THINKING ANGLICANS

Virginia: ADVA reacts to Friday's court hearing

The Anglican District of Virginia has at the time of posting not yet issued this press release. However the text of it does appear here instead.

Update A text has now appeared and it is not the same text. Here is the ADVA press release:Anglican District of Virginia Responds to Judge Bellows’ Decision to Dismiss Volunteers from Lawsuit

The earlier text is reproduced below the fold.

Letter from the Anglican District of Virginia regarding outcome of TEC/DoV lawsuit hearing last Friday, August 10th

As you may have heard, we had a preliminary hearing on Friday, August 10, in court, at which the court heard arguments on our demurrers and pleas in bar. (Our demurrer asserted that even if everything The Episcopal Church claims is true, they still would have no case. The plea in bar argued that vestry members are immune from suit for actions taken in an official capacity as volunteers).

After extensive argument over the plea of statutory immunity, the court was prepared to rule but suggested that the parties work out an agreement. After recess, the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church agreed to dismiss all of the vestry members and rectors as defendants without prejudice and the individuals agreed to honor any determination of the court regarding the plaintiffs’ property claims, subject to their rights of appeal of any adverse ruling.

“We are appreciative that after all these months, our volunteer vestry members and our pastoral leadership are no longer named defendants in lawsuit filed by the Diocese and The Episcopal Church,” said Tom Wilson, Senior Warden of The Falls Church, and Chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia Board of Directors.

As to the ownership of the property, the court stated that it was making a very narrow ruling. The court found that, at this preliminary stage in the litigation, the complaints filed by the Diocese and The Episcopal Church state a sufficient claim to an interest in the property for those claims to proceed to trial where The Episcopal Church and the Diocese will have to put on actual evidence to support their allegations. The court emphasized that it was not making a determination as to any rights, but simply that the complaints alleged enough to get The Episcopal Church and the Diocese past a preliminary motion to dismiss.

However, before those claims proceed to trial, the court has scheduled a hearing later this year to determine whether or not the claims filed by the Virginia churches under the Virginia Division Statute preempt the property claims of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. If the court rules in favor of the churches under the Virginia Division Statute, that finding will be dispositive (which means that there would be no reason to proceed with the property claims made by the Diocese and The Episcopal Church).

What does all of this mean? Our legal team will be parsing every sentence of Judge Bellows’ rulings for some time, but we should keep in mind that these are preliminary skirmishes in a long battle. Since football season is about to begin, I can’t help but use a couple of analogies…

Our demurrer was, frankly, a long shot. Our legal team has told us that, as a practical matter, it is very rare for a judge to dismiss an entire case at this preliminary stage, particularly one with such national visibility. But it was worth a try. Think of it as a long incomplete pass.

We can think of the plea in bar as a touchdown – very good news, but it is still the first quarter of the game. And we must remember that our trustees are still named as defendants, although no claim of personal liability is asserted.

We still have a long way to go, and we still need prayer! We appreciate your support, encouragement and prayer throughout this process.

Jim Oakes
Vice Chairman
Anglican District of Virginia

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JCF
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JCF

“the claims filed by the Virginia churches [i.e., schismatic congregations] under the Virginia Division Statute preempt the property claims of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese”

As if!

Lord have mercy!

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

They may take pleasure in declaring their maintenance of communion with the “worldwide Anglican Church”, but their ideas are certainly not Anglican. Their concept of the Church is that it is congregational and subject to the civil law. This comes as no surpirse considering the makeup of these congragations, etc. but why are bunch of recent converts allowed to split the Church? Didn’t Paul say something about not letting recent converts have too much power, lest their enthusiasm lead them, and everyone else, astray? And does the phrase “strengthening the Family” give anyone else the willies?

NP
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NP

Ford – you start by mentioning the comfort that the TEC “rebels” take from being very much part of the worldwide Anglican family…..and then contradict yourself saying they are “recent converts” etc etc The point is exactly that those in TEC who cannot any longer tolerate the direction being taken by the liberal leadership of TEC are part of the global Anglican family…..they have not caused any global divisions, they are not hard to deal with, no emergency Primates’ meetings have been necessary because of their behaviour, they are widely respected around the Anglican world for their love and faithfulness…….maybe… Read more »

Priscilla Ballou
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Priscilla Ballou

NP needs to learn how to read. Ford said they take pleasure in declaring not they take pleasure in being.

If these schismatics are so closely tied into the Anglican Communion, how come their bishops are excluded from Lambeth?

I think you need a big slice of reality pie. You’re starting to believe the rightwing propaganda.

Steven
Guest
Steven

Ford:

Where did all of this “recent convert” talk come from? Just curious.

Steven

Viriato da Silva
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Viriato da Silva

Part 1 of 2 Regarding “the claims filed by the Virginia churches [i.e., schismatic congregations] under the Virginia Division Statute preempt the property claims of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese”: Most reasserter blogs and comments I have seen seem to think that the court ruled that the Division Statute *does* apply, and that the court will be proceeding on that basis. This is outright untrue. However, one reasserter has provided the following sober and accurate description of what the court actually *did* decide, and how the court will proceed from this point forward: “The court decided to address as… Read more »

Viriato da Silva
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Viriato da Silva

Part 2 of 2 In other words, it remains unsettled (and imo, unlikely) whether the Division Statute will be found to apply at all — in which case, and especially given the court’s decision that it *will* consider the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, the reasserters’ case is severely undermined, like a sand castle washing out to sea. I wish the reasserters would start better understanding the legal hurdles their case faces, but I suspect the Virginia congregations have been sold a bill of goods by their wishful-thinking vicars and bishops and primates (oh my!) and by their… Read more »

Viriato da Silva
Guest
Viriato da Silva

Just to clarify why I wrote the following: “. . . even if this statute is constitutional in the first place (which it may not be, as it seems to be more of a “Schism Protection Act” than a “Division Act”)”: In denominations in which the very structure of the church as hierarchical is based on theology, any overriding of that church’s theology in order to guarantee legal rights of exit by congregations, taking property with them, necessarily means intervention in the internal affairs of the denomination without heeding — in fact, in violation of — that denomination’s theology. This… Read more »

C.B.
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C.B.

V. da Silva – It would appear that CANA’s participation in Common Cause would be an attempt to establish that there has been a split in TEC that just now is being formalized. However, how do they get around the fact that vote was taken before the “branch” was formed?

And I agree – I think many pew sitters were sold a bill of goods that they were entitled to the property and it was just a matter of filing the petition.

Viriato da Silva
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Viriato da Silva

Yikes. I need to learn to read better, it appears; the quotation from the blog of “Uncle Dino” that I give above is actually dated back in *May*, after a settlement conference with the judge. But it does fit with what I had heard and read in direct accounts, i.e., that the Division Statute’s applicability would still not be decided by the judge until the November hearing, which is confirmed by other sources, such as this: “Before those claims proceed to trial, a hearing has been scheduled by the court for later this year whether or not the claims filed… Read more »

ruidh
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ruidh

>> what level of dissent rises to the level of a “division” (not within the “congregation” but within the “church or religious society” overall), thereby triggering this statute, is left undefined. <<

And this is what will likely prove to be the statute’s undoing. Judges deciding what level of religious disagreement is “division” and what level is merely “disagreement” is exactly the kind of entanglement in religious affairs that the First Amendment was intended to disallow. The statute can’t possibly survive constitutional analysis.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“The plea in bar argued that vestry members are immune from suit for actions taken in an official capacity as volunteers…”

“official” capacity as volunteers” Wow, these people have no idea what they are up to.

“Since football season is about to begin, I can’t help but use a couple of analogies…”

No sense of tact either.

NP
Guest
NP

Priscilla….you are another one in denial….those you call “schismatics” are clearly very much in step with most of the AC….and if you look at TEC bishops, I think you will find +Duncan and +Iker are certainly invited to Lambeth you know! (VGR is not)

-the people you call “schismatics” are not the focus of the Windsor Report or the Tanzania Communique…are they? Thanks for wanting to deal with reality….maybe you should look at what the ABC has actually done rather than what you wish he had done in the last few years!

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

NP
You do agree that Martyn Minns, the bishop most closely associated with ADVA and CANA, the subject of this article, has not been invited to Lambeth?

NP
Guest
NP

Yes Simon…but I was making the point that TEC bishops (eg Duncan) who are not so different and give support to Minns are invited….they may be labelled “schismatic” too but they are invited. It was no surprise that CANA and AMIA bishops were not invited (even if ++Akinola is going to fight for his brother bishops…and probably win as usual). Trying to make out that not inviting bishops that ++Carey did not invite to 1998 is a big deal is not that convincing. The bigger surprises, that some people round here want to ignore, were that VGR, an elected TEC… Read more »

John Richardson
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John Richardson

Surely no one takes any credit from these legal actions. “I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!”

Or maybe the apostle didn’t mean this, modern, sort of legal action. Maybe he only had in mind ‘bad’ going to court against believers, not the good kind. Perhaps we have a better understanding of legal action in the 21st century than he did in the 1st.

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“Where did all of this “recent convert” talk come from? Just curious.”

This was detailed in a Washington Post news story some time ago, and refers particularly to The Falls Church and Truro. I think the article may be archived in the depths of TA but am not sure. Itis a fact that many who voted to leave TEC had never bothered to be confirmed in it.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“The bigger surprises, that some people round here want to ignore, were that VGR, an elected TEC bishop as we are often told) was not invited “ Not at all surprising, actually. Validly elected does not mean “not controversial”. Discretion is the better part of valour, after all. Steven, My understanding is that a fair number of the congregants in these churches are not Anglican, but Methodists, Baptists, etc. I’m sorry, I can’t right now document this. It has been stated many times on TA, however, and never challenged. Indeed, going by what I remember, the “recent converts” was inaccurate.… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Simon:

RE: Recent Converts

Can you provide a link or reference for the article Cynthia mentions?

Steven

PS-If they are recent converts, this is interesting data. On the other hand, if the folks voting are not members, how are they allowed to vote? I’d like to see this cleared up. Maybe someone can clarify. /s

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

Ford – “At least two-thirds of the worshipers are Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists, and there is no pressure on them to be confirmed as Episcopalians, said the Rev. Rick Wright, associate rector.”

As reported in the Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/03/AR2007010301952_pf.html

Viriato da Silva
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Viriato da Silva

“Itis a fact that many who voted to leave TEC had never bothered to be confirmed in it.” Confirmation is one way to enter the Episcopal Church, but not the only. Those already confirmed in other churches (with which TEC is in full communion and/or which have the historic episcopate) cannot be re-confirmed, and so are formally “received.” In addition, those baptized in other churches but not yet confirmed (at least, not in a form recognized by TEC) can be received into TEC as members, with confirmation presumably to follow at a later date. “On the other hand, if the… Read more »

Jerry Hannon
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Jerry Hannon

Further to the previous posts regarding actual “membership in TEC” versus being simply permitted to vote in an Episcopal parish election, I can make reference to several of the parishes in which I have been a member over the past thirty-one years of my post-RC adult life. If I correctly recall the election requirements of most (if not all) of the four parishes in which I have been a member, it was only necessary that I be a recorded contributor and that I be a communicant (frequency sometimes specified) in order to vote. In order to be elected to the… Read more »

BabyBlue
Guest

Remember, the Episcopal Church initiated “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” campaign – emphasizes that the Communion Table welcomed all baptized Christians (unlike the Roman Catholics). The emphasis then was on baptism, not confirmation (which has always been the case in Virginia where, for the first two hundred years of the church there was no bishop and so Morning Prayer was observed for Sunday mornings and there were no confirmations). The Church emphasises that to be a member, one needs to be baptized and to take communion at least three times a year – canon law deems this sufficient to be… Read more »

BabyBlue
Guest

Hmmm … on the other hand, perhaps “real” church members are not really what is defined in “canon law” and, like the recent election of the Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Virginia, “canon law” is, in practice, guidelines – which can be followed or overlooked depending on the circumstances. Or could it be that some canon law is more equal than others? It may be that The Episcopal Church, in practice, follows the same standards regarding canon law as it does biblical theology. Currently there is a movement now underway in the Episcopal Church to move away from baptism… Read more »

Edward of Baltimore
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Edward of Baltimore

The three parishes I’ve been affiliated with in Maryland-all various degrees theologically left of center these days- welcome all baptized (in the name of the Trinity)to receive communion. The parish by-laws of each determine who is eligible to vote on church matters and are similar to one another: confirmed/received Episcopalian with letters of transfer on record if applicable, and communicant in good standing having taken communion no fewer than three times in the past year. Each year prior to the annual meeting the register is posted with the eligible members’ names listed. If your name is not listed it is… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

bb, We are part of the Anglican Tradition. There is nothing wrong in an absolute sense with any of the other traditions. But, how can one call one’sself a mamber of a group if one does not share the ethos of that group? What would be your position of I brought a bunch of Orthodox, RC, and Old Catholic people to Falls Church, and they, while declining to become Anglicans, started demanding a full smells and bells Solemn High Mass every Sunday, a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to be carried in procession on her feast day, Benediction once… Read more »

Edward of Baltimore
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Edward of Baltimore

bb: “Am I reading this correct that some fear that the churches in Northern Virginia were somehow “less pure” (your words/your emphasis) because they had Protestants and Catholics in their memberships? Is that like being “Muggle Born?”” Not at all. The point I believe others were making is it appears those, particularly at Truro Church, that voted to walk away from the Episcopal Church were Christians of more Congregational type backgrounds than Anglican, which I’m sure you would agree would have an effect on their understanding of church polity. Your introduction of the “less pure” canard is nearly inflammatory, my… Read more »

David H.
Guest

For them what don’t know, our erstwhile BabyBlue is a member of one of those breakaway “Anglican District of Virginia” churches which is attempting to walk off with Episcopal Church property.

Simply being assoc with the ADV is all well and good (the attempt to abscond with Episcopal Church property notwithstanding), but she is *not* a neutral, disinterested observer or reporter…

JCF
Guest
JCF

“The emphasis then was on baptism, not confirmation (which has always been the case in Virginia where, for the first two hundred years of the church there was no bishop and so Morning Prayer was observed for Sunday mornings and there were no confirmations).” I, for one, am getting real tired of the VA CANA apologists pushing this “things are different here” canard. You’re in the highly-mobile *Washington DC suburbs* for heaven’s sake: I doubt a higher percentage of your, um, congregants are second-generation (or longer) *there*, than are MOST other faithful-to-their-bishop Episcopalians, all around the USA. It’s building up… Read more »

DGus
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DGus

Various speculations printed here about imagined irregularities in the voting processes of the CANA parishes are completely unfounded, and contrary to the facts. When the “division statute” issue is later addressed by the court, this is exactly the sort of thing that will be examined–and the parishes knew that full well before the voting occurred. Even if they had no interest in doing right for the sake of doing right, their enlightened self-interest would have required them to prepare to have their voting processes put under a microscope–and they will survive that scrutiny. To address a few of the speculations… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Hmmm. Well, I was merely interested to know whether the votes were “legal”–and, it appears that they would be for most general purposes in most TEC churches. Should a higher or different standard apply on a question of this type, so that even more stringent eligibility criteria are applied in order to vote to leave TEC? This is a good question, and certainly presents an arguable point. Unfortunately, it is apparently not a question that has a direct answer in cannon law (as no one would normally assume a need for rules governing such a situation, or the desirability of… Read more »

JBE
Guest
JBE

John (Richardson) – just out of interest, does that mean that if I turn up in Ugley, break into your house, nick a load of your stuff and disappear back to Cornwall with it, you won’t prosecute me? Or if I write a long and spitefully untrue article about you and publish it in my parish magazine and syndicate it to your local press, you wont sue? Your understanding of the text being that no Christian should seek redress against another in court under *any circumstance?

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

This from a commenter at SF today on whether or not being a member of the AC played a part in the vote for Falls Church to leave TEC.

“You see, since TFC is aggressively evangelical a large portion of our congregation are either new Christians or persons from other denominations…so it was just not an issue.”

Joe
Guest
Joe

How unbelievable! If only the VA congregations would give TEC those buildings then TEC could do what it does best: manage empty buildings that serve as museums to a dead faith. But just out of curiosity, remind me why TEC should have the rights to property they did not purchase, and to buildings they did not build, in order to put in those buildings people they do not have? And I’m not talking canonically, but morally. Indeed, if 815’s litigious actions were not punitive but missional, as they claim, wouldn’t it be better for the kingdom to allow a congregation… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

The early Christian church didn’t wait on permission from the synagogues, nor did they oust the existing Jews from them. (Although unfortunately the promise of gentle peace and an end to tyranny was later lost and much worse was to be done). Souls have been fudging numbers and “pruning” so that parishes or dioceses have “appropriate” leadership and members. There is a disgusting CIA(?) term called “plausible deniability”. One strategy that has been going on for years has been conducting themselves in such a way as to drive out unsuitables but leave no evidence that they bullied or harassed parishioners.… Read more »

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

It never occurred to me that the vote did not meet the requirements for a vote under the Canons. But I do wonder whether the judge would at all be interested in how over a fairly short period of time a group that is new to being Episcopalians can decide to take property that has been in the Episcopal Church for generations and give it to themselves. Is that the intent of the statute? If so, I doubt that it is Constitutional.

Anam Cara
Guest
Anam Cara

Although I am not a member of Truro, my husband is and I took part with him in the 40 Days of Discernment that preceeded the vote. I know some of the vestry members personally. I am certain that at Truro only members (confirmed Episcopalians) were voting. Truro took great pains to insure that every member who voted was, in fact, a member of the church. They wanted to insure that, in the event of any contest, the vote could be shown to be proper. My husband transfered his membership from the Episcopal church we attended before we moved to… Read more »

John Richardson
Guest
John Richardson

JBE, I think your example qualifies for what used to be termed on Perry Mason, “Incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.” For starters, it would be a criminal case, these are civil cases. What exempts them from the Apostolic condemnation?

Steve L
Guest
Steve L
Steven
Guest
Steven

Cheryl:

“Cruel cultists”?

Hmmm. I’ve been called worse I suppose, and I’m fairly thick-skinned anyhow. Still, for the sake of all the others who you are very inaccurately stereotyping and condemning, you might want to tone down your rhetoric.

Steven

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

C.B. — The short answer to your pondering if a judge would look other variables is “No.” Civil judges like neat tidy things, and the canons are objective with even a process to modify them, to some sort of subjective standard that not clearly defined. It’s kind of like saying the Tim Kane is not really a governor, because we found evidence that a significant number of Marylanders moved into the state and registered to vote in the time the law required. The Commonwealth of Virginia is still under US Department of Justice oversight from poor subjective discriminatory practices of… Read more »

JBE
Guest
JBE

I’m just trying to find out what you think, John. First of all, you start by saying that Christians shouldn’t take each other to court. Now you appear to be qualifying that. Christians shouldn’t take each other to court except in criminal circumstances. That’s fine. Doesn’t look especially Biblical – which I think was part of the original point – but fine. I don’t think I will be chancing my arm in Ugley just yet.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

What of CofE v Sony?(Civil litigation). Did Church lawyers need to check whether Sony executives were Christians before threatening legal action?

Steven
Guest
Steven

jBE: RE: Clarification on Criminal vs. Civil cases Criminal cases are different from civil cases. Criminal cases are brought by (and “belong to”) the state and federal governments in the U.S., not individuals. A criminal victim or the victim’s representative may be asked by the officers of the government whether they want to press charges (i.e., want the government to move forward against the perpetrator), but ultimately the bringing of such charges is a matter for decision by the appropriate officers of the state or federal government as it is the criminal laws of the state and/or the U.S. that… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Steven Dawkins complaints against cruel theologians and their hypocrisy are valid. There was a saying after the Holocaust that if you were not against evil, then you are for it. If souls go to a church every week that insults souls from the pulpit, if they witness and collude in shunning the “unrepentant”, if they undertake or assist others to molest the vulnerable then they are cruel cultists. Molestation does not have to be only physical, it can also be emotional, psychological or spiritual. What recent history has shown us is that some dioceses are aware of transgressions within their… Read more »

JBE
Guest
JBE

Ugley and Cornwall are both in the UK. If I robbed John’s house and he told the police he didn’t want to press charges, they wouldn’t – not even pour encourager les autres.

Anyway, I thought it was liberals that were supposed to obfuscate with irrelevant technical detail?

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

Kevin – The Canons say expressly that the church can not alienate property without the permission of the bishop. If the effect of the State statute is to over ride the Canons there must be a permissible state interest for statute to withstand Constitutional (U.S.) scrutiny. In the present case, the only “division” that has occurred is that a group of “new’ Episcopalians have up and decided they want the property for themselves. Not only do I think handing it to them is not what the statute intended, but I don’t think if it were held to apply that the… Read more »

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Well, C.B. you are changing the nature of your position. Your initial posts had to do with non-cradle-Episcopalians voting. That I can easily answer.

Now you’ve changed your argument.

On the mind of the judge over Dennis Cannon and the Virginia Division Statute and other stuff, I refuse to give a declaration and issue a warning it is only a fool who would dare unless a true prophet of God. It’s said that a bad settlement is better than a good trial because one never knows exactly what will happen and what “bombs” may found.

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

Kevin – I think you mis read my argument.

Prior Aelred
Guest

The fact that non-Episcopalians can vote in parish matters ought to make it clear that the notion of a right for a parish to vote to leave The Episcopal Church was never countenanced — any more than a diocese can vote to leave or a congregation can vote to affiliate with The Episcopal Church (which of course it can, but it is meaningless unless The Episcopal Church takes action — as happened some years back in Valdosta, Georgia, when the pastor of a Pentecostal Church decided that the Apostolic Succession was Scriptural and right and converted, bringing his congregation with… Read more »