Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Breaking News: Virginia Anglican Churches Praise Fairfax Judge Ruling on Contracts Clause

BB NOTE: You can read the opinions for yourself. StandFirm has Contracts Clause Opinion, the Waiver Opinion, and Judge Randy Bellows Order.

You can also read them directly at the
Anglican District of Virginia website here.

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 judge 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.

To comply with the requirements of the Virginia Division Statute, Virginia Code §57-9, which recognizes the right of a congregation to keep its property when a majority votes to separate from a divided denomination, the voting churches reported to their local circuit courts their votes to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church and the Diocese and to affiliate with CANA through membership in ADV. In most of these churches, 90% or more of the members voted to leave the denomination due to the clear division within The Episcopal Church, which the Fairfax County Circuit Court confirmed.

The Episcopal Church and the Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations in January 2007 and filed lawsuits against the Virginia churches, their ministers and their vestries. The decision of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese to redefine and reinterpret Scripture caused the 11 Anglican churches to sever their ties.


Anglican Beach Party said...

This sounds like wonderful news. I'm very happy to hear this!!

Peter said...

Judge Bellows has a way with footnotes.

Leonard said...

Don't be silly, this sounds like a faster track to the Supremes! Wishful thinking won't make reality fade away.

Gracias a Dios

Lynn said...

BB (and Leonardo), yes I think this will travel fast, at least to the Virginia "Supremes." I have a dollar down on the Virginia Court of Appeals passing this hot potato straight on to them (as is their right).

This is a crazy law to decide such an important issue. Just my opinion; but my name isn't Bellows, and my opinion isn't quite worth even that dollar in the Judge's courtroom.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear you are all safe and able to carry on in mission.

God bless


lhassler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lapinbizarre said...

This issue is still in Virginia County Circuit Court, BB. Give it time. Take another look at my posting on the legal situation in South Carolina on your August 11th "Back to the Court House" thread. This, not Judge Bellows' ruling, will be the template for court decisions in the US.


[Next to the last post]

Andy said...

I've got this sudden desire to break out and sing Psalm 20.

Anonymous said...

As the discussion moves toward the appeals process, we should remember two things:

First, an appeals court (unless they are legislating from the bench)looks at whether the lower court made errors in the conduct of the trail and the interpretation of the law. Judge Bellows has been very patient in allowing both sides to present their full arguments. He has also been very thorough with his considerations, research and opinions. He is making sure he will not be overturned.

Second, the US Supreme Court does not automatically agree to hear all cases presented to it. this will probably end at the state court level.