Historic Ruling Halts Episcopal Attempt to Seize Control of Church Property
FAIRFAX, Va. – The 11 churches sued by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia responded to today’s Fairfax County Circuit Court ruling that the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9) applies to support their efforts to keep their property. The 11 churches named in the lawsuit are members of the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV).
“We are pleased with this initial victory today. We have maintained all along that The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia had no legal right to our property because the Virginia Division Statute says that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when there is a division within the denomination. Our churches’ own trustees hold title for the benefit of the congregations,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV.
“We urge our friends in the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church to respect the court’s ruling and join with us to begin a process of healing. These are also the wishes of the worldwide Anglican Communion, as prolonging this process – pitting Christian against Christian in court – does nothing to save one soul, strengthen one family, or help one person in need. Let us choose healing over litigation and peaceful co-existence over lawsuits, and let us devote all our resources to serving Christ and helping others around the world.”
Oakes continued, “We emphasize that we do not harbor any ill will towards anyone. In particular, we know there are many faithful Christians still in The Episcopal Church. We continue to pray for them and will continue to work together in as many ways as possible and cooperating in ministry projects like the Lamb Center.”
Rev. Jeff Cerar, Rector of St. Stephen’s in Heathsville, Va., one of the churches being sued, said, “The legal proceedings have been an unfortunate distraction to our churches, but we have not allowed this to interfere with our ministry of sharing the love of Christ and the life-transforming power of the Gospel.”
The Episcopal Church and the Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations in January 2007 and filed lawsuits against the Virginia churches, their ministers and their vestries. The decision of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese to redefine and reinterpret Scripture caused the 11 Anglican churches to sever their ties.
The Anglican District of Virginia (http://www.anglicandistrictofvirginia.org) is an association of Anglican congregations in Virginia. Its members are in full communion with constituent members of the Anglican Communion through its affiliation with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria and other Anglican Archbishops. ADV members are a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a community of 77 million people. ADV is dedicated to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples while actively serving in three main capacities: International Ministries, Evangelism, and Strengthening Families and Community. ADV is currently comprised of 21 member congregations.