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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scorched Earth in a Freezing Land


The Church of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY

As I become more settled in the Holy Catholic Church, I find my interest in the Episcopal Church slowly waning though there will always be a place for her in my heart. A story appeared a few days ago, however, that illustrates what a sad, petty and, ultimately, strikingly unchristian institution the Episcopal Church has become.

The Rev'd Matt Kennedy some years ago become rector of the small and moribund Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in a depressed neighborhood in depressed Binghamton, a city in depressed upstate New York. With his parishioners, he and his wife turned the church around and it is now a thriving concern that does much good work in this downtrodden area, including the feeding of 40-50 people in its soup kitchen, among them, according to the church's website, "a fairly large number of homeless people who live on the banks of the Susquehanna River which runs across the street from Good Shepherd."

Over a year ago Good Shepherd broke with the Episcopal Church, distressed over her headlong charge into apostasy, and affiliated with a diocese of the Anglican Church in Kenya. Good Shepherd's former diocese, the Diocese of Central New York, sued Good Shepherd to recover the church's property and on January 12th, the state Supreme Court (New York State's lower court) ruled in the Diocese's favor, awarding it the building, the land, the fixtures and every stick of furniture. As I write this, the rector, his wife and parishioners are packing up the few items they are permitted to take away and moving them to their new quarters, an unused Catholic church a mile-and-a-half away. This accommodation is only temporary. From there, the people of Good Shepherd have no idea where they will go.

As a Catholic, I am aware in our Church most property belongs to the local diocese (and am aware also the importance of obedience to one's bishop, no matter how wrong-headed he may seem). While property ownership in the Episcopal Church is a hotly litigated matter these days, what particularly galls about Good Shepherd's plight is after that church elected to split from the Episcopalians, its vestry twice offered to to buy the property from the diocese, offering the market value a year ago, well before the recent real estate collapse.

The Diocese of Central New York turned down both offers and chose instead to sue the little church, no doubt at the behest of Presiding Bishop Schori and her consigliere David Booth Beers. Central New York, like so many dioceses in the Episcopal Church, is comprised mostly of rapidly emptying churches, thus there is no earthly use whatsoever to the diocese for Good Shepherd's property, other than to satisfy the vengeful lusts of Ms. Schori, Mr. Beers and Central New York's ordinary, the Rt. Rev'd Gladstone B. ("Skip") Adams, III.

Meanwhile, Good Shepherd's soup kitchen will soon close, if it hasn't already, and the poor souls living on the banks of the Susquehanna in frigid upstate New York (it is zero degrees in Binghamton right now) will have to find somewhere else to go on Thursday nights for their hot meal.

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