Judge Randy Bellows has signed the Final Order awarding all the property (but for one endowment at The Falls Church, which will be litigated separately) to the Virginia congregations that voted to separate from The Episcopal Church in December 2006.
The Final Order reads in part:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the § 57-9 Petitions and Reports filed by the CANA Congregations are hereby APPROVED.The churches who will remain with their property are:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that as to each of the following CANA Congregations, pursuant to Va. Code § 57-9(A), the congregational determination is conclusive as to the title to and control of the property subject to the § 57-9 Petitions. Accordingly, the trustees hold title solely for the benefit of such congregations, respectively, and act solely at the direction of each of the CANA Congregations.
The Falls Church, Falls Church
Truro Church, Fairfax
Church of the Apostles, Fairfax
St. Margaret's Church, Woodbridge
St. Paul's Church, Haymarket
Church of Our Savior, Oatlands
Church of the Word, Gainesville
Church of the Epipany, Herndon
St. Stephen's Church, Heathesville
The Final Order comes after some last-minute maneuvering by the legal counsel of the Episcopal Church which sought to split the Final Order into pieces, proposing that a Final Order being issued for each church separately - even though the case had been consolidated into one unified piece. The CANA congregations counsel objected to this last-minute attempt that may have allowed endless appeals to the Commonwealth Supreme Court. The cost of such a legal maneuver would have been enormous.
Judge Bellows then ordered all the counsel into his court for today, but in the waning hours of yesterday afternoon the Episcopal Church relented and consented to the original request for a single Final Orderaht included all the churches together. That consented Final Order draft was sent to the court yesterday afternoon.
Today the judge signed his Final Order, awarding the properties to the congregations.
John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, has released this letter to the people of The Falls Church:
I'm writing to share with you the good news that today, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows signed and issued a Final Order that concludes - in our favor - all of the trial court proceedings involving our church's property and the property of our sister CANA/ADV churches remaining in the litigation. (There is only one small exception - any issues regarding The Falls Church Endowment Fund will remain pending with Judge Bellows to be decided after any appeals of other issues have been resolved.)
We rejoice and thank the Lord that the trial court proceedings have now officially ended, and that they have ended with such a clear victory for our churches. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and TEC have said in public statements that they will pursue an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. Our churches are prepared to defend Judge Bellows's thorough and well-reasoned rulings throughout any appeals process. We continue to pray, though, that all of these issues may be resolved without further legal proceedings.
Please join me in thanking the Lord for all that He has done to bring us victoriously through all of these trial proceedings. And please join me in continuing to pray, throughout any further proceedings, that the Lord will ultimately resolve all of these matters in a way that brings glory to His name, that draws people to Jesus Christ, that keeps us focused on loving and serving God and our neighbors, and that preserves for faithful ministry the property and other resources that He has entrusted to our care.
"Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ...." (2 Cor. 2:14)