Old St. Paul's wants to end rift with diocese

RELIGION NOTES

July 07, 1994|By Reported by Frank P.L. Somerville

The vestry, or governing body, of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Parish in downtown Baltimore -- the "mother church" of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland -- has committed itself to "mending" its strained relationship with the diocesan leadership.

A resolution calling on the priests and other leaders of the parish at Charles and Saratoga streets to seek to refrain from criticizing the diocese -- except "constructively" and under administrative guidelines -- was adopted at a vestry meeting June 19.

Because of a dispute over the mandatory -- as opposed to voluntary -- determination of Old St. Paul's financial support of the diocese, the lay delegates of the parish were denied a vote at the May 19-21 diocesan convention in Hagerstown.

An appeals committee, which recommended the action against Old St. Paul's, reported that the parish, "by adhering strictly to its own chosen principle of tithing," had been "encouraging a review and downsizing of the diocesan budget."

The Rev. William N. McKeachie, rector of the parish, said its refusal on principle to participate in appeals of the assessment could fairly be described as "civil disobedience."

The convention barred parish delegates from voting despite Old St. Paul's large voluntary contribution -- fourth highest in the diocese.

The church pays more per pledging member than any other parish, the vestry was told June 19. But "to have an assessment of $90,000 is absurd," a lay leader said. "To mandate it is worse than absurd. Because half of our budget comes from the endowment; that amounts to a tax on dead people."

At the same time that the parish was disputing the method of diocesan assessments, it was seeking to raise $500,000 for emergency repairs to the historic church building. The fund-raising effort has been described as successful.

By a nearly unanimous vote at the June 19 meeting, the rector, wardens and vestry of St. Paul's Parish committed themselves to "mending our relationship with the diocese by thought, word and deed, while witnessing to principle as we perceive it."

The resolution called on communicants of the parish "to participate in this process of renewal of our active relationship with the Diocese of Maryland."

A June 26 report to the membership about the vestry discussion and vote said, "The parish is interested in its relationship to the diocese. Parishioners must be involved in determining a response. We must find out what members of the parish feel, allow groups of the congregation to meet to that end, in the months ahead."

At the diocesan convention in May, Bishop-in-charge Charles L. Longest acknowledged the continuing disputes within the Episcopal Church nationally and locally over its direction on social and theological questions.

"In the last several decades," he said, "we have seen our fellowship seriously hurt by the way we have treated each other while struggling with the issues of the day."

Preaching and singing

"The New Age Movement" and "Psychic Awareness" are among the subjects to be explored July 12-17 in seminars of the Kingdom Conference 1994 at the Pikesville Hilton Hotel, sponsored by East Baltimore's Kingdom Worship Center.

The Rev. Ralph Dennis, senior pastor at the center at 1606 Ashland Ave., said a 300-voice choir will perform nightly during the conference. Information: 327-0191 or 385-9559.

Buddhist teachings

Responding to interest stimulated by Bernardo Bertolucci's film, "Little Buddha," a Buddhist study center in Silver Spring is sponsoring a series of free Tuesday evening lectures on Buddha's life, teachings and practice of meditation.

The introductory talks begin at 8 p.m., after meditation practice at 7 p.m., at the Shambhala Center, 8719 Colesville Road. The subject of the July 12 talk is "The Buddha's Discovery: The Three Marks of Existence."

Meditation will be discussed on July 19.

Information: (301) 588-7020 or (703) 768-8541.

Rally for pope

A youth rally will be part of a Sept. 16-18 program of prayer, teaching and religious devotions in the Baltimore Arena designed by the National Marian Conference to prepare Baltimore area Roman Catholics for the Oct. 23 visit by Pope John Paul II.

Information: 321-5895.

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