In a recent address on this subject, TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori reveals the biggest problem in her position on the property:
I will continue to uphold two basic principles in the work some of us face in dealing with former Episcopalians who claim rights to church property or assets. Our participation in God’s mission as leaders and stewards of The Episcopal Church means that we expect a reasonable and fair financial arrangement in any property settlement, and that we do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church.
Pragmatically, the latter means property settlements need to include a clause that forbids, for a period of at least five years, the presence of bishops on the property who are not members of this House, unless they are invited by the diocesan bishop for purposes which do not subvert mission and ministry in the name of this Church.
The second reason is, IMHO, one of the stupidest things I have ever seen a centralised church do regarding its property. (And I work for a centralised church.)
TEC has a declining membership on account of its demographics. TEC’s strategy of attracting the more secularised segments of our society through a message that is indistinguishable from that secularised segment (the LGBT community comes to mind first) is an unproven method of church growth. (I think it’s a recipe for failure, but I digress.)
With both of these facts on the table, TEC needs to build a war chest, even with the substantial amounts of endowed money it has at its disposal. Although most seceding Anglican parishes would find buying out their own church distasteful, chances are a good number would do it rather than go through litigation. Both sides would be saved much acrimony and legal fees and TEC would end up the richer financially.
KJS’ insistence on the first condition has legal justification in most jurisdictions. Her second condition is a petty, short-sighted control freak’s idea of victory. Given the reality of the situation, it’s a luxury that TEC can’t afford, especially as several of their officials dedicated to the development of the church (evangelism, lay ministries, etc.) are now redundant.
Besides, she’s admitting that a bunch of “bigots” and “homophobes” have more appeal and viability than her own “enlightened” organisation does. And that’s quite an admission.