LETTER TO THIS EDITOR, 25 OCTOBER
The topic we have been discussing lately in letters to the editor is how the Episcopal Church can regain possession of the parishes and diocesan assets the courts have recognized as belonging to the Church. The secessionist side has steadfastly refused to turn over anything to the Church side even though they did agree to abide by the federal court injunction against using the names and emblems of the historic diocese. There have been numerous suggestions on how to solve this problem from the go slow approach on one end to immediate eviction on the other. The question for TEC remains, What is the best way for the Church to repossess the properties and assets that are legally theirs?
Today's letter to this editor calls us to consider the people in the 29 parishes:
Good morning, Dr. Caldwell,
I have appreciated the information you have shared about the legal disputes concerning the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and the insights offered by both you and your readers. I am a member of one of the large churches in Charleston, and like many others I eagerly await the return of the property to the church. I am frustrated by delays in achieving this, but I am also concerned that aggressive actions suggested by some of your readers would be counter-productive. We have to remember that church history takes place over hundreds of years. Many families have attended the same churches for generations, and some people have likely remained in breakaway churches for reasons of community and family history more than agreement with the justifications for the split.
I believe that in time the property will be returned to the Episcopal Church. However, we have to remember that without people a church is simply real estate. The way we go about regaining control of the church buildings and property is critically important in terms of how we are perceived by regular members of the churches and the wider community. Winning the peace will require thoughtfulness and compassion for those affected on all sides. We need to be careful not to behave as landlords evicting a tenant, but as a community eager to restore communion with those members who would like to return to the Episcopal church with the buildings where they have always worshiped. We have been waiting for years to bring the Episcopal community back together. We can't let impatience tarnish what we've worked so hard to achieve.
I say a big "thank you" to the author. This is thoughtful, even eloquent. I agree that church is, at base, a community of people. And, sometimes I wonder if people on the TEC side appreciate the disorientation, and even pain, the people-in-the-pews in the departed congregations may be suffering. If this schism is ever ended it will be by binding the wounds and soothing the distress of those who have suffered on both sides. And too, this is going to take a lot of time. After all, the schism was 30 years in the making and has already lasted 7 years.
If you are a member of one of the 29 parishes, I encourage you to contribute your voice to the conversation. Readers want, need, to hear from you too. Likewise, we need to hear from people who do not want to return to the Episcopal Church. Give us your thoughts too. As I keep saying, everyone has something important to contribute. Do not think you have nothing to say. Everyone has a story and we want to hear yours. Send emails to the address above.