Saturday, November 17, 2007

Virginia Anglican Churches Present Strong Legal Case

[TitusOneNine] 17 Nov 2007--The litigation involving 11 churches sued by The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia will be entering a new phase as proceedings continue and are slated through Wednesday of next week. (Fairfax County Circuit Court, Multi-Circuit Property Litigation, Case No. CL-2007-0248724) The 11 churches finished presenting the bulk of their case yesterday and opening arguments were heard from The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia.

In January of this year, the Episcopal Church and Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations and filed lawsuits against the 11 churches, their ministers and their vestries in an attempt to seize control of the Anglican churches’ properties. The decision of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese to reinterpret Scripture caused the 11 churches to sever their ties.

“We continue to be confident in our legal position that The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia cannot seize control of our churches through a claim that there is an ‘implied trust’ in member congregations’ property. Virginia has a long history of deferring to local control of church property and the statute at issue says that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when a group of congregations divide from the denomination. The Episcopal Church admitted in its complaint that it does not hold title to any of these eleven churches and that the churches' own trustees hold title for the benefit of the congregations,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, an association of Anglican congregations in Virginia and a part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). All 11 churches named in the lawsuit are members of ADV.

“When The Episcopal Church and Diocese separated themselves from the historic Christian faith and broke their relationship with us as well as with some two-thirds of the constituent members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, our churches voted to dissociate from The Episcopal Church and Diocese in order to remain faithful to the historic teachings of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is clear that The Episcopal Church has brought this division upon itself,” Oakes continued.

“We have chosen to stay with the worldwide Anglican Communion and be steadfast in our faith. 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.”

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