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CONNECTICUT: Historic Charismatic Episcopal Parish Announces End to Litigation with Diocese of CT

CONNECTICUT: Historic Charismatic Episcopal Parish Announces End to Litigation with Diocese of CT
St. Paul's, Darien will continue as autonomous non-denominational Christian Church. New St. Paul's will move to different location
Original St. Paul's remains empty. Building is in disrepair

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
January 9, 2020

The Vestry and Wardens of the Parish of St. Paul's Episcopal Church-Darien, and the Directors of St. Paul's-Darien Foundation, Inc., have announced the end of all litigation with the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) and The Episcopal Church (TEC).

All parties have withdrawn their respective pending civil actions in both the Connecticut Appellate Court and the Superior Court. The parties' SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND RELEASE OF CLAIMS was reached after a vigorous and sometimes thorny mediation conducted between November 6 and December 10, 2019, by Judge Terence A. Zemetis (ret.).

St. Paul's wardens and vestry and the officers and directors of St. Paul's Foundation engaged vigorously in the mediation process until all parties attained a global resolution of every disputed issue. St. Paul's will now continue as an autonomous, non-denominational Christian church and will soon complete its reorganization, said a press release.

St. Paul's was the home of the late Everett "Terry" Fullam, who served as rector of the parish which became nationally famous as a tall steeple parish in the mainline Protestant renewal movement. Fullam experienced spiritual renewal as a result of another evangelical Episcopal priest, Dennis Bennett.

The two independent St. Paul's entities are now free to fully pursue their respective missions. St. Paul's-Darien Foundation, Inc., a long-time benefactor of the Parish, will soon have a new name in recognition of its continuing role in support of a new St. Paul's Church and the foundation's well-established global outreach programs. The foundation's aid to persecuted Christians world-wide will once again resume. Both the new St. Paul's Church and the foundation will expand their local charitable efforts to serve the underserved in Fairfield County.

Both organizations are moving forward together under the continued direction of their members and leadership, as the new St. Paul's Church which will no longer be located on its former Mansfield Avenue property.

According to independent reports, the old property will need extensive, costly structural repairs to the church building, which has fallen into great disrepair due to its disuse for over a year. A remediation report revealed unconfirmed, environmental hazards to the existing church building.

With the settlement now complete, a new independent St. Paul's Church will emerge, free to focus on our historic mission to "Know Christ & Make Him Known." We are eager to embrace a second Miracle in Darien and beyond. "A people named St. Paul's" will continue as before -- devoted to expanding God's Kingdom by bringing souls into an intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, a spokesman told VOL.

VOL put some questions to a spokesperson on the state of the parish since the litigation began and we share the following answers for our readers.

VOL: Has the church closed?

SPOKESPERSON: St. Paul's Episcopal Church ceased to exist on October 26, 2018 when Bishop Ian Douglas through a Resolution of ECCT Annual Convention removed St. Paul's as a Parish in the diocese. He created the figment of a "Worshipping Community" and appointed Canon George Kovoor as its Priest in Charge.

On October 28, 2018 Bishop Douglas appeared in Darien and changed all of the locks throughout the property and posted an armed guard on the property. The entire congregation left with the Vestry and the so-called "Worshipping Community" never existed. Kovoor is not able to hold services as no one attends. He continues to utilize the rectory. The property is in a bad state of disrepair and neglect and the church building has a mold issue that has existed since August 2018. The diocese has had to carry Kovoor since July 2018 and the property (3 buildings) since October 2018 with no revenues being contributed by parish Tithes & Offerings.

VOL: If so, will it reopen under a new rector?

SPOKESPERSON: The "New" St. Paul's Church, is an autonomous independent church and will not be on the property at 471 Mansfield Avenue. As a new church we will explore the purchase of a building or a long-term lease where we can better carry out our mission "To Know Christ and Make Him Known". We are the remnant of the "Miracle in Darien" and we will move forward unencumbered by the limitations of the old church property. I cannot speak to ECCT's plans for the property, nor do we have a sense as to when they will stop paying Kovoor as a Priest-in-charge (PIC) of a non-existent community.

VOL: What plans does the bishop have?

SPOKESPERSON: ECCT has lots of problems -- many churches in the diocese are shrinking and they own a growing number of empty buildings. The diocesan budget is under pressure and is balanced only with withdrawals from its endowment. I don't believe that they will attempt to re-establish a church in our old location. The bishop may have difficulty selling the property, as it was deeded in the 1960s for use only for religious purposes. That being said, the property was not on the table during our intense mediation process of over a month, even after we asked if the property was for sale or lease.

VOL: Do you think the bishop now plans to sell the property if he cannot fill the place?

SPOKESPERSON: Bishop Douglas will likely attempt to sell the property. I am sure that he sees many dollars potentially available to the diocese given the 14 acres of land in Darien CT. However, a portion of it is wetlands and the deed is for religious purposes. What I do know is that he was not prepared to sell it to us. That property is zoned by the town zoning laws and would have to be rezoned residential in order for the bishop to sell the land, otherwise he would have to sell it to another church.

VOL: Have any of the original parishioners wanted to stay?

SPOKESPERSON: There are some who will be disappointed that the New St. Paul's will not be at the same location as the former church. However, the entire congregation has not been attending any functions in that location since being locked-out in October 2018. Kovoor is no longer a rector and is now a failing Priest-in-Charge with a "worshipping community" of none.

VOL: Have they moved and to where if you know?

SPOKESPERSON: Our congregation which historically has been at odds with the Episcopal Church and especially the ECCT and its bishops started leaving shortly after Kovoor came to the church. After we nullified his contract for misrepresentations of his credentials, more left the parish. Finally, when Bishop Ian Douglas expelled St. Paul's from the diocese, without notice and then locked-out the congregation and its duly elected leaders, the rest of the congregation departed, leaving only Kovoor as the Priest-in-Charge of no one. Most of the congregation are now attending independent, non-denominational churches in their surrounding area. Few, if any, are attending other Episcopal Churches for obvious reasons.

At no time during the acrimony surrounding Kovoor and after our DEPO Bishop, The Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson passed away in December 2017 did any bishop or priest inquire as to the needs or spiritual health of our congregation. The Episcopal Church, while professing to be all-inclusive did not make any effort to include St. Paul's. The New St. Paul's Church will no longer be so encumbered. The settlement has provided us with the opportunity to focus on the real work of God's Kingdom. Jesus Wins!

SOME FACTUAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT

In 2010 the ASA was 17,767. In 2017 the ASA dropped to 12,661 for a loss of 5,106 (-28.7%). It is estimated that by the end of 2019 that figure had dropped below 5,000. The number of full-time priests of one congregation is 48%. The average age of all male and female priests is 60. Within a decade and the rate of decline the diocese will cease to be a viable entity.

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