Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Episcopal Bishop Sues, Again.

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York filed a lawsuit today against Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York seeking the seizure of the church building, the parish hall, and the rectory. This is the third church which Episcopal Bishop Gladstone Adams of Syracuse has moved to seize since 2006, and the second church he has actually sued.

The priest at Good Shepherd is Fr. Matt Kennedy who is a commentator on the internationally known Stand Firm website. The Church of the Good Shepherd was a small struggling congregation when Bishop Adams took over the diocese as its new bishop. One of the first priests he ordained was Fr. Kennedy, who then went to Good Shepherd and raised it to be a vibrant congregation doubling its Sunday morning attendance. Since taking the church in Binghamton, Fr. Kennedy has acquired a reputation as one of the most widely read and respected commentators of church news in the Anglican Communion. Today, however, that same bishop who ordained him has sued his church, and refuses to even to acknowledge that Fr. Kennedy is a priest, referring to him as "Mr. Kennedy" in correspondence. In a cover letter to the summons, the lawyer for Bishop Adams likewise followed suit, and addressed the priest as "Matt Kennedy" and "Mr. Kennedy."

The lawsuit was filed in the Broome County clerk’s office today. The legal papers ask the court to declare that the Episcopal diocese, which is headquartered in Syracuse, owns all of the property of the Binghamton church based on a so-called Dennis Canon trust theory. In 1979 the Episcopal Church, in an effort to stop congregations from leaving the denomination, enacted a church law which claims a "trust" on any congregation which seeks to leave the denomination. This trust claim is the basis of the lawsuit against the local Binghamton congregation.

One of the other churches which surrendered its property to the bishop rather than face a lawsuit was St. Andrew's Church in nearby Vestal, New York. That church building was taken over by the Episcopal diocese shortly before Christmas of 2007 and is now vacant and for sale, while the congregation is worshipping elsewhere and thriving.

The diocese sued Good Shepherd because the Binghamton church opposes the bishop's stand on homosexual bishops, same-sex ceremonies, and the authority of Scripture. This scenario has been repeated around the USA since the consecration of the divorced gay priest Gene Robinson in New Hampshire in November 2004. The crisis has engulfed the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Good Shepherd adheres to the traditional teaching that sex outside of marriage is prohibited by the Bible, while the Bishop and his staff, and the leaders of the Episcopal Church are outspoken gay activists. The crisis reached a climax recently when Good Shepherd switched its affiliation to an American bishop under the Anglican jurisdiction of Kenya. The Episcopal Diocese then broke off negotiations for a peaceable resolution of the dispute and filed this lawsuit.

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