Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia files for "prejudgment interest" against the seven Anglican congregations in Virginia

 UPDATE: Anglican Curmudgeon has commentary on this development up now which you may read here.  The seven Virginia Anglican congregations are set to respond to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's motion for "Award of Prejudgment Interest" on February 9, a date set by law from the date the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia filed their Prejudgment Interest motion on  January 23.  By Virginia statute, the hearing is set for February 16th.  However, the Diocese of Virginia for some reason is seeking to rush the hearing up sooner to next Friday, February 10th, rather than the 16th as set by law.  The Anglican congregations have filed a motion opposing the attempt by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia change the hearing date.

The local online newspaper The Patch has the story here.  The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has filed a motion in the Fairfax Circuit Court for an "award of prejudgment interest" against the seven Anglican congregations in Virginia.

Last weekend the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia Shannon Johnston told the Annual Council meeting in Reston that regarding the recent favorable ruling over the Virginia church properties of seven of the congregations that voted to separate in 2006, "The bottom line is that just as we have been able to sustain our case throughout a lengthy and expensive legal process, I strongly believe that we will be able to do what it takes over the next months and years to be faithful to the Church’s mission with respect to each one of the properties involved."  Is this filing what he meant?

The filing also comes as The Episcopal Church's Executive Council was faced last week with a very public duel between the Presiding Bishop and the House of Deputies President over substantial budget cuts at 815, the headquarters of the national offices of The Episcopal Church.

Here is the Diocese of Virginia's filing:


The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia (the “Diocese”), by counsel,

moves the Court for an award of pre­judgment interest pursuant to Va. Code  8.01-3 02. In

support of its motion, the Diocese submits the following memorandum.

1. On January 10, 2012, this Court issued a 113 page Letter Opinion setting forth

three significant rulings in favor of the Diocese: (i) The Episcopal Church and the Diocese have

contractual and proprietary interests in each of the seven Episcopal churches that are the subject

of this litigation, and all real and personal property acquired by the churches up to the ñling date

of the declaratory judgment actions are to be conveyed promptly to the Diocese; (ii) the CANA

Congregations do not possess either contractual or proprietary interests in the property of the

seven Episcopal churches and are enjoined from further use or control of the property and must

promptly relinquish them to the Diocese; and (iii) the vestry empowered to elect directors to the

Falls Church Endowment Fund is the Episcopal vestry recognized by the Diocese. Op. at 14.

2. The Diocese is endeavoring to craft a Final Order which will encompass these

rulings and has communicated with the CANA Congregations to obtain an accounting of real and

personal property, including tangibles and intangibles such as bank deposit accounts, which have been

in their exclusive possession and control since the inception of the litigation. The parties

are attempting to reach agreement as to the sums on deposit at yarious financial institutions as of

the demarcation date identified by the Court, and the Diocese intends to identify such specific

amounts in the Final Order and have such order decree that such sums be returned to it.

3. The Diocese seeks an award of pre-judgment interest as to the liquidated sums on

deposit at various financial institutions as of the date of the Diocese’s filing of the declaratory

judgment actions. Va. Code   allows a jury or a court to “provide for interest on any

principal sum awarded . _ . and [to] fix the period at which the interest shall commence.” An

award of pre-judgment interest is completely discretionary with the trial court. Upper Occoquan

Sewage Authority v. Blake Constr. Co., 275 Va. 41, 655 S.E.2d 10 (2008); Dairyland Ins. Co. v.

Douthat, 248 Va. 627, 449 S.E.2d 799 (1994). The purpose of pre­judgment interest is to

compensate a plaintiff for the loss sustained by not receiving the amount it was entitled to and

restore the party to the position it would have occupied. Blake, 275 Va. at 63; Marks v. Sanzo,

231 Va. 350, 356 (1986). “[N]atural justice [requires] that he who has the use of another’s

money should pay interest for it.” Blake, 275 Va. at 63 (citations omitted).

4. An awarci of pre-judgment interest is appropriate here “to make the Plaintiff

whole.” Blake Constr. Co. v. Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority, 71 Va. Cir. 248 (Fairfax

2006), a/Td in part, rev ’d in part, 655 S.E.2d 10 (Va. 2008). For over five years, the Diocese

has been deprived of access to and use of the real and personal property of the seven Episcopal

churches at issue, including the amounts on deposit at various ñnancial institutions and

maintained in investment accounts. The financial sums are sizeable, ranging from several

hundred thousand dollars in the case of smaller churches such as St. Paul’s Church to several

million dollars as to The Falls Church and Truro Church. In addition to taking exclusive control

of the real property, the CANA Congregations took possession of the financial accounts and

claimed and maintained them as their own, precluding any use or application of such monies to

the spiritual and other missions of the Diocese. An award of pre­judgment interest is necessary

to make the Diocese whole and restore the Diocese to the position it was in at the time it filed the

declaratory judgment actions.

5. In concluding that the CANA Congregations do not possess either contractual or

proprietary interests in the property of the seven Episcopal Churches, the Court noted the

“pervasive control” exercised by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese over the churches. Op.

at 101. The Court emphasized the hierarchical structure of the Church and referenced “the

undeniable fact that these seven churches *were part of a hierarchical denomination for decades

and, in some cases for centuries” and that the congregations’ claims of autonomy and

independence were “contradicted by the overwhelming body of evidence before this Court.” Op.

at 101. The Court said that applying neutral principles of law, as established by United States

and Virginia Supreme Court precedents, it is “clear - indeed, to this Court, it is overwhelmingly

evident- that TEC and the Diocese have contractual and proprietary interests in the real and

personal property of each of these seven churches.” Op. at 104. The Court stressed that “whi1e

the CANA Congregations had an absolute right to depart from TEC and the Diocese, they had no

right to take these seven Episcopal churches with them.” Id. (emphasis in original) Given the

“compelling” evidence and “clear” law presented, the ultimate conclusion reached by the Court,

while disappointing to the CANA Congregations, could not have come as any surprise; and they

presumably segregated such sums and can readily turn the accounts over with the accrued

interest. See Op. at 102, 104. Moreover, that the CANA Congregations may have believed there

was a bona ñde dispute as to ownership of the real and personal property has no bearing on the

 decision whether to award pre­judgment interest. See Gill v. Rollins Protective Servs. Co., 836

F.2d 194 (4th Cir. 1987) (neither Code  8.01-3 82 nor Virginia case law makes an exception to

the general discretionary rule on pre-judgment interest for bona ñde legal disputes).

6. The amounts on deposit in various financial institutions by the seven Episcopal

churches as of the demarcation date identified by the Court (the date of the filing by the Diocese

of the various declaratory judgment actions) is easily discernible. This litigation has been

pending for over five years and the duration of the case and overwhelming evidence in favor of

the Diocese merit the award. See Tauber v. Comm. of Va., 263 Va. 520, 562 S.E.2d 1818 (2002)

(affirming decision to award prejudgment interest based on the “extended duration of this suit”

and “the overwhelming evidence in the record”). Pre-judgment interest as to these liquidated 

sums can and should be calculated and decreed to restore the Diocese to its position as of the

date of ñling the declaratory judgment actions. See Op. at 112. Pursuant to Va. Code  

the rate of pre-judgment interest is six percent.

WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, the Diocese respectfully requests that the

Court order and decree that the Diocese’s request for an award of pre­judgment interest is

granted and, following entry of the Final Order, interest shall accrue at the judgment rate until paid.

BB NOTE: This is indeed sad news, but may we pause and consider prayer - we, the people of the Diocese of Virginia and the people of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic pray .... please pray too.  We will be able to go forward when we can trust again and know, in the depths of our hearts, that we are loved, not through our own merits, but by the merits of Jesus.  May it be so.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting development given that the parties are supposed be trying to reach a negotiated conclusion by Feb 9 with a final order by the end of February. Given this has been going on for 5 years, one month is going to matter?

Some more of those "good faith negotiations" that TEC is famous for?

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that the interest due would be outside of the hoped for negotiated final order?

The Underground Pewster said...

I don't like the smell of this. I guess this is Matthew 5:40 as spun in 2012.

"And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."

And if he demandeth thy shoes, let him have those as well.
And if he demandeth thy socks, let him have those as well.
And if he demandeth thy shorts, let him have those as well.

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake, in spite of the high sounding pronouncements of Bp Johnson, the end goal of TEC and its minion dioceses is to stamp out the departing congregations.

Seems I recall something about Pharaoh sending his forces after the departing Israelites. It didn't come out well for the Egyptians...

RWK said...

Well, if the Dio VA. did offer any kind of lease on the properties this action makes it clear this is not the kind of landlord I'd want to have to live under. Seriously, it was supposed to be worked out in just a few days. What is the rush? It's not like they wouldn't get the "few days" interest.

Anonymous said...

Gee, you mean that these parties that have waged serious litigation over all manner of things for more than five years are now not entirely in sync on bringing it to a conclusion? I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

RWK, this isn't about a few days' worth of interest. It's about 5 years worth of interest.

Kevin said...

"All your base are belong to us"

RWK said...

Sorry, I misunderstood. I thought the Diocese of VA was going to get the interest regardless - which would strike me as fair. So asking for it now or a week from now would be a question of a few days.

I can also see why I am not a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

The Episcopal Church has become rotten to the core. I don't want to sound as un-Christian as they are, but I wish only ill will toward them.

Anonymous said...

What a balanced comment, Anon 1213. Perhaps we can use you as a poster child for what has become a central problem in these matters - human frailty and an almost universal tendency to exaggerate the shortcomings and "other-ness" of those not of our tribe.

RE anon 1820, the analogy with Pharaoh breaks down because the Israelites left Egypt. The story might have been different had the Israelites, having won the ability to leave, decided to stay and keep Egypt for themselves.

As for the motion, I doubt it is as significant as people are making it sound. I confess I don't understand why they wanted the date accelerated by a week. If there is significance to the motion and its timing, my guess (and it is only a wild guess) is that it may reflect that negotiations have hit a rough patch and that the Diocese is reminding the Occupy group that the Diocese holds a very strong hand legally. It's the kind of thing that a judge may not rule on, withholding a ruling to encourage the parties to get back to serious negotiating. This is lawyer stuff, and probably we should wait to see what the ultimate outcome is before we get too wound up about the tactical maneuvering leading up to that result.


Anonymous said...

The Israelites left Egypt as did the departing churches. God told them to ask the Egyptians for gold and silver, perhaps because their years in captivity had entitled them to the fruits of their labors.

The departing churches asked for what they had earned, and the Egyptian people were considering it when the Pharaoh from the north overruled the people. Pharaoh sent her armies out to destroy the departing congregations.

You're right - the analogy breaks down because Pharaoh seizes what the departing congregations worked for, then tries to kill them with disaffiliation clauses and legal harassment.

Egypt eventually collapses from corruption and declines to a footnote of history, notable for old monuments and a once great civilization.

Anonymous said...

The thing about the dates is making a mountain out of a molehill.

BB's intro is wrong: there's no statute that sets the date. There are two things: a general court rule (4:15) and then a local Fairfax rule. The end result of those rules normally mean that you can file your motion two weeks in advance of a hearing, with the response due one week before. In this instance, no doubt it was a challenge getting all the lawyers together, so they had to make the hearing three weeks out. That no doubt led the Diocese's lawyers not to want to give the CANA folks two weeks to respond (motion 3 weeks before, response 1 week before) and to want to use the extra time for a reply brief. Result: a motion. No big deal.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anon 1934. That's pretty clear.

Look, folks - pre-judgement interest is not a particularly radical concept in this context. The Occupy folks took over a lot of property pretty much just because they felt like it and they could. They held it for a very long time. That really did deprive the owners of the value of the assets.

Like everything else, all this is subject to negotiation, and, in a perfect world, the two sides would find some sort of middle ground that leaves everyone more or less satisfied. But it is a complex situation and there are going to be some things that are more easily sorted out than others.

Anon 0906, the Exodus analogy you're playing with is beginning to sound more like the Wizard of Oz to me. Surely we can come up with something better. People who weren't happy with the Episcopal Church had somewhat more freedom than the enslaved Hebrews to leave and find new church homes. That option was always available without let or hindrance. The decision to leave, but stay, was where the legal troubles began. I don't think any rational person thinks that taking such a radical step was without risks or that it was likely or even possible that the remaining Episcopalians or the Diocese would say: "OK, if you want to have all this stuff, it's yours." How was that even remotely possible?


Anonymous said...

OK, how about "Alice in Wonderland". Any guesses who I would nominate as the Red Queen?

Daniel Weir said...

It is, IMV, not the Diocese's action that is sad, since the court has already ruled that the funds belong to the Diocese. What is sad are the personal attacks found in the comments here, esp., since they were made by people unwilling to identify themselves. The demonization of sisters and brothers in Christ serves whose agenda?

Anonymous said...

Daniel, when these congregations lost like this - given the assurances of the leaders, the controlled scope of the 40 days of "discernment", the advice of their lawyers (who too often were members of the churches), and the fundamental conflict between leaving on "sacred"-oriented grounds while making "profane"-oriented property and legal maneuvers - it is no surprise that rage follows.

There was deep anger in the Diocese of Virginia when the congregations did what they did. That anger is also just below the surface - but to the Diocese's credit, I have not seen an anger based response to their victory - but I wouldn't be surprised (if you see something, post it!).

Me, I'm a Methodist now. It's a happy place to be.

RalphM said...

Anon at 10:46,

There were no assurances given by clergy or by lawyers.

If you think the "40 Days of Discernment" marked the beginning of the division, you are completely uninformed. The seeds of division were sown decades ago when innovations in the understanding of the historic faith were introduced and the scriptures began to be ignored in favor of "doing the new thing".

As far as "profane" vs "sacred", I'll assume your words are given simply to provoke anger, especially since you no longer "have a dog in the fight."

I hope you are happy as a Methodist, but the same innovations that prompted the departure of so many people, clergy and congregations from TEC are sweeping through the Methodists, the Presbyterians and the Lutherans.

It is a clash of two irreconcilable views. The innovators are winning in the courts, but they are winning only property.

Anonymous said...

RalphM, "sacred" and "profane" are terms from Eliade's theological tome of the same name. Your reaction is precisely what I was talking about.

RalphM said...

Anon at 11:35,

I have read your response.

Anonymous said...

Ralph - the radical "innovation" in this context was the non-traditional, self-help concept that a person leaving a church acquired property rights, so long as he left for reasons of high principle. This was a very strange doctrine, actively pushed by clergy and vestry members who advocated departure. It was a very strange position, one that would have warmed the cockles of Abby Hoffman's heart had it arisen with regard to a factory or a university building. The conservative counter-view, that this was an unprecedented, unsupported, untenable position, found little voice in the 2005-2006 period. The shepherds herded the flock off a cliff on this.

The traditional view ultimately prevailed, as it inevitably had to in a legal system based on the rule of law. Those of us of traditionalists sentiment are greatly relieved. A contrary precedent would have been a revolutionary event in the history of American jurisprudence.


Steven in Falls Church said...

Actually, the idea that a party unmentioned in any of the documents indicating ownership of property can make a successful legal claim -- in other words, that the deeds, conveyances, and express trusts normally relied upon to determine ownership cannot, in fact, be relied upon -- is the truly radical, non-conservative innovation in the law. A further radical innovation is that this new approach would apply in the religious but not the secular context. It's befitting that TEC, whose radical theological innovations have driven away thousands and alienated itself from the larger Anglican Body of Christ, would rely on this view of the law to seize properties it cannot use. For these reasons, I hope we're not at the end of the legal road and that the CANA parishes would appeal to get a better look at the case from the several new members of the Virginia SC. Also, in the end, the U.S. Supreme Court is probably going to have hear some of these church cases to clarify once and for all whether the dicta in Jones v. Wolf in fact does establish a new subset of property law for churches. One's heart is warmed thinking how a conservative textualist such as Justice Scalia would approach TEC claims to properties where they are not mentioned on any of the documents.

RalphM said...


I have read your comment, but Steven in FC has expressed my response very well.

The question of an appeal is one that is obviously not yet settled, so I'll leave that one untouched.

Daniel Weir said...

Not to needlessly prolong a discussion that will probably continue to be fruitless: if "Episcopal" appeared in any of the documents, then there was a direct reference to a body larger than the local congregation. A congregation cannot be an Episscoal congregation without being part of an Epsicopal diocese and TEC. The arguments for departing members of Episcopal parishes having a right to parish property sound very Congregationalist to me.

Anonymous said...

Steven - a lot of these cases are going off on non-federal issues that would not excite US Supreme Court review. I do agree, however, that odds are that something will touch on a sufficient federal issue to warrant intervention by the Court. Once that happens, however, it is doubtful that the basis of the Supreme Court's decision at the federal level would have broad application to a lot of these cases. In any event, as one who from time to time ventures into the halls of the temple on 1st Street NE, I would be much more confident that a Scalia or a Kennedy would understand my view that it is a radical thing indeed for departing parishioners to claim a prayer book or a building as a prize of their decision to leave than you are. Scalia's "textualism" applies to the Constitution as the governing document of the Republic. I think he would have some appreciation of the chaos that would result in church governance if departing groups could make up rules governing their departure from a diocesan structure that awarded them the prize of property when they left.

Ralph - I am more and more of a view that the Occupy forces are beginning to appreciate that an appeal would be throwing more money down the drain and that the better course is to do what they should have done five years ago and stanch the bleeding.

RalphM said...

"Occupy forces"? Are you wallowing in your win?

Perhaps you should focus on how to identify and attract those future generations of Episcopalians who will support these buildings.

Daniel Weir said...

I find it odd that people who have left TEC often make two seemingly contradictory comments about TEC:
1. That it has capitulated to the spirit of the age.
2. That its loss of membership is a result of that capitullation.

Woe to you when all speak well of you...

RalphM said...

Fr. Daniel,

These are not contradictory statements. Many denominations now believe that to be "relevant", they must reflect the society in which they live.

The problem is that those to whom they are trying to be relevant are not going to flock to these denominations. The targeted groups are basically secular progressives who are not really interested in being part of any church. The net effect is that those trying to hold to the historic faith have left, died off or are still in the pews hoping to make it to the end without conflict.

Where are the large numbers flocking to The Epicopal Church? Are the "Abortion is a blessing" types streaming in? Has refusal to confirm the uniqueness of Christ packed the pews? Has the ability to deny the Trinity (with impunity) planted new churches?

Daniel Weir said...


I appreciate your comments, although I don't agree with your analysis of the decline in membership in TEC. Episcopalians have taken unpopular positions on a number of social issues in my lifetime and have, perhaps, lost members because of that. TEC, like most of the old mainline churches, has lost members over the past 30 to 40 years as belonging to any church has become a less prominent feature of American life. The increases in membership in the Roman Catholic Church have been due largely to immigration. TEC has not, IMV, done a very good job at reaching people who have not been part of its traditional demographic. Doing a better job at that does not mean, again IMV, changing our decisions on same sexuality, nor does it require abandoning our critical thinking about theology. IMV, much of the theology of evangelical or fundamentalist churches, especially that which holds to the idea of Christendom, is simply not adequate in our time.

RalphM said...

Denominations whose theology changes to be adequate for the time are at best a social services group and, at worst, worshipers of the image they see in the mirror.

Daniel Weir said...

I am sorry, but theology has always undergone change, and the adequacy question is about a theology's ability to help the Church profess the faith in its context. A theology which is helpful for the Church in North America may be entirely inappropriate for the Church in Africa. Or a theolgy which was adequate in a feudal society may be inadequate in the modern US.

Anonymous said...

Ralph - No. I have always viewed departees who didn't depart as occupiers. That perspective is a product of my conservative views of the rule of law and of Church governance. I would have felt the same if the decision had gone the other way.


Steven in Falls Church said...

Ralph, happily embrace the label. Much as Paul took on the raiment of a slave for Christ, I am pleased to be an “occupier” for Christ, if that has meant five years of continued use of the Falls Church property to plant churches and proclaim an unashamed and unexpurgated gospel of our risen Lord and Savior, in contrast to the strange and alien doctrines coming from certain quarters of TEC generally and the mouth of the Presiding Bishop in particular.

RalphM said...


You are entitled to your personal views, but when you use the term "Occupy forces" (note the capitalization) you are intentionally painting the departing congregations with the actions of the Occupy Wall Street types.

There is a distinct difference. OWS types never contributed to the building or upkeep of the places they occupy. They have trashed and sometimes profaned the places they occupy. They have not used the places they occupy to advance anything beyond their own wants.

The departing congregations have paid for, cared for, and revered these houses of worship. They have been used to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, provide care for the least of our brothers and sisters through housing in cold weather and through feeding in all types of weather.

When we are gone, there will be no need for people in hazmat suits to clean up after us.

To what use will you put the buildings?

Anonymous said...

I am very glad that there are distinct differences between the occupying groups in the Church and the OWS crowds, Ralph. Another difference is that the OWS people did not say I couldn't continue to use the public parks they occupied as I had before they arrived (although their presence and housekeeping habits made it less enjoyable, to be sure). This may be because they recognized that I paid for the parks just as they had and it would not have occurred to them that their decision to plant themselves there also was intended to exclude me.

The buildings will be used the way we have used them for decades/centuries, to worship God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to proclaim the Good News of Christ Crucified and Risen. I hope you will join us in this. The continuing congregations have also paid for, cared for and revered these houses of worship, and have used their funds to spread the Gospel and to provide food and shelter to the least among us. There is no reason to believe that they will suddenly start behaving in any other way once they are permitted to return to the buildings.


RalphM said...

The "remain Episcopal" congregations would have been enjoying the use of the buildings since 2007 if KJS had not intervened. Once the CANA congregations have departed, the future use of these buildings will be determined by financial reality.
Anyone who deals in reality can see that the future does not favor an Anglican presence in these properties.

For whatever time the "remain Episcopal" congregations can use the buildings, I hope they will continue to act contrary to the leadership of TEC and use the buildings for the purposes you and I would desire.

We're repeating the same old arguments; I'm done with this thread.

Anonymous said...

I saw not the slightest sign that Episcopalian worship would be permitted in those buildings once the occupation started, Ralph. We were clearly not welcome. We accepted that and went into exile. We learned a lot from that. Faith and fellowship were strengthened. It proved to be a blessing. But it wasn't right.


Daniel Weir said...

What I have found often lacking in the various discussions about the divisions is a lack of historical perspective. The idea that neither theology nor ethics has changed over the centuries is a strange one , one that is akin to idea that we can be first century Christians. There is also at times a willingness to ignore the history of the Episcopal Church, especially the long history of the General Convention's sovereignty. This has led, IMV, some to insist that there relatively modern understanding of the faith is the only legitimate one and that, consequently, they can ignore any canon that doesn't suit them.

BabyBlue said...

I do want to remind you all that we have had Episcopalians who voted to remain in the diocese still remain in the community at Truro. The worship remained the same as it did before we voted, we still use the 1979 Prayer Book so the worship didnt' change - I am not sure I understand Scout what you mean by "Episcopal" worship? I am sure those who voted to remain in the diocese but still stayed in the congregation at Truro thought we were continuing our "Episcopal" worship. I could understand if you thought we had tossed out the 1979 Prayer Book, but that is not the case at Truro.


Anonymous said...

I was referring to worship led by priests from the Diocese of Virginia. I understand that the CANA/ACNA liturgy is very similar/identical to that used by The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. For a while, I went back and forth between the CANA group and the continuing Episcopal Group that had to find temporary quarters elsewhere. I did so largely on the theory that I had voted not to divide the church and re-affiliate, so I should stay put physically in the church where I had always worshipped, but at the same time needed to show support and sympathy for a group in exile that did not deserve to be there. After a while, however, I decided that my continued enjoyment of the facilities and buildings during the occupation really sent a mixed signal, at least to my own conscience, if not externally, and it also became apparent that the CANA group cared nothing about their fellows who had had to move elsewhere and were not about to leave unless by court order. Nonetheless, I am well aware of the similarity of liturgies.

By the way, I'm not a fan of the 1979 Prayer Book, so that, in itself, is not much of a draw. I appreciate, however, that you were making a larger point.


Steven in Falls Church said...

The problem for the continuing congregations is that the Diocese signed an agreement expressly stating it would negotiate (the Standstill Agreement), but then without taking the first step toward negotiation walked away and sued the CANA congregations including clergy and volunteer vestry. I don't see how someone can claim to be entitled to accommodation from parties he has just sued. Maybe this is how things work in Episcoworld, but the real world doesn't quite operate like this.

Anonymous said...

Even under the most revisionist interpretation of the so-called Standstill agreement, Steven, there never was any provision for the departing congregations simply to seize the properties. Had the Diocese approved the agreements, the best the departing groups would have achieved would have been the right to make offers for the properties. I suspect at your parish and at Truro, there was probably no offer price that would have been acceptable. Certainly $0.00 was not going to carry the day. And in any conceivable arrangement under the agreement, I doubt that any sentient bishop would have agreed to the elimination of worship for continuing Episcopal parishes, particularly at the historic churches.


Daniel Weir said...

I think Scout has put it quite well. With the question of which group had a right to property at issue, and with no way to resolve that question without the courts, the question has been answered in the only way that it could. The answer was not inevitable, but the manner in which it was answered was. For the moment, at least, the court has given a clear answer. We are free to think the answer is wrong, but not, without consequences, to refuse to abide by the court's ruling.

Anonymous said...

Who is saying they will not abide by the court's ruling?

Steven in Falls Church said...

I have never made that point. The Standstill Agreement didn't say a whole lot, but it did say (expressly) that the parties would negotiate. Certainly, if a negotiated settlement included allowing a loyalist group to remain on the property that would have been considered, but the Diocese never allowed that proposition to be tested because it refused to take one step toward negotiation. Instead, within hours of the Agreement's expiry the Diocese in court with lawsuits naming hundreds of volunteer CANA vestry as defendants. My point is that it takes a measure of chutzpa for loyalist groups to demand accommodation from the folks who were sued personally on those groups' behalf.

Anonymous said...

Once the departing group took possession of the premises and went to court to have title transferred to them pursuant to the Virginia Division Statute, there was absolutely nothing to negotiate about. If the Diocese had not intervened to oppose the petition, the property would have passed to the occupiers by default. I can imagine how successful any negotiation would have been at that point. The persons who were individually named in the countersuits were leaders of the occupation who would have to be subject to the court order requiring return of the property. When I was a vestryman, I knew full well I could be sued personally if I committed an unlawful act that caused harm to another. The takeover was a radical, unprecedented step that had blindingly obvious consequences. Being subject to a lawsuit was one of those consequences. What you call "chutzpa", I call standard pleading practice in civil actions.


Anonymous said...

This is all ancient history, and is best left to the Ph.D. students who will research it.

Bottom line is this: the denomination, as it always does in Virginia, won. The congregations lost. The property ownership issues are settled. Now it's about both sides being free of the dispute and, I suspect with sadness, free of each other. It's a question of when, not if.

The congregations will all go through some various measures of transition, perhaps even trauma. Hopefully they will continue to serve our Lord. The diocese will also undergo profound transition as it determines the best uses of these properties for its mission as the Church.

Honestly, it's time to let go. On both sides.

Steven in Falls Church said...

Scout, a refresher on the Standstill Agreement may be in order. In that document, the Diocese acknowledged that the congregations could record their votes at the local courts and also agreed to "seek in good faith to negotiate" to the CANA congregations. So there clearly was much to negotiate about at that time, otherwise the Diocese would not have signed such a document. No? Moreover, you can't say that negotiation would have been fruitless as the Diocese refused to negotiate in the first place -- notwithstanding what the Agreement expressly provided for -- leaving your factual proposition entirely untested. And I still call it chutzpa to walk away from an agreement committing to good faith negotiations without, in fact, having attempted to negotiate, then drag someone into court, and then demand accommodation from him.

Anonymous said...

What you call "chutzpa", I call chutzpah, Steven. Transliteration can be so arbitrary.

Anon 1420 takes this about as far as it can be taken, at this point. If I were the Bishop, I would have started dismissing clergy and vestry members somewhere around 2004-2005 when it became apparent that they were, long after their consciences told them they should leave, staying in place, but plotting not only to leave, but also to lead out parishioners and to take property in the bargain. I think it would have been nearly criminal for the Diocese to have negotiated with the occupation crowd once they went to court and once they excluded people who did not choose to leave. That's my view of things. You have a different view. The ethics of leaving and taking stuff are clear enough to me. The law is clear in the courts, not just in Virginia but elsewhere. Now we move on.


Steven in Falls Church said...

Indeed, we'll leave it there. There is a hearing at the end of this month. We should have clarity after that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps England should sue in the VA courts for the return of the colonies...

England would have a stronger case as they actually did put money into the colonies. It said "England" or "King" on the documents, so using the same logic as the courts, these colonies should be returned to England with pre-judgment interest.

Anonymous said...

I may be a bit hazy on my history, Anon0952, but wasn't the British claim to the colonies overcome by force of arms, and agreed to in the Treaty of Paris? I think the analogy breaks down a bit when juxtaposed with reality.


Anonymous said...

#8:32 - And why didn't they do that? Because under the canons that would have required a trial. A public trial and due process was the last thing the Diocese wanted to give orthodox clergy. When the orthodox clergy actually asked for letters dimissory, that gave the Diocese trumped up grounds for abandonment of communion, which did not require a trial under the canons. Of course, that meant the Diocese of Virginia declaring it was no longer in communion with those Global South Anglican provinces that the clergy requested transfer to, which is now definitively the case.

And so now TEC is recognized as part of the communion by the ABC and a handful of provinces, but not by the vast majority of Anglicans, while ACNA is not recognized as a province by the ABC, but is recognized as the Anglican province in the US by the Global South representing the great majority of Anglicans.

Anonymous said...

I have a different theory on why they did not do that, Anon0925. I think that the Bishop and his Chancellor seriously under-evaluated the degree to which clergy and vestry had agitated their congregations for separation in the years between 2003 and 2006 and thought that reasonable Christians working cooperatively could find some middle ground. If a priest had asked for a letter dismissory in 2003, the point at which I think most of the departees made up their mind that there was no point in staying other than to arrange for a take-over of the physical property, I suspect it would have been granted with heavy heart. But that was the point at which clergy and vestry who could not countenance further association with the Diocese should have departed/resigned.

Of course, this is all conjecture by both of us.


Daniel Weir said...

My experience elsewhere was that departing clergy had so little respect for the authority of their Bishop that any use of established canonical procedures for separation was almost impossible.

Anonymous said...

No particular need for conjecture. Phil Ashey was declared to have abandoned communion in 2005 by Lee for asking for a letter that year.

And perhaps another reason the canons were not properly applied was that the proper canonical procedure was to issue a letter dimissory.

Daniel Weir said...

I think it should be clear that the situation of departing congregations and clergy presented an unusual canonical problem. Letters dimissory are normal when a cleric moves from one diocese to another or from one church in the Communion to another. What was unusual in these cases was that the clerics were not moving anywhere. They, and the Bishops in Africa who took authority over them and their congregations, were also violating ancient canons. It is no wonder that ordinary canonical procedures seemed inadequate. It seems to me that resorting to the abandonment of communion option may have been the kindest thing that Bishops could do.

Anonymous said...

Except that ignores that, up until that point, TEC had said they were in communion with all the other provinces. To have grounds for abandonment of coummunion, TEC declared that it was no longer in communion with the African Anglican provinces involved, which the African provinces readily recognized. And since that time, TEC has not been in communion with the vast majority of Anglicans.

It would have been kinder if an amicable separation agreement had been reached, as might have happened under Griswold. Or adequate alternative oversight provided that was not just a trap to wait until the current clergy retired. But once Schori became PB, it was clear none of that was going to happen.

Daniel Weir said...

Having no interest in further conversation with people who hide their identities, I will leave this thread.

BabyBlue said...

This is a cafe where everyone is welcome - it would be helpful though if the Anons at least give themselves a "name" so we can keep track which Anon says what. Your thoughts and ideas are appreciated, but it is sometimes a challenge to sort which Anon says what. You can give yourself a name when you create your posting. :)

By the way, the Fifth Annual CafeAnonsBall is coming up this Tuesday where we celebrate all of you who drop in to the Cafe, who's names are only known to God. :)

And of course, God does know your name! Just something to remember.


Daniel Weir said...

I agree that it is often hard to keep track of posts from anon, but I think there is another concern, although one that BB has rarely had to address. It is so much easier to to overstep the bounds of civility when no one, but God, knows who we are. As one of my friends reminded me when I was a rude young man, the Gospel will always be offensive but I didn't have to be.

Anonymous said...

I have tended to post anonymously or under a pen name here and elsewhere for many years, since I got tired of hate e-mail from the people who disagreed with me.

And I really think anonymous posting is fine, subject to a little moderating. For me, I am interested in debating ideas, not people.


Anonymous said...

I agree, with that Arthur. Anonymity bears with it some responsibility to self-regulate on a level of punctilious civility, but it does have the advantage of forcing people to concentrate on the thought or opinion expressed without lapsing to an instinct of attacking the person. I very much respect Father Daniel's principles and preferences on this point, but, for me personally, I don't have to know a commenter's name to find his/her point one that engages me to either agree or disagree, and to express those thoughts in response.

If one had a strict rule of non-anonymity, I fear a number of people who have valuable opinions would not participate. That a few anonymous commenters abuse their privileges (and the blog host's hospitality) is unfortunate, but can be dealt with by paying no attention, or, if it becomes chronic, by the blog host deleting the comment.