Non-Compete Clauses for Churches

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in the Anglican Revolt, we have this:

There is a new twist in property settlements that forces fleeing orthodox parishes that wish to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church over faith and morals. They can keep their properties in a lease back arrangement, but the church cannot affiliate with an orthodox diocese or Anglican jurisdiction like the ACNA, AMIA or CANA.

The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church announced the legal settlement with Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands (six miles south of Leesburg), following a congregational vote this past weekend. Our Saviour is one of nine congregations that sought to keep its church property after leaving the Episcopal Church in 2006.

Under the deal Our Saviour will lease the Oatlands church from the Diocese for up to five years and retain the parish funds it has on hand. Our Saviour will use a significant portion of those funds for maintenance and much-needed repairs of the Oatlands church. At Our Saviour’s request, the congregation will also retain several memorial items.

The real kicker, however, is that Our Saviour will also voluntarily disaffiliate from any connection to the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA), the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The parish also agreed that no bishop will visit the congregation without the permission of the Bishop of Virginia. (This means he will never approve of CANA Bishop Martyn Minns)

This tells me two things.

First, it’s a tacit admission that TEC is running out of money to sue seceding congregations to get their property back, and that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori knows it.  In that respect it’s a step forward from the “kill-kill-kill” mentality we’ve seen in the recent past.

Second, it’s a sign that a corporate mentality has taken over “815” (TEC’s headquarters).  Non-competes are common with departing employees, why not churches, you ask?

I suppose it is, in one sense, appropriate for a church with TEC’s traditional socio-economic make-up to adopt such a strategy.  But one would think that the whole concept of a left-wing, socially conscious church is to get away from corporate types and corporate tactics, to say nothing of the whole concept of church property as a centrepiece of one’s religion.  But there are many things that disappoint in TEC’s post-1960’s history, and this is just one more.

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