Sour Grapes
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Lightning strikes twice

My¹ church doesn't often make the news. Last month the Boston Globe reported on the apparent theft of one congregation with some very valuable property on Beacon Hill in Boston. The story is titled "A tiny church, a pot of gold, an ex-con spark a bitter feud:"

There are many places you would expect to find a South Boston hoodlum like Eddie MacKenzie on a Sunday morning, but the pulpit of the Swedenborgian Church on Beacon Hill is not one of them.

Still, there he was one recent Sunday, standing before the congregation, championing the right of this 186-year-old church to secede from the national organization of this tiny Christian sect.

"There is a renewed spirit of freedom and independence in our church," MacKenzie told the 50 or so worshipers. "We need to truly believe we are God's disciples. . . . We are filled with a revolutionary energy and spirit."

As if on cue, the choir broke into "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Not that everyone in the pews felt like singing along. George Chapin, a church stalwart for half a century, remembers watching MacKenzie, dumbfounded, and thinking, "What the hell is going on here?"

Edward J. MacKenzie Jr. is a man of parts -- many parts. A convicted drug dealer, he is the author of a maim-and-tell memoir about his years as a legbreaker for South Boston gangland leader Whitey Bulger.

He has been, as he describes himself, a man almost irresistibly drawn to cons and scams. He recently admitted to filing phony worker's compensation claims and is awaiting trial on charges of swindling $200,000 from an elderly woman. And he faces charges in another court that he threatened to kill his ex-wife by chaining a cinderblock to her leg and throwing her off a bridge.

He is, in short, a busy man.

It's an interesting read, in and of itself.
As a result of these events, a lawsuit was filed.
But the most interesting thing about it is how closely it parallels events in the 1990s surrounding the Philadelphia congregation of another branch in the demomination. Here is a brief historical passage from the court decision in an appeal of the lawsuit that result from this drama:

The Lord's New Church Which is Nova Hierosolyma is the name of a non-profit corporation created in 1939 to promote and maintain a Swedenborgian church founded by Theodore Pitcairn.
The church itself is unincorporated and consists of approximately 1,000 members in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa and The Netherlands.
This case arose from a reorganization of the church that was proposed in the mid-1990s by Petitioner Feodor Pitcairn.
The history of that reorganization can best be described as convoluted, with each side accusing the other of attempting to take over the Corporation and its assets for its own personal gain.

¹My church in the sense that I was born into it, raised in it and have been a member of one branch all my adult life. These days, I eschew attachment—in the Buddhist sense—to any church organization although I remain Swedenborgian spiritually.

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