Thinking Anglicans

Amici Curiae brief filed in Virginia

The Diocese of Virginia announces that National Hierarchical Churches Support the Diocese of Virginia in Opposing Virginia Law Section 57-9 . The press release starts out:

A number of national hierarchical churches have filed an Amici Curiae arguing that §57-9 division statute of the Virginia Code “cannot withstand constitutional challenge.” The constitutionality of this statute is being examined in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s case to preserve Episcopal Church property. The brief, filed on April 24 in support of the Diocese’s position, calls §57-9 “hopelessly infused with religious concepts” and demonstrates how this section of Virginia Code ignores the theologically-based structures of hierarchical churches throughout the Commonwealth in violation of the U.S. and Virginia constitutions.

When the Court ruled on April 4 that the 57-9 statute allowed for the CANA congregations to file their claims to take Episcopal Church property, the Court explicitly acknowledged that constitutional issues remain and scheduled a hearing on those issues on May 28, 2008.

At issue is the government’s ability to intrude into the freedom of the Episcopal Church and every other church in Virginia to organize and govern themselves according to their faith and doctrine. The implications of the Court’s ruling reach beyond the Episcopal Church, as evidenced by the number of denominations signing on to the Amici filing.

The Diocese of Virginia welcomes the filing of the Amici Brief from:

1. United Methodist Church
2. African Methodist Episcopal Church
3. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
4. Worldwide Church of God
5. The Rt. Rev. Charlene Kammerer, Bishop of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
6. W. Clark Williams, Chancellor of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Read the full text of the brief as a PDF file here.

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Davis d'Ambly
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Davis d'Ambly

One wonders why the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t joined in this effort.

ruidh
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ruidh

“One wonders why the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t joined in this effort.”

Because in the RCC, and in the US at least, property is held by the bishop as a corporation sole or some other similar structure. There are never property cases like this one because the bishop never allows title to pass from him. He can close them on a whim.

There are disadvantages to this as well. When stuff like the sexual abuse scandal hits the courts, the parish property can be sold to pay judgments.

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

You think the Roman catholic Church would chip in..or non of our property is safe either from the actions of some future maverick priest.

Paul Davison
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Paul Davison

But, if the statute is constitutional, a parish by vote could claim the property. The legal form of ownership is beside the point. Under this Virginia statute, every denomination would be to a large extent congregationalist.

christopher+
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christopher+

To echo Paul Davison’s point a bit, the Virginia statute, as some are attempting to apply it, would effectively require all denominations to assume congregationalist polity in that one state/commonwealth. The state would thus be mandating – one might say “establishing” – one form of religious governance, perhaps a form most Virginians would even affirm, at least in principle. That, however, is precisely why it can’t stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

Mary Clara
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Mary Clara

I loves me my Methodist brothers and sisters! I hope we Episcopalians can return the favor at some point as the IRD batters away at them

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

Ruidh..very interesting.

How does the Catholic Church prevent a Schofield type doing a San Joaquim. Are there safeguards?

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

“Because in the RCC, and in the US at least, property is held by the bishop as a corporation sole or some other similar structure.” If this was invariably so, Ruidh, the case of St. Stanislaus Kostka, Saint Louis, which has been dragging on since the first half of the last century, ought to have been resolved by now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Stanislaus_Kostka_Church_(Saint_Louis) The Roman Church’s position on this is of interest if only because sooner or later one or more of the TEC property disputes may well end up before the US Supreme Court and a majority of the Court’s members (5… Read more »

Dan
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Dan

The Va. statute does not mandate congregational polity. Any hierarchical church can eliminate the possiblity of property disputes by simply titling the property in the hierarchy or in a trust in which the hierarchy is the or at least one of the beneficiaries.