Individuals, groups and the nature of membership

Have a look at The Episcopal Church News Service’s story on yesterday’s developments.

It includes this:

“Dioceses and congregations, however, do not officially ‘leave’ the Episcopal Church simply because leaders or

any number of members depart, said the Rev. Jan Nunley, deputy for Communication at the Episcopal

Church Center in New York. ‘Parishes are created by dioceses and dioceses are created by action of the

General Convention,’ she said. ‘People are free to leave,’ but congregations and dioceses continue within

church structures.

“Nunley confirmed that the Episcopal Church’s elected leadership may, if necessary, declare a diocese

vacant, and that in such a case the Presiding Bishop would call for the election of a new diocesan bishop,

among other actions.”

This raises an interesting philosophical question, I think. Obviously, individuals leave churches all of the time. And I’d be surprised if any of them, whatever the duration of their membership, expected to get back money they contributed during their membership. Does the situation change if lots of people want to leave at the same time for the same reasons? Do they have rights, or perhaps a better word would be standing, as a group that they wouldn’t have as individuals? There are interesting legal, ecclesiastical and theological issues here that I would love to here people’s views on.

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