CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK, and CALIFORNIA—A scorched earth policy. That’s how Anglicans who have left The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its endorsement of unbiblical beliefs and actions often describe TEC’s response. From depressed Binghamton, N.Y., to affluent Newport Beach, Calif., TEC leaders have fought dozens of court battles to force congregations leaving the denomination to forfeit the buildings they, their parents, and their grandparents paid for.
Here’s one example: Church of the Good Shepherd stood for nearly 130 years on a main road through Binghamton, a former manufacturing hub that now has a high unemployment rate. Members were long concerned about theological drift, and the consecration of a homosexual bishop in 2003 by TEC’s General Convention was the last straw.
Binghamton rector Matt Kennedy began a conversation with the bishop of central New York, telling him the church would likely leave TEC to seek oversight of an Anglican bishop in another province. Kennedy says the initial meetings were productive, and the congregation offered to buy its building from the diocese for $150,000—but TEC hierarchs rejected the offer. After the congregation disaffiliated from TEC in 2007, the diocese filed suit for the building.
Kennedy says the congregation considered walking away, but would have had no resources to continue. Plus, the rector said: “We thought it would be good for outsiders to see that those who claim to be about tolerance and inclusivity really aren’t about those things. It’s really more a kind of tyranny.” In 2009, though, a judge ruled against the congregation, which had to leave immediately.