When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
Coincidentally, The Living Church recently ran an editorial dealing with this same subject: http://www.livingchurch.org/news/news-updates/2010/2/25/editorial-lent-and-lawsuits. I do not agree with all of The Living Church's editorial, but they are right to question the recklessness with which supposed followers of Christ are engaging a type of conduct expressly condemned in the New Testament.
The editorial begins by mentioning the intervention of the Presiding Bishop in affairs of the Diocese of South Carolina by retaining legal counsel without consulting with (and possibly with the intention of legal action against) the Bishop of South Carolina because of concerns that a handful of parishes in South Carolina might be taking action to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church.
As the Presiding Bishop described Bishop Lawrence’s actions, her tone departed from the proposed discipline of Lent. “He’s telling the world that he is offended that I think it’s important that people who want to stay Episcopalians there have some representation on behalf of the larger church,” she said in remarks to the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on Feb. 19.
No, Presiding Bishop, it could be that the Bishop of South Carolina is offended that your first response to the thought that a congregation might be distancing itself from the Episcopal Church is to hire lawyers. Or it could be that, as the Living Church editorial opines, "neither do we believe that filing lawsuits against fellow Christians is a matter of good stewardship."
As I read 1 Corinthians 6, it is more serious than a matter of good stewardship. But, if we look at the issue of stewardship as it pertains to the Episcopal Church's litigation, it might pay to ask how that is working out?
Attorney A.S. Haley, who blogs under the name "The Anglican Curmudgeon" has been following the Episcopal Church's budget problems and expenditures on litigation in a series of posts, entitled ECUSA's Finances, the latest installment of which was posted yesterday: http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2010/03/ecusas-finances-updated.html. Mr. Haley notes that the line item labelled Legal Assistance to Dioceses (paying for the cost of dozens of major lawsuits), the amount budgeted for 2009 is $100,000. The amount spent during 2009 was $2,346,347—an overexpenditure of $2,246,347. Consequently, even in the face of excess receipts from the Federal Government for Episcopal Migration Ministries of $1,118,023, the Episcopal Church still ran a deficit for 2009 in excess of $2.2 million. You must read A.S. Haley's article in it's entirely to get the complete picture.
So how is the Episcopal Church making up for these deficits? As Haley puts it, "by slashing to the bone its entire raison d'être at the national level," in other words, by underspending virtually every aspect of the Church's budget for programs and ministries. As a fiscal conservative, I am not normally opposed to economizing or underspending budgets. But when we are talking about the ministry of the Church, the ministry for which church members give their tithes and offerings as unto the Lord, the diversion of those funds into unbudgeted expenditures not approved by church members is inexcusable.
(To be continued.)