Saturday, August 11, 2007

Scorched Earth

Back in the bad old days of incessant European wars, the Russians had an unbeatable defensive strategy. They would burn every building and field that lay in the path of the attacker. The Russian army would carefully stay just out of reach of the enemy. After a while, the enemy's army would simply dissolve due to disease, fatigue and starvation.

The Episcopal Church seems to be pursuing a similar approach in its litigation. Any church that attempts to walk with its property gets sued. The vestry gets sued, individually. Even if you leave the real estate, they still sue you for the cash. I understand that TEC wants to retain the property and wants very much to intimidate the waverers into remaining.

My question is why?

On a purely secular level, Falls Church and Truro Church both are very valuable pieces of real estate. I understand suing over them. The value to TEC if they win far outweighs what the cost will be. I don't understand suing over the smaller churches. Most Episcopal churches are rather small, with an Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of under one hundred. Especially if the church has debt, as many do, why sue? The remnant congregation will be unsustainable. The buildings and land will wind up either in foreclosure or being sold for far less than the amount of money spent on them.

And that's the secular analysis. From a Christian perspective, the lawsuits are reprehensible. Assuming that TEC is legally right in every respect, even so there is no good reason not to try to negotiate. It is our duty as Christians to behave ourselves and to act out of love and charity. Suing over real estate is never loving. It is never kind. And it rarely ends well for any of the parties.

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