Virginia Episcopal Diocese Bishop Outlines Property Transition Plan

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Following on the recent court ruling remanding all properties currently occupied by breakaway congregations from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia back to the diocese, Virginia Episcopal Bishop Shannon Johnston called the current time "one of the most defining moments in all of our 400 year history" in a pastoral address given to the 217th annual Virginia Diocese Council meeting in Reston yesterday....

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

Posted January 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. rwkachur wrote:

In an environment where trust is absent, words will need to be followed by deeds.  I have heard plenty of words since this all began.  I hope he comes to an arrangement.  My 15-year old daughter was able to grasp why she may not be worshiping in the only church she’s ever known, but it was not a pleasant conversation.  Once again, as well, the question on my mind is what will “the new (now old) sheriff” decide is her erstwhile fiduciary responsibility.

January 30, 11:15 pm | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:

Bishop Shannon hopes he can come to some arrangement too. It is clear that he realises Dio. Virginia does not have the funds to maintain these properties if it recovers them (which in turn depends on whether the Anglican congregations appeal the judge’s decision).

Therefore he hopes to reach an arrangement whereby the departing congregations stay in the properties and pay for their maintenance. But if they won’t? That will get interesting.

January 31, 2:54 am | [comment link]
3. NoVA Scout wrote:

The Bishop has made generous and gracious statements about the situation, far more generous than either the words or deeds of those who departed but showed no compunction about the impact of their occupation on those who chose to stay, many of whom had worshipped in those buildings as long or longer than No. 1’s daughter.  The recovery does not depend on whether the departing factions file an appeal, No. 2.  It depends on the departing groups’ winning an appeal, an unlikely event given the nature of the decision.  My guess is that they will not appeal, that they will see the outlook as one of throwing good money after bad, that the Diocese and its Bishop will live up to the graciousness of his words, and that an orderly transition will be worked out that respects the rights of those who chose not to leave, but that is magnanimous and loving to those who have occupied the premises over the past few years.

January 31, 9:47 am | [comment link]
4. slitch wrote:


Well said. I think Bishop Johnston was very generous in his statements. Even realizing there are hard feelings in this recent court ruling, surely one can see this is very kind of him. rwkachur stated that his 15 year old daughter will have to leave the only church she ever knew. . . that happened to a relative of mine when they were forced out of the Episcopal church she attended when the priest decided the congregation would leave the church of her birth and align with an African bishop. These events go both ways.

January 31, 10:38 am | [comment link]
5. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Well, it may be RELATIVELY generous and gracious of +Johnston, and he deserves credit for being much kinder than say, +O’Neill in Colorado, or +Andrew Smith in CT, but that is merely damning with faint praise.  If he were truly interested in coming to a just and fair arrangement, he could have settled out of court at any time in the last few years, to the mutual benefit of the now departed congregations and the diocese.

Some facts to keep in mind about this whole tragic fiasco.  First, in the case of at least two of the seven congregations involved in the lawsuit, there is NO remnant that stayed behind in TEC.  None at all.  Zip.  The two parishes I’m thinking of are Church of the Apostles in Fairfax (ASA over 300), and big Truro Church, with an ASA over 800, and yet there is no rump congregations of Episcopalians left to use the empty buildings.  No one.

As for big Falls Church, this giant parish has an ASA of roughly 2000 and a whopping budget of about $6 million, of which about $750K is devoted to the maintenance of the extensive facilities needed to house that big, thriving congregation.  The budget of the small loyalist contingent that stayed in TEC is only about $250K, so how in the world will they afford to maintain the historic property??

Then there’s Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, with an ASA that runs about 375, with a budget of about $800K.  Yes, there is a TEC remnant at Epiphany, but it’s less than 20 people.  So can they keep up the property?  Not on our life.

No, this isn’t really about the property.  It’s actually all about trying to prevent the competition from getting a foothold in northern VA.  It’s all about intimidation, folks, and attempting to bleed and hinder the Anglican competition.  It’s really all about trying (futilely) to preserve market share, when TEC actually has an inferior product.

But all that said, we should give credit where credit is due.  I am glad that +Johnston is being sensible enough to allow the departed congregations some breathing space and that he appears willing to lease the buildings to some of the churches, if acceptable terms can be reached.  We’ll see.

David Handy+

January 31, 5:14 pm | [comment link]
6. MichaelA wrote:

Its neither “gracious” nor “generous” to do something about which you have no choice! And +Johnston doesn’t have a choice. He doesn’t have the budget to maintain these buildings and he knows it.

So, IF he now gets possession of these buildings, he has to hope that the parishioners will deal with him. If they do not, then he will have to sell the buildings to anyone who will take them (probably to non-Christian groups such as the Muslims - TEC has form in that department).

The real question is whether the parishioners will deal with him - after all, why should they? He and his supporters have not shown the least graciousness or generosity in the matter so far. The parishioners owe them nothing.

Mind you, this may not become an issue yet. The good bishop acknolwedges in his full speech that he may not be getting the properties yet (showing that he is a lot smarter than some of his supporters who post on this site and don’t appear to know much about law). All he has ‘won’ is a first-instance decision by a single judge. If the parishes decide to appeal, then he won’t be getting the properties. It is up to the parishes.

January 31, 7:12 pm | [comment link]
7. MichaelA wrote:

“the impact of their occupation on those who chose to stay, many of whom had worshipped in those buildings as long or longer than No. 1’s daughter”

What ‘many’? Hardly anyone voted to remain affiliated with TEC, which was clearly going down the path of abandoning the Christian faith. And since they did not agree with the decision of the parish, their choices were clear - stay, and learn to live with the parish decision, or depart. Not promote law suits to seize property which did not belong to them or to TEC.

“The recovery does not depend on whether the departing factions file an appeal, No. 2.  It depends on the departing groups’ winning an appeal, an unlikely event given the nature of the decision.”

+Johnston knows a lot more than you do, so I suggest you actually read his speech, rather than telling us your personal fantasies. The truth is as the good bishop acknowledged - this decision decides nothing, unless the parishes choose to discontinue the fight and throw him the keys to a building he cannot maintain. Either way, they win and TEC loses.

“My guess is that they will not appeal, that they will ...”

Your guess is of course as worthless as various claims you have made to special knowledge over the years!

But I do agree with you on one point: if the parishes were to reach an accommodation with the liberals now and stay in the buildings, that would represent a major salvation for TEC - the bishop would have indeed snatched a victory (of sorts) from the jaws of defeat. So I hope and pray that the parishes will have the courage of their convictions to either (a) continue the fight, or (b) walk away and rent/build new churches. Leave the dead to bury their own dead, as it says in the Gospel.

January 31, 7:27 pm | [comment link]
8. MichaelA wrote:

I should add, my comments at #6 above were directed to NoVA Scout at #3, not David Handy at #5.

David, good points. I note that when the Ohio congregations lost their first instance decisions, they threw the keys to TEC and walked. Now the Diocese is trying to sell the properties, with little success. Whether that will also happen in Virginia, well, as you wisely put it, we’ll see.

January 31, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
9. New Reformation Advocate wrote:


Thanks for the clarifications.  I never doubted you were rebutting NoVA Scout, and I appreciate your kind words.  I’ll return the favor, and admit that you’re right that it’s really a stretch to call +Johnston’s restraint “gracious” or “generous” when it’s practically forced.  Still, as I noted above, the fact is that other bishops in TEC, faced with a similar no-brainer choice to make, made a different choice.  But I agree with you, it’s more accurate to call +Johnston’s stance realistic, or “not (being) stupid,” rather than giving him credit for being truly gracious.

Talk about a Pyrrhic victory!  A few more legal victories like this, and TEC will be as financially bankrupt as it is spiritually bankrupt.  Alas, “How are the mighty fallen!

That biblical allusion seems particularly fitting when you recall that it was David’s lament for King Saul, who went insane and finally committed suicide.  Alas, TEC’s whole senseless pursuit of these scandalous lawsuits is truly insane, and suicidal to boot.

David Handy+

February 1, 12:33 pm | [comment link]
10. slitch wrote:

Off topic comment edited by elf.

February 1, 1:02 pm | [comment link]
11. Sarah wrote:

Not certain what slitch means by ridiculing and demeaning people . . .
He speculated about why people made decisions.  Are slitch’s speculations the only ones that should be voiced on this blog?  Or only ones he agrees with?

Nonsense.  Slitch and most of the commenters on this blog don’t share belief in the same Gospel, so it’s understandable that the two parties would disagree on so many ideas, or of course about yet another revisionist heretical bishop like Bishop Johnston.

But prattling on about how it’s trashing other people just because the ideas represented by the two gospels are mutually antithetical is just silly.

And throwing in phrases like “in the name of the Risen Lord” just makes the gloss of pietistic phrases even more obvious!

February 1, 2:04 pm | [comment link]
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