MILWAUKEE, WI: Bishop Threatens Lawsuit Against St. Edmund's Leaders

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Thu Jan 22 22:43:13 EST 2009

MILWAUKEE, WI: Bishop Threatens Lawsuit Against St. Edmund's Leaders

By David W. Virtue 

The Bishop of Milwaukee, The Rt. Rev. Steven Miller is threatening to take legal action against St. Edmund's Episcopal Church in Elm Grove to "recover diocesan assets" following a bitter exchange of letters between the liberal bishop and the parish.

In a letter dated January 16 and addressed to the parish, (the church does not have a full time rector), Miller called for a special meeting on January 22 at First Congregational Church, in Wauwatosa. "The purpose of the meeting is to have a conversation about how St. Edmund's Episcopal Church will continue in its life and mission."

"I write to you as members of St. Edmund's Episcopal Church. Over the past few days I have heard from a number of you voicing your concern, bewilderment and even disgust at the late actions of the self-proclaimed and extra-canonical leadership group that claims to have removed St. Edmund's from the Diocese of Milwaukee and the Episcopal Church.

"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."

A source in the parish told VOL that Bishop Miller could expect no more than four persons to attend a meeting he calls. If there is more than that, they will be ringers he brings in for the occasion.  "We had 80 people in church this morning and only one said they would go just to find out what he is up to. We have experienced progressively higher numbers each Sunday at Holy Communion in the weeks that we have been out of the Diocese even though we have suffered through wretched weather. We have "lost" a grand total of three people who have indicated that they could not support the move, thus, if we are talking about "real St. Edmundsites" then he (the bishop) can expect four people on Thursday and maybe one who just wants to hear what he is up to."

The source also told VOL that the most interesting point is that the bishop is holding the meeting at Wauwatosa Congregational Church, only a block from Trinity Episcopal Church. "He has a history with Trinity."

In his letter, Bishop Miller said that since the retirement and subsequent death of Fr. Wayne Olmstead as rector, he had worked with the vestry to secure interim clergy leadership and had sought to assist them in calling a new priest. "Over the past months we have sought to meet with the duly elected canonical leadership of St. Edmunds to address recent vestry and parish conflicts."

"We have done so in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Milwaukee. These efforts have been either ignored or discourteously rebuffed. The unilateral actions asserted in the December 30th statement occurred after this group's refusal to meet with me and my representatives."

An active parishioner told VOL that what Miller wrote is untrue. "He turned down at least three meetings that he knew about. If you don't count the funeral of the former Rector, he has been at St. Edmund's only once. His Parish Development Director has been there once, although the church was without a rector for almost three years."

In a formal letter to Miller, church leaders blasted the bishop saying that the issues are theological and "beyond suffragan Episcopal bedrooms in New England". The congregation is 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."

Miller took a swipe at Internet and print media calling them neither "honest nor accurate" in reporting what was going on.


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