20 October 2010

San Joaquin back in court

From the Fresno Bee:
Who is the legitimate bishop in the San Joaquin Diocese, and who owns the diocese's property, including its headquarters in Fresno and parishes from Stockton to Bakersfield?

Those questions are at the heart of the next round in the legal battle between local Episcopalians and Anglicans. The two groups face off today in the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno. The justices will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit, filed by Bishop Jerry Lamb against Bishop John-David Schofield. 

After an overwhelming vote of its clergy and lay representatives in December 2007, Schofield led the diocese away from the national Episcopal Church and to the temporary oversight of an Anglican archbishop in South America. The Episcopal Church responded by deposing Schofield and installing Lamb as its diocesan bishop.
Schofield and the departing parishes hold a conservative theology that opposes the Episcopal Church's increasingly liberal stance on biblical issues, including the 2003 ordination of a gay bishop and whether Jesus is the only way to salvation [and the biblical second class status of women].

[Many in] The worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part, largely supports the conservative view; Archbishop Rowan Williams, who is the nominal head of the Anglican Communion with headquarters in England, earlier this year banned Episcopal representatives from casting votes on global committees. Schism may result, and the San Joaquin Diocese is a mirror of that larger split.

Written arguments in the local case were filed months ago. "We have a seasoned panel of justices. They'll give us a full and fair hearing," said Rusty VanRozeboom, attorney for Schofield. 

Michael Glass, attorney for Lamb, issued a statement Monday refusing comment until after the justices release their ruling, which is expected in about a month. Lamb, who also refused comment, said the diocese "may" have a brief statement after today's oral arguments, depending on the way the hearing goes.

It will be interesting to hear what VanRozeboom has to say about those "seasoned panel of justices" when they rule against Schofield.

Schofield's attorneys will argue that a lower court's ruling naming Lamb as the true Bishop of San Joaquin and owner of all of the diocesan property was in error.  Yet, remember, sisters and brothers, the schismatic sect keep saying they don't care about property. Their actions certainly prove them to be liars.

When the justices will issue a ruling, probably in about a month the case will go back to the Superior Court, where it eventually will be heard by a jury. 

The schismatic sect has a plan and part of that plan is to bankrupt The Episcopal Church though legal fees. The schismatics are funded by a group of extremely wealthy men who are part of a move to return the United States to Old Testament Law as the legal means by which the US is governed. If the schismatics lose, they will try to get their case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

18 October 2010

Crystal cathedral in bankruptcy

Ever since Robert Schuller (Jr) was forced out of the family business by his brothers in law, the so-called Crystal Cathedral has been in a downward spiral. Too many members and supporters saw the ouster as not a Christian Act. well, the chickens have come home to roost for Schuller Sr and his daughter who was appointed by her husband and brothers in law to be the pastor.

The "ministry" filed for bankruptcy Monday in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.
In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.
The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart.
"Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever," Sheila Schuller Coleman (daughter), the Cathedral's senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters outside the worship hall decked with a soaring glass spire.
"Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception," she said.
The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power" and sold property to stay afloat.
In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year's "Glory of Easter" pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.
The church was founded at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. Its worship hall opened in 1970.
The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.
According to reports, the Crystal Cathedral's Sunday services and weekly-telecast "Hour of Power" will continue while in bankruptcy.
Other megachurches have also suffered from the downturn and reduced charitable giving.
Crystal Cathedral saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn't slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner executive producer of the "Hour of Power."
Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral. But after several filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash, it was difficult to keep the group together, Penner said.
Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.
I bet Schuller Sr's "Be Happy Attitudes" are drooping today. I'm feeling some schadenfreude right now. Sorry about that. I go to confession this week.

17 October 2010

Pentecost XX!

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 24 Year C

The Lectionary

Psalm 119 calls for the kind of continued learning Paul commends in his letter to Timothy. As a subject of our recitation and meditation, it offers an entrance into a life of continued, endless prayer. So Jesus tells a story to underscore our need to pray always and not lose heart. It is what Paul elsewhere commends: "pray without ceasing."

And note the forceful summary by Jesus: for those chosen ones who pray day and night, justice shall come and come quickly.

Are we even aware of this linkage? That our prayers are to be linked to justice?

Don't we often tend to be rather selfish in our prayers? We would always like immediate results – but would like those results to be centered on what we want rather than what we need. 

And what Jesus says we need is to pray always and not to lose heart.

There is no better place to begin to pray always than with Psalm 119. One hundred and seventy-six verses reminding us to have Torah, God's law, in our minds all day long. The word "Torah" or one of its synonyms appears in almost every one of the 176 verses: Torah, law decrees, precepts, statutes, commandments, ordinances.

A rabbi was once asked, "What does a rabbi do?" He replied, "A rabbi is to lead God's people to study Torah so that one day everyone will know Torah. On that day when everyone knows Torah, everyone will be a rabbi so that there will no longer be any need for rabbis."

This is the dream of God as revealed to the prophet Jeremiah, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." God wants us to become experts in loving the law and living the law.

We in the church tend to suffer grave misunderstandings about this word law. These misunderstandings come from misreading of Paul, compounded by particular Christian theologians throughout the ages. The word "law" sounds static with the sole purpose of convicting us of sin and misdoings.

Whereas a regular reading of all 176 verses of Psalm 119 would reveal a much richer range of meaning. The "law" is a treasure, a gift, really, that makes one wise and happy. The psalm is written in the first-person narrative voice, making the words of the psalm personal, words that belong to us, words that are given by God to be ours. Torah is not a static set of rules, but a map that provides a personal way of life, a guiding force, a pathway from which it is all too easy to stray but is sweeter than all alternative paths available.

At its core, Psalm 119 as a source of our daily prayer and meditation directs us to endlessly reflect on the Decalogue – the fancy theological name for the Ten Commandments. The first "table" or "tablet" of the Ten Commandments focuses on our love of God; the second "table" or "tablet" focuses on our love of neighbor. 

Jesus spent much of his time discussing the law, Torah, with any and all persons he could. Jesus demonstrates that continual focus, discussion, and meditation on God's law is what leads one in the way of life that is really life, and offers justice for all people. Torah, as understood at the time of Jesus, was a continual unfolding of God's will, new each day, new in each age. Torah, or law, was not confining, but empowering, and necessary to being God's people in the world.

And meditating on the law day and night, as Jesus lives and instructs us to do ourselves, reminds us of our God-given responsibilities to love and care for our neighbors, especially those in greatest need.

It turns out God does have a plan to care for those in greatest need: we are that plan.

How wonderful it would be if all of us, every day, would read all of Psalm 119. How might the world be different if our love of God's law was something we treasured in our hearts all day long? For Jesus this is faith: Torah in action every day.

The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, MD, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.