Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Living Church: Falls Church, Truro Vestries Recommend Disaffiliation

The vestries of two historic Virginia churches, Truro Parish, Fairfax, and The Falls Church, Falls Church, earlier this week announced to their congregations that they have voted to recommend disaffiliation from The Episcopal Church.

In both cases the vestries also recommended affiliating with the newly formed Anglican District of Virginia in the Convocation for Anglicans in North America (CANA), a mission of the Church of Nigeria. In July, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, who has been Truro’s rector since 1991, was consecrated missionary bishop for CANA.

Both parishes recently completed a 40-day discernment period in which members engaged in study and reflection “to seek the Lord’s will for their place within the Anglican Communion, as well as their expressed relationship with The Episcopal Church in the United States,” according to a website developed jointly by the congregations. Both congregations are expected to vote on their vestries’ recommendations in mid-December.

In a joint press release, Jim Oakes, senior warden at Truro, described the vestry meeting at his church as “prayerful and somber. We shared prayers and tears as we voted to recommend to the Truro parish this course of action.”

Tom Wilson, senior warden at The Falls Church, said the vestry there reached the decision because “we have witnessed firsthand how the Episcopal Church has separated itself from the historic Christian faith of the Anglican Communion over the last few decades. We are at an historic crossroads.”

“We are very, very sad that the vestries are going to recommend to the congregations that they sever ties to The Episcopal Church,” wrote Virginia Bishop Peter Lee in a press release issued in response to the announcements. Col. Jean Reed, president of the diocesan standing committee, said the committee “intends to meet with those churches proposing to separate from The Episcopal Church and review their situations on a case-by-case basis.”

With a combined membership of more than 5,200 and average Sunday attendance of 3,200, Truro and Falls Church are among the largest and wealthiest congregations in The Episcopal Church. In 2005 the combined reported pledge and plate income for the parishes was in excess of $7 million. Both congregations also predate the Revolutionary War, with Truro Parish being established in 1732 and The Falls Church’s first building completed in 1734.

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