), seized the opportunity to make his categorical claim that “as the highest liturgical and religious authority in the ACA” he was advising the Los Angeles Police Department that “Fr Kelley is not the rector at St Mary’s and he has had no authority under the ACA to perform or act in any way as a priest there or to be on the premises since April 2, 2012.”
But the judge’s statement gave Bishop Marsh no such permission. In fact, she simply turns back the questions to the two equal parties in the dispute. Judge Ann I. Jones, concluded the following:
This case clearly presents a dispute within a hierarchical religious organization as to whether the Church has followed its own procedures, i.e., whether the Patrimony of the Primate was properly dissolved or continues to exist. This court would be acting unconstitutionally were it to interject itself into that controversy… Moreover, even if it were not to decide that judicial interference in this matter is unconstitutional, the Court would still deny the Preliminary Injunction on equitable grounds. ACA’s own personnel have repeatedly represented to parishes – after January 1, 2012 (the date on which Plaintiffs claim that the Patrimony dissolved), that they simply need to make a decision regarding their future jurisdiction, and that those parishes that wished to enter the Ordinariate would simply need to apply and that the parish’s acceptance would be “no big deal.” Sometime thereafter, as evidenced by this lawsuit, leaving the ACA became a very big deal and defendant’s reasonable reliance to its detriment to proceed under the ACA’s own stated processes estops the Plaintiffs from changing the rules at this juncture. He who seeks equity must do equity. That has not happened in this case.
From the trail of minutes and documents of the ACA itself, it is very clear, not at all complicated, that the ACA has no authority, jurisdiction or oversight in the ministry, fellowship, and decision-making of the Church of St Mary of the Angels, Hollywood.
For a thorough and clear record of the decisions and statements made by the House of Bishops of the ACA for the last two years, all one needs to do is retrieve the Declaration of the Archbishop Louis W. Falk in support of the opposition to Fr. Christopher P. Kelley to Plaintiffs’ Application for a Preliminary Injunction, filed in Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, June 8, 2012. In that declaration, several key exhibits are presented, which again quite clearly support the parish, its duly constituted vestry and duly elected rector, and their right to determine their own destiny. Those documents are:
1. The Letter of the Patrimony – Abp Falk says, in paragraph 8, “In October of 2010, the ACA bishops, myself included, held our semi-annual meeting. Bishop Stephen D. Strawn proposed that the bishops adopt the Patrimony. His proposal was unanimously accepted, and the Bishops thereafter jointly prepared and authorized the issuance of a letter entitled “Patrimony of the Primate,” which does set forth the intent and purpose of the Patrimony.” Paragraph 5 of that letter reads: “If at a future time the clergy or the parish seeks to return to the Diocese from which they were transferred and released, they are to apply to the Bishop/Ordinary for a License and membership respectively.” St Mary’s has never applied to return.
2. Vestry minutes and letters supporting the legitimate votes and subsequent requests for removal from the Diocese of the West of the ACA are likewise exhibits in this Declaration. St Mary’s and its clergy were released to the Patrimony of the Primate with letters dismissory by then bishop of the Diocese of the West (DOW),Daren, Daren K. Williams, on January 28, 2011.
3. Statement by the House of Bishops – on the subject of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, dated January 10, 2012. The end of Paragraph 2 states: “those who were formerly part of the Patrimony of the Primate must now make a decision regarding their future jurisdiction. Anyone, whether clergy or laity, who may now wish to return to the Anglican Church in America, should do so by contacting the diocesan bishop in their area.” Further, “Now that the circumstances regarding the Ordinariate have been clarified, we welcome those who wish to return to the ACA.” St Mary’s did not do so. Whether the Patrimony of the Primate was dissolved on January 1, 2012 or on April 12, 2012 is irrelevant. The path back into a jurisdiction in the ACA was clearly spelled out on at least two occasions recorded. St Mary’s chose not to return.
Archbishop Falk’s closing statement is, “…Bishop Strawn is without authority to issue the April 2, 2012 “Notice of Inhibition” against Father Kelley. From the time Bishop Williams discharged St Mary’s from the DOW in December 2010 through the present, St Mary’s was, and is no longer a member of the DOW, and as such falls outside of the DOW ecclesiastical care as well as its charge and control.”
In a strongly-worded letter, dated February 5, 2011, and entitled: Re: The Status of the Anglican Church in America, the chancellors of all the dioceses wrote: “According to our canons, those Bishops, clergy and parishes who leave for another jurisdiction, such as the Roman Catholic Ordinariate or the so-called Patrimony of the Primate, have, at this time abandoned the communion of this church and the ACA. With deep regret, the ACA declares that they are no longer a part of the ACA.”
So then, who holds the authority today over the household of St Mary of the Angels? And, how do they derive it?
We can state the following by summarizing Fr Wheeler’s appeal:
1. The vestry holds the cards. Whether it’s by the independent authority of the corporation of the parish, which independence was challenged and upheld at least two times before in court, or whether it is by the canons of the diocese or the ACA canons, the latter two of which are irrelevant, St Mary of the Angels has the right, by the agents of its vestry, to determine its destiny and its property use and ownership.
2. At each annual meeting, St Mary’s elected valid members of the vestry. The names of the current members can be supplied by Fr. Kelley and Dr. Allan Trimpi, his rector’s wardenFr. Kelley and Dr. Allan Trimpi, his rector’s warden, can supply the names of the current members. Further, the vestry stand firm in unanimous support of Fr. Kelley as their rector and havevestry stands firm in unanimous support of Fr. Kelley as their rector and has the utmost confidence in his leadership toward the transition into the Ordinariate.
“Therefore, the opinion of certain members of the opposition to the contrary notwithstanding, any contention that Canon Anthony Morello is the priest-in-charge of St Mary’s is simply bogus. Further, the names of any other so-called vestry members purported to you by Fr. Morello, or by any one of the members of the opposition, some of whom have illegally occupied the church building, are also bogus. Neither does Fr. Morello, nor does Bishop Strawn, nor does Bishop Marsh have the authority to elect or appoint members of the vestry, nor, for that matter, does Fr. Kelley. It is the annual meeting of St Mary’s communicants that elects the vestry, period.” (From the appeal by Fr Wheeler)
In conclusion, I ask these questions:
1. Does it matter that the entire body of St Mary’s voted properly, not once but twice – in 2011 and 2012 – regarding its own destiny, and the overwhelming majority, more than 80%, voted to go to the Ordinariate and fully supported without reservation their priest and rector?
2. Does it matter that the minority, because it desperately wanted to keep its wealth out of the clutches of the Catholic Church did the most heinous things against its own brothers and sisters in Jesus? It was more important to keep the property than to accept the will of the majority, much less abide by the law.
3. Does anyone in the Ordinariate, who is in a position to examine the character and life of a godly priest, this Fr. Kelley, know that from the start there was a pernicious effort afoot, a wicked conspiracy set in motion to destroy a humble priest, who continues under great affliction to be the rector of St Mary’s? Even the civil courts deemed there was no competent evidence to support their trumped-up claims of wrongdoing. All to keep the property, a man’s life and work and a church family’s spiritual journey based on conscience are slammed against the rocks by an advance guilty verdict reported in the court of public opinion.
Let us be reminded that neither Fr. Kelley nor the board of directors of St. Mary’s sought the official court ruling by the Superior Court of California,California was not sought by Fr. Kelley or the board of directors of St. Mary’s, but by members of the oppositionmembers of the opposition pursued it themselves. It was the court of their own choosing. They have no case. Therefore, any further action taken by the ACA, or most especially by the dissidents themselves to circumvent the ruling of the civil court, or to apply ACA canon law to accuse or abuse Fr. Kelley or the true vestry of St. Mary’s, is utterly without merit. The case against Fr Kelley is closed.
This madness is not of God. The lust for power and control, in this case of a substantial property, and the personal ambitions of another, cost an innocent man and an equally innocent congregation not only their reputation, butbut also it cost them their safe grazing in peace and righteousness. St. James warns us perfectly in James 3:16-17, “Where envying and strife is there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace.”
All suffering is redemptive, so we know that God will sanctify this suffering to those greatly injured, but let us plead for our souls’ health, as in the collect for purity:
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.