Total visitors right now: 139

Logged-in members:

Katherine
tjmcmahon

Click here to check your private inbox.

Welcome to Stand Firm!

BREAKING: Virginia Judge Rules in Favor of Parishes

Thursday, April 3, 2008 • 11:11 pm

“The Court agrees that it was major divisions such as those within the Methodist and Presbyterian churches that prompted the passage of 57-9. However, it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude…”


Judge’s ruling on applicability of division statute [5mb PDF]. The file may take a minute or so to download - please be patient.


213 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook
Comments:

Well, HALLELUIAH!!  It finally happened….TEC and the Diocese of Virginia got their ears boxed!

[1] Posted by Cennydd on 04-03-2008 at 11:24 PM • top

Yahooooooooooooooo!!!  That’s quite the list of reasons in the judge’s conclusion.  Take that!!

[2] Posted by Libbie+ on 04-03-2008 at 11:30 PM • top

Well done CANA parishes, leaders, parishioners and lawyers.  My favorite bit:

The Court agrees that it was major divisions such as those within the Methodist and Presbyterian churches that prompted the passage of 57-9. However, it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude

[3] Posted by wildfire on 04-03-2008 at 11:34 PM • top

Thank God.

the Court finds that the evidence of a “division” within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion is not only compelling, but overwhelming.

Hehe….ya think?


Still a lot of balls in the air, constitutionality (not looking good for TEC by this judges estimate), validity of parish votes, etc. But that’s one huge hurdle they just jumped.

[4] Posted by Rocks on 04-03-2008 at 11:37 PM • top

“There’ll be a wailing and gnashing of teeth, and for them that haven’t teeth’ll be provided!”
                    Dr. Ian Paisley

[5] Posted by RMBruton on 04-03-2008 at 11:39 PM • top

Praise God and continue to pray for God’s blessings going forward in the process.

[6] Posted by johnp on 04-03-2008 at 11:43 PM • top

This is, potentially, very bad news. If the parties doing business at Club 815 are not able to intimidate then can we all expect an intensified campaign of whining? 

<Lord, God of the ages, Who knows the thoughts and intents of all, so let the hearts of those involved in these matters to be revealed to honor Your holy Name,further the spread of Your Gospel, by the power of Your Spirit, O Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!>

[7] Posted by Robert Easter on 04-03-2008 at 11:44 PM • top

they will have to appeal…

[8] Posted by ewart-touzot on 04-03-2008 at 11:45 PM • top

Sooooo—how much of the Millennium Development funds (or was it designated trust funds) did TEC spend trying to intimidate this parish?

[9] Posted by AngloTex on 04-03-2008 at 11:47 PM • top

Sorry, but this bears repeating:

...the Court finds that the evidence of a “division” within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion is not only compelling, but overwhelming.

Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns!

[10] Posted by Randy Muller on 04-03-2008 at 11:49 PM • top

Wrong brackets hid the rest:

“Lord God, Who knows the thoughts and intents or our hearts, so cause the hearts of those involved in these endeavors to be revealed so as to honor Your Name and advance Your Gospel, by the power of Your Spirit, through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, O Father.  Amen!”

[11] Posted by Robert Easter on 04-03-2008 at 11:50 PM • top

From page 4:

I. BACKGROUND
This litigation arises out of profound discord within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion itself. By all accounts, this internal conflict has been brewing for many years.3 However, the evidence produced at trial indicates that the ultimate catalyst of the conflict, triggering a series of events culminating in the present litigation, was the ECUSA 2003 General Convention.

[12] Posted by Piedmont on 04-03-2008 at 11:50 PM • top

I wonder if the judge will be invited into the listening process?

[13] Posted by Thomistic on 04-03-2008 at 11:53 PM • top

Apparently a disinterested party who listened to/read the evidence and came to an unbiased conclusion. Wait for the appeals before rejoicing, for this may be but a candle in a blowing wind.

[14] Posted by tomcornelius on 04-03-2008 at 11:54 PM • top

from page 63:

v. A Comment Regarding the Expert Testimony
This Court views each of the four experts who testified as sincere professionals, each bringing a wealth of expertise to their task, and each attempting in good faith to assist the Court in its obligation to interpret 57-9. Having said that, the Court finds the testimony of the two CANA congregation experts-Dr. Valeri and Dr. Irons-to be more persuasive and convincing. The Court found the opinions of the CANA experts to be tied directly to the particular and pertinent historical record relevant to the instant case. Some of the significant opinions offered by ECUSA/Diocese experts did not appear to be so tethered; rather, they appeared to be expressions of opinion based on the experts’ general knowledge. Moreover, this Court found the testimony of CANA’s expert, Dr. Irons, to be especially helpful to the Court in understanding the early history of 57-9.

[15] Posted by Piedmont on 04-03-2008 at 11:55 PM • top

JHGraves,
  No need to cut the MDG Goals when they still have some money they can cut from Missionary efforts…just wait till they push the Dioceses to do the same.

Costs just went through the roof for TEC too. Not only will they need to litigate the appeal but they will need to litigate votes and property for each parish now. Plus they’ll be on the defensive the whole time now.

[16] Posted by Rocks on 04-03-2008 at 11:57 PM • top

From page 81:

1. Division in the Diocese
The Court finds that, under 57-9(A}, a division has occurred within the Diocese. Over 7% of the churches in the Diocese, 11% of its baptized membership and 18% of the diocesan average Sunday attendance of 32,000 have left the Diocese in the past two years.

[17] Posted by Piedmont on 04-03-2008 at 11:58 PM • top

I love this quote, first line in the summery:

The only way in which this Court could find a “division” not to exist among the pertinent entities in this case is to define the term so narrowly and restrictively as to effectively define the term out of existence.

Bless the Lord for this mercy, and may He protect us from arrogance, or a feeling of entitlement. May this aid us with healing and to the Mission of God, not to the mission of a few men.

Yours in Christ,
jacob

[18] Posted by Jacobsladder on 04-04-2008 at 12:00 AM • top

It’ll be very interesting to hear what the California Supreme Court has to say, now that Judge Bellows has issued his ruling.  If I were the folks at 815, I’d be chewing my nails to the quick!

[19] Posted by Cennydd on 04-04-2008 at 12:00 AM • top

From page 82:

2. Division in the ECUSA
In addition, this Court finds that a division has occurred within the ECUSA. The record demonstrates that numerous congregations, clergy, and members have separated from ECUSA as a result of internal strife within ECUSA, in order to establish a new “polity” for others to join. Since CANA was formed in 2005, about 60 congregations, comprising 12,000 members, affiliated with CANA, and over 10,000 of these members had previously been in ECUSA congregations. These members come from multiple states within the United States, and many of the congregations that joined CANAjoined as “entire congregations.” In addition, of the 100 clergy who have joined CANA, 80 were formerly clergy within the ECUSA.

[20] Posted by Piedmont on 04-04-2008 at 12:01 AM • top

from the conclusion:

...it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude,

Gold, pure gold

[21] Posted by David Ould on 04-04-2008 at 12:01 AM • top

From pages 82-83:

3. Division within the Anglican Communion
Finally, the Court finds that there has been a split within the Anglican Communion that also qualifies as a division under 57-9(A). Numerous leaders within the Anglican Communion have referred to “divisions” within the Anglican Communion in various official documents, as well as the need for reconciliation among its members.82 This satisfies the first portion of the Court’s definition of “division,” which is “a split ... or rupture in a religious denomination.” The second portion of the definition, which involves separation and the formation of an alternative polity, is satisfied by the Church of Nigeria’s historic alteration of its constitution, which allowed for the formation of CANA, and cut all financial and relational ties with ECUSA. This alteration of its constitution also altered the Church of Nigeria’s relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion, stating that the Church of Nigeria considered itself to be affiliated only with those who “adhered to the historic faith, doctrine, and discipline of the Anglican Communion,” rather than simply with “all provinces that relate to the See of Canterbury.

[22] Posted by Piedmont on 04-04-2008 at 12:04 AM • top

From page 83:

VI.) Conclusion:
ECUSAjDiocese argue that the historical evidence demonstrates that it is only the “major” or “great” divisions within 19th-century churches that prompted the passage of 57-9, such as those within the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. ECUSAjDiocese argue that the current “dispute” before this Court is not such a “great” division, and, therefore, this is yet another reason why 57-9(A) should not apply. The Court agrees that it was major divisions such as those within the Methodist and Presbyterian churches that prompted the passage of 57-9. However, it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude, especially given the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country, the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves “taking sides” against their brethren, the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to “walk apart” in the language of the Church, the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines, the rapidity with which the ECUSA’s problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world, and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations. Whatever may be the precise threshold for a dispute to constitute a division under 57-9(A), what occurred here qualifies.
For the foregoing reasons, this Court finds that the CANA Congregations have properly invoked 57-9(A). Further proceedings will take place in accordance with the Order issued today.

[23] Posted by Piedmont on 04-04-2008 at 12:08 AM • top

Wow, it’s been a long day. I’m off to bed. Remember, folks: This is huge victory at this point in the battle, but the war isn’t over by a long shot. 815 will appeal, and this may well end up at SCOTUS.

My request: Be gracious, be circumspect, be thankful, and be humble. I’ll see you in the morning…

[24] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-04-2008 at 12:08 AM • top

This judge was able to see what so many Bishops are blind to.

[25] Posted by Terwilliger+ on 04-04-2008 at 12:21 AM • top

Praise the Lord!!  Could not be happier for these faithful Virginians!  Glad I am up late tonight!  Blessings to all of you in Northern VA who are keeping the light shining brightly in the apostolic church of Jesus Christ.

[26] Posted by BettyLee Payne on 04-04-2008 at 12:23 AM • top

Greg, you may be off to bed but I just woke up for some inexplicable reason and, not being able to go back to sleep, opened my lap top and found this incredible news.  As a member of Truro, I am so overcome at this moment I can only say, “Let us pray”............

[27] Posted by Petra on 04-04-2008 at 12:27 AM • top

Think about this: The departing congregations were willing to pay the Diocese of Virginia cash for an amicable separation. KJS barged in and nixed that. Now ECUSA and the Diocese have run up big legal bills and lost. If the trial judge’s ruling stands, ECUSA and the diocese get no property, no cash, no nothing. Sic semper tyrannis!

[28] Posted by Irenaeus on 04-04-2008 at 12:29 AM • top

Sometimes those of us in the West get the news first grin  All good stuff!  Kudos to you southerners!!

[29] Posted by Peter on 04-04-2008 at 12:32 AM • top

Praise be to God! Congratulations ADV.

[30] Posted by Keith Bramlett on 04-04-2008 at 12:49 AM • top

#28

Not only “no property, no cash, no nothing” but TEC and the diocese also may have to pay the other side’s legal costs. We’ll have to see what’s included in the “other proceedings” the judge mentioned.

Next big question: is the division statute itself unconstitutional?

r.w.

[31] Posted by r.w. on 04-04-2008 at 12:52 AM • top

No doubt this is an important milestone in the case, and an impressive first victory for those who are trying to bring TEC to its senses.  It bears mention, however, that the Court has reserved judgment on the constitutionality of the Virginia division statute as the Court is proposing to apply it to this case, and arguments on that issue will be held at the end of May.  By breaking it out this way (“here’s how I propose to apply the statute, now tell me if that’s unconstitutional”), the Court is asking TEC to lay out the full extent of its claimed “polity” as determining the ability of parishes, rather than people, to leave TEC.  So the real victory is yet to come, but I have no difficulty in predicting that TEC’s “polity” will not trump the rights of individual parishes to determine their destiny in the Anglican Communion.  (In other words, individual parishes do not have to submit to 815 unless they want to of their own accord, after a vote freely taken.)

[32] Posted by Chancellor on 04-04-2008 at 01:07 AM • top

I am most intrigued by this finding:

As used in 57-9(A), CANA, the American Arm of the Church of Uganda, the Church of Nigeria, ADV, ECUSA, and the Diocese are all “branches” of the Anglican Communion, and CANA and ADV are “branches” of ECUSA and the Diocese.

(at pp 78-9, my emphasis added).

Judge Bellows has written a clear, logical opinion.  I will re-read it again tomorrow, when I can think clearer, but so far, I find nothing to quibble with.

[33] Posted by William P. Sulik on 04-04-2008 at 01:41 AM • top

Praise God…Virginia you are all in our prayers tonight.
God Bless You.
Intercessor

[34] Posted by Intercessor on 04-04-2008 at 01:46 AM • top

I’m trying to imagine ENS’s spin.

[35] Posted by Enough on 04-04-2008 at 01:51 AM • top

Can somebody remind me, what CANA gains when and if this statute is indeed held to be constitutional?

[36] Posted by yohanelejos on 04-04-2008 at 03:29 AM • top

I couldn’t sleep, so halfheartedly tuned into my email to find THIS.
WHOA!
It’s worth being up at 3:30 AM for this glorious news!
How lucky I am to have insomnia this night.  So often I feel as though God has awakened me in the middle of the night to pray for something, and I generally do it in bed.  How glad I am to have gotten up!

[37] Posted by HeartAfire on 04-04-2008 at 03:32 AM • top

Good news for the parishes. So sad for the Communion that it has come to this.

[38] Posted by Marcus on 04-04-2008 at 03:53 AM • top

This is magnificent, praise God!

Question for attorneys: Does this ruling, if upheld, set any precedence for parishes in states like California or NY? Or is it something with primarily influential value rather than precedent?

[39] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 04-04-2008 at 03:55 AM • top

#37, The right to own and possess their property. They win. If it isn’t held to be constitutional, then they haven’t lost, necessarily. It just means that more litigation follows as the Virginia courts try to determine other, more constitutionally neutral principles on which to decide ownership.

I’m even more Slack than Bob

[40] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-04-2008 at 04:02 AM • top

#40. No. Virginia’s division statute appears to be peculiar to Virginia. Most other states use other principles for determining church ownership. The court’s decision is of legal significance only in Virginia itself.

I get woolly here

[41] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-04-2008 at 04:04 AM • top

Wonderful opinion, in many ways. I can’t imagine the judge ruling the statute itself unconstitutional, so this is a very bad day indeed for the diocese and 815

I wonder how Peter Lee feels now about wasting millions of dollars of diocesan money on these lawsuits?  As he was effectively forced by the Presiding Bishop into doing this, I wonder how cozy that relationship is now?  And how do you tell the average parishioner that the diocese is really being a good steward of that money you’re giving such that you should give more?  And what if you’re a bishop in another diocese being pressured by the PB and her hapless chancellor to bring a lawsuit: would you?  The repercussions of this will be far greater than we can imagine, I suspect.

[42] Posted by RomeAnglican on 04-04-2008 at 04:28 AM • top

Although state laws about division differ, I hope this is a step toward realignment nationally beyond the courts as CANA and other similar groups can add new and TEC parishes and grow.

[43] Posted by JRandall on 04-04-2008 at 05:11 AM • top

A New Day Has Dawned.
The Rabbit.

[44] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 04-04-2008 at 05:24 AM • top

The remarks about many of us being awakened during the night, myself included, and opening oursels to spirit led prayer and meditation is even more affirming to me than a judge’s opinion as to “what is truth?”

Stand firm, saints of God! or, as they say out her, “Cowboy up!”

Still ridin’ for the brand. . .

[45] Posted by Bob Maxwell+ on 04-04-2008 at 05:49 AM • top

Psalm 118:23

Would that some common sense now result in our affairs.

[46] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 04-04-2008 at 05:57 AM • top

I’ve been up all night mopping a twice flooded kitchen and study. This is good news! God is good.

The rain has finally stopped and now to bed.

[47] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-04-2008 at 06:02 AM • top

http://www.pwcweb.com/ecw/tec_to_nigeria.html

You can read more about the inside story of how these Churches worked WITH the Diocese of Virginia to solve the separation amicably at.

http://www.pwcweb.com/ecw/tec_to_nigeria.html

[48] Posted by Glendermott on 04-04-2008 at 06:07 AM • top

Alleluia!

[49] Posted by In Newark on 04-04-2008 at 06:18 AM • top

I wonder if the judge will be invited into the listening process?

Oh, he heard all right.

Then, he laid down the law.

Thanks be to God.

P.S.: Mr. Stephens, Esq., get your suit on behalf of Bishop Cox to court NOW.

[50] Posted by bigjimintx on 04-04-2008 at 06:20 AM • top

Thanks be to God for wisdom and fairness on the bench. And may God bless the ministies of these CANA parishes richly.

[51] Posted by texanglican on 04-04-2008 at 06:21 AM • top

“Numerous leaders within the Anglican Communion have referred to “divisions” within the Anglican Communion in various official documents, as well as the need for reconciliation among its members.”

Katherine Jefferts Schori herself talked about the “sad division” a year ago. I always thought that it was a bizarre legal strategy - if this ain’t division, what is?

Another black eye for David Booth Beers. That makes two shiners in a month’s time.

People are talking about an appeal. Is that relatively cheap or expensive? Might they be saying, why throw good money after bad?

[52] Posted by robroy on 04-04-2008 at 06:24 AM • top

#30 Sasha - I pray that God will give you strength, hope, and peace as you walk with Him in whatever circumstances you face.

[53] Posted by Cathy_Lou on 04-04-2008 at 06:29 AM • top

#53, robroy, I truly wish they wouldn’t appeal. It’s wasteful and foolish. But given the recent past behaviour of the Episcopal Church, can there be any doubt in your mind that they will appeal?

My prayer has been and will continue to be that the hard hearts of the Presiding Bishop and her advisers will be softened and that she will come to know the mind of God, repent of her prior actions and endeavour forthwith to live in charity with those who disagree with her.

It’s possible that will happen. We have to hope that it will. But it isn’t likely.

I fear His Justice. I pray for His Mercy.

[54] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-04-2008 at 06:30 AM • top

Very appropriate quote from a reader at Titus:

While this is great news for the Virginia parishes it grieves me that so much of God’s resources is being spent on lawyers. It is my prayer that Bp. Lee will return to the more Christian process that was in place when the leaders at 815 determined that Christian charity should be replaced by a secular legal process. It is my prayer that once the present unpleasantness is past us that we might find ways Episcopalians and continuing Anglicans to work together on Christian projects even though we will be members of different churches.

Because I only post very irregularly I want to ask posters here to remain charitable to those who oppose us. The glee and joy that our opponents showed over the “unusual” recent events in San Joaquin is not the kind of response I hope we have to this preliminary victory.

[55] Posted by robroy on 04-04-2008 at 06:39 AM • top
[56] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 04-04-2008 at 06:46 AM • top

After a joyful, but sleepless night I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all of our attorneys, but, in particular, our lead attorneys for their masterful handling of the trial.  I attended all but one day of the proceedings and their presence was that of Christian men of the highest caliber.  The results demonstrate that their ability to put this case on hit the highest possible mark.  Thanks be to God for sending us these men!

Also, no one could have sat in Judge Bellows courtroom and left with anything but the understanding that he was a man of complete competence and fairness.  Thanks be to God for his selection and presence as the judge.

And, lastly, Greg, thank you for hanging in there with this report.  It has meant a lot to those of us in the Virginia Congregations who have waited, watched and prayed for this positive report for the past many months.

[57] Posted by Petra on 04-04-2008 at 06:46 AM • top

I agree, Mousetalker #55. The March of Folly rumbles on. “Yes, King George, the colonists are being dealt with.” “Yes, President Johnson, the conflict in Vietnam is going superbly.” Why don’t leaders simply stop, admit error and get back on the proper path?

I am doing some cross posting but I thought this was pretty good. Division unlike pornography (“I know it when I see it”) can be objectively measured, which is precisely what the judge did:

The Court finds that, under 57-9(A}, a division has occurred within the Diocese. Over 7% of the churches in the Diocese, 11% of its baptized membership and 18% of the diocesan average Sunday attendance of 32,000 have left the Diocese in the past two years.

[58] Posted by robroy on 04-04-2008 at 06:49 AM • top

Sadly the spin has already begun on the “hob/d” listserve.

[59] Posted by bob+ on 04-04-2008 at 06:56 AM • top

I am so not looking forward to reading the HoBD in the next few days/weeks/months. There are some truly godly posters there. But the vast majority are hard hearted, stiff necked, self righteous hypocrites, totally lacking in mercy, grace or charity, just like me.

When I go to church, I get incensed.

[60] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-04-2008 at 07:05 AM • top

Interesting, neither the NYT nor the Washington Post have this news thus far.

[61] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 04-04-2008 at 07:10 AM • top

Robroy (#56) - Thank you for that wonderful quote from T19.

I will pray that Bishop Lee (and all Bishops under pressure from the PB) return to a more charitable approach to those who must leave TEC for conscience sake. IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. It is my hope that the breakaway churches in the Dio of Va will also have a heart to do this without continuing costly litigation and a win/lose mentality.  They were gracious and fair in their original negotiation with Bishop Lee, and may they show the depth of that graciousness by returning to negotiations again.
Carrie in MD

[62] Posted by cityonahill on 04-04-2008 at 07:12 AM • top

This is great news.  One of the best things about this opinion by Judge Bellows is that it is so clear and articulate on his findings of the facts.  When the appeal goes forward, that is of tremendous help because it is rare for an appellate court to overturn findings of fact.  They will, of course, look at the constitutionality issue.  But here also, Judge Bellows opinion, which favorably compares the present situation to the divisions that brought this statute into existence, will be helpful.  There’s a long road ahead, but give thanks for a superb trial court ruling and opinion.

Here’s a link to the brief Washington Times story out this morning:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080404/NATION/650759948/1001

[63] Posted by hanks on 04-04-2008 at 07:23 AM • top

Carrie I would submit that the churches that left have nothing to negotiate about or for. The judge ruled in their favor. Any funds that Bp. Lee might have received from negotiations were spent on the lawsuit. When you think about that, it realy cost him double.
B+

[64] Posted by bob+ on 04-04-2008 at 07:27 AM • top

That should be “really” of course.

[65] Posted by bob+ on 04-04-2008 at 07:29 AM • top

Sasha,
I’m saying a prayer for you.  (((hugs)))

[66] Posted by Carol R on 04-04-2008 at 07:33 AM • top

Praise God. 

Bishop Lee, please go to the Presiding Bishop and tell her that it’s over, that Virginia, at least, should go back to where we were when you had a commission on amicable separation so that each side may go forward in its own way, in as much friendship as possible. until someday when the Lord calls us back together again.

[67] Posted by Johng on 04-04-2008 at 07:38 AM • top

#62—Give it a few hours to be online—Papers go to press about midnight to be distributed overnight (so like me who poked around at 11, would have missed all this), thus any new takes a little while in the AM. The Washington Times has something, so competition over ideology the Post should soon.

[68] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-04-2008 at 07:38 AM • top

#40, while this decision, which interprets and applies a particular state statute, technically is not binding precedent upon courts in other states, I have a hunch that the fact-finding and the language in this superbly-written opinion will be quoted extensively—and persuasively—in litigation around the country.  The opposition will argue that it is mere “dicta” but the persuasive power will remain. Makes Anglicat PROUD to be a card-carrying member of the Virginia Bar Association! grin

http://www.anglikin.blogspot.com

[69] Posted by Anglicat on 04-04-2008 at 07:39 AM • top

Is there any prospect of a “second wave” of congregations leaving DioVa in light of this ruling?

[70] Posted by KevinBabb on 04-04-2008 at 07:40 AM • top

Did I miss something or is there NOTHING on ENS about this extremely important event????

[71] Posted by no longer NH Episcopalian on 04-04-2008 at 07:53 AM • top

We’re also going to have to wait for our Worthy Opponents to catch up, only Simon and Jim have posted anything and TA has four comments ... it should be an interesting weekend on that front, especially after such Love about actually upholding what is written at Jake’s earlier this week.

[72] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-04-2008 at 07:55 AM • top

Give ENS a bit. I doubt they work late and the ruling came in very late last night. They also will probably want a quote form the Chancellor and the PB. That will take time as well.

Get Bach to where you once belonged.

[73] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-04-2008 at 07:55 AM • top

So, I hope that those of us lay members in other states who have no influence within the “polity” of TEC can feel vindicated in their decision to simply “walk apart” from TEC, which reinforces the concept of (and legal recognition of) DIVISION.

[74] Posted by MasterServer on 04-04-2008 at 08:05 AM • top

Some days ago I posted a comment to Baby Blue who was depressed over the “mean, mean, mean” thing Beers did by releasing a flood of summonses to depositions prior to the resolution of the motion at hand. I opined that Miz Kate and Dave Double D figured out that they were going to loose, and big, and were doing a last little terrorism before the news was out. Further, their just bizarre and indefensable behavior in Dio of San J, the +Cox deposition, and the +John-David affair was to me the same sort of thing. Last minute unlawful tactics based on their realizing they were going to loose one big, really big, that could stop any further thuggery.
There is an air of desperation about them. Smoke is coming from the bearings.

I am gratified with the Judge’s reliance on the brilliant series of moves by ++Peter Akinola that illustrated the reality of division. What a giant of a man he is. How insignificant by comparison are his North American detractors.

[75] Posted by teddy mak on 04-04-2008 at 08:13 AM • top

Matt Kennedy #40

I agree with mousetalker and others that this has no precedential value beyond Virginia.  California is the whole enchilada in that regard.  The most influential state court in the nation will be making a decision on issues that will be relevant to all states.

[76] Posted by wildfire on 04-04-2008 at 08:25 AM • top

Waking up to this news is wonderful.  Looking at the time stamps from all these posts is very amusing. 

“Keep watch dear Lord with those who work or watch or weep this night….”

I hope you all are getting good sleep now.  Peace be with you.

[77] Posted by Saint Dumb Ox on 04-04-2008 at 08:27 AM • top

Amen.  Prayers and thankgiving for those of you who defended this particular stone bridge (definitely not a “little” one).  This is only the first step on a very long road, but it is a good beginning.
TJ

[78] Posted by tjmcmahon on 04-04-2008 at 08:56 AM • top

To my Virginia Brothers and Sisters:

Congratulations!  I am happy for all of you.

Greg:

Thanks for the great e-mail.

[79] Posted by Eclipse on 04-04-2008 at 08:57 AM • top

Watch out faithful Christians - hell hath no fury like a PB scorned!

God Bless You Faithful Witnesses of God’s Word in the Anglian Diocese of Virginia!!!!!

[80] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 04-04-2008 at 09:04 AM • top

Although this may have no legal effect in other states, it might cause a different Bishop to think twice the next time the Presiding Bishop says, “don’t settle, take them to court, we will win”.

[81] Posted by JustOneVoice on 04-04-2008 at 09:45 AM • top

As DavidH mentioned, also key is the legality of the vote taken.  The statute states:
“If a division has heretofore occurred or shall hereafter occur in a church or religious society, to which any such congregation whose property is held by trustees is attached, the members of such congregation over 18 years of age may, by a vote of a majority of the whole number, determine to which branch of the church or society such congregation shall thereafter belong. Such determination shall be reported to the circuit court of the county or city, wherein the property held in trust for such congregation or the greater part thereof is; and if the determination be approved by the court, it shall be so entered in the court’s civil order book, and shall be conclusive as to the title to and control of any property held in trust for such congregation, and be respected and enforced accordingly in all of the courts of the Commonwealth.”  I have italicized some particularly words here.  I do not know if the congregations involved had a majority of the whole number of eligible voters or only those present or if the statute should be read to require a super-majority.  The ruling states that this issue will be handled at a subsequent date.

My own take on this is this judge’s ruling is very very restrained.  He is dealing with 57-9 and only 57-9

 

“This Court describes in considerable detail the evidentiary foundation for its finding that a “division” under 57-9(A) has occurred. In doing so, this Court emphasizes that no statement, expression or comment in this opinion is intended by the Court to express a view on the substance or the merits of the matters giving rise to the division. The Circuit Court is a secular institution of government and it is not entitled or permitted to have any view or opinion on a matter of religious orthodoxy.”

He is not dealing with whether 57-9 is constitutional.  On the surface, it looks like a positive ruling for the CANA congregations and certainly affirms the CANA attorneys argument that the Anglican Communion has divided.  (See particularly p. 38 of the ruling, Letter from +Akinola 5/6/07 heavily quoted.  The CANA attorneys argued that there were two branches of the Communion one led by +Cantuar, the other headed by +Akinola and, for the purposes of 57-9, the judge appears to agree.  I don’t think anybody expected that, no matter what the Court ruled, the case wouldn’t be appealed.  Round 1, on 59-7 as written, to CANA/Nigeria

[82] Posted by EmilyH on 04-04-2008 at 09:51 AM • top

EmilyH, you’re funny.

The part you quote above:

the members of such congregation over 18 years of age may, <u>by a vote of a majority of the whole number</u>, determine to which branch of the church or society such congregation shall thereafter belong.

is funny, given TEC’s interpretation of their own canons.  Because according to TEC, the reading of “by a vote of a majority of the whole number” can mean one thing one day and another thing another day. 

Thankfully, the courts of the US are not usually as duplicitous as TEC.

[83] Posted by Saint Dumb Ox on 04-04-2008 at 10:13 AM • top

Te Deum laudemus
.
.
.
Gloria in exelsis Deo
.
.
.
Gloria Patri et Filii et Spiriti Sancti.  AMEN.

[84] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 04-04-2008 at 10:20 AM • top

[7] Robert Easter,

You wrote

This is, potentially, very bad news. If the parties doing business at Club 815 are not able to intimidate then can we all expect an intensified campaign of whining?

The news could have been much worse. After all, hearing protection (even if you spring for Bose™ “Noise-Cancelling” headsets for everyone on the ADV side of the issue) will be a lot less expensive than any of the other identified alternatives. wink

What’s more, this is an opportunity for free entertainment for those of us who derive some sense of satisfied accomplishment (however warped you may deem that to be) from pointedly impassive and dismissive silence in response to whiners. wink wink

Blessings and regards,
Martial Artist

—————
P.S., From my last sentence you should, be able to guess what I consider one form of amusement.

[85] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 04-04-2008 at 10:21 AM • top

Been waiting for Emily H to check in.  I wondered what kind of spin she would put on this.  Let’s see how closely it aligns to ENS spin.

[86] Posted by no longer NH Episcopalian on 04-04-2008 at 10:24 AM • top

I’ve read about half of the report, but I find it amazing that TEC literally made the case for the ruling but never realized it in their letters and testimony. Just goes to show they don’t get it and believe ALL IS WELL.

[87] Posted by Festivus on 04-04-2008 at 10:42 AM • top

As a “left coaster” and a member of the Diocese of San Joaquin, I am late getting the news but am nevertheless overjoyed. Once again, right has ruled over might. Pray God that KJS and mr beers will eventually find the Grace to begin to wonder if they could, just possibly, be wrong. And that they might then have the courage to admit their error and move away from it. In the meantime, aleluia!
desertpadre

[88] Posted by desertpadre on 04-04-2008 at 10:48 AM • top

Sorry, Emily, that you could not have been with us during November-December 2006 through the Discernment Process and the actual vote:
The roles of membership were culled using the standard of the Diocese of Virginia as to certification of members.  The lists derived from that careful culling were used at the poll stations when the vote was taken and proper identification was required in order to vote. (I manned a poll station on several occasions at Truro.)
Hence, a vote of a majority of the whole number was taken.  Truro voted by a majority of 92% of the whole number to leave The Episcopal Church of the United States.  The Virginia Congregations then submitted the votes for certification with the court as required by 57-9.  How ironic is it that Bishop Lee later incorrectly claimed that action of submission of required certification began the lawsuit.  Do we attribute that to Episcopal spin or to his inability to keep up with the facts or his lack of knowledge of the difference between a required submission and a filing of a lawsuit?  Your choice.

[89] Posted by Petra on 04-04-2008 at 10:57 AM • top

18% of the Average Sunday Attendence.

Wow.  Just plain wow.

If I were Bishop Lee I’d be VERY upset with the Presiding Plaintiff right now.  Not only is did she force his diocese into what has proven to be a poor legal, financial and public relations move, but she has completly ignored his power as one of the three senior bishops to shoot down the deposition of Bishop’s Cox and Bishop Duncan.  If I recall, he was one of the ones who voted against inhibition of Bishop Duncan until he actually does abandon TEC.  It seems he makes to occasional effort at doing the right thing.  As Luke Skywalker would say, “There is still good in him.”  Unfortuantly I just don’t see him doing the metaphorical equivelent of throwing Emperor Palantine down a deep, deep pit.

[90] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 10:57 AM • top
[91] Posted by The Pilgrim on 04-04-2008 at 11:07 AM • top

Rev. Kennedy (#40) and Mark McCall (#77). The rulings of Virginia state courts (trial court or state Supreme Court) are not binding precedents in other states. However, they can be “presuasive authority” for other states to use when they handle similar disputes. While California does not have a statute similar to the Virginia “Division” statute, other findings in Judge bellows’ opinion about the development of the division within TEC and the Anglican Communion since 2003 can be used by the California courts.

I am not sure that, at this point, the litigation has developed a Federal question permitting appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Virginia Supreme Court may have the final say concerning this litigation.

Mark McCall (#77) a quibble: the California Supreme Court is not the most influential state high court in the USA, because it is simply too liberal.

[92] Posted by Publius on 04-04-2008 at 11:08 AM • top

From page 3:

Rather, the definition of “division” adopted by this Court is a definition which the Court finds to be consistent with the language of the statute, its purpose and history, and the very limited caselaw that exists. Given this definition, the Court finds that the evidence of a “division” within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion is not only compelling, but overwhelming.

[93] Posted by Piedmont on 04-04-2008 at 11:10 AM • top

Stand Firm readers may be interested in the process for handling the inevitable APPEALS of this case.

(Im not a Virginia lawyer, and await correction from those who are, but I’ll take a first stab at this to make a point about how the case would reach the federal courts.)

1. The trial court will resolve the remaining issues (e.g., validity of Virginia division statute under the U.S. Constitution) and enter judgment in the case.

2. Insofar as the judgment goes against any party in the case, that party can appeal. The appeal would (as best I can tell) go to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

3. Parties who lost there could ask the Virginia Supreme Court to review the case. The court would have discretion whether or not to take the case (but I suspect it would).

4. Once the case has gone through the Virginia state courts, the ONLY appeal is to the U.S. Supreme Court and then only on federal questions such as the constitutionality of the Virginia division statute.

[94] Posted by Irenaeus on 04-04-2008 at 11:16 AM • top

I do not know if the congregations involved had a majority of the whole number of eligible voters or only those present or if the statute should be read to require a super-majority

I’d be very surprised if they were inept enough to pull what Schori and DBB pulled with Bishop Cox. But if they did, this court is not the HOB, to let such dishonesty/illegality have a pass.

[95] Posted by sanjuan on 04-04-2008 at 11:19 AM • top

After reading through to page 46 of the opinion (I’m going to finish it, but this much is clear, this deep into the opinion), I’ve come to an important conclusion: the reason these congregations are going to beat the Presiding Litigator is because of the 1867 Virginia statute, Va. Code Ann. § 57-9.

Flag-planter Step: How many Episcopal/Anglican churches have influential people in their congregations?  How many include state legislators?  As we all know, the answer is A LOT of them.  I propose that every congregation with a state legislator in their congregation (reasserters only need apply), introduce, at the next session of their house of the legislature, a clone of Virginia’s § 57-9 appropriately tailored to their State’s law.  If you don’t have a legislator in your midst, then organize a lobbying effort to get your representative or senator (at the State level) to introduce the same.

To get started: Here is the entire text of Virginia’s law; only minor changes need be made to make it applicable in most cases (I’ll let my fellow lawyers make suggestions, should someone without a legislator find that necessary):

A. If a division has heretofore occurred or shall hereafter occur in a church or religious society, to which any such congregation whose property is held by trustees is attached, the members of such congregation over 18 years of age may, by a vote of a majority of the whole number, determine to which branch of the church or society such congregation shall thereafter belong. Such determination shall be reported to the circuit court of the county or
city, wherein the property held in trust for such congregation or the greater part thereof is; and if the determination be approved by the court, it shall be so entered in the court’s civil order book, and shall be conclusive as to the title to and control of any property held in trust for such congregation, and be respected and enforced accordingly in all of the courts of the Commonwealth.

B. If a division has heretofore occurred or shall hereafter occur in a congregation whose property is held by trustees which, in its organization and government, is a church or society entirely independent of any other church or general society, a majority of the members of such congregation, entitled to vote by its constitution as existing at the time of the division, or where it has no written constitution, entitled to vote by its ordinary practice or custom, may decide the right, title, and control of all property held in trust for such congregation. Their decision shall be reported to such court, and if approved by it, shall be so entered as aforesaid, and shall be final as to such right of property so held.

To legislators aspiring to introduce this as a bill: Be sure to add a definitional section that appropriately defines words that ECUSA sought to attack in their response to the Virginia litigation, e.g., words like “division” and “branch”—or, perhaps, replace those words with less ambiguous words (always, of course, defining them appropriately.

One of the first things I learned in law school was that “the power of the law is the power to define.”  In many States, getting bills like this passed on what legislators perceive to be a “non-controversial issue” (which it will be in most States because of ECUSA’s small numbers), is relatively easy.  After all, State government is designed to be “closer” to the people.

We can beat ECUSA at their own game. 

Let’s get to legislating (and praying that the legislation will pass).

[96] Posted by Diezba on 04-04-2008 at 11:20 AM • top

Publius #93,

As a New York lawyer, it pains me to admit this, but we have it on no less authority than the NY Times:

Around the U.S., High Courts Follow California’s Lead

The California Supreme Court is the most influential state court in the nation.

[97] Posted by wildfire on 04-04-2008 at 11:30 AM • top

Irenaeus,

The appeal would go straight to the Supreme Court of Virginia.  DavidH was good enough to correct me over here on the “waiting for the ruling” thread.

[98] Posted by Jeff in VA on 04-04-2008 at 11:35 AM • top

IANAL, but if I recall correctly, a judge’s findings of fact are very difficult to overturn on appeal—as opposed to his rulings on points of law.  Is that the case here?  If so, then the DioVA’s position seems pretty bleak.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[99] Posted by gone on 04-04-2008 at 11:36 AM • top

This would be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court not the Virginia Court of Appeals.

[100] Posted by seminarian on 04-04-2008 at 11:37 AM • top

(subscribe)

[101] Posted by Jeff in VA on 04-04-2008 at 11:57 AM • top

As a California attorney and former practitioner in Virginia, I would like to qualify a few of the general and procedural comments of participants in this thread:
(1) The California Supreme Court is most definitely the most influential State Supreme Court in the Country, due in large part to the size of California and the inclusion of the statewide proposition process which frequently has required the court to rule on the constitutionality of laws specifically approved by a majority of the electorate.  Additionally, the California Supreme Court is not the liberal bastion that many like to make it out to be.  The majority of its members have been appointed by Reublican governors, and it jurisprudence is widely regarded in the last 10-15 years as being balanced and careful.  Most critics tend to confuse the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the California Supreme Court, where the federal court is most definitely a liberal bastion and easily the most frequently overruled federal appellate court.
(2) With regard to Virginia procedure, the earlier comment is correct, any appeal in this case would be immediately presented for consideration by the Virginia Supreme Court.  The Virginia Supreme Court is highly unlikely to involve itself in an any of the matters before the trial court except the constitutionality issue.  The likelihood that the Virginia Supreme Court would engage the “division” issue or the red-herring issue of “majority of the whole number” or any other primarily factual issue is almost nil.
While I do not have a dog in this fight or the California cases (I am RC) the legal opinion written by Judge Bellows is a model of prudent judicial reasoning and should be praised by the Virginia legal community as it’s certain widespread dissemination will not be subject to easy villification of its author or of his skills.

[102] Posted by Anselm98 on 04-04-2008 at 12:32 PM • top

Re the Washington Post (#61) has a report up now at
http://tinyurl.com/4cac4m

Interestingly, the first headline read:
“Judge Agrees Breakaway Churches Can Keep Buildings, Land”

but it now reads:
“Judge’s Initial Decision Favors Breakaway Churches”

[103] Posted by William P. Sulik on 04-04-2008 at 12:44 PM • top

Meanwhile, 815 is trying to figure out how it can rule that a voice vote by a simple majority of a quorum of the TEC House of Bishops can inhibit, depose, impeach and replace Judge Bellows for abandoning the communion.

[104] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 12:47 PM • top

#57 Jill   Thank you for the wonderful prayer at Lent and Beyond that you have linked.
It is perfect for us to pray today. . .and beyond.

[105] Posted by BettyLee Payne on 04-04-2008 at 01:39 PM • top

I had a thought about the next stage in the litigation which I would love to have a lawyer comment on.  As I understand it, TEC is arguing against the constitutionality of the division law on First Amendment grounds.  Aren’t they therefore also striking at the whole basis for separate church law?  Could parishes in other states, who would benefit from neutral property law, use TEC’s Virginia testimony against TEC?  If Virginia does find the division statute unconstitutional, could their decision be introduced as persuasive authority?  If the foregoing is correct, wouldn’t that mean that TEC, through its own actions, would be left clinging to the very slender support of the Dennis Canon?

[106] Posted by In Newark on 04-04-2008 at 01:42 PM • top

Great victory for the Vir congregations; big loss for TEC, the PB and the ABC’s office, which has done everything it can to enhance TEC’s position in this civil litigation.

[107] Posted by Going Home on 04-04-2008 at 01:43 PM • top

Being over here on “the other side of the pond” in West Africa, and in the Greenwich Mean time zone (currently 4 hours ahead of Eastern time) I usually have a time advantage in getting late breaking US news.  But for various reasons, I was offline for the last 20 hours or so and am just now catching up.

As a Truro member and one of Truro’s missionaries, I have to say I am just THRILLED with this decision and news.  I was so encouraged to read the ADV press release and the Godly tone there, the clear focus on missions and the expressed hope for the cessation of litigation and a return to negotiation.

Well done my friends in VA!  Wishing I was with you all this weekend to celebrate.  Praying for you all as the process continues, and praying for +Peter Lee this day that he might choose to abandon KJS and DBB’s awful scorched earth tactics. 

May the Lord use this decision for good and take even what the enemy meant for great evil and distraction and ruin and turn it to something that brings Him glory and causes more to come to the joy of knowing Christ!

[108] Posted by Karen B. on 04-04-2008 at 01:49 PM • top

I want to echo Betty Lee’s appreciation of the prayer Jill wrote:
http://anglicanprayer.wordpress.com/2008/04/04/virginia/

Indeed may the Lord keep all of us in the ADV congregations from gloating or arrogance.

I hope this isn’t seen as hijacking the thread here, but I also want to offer my public thanks and appreciation as to how Jill has kept Lent&Beyond;going and been faithful in continuing this ministry of intercession.

For months I’ve been focused much more on local ministry and not had time or energy to devote to blogging, thus I never found time to revamp the L&B;site (which was originally merely a backup site) following the CaNNet crash and our need to switch from the original site. 
I’m hoping to get 4 - 5 hours tomorrow evening (Sat) to work on Lent & Beyond and move it far beyond it’s current bare-bones and not very useful (no archives, no search) set up.  Hopefully that bit of admin and blog design work will help keep L&B;going strong and will make the prayer blog and ministry even more useful & fruitful.  As so many have testified even in relation to this ADV ruling, this is still only one battle in an ongoing war—and it IS spiritual warfare.

I’m reminded of the quote by Martyn Minns which was what prompted me to launch Lent & Beyond 4 years ago:

“… the defining issue [in the Anglican Communion] is … two different understandings of Truth. This is a spiritual battle for the Church that will not be won in a Commission but only by prayer and the full armor of God”

None of that has changed even with this wonderfully favorable and encouraging ruling.  Prayer is still needed—perhaps now more than ever!

[109] Posted by Karen B. on 04-04-2008 at 02:05 PM • top

Good word, Karen B. #110. Scripture warns us by recording in so many places the stories of great men of God who, having achieved great success by prayer and humble reliance upon God, became deceived into thinking that they somehow got to where they were due to how wonderful they were in the flesh. Asa, David, even Nebuchadnezzar, Solomon, and Joash learned some awfully hard lessons when they forgot the Lord who bought them. Paul’s admonitions, “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh” and “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” hopefully bring us to the sober realization that God does indeed give us the victory-but only through Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.

[110] Posted by Bob K. on 04-04-2008 at 02:35 PM • top

There’s an article at Christianity Today

[111] Posted by tdunbar on 04-04-2008 at 02:42 PM • top

I just got to page 83 of the opinion, and it appears that Judge Bellows saved the best for last:

ECUSA and [the] Diocese [of Virginia] argue that the historical evidence demonstrates that it is only the “major” or “great” divisions within 19th-century churches that prompted the passage of 57-9, such as those within the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. ECUSAjDiocese argue that the current “dispute” before this Court is not such a “great” division, and, therefore, this is yet another reason why 57-9(A) should not apply. The Court agrees that it was major divisions such as those within the Methodist and Presbyterian churches that prompted the passage of 57-9. However, it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude [emphasis added], especially given the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country, the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves “taking sides” against their brethren, the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to “walk apart” in the language of the Church, the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines, the rapidity with which the ECUSA’s problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world, and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations. Whatever may be the precise threshold for a dispute to constitute a division under 57-9(A), what occurred here qualifies.

We should print that in bold-faced print and post it in all our parishes!

On another note, does no one else think that we (reasserters) should try to pass statutes similar to the Virginia § 57-9?  It’s been as quiet as a churchmouse on that point.

[112] Posted by Diezba on 04-04-2008 at 03:15 PM • top

[113] I agree with your suggestion.  I would note when there was a proposal simply to clarify certain aspects of the VA statute, the VA dioceses made extensive efforts to mobilize opposition.

[113] Posted by tired on 04-04-2008 at 03:22 PM • top

tdunbar, thanks for posting the Christianity Today link. The statement by Jim Oakes MUST have been delivered at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “In a statement announcing the ruling, Oakes urged TEC and the diocese to “respect the court’s ruling and join with us to begin a process of healing. Let us choose healing over litigation and peaceful coexistence over lawsuits, and let us devote all our resources to serving Christ and helping others around the world.”
Hes taking a page out of TECs lexicon, of course. Healing process sounds a lot like the “listening process”, and the rest of his plea sounds vaguely familiar; “waging reconciliation”, anyone?
Of course, the demon driven toadies at the national office are not at all interested in “waging reconciliation” when the consequences of such reconciliation wont accrue to their ultimate goal of cowing and robbing Bible believers.
Saul’s persecution of David seemed to work for a while, but Saul’s madness only served to strengthen David and his forces while just briefly forestalling his own demise.

[114] Posted by Bob K. on 04-04-2008 at 03:29 PM • top

God is truly great….

Not the best day for Our Lady of Litigation…

It’s true, I think, that this could easily influence similar suits in other states, but where this may speak the most volumes is in the other dioceses of the state of VA, especially in Southern Virginia.  I’d like to hear some commentary from other Anglicans in Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia—

I believe it’s well-known that Southern Virginia’s election of a new diocesan bishop has been repeatedly stalled by TEC—the liberal/traditional divide there is large and I’d imagine the powers-that-be don’t want to risk that diocese electing a traditional bishop.  But, even so, now it may be possible for traditional parishes to opt out anyway, with the civil law to rightfully back them up.  In my view, at best, the current TEC-appointed interim bishop has been doing his darnedest to continue dancing his TEC-institutional dance, but now, that may not even matter if a parish wants to vote out and retain its property. 

“On another note, does no one else think that we (reasserters) should try to pass statutes similar to the Virginia § 57-9?  It’s been as quiet as a churchmouse on that point”.

Diezba, I read your point earlier and found it a good one, especially if attempting that sort of legislation would clarify certain aspects of a church’s property standing in a state.  I’m not a lawyer, but, based on what I’ve heard of Texas law, if the sort of litigation that was tried in VA was tried here, I don’t believe it would have a leg to stand on; hence the deafening silence when churches like CC Plano, St. Matthias, and the large one in Rio Grande pulled out(sorry, can’t remember its actual name).  But, again, if enacting that type of legislation in other states would clarify a church property situation then I’d be all for it. 

As above, I’d be interested to see any Southern VA Anglicans or Southwestern VA Anglicans weigh in on this topic.  If I were them, I think it would be a very happy day…

God bless—

GiD

[115] Posted by Passing By on 04-04-2008 at 03:34 PM • top

Gid,

I would think trying to get legislatures to adopt this sort of neutral principle would definitely be worth the fight for the future at least of congregations, whether Episcopal, Lutheran, etc are concerned.

[116] Posted by seminarian on 04-04-2008 at 03:40 PM • top

Geek in Dallas (#116),

Eddie Swain, the head of the AAC chapter for Southern VA or others may be able to speak with more authority about the situation in that diocese, but all I can say is that I wish it were really true that the process of electing a new bishop there has been “stalled” because of a fear that a conservative might be chosen.  Alas, there is little chance of that.  +David Bane, who voted against Gene Robinson’s confirmation, was in part forced out because the diocese is generally quite liberal.  For example, ALL FOUR clergy and lay deputies in 2003 voted FOR Robinson.  At this point, only two parishes in So. VA have left TEC (Grace Church, Newport News went to AMiA in 2004 and Church of the Messiah, Chesapeake went with CANA in 2007).  It shouldn’t be forgotten that Southern VA elected the infamously liberal +Carol Gallaher as a Suffragan Bishop.  After she too was forced out, she landed as an Assistant Bishop in…
the Diocese of Newark.  Enough said?

But there are perhaps a dozen congregations I know in the diocese that MAY now leave TEC, if they could only be sure they could keep their property.  And one of those would be giant Galilee Church in Virginia Beach, the largest church in the diocese in terms of ASA, and an evangelical stronghold.  It sits on something like $20 million worth of property, so Judge Bellows ruling will be hugely important to them.

David Handy+

[117] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 04-04-2008 at 03:50 PM • top

I think one of the overlooked passages in the judgment is this one:

This Court views each of the four experts who testified as sincere professionals, each bringing a wealth of expertise to their task, and each attempting in good faith to assist the Court in its obligation to interpret 57-9. Having said that, the Court finds the testimony of the two CANA congregation experts-Dr. Valeri and Dr. Irons-to be more persuasive and convincing. The Court found the opinions of the CANA experts to be tied directly to the particular and pertinent historical record relevant to the instant case. Some of the significant opinions offered by ECUSA/Diocese experts did not appear to be so tethered; rather, they appeared to be expressions of opinion based on the experts’ general knowledge.

This difference between being tethered to the particular and pertinent historical record or not is actually at the root of the theological divisions that have wracked the church. The “reinterpretation” of various parts of the Bible—from the resurrection to homosexuality—and the failure to be limited to what the words on the page actually mean in plain language, has been a characteristic of the liberals in their bible interpretation as well.

[118] Posted by MargaretG on 04-04-2008 at 03:52 PM • top

David+, thank you for clarifying it all for me.  I will also take note if Eddie weighs in. 

grin 

GiD

[119] Posted by Passing By on 04-04-2008 at 04:02 PM • top

But there are perhaps a dozen congregations I know in the diocese that MAY now leave TEC, if they could only be sure they could keep their property.
And one of those would be giant Galilee Church in Virginia Beach, the
largest church in the diocese in terms of ASA, and an evangelical
stronghold.

I would find it interesting for someone to follow up on this one. Galilee had an impressive tear over the business and the last time I was over there, it has been a few months, I found no interest in leaving ECUSA.

BTW, any idea of the current ASA for that parish?

[120] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 04-04-2008 at 04:06 PM • top

Judge Bellows’ opinion is thoughtful and carefully worded. It is not likely to be overturned. The applicability of 57-9 in this dispute will hold.

57-9 has been “on the books” of VA for a century without challenge to its constitutionality, and, as we know, the AG has expressed his opinion on this.  The odds are against the diocese in any effort to challenge its constitutionality.

At this point, I can’t see any argument the diocese can put up that will result in their taking possession of these properties. All they have left is the Dennis Canon but the Dennis Canon is not a Virginia statute and cannot be enforced by district court in a title dispute.

[121] Posted by from South Florida on 04-04-2008 at 04:14 PM • top

southernvirginia1, here’s the TEC data through ‘06, but God only knows if it’s accurate: 

http://12.0.101.88/reports/PR_ChartsDemo/exports/ParishRPT_44200853035PM.pdf

Who knows, though, maybe churches like Galilee have not discussed pulling out because they thought it was massively difficult or impossible to pull out.  And now, that picture has changed.  grin 

South Florida, it’s my prayer that you’re 100% right…

Thanks and God bless—

GiD

[122] Posted by Passing By on 04-04-2008 at 04:20 PM • top

Geek in Dallas, and southernvirginia1,

I think I’d better not say much more about Galilee Church, Virginia Beach.  I know a couple key leaders there, but it’s not for me to say more.  It is perhaps safe, however, to report (since it’s past history and public knowledge) that all four of the evangelical clergy who were there in 2005 have now left the parish (though not all have left TEC), in part because of conflicts over the future of the big church.  And yes, as southernvirginia1 mentioned, there has already been a significant exodus or “tear.”  Over a year ago, some 300 people (including several vestry members) left Galilee and started a new evangelical church which immediately became self-supporting (it’s great when you can START a church over the famous “200 barrier,” i.e. over 200 in ASA).  However, almost all those folks attended Galilee’s middle service on Sundays, which was sort of “Episcopal-lite,” and the new church is not very Anglican from what I hear.  And in some ways, that bled off the hottest steam within the church that was pressing for leaving TEC.

This may be wondering dangerously off-topic, or onto delicate matters however, and so I don’t want to get caught up in discussing it any further.

David Handy+

[123] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 04-04-2008 at 04:41 PM • top

I may have missed it, but I don’t recall others highlighting the section of the ruling which David Trimble at Still on Patrol focused on:

“The definition urged by ECUSA/Diocese would make 57-9(A) a nullity, for if division is defined as requiring the consent of the hierarchy, all the hierarchy need do to defeat the invocation of 57-9(A) is refuse to recognize or approve the division.  Moreover, if the history of division within churches or religious societies in the United States informs this Court of anything, it is that division is frequently non-consensual and contested and takes place without the approval or affirmation of the hierarchy.  Indeed, were it otherwise, there would be little need for a division statute, for churches would simply approve divisions and amicably divide up their property without intervention from secular institutions of government.

Finally, ECUSA/Diocese argue that the CANA Congregations’ definition of division would permit a division to be “foisted upon [a hierarchical church] by the acts of a few disgruntled individuals.” See Post-Trial Reply Br. for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese 5 n.3. The CANA Congregations’ definition, argues ECUSA/Diocese, would make the division statute too “easily applicable.” The Court finds no merit in this position. The CANA Congregations’ definition requires three major and coordinated occurrences: 1.} a “split” or “rupture” in a religious denomination; 2.} “the separation of a group of congregations, clergy, or members from the church;” and 3.} the formation of an “alternative polity that disaffiliating members could join.” The ECUSA/Diocese is correct that division, under 57-9(A}, ought not be “easy.” Under the CANA Congregations’ definition, it is not.”

I love what Judge Bellows wrote about the TEC argument as having no merit!  Clearly he has seen right through TEC’s attempts to make words mean what they say.

[124] Posted by Karen B. on 04-04-2008 at 06:39 PM • top

Thanks for calling our attention to that, Karen. And my hat, if I were wearing one, would be off to the CANA congregations in Virginia for their careful and thoughtful separation from TEC. They set an example of the way it should be done, with their attention to detail and thoroughness.

[125] Posted by oscewicee on 04-04-2008 at 06:49 PM • top

Check out some of the silliness quotes by the “Experts” for TEC.

Q: Okay. Dr. Douglas, in your opinion, has the Anglican
Communion divided?
A: In my opinion it has not divided.
Q: Could you explain that?
A: Yeah. The Anglican Communion is a family of churches, and we all share a kind of historical relationship, one with another, as brothers and sisters in Christ, understanding and seeing our common ancestry in the Church of England through the See of Canterbury. And as such as a family of churches coming together to serve what God has called us to be about in the world, we as an Anglican Communion, I would argue, are in the process of becoming rather than dividing.

[126] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 06:50 PM • top

“I love what Judge Bellows wrote about the TEC argument as having no merit!  Clearly he has seen right through TEC’s attempts to make words mean what they say. “

He used their own words against them.  Check this out:
On April 30, 2007, ECUSA Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori wrote to Nigerian Primate Peter J. Akinola, requesting that Archbishop Akinola not install the Rev. Martyn Minns, former Rector of Truro, as a bishop of CANA, since this” ‘would display to the world division and disunity ....”’

Yep, not division with out your say so Kate.  Well, you said so, and so it is.

[127] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 07:33 PM • top

On April 30, 2007, ECUSA Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori wrote to Nigerian Primate Peter J. Akinola, requesting that Archbishop Akinola not install the Rev. Martyn Minns, former Rector of Truro, as a bishop of CANA, since this” ‘would display to the world division and disunity ....”’

Yep, no division without Schori’s say so.  Well, sounds like she said so.

[128] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 07:35 PM • top

Dr. Douglas testified that “there can be no division without formal approval of the division by the highest adjudicators of the religious body involved,” (Trial Tr. 895:3-7) and that “the only way the [ECUSA] can effect a division is to carve up a diocese geographically.” (Trial Tr. 898:8-11). On cross-examination, however, Dr. Douglas also testified that he did not perform any historical research, nor did he consult any historical reference books in order to formulate his definition of division.

[129] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 07:50 PM • top

“There can be no division without formal approval of the division by the highest adjudicators of the religious body involved”—-Douglas

In which case you wouldn’t need a division statute.

No doubt King George III’s experts would have said much the same about American independence: no go without King’s say-so.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Is this “untethered” Dr. Douglas Professor Ian Douglas of EDS—-one of Canterbury’s favorite experts and appointees?

[130] Posted by Irenaeus on 04-04-2008 at 08:08 PM • top

#131: perhaps it should be “one of 815’s favorite experts and appointees”.  Well done, AndrewA, reminding us that Ian Douglas provided some expert testimony.

[131] Posted by TACit on 04-04-2008 at 08:09 PM • top

“we as an Anglican Communion, I would argue, are in the process of becoming rather than dividing.”  Oh my, its all so clear now. “Becoming”??????  Give me a break! Did he actually say this with a straight face??? LOLOLOLOLOL

[132] Posted by Gordy on 04-04-2008 at 08:09 PM • top

Test

[133] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 08:41 PM • top

Sorry about that. 

Okay, here’s some more money quotes:  “In addition, the record demonstrates that ECUSA and Diocese leaders have in the past used the term “division” themselves to describe the very situation before this Court,”

“On April 30, 2007, ECUSA Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori wrote to Nigerian Primate Peter J. Akinola, requesting that Archbishop Akinola not install the Rev. Martyn Minns, former Rector of Truro, as a bishop of CANA, since this” ‘would display to the world division and disunity ....”’”

[134] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 08:47 PM • top

Reading the judge’s opinion demonstrates that CANA’s lawyers did an outstanding job educating the judge about a complex set of ecclesiological facts, preparing their expert witnesses and cross examining TEC’s experts. This is not easy to do especially in only five days of trial.  Kudos to them.  the silliness of TEC’s defenses will come back to haunt them as such conduct usually gives the trial judge a bad impression that will last throughout the litigation.  The excellent record CANA’s lawyers made will help on appeal.  As a former trial lawyer and now judge, I can’t complement CANA’s lawyers enough.  Excellent lawyering to get this comples and unfamiliar truth out and into the record. 
I still have doubts about the constitutionality of this statute.  It essentially overules the Dennis Cannon and the hierarchical nature of TEC.  Think about it, if you were part of a Baptist church would you want a state statue mandating hierarchical view of church property rights?  Here, the va statutes makes the Episcopal church like a Baptist church for property division.  However, the findings on an a division within the WWAC may help overcome the constitutional issue in that if it is found to be a split from top to bottom - WWAC to parish- such a division statute may be viewed as a neutral principle necessary where the highest levels of the hieracrchy are split.  Thus the facts from Schori and Aikinola will be invaluable as this progresses on to the contstitutonal issue.

[135] Posted by morningsideanglican on 04-04-2008 at 08:53 PM • top

I hope you all don’t mind, I posted this on a “thinner” thread and don’t want it to die just yet.  Thanks!...mrb

I couldn’t be more pleased for my friends in Virginia.  I know this is the first, important step of what could be a long road, I think now that the precedent of “division” in a legal sense has been established, that will prove useful going forward.

Of course, BeerKat et. al. cannot give up this fight for two main reasons.  The first, sadly, is they feel a real responsibility to all the lost they have gathered over the last forty years into the “Church of the Open Minded” and I think they are really sincere in wanting this group who is unwilling to acknowledge the existence of any sort of sin and repent to feel vindicated and sanguine in their current positions.  Because such types are in leadership, to surrender now would diminish their confidence in the BeerKat administration, which they cannot allow.  Pride is at stake.

Second, they could not be more afraid of a tall, dark man from Africa who speaks the truth that lances through their hearts every time they hear it and turns their own theological foundations into sand right before their eyes.  They must spend every nickel possible to prevent this man and his minions from establishing any more presence on what they view as their private hunting preserve, lest more folks remember their faith and bail out on the Good Ship Lollypop (aka TEC). 

SO you see, it’s not a common sense fight about money or property, it is literally a battle for their own personal theology of inclusion, and each lawsuit is a battle to defend the principle of inclusion, even if it means excluding every one of us!!

KTF!....mrb

[136] Posted by Mike Bertaut on 04-04-2008 at 09:13 PM • top

But to give the devil her due ... let me bring up a point that has concerned this Roman Catholic since he first heard of 57-9 and its importance to the case. And please understand, I have nothing but contempt for High Priestess Smarmi, Vicki Gene, etc. And I know that the CANA parishes, Archbishop Akinola, etc., are on the side of the angels on the substantive matter—no question about it ... BUT ...

Why ISN’T 57-9 an unconstitutional interference upon the internal governance of an episcopal or hierarchical church, such as the Roman Catholic? The law does seem, at face value, to impose upon all churches a congregational or democratic mode of governance in internal disputes, and thus inhibits the free exercise of religions that are run on episcopal rather than congregational governing principles. Judge Bellows’s decision, well-reasoned and devastating though it was, didn’t consider (and at this stage couldn’t) consider the constitutional questions. Indeed, he almost seemed to acknowledge that the law is flatly incompatible with hierarchical church structures when he said on pp 80-81:

But if this Court were to accept the ECUSA/Diocese’s definition of “division,” 57-9(A) would never apply to the ECUSA/Diocese, since the record shows that, according to ECUSA’s canons, the only “divisions” that are allowed are essentially geographic, and an ECUSA congregation is not allowed to decide which diocese to join. Under applicable caselaw and rules of statutory construction referred to elsewhere in this letter opinion, this Court cannot apply a statute in such a way as to render it meaningless as applied to a particular private party. Perhaps even more significantly, the definition urged by ECUSA/Diocese would make 57-9(A} a nullity, for if division is defined as requiring the consent of the hierarchy, all the hierarchy need do to defeat the invocation of 57-9(A) is refuse to recognize or approve the division. Moreover, if the history of division within churches or religious societies in the United States informs this Court of anything, it is that division is frequently nonconsensual and contested and takes place without the approval or affirmation of the hierarchy. Indeed, were it otherwise, there would be little need for a division statute, for churches would simply approve divisions and amicably divide up their property without intervention from secular institutions of government.

The only divisions that are allowed in Roman Catholic Church, unquestionably, are geographic ones; parishes are creations of the diocese (and priests are creations of the bishop), not vice versa. The judge sees this as interpreting a law to put it beyond applying to a private party, but that’s the essence of religious freedom—that state regulations either generally or of religion in particular have to be neutral and not disadvantage or impose a burden or interfere with the praxis of any particular church. His appeal to the history of US church breakups are inapplicable, because in those cases (and this is even more clear when you read the legislative history and historical background parts of the decision), the state was dealing with churches that were already organized in principle on congregational terms. And while the Anglican tradition is by design a via media, with elements of both congregationalism and episcopacy, and while the Presiding Litigator has spoken out of both sides of her mouth on the issue (her saying to the other primates that TEC is congregational), my concern is ... what would happen to 57-9 if the case involved a truly and unquestionably hierarchical and undemocratic church like my own?

[137] Posted by CourageMan on 04-04-2008 at 09:40 PM • top

The problem, CourageMan, is that in other states courts HAVE imposed a hierarchial theology upon parishes.  Ecclessiological opinion in the Anglican Communion is as diverse as any other major issue, and many in the Network have argued for the historical validity of the “congregation first” model for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

If Rome wants to keep control of its parishes, it should hold their very deeds, titles and bank accounts in the name of the diocese, directly, in accordance with state laws.  If I understand correctly, that is already what it does.  Everything is held by the hierachy, not by the parish.  TEC doesn’t do this, so now they are paying the price in Virginia.

[138] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 11:19 PM • top
[139] Posted by AndrewA on 04-04-2008 at 11:36 PM • top

Is anyone surprised by the absence of any reference to KJS’s testimony? From my memory of the news reports at the time it seemed to be not inconsequential in its content, so why has it not been referred to.

[140] Posted by MargaretG on 04-05-2008 at 01:49 AM • top

Now that the next big hurdle (and perhaps the biggest) is the issue of constitutionality, does anyone have the wording of the VA AG’s statement on the matter?  Did he just say “I think it is Constitutional” or did he have an argument in favor of its constitutionality?  It would be nice to see a preview of the type of arguments that will be used.

[141] Posted by AndrewA on 04-05-2008 at 06:42 AM • top

#142 Andrew:  I looked it up under Attorney General Virgnia Robert Mcdonnell Statute 57-9 and got the entire things.  If I knew how to link to this post, I would.  (I better learn!)

[142] Posted by Petra on 04-05-2008 at 07:54 AM • top

At once, the ruling seems to dispose of the existence of a hierarchical church in VA. but then states:

“...and, further, CANA and ADV are branches of ECUSA and the Diocese.”

  If CANA and the ADV are “branches”, of ECUSA, are they, using the corporate model which is the only one I can think of, operating groups, wholly owed subsidiaries, partially owed subsidiaries, franchises?

[143] Posted by EmilyH on 04-05-2008 at 09:39 AM • top
[144] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-05-2008 at 10:25 AM • top

“As to the other issues in principal controversy, the Court finds the Anglican Communion to be a “church or religious society.” The Court finds each of the CANA Congregations to have been attached to the Anglican Communion. Finally, the Court finds that the term “branch” must be defined far more broadly than the interpretation placed upon that term by ECUSA and the Diocese and that, as properly defined, CANA, ADV, the American Arm of the Church of Uganda, the Church of Nigeria, the ECUSA, and the Diocese, are all branches of the Anglican Communion and, further, CANA and ADV are branches of ECUSA and the Diocese.

 

I am simply baffled by this statement.

[145] Posted by EmilyH on 04-05-2008 at 10:26 AM • top

Okies, how in heck did my response to EmilyH’s #146 get above her?

Try our fate free Spong Cake recipe!

[146] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-05-2008 at 10:35 AM • top

mousestalker,

When you made your comment, we were probably fiddling with some time zone settings in an attempt to get the timestamps between SF (central) and T19 (eastern) straightened out. That may have been the reason.

Also, it seems that the system uses as comment timestamps whatever time it is when you open the page where you’re commenting - NOT whatever time it is when the system stores your comment. So if you open a thread at 10:05, read for 10 minutes, and make a comment, the timestamp for the comment is 10:05, not 10:15. I’m not 100% sure about that, but it would explain some minor time anomalies I’ve seen here and there.

[147] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-05-2008 at 10:45 AM • top

145, it appears my two postings were reversed in order.  Am, not quite sure how that happens.  What baffles me is the nature of the relationship, as a “branch” of that Judge Bellows believes CANA has to both ECUSA, its diocese,  and Nigeria?  Canterbury clearly does NOT consider CANA a “branch” of the Anglican Communion (or, its “branch” of the Anglican Communion, but I believe the Lambeth invitations came out after the record was closed, I may be wrong)  ECUSA considers the congregations as members of the Diocese and, through the diocese TEC, by congregations I mean the remnant loyal to ECUSA that has been evicted by CANA, but does not consider CANA a “branch” of either ECUSA or the Anglican Communion.  So are we talking here about, structure, form of governance or genealogy?  If Judge Bellows interprets the statute’s use of “branch” as relating to genealogy, (as in a family tree) has he effectively eliminated a hierarchical governance and structure model in Va.under 57-9?

[148] Posted by EmilyH on 04-05-2008 at 11:46 AM • top

#148, Greg thank you, that makes sense.

#149, EmilyHEschewing the use of the word branch, which can be confusing, I would put it this way. CANA is related to the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The Anglican Church of Nigeria is related to the Church of England. The Church of England is related to the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is therefore related to CANA, whether or not either party wishes it. I read it much as the Hollywood party game “Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon”.

It is indisputable that the same relationships can be drawn for all of the African outlier groups in the US, their parents and the Episcopal Church.

At least that is my reading of what the judge said.

What Spirit leads you?

[149] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-05-2008 at 11:57 AM • top

I thought it was obvious that all of these “branches” are related to each other.  I am surprised that EmilyH is confused by the interrelationship of the units in the Anglican Communion.  That’s what it is to be in the AC.

[150] Posted by Paula on 04-05-2008 at 12:31 PM • top

#151 Paula- Don’t be surprised. EmilyH has a history of becoming more obtuse when things aren’t following along revisionist lines. wink

[151] Posted by Gordy on 04-05-2008 at 12:43 PM • top

The statue clearly contemplates the seperation of one entity into two or more seperate and competing entities, each of which can be considered branches of each other, as they derive from an immediatly common root.

[152] Posted by AndrewA on 04-05-2008 at 12:50 PM • top

Courage Man—There are huge differences between the way the RCC and TEC manage property.  The Roman Catholic Diocese normally takes on the work of finding the money, handling the building, maintaining it, and paying the priest.  Not only does it have its name on the deed, it has put in most of the “sweat equity”, too.  In such a case, it is right for the building to revert to the Diocese.

In contrast, in most Episocopal parishes, all this work, beginning with the fund raising, is done by the parish itself. Then, it is up to the parish to maintain the building, and pay the priest’s salary and benefits and provide housing.In fact, at one point, General Convention decided that National church should not have its name on the deeds, because they didn’t want to have the liability that goes with ownership.  The diocese might give a grant to fix a roof, or some other repair, but normally that’s the limit of their involvement.  A very different case than what exits in your church.

IRRC, the church that + Andrew Smith seized was a cinder block church that had been largely constructed by the physical labor of the parishoners.

[153] Posted by In Newark on 04-05-2008 at 01:03 PM • top

In case there are any lawyers around, I’d like to repeat my question of yesterday:

I had a thought about the next stage in the litigation which I would love to have a lawyer comment on.  As I understand it, TEC is arguing against the constitutionality of the division law on First Amendment grounds.  Aren’t they therefore also striking at the whole basis for separate church law?  Could parishes in other states, who would benefit from neutral property law, use TEC’s Virginia testimony against TEC?  If Virginia does find the division statute unconstitutional, could their decision be introduced as persuasive authority?  If the foregoing is correct, wouldn’t that mean that TEC, through its own actions, would be left clinging to the very slender support of the Dennis Canon?

[154] Posted by In Newark on 04-05-2008 at 01:19 PM • top

The Archbishop of Canterbury has never denied that CANA is its members are a part of the Anglican Communion.  Going off of memory, I believe he said something along the lines of if part of the Anglican Communion recognizes him, he considers them to be in communion with himself.

[155] Posted by AndrewA on 04-05-2008 at 01:42 PM • top

How come this story isn’t on the main list anymore?

[156] Posted by Gordy on 04-05-2008 at 07:28 PM • top

Opppsss…. nevermind ... found it

[157] Posted by Gordy on 04-05-2008 at 08:32 PM • top

by congregations I mean the remnant loyal to ECUSA that has been evicted by CANA..

.
How Father Jake of you. Prove it…I will go back to my usual review of your posts that Start and end with the delete key.
Intercessor

[158] Posted by Intercessor on 04-05-2008 at 09:45 PM • top

[159] Intercessor,

In re your comment requesting proof from the poster at [149], you should always remember that there are no facts quite as useful and compelling, nor as obvious to all, as those facts one invents in support of one’s own argument.

N.B., I just wouldn’t want you to die from asphyxia while awaiting, with “worms in your mouth,”<sup></sup>, the requested proof. wink

Blessings and regards,
Martial Artist

———————-
<sup></sup>—an overly literal translation of the (misspelled) old saw with baited breath.

[159] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 04-06-2008 at 09:13 AM • top

EmilyH,

first of all no one has been evicted by CANA congregations.  The so called “loyal Episcopalians” chose to depart from the churches themselves.  There were not asked to leave, it was their choice, just like it was the choice of more than 90% of a number of each of these congregations who voted to disafiliate with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. 

As far as the hierarchical model - the Episcopal Church can not be considered strictly a hierarchical church, although with the actions of the Presiding Bishop would make it appear so for the purposes of litigation.  The Episcopal Church is more a model of congregational/hierarchical combination. 

The judge also ruled very clearly and explicitly.  The statute is also clear - if the judge finds that the statute is constitutional and that the churches votes satisfied the statute, the game is pretty much over as the statute dictates that if the votes satisfy the statute the determination of the vote and the court is that “that shall be conclusive as to the control of the property” in the words of the statute.

[160] Posted by seminarian on 04-06-2008 at 07:08 PM • top

Emily H#149:  to evict is defined as “to expel from property by legal process”. Never happened. There was the offer of services to be held in the chapel at Truro with an Episcopal priest but the truth is that many of those voting against separation continued attending (and still attend) Truro Anglican. 

Emily H#83:  The attorneys for the Virginia Congregations asked that 57-9 be separated from the constitutionality arguments in opposition to what TEC/Dio wanted in order to:
1. have a clear cut reading on 57-9. If the decision had gone against the Congregations on 57-9 there would not have been a need for the second hearing on constitutionality.
2.  save the cost of additional depositions, discovery, etc. on the constitutionality arguments if it would prove not necessary.  (Good stewardship of money is important to us; we do not choose to be litigators)

On a separate note, we have been gratified by funds that have come in from supporters in other states (via email) to help us in this spiritual warfare just since the positive verdict came down. I would remind everyone that +Lee had to take out a 2 million dollar line of credit and put several properties up for sale to cover “bills”.  We can assume that Ms. Schori had not offered financial help even though she was the “new sheriff in town” who broke up the negotiations between the diocese and the Virginia Congregations.

[161] Posted by Petra on 04-07-2008 at 06:06 AM • top

Petra, at 162.  On “evict”  On “evict” and the definition you cited.  Yes, it was most certainly done by legal process, and it was kind of Truro to offer the remnant the opportunity to continue services on what they asserted was their property. (I don’t know if that were the case of the rest of the Va congregations. 
I also understand why CANA attys wanted to separate the issues of first 57-9 and second its constitutionality.  My own thinking was that, on the basis of 57-9, the Va congregations had a very good case. On this blog, I even talked about the specific words “branch” and “division” and how they would be interpreted.  But my thinking has always been that the real issue here was 59-7s constitutionality.  For that reason I thought that from the int of view of legal costs, tying the issues together made more sense.  Judge Bellow’s ruling, based on 57-9, effectively eliminates hierarchical churches in Va, and for all the reasons mentioned above regarding, in particular, the Roman Catholics, that presents a first amendment issue.  I keep going back to Jones v. Wolf, Presbyterian v. Hull, Serbian Eastern Orthodox v. Mi…..and I remember that there are 5 Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court.  In the end, I think that the separation of the “issues” 57-9 vs. its constitutionality will cost both sides more money than had they been handled together.

[162] Posted by EmilyH on 04-07-2008 at 07:41 AM • top

Emily#163:  I will still argue about your word “evict”.  Nobody was forced to leave or expelled (except by their choice) and the evidence is that many remained.  The fact that we are not supporting what I (and 92% other Truro members) consider to be an apostate denomination from the top and are now members of Cana has not changed our primary focus as is evidenced in the services and the many other tasks performed.  Obviously, many “continuing Episcopalians” still attending understand this.
I will not argue with our superb attorneys who explicitly stated again this weekend that one of the reasons why the two were separated was for cost conservation.  In their opinion, that was a major factor.

[163] Posted by Petra on 04-07-2008 at 08:03 AM • top

#163, Emily. I doubt it will ever make it to the Supremes. I said something earlier about it being possible, but the more I think about it the less likely that is. The current group on the U S Supreme Court are rather reluctant to take cases that do not involve a split in the circuits. Since Virginia’s statute is somewhat unique, how probable is it they will grant cert.? I see the case ending at either the Virginia Supreme Court or the Fourth Circuit.

Also, the prep time is what is costing so much, actual court time has been and likely will be rather light. I don’t see the separate phases as costing all that much extra, and dividing the trial this way gives each side the opportunity to brief, present evidence and argue each issue at length as well as providing an opportunity for appeal at each step.

Get Bach to where you once belonged.

[164] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-07-2008 at 08:15 AM • top

Courageman,

There is a side of the division statute that comes into play in the situation of the Roman Catholic Church - it is how the property is actually held.  The statute says that the only churches that can invoke this statute in regards to a hierarchcial church are the ones whose properties are held in trust by TRUSTEES - I believe the Roman Catholic church properties are held in the name of the Bishop.

[165] Posted by seminarian on 04-07-2008 at 09:55 AM • top

Seminarian (#166), doesn’t that sort of give the lie to EmilyH’s assertion that

Judge Bellow’s ruling, based on 57-9, effectively eliminates hierarchical churches in Va, and for all the reasons mentioned above regarding, in particular, the Roman Catholics, that presents a first amendment issue.

?

[166] Posted by Jeff in VA on 04-07-2008 at 09:58 AM • top

Jeff,

No.  Until recently Virginia did not allow incorporation of churches therefore their property had to be held by Trustees.  Now the hierarchical argument could have been avoided if The Episcopal Church had put property in the name of the Bishop, but it was left in the title of court appointed trustees since the early times of most of the churches involved in the litigation.  The supreme court has also upheld that states can apply neutral principles of law in determing property disputes, even when a hierarchical church is involved which is what the division statute actually is.  If you want to look at some of the constitutional arguments, the Virgina Attorney General’s brief at the Anglican District of Virginia website (http://www.anglicandistrictofvirginia.org) addresses some of these issue.

Also, there are two parts to the 57-9 statute.  One is for hierarchical churches whose property is held by trustees and one for independent congregations.

Also, as I have pointed out before TEC is not a completely hierarchical church, and therefore is not completely subject to just the hierarchical church argument.

[167] Posted by seminarian on 04-07-2008 at 10:25 AM • top

Good observation, Jeff [167].  But then it is a stretch to expect people [Reappraisers in general], who don’t understand how their own church works; to know how someone else’s church works as well.

Seminarian [168]is correct as well.

One reason that Episcopal congregations’† properties in Virginia are not legally held by the Bishop or Diocese is because for the first two hundred years we effectively didn’t have any Bishops or Diocese.  Virginia came under the Bishop of London who never deigned to visit (though he did send Reverend Blair as a commissary at the end of the 17th century).  Parishes were thoroughly lay led creatures that came into existence by petition of the inhabitants to the legislature.  Their regular service in most cases was Morning Prayer, often led by a lay reader as clergy were spread over many churches.  Virginia Anglicans created the vestry system, bought, built and furnished the property, and vestries hired a Vicar who, unlike a Rector safe in his sinecure, could be fired by the vestry if they were not satisfied with him.

A second reason congregations’ properties are not legally held by the Bishop or Diocese is that after disestablishment of the established “Church of Virginia” by the legislature at the turn of the 19th century, the Commonwealth of Virginia proceeded to confiscate every bit of Established Church property it could lay its hands on.  At this time there were only a handful of clergy left in a Virginia that included today’s Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.  As lay people reconstituted their congregations and recovered their properties, usually by purchase, they found that the Commonwealth had made no provision for them to incorporate and that they were thus “wards of the court,” a situation that continued until the 1990’s.  To this day, the properties of most Virginia Churches (of all denominations) who have not recently incorporated are held by court appointed trustees for the congregation.  (I would speculate that in the case of Roman Catholic congregations the trustee appointed is the Roman Catholic Bishop.)

A third reason is that the memory of how early Virginians had been treated by Bishops and Rectors back home in England was very long.  It influenced not only the minimal power given to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, but also the very limited powers of Bishops in the PECUSA compared to their Roman counterparts.

______________________
† Geographical parishes in Virginia are an anachronism since ~1972 or so when the Virginia Diocesan Convention froze the existing parish boundaries and created Regions, permitting boundary crossing between parishes for all congregations within a Region.

[168] Posted by Justin Martyr on 04-07-2008 at 10:47 AM • top

Seminarian:  You are partially true. 

Until recently Virginia did not Until recently Virginia did not allow incorporation of churches…

This part is true.

...therefore their property had to be held by Trustees.

  This part is not true.  There was never anything in Virginia law mandating that the church property had to held by Trustees.  Since a corporation is a non-natural person it can legally own property.  Until Virginia changed the law churches that wanted to incorporate had to do so in another state, such as Delaware, even though all of the real property was located in the State of Virginia.

[169] Posted by Piedmont on 04-07-2008 at 10:59 AM • top

We were reminded over the weekend that the United Methodist Church is far more hierarchical than the Episcopal Church (especially in the Diocese of Virginia) in some significant structural matters.  A major example is that the Methodist churches are not permitted to choose or elect their own pastors - the pastors are appointed by the bishop and assigned by them to the local churches.  This follows a far more hierarchical structure than does the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia where rectors are in fact chosen and elected by the local Vestries of the parishes and then affirmed by the Diocesan bishop only.

bb

[170] Posted by BabyBlue on 04-07-2008 at 11:27 AM • top

Petra #162 “I would remind everyone that +Lee had to take out a 2 million dollar line of credit and put several properties up for sale to cover “bills”.  We can assume that Ms. Schori had not offered financial help even though she was the “new sheriff in town” who broke up the negotiations between the diocese and the Virginia Congregations.”
Can someone explain to me the magic wand 815 has over people like Bishop Lee? Pursuit of this trial may well have been a breach of his fiduciary duty to his diocese – when a very favorale settlement was possible. Why would Truro settle now on any terms close to their orginal suggestion?

[171] Posted by AngloTex on 04-07-2008 at 11:28 AM • top

#172 Now that you mention it - what was the “original suggestion”.  I have been severely criticized on this board for even suggesting that there was a “original suggestion”.

If the Truro/TFC folks claim that they OWN the property (which of course is nonsense) why would they “suggest” anything greater than ZERO dollars.  Please explain - - -

[172] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 11:50 AM • top

JHGraves#172:  Since the negotiation were truncated by Ms. Schori we do not know what that final payoff by the Virginia Congregations would have been.  But, it is interesting to consider the net loss to the Diocese of Virginia to this point in time.  Let’s just speculate 2 million for litigation costs to this point only and maybe 10 million for just Truro over time for the property.  That looks like a huge net loss to me for the diocese and it is not over yet. 

Another interesting thought:  Once this entire litigation is resolved assuming it is all in favor of the Virginia Congregations, any Episcopal Church in Virginia has the way paved to leave the ECUSA by following precise separation procedures. A very, very compelling thought!

Why did Bishop Lee do it?  Fear of the Big Dogs, maybe, although he is one of the 3 most senior bishops.  John Howe gained clarity from the ABC as to the pecking order of a diocese in respect to the PB and the ABC.  I wonder what Peter Lee would have done with the same information.  Bishop Lee still has time to call it quits, but I doubt that any of the Virginia Congregations would be willing to pay him and/or TEC a dime.

[173] Posted by Petra on 04-07-2008 at 11:55 AM • top

#173, maybe as the result of a cost-benefit analysis of what would be a reasonable amount to pay to resolve the dispute without going to court, in light of the perceived strength of the legal arguments on each side?  I think that’s how negotiated settlements normally work.

[174] Posted by Jeff in VA on 04-07-2008 at 11:55 AM • top

#175…A cost benefit was clearly performed and addressed by Mrs. Shori for Peter Lee.

Cost: Everything YOU have.
Benefit: What ever I say it is.
Intercessor

[175] Posted by Intercessor on 04-07-2008 at 12:04 PM • top

“...Judge Bellow’s ruling, based on 57-9, effectively eliminates hierarchical churches in Va,...”

rolleyes

I’ve seen this rather curious viewpoint before: the notion that the touchstone of a hierarchical church is the ability of the hierarchy to be the beneficiary of a canonically created trust for property titled in a parish, wherein that trust remains effective even in the event of division within the church.

Well, I suppose if TEC doesn’t get the property titled in the parishes, then it might as well be considered congregational.  After all, what is important here? 

Now who is going to contact the bishops of DoV, DSV, and DSWV and explain to them that they should dissolve their diocesan administrations and send everyone home?

wink

[176] Posted by tired on 04-07-2008 at 12:09 PM • top

Petra – thanks for the comments. As for Star-Ace #173, the costs of litigation are fearsome as everyone knows (or are learning). Many of us have been advised to accept settlements even when we know they are unjust. However, Bishop Lee may soon find lawsuits against the Diocese by other churches who have lost valuable mission resources and a fed up with the game.

[177] Posted by AngloTex on 04-07-2008 at 12:15 PM • top

star-ace #173 - as far as I remember, the original suggestion was that both sides would negotiate amicably to reach a mutually agreeable number.

[178] Posted by Phil on 04-07-2008 at 12:19 PM • top

#174 - Forget about FINAL payout.  What was initially put on the table (“suggested”) by Truro/TFC.  JHGraves mentioned an “original suggestion”.  I’m interested in knowing whether, indeed, any “original suggestion” (greater than zero) was made.

Incidentally, I heard $30M total.  That would seem to be commensurate with the land values.

[179] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 12:37 PM • top

Would that be OK for you, then, star-ace?  $30 mil for the 11 parishes, and all actions get dropped once and for all by the various ECUSA entities?

[180] Posted by Phil on 04-07-2008 at 12:42 PM • top

#179 - yes - but was the NUMBER greater than ZERO.

If so, this could be interpreted as a land value - or - a discounted value of the annual payments to the Diocese.  When I was there, the Truro annual budget was $3.5M and Truro tithed 10% to the Diocese = $350,000 annually.  Even if the current folks say they own the buildings (they of course don’t) they certainly don’t own the land. 

Truro was donated by George Washington (I think).

[181] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 12:43 PM • top

Star-ace#180:  I have no idea what was proffered or even if any number had been “suggested” as an initial offering, but remember that there are 11 churches involved, although TFC and Truro are the largest with the greatest resources. What I do know is that if the final result is positive for the Virginia Congregations we will have a whole lot for which to be very, very grateful at a much, much lower price tag.

[182] Posted by Petra on 04-07-2008 at 12:48 PM • top

#182 - well, after this first ruling the Parishes will re-evaluate their positions and so will +Lee, if he’s smart.  Maybe it’s better and maybe it’s not.  It’s a trade-off between litigation costs and an upfront settlement.  I’ve been involved it 4 lawsuits and in every case you make a strategic desision.  “bird in the hand” etc.

That’s why I’m asking the amount (which seems to be guarded by the NSA).  If REAL $$$$$ were put on the table, +Lee should have settled.  If it was “love and affection” then maybe not.  Sorry to get materialistic, but at this stage it’s all about the $$$$$.

For $30M I would table my CARDS and RUN.  (Kenny Rodgers)

[183] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 12:51 PM • top

Tired, by contrast to what you suggest as the “touchstone” for hierarchical being the “ability of the hierarchy to be the beneficiary of a canonically created trust for property titled in a parish, wherein that trust remains effective even in the event of division within the church.”  what I saw, over and over again, particularly in Jones v. Wolf was form of governance as the touchstone. Governance is something that governmental organizations understand.  A pastor may be suggested by a TEC parish, but he/she can not obtain orders without the TEC hierarchy and have them recognized by TEC churches nor can he/she be installed without the consent of the bishop.  Property can not be transferred without the consent of the bishop.  By contrast, you might suggest that the “orders” of an Anglican cleric are obtained through a religious hierarchy (apostolic succession), but, I would posit determining the validity of those orders, would constitute an unconstitutional intrusion into areas of theology or polity?

[184] Posted by EmilyH on 04-07-2008 at 12:57 PM • top

#184, so would I.  I think the heartburn from the standpoint of the faithful parishes is that, whether a real number was put on the table or not, there was an agreement to agree on a real number.  That isn’t the same as filing strike suits against the parishes and volunteer laity as soon as they turned their figurative backs.

It’s important to make that point again: the faithful parishes never said they owned the property, and the diocese could take a walk.  They said they recognized the diocese’s interest in the property involved real dollars, and they would be willing to reach a mutual settlement.  That’s the same thing Peter Lee said, and, assuming he’s a competent CEO who kept his board involved with major decisions, the same thing the Standing Committee said.  That’s still the same thing the faithful parishes are saying.  One party alone has changed it’s tune.  Any guesses which one?

[185] Posted by Phil on 04-07-2008 at 12:59 PM • top

A Virginia Settlement Proposal.  Lets make a deal - use the “Deal or no Deal” model.  There are 14 law firms on the Bellows Document.  Lets add 11 parishes, +Lee and ++Schori.

Get Howie and the Deal-or-no-Deal ladies to come down from New York.  Have everyone of those involved (14 + 11 + 2) write a number and put it in a case.  Then alternately select cases with, 1) the idea that the numbers selected will be averaged and 2) the selection will end after 8 cases have been selected and 3) the selection can terminate earlier than 8 cases if both parties agree.

Hold the event at ShrineMount and televise the whole episode with the litigants splitting TV rights.

My guess, an equitable settlement will occur and EVERYBODY will make boo-koo money on the TV rights and have a nice evening at the Mount.

Baby Blue can help Howie manage the show.

Any commenters are welcome to enhance this idea.

[186] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 01:48 PM • top

Additional note.  I’ve been involved in 4 lawsuits and all of then were settled on a much less rational basis than this procedure - - -

[187] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 01:52 PM • top

Phil - it is important to note, in support of what you are saying, that the amicable settlement reached with John Guernsey’s church BEFORE the PB intervened, involved the current church building being used for 2 years by the parish while they transitioned to a new building.  After 2 years, the original property is set to return to the Diocese of Virginia.

I think that this litigation strategy on 815’s part was never about “fiduciary duty” to TEC or the Diocese of Virginia.  It has always been about punishing and harassing the Anglicans for daring to leave TEC and to serve as a warning to any other parish so considering.  The PB said as much in her remarks during her deposition.

[188] Posted by jamesw on 04-07-2008 at 01:59 PM • top

On the settlement issue..It is important to recall that when the Va congregations filed in the court house after the vote, they asserted ownership of all the property.

[189] Posted by EmilyH on 04-07-2008 at 02:02 PM • top

Sorry, Star-ace, we orthodox are no longer invited to Shrine Mont. (I took note that the diocese had to pass the hat for $20,000 at the last diocesan meeting to pay Shrine Mont bills.  These large churches like ours who filled the place brought in funds that they obviously need)  Anyway, all kidding aside, if we feel we can win the entire effort why should we try to settle?  Cost of litigation to win would be less expensive than buying out the Diocese/TEC and the gain would not be there.  Furthermore, a complete victory for us gives others in Virginia a reasonable path to leave ECUSA, if they so desire.

[190] Posted by Petra on 04-07-2008 at 02:04 PM • top

EmilyH - sort of my point.  If they assert OWNERSHIP, then why an “original suggestion” any greater then zero.  Now, if this were to avoid litigation (which costs $$$$) then one would think an amount approximating the litigation cost, which I would assume about $3M for the parishes.  Of course, the other side would also have to look at net gain to avoid litigation.

My experience with 4 lawsuits.  Unless in contingent fee situations, avoid attorneys.  They sell time = fees.

QUESTION: is TEC paying the DofV attorneys.  In this case +Lee has nothing to lose but goodwill.

But, as you can see, the amount of the “original suggestion” is very pertinent.

[191] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 02:12 PM • top

There’s no question about it, jamesw #189.  If we put this in business terms, my fiduciary duty isn’t being served by keeping around eleven empty facilities, some major, that produce something for which the paltry demand is already being satisfied.  On the other hand, it might make sense if I imagine these are the only assets available to competitors whose offering has been shown to be a lot more desirable than mine, or, alternately, against which mine compares particularly unfavorably.  In that case, I might want to deny my competitor the use of those assets to prevent my business from taking a major hit.  And that’s really what we’re talking about: lock out the competitors in hopes of demoralizing and shattering their cohesive witness to an authentic Anglicanism in which The Diocese is no longer interested.

(Considering the commitment of these parishes, I think that’s a fool’s errand, though.  What was it Margaret Thatcher said?  “These colors don’t run?”)

[192] Posted by Phil on 04-07-2008 at 02:14 PM • top

Having been run through the ringer over the pathetic PB’s lawsuits, the Virginia churches should return the favor and play hardball. It will be a great favor to the rest of us.

[193] Posted by AngloTex on 04-07-2008 at 02:16 PM • top

petra, i’m not argueing with you, and these considerations all have to go into the decision.  I had 5 years at Shrine Mount myself.  Nice experience.

But, it’s still weighing the probabability of winning and the cost of winning vs. the probably of losing and the cost of losing.  You just may lose, and in that case will have to spend big money to duplicate the plant.  Or you may lose Truro and TFC and keep the rest (which makes for a fracture in the defense team).

Cornfields are good for worship in the summer, but - - -

[194] Posted by star-ace on 04-07-2008 at 02:18 PM • top

Star-ace#195:  You are correct and that is why I am very happy that those decisions are left with the experts.  What I am told is that our attorneys are superb constitutional lawyers who have argued at the Supreme Court on both sides of the issue.  If they decide to move forward even if given the opportunity to “negotiate it out” I would feel very confident in their abilities. The Virginia AG has a stake in this, as well.  However, we are all aware of the risks involved.  Still, given the perfect outcome for us, I would prefer a complete legal victory over a negotiated settlement for the reasons I mentioned above.

[195] Posted by Petra on 04-07-2008 at 02:49 PM • top

[185] My comment was directed to the rather broad statement about the elimination of hierarchical churches in Virginia, to which I take exception.  Your subsequent comment seems to run counter to the earlier broad statement, in that it points to other aspects of hierarchy.  Indeed, one can easily imagine an extensively hierarchical form of church governance as being consistent with the feature of having incorporated parishes that own and retain their property.

[196] Posted by tired on 04-07-2008 at 02:54 PM • top

For anyone who may be interested, here are some snippets of Jones v. Wolf at the level of the supreme court case, with some minor comments.  Note what the majority recited as having been considered under the GA neutral principles standard, and what the dissent wanted to be considered. 

The governance issue for the SC appeared to arise in how the Georgia courts approached individual parish governance, which approach could include “a presumptive rule of majority representation.”  Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595, 608 (1979).  The Georgia courts (in applying Georgia’s then evolving neutral principles standard) found the majority of the Vineville church to be the “true” Vineville, against the position of the Presbyterian hierarchy and the minority of the Vineville church.  However, the Georgia courts did not articulate the rule they were using to make that decision.

In describing Georgia’s neutral principle standard:

“Here, as in the earlier cases, neither the state statutes dealing with implied trusts, nor the corporate charter of the Vineville church, indicated that the general church had any interest in the property. And here, as in Presbyterian Church II, but in contrast to Carnes, the provisions of the constitution of the general church, the Book of Church Order, concerning the ownership and control of property failed to reveal any language of trust in favor of the general church. The courts accordingly held that legal title to the property of the Vineville church was vested in the local congregation. Without further analysis or elaboration, they further decreed that the local congregation was represented by the majority…”

  Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595, 601 (1979)

But then the court identified the missing part:

“It remains to be determined whether the Georgia neutral-principles analysis was constitutionally applied on the facts of this case. Although both the trial court and the Supreme Court of Georgia viewed the case as involving nothing more than an application of the principles developed in Presbyterian Church II and in Carnes, the present case contains a significant complicating factor absent in each of those earlier cases. Presbyterian Church II and Carnes each involved a [Page 607] church property dispute between the general church and the entire local congregation. Here, the local congregation was itself divided between a majority of 164 members who sought to withdraw from the PCUS, and a minority of 94 members who wished to maintain the affiliation. Neither of the state courts alluded to this problem, however; each concluded without discussion or analysis that the title to the property was in the local church and that the local church was represented by the majority rather than the minority

Since the grounds for the decision that respondents [Page 610] represent the Vineville church remain unarticulated, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”

  Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595, 606-610 (1979)

——————-
The dissent argued against focusing on state property law issues, and further argued that the hierarchy of the church should have been granted deference to review the majority’s decision to withdraw:

“A careful examination of the constitutions of the general [Page 620] and local church, as well as other relevant documents, may be necessary to ascertain the form of governance adopted by the members of the religious association. But there is no reason to restrict the courts to statements of polity related directly to church property….”

  Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595, 619-620 (1979)

[197] Posted by tired on 04-07-2008 at 03:04 PM • top

jamesw (#189) and Phil,

I agree that the TEC policy is all about intimidating conservative parishes, so they don’t dare to leave.  But a minor correction is in order about the facts regarding All Saints, Dale City, and its amicable settlement with the Diocese of VA.  JamesW got the gist of it, but not the right timeframe.  Fortunately, All Saints in Dale City (+John Guernsey’s parish) has FIVE years, not two, to build their new building and move into it.  Meanwhile, they are renting their current building from +Peter Lee for $1 a year.

For those unfamiliar with this thriving congregation and its somewhat unique circumstances, All Saints was able to buy a magnificent parcel of prime land several years ago and they planned to relocate there in order to keep growing (they had maxed out their current location) when the whole Gene Robinson fiasco took place in 2003 and put everything on hold.  That is, they bought something like 27 acres of land across the street from one of the largest malls in Virginia (Potomac Mills).  They have architectural plans already drawn up for a new church complex that includes a sancturary that will seat something like 1500 people.

Obviously, it will take megabucks to build this new facility, and that’s why I’m glad they have five years to raise the money and build it.  They wouldn’t make a 2 year deadline.

David Handy+

[198] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 04-07-2008 at 03:38 PM • top

[184] star-ace,

You wrote

…I’m asking the amount (which seems to be guarded by the NSA).

Insofar as I am aware, Nichiren Shoshu America (aka NSA, and also Soka Gakkai in America) has no involvement whatever in either the dispute at law or the negotiations. wink

Blessings and regards,
Martial Artist

[199] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 04-07-2008 at 05:43 PM • top

#182 (and many other comments by star-ace)

You seem particularly insistent that TFC and Truro could not possibly own their property. If I recall your reasons - something about those two churches having many past generations of parishioners, who apparently were primarily members of the diocese and not the parish. I have never found your logic behind that claim at all convincing. Your continually asserting it does not make it more persuasive. Real property for an organization either belongs to that organization, or to some other organization. The property ownership by a parish, according to your logic, if I recall accurately, would, during the first generation be with the parish, and then would somehow magically have the names on the deed begin to vaporize and be replaced by names somehow representing the diocese. Apparently at some point in this process, I presume that the names on the deed would be a sort of murky amalgam of part parish ownership and part diocesan ownership, and then eventually as the years proceeded, the names associated with the parish would have entirely evaporated from the deeds and the names representing the diocese would be boldly visible. Property rights do not work that way.

One other issue about which you show great interest is a supposed “suggested” settlement offered by the parishes. I have no way of knowing whether such a number ever existed. From what I know of the general process of negotiation:

1) Negotiation about a settlement had not yet started in earnest and ,at such a stage, presenting a specific dollar amount would in all probably not yet have happened.

2) If such a “suggested amount” did exist, it would be irrelevant. During a negotiation, until both parties sign a final agreement, there is no agreement, and nothing suggested or offered by either party has any final relevance. What was agreed upon, at least by those on the committee trying to find a path toward the future, was that they were ready to recommend negotiation and a separation process.

[200] Posted by Bill Cool on 04-07-2008 at 05:52 PM • top

In #190, EmilyH said

On the settlement issue..It is important to recall that when the Va congregations filed in the court house after the vote, they asserted ownership of all the property.

The whole point of the Virginia law, 57-9, is to determine ownership of the property in the event of a split in a denomination.  The ADV parishes are saying that they took the votes required under 57-9, that there is indeed a split, and that, according to that law, they are the rightful owners of the land and buildings.

With regard to hierarchical churches, we should note that the Virginia statute was written with the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches in mind—not the Baptists or other congregationally governed denominations.  Only connectional churches would need a statute like 57-9.  It does not make a hierarchical church into a congregational one; it simply gives the congregation the right to decide which branch to belong to when there is a split in the larger body.

[201] Posted by AnglicanXn on 04-08-2008 at 11:43 AM • top

#201 - Last summer we travelled abroad and attended, for 2-3 weekends, an historic British Church.  I contributed to the Offertory and some of the money was for a building program that is underway.  It was originally Roman Catholic, preceeding Henry VIII by many years, and became Anglican after the English Reformation.  The Church is 1450 years old.

Now, I ask you, do I somehow “OWN” a portion of this historic building or was my contribution to the ongoing maintenance and improvement of a very historic structure that is held in trust for future generations.


Does it really make sense to talk about “ownership” of such a historic structure?  Should the Pope make a claim?

When I suggest that “first generation” churches should go with the current members, I am not dealing with the (legal) ownership question but merely recognizing that they built the structure and, in all fairness, should have downstream use.

I didn’t build the 1450 year old Cathedral and the current members of Truro/TFC did not build their facilities.

[202] Posted by star-ace on 04-08-2008 at 12:04 PM • top

The argument is absurd, star-ace #203.  One might just as well say that, since they aren’t the founders, the current members of a corporation’s Board of Directors have no business making the decision to sell the corporation, or that my grandkids have no right to close a business I started but left to them in my will, or that I have to consult Honda if I decide to paint my 1995 Civic orange, or that I can’t choose to remove a wall in my 1910 house.  Ownership of and responsibility over real property changes every single day, and it can change multiple times over the life of the asset.  And, let’s make no mistake here: what we’re talking about is precisely that, real property.

A real scandal would be receiving the fullness of the revelation of God, yet choosing to distort it and water it down before passing it along to your spiritual descendents.

If the ownership of Truro is established to reside with the current occupants - those whose names are on the deed - then, they have the absolute right to keep it, sell it, or tear it down to make a parking lot.

[203] Posted by Phil on 04-08-2008 at 12:18 PM • top

star-ace [203]

The current members of Truro/TFC use the building and pay for the maintenance of the buildings.  If they win the lawsuit they will continue to worship in the the buildings as part of the Anglican Communion.

The Diocese did not pay for the buildings, did not pay for the maintenance.  If the diocese wins the lawsuit I doubt they will have a congregation able to afford the buildings and will probably sell them.  According to the PB, to anybody but Anglican.

So one group wants the buildings to worship in, the other group wants them to sell.  It seems obvious to be who should have it.  But that is not a legal argument.

[204] Posted by JustOneVoice on 04-08-2008 at 12:26 PM • top

To:  star ace - your statement:
“It was orginally Roman Catholic…...and became Anglican after the English Reformation”
Seems like the ADV even has tradition on its side in the matter of property!  Remember when TEC used to be “scripture, reason and tradition”????  ADV has all three!  As do other branches of the Anglican Communion.
And to Bill Cool - perhaps TEC is now using disappearing ink - I’m sure KJS thinks she did in Dar!

[205] Posted by no longer NH Episcopalian on 04-08-2008 at 01:37 PM • top

Follow up on the above posts.

If Church Property can be transferred this easily, then what is to stop a concerted group of folks from taking over any small church in Virginia.  Many churches have 30-40-50 families.  Get a group of 100 church-raiders, get on the vestry/board, lodge a phony (or very real) complaint and it’s yours.

If these findings are upheld, the KICKASS (Kirk of Independent Christian Klowns Associated for Sunday Services) Denomination will use EXACTLY this strategy.  No small church will escape KICKASS’s ass-kicking.  We will initially target AMiA congregations.  “What’s good for the goose, etc”

wink Do anyone really want this to happen - - - Think it thru - - - wink

[206] Posted by star-ace on 04-08-2008 at 03:26 PM • top

If these findings are upheld, the KICKASS (Kirk of Independent Christian Klowns Associated for Sunday Services) Denomination will use EXACTLY this strategy.  No small church will escape KICKASS’s ass-kicking.  We will initially target AMiA congregations.  “What’s good for the goose, etc”

I think the local YMCA’s would object to your trying to take over their gymnasiums. 

Apart from that, I think you are misreading the resolve of the mushy-middle, sitting in the pews.  They would probably rather sit in “their” parish, like lumps of stale mashed-potatoes, than be courageous for someone else’s convictions. 

As for the scenario, bring it on.  It would after all, give these poor Episcopalians an opportunity to hear the Gospel, and worship with Christians.

[207] Posted by J Eppinga on 04-08-2008 at 04:23 PM • top

#207, good point.  I have the same concerns in other areas.  What’s to stop other people from moving into my neighborhood and voting to raise everybody’s property taxes?  Who do they think they are - moving around in a free society and exercising their right to vote?

Maybe we should heed your warning and take the appropriate steps.  I propose everybody at Truro and TFC be forced to swear loyalty to Schori and her teachings, or be put in jail.  And, I further propose anybody moving into my neighborhood automatically lose their right to vote in municipal elections, forever.  Will those things work for you?

[208] Posted by Phil on 04-08-2008 at 04:26 PM • top

As a member of Truro I would like to point out that the process we went through was hardly “easy” and was done with significant prayer and discernment in the fall of 2006. The Diocese was invited and encouraged to participate in the discernment process. The end result was that 92% of the membership of Truro voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church over the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

TEC and EDVA failed to make their case. This was a failure of leadership since as we all know that change is difficult and that we are predisposed to continue the status quo. On the day of the vote I found myself in tears: tears of joy, of loss, and of relief.

[209] Posted by View from the Pew on 04-09-2008 at 11:48 AM • top

We have definitely made the Big Time!  Drudge hisself has an article:  “Judge rules for Episcopal Church secessionists.”  Better late than never.  wink

[210] Posted by APB on 04-09-2008 at 03:21 PM • top

I’ve just gotten around to reading through this thread.  It’s all very interesting.  A couple of comments:  Re the “eviction” discussion - it’s fair enough to say that no congregants were physically removed from the premises that they voted not to leave.  However, no Episcopal clergy are available for services so many of those who voted to “stay” have, in fact, had to leave, while those who voted to “leave” remain in the pews.  A number of us attend both services, thus remaining loyal to our historic physical church buildings while still worhsipping as Episcopalians in borrowed facilities until rights of access are clarified.

[211] Posted by NoVA Scout on 05-11-2008 at 07:24 AM • top

Sorry, my last comment posted before I had finished.  The second point I had hoped to make was on the peculiarity of the Virginia statute.  For those who advocate its passage elsewhere, I would recommend caution. It would probably not pass constitutional muster in this day and age.  It is very much a product of post-Civil War Virginia and some of the particularly stressful disputes that occurred in Protestant churches before, during and immediately after the War.  Judge Bellows very thorough opinion may be dead-center correct as it applies that statute to current facts, but it doesn’t travel well in time or geography.

[212] Posted by NoVA Scout on 05-11-2008 at 07:28 AM • top

Just like the Battle of Bull Run.

[213] Posted by Pb on 05-11-2008 at 07:32 AM • top

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.


Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere about the crisis in our church. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments that you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm, its board of directors, or its site administrators.