Thinking Anglicans

Virginia: reports of court hearing

Updated Sunday morning

Episcopal News Service reports that Court will use Church’s Constitution and Canons in deciding property disputes.

Virginia’s Fairfax Circuit Court ruled August 10 in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia in denying the claims of 11 separated congregations that the court should not consider the Church’s Constitution and Canons in deciding property disputes.

The congregations, in which a majority of members have voted to leave the Episcopal Church but continue to occupy its property, asked the court to dismiss the complaints of the Church and the diocese.

After hearing arguments by all parties, the judge overruled all but one part of the motions. The court dismissed the claims of the diocese for a judgment that the congregations had committed a trespass by holding onto the property. Such claims, the court ruled, should be pleaded separately…

And this:

Also on August 10, after hearing arguments on a motion to dismiss all the individual defendant vestry members, clergy, and trustees from the litigation, all of the parties agreed that they — together with the separated congregations — will be bound by whatever ruling the trial court makes regarding ownership of the real and personal property. Their agreement extends to any ruling on appeal.

According to the agreement, if the court rules in favor of the Episcopal Church and the diocese, an orderly transition with respect to all property would ensue. The Church and the diocese reserve the right, however, to seek an accounting of all monies spent by the departed congregations and bring the individual vestry members and clergy back into the litigation for that purpose.

There is another account of yesterday’s court session here: A Very Good Day.

A recent letter from the diocese (mentioned in the ENS report) can be found here.

Update Sunday morning:

There is still nothing yet posted on CANA or on ADVA websites about this.

The Diocese of Virginia now has this: Judge Overrules Motion to Dismiss Lawsuits:

Today in Fairfax Circuit Court, Judge Randy I. Bellows overruled a motion to dismiss lawsuits filed by The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church against 11 congregations that voted last year to leave The Episcopal Church and attempt to take Episcopal Church property.

The decision to overrule the motion to dismiss came at the end of a four-hour hearing in Courtroom 4-C. In addition, two-hours into the hearing, The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church agreed to allow individuals named in the lawsuits to be taken out of the suits on assurance that those individuals and their successors will be bound by the rulings of the court on diocesan and Church claims concerning property.

“Our only aim in including these individuals was to make sure the proper parties were before the court so that the relief and remedies we seek could be properly sought and obtained,” said Patrick Getlein, secretary of the Diocese. “The assurance to be bound by the rulings of the court achieves that objective.”

Those individuals whose names were removed today include the vestry and rector of each congregation. Trustees remain named in the suits only in their capacity as holders of title.

“We are pleased with today’s rulings and the agreement on removing the names of individuals from the suits. But by no means is the work here done,” said Mr. Getlein. “There are still individuals and congregations who have been dispossessed and literally locked out of their churches. Their exile continues.”

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JCF
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JCF

I’m happy that babyblue (Mary Ailes, of a CANA congregation) is happy (“A Very Good Day”).

I’ll be even happier, when she (and her fellow CANA-ites) either

1) Reconciles to TEC, and her bishop +Peter Lee, or unfortunately failing that

2) Departs (physically) the parish property of +Peter Lee’s Episcopal diocese (as the courts appear LIKELY to declare she must)

I trust she’ll be happier that way (preferably Option 1), too!

Curtis
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Curtis

How can the CANAites keep the properties after this ruling? I don’t see how.

Jerry Hannon
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Jerry Hannon

This is wonderful news, even if expected based upon US legal conventions and Diocese of Virginia and national Episcopal Church canons. Clearly any person can leave the Episcopal Church, for whatever reason, and affiliate with a different faith community or with a foreign religious organization. But, that applies to the person, and not to the real or personal property entrusted to any parish of the diocese. The Diocese of Virginia will be able to move forward, and reestablish those parishes whose rebelling clerical and lay persons attempted to take the metaphorical family silver when they left the family home. Curiously,… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“But I shook hands with a few of them – wishing that there was a better way (and there had been a better way) than this.” Well, yes, there is. Go to Nigeria. Leave the keys on the table and don’t let the door hit you as you leave. Really simple. A parishioner at my church in Virginia reminded me that many of her family are buried at one of the hijecked churches. She doesn’t think they’d like to leave TEC, but then, nobody asked them. Some of her ancestors helped build that church, but, she says, they didn’t do… Read more »

ettu
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ettu

BB’s post seems to this non-lawyer to be incomprehensible but, as the say, da’ Nile is not just a river in Egypt. But, seriously, the spin on stories such as this – and the Don Armstrong case- reduces the position of conservatives and resembles nothing so much as the technique of repeating something over and over until it assumes a life of it’s own.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Go to Nigeria”

Heck, Cynthia, I’d be satisfied if they (the CANA-ites) just went across the street…

…though, as I said, I’d truly be JOY-FILLED if they would only *reconcile* with their Episcopalian brothers and sisters (and bishop). 🙂

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Reconciliation would be wonderful, but I think it highly unlikely. We have a fine columbarium that forms one wall of our small chapel. There are spaces available, spaces with both spouses, spaces with one spouse. I know some of the widows, widowers – and how heartbroken they would be if our congregation lost its collective mind and ceased to be Episcopalian so that they could only be interred with their spouses by an alien priest using an alien rite. My understanding that the northern Virginia Nigerians have not been gracious to the Episcopalians who have wanted access to their churches.… Read more »

NP
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NP

Anyone round here remember the ABC and the other Primates calling for an end to these law suits???

Is this TEC showing its great concern for Anglican unity??

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

NP – You aren’t serious are you? Don’t you know that it was the CANAnities that first filed a claim for the property in Va. And that if the diocese does NOT challenge the claim. the property is theirs by default. If you desire to be DES compliant as you say, you should be calling for CANA to withdraw their claim.

NP
Guest
NP

CB – I am serious. Both sides should not be using the courts…it is a mark of complete failure. I think the CANA people should not fight in the courts…but I understand they want to keep their buildings,especially when they have paid for much of them. But, in the end, they should not fight in the courts. TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches….they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet. A genuinely liberal approach would be to just let them go. The two sides should get together and be as… Read more »

Viriato da Silva
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Viriato da Silva

“TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches….they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet.”

NP, this is not an episcopalian understanding but a congregationalist one.

Can you picture the CoE doing as you suggest?

The people are not “the churches”… They are congregations. The “church” here is the whole Episcopal Church, collectively.

Your thinking does not reflect catholic understanding of the Church.

kennedy`
Guest
kennedy`

NP wrote
TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches….they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet. A genuinely liberal approach would be to just let them go.

What about the people (who are also the church) who wish to remain as part of TEC? Where will they worship?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“TEC too should not fight the people who are actually the churches….they have paid for and maintained the buildings in which they meet. A genuinely liberal approach would be to just let them go.” Fine–what happens to the members of those parishes who voted NOT to leave the Episcopal Church? What happens to their financial and emotional investment in these lands and buildings? Further, what value do the canons of the church–ANY church–have if individuals and parishes can just throw them over whenever they seem inconvenient? I don’t know what the situation is in Virginia, but the charter and bylaws… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
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Leonardo Ricardo

“The whole fiasco in the courts is bringing the gospel FURTHER into disrepute in the eyes of the public.” NP Awe yes, OUR image, OUR reputation, OUR soiled behavior toward LGBT Christians and heterosexual women at all levels of CHURCH life over the past 2007 grim years of active fear/hate driven denial and pretend…actions, more positive and inclusive actions of outreaching brothery/sisterly love and some really powerful witness/attraction might be helpful. Bitterly clammouring for discrimination against OUR fellows and “poaching” and attempted theiving of other Christian peoples property isn’t attractive is it?. No, I agree. It’s time to say no… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Your thinking does not reflect catholic understanding of the Church.” Which is the point. This is not merely a debate about the evil homos. This touches on numerous aspects of two very different styles of churchmanship. One considers “catholic” to be a dirty word, and only to be used of the Church conceived of as some abstract entity that is basically just “Christians everywhere”. It certailny does NOT, in this context, connote anything about beliefs, organization, Scripture, or indeed anything else, except on the most superficial level. That those who so use this word have an alarming tendency(and I am… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

too many here do not even seem aware of what the bible says about lawsuits between supposed believers…..not surprised to see rights-based arguments coming back from TEC supporters but do you even know what the bible says on the issues?

those who want to stay in TEC?
look at what I said….the sides should get together and work something out, being generous to each other…to take care of those who do not want to leave TEC and those who do

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“the sides should get together and work something out, being generous to each other…to take care of those who do not want to leave TEC and those who do”

Perhaps, Solomon-like, we should split the church buildings and lands down the middle, and see which group objects?

Jim Trigg
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Jim Trigg

NP, Bishop Lee tried to get together with the dissidents and work something out — the diocese only filed suit when the dissidents categorically refused to consider meaningful negotiations. To quote from Bishop Lee’s letter of January 18: “The work of the Property Commission, which assembled immediately after the votes to separate, brought together the years of efforts at accommodation and the previous year of discussion over matters of property and clergy status. As that work was brought into the Property Commission’s view and shared with the Executive Board, Standing Committee and with counsel for the separated churches, it became… Read more »

Steven
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Steven

Just to clarify, Motions to Dismiss at the beginning of a lawsuit are very preliminary in nature and seldom granted unless there is some easy out the Court can use to get rid of a case–i.e., the statute of limitations expired 20 years before, or the complaint does not state a justiciable cause of action, etc. The case now proceeds to the next phase–discovery. In this phase, there will be depositions, etc. to clarify the facts. This will be followed by possible summary judgment motions (also seldom granted). And, if nobody blinks, the case will eventually get to trial sometime… Read more »

Curtis
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Curtis

Image what will happen once Marty Minn’s moment passes. Suppose, as looks likely, Virginia schismaniacs lose the land and they end up getting a motel room somewhere to run the show out of. What do they look like? They look like another of the many sectarian isolationist groups that populate any given Sunday in American religianity. Which, by the way, is what they are. Let them take the property? No way. They had lot’s of chance to play nice. Let them reconcile and get along with their fellows if they don’t like this turn of the worm.

Malcolm+
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Malcolm+

I am struc with one particular thing about these “votes” to separate. In the Colorado Springs case, we have seen that a parish of 2,500+ members “voted” to separate with fewer than 20% of members voting. Even allowing for the possibility that some proportion of the 2,500 represented children and those no longer mentally competent, that is still a remarkably small turnout of people to vote on so momentous an issue. Then we had the other little fact about Colorado Springs – that only those who signed on to the coup d’eglise were allowed to vote. I am reluctant to… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

The case is being tried in the Fairfax courts in part because they have a reputation for not dragging things out, so we may find a resolution at that level somewhat sooner – for sure not instantly – but not at Jarndyce v. Jarndyce pace, either. I am told that both sides have agreed not to try the case in the press, hence the terse comments and brief press releases. I have not researched this, but would not be surprised to find that for Christians to take part in judicial proceedings under Roman law would have involved sacrifices to the… Read more »

Steven
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Steven

Cynthia: I also haven’t researched the matter, but I tend to believe Christians have not actually been in a position to worry much about the issue of trial in the courts for much of the last 1700 years. For most of the last two millenia, the objection of going to court before unbelievers did not exist in Western Europe, as all the parties, the courts, juries, etc. were ostensibly Christian. Now, in a post-Christian age, these questions once again have some bite. Steven PS-Nice reference to Dickens. All we need now is a TAer to start caging small birds with… Read more »

K.M.Alderman
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K.M.Alderman

It’s not bewildering that separating religious bodies end up in secular courts. Determination of which is legally entitled to the property assets is a not a religious matter: it’s secular. The courts aren’t ruling on which party interprets the bible correctly or awarding damages to injured parties. The reality is, leaving my parish does not entitle me to take any of its assets with me: I was freely making contributions, not buying stock. Leaving in the company of others rather than as an individual does not constitute an exception. And why would those leaving think otherwise? It defies hundreds of… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Steven’s comment is deliciously sectarian. And misinformed.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“deliciously sectarian.” How so? If you are referring to the idea that we are in a “post-Christian” world, I disagree with you. It is a mistake, I feel, to assume that just because our society still has the trappings of Christianity, ie holidays, cultural attributes, that it is Christian. It’s not about condemning people for not being Christians, it’s about freeing them from any remaining social pressure to conform to something they don’t really believe in. People don’t feel there’s anything wrong with saying they aren’t Hindus if they aren’t, why should they feel a compulsion to call themselves Christian… Read more »

NP
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NP

Goran – you claim Steven is misinformed but you seem unware that the bible discourages the use of law courts to solve disputes in the church…..but I guess you can “interpret” the relevant verses to mean it is fine to use the law courts, since you seem to be able to read any verse to mean its opposite in order to see what you want to see in the scriptures……maybe Steven is not misinformed or sectarian but stating something quite simple and self-evident

Prior Aelred
Guest

What I found most astonishing about the entire process was the acknowledgment that most of the people voting to leave The Episcopal Church had never even joined but were still Baptists & Methodists — the mind boggles

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“most of the people voting to leave The Episcopal Church had never even joined but were still Baptists & Methodists” One of the arguments is that their spiritual forebears “paid for” “their” church buildings. Well, the buildings aren’t “theirs” to begin with, which shows how far they are from Anglicanism, and the “ancestral” status of Anglicans WRT Baptists and Methodists certainly has never included the taking of Anglican buildings, has it? What’s more, their attendance at these places is obviously not based on belief in the style of Christianity known as Anglicanism. If it were, surely they would have become… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Simpler answer, then, NP. Your conservative mates, when they leave their denomination, should not attempt to steal their property as they depart.

NP
Guest
NP

MM – as I have said elsewhere, what you call my “mates” represent a majority of the bishops in the CofE……in 1998 and today.

When the Labour Party had to get rid of Militant, Neil Kinnock did not take the mainstream majority and leave…..similarly, you will see Rowan Williams deal with the AC’s militant minority in a way which strengthens the AC

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

NP
What position is that you claim is held by a majority of the CofE bishops?
The issue under discussion here is whether members of congregations of the (American) Episcopal Church can lawfully, or even should, retain church buildings if they wish to leave that body. Even when those wishing to leave represent an overwhelming majority of those who were previously members.
I doubt that most CofE bishops are in favour of that.

NP
Guest
NP

Simon, I was responding to MM’s statement about my “conservative mates”….I think the presenting issue, behind his use of the word “conservative”, is the same presenting issue which is leading faithful Anglicans in TEC to leave….so I was pointing out to MM that my “conservative mates” (conservative in agreeing with Lambeth 1.10) include a majority of CofE bishops Sorry for jumping off-topic…..but too often I see statements on TA with false assumptions eg that thost leaving TEC in the US are just some radical right-wing minority when actually they would not be leaving the CofE if they were here…..so, I… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

I don’t actually thinbk that the majority of CofE Bishops do agree with NP’s conservative view: neither do they agree with the most liberal views. Most are somewhere in the middle.

But given that unity is so important , I don’t think that RW will think that either ‘side’ leaving or being thrown out will contribute to unity. John Sentamu’s interview was very instructive here.

NP
Guest
NP

So, MM…..why did he do what he did in Tanzania????

So confusing…I see his actins agreeing with me but you tell me that he agrees with you.

I think the ABC sees what is happening in the courts of Virginia and does not want to see that in England……so, you will see further actions consistent with his actions in Tanzania.

Bob in SW PA
Guest
Bob in SW PA

Malcolm+

I attended a meeting about the future recently at my old parish in the diocese of Pittsburgh. They have approximately 350 members of which only 30 attended the meeting. Half the vestry wasn’t even there. It seems these 30 people are trying to call the shots and prod the other 320 to either go along with them or stay home and don’t vote, if it comes to that.

In several of the network parishes similar situations have been occuring. The majority of people are just tired of the fighting.

Bob

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“faithful Anglicans” Explain to me how a Baptist who attends an Anglican Church because that’s where the socially upward moving people go but who never bothers to become an Anglican can accurately be described as a “faithful Anglican”? And explain how that is justification for implying that the other members of the congregation who ARE in fact confirmed in the Anglican Church, are faithless. In short, how does refusal to formally join a body constitute faithful membership of that group while full membership in that same body does not? It seems to me an odd thing to say that those… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Ford..I agree, I normally mean faithful Christians when I say faithful Anglicans….but the two should be the same in the AC, right?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

NP, You keep referring to “faithful Anglicans” leaving TEC. Yet some of these people are not even Anglicans. They don’t seem to know what an Anglican IS, to all intents and purposes. So, how can a non-Anglican who attempts to force an Anglican congregation to behave against the ethos of Anglicanism, be called a faithful Anglican? And why do they attend an Anglican Church while refusing to become Anglican? Could it be that their attendance is based on something other than faith? Could it be because that’s the church the elite go to, making it a good place for networking… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Ford – I suspect they are simply “low-church” Anglicans, regular communicants and therefore just as Anglican as anyone else…..

As you know, some Anglican churches do things in a very “modern” way wih few cermonies etc so people from other denominations as well as non-Christians can join without barriers…..I don’t think we are seeing anything more than this….they are faithful (“low-church”) Anglicans

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

NP, “Low Church Anglican” does not mean ‘anyone who wants to go to an Anglican Church regardless of their denominational affiliation’. If a Muslim came to church week after week and didn’t get baptised, would you call him a Christian? So how does a Baptist who has not joined the Anglican Church get called an Anglican? Also, any baptised Christian can receive at our altar. Your comment about barriers to joining is also odd. I’m interested what barriers you think would exist in a parish like mine. And ‘modern’ does not mean ‘no ceremony’. There are quite a lot of… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Hello Ford I think the barriers we can put up is an issue worthy of serious consideration since I guess we would not want to put people off…. We need to think about how someone coming in off the street might relate to our music, “ceremonies” etc. Would they know what we are doing? Would they be confused or intimidated by not knowing what to do and when? Might theybe put off coming again? Are the things we are doing essential to teaching, learning and knowing Christ? We see lots of people coming to faith every year (thank God) and… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Yes, exploit the contemporary culture and at the same time put up a high barrier to believing, to jump it if you want to carry on with the entertaining style of religion. The other way around is more thinking about what people believe combined with a cultural approach which is not every day in the street but allows a sense of mystery and appreciation. One of them is a get ’em in approach, and the other treats people who have either been on a journey with informed minds of their developing some stability in their spirituality, or alternatively who come… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Yes, I want to “get ’em in”…..so that as many as possible hear the gospel…..that’s right and why ST Paul said “be all things to all people” in order to share the gospel with them.

Pluralist….pls show me where we are commanded to use words and music which are hundreds of years old???

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

NP, First point: there are numerous younger people who are not at all attracted by a rock concert cum worship service, and who do not appreciate all the emotional crying and waving of hands. There are many who prefer a service where coming into the presence of God is done in reverence and humility. The problem is not with those who converse with God, whether it be through a praise band or a Solemn High Mass. The problem is with people like me and you who are unable to contain our scorn for those who worship differently than we do.… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Am I in the army or something? Is everyone looking for where they are “commanded” to do anything? If a church wants to be on the lines of, say, Abundant Life Church, Bradford, with rock bands and singers and repetitive verse, and lights and media, and people swaying about, then it is fine by me. But there is at least another ethos too. This is where people contemplate, meditate and think about matters of faith. Often the music is recent, but it should add to the sense of the numinous. It is not a command, but a preference. Bash and… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Is everyone looking for where they are “commanded” to do anything?” No, everyone isn’t. There are those for whom their relationship with God has to be on the basis of Law and obedience and command. NP, for instance has repeatedly referred to Peter’s Dream in Acts as giving him the “authority” to eat a bacon sandwich. I find such an attitude and language bizarre and would never be able to think in terms of what I have “authority” to do, but for him, it is a perfectly clear and reasonable approach to the things of God. He does not seem… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Ford…you made me laugh….seems like you imagine I am part of some pentecostal set up from the Southern states of the US…..it is all very English at my church in London and quite formal, actually! We have thousands using our main church and our plants but none of these are remotely “rock concerts”…..I have told you that our music direct is a Cambridge Organ Scholar.

Anyway….let’s not waste time arguing about what works but get on with our work…you do what you do to reach as many as you can, we will do what we do …..

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Anyway….let’s not waste time arguing about what works but get on with our work…you do what you do to reach as many as you can, we will do what we do …..”

But not — in your case, as best as I can gather, NP — to reach anybody who isn’t straight, who might prefer to be ministered to by a woman, or who believes that the Holy Spirit didn’t stop working after the last book of the New Testament was written.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Pat, The problem is that the things NP and his ilk do to “reach as many as they can” are a roadblock to us. His type of Christianity is what the world has very strongly rebelled against. Of course, he will never admit it. He truly doesn’t see, and will not be led to see, the problems with his attitude. I’ve given up. I am confident that one day he will be asked “Why did you drive so many away, and deny it when it was pointed out to you?” I’ll stop on my way to the goats to hear… Read more »