(Living Church) Second Parish Settles in Virginia

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the Diocese of Virginia and several Anglican District of Virginia congregations approach a new round in court April 25, the diocese has reached a settlement with a second congregation.

Under the settlement, announced April 19 by the diocese and by Church of the Word, Gainesville, the parish keeps the property and the diocese keeps $1.95 million of a payment made by the Virginia Department of Transportation for construction-related damage to the property.

The settlement, like others reached in recent months, requires the parish to cut its ties with the Anglican Church in North America for five years. Church of the Word also must cut its ties to the Anglican District of Virginia, which will vote in May on whether to become a diocese of the ACNA.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)Episcopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: VirginiaTEC Departing Parishes* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

17 Comments
Posted April 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

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1. MichaelA wrote:

Yet another one.

Is TEC running out of money to run its law suits, by any chance?

April 20, 7:38 pm | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:

Yep!

April 20, 8:18 pm | [comment link]
3. sophy0075 wrote:

But note under the terms of this settlement, TEC received a big cash infusion from VDOT.

April 20, 9:59 pm | [comment link]
4. Statmann wrote:

TEC got about #2Million in cash.  At this rate per settlement TEC will never run out of funds to keep suing ACNA churches.  Statmann

April 20, 10:17 pm | [comment link]
5. MichaelA wrote:

Statmann,

But won’t they run out of ACNA churches to sue? As I understand it, TEC has never suggested that it has any cause of action against most of ACNA - not the REC, nor the APA nor most of CANA or AMiA. And certainly not against any congregation planted since the end of 2008.

So surely there aren’t all that many congregations that they can sue, and each time they reach a settlement that small number reduces by one?

I wonder if TEC started these law suits in order to terrorise other congregations into not leaving, and now they realise that it is a waste of money because their other congregations don’t leave, they just die out, or else they hunker down and ignore 815.

And perhaps it has also dawned on them that ACNA doesn’t need to cannibalise TEC in order to get more congregations…

April 21, 3:32 am | [comment link]
6. Katherine wrote:

What’s waiting is the issue of the big Virginia parishes—The Falls Church and Truro.  They’re nibbling away at the edges.

April 21, 7:58 am | [comment link]
7. NoVA Scout wrote:

MichaelA -in Virginia, the lawsuits were initiated by the departing groups who went to court to have the Episcopal properties deeded over to them under the provisions of a mid-19th century law that addressed Civil War era splits between parishes and national churches, some of which were, at that time, seen to be uncomfortably northern-oriented.  The Diocese and TEC responded in opposition to those actions and counter-claimed, seeking a declaration of their interests in the property.  So it’s not, at least in Virginia, a matter of the Diocese going around looking for people to sue.  The gantlet was tossed when the departing parishioners invoked the law and the state courts to take over the property.  The Virginia Supreme Court later determined that the so-called “Division Statute” did not apply to these circumstances.  What’s left then are the reactive actions from the Diocese in its efforts to regain access to the properties that the seceding groups have held (and continue to hold) to the exclusion of the non-departing Episcopalians and their clergy.  What you are seeing in the recent two settlements with smaller parishes is the run-up to scheduled trial later this month on the remaining disputes, including the ones mentioned by No. 6.  There is no obvious heavy hand being exercised by TEC in these two announced settlements.  They are, at least on the surface, between the Diocese and the seceding parties and bear earmarks of having been negotiated largely bilaterally.  TEC, as a party to the litigation, clearly must agree.  There is no indication that it has been balky in granting its assent.  The settlements seem to have attributes that we have seen in other geographies - some kind of payment for the property, and a non-affiliation commitment for a period of years with regard to CANA/ACNA.  This latter attribute is no doubt central to TEC’s over-arching principle, no doubt shared by the diocese) that there be no incentive or reward that would encourage factions to purport to leave, seize control of property, and then wait out litigation to a point at which settlement rewards them the material fruits of their separatist inclinations.  This principle seems sensible, rational, and essential to church unity both in the current context and in untold future sources of controversy.  If, in the absence of specific canons governing transfer of control of parish assets, a faction could, instead of simply leaving, encourage debate leading to a vote the processes of which the faction totally controls, and then cite a majority result on a given day as evidence of legal ownership, a Church structured like the Episcopal Church (or many others), would simply be riven across all history with flip flops in ownership and control of parishes. Conventioneering, straw polls (perhaps straw pols, also), propaganda, etc would be the order of the day, not worship.  This five-year restraint seems fairly modest, but essential.  Any longer term would probably be non-negotiable in any event.

April 21, 10:22 am | [comment link]
8. Cennydd13 wrote:

MichaelA, PB Schori has made it crystal clear that she will not tolerate another Anglican presence anywhere on her turf, and it’s a wonder that she hasn’t gone after the Continuing Anglicans as well as us in the ACNA.  Her ridiculous claims of TEC supremacy are an abomination and a stink in the nostrils of true Christians everywhere…..and ‘true Christian’ is a distinction that she cannot lay claim to.

April 21, 10:26 am | [comment link]
9. Sarah wrote:

RE: “This five-year restraint seems fairly modest, but essential.”

Yeh—it’s essential because of the fear and loathing among current TEC liberal leaders of credible competition.

I don’t blame ‘em for the fear and loathing—it’s understandable and nice to see all of this repeatedly publicly affirmed and in lots of varied media.

April 21, 2:53 pm | [comment link]
10. Cennydd13 wrote:

Yeah, Sarah, they’re just like her; they’re actually afraid of competition, because that competition has exposed them as the heretics and hypocrites that they are.

April 21, 5:52 pm | [comment link]
11. NoVA Scout wrote:

Sarah - I strongly doubt anyone at TEC thinks that these five-year non-affiliation provisions have any impact at all on the overall, long-term success of ACNA (or CANA) or whatever.  I guess it’s flattering to think so, if one is affiliated with those groups.  But I can’t imagine that anyone in either camp thinks that a five-year restraint will have much or even any impact overall, one way or the other.  The more likely explanation is the one I have assayed - that the Diocese is countering a business model whereby dissatisfied parishioners gain motivation to drum up fellow departees on the assumption that there is a waiting parallel structure and organization to take in the group and the property and that the latter can be had for nothing.  The common elements of the settlements suggest that the Diocese is, as a condition of allowing a group of departing parishioners to retain title, insisting that fair compensation be rendered, and that the ACNA/CANA/ADV structures not be the immediate beneficiaries of the departures.  I personally am not all that keen on the latter requirement on the previously expressed theory that if you’re willing to sell a church property at a particular price, it’s a bit much to try to control what’s done with it after you sell it.  But various churches do have those concerns, not just the Diocese of Virginia or the TEC.  In this case, I understand why this provision appears to be a core position of settlement for the Diocese (and presumably for TEC)  If the legal/business/other considerations surrounding the deal lead both sides to agree to such a restriction, well, that’s how contracts work.

April 21, 8:36 pm | [comment link]
12. MichaelA wrote:

What NoVA Scout, do you actually mean to tell me that somewhere in the USA there is actually a law suit that wasn’t initiated by TEC???? I am impressed!

The usual course is that TEC sues to take a congregation’s property from it (because, let’s face it, TEC is not going to keep congregations because they WANT to stay, is it? So its only course is to try to make congregations afraid to leave).

This might actually give your support for the liberalist agenda a veneer of respectability!

April 26, 6:59 pm | [comment link]
13. NoVA Scout wrote:

I don’t know what a “liberalist” agenda is, Michael.  I personally am a person of “conservative” (as best I can make out the meaning of such labels in these times of sloppy thinking) traits and instincts, both in the secular political world and theologically. In any event, I find the more “conservative” viewpoint to be that people who leave do not acquire property rights by their decision to depart.  I find it a rather radical (and, if translated into political terms, leftist) notion that I can take over property by deciding to leave an organisation.

April 27, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
14. MichaelA wrote:

NoVA,

I agree entirely. No-one acquires property rights by leaving!

April 27, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
15. NoVA Scout wrote:

If it were just the two of us, then, there would be no litigation, and I wouldn’t be worshipping in space borrowed from kind Presbyterian brothers and sisters in Christ while folks who decided to leave my Diocese for another denomination took over my church space and refuse to permit continued Episcopal services there.

April 28, 7:09 am | [comment link]
16. MichaelA wrote:

Given that the “folks” are the congregation, that the property is theirs, and that they are entitled to change affiliations if their diocese fails to champion the gospel, what is the problem?

April 28, 6:44 pm | [comment link]
17. NoVA Scout wrote:

I guess the dispute forms around whether the people who leave are an ownership unit that you refer to as “the congregation” and how they acquire superior rights to those who stay.  Of course you are right that people are entitled to change affiliations to new denominations or new religions.  You are also right that there is absolutely no problem wiht that.  But in this case we have two groups, both of whom “champion the gospel” and the question becomes how does the more numerous one that severs its former ties get to evict the less numerous one that keeps them.

April 29, 6:27 am | [comment link]


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