A News Release from the Diocese of Virginia:
The Diocese of Virginia has responded in court to claims regarding real and personal property made by 11 congregations where the majority membership has voted to leave The Episcopal Church but have not vacated or relinquished that property to the Diocese.
Following the votes to separate, 8 of those congregations initiated proceedings in their respective local circuit courts in an effort to transfer ownership of their real properties away from the Diocese and The Episcopal Church and to the Church of Nigeria through an organization called CANA or Convocation of Anglicans of North America. Last week the Diocese filed responses to these actions objecting to any transfer of property, citing both Virginia law and the canons of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese.
Today, the Diocese of Virginia filed 11 new complaints in various jurisdictions seeking court action with respect to the real and personal property now held by the following 11 congregations:
Christ the Redeemer, Centreville
Church of the Apostles, Fairfax
Church of the Epiphany, Herndon
Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands
Church of the Word, Gainesville
Potomac Falls Episcopal, Sterling
St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge
St. Paul’s, Haymarket
St. Stephen’s, Heathsville
The Falls Church, Falls Church
In these suits the Diocese seeks:
* A declaration that the congregations have made improper claims regarding Episcopal Church property (“declaring that there has been an improper trespass, conversion, alienation and use of the real and personal property”);
* A court order upholding the interest in the property of the Diocese (“the trust, proprietary and contract rights of the Diocese”);
* An order restraining further use and occupancy of the property by the separated congregations;
* An order conveying legal title to and control of the property to the Bishop of the Diocese; and
* An order requiring a full accounting of the “use of all real and personal property” by the separated congregations.
The clergy in charge and lay leadership of each of the 11 congregations have been named as defendants in the actions. The Diocese is not asking the courts to impose any personal liability on any of the individual named defendants at this time.
The leadership of the Diocese recently concluded that the majority membership of the separated congregations voluntarily chose to sever their ties with the Diocese and, in doing so, they abandoned the property for the purposes for which it was set aside, namely the mission of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese. The diocesan Executive Board adopted resolutions on January 18 declaring the real and personal property of the separated congregations “abandoned” under the canons of the Church and authorizing the Bishop to take such steps as may be necessary to recover or secure the property for the mission of the Church.
Bishop Lee said in his January 18 letter to the Diocese, “The differences are not about property but about the legacy we have received for the mission of Christ and our obligation to preserve that legacy for the future.” Also in that letter, Bishop Lee said, “In the structure of the Episcopal Church, individuals may come and go but parishes continue,” for generations and generations.