Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coalition forming for a win-win settlement in Virginia

As the next round of litigation is heating up in Virginia on the fate of nine church properties, a coalition of prayerful Episcopalians and Anglicans is forming to pray and seek ways to find an amicable settlement between the The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and nine Anglican churches. "Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement" has all ready launched their website called "Seeking Common Ground in Common Prayer" that aims to provide helpful information, encouragement, and insight on how the different sides in the Virginia litigation between the Episcopal Church/Diocese of Virginia and nine Anglican churches that voted to separate from The Episcopal Church four years might approach a "win-win" settlement.

Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement are "Virginian lay members of Episcopal and Anglican parishes who believe that the current litigation between the Anglican District of Virginia, the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church (TEC) must end," they write at Seeking Common Prayer in Common Prayer.  The organizers of the website/blog are Kathryn Peyton, a member of St Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, and Dan Van Ness, a member of Truro Church in Fairfax.

What are some of the reasons why a win-win settlement is the best alternative to prolonged and costly litigation?  From the blog:

There are lots of reasons for looking for a win-win settlement:
  1. Litigation costs money we could be spending on mission. 
  2. Litigation turns people into enemies. We all have heard of situations where a dispute between neighbors divided the neighborhood when the case went to court, or when families were split apart by a bitter divorce. The same thing can happen in parishes as we have learned in the four places where there are both Episcopal and ADV congregations.
  3. Litigation between Christians causes scandal.  1 Cor 6:7 says, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.” As former Secretary of State James A Baker has said, “Squabbling over church assets is the wrong way to resolve this impasse. The predictable result of continuing this battle will be public conflict without end in sight, to the utter dismay of most Episcopalians.”
  4. Win-win settlement allows creative solutions. Courts must apply the law and the result can be unsatisfactory. For example, some of the pieces of property in dispute have multiple deeds. It is possible that a judge or jury would determine that the wording of the deeds means some parcels belong to one side and others belong to the other. Furthermore, in negotiating a win-win settlement it is possible to find solutions to problems created by the separation that aren’t even part of the litigation (like figuring out how to deal with the conflicting claims to be part of the Anglican Communion).
  5. Win-win settlement is faster. If there is a trial for this second phase of the litigation it is possible there will be no judgment until Summer 2011. The appeal process took an additional 18 months in the first phase, so litigation may not be over until 2013 or later. While we might need the help of a mediator to do it, negotiation could produce a win-win settlement by Spring 2011.
Here at the Cafe we are very excited by the forming of this coalition and pray that it will flourish.  Learn more about how you can join this effort by clicking here or here. To God be the glory.


Steven in Falls Church said...

Godspeed to these folks but it looks to be a coalition of only two, or three if BB has joined.

A Friend said...

Not exactly, but it's a good time to pray.

Anonymous said...

Other than repeating the phrase "win-win settlement" as many times as possible, does this small and anonymous group have any ideas for settlement? There's a basic impediment to settlement when both parties want a particular piece of property and only one group can own and control that property.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the key to a settlement is to realize that what both sides really NEED is use of the properties rather than ownership.


Unknown said...

I love Anons complaining about Anons! Only at the Cafe! LOL!

What would be interesting to know, Anon, is what suggestions do you have?

In fact, the possibility of sharing properties - for example, some have historic properties that could be put in a joint trust shared by both organizations - is real. This past summerTruro Church was shared with the Diocese of Virginia for a wedding conducted by a northern Virginia Episcopal congregation. Such sharing is indeed possible, because it's all ready happening.


Anam Cara said...

There might be a way for the ADV and Diocese of VA to work things out, but what happens to KJS and TEC in this process? What if they don't want to play?

Kevin said...

Prayer is good! I hope all hearts soften and good testimony comes forth.

In a time of great psychodrama after a broken romantic relationship, I used to enter an area where there could be personal conflict and games, "Lord, not my will, not their will, but your perfect will be done tonight." I think the same posture applies here - May His perfect will be done and may He encourage the hearts on both sides of the issue for seeking Him in this way of joint prayer.

Jeff H said...

I think Anam Cara's question is probably the most important one. Laity, parish leadership, and diocesan leadership could all earnestly and fervently work toward a settlement, but the prevailing sense up to this point has been that TEC and the PB's office have taken settlement off the table, and decreed that dioceses do the same. In this litigation, it takes three to tango, and one partner appears not to want to dance.

None of that means that prayer for a settlement isn't faithful and maybe even efficacious. But if I were a betting man...

Anonymous said...

Нравится вам или нет, но история на нашей стороне. Мы вас закопаем
(We will bury you!)


TLF+ said...

Bless all of you who are simply acting on what the Lord commands. Yes, not all is in your control. But the building of relationships toward peace and actual reconciliation is success in and of itself - it is the flip side about Paul's warning that lawsuits between believers are in and of themselves a spiritual defeat.

May the Lord bless you with good fruit from the effort, but even if you only plant and others harvest, it is worth saying that your obedience to the Gospel is a victory.

Peter Carrell said...

I have never understood why the property could not be settled (at least in many cases) with the Episcopal Diocese retaining ownership and the Anglican parish leasing it at an affordable, if not at a peppercorn ($1 per annum) amount.

Anonymous said...

What would get +KJSchori and Beer's attention?

Communion-wide publicity about this worthy endeavor - [and shutting off the cash to TEC until they do]!

Spread the word good people!

Anglo-Catholic southerner

James said...

Peter Carrell: Although much better then the current TEC policy, your solution would still be a win for TEC, as it could renege on the low rent contract whenever it wanted to.

A much better solution would be both sides transferring all interest in the property ownership to a non-profit holding corporation made up equally of ACNA and TEC interests. This group could then administer the properties and negotiate any buy-outs by one side or the other.

Closing Down said...

In our prayers, BB.

Anonymous said...

The inclination to share should be encouraged, to be sure, even if it arises in extremis at a time when the obvious consequences of departure are coming nigh. But it would have been nice to have seen these sentiments more at the forefront a few years ago. This is happening now because people are beginning to realize that it's a pipe dream to think the act of leaving can create property rights. Yesterday's rulings on court procedures going forward bring this point home even more sharply (the departing factions' demand for jury trial on the properties was denied).

I would not think a lease of space by the Diocese to some of the more substantial departing groups would be out of the question, Peter. It's an approach that has the advantage of respecting those who stayed and that does not create a radical precedent of encouraging disgruntled groups to walk out the door while taking part or all of the church with them. But why would the lease values be in the three peppercorn range? I would think lease or purchase (and I agree that a lease might be more appropriate for many reasons) would be at fair market value. Whatever that is, it must be modest compared to attorneys' fees.


Anonymous said...

BB -

What happened in court yesterday?

Anonymous said...

Although I was not in court yesterday, I know others who were and the judge did indeed deny the CANA churches the right to a jury. He also set up the schedule for hearings which will begin in late April.

As a member of one of the continuing congregations, worshipping in borrowed space, I am just sad that another 2 years or more will traspire before we can get back into our home church.

I like the idea of a settlement but then I liked that idea 4 years ago. How incredibly wasteful (not to mention spiritually challenging) that this litigation goes on and on and on. Sharing of the church spaces is not the answer. It would cause confusion and relive the tensions that existed prior to the split.

In the meantime, the members of my congregation will celebrate Christmas in a beautifully decorated fellowship hall of a generous Presbyterian church, sitting in folding chairs and sharing prayer books and hymnals! And the worship will be spirit-filled, our parishioners joyful as they celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Lapinbizarre said...

While I empathize with you personally, BB, this proposal would have been far more credible if it had been floated much sooner.

Steven in Falls Church said...

I was actually a bit surprised when I heard that the ADV parishes were asking for a jury trial, given that the judge already was favorably disposed to our fact arguments in the 57-9 phase of the trial. Maybe the lawyers thought we would win the jury sympathy vote, given the actions of TEC and the Diocese during 2006, and the fact there are no viable continuing congregations waiting in the wings if TEC were to win and seize our properties.

Anonymous said...

Steven: they wanted a jury trial because there is no basis in law for the claim that if one leaves a church, he gets to keep property. The only way that radical notion could ever fly was if the Division Statue were held to have applied. A jury at least injects a wild card element into the disposition. If a judge is not competent or alert, it's possible to play on a jury's emotions by worming in extraneous evidence. But, as the judge recognized, the issues remaining are not ones that juries can or should decide. It was a desperation move on CANA's part and it didn't work.

By the way, why would the presence or absence of continuing congregations have any bearing on the disposition of legal title? Or are you saying that that is the kind of irrelevancy that the CANA lawyers thought they could blow by a jury in a way that would affect the outcome?


Closing Down said...

Always the one-sided view from Scout. May God have mercy on us all.

Still praying for all.

Anonymous said...

Yes, LL2, I do have a point of view. And, yes, we must pray that God has mercy on us all, but that necessity arises from the universal nature of man and the condition of sin in which all live. It doesn't stem from my having an opinion. So do others. That's the point of a discussion. Nonetheless, despite many invitations, I have never had anyone articulate to me a viable principle upon which legal title passes to an individual or a number of individuals who decide to leave a church. The closest I've seen is either: 1) we paid for it (neglecting the fact that others not leaving also paid for it) and/or 2. the other guys espouse wrong doctrine (leaving me puzzled as to how that conveys title under the law).

By the way, as you know, I have always respected and wished well those who left. My dispute with them has not been over their acting on discomfort with the Episcopal Church. My dispute is over why they think their departure vests them with the right to property, particularly at the expense of those who chose to stay.


Closing Down said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Closing Down said...

And the not-so-merry-go-round starts spinning again.

And we believe the church belongs first to God then to the people of God. A majority of politically minded people supposedly passed a church rule that the building belongs to them instead - without taking that decision back to the people it affected. Much like some of the crap being passed by GC now.

A peaceful solution was being worked out and then abandoned when the new sheriff came to town - with powers not legally given.

We go over this over and and over again. The rule of majority is OK when it flows your way, Scout, and you dismiss it when it doesn't flow in your favor.

The majority of those there, and I would guess the majority of funding as well, decided they wanted to continue the way they worshiped for years and not go the new path of TEC. You don't see it - or don't choose to. You want to follow the new TEC - go and build new buildings devoid of all the symbols that interfere with the new thinking - God devoid of gender and power. Go build them instead of taking the old ones from their Godly owners and then selling them to non-Christians and for non-Christian purposes. Intent, dear Scout. Intent. Don't think for one minute that God is happy with that outcome any more than He is happy with the Litigation, no matter how you and TEC try to spin it.

I understand your viewpoint. I firmly believe that other solutions were available and are available if egos are put aside.

What can now be done to please God? We do not believe that is on TEC's agenda in any form. Man's agenda is on the table and it's all about protecting the brand of TEC.

Anonymous said...

Do I recall correctly? Didn't Bishop Lee have the original "Win/Win" solution until Mrs. Schori forced her way in - outside of her canonical constraints?

Thomas D.

DavidH said...

LL2 wrote: "A peaceful solution was being worked out and then abandoned when the new sheriff came to town - with powers not legally given."

Keep repeating this as much as you want and it still won't be true. Fact is that the "Protocol" was DoA with the Diocese's Standing Committee and Executive Board before the PB weighed in.

"The rule of majority is OK when it flows your way... and you dismiss it when it doesn't flow in your favor."

You're actually describing the CANA folks' position equally well. The question has always been which majority matters. In the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, it's not the congregational majority.

Fact is that Truro and company are reaping what they sowed. They spent years in hostility/tension, planning with the lawyers, and labeling the Diocese as non-Christian, despite all the accommodation Truro got from a very patient Bishop Lee. They then began litigation in an attempt to use a statutory relic to escape Virginia church property law (only to have that attempt dashed by the Virginia Supreme Court). It should not surprise anyone that the CANA folks have taken up beating the settlement drum, and the other side is less interested. The end is in sight.

Anonymous said...

Cue diatribes about the Protocol.

Let's move past it. It's a long dead issue and there is nothing to discuss. In addition, there is a new bishop in Virginia.


Unknown said...

Gently, may I say that it is this attitude that will get us no where. I have been listening to this attitude for four years - longer than that and you know, it kills - and I mean it - that attitude kills evangelism. This attitude is devoid of hope. Everyone on all sides are sporting giant black eyes and the public knows it.

So I suggest we put that attitude away, put the finger pointing away, and start to pray for resolution. Perhaps we will be surprised not only by hope, but by joy.

Conversations are all ready underway - even in the court room on Friday. Would you like to be a part of it, that your legacy was that you helped to find a way forward instead of spitting on the grass? Let's be part of the solution, a win-win resolution.


Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement said...

To Steven: You gotta start somewhere!

To others: It is to my everlasting shame that I did not start doing something about this years ago. I heartily agree that it is late in the process, but still, we can save two more years of litigation if we act now. Lease, purchase, whatever works, let's do it! There is no way the Diocese of Virginia can afford to maintain all these properties.

To Anam Cara: the intervention of TEC in this case is their right, but I also believe it is our right to settle without their consent. John Howe muse have done so in Florida.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Kathryn Peyton

Unknown said...

Actually, that is the case. In the Diocese of New Jersey the bishop recently settled with separating Anglicans on their property. The Diocese of South Carolina has also called 815's bluff - the fact remains both historically and in our polity, the Diocese has the authority to negotiate a win-win settlement with the congregations. It will be the Diocese who have to figure out how to pay the monthly bills - including a pretty substantial mortgage at one of the congregation's churches. Last year, my parish alone paid $30,000 just to remove the snow from a parking lot after one snow storm. 815 is not going to be paying the bills, it will be the Diocese of Virginia - and if it's the Diocese of Virginia, that is the People of the Diocese of Virginia who hold the purse. The People. The Lay people. Surely we all want to focus our energies not only on mission, but on taking steps to rebuild our fellowship with one another (that is all ready underway, by the way) so that we can share ministry together. We want to remain in as close a communion as possible, with the hope that one day we may be reunited. That is a prayer - but it will take work to get there, work we may share together, work that can be and must be done outside the court room.

What a witness to a broken world that would be.


Anonymous said...

What was the "bluff" that the Diocese of SC called? I follow that a bit, but not minutely. It seemed to me that SC passed some resolutions that were intended to have the effect of preventing property from staying with the Episcopal Church reasoning that the Georgia Courts have used to preserve Christ Church Savannah as Episcopal property. But I was not aware that bluffing was involved.

LL2: is it your position that those who did not leave the Church are "ungodly" in some way? Is that how one determines where title goes? Try taking that to the deed recorders at the courthouse. I submit respectfully that there is a wide range of reasons for why people choose to stay in the Episcopal Church. Probably none of them is that doing so is against God's will.

And I am not an advocate of majority rule for property dispositions, whether it benefits me or goes against me. I think the concept is irrelevant in a property context, and has the danger in a church context of politicizing worship and fellowship.

If I have been sitting in for a couple of decades (and financially supporting) a church that has been an Episcopal Church for centuries and I choose, for reasons that seem appropriate to my conscience, not to leave, why should I have to go build a new church? If someone doesn't like it there and chooses to leave (for reasons that seem appropriate to his/her conscience), why should they not build a new church?


Dan said...

Scout raises an interesting question at the end of his post. So far most discussion about property is who gets to stay and who has to find another building. The lawsuits certainly emphasize that perspective because litigation is a win-lose proposition.

But when a parish has divided over an issue, could we not also decide that both congregations are responsible to find facilities for both? What if, among other principles, we said that a successful outcome to negotiation must include every parish ending up with a suitable home?

There are several ways this could happen. Shared facilities is one that is often mentioned. But what if the larger congregation assumed responsibility for helping the smaller congregation purchase/build suitable facilities? Perhaps it could contribute an amount proportionate to the relative size of the two congregations.

What we need is creativity.

Dan Van Ness

Closing Down said...

Following BB's gentle words, I offer apologies if I have offended her or anyone else.

Dan Van Ness: EXACTLY!! I refreshed before I posted my comment below. Very well put!

The more important question is for everyone: What are YOU willing to give up so that EVERYONE has a place to worship? I ask that of both sides. The "baby" is being cut in two. If we are all really Christians - what will it take to get past this and move on?

Unknown said...

This may be one good place to start:

O Father, in this time of deep separation in our beloved church, we offer this prayer for the just and amicable resolution of the litigation we are facing, for the healing of broken relationships, for the softening of hearts hardened by hostility, and for common ground in our Common Prayer.

Please help us all to be empowered by your Holy Spirit to dedicate our mutual resources for your work and glory, not our own, that we may find some good to come from this conflict that has engaged us for so long.

Hear us, Lord, we pray, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

I'm all for creativity, but I suspect the idea that a larger group being able to eject a smaller group by "buying them out" (essentially) is not a recipe for cohesive worship and fellowship. The composition of the larger group will shift depending on the issue in dispute. If the protocol (dare I use that word?) is that the big group can eject the smaller if it provides for new quarters, one would foster a tendency toward constant conventioneering within the parish. This leads me back to the more conventional, and I think quite rational, position that if someone isn't happy, he/should find a new church home. If he has a lot of friends who share his views, they should find a new church home. This seems to be the simple and most obviously correct (morally and ethically) position. It certainly was what used to happen before this particular crisis arose.

Now - need to milk the cows.


Closing Down said...

Great prayer, BB. Both we L2 agree in Christ with you in it.


Help all of us to set aside our wills so that we may hear Your will clearly, heed and obey it. Make a way where there seems to be no way. You are the Maker of miracles. Come, Lord Jesus, and change our hearts. Protect each of us on either or any side
from the evil one and his minions in any and every form. It is through You, Jesus, we pray and ask for the powerful Holy Spirit to flow in and through us. Amen.

Closing Down said...

By the way, Scout, I did "feed" the cows earlier tonight - don't milk them though. ;-) We have 3 in our pasture 2 and a bull. They are more pets than anything. Much smarter than people think. I always think of the Farside cartoon where they think we "yakyakyak". They communicate without talking - would love to know how!!

ettu said...

Interesting - tho predictable - comments. I felt I had nothing to add so have refrained from posting. However, after looking at the lead picture a few times I find it oddly upsetting in a sort of metrosexual way. Perhaps not the best of subliminal messages to send when -ostensibly- much of this schism is about sexuality. Since I am writing however..the only phrase that comes to my mind is "the ship has already sailed" I hope that is not taken as unkind but is meant to be pithy and short

Anonymous said...

I liked the sculpture and meant earlier to ask what it was.


Closing Down said...

Ettu - are you willing to give up pithy and short for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Let those who have sailed go their way and you in yours?

It's so easy to get on the merry-go-round. Let's all get off and be Christ to each other.

ettu said...

No - but after many years of being holier than thou I am willing to give up preaching to others and to stand justified in the light of the Mystery of Christ - and, yes, I realize that even this statement is a sermon

Anonymous said...

To Stephen in Falls Church.
"and the fact there are no viable continuing congregations waiting in the wings if TEC were to win and seize our properties."
There are at least 3 very viable continuing congregations including The Falls Church (Episcopal) which has several hundred members. Please double check your "facts".

Anonymous said...

LL2 - to avoid being misleading, I was speaking figuratively, based on my early life in the Midwest. My early hours today were caused by my dogs going nuts over a vocal fox on the property. I had to get up to let them go investigate. It certainly made for an early start. Glad to hear your animals are pets and not aspiring hamburgers.


Steven in Falls Church said...

Anon -- I know several people from TFC who felt led to stay in TEC and joined the continuing congregation, and I maintain a great respect for them. On the numbers, TFCE's average Sunday attendance (ASA) was 64 in 2008 and the 2009 report shows roughly the same number (I only have access to the bar graph for 2009 so it is tough to tell). ASA is a much more reliable benchmark for measuring parish viability than membership as ASA shows the folks who actually show up for services and are the ones most likely to support the ministry including financial giving. (By comparison, TFC's ASA is well over 2000.)

We can go on about membership statistics, but is it really the position or desire of the continuing congregation to claim the entire TFC facility, or just use of the Historic Church? I ask because the CC has not joined as a party to the litigation, and has used images only of the Historic Church on its website and other materials but not of the much larger part of the TFC facility including the 800-seat Sanctuary. From everything I have heard, the CC has not made a claim to the entire TFC facility, nor has the facility been promised to them in the event TEC is ultimately victorious. Regardless, my initial point about nonviable alternative congregations is still valid.

Anonymous said...

"If the protocol (dare I use that word?) is that the big group can eject the smaller if it provides for new quarters, one would foster a tendency toward constant conventioneering within the parish."

I realize that you are responding to an earlier post by Dan, but the issue before us is not one that arose from internal disputes in the now CANA parishes. Rather, it arose from actions at the diocesan level and above.

There are all manner of possible ways that the Episcopal congregations and the CANA congregations could share facilities or recognize the needs of their brothers and sisters on the other side of the disagreements. It would take a willingness to negotiate, which has been held out by the CANA churches since the filing of the suits by DioVA/TEC.

It appears that negotiations at the congregational and diocesan level could have a chance if 815 would leave the conflict. To 815, however, it is not a fight over property - it is a fight over the franchise.


Anonymous said...

Steven: I think the position of the Falls Church congregation is that their legal right to worship in and to use the premises was the same the day after the vote as the day before - the vote had no effect on ownership. This of course applies to the entire physical plant. However, I think they accept that ownership resides in the Diocese (some might say the national church, but I think most would find it sufficient to base their position on the Diocese's role). Thus they are not parties to the litigation, their position being subsumed by that of the Diocese. Their ASA over the period of eviction is probably close to what you posit - worshipping in a borrowed attic is not for everyone. But their membership is much larger. Recent attendance has been regularly over 100.

One of the reasons that the seceding group found it so important to take over control of the property was, I think, their correct assumption that a large number of people who did not feel strongly that the sexuality issues that had become so much in the forefront were cause for schism, would nonetheless continue to worship in familiar (and extremely pleasant) surroundings. When the law courts cause the church to revert to Episcopalian control (I now view this as inevitable), I suspect that there will be a larger number of people who continue to worship at the Church than simply the core group of weekly worshippers of the continuing parish.


Unknown said...

One would think that might be the case, Scout, but what we've been seeing around the country where TEC has reclaimed property of congregations that have separated is that the properties remain empty or are eventually put up for sale. That is the reality we're facing without resolution.

Another issue is that 815 is not in a position to financially rescue dioceses who have to deal with maintaining properties they cannot afford. As we've seen at the last Executive Council meeting, 815 has taken out a massive "bridge loan" and has slashed its all ready reduced budget. There are many in the Diocese of Virginia who are now asking how will the diocese pay outstanding mortgages (where payments are $30,000 a month) as well as the monthly maintenance costs, never mind actually attempting to staff the properties for growth.

Finally, the litigation has revealed to local congregations that while the trusts may be in the name of the trustees appointed by the local vestry, the diocese and TEC are maintaining that those properties are owned by the diocese - and this is sending a chilling message to local congregations where the laity are funding the salaries, maintenance and mission of the local parish. Why should the laity fund properties that the diocese maintains they own? This question is not answered and as long as it remains unanswered I am concerned that the local parishes in the diocese will continue to witness a dropoff in pledges, donations, and support from the laity who are pressured for altruistic reasons to support the local parish with its own purse, when in fact it is the diocese that in the end that carries the keys and can seize the purse.

Why continue down this road that the evidence shows is not doing anyone any favors as far as advancing the whole point of having church properties in the first place? Can we at least get these issues on the table and start to have some conversations, putting aside the wishful thinking and just get real?


Anonymous said...

I always gave money to my church on the assumption that it was part of the Diocese, BB. I never thought that I was creating some kind of locally autonomous church, at least not in the sense that it was somehow detached from the Diocese. My understanding of what it meant to be "Episcopal" (or even "episcopal") was that we were subject to the discipline and guidance of a Bishop who had a considerable amount of authority over our actions. My guess is that most people had that view at one time. When the agitation for secession began, people may have lost sight of that structure. But I don't think individual contributions create an individual property right, or that parish contributions create a parish property right in the Diocese of Virginia any more than they do in the Roman Catholic church. The property documents at my church are heavily finger-printed over many, many decades with permissions and conditions imposed by the Bishop. People come into the Anglican/Episcopalian church with their eyes open on this score, I would wager. Anyone who thought it was a congregational church really wasn't paying attention. And even if it were that type of structure, we still have the problem of why some people's contributions should be given dispositive legal significance and others' contributions can be totally ignored, particularly where the latter are the ones who choose to stay.


Anonymous said...

Regarding membership, attendance, and maintenance of The Falls Church, I just want to clarify the situation for Steven and BB. The current TFCE has several hundred active members, regularly more than 100 at each Sunday service. Two ministers, an active and large choir, youth group, bible studies, etc. Our parish Christmas party on Sunday had over 100 guests including 30 children.
As Scout said, worshipping in a brightly lit loft of a fellowship hall, with borrowed (or gifted) linens, crosses, bibles, prayer books, etc. is not for everyone. Once we move back to our church we will grow dramatically and many now worshipping there will stay. I know because I have spoken to them. I can't address the Truro situation but I am quite confident that The Falls Church (Episcopal) will be able to maintain the entire physical plant within a year or so after the move.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:27AM,

Perhaps you should look at the annual budget of TFC prior to the split, then look at the annual budget of DioVA. The immediate question is how will DioVA support you while you accomplish your 2000% growth to refill all the seats?

If we assume that the present 100 ASA of TFC Episcopal represents approximately 50 pledging units, then an average annual pledge of $75,000 per unit should work out well.

While your optimism is commendable, it is detrimental to the reality that a negotiated sharing of facilities is the common sense solution.


Anonymous said...

Well Ralph, I admit to being optimistic, but I have great belief that getting back into the building will change the dynamic quite a bit. Sure the budget for TFC was huge but need it be? I don't think so. We also could worship for a while in the historic church and gradually move to the larger church, as we did in the 1990's.

As I have said before, sharing TFC is not practical or desirable. A better settlement, although unlikely, is that Truro be sold to the CANA folks and TFC be used as the primary Episcopal church in our region.

Unknown said...

You may want to to an analysis of the costs and work out a budget and how many giving units will be necessary to maintain the entire TFC plant because that is what the TEC/DoV lawsuits cover. If control changes over to the Diocese of Virginia not only will the utility bills need to be covered right away, but also liability issues and costs associated just with the maintenance of the properties - not just TFC, but all nine properties including historic properties at Oatlands and St. Paul's Haymarket (which includes a cemetery). There are also several schools run by the local parishes that will need to be taken over or the contracts of the teachers will be need to renegotiated and of course all the associated costs for having children on the property as well as the training and what will happen to the children if the Diocese shuts the schools down - what will be affect on the families of local jurisdictions if the schools are suddenly closed?

So many issues and these are issues for the laity of the Diocese of Virginia to consider because it will be the laity who will be bearing the cost of these and many other issues, and this is with a budget that's all ready been reduced.

For some, who are well into retirement and living on fixed incomes, will they be able to cover all the costs of maintaining the properties? Doesn't it make sense for all of us to come together prayerfully and seek resolution that benefits all?

I do wonder if this is a season where we just open our eyes and hearts to one another and consider prayerfully what the real costs are to continue the litigation trajectory and instead invest in time and effort to find a way to live in as close a communion as possible, sharing what ministries we can - and there are many we are all ready sharing. We are also sharing buildings even though it's been quietly done without issuing press releases. This is being done at the local level and it seems to be me that the solution will also come from the local level, where the laity are, where the people are.

Come let us reason together - there must be a better way.


Dan said...

It sounds like everyone is in favor of negotiations, but is skeptical if the other side is willing to do so. That's OK, since that is how everyone starts to move out of the combat positions that lawsuits encourage.

So I encourage you to come to the site ( and sign on!

Dan Van Ness

Kevin said...

"When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23

Do you want to know something, I suck so much. This is the standard that Jesus laid out and I fail.

If DioVA were to take the true Biblical approach then they would release property claims and entrust themselves to the One who judges fairly, but then again if CANA do the same, then they'd give up any claim to entrust. I write as one who was tempted early one to play one of these parties against another, but even though there was much "guile found in [my] mouth" {1Peter 2:22 KVJ}, I was on a process of surrender.

However, it just does not matter. I was asked to walk a away from a situation, I gave 10% of the annual operating budget as a result from memorial gift from a bereavement (thus personal investment), I asked pastoral care on reconciliation in one area (several times) and about a death (possible murder) of another, with Zero, zip, zada in reply, but five meeting over what this insecure (IMO) "dictator" priest wanted, where he thought I didn't bow to "his high office {Luke 22:25-26?}," however, he thought I should not serve at the Alter until I saw it his way, but delegated that word to the senior warden, oh yeah, the bishop retired giving a direct line to the one who I knew was a open opposite theological school in the orthodox camp. However, it just does not matter.

I write in vague terms, in hopes of not spilling too much of my own current pains (which have NOTHING to do with CANA or DioVA) and I do empathize with both positions and I write as fellow sinner who messed up 1 Peter 2:22-23 and "For ye were as sheep going astray (v.25)"


Here is the questions I am haunted with in the brokenness of my life:

1) When I face Lord Jesus face-to-face, what will He ask of me to give an account.

2) What are my motives? (Naturally, I'm a fighter, meaning if I've been wronged, I want to fight for my rights, some people are more "pleasers," so their instructions from Lord Jesus might be opposite mine, but I've very good at telling you what wrong with what you did to me {opposite 1 Peter 2:22b}.

3) In the end what will honor God [Maximus the Confessor loss his tongue and right hand to fellow "Christians" for saying Jesus had two wills (as supported by the sixth council), Athanatus his comfort and many their life. In Anglicanism, Latimer & Ridley suffer for their convictions, at others who claim the name of Christ as well, not by demanding rights but giving up as a witness].

It seems to me both sides are not there yet, that DioVA & CANA are still at the demanding rights stage. No stones, as I've too been there, but in the end, when all present is turned to dust and there is a new heaven and a new Earth, what does it matter?

Anonymous said...

I've said before that I could see an outcome where Truro is sold to the departing faction for 2006 Fair Market Value + rents for the past several years - credits for funds reasonably expended for upkeep since December 2006. All accounts and other property to be returned to the Diocese as they existed in December 2006. This is along the lines of Anon 1509, above. The Falls Church would be restored to the Diocese along with FMV rents since December 2006 less credit for reasonable expenditures for maintenance and upkeep since 2006. All other property and accounts returned as they were in December 2006.

I used to think something like that might work (and it might). However, Truro is a truly historic part of the Episcopal Church and probably should stay as part of the Diocese. Peter's idea of a lease (after restoration to the Diocese of accounts and property as of December 2006) may have merit as a way of providing the departing group with a place to worship while not rewarding the concept that people who leave can claim ownership.

Spending time thinking about these sorts of accommodations is better than spending time and money in litigation.


I don't know enough about the other parishes to hazard a guess as to how they get sorted out.

Anonymous said...

Suppose TEC/DioVA are successful in getting the court to award them possession of buildings and properties.

What will TEC/DioVA do with the buildings? Where will the membership come from? (BTW, DioVA should also budget for liability insurance on all these properties since they will have proved ownership if the court decides in their favor)


James said...

Ralph brings up the issue that I don't think that Scout and others like him/her are really considering. What if the courts award the DioVa the properties? It is all well and good to lay out pie-in-the-sky scenarios and repeat legal theories, but if the DioVa gets the properties, they will be financially responsible for them from Day 1. And the evidence from every other diocese in both the USA and Canada is that the vast majority of "rump" TEC congregations are not financially viable.

I also don't see the value of saying "I advocate for a negotiated settlement - let's negotiate the complete and total surrender of the other side. Gee, why aren't they agreeing?"

I think that what needs to happen is that both sides list out their real and reasonable interests. These interests need to be real, genuine and honest. The idea that "oh, if we can get the buildings back and refuse to share them, then we will get the people back too" is, not only empirically faulty, it also does not appear to be a "good faith" attitude.

So, it seems to me that both the ADV and the DioVA should list out their viable congregations together with ASA. Each side clearly has an interest in stable, satisfactory and size-appropriate facilities for these congregations. Next would be reasonable financial interests. The ADV congregations have a reasonable claim for the amount of time and money they have put into the properties over time. The DioVa has a reasonable claim for some amount of money to represent a buy-out of any potential DioVa interest in the properties. The DioVa, however, also has a financial interest not to be burdened down with expensive-to-maintain buildings when it doesn't have the people to fill them.

There are a lot of imaginative solutions out there. Repeating talking points, unreasonable flights of fancy, and attempted manipulation of lay persons won't help in seeing imaginative solutions come to pass.

Ralph said...

A couple things the "win-win" approach seems to miss:

1) It assumes both parties are Christian...that is obedient to holy Scripture in following Christ. If the congregations of CANA are correct, than they aren't both Christian, as that issue--namely obedience to Christ Jesus through scripture is the reason CANA exists in the first place.

If both parties are not Christian, than the prohibitions on law suits by St. Paul in I Cor.6 don't apply, AND besides, it is the apostate TEC which is actively suing the CANA congregations, not visa-versa. If TEC wants to try to claim CANA is not Christian, go ahead, try....(of course what criteria can they use???).

2) Why is a compromise solution to be preferred? Is it just--in the abstract now...lets think about it... for a larger organization to create an "implied trust" over member groups' lawfully deeded properties?

If you were a member of the XYZ club for example, and the club majority voted that XYZ club now, just since 1979...., since it was a hierarchical club, held an implied trust for all its members' real property, is there a snowballs chance in Hades any court in the land would uphold that as a legal claim? Of course not--as in any sort of classic trust law, a trust can only be initially created by the lawfully deeded owner of a property, not a membership group its owner is a part of. In the Roman Church, the bishop's name, or office, is on each church's deed--not so, and never so, has that been with TEC member-church's properties.

The organization can be as hierarchical as it what? If the name isn't on the deed, it cannot ask the state to enforce its internal organizational rules...and certainly not over and above basic property law.

To compromise on this principle would make other denomination's congregations vulnerable to the same kinds of injustice which ex TEC congregations are undergoing...and that is not a good thing.

Therefore a so-called "win win" solution, wouldn't be just or right, and would in fact be an act of cowardice...even if it would be more "peaceable" with apostate so-called Christians, who bless sodomy, and refuse to confess Jesus is Lord.

Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement said...

I believe there was an attempt in Richmond today to introduce a resolution against lawsuits and pro-negotiation, which received a very hostile response. The people making these decisions are very much pro-litigation. If you care, please sign up on our site and make comments or send us your thoughts. Most laity do not realize the huge financial consequences of regaining control of these properties.

Kathryn Peyton, St. Francis, Great Falls