Yes, an attorney’s bill is subject to attorney client privilege, meaning the bill can’t be subpoenaed from the attorney. However, the amounts spent on legal proceedings are not privileged vis-a-vis the bishops requesting this information from a church in which they have a stake as bishops. It is much like a shareholder requesting such information. Such information has to be publically disclosed by publically traded companies. You, I, and any deputy or bishop should have the right to know whether or not 815 is following our established budgetary priorities. We have a right to know how much money is being spent on litigation by 815.
Moreover, if General Convention does not have that right, then it no longer controls the purse strings and is an utter sham as far as governing our church. If two bishops who are members of the junior house can’t get this information, we need to be asking why.
Something tells me that the Executive Council does not want us to know what was being spent on litigation, because if we did know we would not be too happy to see that much money was being spent on litigation. It may also exceed the values of the property over which we are litigating, which makes no economic sense.
However, the sad part is, even if we did know what was being spent by 815 on litigation, you have to add to that what Dioceses are spending on litigation.
I simply do not understand why we are not negotiating these issues. Based on the remarks of our Presiding Bishop, this is an insignificant minority leaving our church – both in numbers and money. Either what the Presiding Bishop says is not true about the “minority” leaving our church, or we are spending money on litigation out of spite rather than to preserve the church’s patrimony for purposes of future ministry. My theory is that litigation is being used as a scare tactic to keep conservatives and moderates who would otherwise leave our church in the church. The assets at issue become irrelevant, and it becomes about fear. A church built on fear is not the Episcopal Church I was born into, nor the one we should be, nor one I will suffer long.
I would commend a recent article on Episcopal Cafe about these property issues:
The Presbyterians, although hierarchical, have had amicable splits in these situations. I don’t know why we can’t do the same. My only thought is that if conservative money and people leave, then the national church and even some Dioceses will not survive for long. If that is the case and survival is an issue, then maybe some rethinking about what the church has been doing over the last ten years is needed. I can say, for certain, that this litigation strategy to keep the church together is spiritually bankrupt. Lord, have mercy.