When it comes to spite, malice, dirty dealings, and general skullduggery, the darkest spy novel has nothing on the real-life soap opera that is the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Though hemorrhaging members following the decision to consecrate an openly homosexual man as bishop in 2003, the denomination has seen fit to fight tooth and nail to maintain its properties as individual congregations look to free themselves from the church. And despite a few setbacks (most notably in Virginia, where several of the outgoing churches predate the diocese of which they were a part), it has been largely successful in holding on to the buildings and surrounding real estate.
Of course, filling those recently vacant churches is another issue.
Now, you can argue (many have) that demanding churches vacate the properties that they have inhabited—in some cases for more than a century—is an act of spite not reflective of Jesus’ command in John chapter 13 to love one another. You can also argue (many have) that holding on to buildings that you have no realistic hope of ever filling is poor fiscal stewardship. And in the case of one parish in New York, both of these elements are on display at an unprecedented level.
Anglican blogger The Bovina Bloviator tells the story of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton. The church, weary of the inexorable shift of The Episcopal Church (TEC) toward theological liberalism, decided to disassociate itself from TEC, choosing instead to affiliate with the more conservative Anglican Church of Kenya. (Yes, the church is considered a mission plant from an African church body. The times, they are a-changin’.) The folks at the Church of the Good Shepherd sought to keep their property, and offered to pay the Diocese of Central New York fair market value for it—a request that fell upon deaf ears at diocesan headquarters.
The story ends well for the congregation, which was able to find another vacant church building for purchase, and continues to grow and minister to the people of Binghamton.