Comments: Virginia: legal action proceeds

The Falls Church News-Press also has a story on the Diocese of Virginia lawsuits and an editorial explaining why the city applauds the legal actions and extends support to the remaining faithful Episcopalians who have lost the use of their parish property: http://www.fcnp.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=820&Itemid=33
http://www.fcnp.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=812&Itemid=34

Posted by Robert at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 4:26am GMT

A Statement from the Board of the Anglican District of Virginia

FAIRFAX and FALLS CHURCH, Va, Jan. 31 - We have learned tonight from the media that the Diocese of Virginia has filed civil lawsuits against the clergy and volunteer lay leadership of eleven Virginia churches.

These are the same Virginia churches that voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with The Episcopal Church (TEC) and affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a fully recognized branch of the Anglican Communion under the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

We receive this news as an act of betrayal.

Contrary to statements issued by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, we have filed no lawsuits. Our only action has been to record our parish votes in December and January for the public record.

In addition, our volunteer lay leaders diligently followed the steps outlined in the Diocese of Virginia's "Protocol for Departing Congregations" trusting that the diocese would honor its own protocol. The actions taken today show that we were betrayed by that trust.

We still believe that there are better ways to settle our differences than by the unprecedented actions the Diocese of Virginia took today against lay volunteers and their clergy. We request that the Diocese of Virginia step back from this precipitous behavior and resolve to find an amicable and reasonable way forward that will honor Christ and be a blessing to His Church.

The Board of the Anglican District of Virginia

Tom Wilson, Senior Warden, The Falls Church,
Chairman, Board of Directors

Jim Oakes, Senior Warden, Truro Church,
Member of the Board

David Allison, Senior Warden, Church of the Apostles,
Member of the Board

Warren Thrasher, Treasurer
Mary McReynolds, Secretary

Posted by BabyBlue at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 1:12pm GMT

I think it says a lot about the quality and professionalism of The Falls Church News-Press allows the same person to write the news story and the opinion piece on a single subject. Its also interesting that the tone of the two stories is the same.

Posted by Chris at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 1:36pm GMT

I think it is important to understand that The Falls Church is not serving or reflecting the constituency in the area. The vast majority of the congregants live elsewhere and are conservative republicans. Falls Church (the town) sees itself as populated by the "creative class," probably very gay-friendly, who live and work in the area and vote democrate by a significant majority. This is a church that garnered power and prestige not by meeting the needs of the local community, but by defiantly catering to the needs and views of others who live outside the area, who have no particular affinity for or loyalty to the Episcopal Church.

C.B.

Posted by C.B. at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 2:14pm GMT

The Richmond Times-Dispatch also published today (Feb. 1) a guest editorial by the Senior Warden of the Falls Church:

http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&%09s=1045855935007&c=MGArticle&cid=1149192955735&path=%21editorials%21oped

Posted by DGus at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 3:43pm GMT

The One Way Church Road.

Says it all.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 4:33pm GMT

My, My. It always amazes me how tolerant these liberals are!!

Posted by Athos at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 5:22pm GMT

I wish to correct this headline a bit: "Episcopalian Diocese Files in Court for Removal of Defectors from F.C. Site"

It's not about "removing defectors". It's about ***RESTORING*** Episcopalian worship, and parish life to The Falls Church (and the other VA parishes).

To the extent that certain persons continue to *block* the restoration of that worship and parish functions, then court action has become necessary, unfortunately, to remove these ***actions*** of barrier-making.

But it's never been about removing persons (even the clergy---though some about of episcopal discipline may be rightly ordered to them, when/if they return to +Peter Lee's authority).

The persons are loved by God, the schismatic actions gotta go (i.e., "Love the sinner, hate the sin!" ;-/)

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 7:30pm GMT

Why do the Falls Church people keep claiming that CANA is part of the Anglican Communion? At best it's a tenuous claim, and given the border-crossing that's inherent in the scheme, highly abhorrent to the so-called *Windsor* principles. And in any event, who'd want to be a member of the Communion at second- or third-hand?

But for the *Board of the Anglican District of Virginia* to claim that +Lee has somehow betrayed their trust is a bit of a stretch. Are these not the same people who have constantly refused to accept any accommodation that stops short of rejecting the bishop's authority in his own diocese? If there's any betrayal going on, it's most likely the very people who are playing at being the victim - are they prepared to say that they didn't really mean all those things they've been saying, when it comes down to following it through on property and insurance? The act of attempting to hold on to these properties is a betrayal of their entire principles: if TEC is really that bad, why would they want tainted real estate?

Why not accept +Akinola's original proposition: leave your property, trust in the Lord and follow me?

Ah, silly me, I forgot - there's no vengeance factor in that....

Posted by kieran crichton at Thursday, 1 February 2007 at 11:50pm GMT

"Why do the Falls Church people keep claiming that CANA is part of the Anglican Communion?"

They keep talking about it because it is part of the bill of goods they sold the members. As it is, the schismatic faction can barely claim 10% allegiance. If they admitted that leaving TEC meant becoming just another continuing Anglican sect, their membership would plummet.

Posted by ruidh at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 3:11am GMT

CANA claims to be a part of the Anglican Communion in order to come under the Virginia Code applicable to church property when a church is split and the congregation goes with one branch of the church. In this case, they are setting up the argument that TEC and CANA, a mission of the "Anglican Church of Nigeria," are both branches of the AC which they will claim is split in America. When congregations simply leave supercongregational churches like TEC, property ownership is usually governed by Cannon law.

C.B.

Posted by C.B. at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 3:28am GMT

The "Anglican District of Virginia," eh ?

Well, I'm the Lord High Pontifex and Grand Poobah of the Anglican District of Alpha Centauri (in Exile). Now invite me to Lambeth, dammit!

See, it's *fun* to make up grandiose sounding names, isn't it ? I can feel the increased sense of gravitas descending upon me already... :D

Posted by David Huff at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 3:08pm GMT

C.B.

Not sure if you're familiar with the Northern Virginia area, but the city of Falls Church is not some bohemian or artistic commune with poets and painters. It is an affluent suburb of DC that itself has a history of annexation and exclusion to engineer the type of community and schools it wants. In terms of topography, if there where no street signs you would be unable to tell where the the city of Falls Church ends and Fairfax County begins.

When I lived in the DC area I attended TFC. I drove over 30 minutes from Maryland to attend services and events. I was not raised in TEC, but I consider myself Episcopalian/Anglican today. I grew up Baptist and I'm also a Republican.

I'm they archetype of the TFC member you've created in your mind. Your description of these attributes may be correct for many in TFC, but your description of our character is simply wrong.

If people wanted to attend a church where a materialistic and intolerant message was preached there are better places than TFC in the DC - and they already have their own buildings and parking lots.

Posted by Chris at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 3:42pm GMT

Chris,

You speak a truth that is refreshing here, of first hand knowledge of TFC and its ministry. Thank you, and I trust you will not be treated harshly by other bloggers on this site.

I have very close friends involved in ministry with TFC, and they are indeed not the bible waving fundamentalists they are portrayed to be on this site. Will some of the Thinking Anlicans take the time to read some of the letters from TFC or Truro? These are loving, faithful fellow believers who feel TEC has engaged in teachings that are not of the faith. What choice do they have, after many years of attempting reconciliation, but to eventually try to find a company of fellow believers who do not undermine their faith?

The property fight is a difficult call. In practical terms, well I've not seen many Diocese send money to pay the bills of a parish. The parish pays for its ministry, including its facilities. Why should it not be able to continue to do so, especially in situations like TFC where the parish predates the diocese and holds the title? These parishes voted overwhelmingly, 90% or more, to sever ties. TEC would be better serving Christ to let them go and both to focus efforts on serving Him as best they can, in their differing ways.

Posted by Harvard Man at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 1:48am GMT

A wonderful quote from TFC senior warden:

'We know that we need a church that will call us to repentance from sin and will offer us not rationalizations of our faults but, rather, God's forgiveness, transformation, and healing in Christ. To the sinner, Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more." We must be in a church that preaches that same message to us, in both its aspects: forgiveness and a call to a changed life.'

Posted by Harvard Man at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 2:24am GMT

Pseudonyms Chris and Harvard Man,

I refer you to an upcoming history of the Diocese of Virginia and an article which appeared on the internet December 22nd called:

How "Historic" Are Truro Church and The Falls Church?

By Joan R. Gundersen, Ph.D.

... but I warn you, that you most probably won't be very happy about it.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 8:59pm GMT

But then we live in an Age where dishonesty, spin, lies and deceit have been elevated to a form of Art.

"May your talk be Spin, Spin, and Spin, Spin."

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 9:01pm GMT

Harvard man said
'We know that we need a church that will call us to repentance from sin and will offer us not rationalizations of our faults but, rather, God's forgiveness, transformation, and healing in Christ. To the sinner, Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more." We must be in a church that preaches that same message to us, in both its aspects: forgiveness and a call to a changed life.'

As we all do (and without prioritising one set of offences over another...). I think what you mean is that you want a church which tells other people they're beyond the pale while offering the gentlest of wrist-smacks to those already ensconced in the citadel of salvation.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 11:02pm GMT

David,

Please don't put those words in my mouth, "I think what you mean is that you want a church which tells other people they're beyond the pale while offering the gentlest of wrist-smacks to those already ensconced in the citadel of salvation."

That is not what I said, or what I believe.

What I was trying to say is that we are all in a sinful state, as I understand it. And we all need a Saviour. My sinfulness is no greater or worse than anothers. We are all called to recognize that sinfulness, repent of it and believe in Jesus to make us more like him each day. I hope we can agree on these points.

Where we don't agree it appears, is whether or not acting on same sex attraction is sinful. On that, we'll likely not change each other's minds no matter how long we go on here.

Posted by Harvard Man at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 3:22am GMT

David,

I'll echo Harvard Man's statements.

Most of the sermons given at TFC over the past several years are available on the website - as are many of the statements and pastoral letters concerning the TEC issues. You can also find the "I Invite You..." paper that was the vestry report recommending leaving TEC.

As a former member I can't remember sermons from the pulpit that included condemnation of broad categories of people within the church or in the larger society. Certainly disagreements in doctrine or philosophy were discussed, but with maturity and grace.

Most of the teaching was extremely challenging to the people in the pews. The call of Christ to be Lord of every area of our lives was central and clear - from finances, to ambitions, to family and communal life. Some may call this a power grab, but it was not a call to turn these areas over to John Yates - rather it was to turn it over to God. Stewardship sermons weren't simply a marketing piece to increase pledges, but a chance to show that God wants it all - the time, talent and treasure you have been gifted with. These messages were extremely resonant to me while doing an MBA and looking for a job in an industry where power an influence can cloud one's wisdom.

TFC takes stewardship seriously and does reach out to its community and "the less of these" in that community. Ministries include a crisis pregnancy center, an ESL program, and a significant community development project in Southeast DC. Through missions programs (such as rebuilding efforts in Louisiana and partnering with ministries in Africa and Asia) TFC reaches into the wider world. There are also dozens of small groups and fellowships that provide places for people to examine their daily life and better understand how they can "make Christ king the lives of others."

It's extremely difficult to fulfill that mission statement if you're opening salvo is "hey, you're going to hell."

Posted by Chris at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 6:47pm GMT

"The call of Christ to be Lord of every area of our lives was central and clear"

While this is Evospeak, it does state the truth that real happiness is to be found in putting Christ and His Kingdom above all things. I find it interesting how this is interpreted by modern Christians as opposed to how the Church has traditionally seen it. It was once considered a Good Thing to give one's wealth to the poor and live ascetically in prayer and celebacy. Married people, single people, princes, landowners, etc. did it, and it usually ended with retirement to a monastery or hermitage, abandoning all for Christ. The modern interpretation seems to be the we "make Jesus Lord of all aspects of our lives" in some vague sense that expresses itself in donations to charity and driving the right vehicle. I doubt the good pastors of Falls Church ever preached to their well off, andlargely non-Anglican by all accounts, flock that they should emulate the early saints and abandon their wealth for the sake of the Kingdom, more likely just that they should spend and tithe wisely. Not that that is in itself wrong, or that extreme ascetic poverty was ever even the norm for Christians, but it reveals a very different view of Godliness, of how one goes about being Godly, and what are the ideals we are held to. I am amused by the strenuous way in which self declared Evangelicals here defend the rights to wealth, while decrying the "prosperity Gospel" message. They seem, frankly, like different ways of saying the same thing.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 9 February 2007 at 4:27pm GMT
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