October 16, 2008
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Every day God calls us to remain faithful together at the foot of the cross. The mutual support and community we share in the Diocese of Virginia is a clear sign of our faithfulness to this call. Especially important in these challenging times is the support we offer the faithful Episcopalians in our continuing congregations as they serve the mission of the Church.
The Circuit Court of Fairfax County has heard evidence related to ownership of disputed church properties. Despite our claim that these properties are held in trust for many generations of Episcopalians, from the past to the future, we have received some unfavorable rulings, including one this week which declared that property acquired for the Church of Christ Redeemer was transferred properly to Truro Church. Next week the Diocese will present evidence which we believe shows that Christ Church, Alexandria is the owner of the historic church of the Falls Church. The trial will conclude next week and we expect a ruling in late November or early December.
While these legal rulings have been disheartening, I pray that you remain mindful of our larger common mission. It is our duty to band together to see that all Episcopalians may worship in their own churches. It is our privilege to live and worship here in Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom. We must not allow the government to dictate how people of any faith organize and govern themselves nor where they may gather in prayer.
Let me assure you that the Diocese of Virginia will vigorously appeal every court decision that denies any Episcopalians their rightful church homes. The Diocese of Virginia has experienced challenges in the past and we have always come through renewed and strengthened in our mission to serve Christ's church. Virginia will do so again.
Please continue to keep all those affected by this trial in your hearts and prayers.
Peter James Lee
Bishop of Virginia