How Christ the King Should Respond to Bishop Vono

Two years ago, the parishioners of St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa in Albuquerque left the Diocese of Rio Grande to found the Anglican Church of Christ the King. In doing so, they left everything behind them, including real property, furnishings and endowments worth over $ 2 million. For the Diocesan Council of Rio Grande, however, that was not enough. It seems that St. Mark's had pledged a diocesan contribution for 2009 of $100,000 in quarterly installments, and that only half had been paid by the time of the congregation's departure. So they met and passed a resolution, which resulted in Bishop Michael Vono's writing the following letter (yes, this is real, and not a spoof — Johnson's First Law of Episcopal Thermodynamics strikes again): August 31, 2011 Dear Father Weber, RE: St. Mark's on the Mesa, Albuquerque Fair Share Obligation, Third Quarter 2009 I pray that this finds you well in the Lord! Summer is always such a gift in the ministry, a time for reflection, refreshment and anticipation for the end of the liturgical year. On July 12 of this year, the Diocesan Council had a meeting here a [sic] Diocesan House. At that time, a group from St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque came before the Council to request forgiveness for their Fair Share obligation from the third quarter of 2009. As I am sure you are well aware, it was during this time that a good number of the clergy and congregation at St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa left to form a new congregation, leaving the remaining members with quite a financial and emotional burden to carry. What follows is the motion as it was amended and passed that afternoon. Motion, that the -$25,000 Fair Share obligation for St. Mark's on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009 be forgiven. Moved and seconded to amend the motion by replacing it with the following: that the -$25,000 Fair Share obligation for St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009 be adjusted to $5,000 and that the Diocesan Council write a pastoral letter to the leadership of Christ the King Anglican Church appealing to them to cover $20,000 of the original Fair Share obligation for St. Mark's on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009. The amendment passed. The amended motion passed. As you can see, it was the decision of Council to hold St. Mark's-on-the-Mesa responsible for the entire Fair Share payment for the third quarter in 2009, requesting that the burden be split between the members that left and the members that stayed, dividing the responsibility roughly along the lines of how the congregation self-selected. I would ask that you would prayerfully consider accepting the responsibility of paying the portion of the Fair Share that was required by the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me here at Diocesan House, or in my absence, Mr. Fred Winter or Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, 505-881-0636. Your brother in Christ, The Right Rev'd Michael L. Vono IX Bishop, Diocese of the Rio Grande cc: Ms. Debi Lester Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, Business Manager Mr. Fred Winter, Assistant Treasurer The Rev'd Canon Kathleene McNellis The Rev'd Canon Daniel Gutierrez The Most Rev'd Robert Duncan There is no record yet of any official response by the congregation. Permit me, therefore, to make a modest suggestion that Father Weber and his vestry respond as follows: Dear Bishop Vono: How nice it was to hear from you after such a long time! With you, my congregation and I are enjoying the waning days of summer — "a time for reflection, refreshment and anticipation for the end of the liturgical year", as you say. And I have to confess, your letter of August 31 does find us "well in the Lord." Now that we no longer have to tolerate Biblical revisionism and heresy at the highest levels of our church, we are experiencing Christ's blessings upon us more richly than ever before. I was so glad to hear that your Diocesan Council still meets regularly, and that they still address weighty matters of concern to the whole Diocese, such as everyone's Fair Share obligation. In response to their request, which you so forthrightly conveyed to us, our vestry met, and after giving it the prayerful consideration which you asked of them, they passed unanimously the following Resolution: Whereas, from January 2008, following the departure of Bishop Steenson to join the Roman Catholic Church, to September 2009, when the overwhelming majority of the parishioners of St. Mark's-in-the-Mesa decided that they, too, had to leave the Episcopal Church, our parish gave the total sum of $150,000 to the Diocese of the Rio Grande; and Whereas, during that same time period, the congregation spent a further total of $100,000 on maintaining and repairing its building before turning it over to the Diocese of Rio Grande; and Whereas, the estimated value of the real and personal property (including endowments) which this congregation left to the Diocese of Rio Grande as a result of its departure was in excess of $2,000,000; now, therefore, Be it resolved that since this congregation has given far more to the Diocese than it has received, it is more than abundantly blessed, and does not consider that it needs still more blessings through additional works of charity for the Diocese. The vestry has asked me to convey to you and your Diocesan Council its sincere thanks for the opportunity for additional blessings which it so thoughtfully bestowed upon us, and its deep regret that, as our cup now overfloweth, we could not avail ourselves of your generous offer. In the name of Christ the King, The Rev. Roger Weber Rector, Anglican Church of Christ the King cc: Ms. Debi Lester Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, Business Manager Mr. Fred Winter, Assistant Treasurer The Rev'd Canon Kathleene McNellis The Rev'd Canon Daniel Gutierrez The Most Rev'd Robert Duncan Sometimes the only response to an adversary's overweening chutzpah is to meet it with warmth and complete charity, "for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you." [UPDATE 09/26/2011: Martial Artist's comment (see below) reminded me of one of the sharpest of responses ever made by a composer to one of his critics, which I had occasion to link to in my post "On the Proper Treatment of Arrogance." Here is the basic story: One of the most magnificent witticisms from the arts was by German composer Max Reger (1873-1916). Responding to a negative review by Rudolf Louis of his Sinfonietta (1906), Reger is said to have shot back: "Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein." (I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.) I do not want to undermine the Christian charity of my earlier suggestion to the Anglican Church of Christ the King, but, still — one has to say, Reger's response was brilliant, and deserves its place in the quotation books!]

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