Monday, March 29, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Virginia Supreme Court sets Episcopal Church/Diocese of Virginia appeal

Virginia Supreme Court has now narrowed the date for the Episcopal Church/Diocese of Virginia hearing to April 13th. This is to hear the appeal of Judge Randy Bellows rulings in favor of the churches that voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Diocese of Virginia and remain in the Anglican Communion by joining the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), now a member of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

Last month the Church of England also overwhelmingly resolved to "recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family." In addition, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also voted in favor of the Church of England resolution, asked the Church of England Synod, "What are the vehicles for sharing perspectives, communicating protest, yes, even, negotiating distance or separation, that might spare us a worsening of the situation and the further reduction of Christian relationship to vicious polemic and stony-faced litigation?"

Just this month, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York made public its intention to sell Good Shepherd Episcopal Church to a Muslim group in Binghamton, New York. The people of Good Shepherd, who also voted to separate from The Episcopal Church, were evicted from their thriving church last year after a court ruled in favor of the diocese.

Even at this late hour, Rowan Williams' question remains on the table.

UPDATE: Here is a statement from the Anglican District of Virginia, by its chair Jim Oakes:
“Our church members are standing firm for the Gospel and will remain in prayer for the church property case that will be heard in a matter of weeks. It’s unfortunate that this matter, which we tried so hard to resolve amicably out of court, has now reached the level of the state Supreme Court. While we remain confident in our legal footing, it’s regretful that we had to defend ourselves in the first place.

“Protecting our religious freedom and our right to stay true to the Gospel has been costly, and we pray for a quick end to the litigation so that we can completely focus our time, money and energy on bringing new believers to Christ and helping those in need. Our doors remain open wide to all who wish to worship with us.

“As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord this weekend, we know where our real priorities are and we put our trust in Him in all our affairs including the current legal proceedings."


Kevin said...

In joyous altruism, praying for you all on the 13th.


Steven in Falls Church said...

BB -- Is April 13 the actual date? I thought scheduling of the specific date was still a bit cloudy.

Anonymous said...

what is the linkage between the Good Shephered situation, the CofE resolution and the scheduling of argument in the Supreme Court of Virginia. Is this just a random array of news items?


Unknown said...

Yes, the date is now officially April 13th.

The linkage is because the Diocese of Virginia will not be able to afford or fill the empty properties if they should so be inclined to take them. We wonder how fast they will sell the properties - the only one of any significant importance is the historic Falls Church. The rest are blowin' in the wind. How fast the properties will be put in the market - that is the question.

What a waste of time and money this all is - we would do some much better, our witness would be so much greater if we simply stand down from this nonsense and return to the negotiating table as Bishop Lee originally planned.


Anonymous said...

It certainly will be a challenge if all the people who left the Church stop attending in the properties, BB. However, there was a non-trivial number (hundreds) of people who did not vote to leave who continued to worship at the Falls Church even after the others left, so we may find that the church itself has a great deal of attractiveness to a number of people who aren't quite as passionate as others about the need for schism. In any event, we can't really know until Episcopal services are permitted in the premises.

As to negotiation, I'm sure negotiations will take place once ownership issues are settled. It's impossible, however, for the Diocese to negotiate when a bunch of people are occupying the buildings. That creates a false leverage in the negotiations. MIght as well understand whether, in Virginia, the government permits a majority vote of a congregation to effect a change in title. If so, nothing to negotiate about. If not, then we can talk, I suppose, about whether the remaining Episcopalians can sustain the property. I suspect, however, that it will take a few years yet to figure that out.


Anonymous said...

Interesting choice of date. April 13 is Thomas Jefferson's birthday.