Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Great News from Virginia

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia supported by the Episcopal Church sued 11 Anglican parishes last year in an attempt to confiscate their property. The most recent rulings (linked here) indicate that the parishes have all but succeeded in defending themselves. It may be that the diocese and the national church appeal to federal court but they have lost at the state level. This victory probably does not carry much precedent for New York state but it is good news for Anglicans in Virginia.

Here is an excerpt from the press release from the Anglican District of Virginia website:
FAIRFAX, Va. (August 19, 2008) – The 11 Virginia Anglican congregations sued
by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Diocese of Virginia responded to the
Fairfax County Circuit Court ruling issued today concerning the Contracts
Clause and the assertion by TEC and the Diocese that the 11 Anglican
congregations waived their right to invoke the Virginia Division Statute.

Judge Randy Bellows ruled that TEC and the Diocese failed to timely assert
their claim that the 11 Anglican congregations contracted around or waived
their right to invoke the Division Statute. In addition, the judged ruled
that the Division Statute does not violate the contracts clause provisions
of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions as applied to these properties. The
rulings can be found at www.anglicandistrictofvirginia.org. Today’s rulings
mean that there are only a small number of issues remaining to be decided at
the October trial, and the 11 Anglican congregations are hopeful that they
can be resolved quickly.

“We are pleased that Judge Bellows ruled in our favor on these questions.
He ruled very clearly that our congregations are able to rely on the
Virginia Division Statute in order to keep our church property. We have
maintained all along that our churches’ own trustees hold title for the
benefit of their congregations. TEC and the Diocese have never owned any of
the properties and their names do not appear on deeds to the property. The
Virginia Supreme Court has consistently stated that Virginia does not
recognize denominational trusts of the sort asserted by TEC and the
Diocese,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of the Anglican District of
Virginia. All 11 churches are members of ADV.

“Given today’s ruling, we hope and pray that TEC and the Diocese would put
away this needless litigation. We have consistently remained open to
exploring avenues for amicable discussions, and have been grieved that TEC
has chosen to continue to pursue a path of confrontation rather than civil
dialogue. This litigation has done nothing to spread the Good News of Jesus
Christ,” Oakes continued...

2 comments:

Momet said...

Should we lose (of course, we won't!), is there a higher New York State court we could appeal to?

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

Momet,

Yes, we could always appeal such a decision but we certainly hope and pray that it won't come to that.

Matt