Thursday, June 10, 2010
Anglican Alert: Code Red
We have a decision. Opinion here.
FAIRFAX, Va. (June 10, 2010) – The nine Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) congregations that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s Virginia Supreme Court ruling overturning the Fairfax County Circuit Court’s ruling in the case and remanding it back to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia had appealed a ruling in favor of the congregations to the Virginia Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed with today’s ruling and will review it as we consider our options. This is not the final chapter in this matter. The court’s ruling simply involved one of our statutory defenses, and these properties are titled in the name of the congregations’ trustees, not in the name of the Diocese or The Episcopal Church. So we continue to be confident in our legal position as we move forward and will remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith,” said Jim Oakes, chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, which is the umbrella organization for the nine Anglican congregations.
“As the Virginia Supreme Court's opinion recognizes, there is clearly a division within The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. Those divisions are a result of the actions of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia to fall out of step with much of Christendom by choosing to redefine and reinterpret Scripture. They chose to sue our congregations when our churches in good conscience could not continue down their path. We are sorry The Episcopal Church has chosen to go its own way. Their choice to be a prodigal church does not give them the right to take our houses of worship with them. The legal proceedings have been an unfortunate distraction from all the good work our churches are doing to advance the mission of Christ. Ultimately, we know that the Lord is in control and our congregations will continue to put our trust in Him, not in secular courts or buildings. Our doors remain open wide to all who wish to worship with us,” Oakes concluded.
Diocese of Virginia statement here.
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What are the possible outcomes? BB, you're being cryptic (or careful), but help us understand!
Oh do tell what accounts for being breezy tonight but in fear of severe weather tomorrow.
The Supreme Court could rule to overturn Judge Bellows opinion. The Supreme Court could find the law unconstitutional. The Supreme Court could find that a particular section needs to be relitigated and sent back to Judge Bellows' court for more work. The Supreme Court could rule that Judge Bellows ruled correctly. Or - they could postpone releasing a decision until the fall. Or portions of the above or none of the above. It's an unknown. Whatever the case, this is a sobering moment and a night to keep watch and pray.
I hear that at the hearing when TEC argued constitutional arguments that everyone could tell it was going to be a win for the orthodox churches. You were there in April - could you tell? What's your gut tell you?
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Matthew 6:34 (KJV)
"What, me worry?" Alfred E. Newman
"My prediction? Pain.". - Clubber Lang
I am told that you cannot tell by what Supreme Court justices ask - you cannot tell what they are thinking. Like a Shakespeare play, it's a mystery.
TEC was given the most opportunity to give a statement without interruption, but once that got through the entire time was spent with the two sides being closely questioned. Either side would start to give a statement and be interrupted by the Court with a series of questions. Some of the questions seemed less thought through, others it was clear the justices had read through not only the Judge Bellows opinions, but also the myriad of boxes of documents that were sent down to Richmond.
As Clubber Lang put it so succinctly in the Rocky films, sadly pain will not be avoided tomorrow. Perhaps all sides might consider tomorrow, if pointers are correct, and ask the Lord, even now, to fill the day with grace.
If TEC loses, expect appeals and more litigation. If Truro and the other faithful lose, then what?
I pray for grace.
Grace is a good word. It's been on my heart this evening as well. I think we are as ready as we can be - but grace is a good word.
Am in Richmond tonight to be here for any announcement that may come in the morning. MAY come. It is a very real possibility that the sheer volume of the documents involved in the case and the weight of the decision may require more time for review and writing of the opinion. While it is their tradition to announce rulings tomorrow, the VASC is not bound to do so. It is possible that there will not be a ruling in our case in the morning which would push things back to September.
So glad you are there, Annie! :) Thanks so much for posting!
Here with no room service, two bottles of water and some Cheetos. Sigh. Praying AND fasting.
... and they left the light on for ya. :)
Prayers for you all BB
God is always good and one just has to have the confidence to trust him and the plans He has for you.
APR, by the same logic, they are not bound to wait for September after today either.
Good Morning Anon of 11:43pm!
Of course you are correct in saying they are not bound to wait until September. I only meant to point out the possibility and provide an explanation of why a ruling might not come today. There has been much expectation attached to this particular ruling coming today when all we know for sure is that some rulings will be announced. Since no one has received specific information that this case decision will be announced today, I thought it would be helpful to offer a scenario that might soothe unmet expectations. I certainly did not mean to imply that I was arguing for a particular ruling date. Hope this clarifies.
We have an announcement and a ruling that 57-9 has not been satisfied by the CANA congregations.
On to the next phase which is who owns the deed, who paid for the property, who maintained the property? Of course, there is the point that VA does not recognize implied trusts (such as the Dennis Canon).
Not a good day for the CANA churches, but not the end of the road.
Another day, another million dollars.
It's a shame, as is the way the Diocese is crowing.
This may explain why there was such intense questioning around the point “what constitutes a branch?” during the Virginia Supreme Court hearing.
I find it interesting that the ruling states “they failed to also establish that, as a result of that division, the congregations sought to affiliate with a branch derived from that same church, as opposed to a mere shared tradition of faith” – so if I read this correctly, being a part of the Church of Nigeria doesn’t count, since that is a “shared tradition of faith” (Anglican Communion) but not derived from that same church (TEC). If that’s true, it seems ACNA would count as the “branch derived from that same church,” would it not?
Since this lawsuit began well before ACNA was formed, the province-in-formation hasn’t been part of the argumentation.
It seems a ruling which should frustrate everyone (CANA & DioVA), that some legal technical point means all are back into Circuit Court and re-argued within the framework that the VA Supreme Court has set? Any legal types, am I reading correctly? [Basically everyone gets to go through the same thing again].
Prayers that peace that passes all understanding for those involved.
I am assuming remand to the trial court and reconsideration for the property under contract and Va property law? EmilyH
Emily H -- Am I to understand that you have been banned from Stand Firm? If so, welcome to the club!
After a second read-through, I am wondering if TEC has won the legal equivalent of a date night with its sister. The court rejected TEC's argument that divisons can only be self-declared, and then found that two of the three prongs for applicability of 57-9 have been met: that the CANA parishes were "attached to" TEC and that there is a "division" in TEC. Only the third prong, whether CANA is a "branch" resulting from the division, was not met. In particular, the court states (page 29):
"[I]t is equally clear that the revision of CANA's mission and the formation of the ADV did not occur as a **result** of the division within TEC and the Diocese."
So if there has to be something **resulting** from the division, then ACNA, which is headed up by a former TEC bishop claiming the title of Archbishop, surely would fit that definition. The issue of ACNA wasn't before the circuit court, so new votes can be taken and petitions filed, this time relying on the supreme court's prior finding of a "division" and then asking the circuit court to find that ACNA is a branch resulting from that division.
Perhaps CANA was not established of the division in Virginia but ADV definitely was.
I think you guys can stop trying to torture the Division Statute. I would think the courts would become very cross if the secessionist groups decided to re-run the votes to try to shoe-horn the result into the new guidance. The biggest problem is that we have to look at the situation as it stood in December 2006. If you had a vote today, you would have CANA parishes voting to disaffiliate with CANA in favor of ACNA. That's not the issue in this case. The only way I could see getting this back in the box for a re-play would be for the departing groups to re-join TEC and then do another vote to disaffiliate in favor of ACNA (although I could formulate fairly good arguments, I think, that ACNA is no more a branch of TEC than is the Church of Nigeria). Such a course would probably appear even more silly to an objective observer (leaving aside the practical problems of how one gets back into TEC for the purpose of trying to get out with the property more effectually), than having a vote today to disaffiliate with CANA to join ACNA.
A more realistic view is that this is an important, but narrow decision. The Virginia Division Statute isn't going to control the outcome. The matter will be decided on basic principles very similar to those employed in other jurisdictions. The invocation of the court's authority under 57-9 didn't work for the plaintiffs.
Let's hope that everyone can take a deep breath and figure out some way better than force feeding lawyers to go forward from here. Let's see who the leaders on both sides are.
Scout -- Thinking about it a bit more, I may walk back my prior comment a bit. It sounds like you're proposing resurrecting the Standstill Agreement? Remember who allowed that agreement to expire?
You should see this.
BB - you should see this.
Per the WTVR interview: So DioVA is now hinting they would like to negotiate something? Three and a half years later and millions of $$ down the drain they come up with a wonderful new approach?
They must have gotten new batteries for their hearing aids because that is the position the CANA churches have been offering for that entire time.
Steven: no standstill agreement is necessary. Just settle the durned thing. The Supreme Court did both sides a huge service to get the Division Statute wild card out of the deck. No one really knew what it was worth and its presence distorted the settlement calculus. Now we're down to pure real property deeds and trusts. That's something where objective lawyers can evaluate risks and hang numbers on things.
Anon 2210, there was no way to negotiate diddly once the secessionist elements went to court with their 57-9 petitions. That's an all-or-nothing statute. I don't blame their lawyers for playing the card, but it's no environment in which to negotiate. This is a much different atmosphere now.
Scout, I do think you'd strengthen your arguments if you didn't use the word "secessionist." It has historical connotations in Virginia and the use of it does little to help bring people together.
I call people who are in favor of abortion rights "pro choice" because that is what they call themselves. It could really help things if we call people by what they call themselves. We will begin to know that we really want to be heard when we take steps to be heard by those with whom we disagree. The word "Secessionist" is not very helpful. And I think it actually weakens your interesting arguments. What do you think?
Of course, we're discussing a process that was intended to put people apart, not bring them together. I have struggled for accurate, non-inflammatory labels, but there is so much sensitivity these days. I used to use "departees", but found that people (of which I am one) got confused between departees and departors and departers etc. I also thought of tories and rebels. I don't like "Anglican" v "Episcopalian" because Anglican strikes me as a broad reference to Church of England DNA. As a continuing Episcopalian, I consider myself and Anglican. "Secessionist" seems accurate enough in this context, but I am open to any clear and accurate alternatives.
Having said that, the parallels between this crisis in the Church and the passions and sentiments that attended events in Virginia before and during the Civil War interest me greatly. I'm something of a student of that time, having lived through it (although I was very young). When one studies the rhetoric of secession in the secular political context of 1860, there are very pronounced parallels to the theological rhetoric of the 2000s within and outside the Church. The tendency to exaggerate and demonize, the tendency to quick outrage, the tendency to find profound general, nefarious content in small omissions or word choices, the device of taking an extreme example from the other side and extrapolating from it a universal generalization, a quickness to employ cheap ridicule, the tendency to turn opposition figures into gross and exaggerated caricatures are exactly what one would find in 1860 broadsides advocating the position that we just can't live with these people any more. Now it's more like we just can't take communion with this guy or that guy anymore.
This is your space, BB. I enjoy many of its elements, particularly the music references. Give me some labels that are accurate and non-value laden and I'll use them as a sign of respect.
How about "churches of the Anglican District of Virginia?" Or "churches in the Anglican Church of North America?"
Maybe we can just leave the labels on the jars.
a little cumbersome. I'm sure we can find something.
As far as being banned from Stand Firm (and T19), the number has grown large enough to start another orthodox Anglican blog, one that embraces those who have left TEPID (The Episcopal Pansexual Idealogy Dissemination organization - Revelation 3:16).
Or Greg could make a lucrative income selling 'Indulgences'.
"the parallels between this crisis in the Church and the passions and sentiments that attended events in Virginia before and during the Civil War interest me greatly. I'm something of a student of that time, having lived through it (although I was very young)."
Are you trying to tell us that you are 150 years old?!?! :)
anon 1206: Next month I will be 159. Or so my children have long been convinced, and, I must say, they have almost succeeded in convincing me.
A lifelong total immersion in American History and a fairly stately, formal manner of moving and speaking (encouraged by gout and obesity) as well as my penchant for quill pens, Victorian furniture, and moving around on horseback probably sealed the deal for my daughters.
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