MILWAUKEE, WI: Diocesan Bishop Plans Lawsuit to Recover St. Edmund's Property

david at david at
Fri Jan 9 16:46:40 EST 2009

MILWAUKEE: Diocesan Bishop Plans Lawsuit to Recover St. Edmund's Property

By David W. Virtue 

The Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee, the Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller says he will sue to keep the property of St. Edmund's Anglican Church in Elm Grove, Milwaukee, WI, following the parish's overwhelming decision to leave The Episcopal Church.

VirtueOnline first broke the story Dec. 31, 2008, when the senior warden released a letter to VOL saying the parish had voted to leave the diocese and TEC.

The congregation, founded in 1874 in Milwaukee, has moved their canonical jurisdiction to the Convocation of North American Anglicans (CANA) based in Herndon, VA. St. Edmund's is the first of what is projected to be several Episcopal parishes in Wisconsin to take this step.

In his letter to the parish dated Jan. 4, Bishop Miller wrote that he was "discourteously rebuffed" when he sought to meet with parish leadership on several occasions during the past month. He also stated that he was "saddened" by the decision made by some members of St. Edmund's to "disaffiliate from a diocese where their theological convictions are respected."

 "Sadly, the diocese is now in the position where it will be necessary to seek other remedies to address this situation and recover diocesan assets. This is particularly disheartening to me as the apostle clearly reminds us that God is not glorified when we go against one another in courts of law."

The wardens of the parish responded to the bishop's letter saying his decision to sue them is an effort "to expunge the fetid memory of his last letter to the parish. Rest assured that this little missive is more of the same fulmination, bravado, bluff, and braggadocio stained with the thinnest patina of feigned pastoral concern that arrived in the last diocesan envelope."

They said the spirit of the bishop's letter was little more than "Gnostic" and described their move into another Anglican jurisdiction "wherein Holy Scripture is still the unerring and unchanging Word of God and Christ's Atonement alone is upheld as sufficient means of eternal salvation."

When the story first broke, the wardens said that they received "dozens upon dozens of telephone calls and emails from across the nation expressing support, gratitude and solidarity with the courageous stance taken by St. Edmund's community of faith."

In his letter, the bishop also took a swipe at VOL and various unnamed print media saying, "Let me remind you that the Internet and the print media have not always proven helpful in disseminating information that is honest and accurate."

In their December break with the diocese, the wardens wrote, "The difficult decision to make this lateral move within valid jurisdictions of the Anglican Communion was finalized after months of prayer and discussion at the Elm Grove parish. The final declaration was signed by 75 of the 84 adult communicant members of the congregation," said a press release from the church, the vestry earlier wrote.

A spokesman for the parish noted that the final decisions were made during bitter winter conditions that brought out more communicants, than just those who wanted to sign the declaration.

In a formal letter to Bishop Steven Miller, the Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee, the vestry said the issues were theological and "beyond suffragan episcopal bedrooms in New England". The congregation was contending for the "'faith once delivered to the saints"' and nothing less.

"We are defending the irrevocable stance on biblical authority and order firmly held by the vast majority of the world's Anglicans," they wrote.

"People of Faith are not leaving the Episcopal Church; The Episcopal Church has left them."

The congregation accused the bishop of showing "callow disrespect" for their faithfulness, good will, integrity and the ability of a congregation of thinking adults to make fully informed decisions. "We wish the Diocese of Milwaukee no ill will," they wrote.

The Vestry also stated in their letter that the corporation of St. Edmund's Church would stay in the hands of the parish. "No action on our part may be construed by any person or persons as a dissolution, devolvement, abolition or alienation of St. Edmund's church and all assets, properties, chattel, and resources of St. Edmund's Church remain those of St. Edmund's Church."

In an article appearing Dec. 31 in the "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel", Marsha Ohlgart, senior warden, said the congregation does control the deed to the rectory and the property, but that she was not certain about the deed to the church. When contacted by TLC, Mrs. Ohlgart confirmed that she was the designated spokesperson for the congregation. She confirmed that the congregation will not vacate the property without a court order.

The parish's complete statement, their doctrinal statement and their letter to Bishop Miller can be read here:


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