Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bitter Church Property Dispute Goes to Trial

[The Christian Post] 15 Nov 2007--A trial involving 11 former Episcopal congregations began Tuesday in a bitter battle over tens of millions of dollars of church property. It is reported to be the largest property dispute in the history of The Episcopal Church.

Almost a year after the majority of congregants in 15 Virginia churches voted to leave the U.S.-based church body, the battle over the control of church property has gone to the Fairfax County Circuit Court, where a judge will hear evidence during a two-week trial. Only 11 breakaway congregations are involved in the litigation.

The churches severed ties from The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – citing the denomination's departure from Scripture and Christian orthodoxy. After the split, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and soon thereafter The Episcopal Church, filed suits against the churches and individuals to reclaim the multi-million dollar church properties.

"The Episcopal Church has continually walked away from the scriptural foundation of the Anglican Communion," said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, an association of Anglican congregations in Virginia and a part of the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). "When we objected, they chose intimidation through lawsuits as their solution."

Breakaway Anglicans have asked and continue to ask for the withdrawal of the lawsuits, which Oakes has called "unseemly."

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