April 4, 2008
To The Falls Church family,
You may have heard the excellent news of the Fairfax County Circuit Court's ruling late Thursday evening concerning our church property. I wanted to personally inform you about the Court's ruling and a few of its implications. Following each of this weekend's services we will hold a brief meeting to answer any questions you may want to raise.
The Court ruled that the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9(A)) applies to support our efforts and those of our sister Anglican District of Virginia churches to keep our property. In our legal position, we have maintained all along that The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia had no legal right to our property because the Virginia Division Statute says that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when there is a division within the denomination. Our churches' own trustees hold title for the benefit of the congregations.
The Court made a number of findings that are significant. Among them, it stated that " the evidence of a "division" within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion is not only compelling, but overwhelming." The Court also found that CANA, ADV, and the American arm of the Church of Uganda are all "branches" of the Anglican Communion within the meaning of the Division Statute. (You can find the Court's full opinion at our web site www.thefallschurch.org < and at www.anglicandistrictofvirginia.org < . The Summary and Conclusion sections are a quick read and of particular interest.)
We are grateful for this initial victory today. It is huge! God has provided wonderfully. Still, we know that this is just one step in a long road ahead. It is likely that The Episcopal Church and Diocese will appeal this decision at some point. In addition, there will be hearings in the Fairfax County Circuit Court on May 28 for TEC, the Diocese, and our churches - as well as the Virginia Attorney General, who has filed a brief supporting the constitutionality of the Division Statute - to address the question of whether the Division Statute, as interpreted by the Court, is constitutional under the religion clauses of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions. There may be additional hearings in the fall.
Be assured that our legal team is working diligently to ensure that we continue to receive the best possible defense, and they are to be commended for their work.
I look forward to giving God great thanks with you, this Sunday! And I ask you to join me in prayer through the coming months for other Anglican District of Virginia parishes, our legal team, The Episcopal Church, Diocese, and everyone involved in this situation. As Christ's body, we must not harbor ill will towards anyone. We did not choose this path and we will continue to work together with other Episcopalians by cooperating in ministry. And most importantly, we will continue to share the love of Christ and the life-transforming power of the Gospel with everyone around us.
I will continue to keep you updated on any developments that may occur.
May God richly bless you.
In the family,