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Monday, August 30, 2010

Church's "Undie Sunday" a Success

What a great idea for an outreach ministry! I wonder if Shepherd's Heart would benefit with something like this for their ministry to the homeless of Pittsburgh?

From via the Hartford CT Courant.

MANCHESTER, Conn. - At first, the idea of "Undie Sunday" unsettled some members of St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

Tighty-whiteys and the Lord's house, after all, are not a natural fit.

"Some of the older people were saying, 'How can you talk about underwear in church?' - but once they realized there was such a need, everyone got around it," church member and collection organizer Lelia Druzdis said Tuesday.

Billed as "a project we can get behind," the collection of new briefs, boxers and panties took off, and laundry baskets in the church narthex quickly filled. By the end of July, St. Mary's members had collected about 1,200 pairs of underwear for homeless and needy men, women and children, Druzdis said. People also gave other items, including bras, and the Manchester BJ's Wholesale Club and Target store donated gift cards.

At the annual Cruisin' on Main event on Aug. 1, the church - touting the theme "What's under the hood?" - made a high-profile handover to Manchester Area Conference of Churches Charities.

"There was a lot of visibility of underwear that day," said Jacki Campion, MACC Charities director of volunteer and community services.

The idea for the collection sprang from St. Mary's outreach committee, which Druzdis co-chairs. She said she contacted MACC officials and found there was a constant need among clients for fresh underwear.

"People who come to the shelter often have just what they have on their backs," Campion said.

Also, customers of MACC's food pantry often need underwear, especially for their children, she said.

"It was an out-of-the-box project," Campion said. "It's not something you would normally think about, but it was something that we really could use."

The response was so positive, Druzdis said, that church members have decided to make Undie Sunday an annual event.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Legal Analysis from the Anglican Curmugeon

Faux Pittsburgh Loses Bid to Dismiss Appeal; ECUSA Wastes More of Your Money

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has rebuffed an attempt by the ersatz-Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, ECUSA, Calvary Church, and their adherents to dismiss the appeal taken from Judge James's order last January directing the real Diocese of Pittsburgh to hand over all its property and assets to the faux diocese, which I discussed in this earlier post. The appellees (including ECUSA, the faux diocese, Calvary Church, its rector Dr. Lewis, its senior warden and a parishioner) had moved to quash Bishop Duncan's appeal on the ostensible ground that it was taken too late.

The background is technical, but let me try to be brief. Last October, Judge James issued a decision which interpreted an earlier stipulation in favor of the faux diocese, as explained in this earlier post. That decision and order directed further proceedings: the special master previously appointed by the court was to confer with the parties and file with the court an inventory of all the property and assets which were subject to the turnover order; the court retained jurisdiction in the meantime. Once the master filed his inventory, Judge James held another hearing with the parties and entered his January 2010 order, as discussed and linked above.

On their motion to quash the appeal from the January 2010 order (which appeal also included several earlier orders), the appellees argued that the appeal was taken too late, because the October 2009 order had not been appealed from in time, and was now final. In answer, Bishop Duncan and his attorneys argued that the October order was not appealable, because it contemplated further proceedings in the trial court, and did not dispose of all the issues between the parties.

Yesterday the Commonwealth Court issued a memorandum opinion agreeing with Bishop Duncan and his attorneys: the October 2009 order was not appealable until after the court's entry of its January 2010 decision and order. It adopted one of the appellants' arguments, which had noted that the "petition for enforcement" originally brought by Calvary and its related individuals (before the formation of the faux diocese) had sought an accounting of the property and assets, so that they could be turned over. That accounting took place only pursuant to the court's directions in its October 2009 order. Thus the latter order could not have been final at the time, because there were still unresolved issues between the parties, namely, which assets were subject to the court's decision. The Commonwealth Court accordingly denied the motion to quash, in these words:
As part of the relief requested in its Petition for Enforcement, Appellees (who were the initiating parties) claimed they were entitled to "[a]n accounting of the real and personal property of the Diocese and its use since 2003." (Petition for Enforcement ¶ 23(a)(1), R.R. Vol. I at 184a.) Moreover, in the Supplement filed by the Appellees, they requested a court-appointed monitor to: (1) "inventory the Property and to oversee any expenditures or transfers of the Property (including cash assets) until assurance of use of the Property within the Episcopal Church is resolved" (Supplement ¶ 25, R.R. Vol. II at 425a); and (2) "conduct an accounting of the Property (real and personal) held or administered by the Diocese and its use since October 14,2005." (Supplement ¶ 27, R.R. Vol. II at 426a.) Additionally, in the Complaint-In-Intervention filed on behalf of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America by the Right Reverend John C. Buchanan on May 12, 2009, Reverend Buchanan requested the trial court to enter "[a]n order requiring defendant Bishop Duncan and the individual defendants . . . to provide an accounting of all real and personal property of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh held on October 4, 2008." (Complaint-In-Intervention ¶ 59(d), R.R. Vol. V at 1954a.) Indeed, the trial court acknowledged the outstanding claims regarding the accounting of the property at issue when it ordered, on October 6, 2009, that it would review the Special Master's inventory report "and [would] enter an appropriate order for the orderly transition of possession, custody, and control over said property." (Trial Ct. Order at 1-2, October 6, 2009.)
. . . [T]he trial court did not issue an order adopting the Special Master's Report and inventory of the real and personal property and decreeing the transition of that property until its January 29, 2010 Order. . . . Thus, the trial court's January 29, 2010 Order disposed of all claims by all parties and, as such, is a final order pursuant to Rule 341 (b) from which Appellants may appeal. We therefore find that Appellants did not waive their right to appeal.

Accordingly, the Motion to Quash Appeal is denied.
In a previous post, I noted that the Commonwealth Court had tentatively ordered oral arguments on the appeal for November 8, and I gave a link to the appellate court's docket sheet. On page 9 of that docket sheet, one learns that there had been an application made to the Court on June 10 to admit as counsel pro hac vice [for the pending matter] one David Booth Beers, Esq. and one Mary Kostel as co-counsel for the appellee Episcopal Church. The Court granted the applications on June 14, and noted in its order: "Jennifer E. Watson, Esq., the moving attorney herein, shall continue to be responsible as counsel of record for the conduct of this matter on behalf of appellee The Episcopal Church, by the Right Reverend John C. Buchanan."

On the same page 9, we learn that the Court had granted Bishop Duncan's attorneys a brief extension of time until July 15 to file their reply brief in the appeal. Then on the next page, we see that on July 6, the appellees filed their motion to quash, along with a supporting brief signed by, among others, David Booth Beers and Mary Kostel. This now gave the appellants a double deadline to meet, since the Court had directed a response to the motion to quash be filed by July 20. So they filed another request for an extension to file the reply brief until July 23, which the Court granted. Argument on the motion to quash was heard by telephone conference call on July 22, the morning before the reply brief was due. Does anyone else want to join me in concluding that the timing of the "motion to quash" was not a coincidence?

The motion, as we now see from the Court's disposal of it, was a waste of everyone's time. As the Court points out in its opinion, it was Calvary Church itself -- later joined by ECUSA in its own complaint in intervention -- which had asked for an accounting in its original petition, and which Judge James ordered take place following his October 2009 order. The contention that the October order was "final" was bogus, since the appellees had not treated it as final when it was handed down, but had met and conferred on the accounting, and then gone back to court to argue for the results to be incorporated in a truly final order. (If the previous order had been "final", there would have been no reason to enter the second one in January.)

Bogus as it was, the motion to quash did not require the talents of the Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Booth Beers, or of her executive assistant for litigation, Mary Kostel, to appear and argue it -- in addition to counsel of record for ECUSA, Jennifer E. Watson, and counsel for Calvary and the other appellees as well. From a query made by five bishops to the Executive Council (which was not contradicted), we know that Mr. Beers charges over $500 per hour to ECUSA for his litigation services -- a "discount" from his normal hourly rate. Ms. Watson's hourly rate is most likely also several hundred dollars an hour, and no one knows what Ms. Kostel charges ECUSA, or whether she is on a salary, or what -- her cost is presumably buried in the nearly $3 million budgeted over the next three years for the cost of the Presiding Bishop's "staff."

But one can know this: the charges to ECUSA for getting its counsel specially admitted, and then drafting, filing and arguing this bogus motion were on the order of thousands and thousands of dollars. If the three ECUSA counsel were on the telephone together, the "argument" alone was costing ECUSA at least over $1000 per hour. (And what would be the point of being admitted pro hac vice just in time to file the motion to quash, if one were not also going to take part in the argument of the motion?)

The point here is not that New York and Pennsylvania attorneys are expensive; we all know that. The point instead is that no one is minding the store, or overseeing what legal work is being done for ECUSA and in its name, on an impartial basis. (Mary Kostel used to work under David Booth Beers at Goodwin Procter -- so how much objective oversight on legal strategies and expenses could she provide? If she is even performing some of that function, she would be overseeing someone who used to be her boss -- and who still, as the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, has quite a lot of unchecked authority.)

In their response to the query made by the bishops to the Executive Council, two members of that Council (who are both attorneys) claimed that “We give you our professional opinion that the church is receiving extraordinary value for the funds it does spend.” That claim is very much open to dispute, as this little incident in Pittsburgh demonstrates. But there is even more that is wrong with this current situation. In a later post, I shall have a good deal more to say about it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Left Tackle"

Bishop John Guernsey writes wonderfully cogent piece on intercessory prayer, something he is eminently qualified to do. His former parish, All Saints' Woodbridge VA, became a "college" of intercessory prayer under his tutelage.

h/t to virtue online

Long before it was made into a movie, I came across the book, The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis. It tells the fascinating and hilarious story of an inner city boy and the changing world of professional football. Michael Oher was the neglected son of a Memphis crack addict, who went on to play in college and, now, the Baltimore Ravens.

Woven through Michael's story-more in the book than in the movie-is the evolution of NFL football and the emergence of the importance of the left tackle. And it begins with a moment long-time Monday Night Football fans will remember: linebacker Lawrence Taylor's blindside tackle that broke the leg of Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann in 1985.

As the passing game became the dominant force in professional football, the quarterbacks who could throw the ball with pinpoint accuracy became the key asset of every franchise. That was predictable. What surprised everyone in the game, though, was the new importance of a previously ignored position, that of left tackle. Since most quarterbacks are right handed, as they stand to throw the football, opposing players coming from the left are attacking them from their blindside-hence the title-and the blind side is where they are most vulnerable.

So defensive coaches began to put their quickest, meanest, most aggressive, most athletic players on that side, to come at the quarterback from his blind side. And in response, offensive coaches realized they had to find players of enormous size, strength and agility and put them at left tackle to keep their multi-million dollar quarterbacks alive.

These left tackles are remarkable athletes, but unless you're a real football fanatic, you probably never heard of any of them. They labor anonymously and without recognition; they are noticed only when they make the rare blunder and allow the quarterback to be sacked.

But here's the fascinating thing: left tackles are the most highly paid position in National Football League after the quarterback. Not the dominant running backs, not the flashy wide receivers. Nope, it's the anonymous left tackle who is the most highly valued.

It is my view that in the church, the position of left tackle is filled by personal intercessors. While the focus may be on the clergy, it is the prayer warriors who are truly fighting the battle on behalf of those leaders. The priest in the pulpit is under attack as surely as the quarterback in the backfield. And how we need the prayers of the saints to cover our blindside.

The Apostle Peter needed others to pray for him. Jesus said at the Last Supper in Luke 22:31, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail."

The Apostle Paul needed others to pray for him. In Romans 15:30, Paul wrote, "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."

In Ephesians 6:19, Paul wrote, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

In Colossians 4:3, Paul said, "Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message."

And in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Paul said, "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men."

Peter needed others to pray for him.

Paul needed others to pray for him.

And as clergy and lay leaders in the Body of Christ, we need others to pray for us.

But sadly, there is often a reluctance on the part of leaders to seek the prayer we need. Many of us clergy were taught in seminary to keep our personal needs private from the flock.

For some is arrogance: I don't need their prayers.

For some it is fear: how might some abuse information I share about my problems or about my family?

For some it is a false humility: I'm the center of attention enough as it is. Why should people pray especially for me more than for everyone else?

Parishioners fail to pray most often out of ignorance. They simply do not understand how vitally important it is to intercede for leaders in the body of Christ. Added to that are lack of information about what to pray for, and lack of training in prayer.

In the best of times, clergy in America are in crisis. They experience burn-out, the result of years of trying to live up to unfulfillable expectations. Christian researcher George Barna reports that pastors in America have a higher risk of being fired than head coaches in the National Football League. Clergy are expected to be all things to all people at all times.

Clergy can be overwhelmed with feelings of ineffectiveness - there is tremendous pain in seeing individuals or even congregations stuck in the same problems, not changing, not growing in Christ, and feeling powerless to make a difference. Management guru Peter Drucker said, "Clergy are the most frustrated profession in the world."

One psychologist called clergy a walking Rorschach inkblot. People see in their clergy whatever is bothering them and they project onto their clergy a lifetime of unresolved issues with parents and authority figures.

We are engaged in a spiritual battle and our adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Clergy experience attacks:

Attacks on finances

Attacks on health

Attacks on marriage and family.

Attacks of fear and doubt.

Clergy need prayer. Yes, we must be people of prayer ourselves. That is vital. But we also urgently need the prayers of others. As leaders, we need to view prayer cover the way the infantry views air cover. We have to fight the battle on the ground, to be sure, but we'd be foolish to try it without that canopy of covering in the heavenlies.

For too many years, I failed to grasp how important intercessory prayer cover is for my ministry, for my family, for me. But I have repented and I've become very intentional about recruiting and encouraging those who faithfully and sacrificially pray and fast for me, for my family and for my ministry.

Such prayer support is not just for clergy. In the parish I served as rector, we would urge everyone who took on a ministry or leadership responsibility to seek out personal intercessors who will commit to pray for them and support them in their ministry as a member of the Vestry or as a Sunday School teacher or as a short-term missionary or youth group leader-whatever their role. It really is OK to ask people to make an intentional commitment to intercede for you.

Those personal intercessors are our left tackles, that most valuable position on the team. Their prayers uphold us and encourage us and protect us.

We all need brothers and sisters in Christ to whom we can say, along with St. Paul, "I urge you..., by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."

---The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey currently serves as Bishop in the Diocese of the Holy Spirit, a diocese in the ACNA. Previously, +John served as Rector of All Saints, Woodbridge, VA and has been instrumental in the development and leadership of SOMA serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors.