McDonnell: “As a matter of federal constitutional law, the Episcopal Church is simply wrong.”
BB NOTE: The Motion is here and the Brief is here.
FAIRFAX, Va. (January 11, 2008) – Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell has filed a motion to intervene and a brief in the ongoing church property litigation that is being heard by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows involving eleven congregations that separated from the Episcopal Church in 2006 and 2007 and joined the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV). In his brief, Attorney General McDonnell defended the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9), thereby validating the position of the ADV churches and making it clear that there is no constitutional problem with applying the Statute in exactly the way ADV attorneys have advocated.
As stated in the Attorney General’s motion to intervene, “As a matter of federal constitutional law, the Episcopal Church is simply wrong. The Constitution does not require that local church property disputes be resolved by deferring to national and regional church leaders.”
“The Attorney General’s brief validates the position of our parishes and directly refutes arguments that were made by the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia following the November trial,” said Jim Oakes, vice chairman ADV. “Virginia has a long and rich history of deferring to congregational control of property. The Division Statute itself clearly states that majority rule should be the deciding factor in determining the ownership of church property when a group of congregations has divided from its former denomination. In his brief, the Attorney General ratified the authority of the Division Statute and noted that the interpretation of the Statute by ADV lawyers is ‘both textually and historically accurate.’”
“Virginia law does not permit the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church to seize our property from us. Our parishes voted overwhelmingly to disassociate from the Episcopal Church due to its rejection of the authority of Scripture. Our decision is just one small piece of evidence that there is a widespread division within the Anglican Communion. We are confident in our legal position that the Division Statute is applicable in this case and we look forward to the resolution of this litigation,” Oakes continued.
“It is unfortunate that the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church broke off amicable property negations and filed lawsuits against our parishes in the first place, forcing us to defend ourselves in a court of law. But despite the distraction of the legal proceedings, we will continue to remain faithful to the historic teachings of the church while moving forward in mission and ministry,” concluded Oakes.
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. ADV members are a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a community of 77 million people. ADV is dedicated to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples while actively serving in three main capacities: International Ministries, Evangelism, and Strengthening Families and Community. ADV is currently comprised of 21 member congregations.