Anglican parishes no longer in Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Seek Funds For Lawsuit Defense

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Eleven Virginia churches being sued by the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia for leaving the denomination with their property last year have set a goal of raising a combined $3 million to $5 million for their pooled legal expenses.

But an informal poll by The Washington Times revealed that more than half of these churches can't afford to give funds or have made no plans to do so.

United against them is their former denomination, whose New York headquarters alone claims $300 million in assets.

The two largest parishes, Truro Church in Fairfax and the Falls Church in Falls Church, plan to provide at least $1 million each. So far, Truro has raised $900,000. But estimated contributions from the other nine churches are less than $200,000.

An official for the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), a confederation formed by the 11 churches, says the money will be raised somehow.

"From our perspective, the Episcopal Church has limitless resources," said Jim Oakes, ADV vice president. "We don't, but we have enough for this situation. They are throwing everything they can at us, but we are in a very solid position legally. I think they know that. But they want to make this such an unpleasant and terrorizing process so that others won't try the same thing."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Virginia* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

48 Comments
Posted June 26, 2007 at 1:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Scott K wrote:

Someone needs to contact Jim Naughton and find out where all that IRD money is!

June 26, 2:31 pm | [comment link]
2. chips wrote:

Perhaps the elves can post info on how one can contribute to the Defense Fund.

June 26, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
3. Sarah1 wrote:

Ditto—need mailing address and entity to donate to.

June 26, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
4. KAR wrote:

#2 Chips:

Truro has a spot on their website else American Anglican Council has a general legal fund (though your $$ might go to worthy causes in CA, CT, NY or other places than VA - then those may not have the samevisibility).

June 26, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
5. Steven in Falls Church wrote:

The real story is that TEC spends so much money to sue these parishes when many of the non-disaffiliating TEC parishes within a short drive have been losing attendance, some precipitously so.  See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for example.  Given this record it is reasonable to presume that the only viable plan the diocese has for most of the properties is to liquidate them to fund ongoing expenses.  Also, here is the chart showing diocesan numbers.  I believe this chart still incorporates the attendance and membership data from the departed parishes such as The Falls Church and Truro, even though the individual charts for those parishes have been “disappeared” from the TEC website.  I suspect that the diocesan numbers would look dismal if you subtracted the data of the departed parishes because many of those parishes had been growing significantly.  A reporter may want to inquire why TEC employs Enron-style accounting methods to count at the diocesan level membership and attendance data of departed parishes whose data on an individual basis have been deleted from the TEC website.

June 26, 3:16 pm | [comment link]
7. plainsheretic wrote:

Steven in Falls Church,

I thing the Enron slap is not fair. The numbers you qoute have been up for about a year and are inclusive upto 2005. Falls Church hadn’t left up to that point and so the numbers are accurate as far as 2005 is concerned. The drop may not appear until the 2006 0r 2007 numbers are presented depending on when the churches left.

June 26, 3:43 pm | [comment link]
8. Br. Michael wrote:

It is a real fact of life that, if you have the resources, you can win by out spending the other side.  Many fims will churn the file simply to drive up the costs for the other side until they have to quit because they no longer afford to defend or prosecute.

June 26, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
9. RalphM wrote:

Steven in Falls Church:  I suspect that the DoV is perfectly happy with these numbers.  In spite of declining ASA, the dollars are holding up pretty well.  People are free to leave, but dollars are what count.

Risking the speculation sickness, I would theorize that as numbers decline, the senior members of these congregations are giving more to keep their churches afloat .  As long as they leave a handsome bequest, DoV could care less what happens to these congregations.

June 26, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
10. lauren wrote:

#2 and #3, it is my understanding that checks made payable to:
Anglican District of Virginia Legal Defense Fund

may be sent to:
10523 Main Street,
Fairfax, VA 22030. 

For more information, email info [at] anglicandistrictofvirginia [dot] org

June 26, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
11. Eugene wrote:

Is it naive to ask “whatever happened to turn the other cheek”? or “give him your cloak also”?

June 26, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
12. The_Elves wrote:

The links that have been submitted for various legal defense fund gifts: Truro, AAC, Anglican District of Virginia, all look good and valid to this elf who has some first-hand contact with folks in VA.  Don’t have any information beyond what’s posted above.

#5, just FYI, should anyone ever need it, we elves have an archive of most of the most-recent ECUSA charts for the parishes that have disappeared from the records.  If anyone ever needs them, let us know.  I think we’re missing one of the 11 parishes, I don’t recall which one off the top of my head.

June 26, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
13. Bob from Boone wrote:

Jim Oakes, ADV vice president. “We don’t, but we have enough for this situation. They are throwing everything they can at us, but we are in a very solid position legally. I think they know that. But they want to make this such an unpleasant and terrorizing process so that others won’t try the same thing.”

So, these churches are being “terrorized”? Oakes should be charged with the abuse of language. This is the kind of lawyer’s talk that precedes a trial. TEC is right to sue these churches. Those who have gone to CANA should ask ++Akinola for the money.

June 26, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
14. Reactionary wrote:

Bob,

I don’t see how TEC even has a dog in the fight.  The diocese, perhaps, though I think the Denis Canon is problematic.

If these parish properties were heavily mortgaged, I bet they’d be allowed to go without a quibble.

June 26, 4:35 pm | [comment link]
15. chips wrote:

Bob,
The VA statute regarding church divisions which allows for the congregations the right to choose seems pretty clear. Not to mention that it was TEC that pulled the plug on the protocal when both sides seemed to be acting in a fairly Christian-like manner.  Corporations frequently use lawsuits to injure competitors and to send a message to current and former employees.

June 26, 4:44 pm | [comment link]
16. Steven in Falls Church wrote:

Plainsparson—The Enron comment was a bit gratuitous so I apologize for that.  I think the substance of my criticism remains because the data on the TEC website are misleading.  If the parish histories have been removed from the website then their data also should be disaggregated from the diocesan total, because there is a current mismatch between the disaggregated and aggregated data.  Or, the parishes’ individual charts should remain accessible because they were still affiliated with TEC through the end of 2005.

June 26, 4:51 pm | [comment link]
17. The_Elves wrote:

Just one comment on #5 and #7 about the removal of these parishes’ data from the ECUSA parochial data charts.  Think how many times we’ve seen folks make comments about Dio. Los Angeles and the oddity of their having kept the three churches who left in 2004 on the rolls until this day (merely duplicating 2003’s attendance and membership data year after year.)

Let’s not put ECUSA in a damned if you do/damned if you don’t no-win situation.  Perhaps better the seemingly-premature removal of these parishes from the database than continuing to claim them for years as if “all is well” and nothing had happened.

Having some familiarity with the VA data, it’s not clear to me that the diocese is still continuing to claim these parishes in its diocesan totals.  It would take more digging than I’ve done, however, to verify that.  If anyone in VA has facts on this, we’d be glad to have them.

We do seem to recall that after initially seeming to pretty seriously understate the percentage of the diocesan ASA represented by the departing parishes, the dio. VA began to correct the information, not only talking in terms of % of parishes or membership of the departing congregations, but recognizing that this was close to 20% of the diocesan ASA.  So it seems to this elf that VA has been a bit more honest in its statistical reporting than other dioceses, but of course the incredible glare of national and international publicity on this situation probably helped that process of transparency. 

(And maybe the bloggers didn’t hurt either wink )

June 26, 4:58 pm | [comment link]
18. The_Elves wrote:

Steven, we hadn’t seen your #16 when writing our #17 above.  Agreed. 

Certainly since the parochial data is historical, the removal is odd since most of these parishes didn’t leave until late 2006.

We would welcome further data as to whether the diocese is currently reporting these congregations in its aggregate data.  If you’ve got it, please let us know.

June 26, 5:04 pm | [comment link]
19. Brian from T19 wrote:

Why not just leverage their stolen property with a mortgage?  Oh, that’s probably frozen;-)

June 26, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
20. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

If you are using 2005 data to give a picture of current health, and you know the data are inaccurate, a responsible corporation would at least drop a footnote in its annual report to disclose the newer information.

June 26, 6:20 pm | [comment link]
21. Brian from T19 wrote:

Oh and BTW

You guys just lost the cases in Los Angeles-the Barker case was wrongly held and

Second, particularly when read in conjunction with section 9142, Canon I.7(4) is clear and convincing evidence rebutting any presumption that the beneficial interest in the local church property is solely controlled by the local parish corporation.

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/courtsofappeal/4thDistrictDiv3/

So CA. is in play again

June 26, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
22. John B. Chilton wrote:

Newsflash: Diocese of LA has won the latest round in court
http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/dioceses/diocese_of_los_angeles_wins_ap.html

June 26, 6:37 pm | [comment link]
23. Steven in Falls Church wrote:

So, these churches are being “terrorized”? Oakes should be charged with the abuse of language.

I think Jim Oakes was referring to the volunteer vestry members who have been sued in their individual capacities by the Diocese and TEC.  I presume that being a personal defendant in a lawsuit is a pretty troubling process—and indeed terrifying given the potential for reputational and financial damage that could result from an adverse decision.  So I think Oakes’ characterization is on point.  (I am not one of the defendants by the way.)

This brings up a question.  To recover the parish properties, it is, I believe, unnecessary for TEC and the Diocese to sue the vestry members in their individual capacities.  It would be sufficient for suit to be brought against no more than the trustees for the parish whose names are on the deed, and perhaps also the head clergy.  Maybe it is sufficient to name just the parish corporate entity and no individuals.  This brings me to the conclusion that the only purpose in dragging the vestry members into court as personal defendants is pure retribution against those individuals and a tactic to intimidate vestries of other parishes that are considering disaffiliation.  Can anyone give me a reason, other than intimidation and retribution, for the individual volunteers on church vestries to be named as defendant parties in these lawsuits?

June 26, 6:48 pm | [comment link]
24. chips wrote:

Brian,
Although obviously a disappointing result in LA (and likely to go to the CA Supreme Court - so not over yet)  - if this church fight was a game of Monopoly it would be a big win for TEC.  But because this is about people and their souls - the traditionalists (those who comprised the congregants) won the day they voted to leave TEC.  Remember the nusery rhyme/finger game - Here is the Church here is the steeple open it up and see all the people (its about the people).  A church where the people have been kicked out is a sad testimony to what TEC has descended into - I am sure that the Congregations will replace the edifices if they must - people will pay for something they believe in.

June 26, 7:05 pm | [comment link]
25. Brian from T19 wrote:

xhips

if this church fight was a game of Monopoly it would be a big win for TEC.  But because this is about people and their souls - the traditionalists (those who comprised the congregants) won the day they voted to leave TEC.

And here again we have the huge problem…reasserters (at least some of them) actually buy into this “It’s not about the property/money, it’s about Jesus/souls/authority/Scripture/etc.”  So here’s the problem: you keep fighting.  It is about the property/money, but we reappraisers are just hionest enough not to pretend we’re doing God’s work.

June 26, 7:20 pm | [comment link]
26. Scotsreb wrote:

#25 just gave some real clarity in the mind-set of the reappraisers:
“It is about the property/money, but we reappraisers are just hionest enough not to pretend we’re doing God’s work.”

Well said Brian.

June 26, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
27. talithajd wrote:

I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again:  how do we justify participating in litigation given St. Paul’s clear admonition to avoid such?  Are we serious about the authority of scripture?  Paul tells us that it is better to be wronged than to go to court against a brother. 
Trounce away!!

June 26, 7:42 pm | [comment link]
28. Irenaeus wrote:

Brian [#25]: No one likes to be pushed around. No one likes to the finance the oppression of one’s self or kindred. Every dollar of property ECUSA seizes becomes available to fund ECUSA’s cruel, unjust treatment of orthodox Anglicans.

June 26, 7:44 pm | [comment link]
29. Brian from T19 wrote:

Brian [#25]: No one likes to be pushed around. No one likes to the finance the oppression of one’s self or kindred. Every dollar of property ECUSA seizes becomes available to fund ECUSA’s cruel, unjust treatment of orthodox Anglicans.

So your spending orthodox money and resources to protect orthodox money and resources from evil done to orthodox money and resources.  Is that right?

June 26, 7:52 pm | [comment link]
30. Brian from T19 wrote:

Well said Brian.

Thanks Scotsreb!  But we have been saying this all along.  If the reasserters were not so busy parsing every word ++Katharine says, they might be able to hear: “This distracts from the Mission of the Church.”

June 26, 7:57 pm | [comment link]
31. chips wrote:

Honestly, Scotsreb - I really do not think Brian gets the big picture - and I am not sure he would get your sarcasm. If TEC did not at least still think of itself as a Church his arguments would make since.  If as Brian asserts - reappraisers do not believe that their lawsuits are part of doing God’s work that is truly frightening and truly evil.  As I said to Brian just last week - if the reasserters were fighting over the property to sell it for financial gain or profit Brian would be right. The fight over the property is who gets to use it to worship God in (at least that is what the congregations intend to use it for - TEC is likely to be forced to sell as there is no longer a self sustaining congregation).  Not to be insulting but for clarification - Brian are you comming to this discussion as 1) a Christian; 2) a first year law student; or 3) just a left wing activist.

June 26, 7:58 pm | [comment link]
32. chips wrote:

I was right Scotsreb - he did not get your sarcasm.  Brian - you are a priceless asset to this blog.  One might think you are in Rev. Kendall Harmon’s employ as a straw man.

June 26, 8:01 pm | [comment link]
33. Brian from T19 wrote:

The fight over the property is who gets to use it to worship God in (at least that is what the congregations intend to use it for - TEC is likely to be forced to sell as there is no longer a self sustaining congregation). 

Actually, you are missing the point.  God doesn’t need your property and the God I worship can be worshiped anywhere.  Apparently you are a “true believer.”

Not to be insulting but for clarification - Brian are you coming to this discussion as 1) a Christian;

Not insulted at all.  Christian would not be a term I choose to use because I find it antisemitic, but I am a follower of Jesus

2) a first year law student;

A lawyer for the past 15 years

or 3) just a left wing activist.

Again, a classification I wouldn’t choose.  I am pro-life and a fiscal conservative which skews that classification.  I am also a card-carrying member of the ACLU and a card-carrying member of the NRA.

And, for the record, I got the sarcasm.

June 26, 8:12 pm | [comment link]
34. RalphM wrote:

#23 Being one of those named in the suits, I can tell you that I’m neither troubled nor terrified.  I’m going to have my suit framed as evidence that I once took a stand against those who would destroy the faith once delivered.

As far as mortgages being a deterrent, the only issue for the DoV is that the mortgage is due the day the property changes hands.  I’m sure TEC will bankroll the Diocese in the short run.  The properties will never again be viable Episcopal churches if DoV wins.  They would probably be sold to one of the fast growing asian churches in the area, or bulldozed for another strip mall.

June 26, 8:17 pm | [comment link]
35. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Now there’s a proserity gospel for someone “bulldozed for a strip mall”...any hot real estate investors just aching to wait for a decision and getting in an early bid?  BfT19, you a risk taker?  Could be a big winner or not!

June 26, 8:35 pm | [comment link]
36. Milton wrote:

Brian from T19, before you celebrate too loud and long over LA, here’s a cross-posted comment of mine from the LA church thread that follows this thread:

Still at issue is whether the Episcopal Church validly passed an internal rule claiming to hold local church property in trust for itself, and whether that rule applied to the three local churches.

TEC may find itself in the same position as Pharoh’s army, stuck in the mud and all washed up, if the Dennis Canon is found to be invalid.  May the Lord fight for His people and make it so!

Good of you to admit that reappraisers are not doing the Lord’s work! smile
You like to say that reasserter congregations should give up without a fight and that it is all about the money and the property for us. (Massive case of projection there, I would say!)  How do you square that with Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, et al, who have said that reappraiser congregations are free to go with the building, Prayer Books, choir robes and sheet music (think CO) and all?  The honey in your mouth may well soon turn bitter in your stomach with your celebrating so much.

June 26, 9:03 pm | [comment link]
37. Tom Roberts wrote:

Brian does have a legitimate point, of sorts. Maybe Truro can afford the litigation. Perhaps one of its lesser sisters cannot and it would be a waste of money which could be spent better elsewhere. This would pose very hard decisions for the sponsoring new diocesan, for it is his flock that would be asked to be the faithful remnant being led into exile.
Then again, that was the point of the Exile, eh?

June 26, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
38. aldenjr wrote:

The fight in the Diocese of Virginia is surely sucking funds away from the Lord’s mission.  The year 2006 – 2007 was one of our lowest years in church fundraising while in Virginia in the last five years.  With all the funds in the Diocese of Virginia and the breakaway churches in Virginia going to the legal battles, it is no wonder to me why the drop off. 
Although I am orthodox in my views, I don’t think it matters anymore whose fault it is, we have moved Solar Light for Africa to Georgia to get out of the middle of the fight and reduce our overhead costs which any missionary organization must do to stay alive when the source of funds drop off.
I would say this to my orthodox friends, “Although, it was a little traumatic to leave our offices and home in Virginia, it was freeing as well.  Perhaps rather than fight you all should leave your buildings and stop this anti-Christian legal madness.”

June 26, 10:22 pm | [comment link]
39. Brian from T19 wrote:

Milton

Already answered your point on the other thread-courts don’t like to decide internal church issues.  You are quoting from one of the lawsuit losers

You like to say that reasserter congregations should give up without a fight and that it is all about the money and the property for us. (Massive case of projection there, I would say!)

No.  I say that reasserters should not steal.  Stealing is not fighting, it is just taking what is not yours.

How do you square that with Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, et al, who have said that reappraiser congregations are free to go with the building, Prayer Books, choir robes and sheet music (think CO) and all?

I say 2 things:

1. It makes all of those suing for property not just thieves, but hypocritical thieves

and

2. Why would a liberal parish <i>ever<i> want to leave.  It is not really generous to offer something that you know you will never need to give.

June 26, 10:24 pm | [comment link]
40. Irenaeus wrote:

Brian [#29]: ECUSA’s bully-brigade hurts real human beings. I don’t want to fund that.

June 26, 10:29 pm | [comment link]
41. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “I say that reasserters should not steal.”

I agree.  The courts will decide whose property it is, and the owners will take the property.

RE: ” It makes all of those suing for property not just thieves, but hypocritical thieves”

You mean the revisionists????  They’re the ones “suing for property”!! ; > )

Actually it makes the reasserters consistent with their principles, and anything but hypocrites.  They believe that the *congregations* by majority vote already own the property.  And the “leaving” part is to leave the diocese as reappraisers [remaining in ECUSA], should the diocese leave ECUSA, or the reasserter parishes who wish to leave ECUSA [as has happened in Central Florida and Dallas and other diocese . . . ].

But, you already know all of that.  You’re just bloviating and posturing, Brian.

June 26, 10:46 pm | [comment link]
42. chips wrote:

Brian,
As a lawyer - you know (or should know) that these are complex property disputes involving issues of trust law, non-profit corporate law, real property law, and first amendment issues regarding Church and state.  If TEC did not claim to be a church and was a pure political organization the property disputes would be easily won by the departing congregations - as in the local republican party HQ belongs to the local republican party not the RNC.  In Virginia, the state statute appears to me to expressly provide for the local congregations to leave with the property if a “Church” is dividing.  The local churches have good faith legal and equitable (and moral) claims to the property having purchased them (most of them prior to the 1979 Canon change)- it is not theft or stealing (or even your “ethical theft”) - and lawsuits as you also know are vehicles for change in the law. As an ACLU card carrying lawyer I would think you would respect the local congregations’ rights to have their claims ajudicated in a court of law.  Calling the congregations “thieves” is unprofessional.
Yes - God can be worshiped sans building - but if you believe in organized religion (and by your comments I am not sure that you do) - it becomes more difficult to be organized without one.  If you are not a “Christian” (although not being a Christian is not a serious impediment to TEC membership) why the interest in whether TEC’s Parish losses once a new province exists are under or over 15% - which is why the property fights matter to TEC.

June 26, 11:09 pm | [comment link]
43. Brian from T19 wrote:

chips

I never said that their thievery was a legal issue.  It is a moral one.  I have always maintained (like Sarah above) that the courts will decide the legal issues.  The question is about the moral thing to do.  Ethically, the reasserters leaving knew what they were doing the whole time.  They had opportunity to be heard at various conventions and their opinion/position was rejected.  They knew about the Dennis Canon and the General Convention stance on property.  Notwithstanding, the departing parishes decided to “fight for what’s right” and “stand up for Jesus” and “pick up their cross and follow the Risen Lord.”

Well, they have succeeded in picking up their property and following secular justice.  We never lied about our intentions, we never did things behind closed doors (like the ACN and others), we never claimed that fighting to preserve the property of the Church is part of the mission of the Church.  The only people trying to convince themselves that this anything to do with Jesus are the reasserters.

June 27, 12:00 am | [comment link]
44. chips wrote:

Brian,
If one takes your position to its logical conclusion - it TEC General convention were to vote to worship the sun god RA or be taken over by Nazis- it would still be morally or ethically (and those words are not synomons) wrong for Christians to depart with the Churches they paid for.  Again because this is a fight about religion - TEC’s departure from Traditional faith gives a moral basis for the departure. And I will re-posit that if your side does not think that fighting to preserve the property is part of the Church’s mission - then you should not be doing it - because TEC is or was a CHURCH.  I would think your friends can only view your statement that the lawsuits have nothing to do with Jesus as “friendly fire”.

June 27, 11:13 am | [comment link]
45. APB wrote:

Might I remind people of the 11th commandment?  Don’t feed the trolls!  That is not to say debate with our Worthy Opponents should be shunned.  However, we, meaning the main reasserting blogs, have had a rather sudden influx of people who are either genuinely ignorant of what has been going on, or have serious problems with efforts to combat it.  The first can be helped, the latter serve only as a distraction.  Don’t feed the trolls!

June 27, 12:47 pm | [comment link]
46. chips wrote:

Your right APB - but Brian should be an exception his comments are refreshingly honest and if accurate so unhelpful to his cause.  tongue wink

June 27, 2:58 pm | [comment link]
47. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “They knew about the Dennis Canon and the General Convention stance on property.”

So?  Just because the Denis Canon makes a claim on property doesn’t mean that claim is actually valid.  Entities may make claims till the cows come home, but that does not mean their claims to own property are actually truthful.

RE: “We never lied about our intentions, we never did things behind closed doors (like the ACN and others)  . . . “

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL . . .

Brian—we’ve tracked all the secret meetings, little leaked agendas, “Integrity Strategy tables” at Executive Council meetings, emails from Crew to Kearon, minutes from the Via Media entities, histories of the gay lobbying movement in ECUSA, and on and on and on.

And you know what?  You have too.

So what you said is simply a Brazen Lie.

I won’t say that you should be ashamed . . . you don’t have the values or standards or religion to do that when lying . . . but your statement is outed, and everybody on this blog knows that you do not tell the truth on this—and that you know it.

June 27, 11:53 pm | [comment link]
48. Sarah1 wrote:

Chips—I used to think Brian’s comments were “refreshingly honest” until this latest one.  He knows better.

June 27, 11:55 pm | [comment link]
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