Christianity Today on Mainline Protestant church governance disputes

This is an article I picked up via a response from Mr. Haley, Esq., the “Anglican Curmudgeon“, who pointed me to Baby Blue Online. Baby Blue blogs the article here.

I know for my Japan readers, all this shit just gives you a headache. I know. But, you know, we all have our goofy flaws and other eccentricities. And one of mine is this keen interest in the use of property of, and rules of governance of, American religious societies.

Imagine my surprise to find that there is actually a very intellectually rich blogging network of church governance issue fans. I couldn’t believe it (still can’t). People just sitting around all day contemplating whether a parish affiliated with a hierarchical denomination can go tell the hierarchical official to take a leap, or go *** off, and when and how. Then blogging about it. It’s a lot more detailed than that, like the rules to an online game. I don’t think it matters what avatar you pick, but you do have to set up your blog in such a way that you indicate that you’re one of those religious society-type bloggers.

So two degrees removed from here, I find this Christianity Today article. When I see a good article of this nature, it’s like Pavlov’s Dog.

After all, Frederick W. Gundlach v. Peter Laister, 625 A.2d 706 (Pa. Cmwlth 1993) and all that jazz.

One point that’s been sticking like a needle when I go wandering into that thicket has been this recurring pattern of how these judges, while claiming not to try to be “Caesar” and thereby leave Caesar’s views in the Temple deciding religious cases, usually end up leaving Caesar’s views there anyway: They decide the cases based on their own frame of reference from their own personal religions.

When I did this case seventeen years ago, it was oh-so-clear that this was going on in Philadelphia. And that it’s part of litigation strategy by the other side of the “v”. So when I saw this quote in the piece about some Presybterian national lawyer strategy, I said, “yeah, I thought so”:

(From Page 3):

The Layman published online what its editors dub the “Louisville papers,” leaked legal memorandums they say Tammen wrote to presbytery leaders on how to deal with local congregations wanting to leave. Among Tammen’s advice: Ascertain whether the ruling judge belongs to a hierarchal church rather than a congregational one. “It’s very clear that lawyers for the denomination are deeply involved in these local church cases,” Williamson says.

Find out if your judge belongs to a hierarchical church? Find out if you can feed your judge a bale of horse crap so you can win against what in fact is the Real Rule in the case, whatever the rule might be. This is contemporary lawyering, maybe lawyering as it ever was, and why I have that degree and do not use it for a courtroom purpose!

To borrow a term from the famous political consultant, James Carville, religious society “quote slut” Valerie Munson even got her few words in the piece, on page 4:

“A lot of money is being spent by the Episcopal Church to litigate cases that could very easily be settled,” says Munson, a PC(USA) elder. “In a justice system where over 90 percent of cases are settled, it’s a bit of a mystery as to why a Christian denomination would choose to spend its resources on every dispute that comes up.”

As I was telling you handful back last April, Valerie Munson used to do quite a business in Philadelphia bringing cases to litigation representing litigants cases whether in defense or the inevitable countersuit, confusing judges with the very same tactics the Presbyterians supra put in the litigation instruction manual, and not encouraging settlement of easily resolved issues. But now that she’s ensconced in Catholic academia world of Minnesota, time for a new persona.

Now she’s all in favor of the path of mediation. (Now, it’s not her billable hour being racked up.)

I guess it’s fitting that someone like that would end up near a town named after Saint Paul.

Anyway . . .

You out there who enjoy the idea of “taking a stand” and “cases” and whatnot, the reality is it’s more like this crap. Disputes where there are no rules except the ones you can get somebody else to believe, and where you just make any old statements to see what files. And it all just goes on and on, like the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Dickens. As long as there is trust fund money to keep fueling the fire, the fire keeps burning.

You know, come to think of it, some debates and arguments in Japan go on like that just the same.

I wonder if it was good training after all . .