Thinking Anglicans

Virginia Supreme Court rules in favour of Episcopal Church

ENS reports: Virginia diocese, Episcopal Church prevail with state Supreme Court

Statement from the Diocese of Virginia:
Court Rules in Favor of Diocese; Division Statute Does Not Apply

The Diocese of Virginia is gratified by the Supreme Court of Virginia’s ruling that the 57-9 “Division Statute” was incorrectly applied by the Fairfax County Circuit Court. The statute has forced faithful Episcopalians to worship elsewhere for over three years. The Supreme Court has sent the matter back to the lower court for further proceedings. The Diocese will demonstrate that the property is held in trust for all 80,000 Episcopalians who worship in Virginia.

“This decision brings us one important step closer to returning loyal Episcopalians, who have been extraordinarily faithful in disheartening and difficult circumstances, to their church homes,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia. “We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to correct a grievous harm. The Episcopal Church has and will continue to stand by its people, its traditions and its legacy – past and future. We look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible and bringing our faithful brothers and sisters back to their home churches.”

Added Henry D.W. Burt, secretary of the Diocese, “In light of this decision and its clear implications, I hope the leadership of CANA will now provide access for the continuing Episcopal congregations to worship as Episcopalians at their home churches during this interim period.”

Read the full opinion (PDF).

Statement from the Anglican District of Virginia:
Anglican Congregations Disappointed in Virginia Supreme Court Decision
Also over here on the CANA website.

FAIRFAX, Va. (June 10, 2010) – The nine Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) congregations that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s Virginia Supreme Court ruling overturning the Fairfax County Circuit Court’s ruling in the case and remanding it back to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia had appealed a ruling in favor of the congregations to the Virginia Supreme Court.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling and will review it as we consider our options. This is not the final chapter in this matter. The court’s ruling simply involved one of our statutory defenses, and these properties are titled in the name of the congregations’ trustees, not in the name of the Diocese or The Episcopal Church. So we continue to be confident in our legal position as we move forward and will remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith,” said Jim Oakes, chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, which is the umbrella organization for the nine Anglican congregations.

“As the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion recognizes, there is clearly a division within The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. Those divisions are a result of the actions of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia to fall out of step with much of Christendom by choosing to redefine and reinterpret Scripture. They chose to sue our congregations when our churches in good conscience could not continue down their path. We are sorry The Episcopal Church has chosen to go its own way. Their choice to be a prodigal church does not give them the right to take our houses of worship with them. The legal proceedings have been an unfortunate distraction from all the good work our churches are doing to advance the mission of Christ. Ultimately, we know that the Lord is in control and our congregations will continue to put our trust in Him, not in secular courts or buildings. Our doors remain open wide to all who wish to worship with us,” Oakes concluded.

Cross-border interventions note: ADA explains:

The Anglican District of Virginia (www.anglicandistrictofvirginia.org) is an association of Anglican congregations in Virginia. Its members are in full communion with constituent members of the Anglican Communion through its affiliation with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria and other Anglican Archbishops.

And from here:

The Anglican District of Virginia is made up of 34 Member Congregations (and counting!) in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC and North Carolina…

Footnote 7 of the judgment lists:

The nine congregations are: The Church at the Falls – The Falls Church, in Arlington County; Truro Church, Church of the Apostles, and Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, in Fairfax County; St. Margaret’s Church, Woodbridge, St. Paul’s Church, Haymarket, and Church of the Word, Gainesville, in Prince William County; Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands, in Loudoun County; and St. Stephen’s Church, Heathsville, in Northumberland County.

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EmilyH
EmilyH
10 years ago

It would appear that CANA and the Anglican District will have to return to Court in they are to overturn this decision. Since they and their Global South supporters have consistently decried such appeal to civil authorities, ie. “Christian do not sue Christians”, how can they ethically justify any subsequent legal recourse? I have always maintained that whether litigation happens is a result of two factors. 1. Who is in possession of the property and 2. Whether there is a reasonable possibility that the other party can get it back. In most of the cases, the parishes were in possession… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
10 years ago

And litigation’s only a sin when the other guy is doing it. Same old….

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
10 years ago

A lot of commentary and speculation about what happens next over on Episcopal Cafe. Since the Va Supremes did not rule on the constitutionality of the law in question, I think that means that there is no basis for appeal to the US Supreme Court. The response from the ADA suggests they will not cede our property back to us without a fight. It did take them longer to respond than the Diocese, which suggets they thought they would prevail. Or maybe we were just better prepared, with a selection of prewritten responses for different scenerios. If I am right… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
10 years ago

“Its members are in full communion with constituent members of the Anglican Communion through its affiliation with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria and other Anglican Archbishops.”

Will someone please forward this to Canon Kearon, as evidence that the Church of Nigeria has, indeed, formally participated in border-crossing?

A. S. Haley
10 years ago

EmilyH, the lawsuits which the Fairfax County Circuit Court will now take up are the suits for declaratory relief filed by TEC and the Diocese of Virginia. The Virginia Supreme Court ordered that the petitions filed by the CANA congregations be dismissed. If the litigation is to continue, it will be entirely up to TEC and the Diocese of Virginia, not the CANA congregations.

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
10 years ago

What I find ironic about the decision is that the plotters were their own worst enemies. If the dissidents had simply attempted to secede from the diocese, and set up their own “Pure Episcopal Church of Virginia” or whatever they wanted to call it, they would have been able to leave with all the property. That would have been a “division” under the Virginia law. But because they chose to jump from TEC to CoN — not “divide” but switch affiliations — they don’t fall under the statute. Perhaps if Martyn Minns hadn’t been so eager to be a bishop,… Read more »

drdanfee
drdanfee
10 years ago

The mill stones of the gods and the courts grind ever so slowly, yet ever so fine grained … Strategically, this ruling shifts the frame for contesting the property/money claims, significantly. Implicit in the ruling is a clear rejecting of the commonly heard claim that… somehow, structurally as to polity as it were … the global communion can suddenly (and utterly without past historical or legal precedent) be used to trump the polities of the 38 constituent member national/provincial Anglican churches. Imagine the shoe was on the other foot? A progressive Anglican group gets up and running in Nigeria; then… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
10 years ago

“Since they and their Global South supporters have consistently decried such appeal to civil authorities…” One more time. The lawsuit was INITIATED by Minns et alia after the congregations involved had done what they called 40 days of discernment. The guidelines for the discernment process could have led to no other result than what happened: all of the now CANA churches FILED IDENTICAL lawsuits AGAINST the Dio of Virginia. We did NOT start this; they DID. We would have been negligent in the extreme not to have defended those suits, which were consolidated into one. This is one of the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

” We are sorry The Episcopal Church has chosen to go its own way. Their choice to be a prodigal church does not give them the right to take our houses of worship with them. The legal proceedings have been an unfortunate distraction from all the good work our churches are doing to advance the mission of Christ. Ultimately, we know that the Lord is in control and our congregations will continue to put our trust in Him, not in secular courts or buildings.” – CANA’s response to Court decision – This topsy-turvy way of looking at the reality of… Read more »

EmilyH
EmilyH
10 years ago

On the specific issue of resumption of TECs and Diocesan legal action, I stand corrected. Mr. Hailey, I believe, is technically correct. However, I continue to be surprised by the actions of +Duncan, St. James Newport etc. Although Matt Kennedy of Binghamton appears not to be returning to court, he made the following statement today: “Hi Jill, Mediation would be great. Unfortunately, in all the cases I am familiar with, that option has been refused by TEC. The last thing any orthodox congregation that has the means can do, IMO, is step back and let their property be used as… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
10 years ago

“And since even the defense drains heretic coffers, then it is good to fight to the last.
1 Cor 6 does not apply here. We are not speaking about Christians but apostates.”

And this reveals the true nature of schismatics…they cannot even give those they oppose the benefit of being good Christians (albeit misled ones)…they are not Christians at all, but “apostates”. This is following Christ’s advice to “judge not, lest you be judged”?

Pantycelyn
Pantycelyn
10 years ago

I thought Jesus asked us to love everyone.

Not so long ago ‘apostates’ were being murdered, and lgbt people still are, of course.

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