Court rules against conservative Anglicans

Despite an earlier positive ruling, a court has ruled against Falls Church and six other conservative Anglican congregations that have left the Episcopal Church over its increasingly liberal theology.  Now the congregations will have to surrender their property to the Virginia diocese of the Episcopal church.  Here is the congregation’s press release:

Seven Anglican congregations in Virginia that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s ruling by the Fairfax County Circuit Court that the property should be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese.

The Circuit Court heard the case last spring after the Virginia Supreme Court remanded it in June 2010. The congregations previously had succeeded in their efforts on the Circuit Court level to defend the property that they bought and paid for.

“Although we are profoundly disappointed by today’s decision, we offer our gratitude to Judge Bellows for his review of this case. As we prayerfully consider our legal options, we above all remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith. Regardless of today’s ruling, we are confident that God is in control, and that He will continue to guide our path,” said Jim Oakes, spokesperson for the seven Anglican congregations.

The Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, a historic property involved in the case, stated, “The core issue for us is not physical property, but theological and moral truth and the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. Wherever we worship, we remain Anglicans because we cannot compromise our historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, ‘Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.’”

The seven Anglican congregations are members of the newly established Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, a member diocese within the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic has expressed to leaders of the seven congregations, “Our trust is in the Lord who is ever faithful. He is in control and He will enable you to carry forward your mission for the glory of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom. Know that your brothers and sisters in Christ continue to stand with you and pray for you.”

via Press Release Jan 10, 2012 (Events & News).

The Falls Church property is huge.  I don’t know what the Episcopal Diocese can do with it.   Sell it to non-Anglicans, I suppose.

HT:  Sandy

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Sounds like Falls Church is getting a new mosque!

  • SKPeterson

    Sounds like Falls Church is getting a new mosque!

  • HistoryProfBrad

    I cannot help but find irony in this situation, especially in light of what the English authorities did way back when in confiscating the lands and properties of the Catholic Church during and after their separation from Rome. Still, this ruling is sad…but not very surprising.

  • HistoryProfBrad

    I cannot help but find irony in this situation, especially in light of what the English authorities did way back when in confiscating the lands and properties of the Catholic Church during and after their separation from Rome. Still, this ruling is sad…but not very surprising.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Gee, if they had some backbone way back when and kicked out the false teachers instead of making them seminary professors, they might not be in this situation. A drop of sewage in a barrel of wine…

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Gee, if they had some backbone way back when and kicked out the false teachers instead of making them seminary professors, they might not be in this situation. A drop of sewage in a barrel of wine…

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @3

    Let’s trace this back a little. The corrupt folks in power who took the churches from the people back in the day are the (ideological and genetic) ancestors of the folks in power now who are taking the churches from the people now. They can’t convince believers with their teaching, so they just steal their stuff. Is that what you mean?

    I recall also the destruction of the monasteries which for all their faults were the only real social services for the poor. I wonder how many poor or lost people could be reached with charity and evangelism with the $$ the Episcopal church will lose when it sells its say hypothetically $5 million windfall for $500K to the Muslims.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @3

    Let’s trace this back a little. The corrupt folks in power who took the churches from the people back in the day are the (ideological and genetic) ancestors of the folks in power now who are taking the churches from the people now. They can’t convince believers with their teaching, so they just steal their stuff. Is that what you mean?

    I recall also the destruction of the monasteries which for all their faults were the only real social services for the poor. I wonder how many poor or lost people could be reached with charity and evangelism with the $$ the Episcopal church will lose when it sells its say hypothetically $5 million windfall for $500K to the Muslims.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Just a tragedy all around. You would think that the parties could sit down and work out appropriate terms for the property that would be acceptable to all parties, but I guess pettiness rules the day here.

    Good luck to the diocese in dealing with these properties.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Just a tragedy all around. You would think that the parties could sit down and work out appropriate terms for the property that would be acceptable to all parties, but I guess pettiness rules the day here.

    Good luck to the diocese in dealing with these properties.

  • Kirk

    @Steve

    Like what? The ECA claims it owns the property, the parish claims that it owns the property. The property needs to be administered and the needs of the parish, which is 2200 strong, require a dedicated space in order to be met. Furthermore, issue arose out of decades of theological disagreement, ultimately resulting in a major schism between the ECA and the more conservative churches. This isn’t the sort of thing where the two parties can site down and say “well, you use the church on Tuesday and Thursdays and we’ll take it on Mondays and Wednesdays.”

  • Kirk

    @Steve

    Like what? The ECA claims it owns the property, the parish claims that it owns the property. The property needs to be administered and the needs of the parish, which is 2200 strong, require a dedicated space in order to be met. Furthermore, issue arose out of decades of theological disagreement, ultimately resulting in a major schism between the ECA and the more conservative churches. This isn’t the sort of thing where the two parties can site down and say “well, you use the church on Tuesday and Thursdays and we’ll take it on Mondays and Wednesdays.”

  • The Jones

    Yeah, as sad as this is for the conservative Episcopals, (now Anglicans?) who now have no property to have their church, but I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than a property dispute. This should be a lesson for churches how to lease/own/buy/share their property with their church hierarchy. This does not look like a lesson of how the law should be changed.

    Otherwise, it would require the court to get involved in the actual theological dispute, which it made clear that it could not and would not do in the Lutheran School case.

  • The Jones

    Yeah, as sad as this is for the conservative Episcopals, (now Anglicans?) who now have no property to have their church, but I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than a property dispute. This should be a lesson for churches how to lease/own/buy/share their property with their church hierarchy. This does not look like a lesson of how the law should be changed.

    Otherwise, it would require the court to get involved in the actual theological dispute, which it made clear that it could not and would not do in the Lutheran School case.

  • Steve Billingsley

    In South Carolina the Bishop there (Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence) sent quit claim deeds to all the churches is that diocese – allowing the parishes to decide about the property. A much better way to deal with the issue in my opinion.

  • Steve Billingsley

    In South Carolina the Bishop there (Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence) sent quit claim deeds to all the churches is that diocese – allowing the parishes to decide about the property. A much better way to deal with the issue in my opinion.

  • Cincinnatus

    I don’t have much of a stance on the property dispute, though it seems a tad uncharitable to boot a congregation from its own building. The truly ridiculous aspect is that the congregation of “continuing Episcopalians” who voted against secession from TEC at the Falls Church in 2006 are comparatively tiny in number (I was a member of the church at that time). Now they have a truly massive facility. I can’t imagine that they’ll have a more sensible option than to sell the property, which is somewhat tragic.

    As is the schism in American Anglicanism in general.

  • Cincinnatus

    I don’t have much of a stance on the property dispute, though it seems a tad uncharitable to boot a congregation from its own building. The truly ridiculous aspect is that the congregation of “continuing Episcopalians” who voted against secession from TEC at the Falls Church in 2006 are comparatively tiny in number (I was a member of the church at that time). Now they have a truly massive facility. I can’t imagine that they’ll have a more sensible option than to sell the property, which is somewhat tragic.

    As is the schism in American Anglicanism in general.

  • Cincinnatus

    Especially tragic, by the way, since the building in question dates to the eighteenth century.

  • Cincinnatus

    Especially tragic, by the way, since the building in question dates to the eighteenth century.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As much as my sympathies lie more with Falls Church, et al., I’m a little surprised at the framing of this post. This wasn’t a theological case, as such, it was a legal one. It’s about rule of law. Not that the press release (or Veith’s comments) say much about that.

    I don’t think the Episcopal Church has handled this case particularly wisely, but I also don’t know how they’ve structured the relationship between the denomination and the individual congregations, especially as pertains to church property and buildings.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As much as my sympathies lie more with Falls Church, et al., I’m a little surprised at the framing of this post. This wasn’t a theological case, as such, it was a legal one. It’s about rule of law. Not that the press release (or Veith’s comments) say much about that.

    I don’t think the Episcopal Church has handled this case particularly wisely, but I also don’t know how they’ve structured the relationship between the denomination and the individual congregations, especially as pertains to church property and buildings.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: In the Episcopal church, the diocese owns the buildings. Thus, seceding Anglicans have had a rather simple set of options in other states: give up your buildings. The only reason cases in Virginia have been complicated is that a rather archaic statute dating from the eighteenth century (i.e., before the Revolution and thus before there even was an Episcopal Church hierarchically separate from the Church of England) that ostensibly identified parishes and not dioceses as the owners of their properties.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: In the Episcopal church, the diocese owns the buildings. Thus, seceding Anglicans have had a rather simple set of options in other states: give up your buildings. The only reason cases in Virginia have been complicated is that a rather archaic statute dating from the eighteenth century (i.e., before the Revolution and thus before there even was an Episcopal Church hierarchically separate from the Church of England) that ostensibly identified parishes and not dioceses as the owners of their properties.

  • DonS

    To follow up on what Cincinnatus said, the deeds were held in a trust, rather than in the name of the diocese. So, the courts had to sort that all out. I believe this Civil War era statute provided for the property to be awarded to the local congregation if it was only moving from one branch of a denomination to another. The argument was whether moving from the modern U.S. Episcopal denomination to align with a more traditional Anglican denomination fell within the bounds of the statute. Guess not.

    The same issue is being fought here in California, with the local churches also in peril: http://www.usnews.com/news/religion/articles/2009/01/08/california-ruling-in-episcopal-church-dispute-deals-setback-to-breakaway-parishes-nationwide

    The California cases are different, in that the property deeds are actually held by the local congregations, but the Episcopal governing documents indicate that they are held in trust for the Diocese, and so far, the courts seem to be giving weight to those governing documents as binding contracts. One would think that the Episcopal Church, in the name of public relations and fairmindedness, in view of the drastic way in which it has changed its own doctrinal views in recent years, would be gracious to these local congregations, and offer a way forward for them to keep their properties, by paying an exit fee to the diocese or some such mechanism. After all, it’s not like this shrinking, dead, mainline denomination is ever going to revitalize and have a use for these buildings. But, pettiness reigns supreme, apparently.

    This should serve as a warning to any local church that chooses to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy — make sure you own your own property and you can exit the denomination at any time without penalty.

  • DonS

    To follow up on what Cincinnatus said, the deeds were held in a trust, rather than in the name of the diocese. So, the courts had to sort that all out. I believe this Civil War era statute provided for the property to be awarded to the local congregation if it was only moving from one branch of a denomination to another. The argument was whether moving from the modern U.S. Episcopal denomination to align with a more traditional Anglican denomination fell within the bounds of the statute. Guess not.

    The same issue is being fought here in California, with the local churches also in peril: http://www.usnews.com/news/religion/articles/2009/01/08/california-ruling-in-episcopal-church-dispute-deals-setback-to-breakaway-parishes-nationwide

    The California cases are different, in that the property deeds are actually held by the local congregations, but the Episcopal governing documents indicate that they are held in trust for the Diocese, and so far, the courts seem to be giving weight to those governing documents as binding contracts. One would think that the Episcopal Church, in the name of public relations and fairmindedness, in view of the drastic way in which it has changed its own doctrinal views in recent years, would be gracious to these local congregations, and offer a way forward for them to keep their properties, by paying an exit fee to the diocese or some such mechanism. After all, it’s not like this shrinking, dead, mainline denomination is ever going to revitalize and have a use for these buildings. But, pettiness reigns supreme, apparently.

    This should serve as a warning to any local church that chooses to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy — make sure you own your own property and you can exit the denomination at any time without penalty.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: Your comments is quite helpful from a legal perspective, but I take issue with a couple of your later statements.

    After all, it’s not like this shrinking, dead, mainline denomination is ever going to revitalize and have a use for these buildings. But, pettiness reigns supreme, apparently.

    After all, it’s not like this shrinking, dead, mainline denomination is ever going to revitalize and have a use for these buildings. But, pettiness reigns supreme, apparently.

    Obviously, TEC has been declining in numbers (and doctrine) for a few decades. But upon what grounds do you claim that it is never going to revitalize? That’s not the only problem I have with this particular statement (to wit, is it “petty” for a Church not to permit people it believes to be wrong to leave willy-nilly with very valuable property that belongs to the Church?). But, speaking of pettiness, it seems a bit foolish and self-righteous to claim that denomination can’t recover from a period of decline. There are many faithful Episcopalians working to restore their Church, and there is hope as well that seceding Anglicans can revitalize Anglicanism in America as well.

    This should serve as a warning to any local church that chooses to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy — make sure you own your own property and you can exit the denomination at any time without penalty.

    So, a brief lesson in ecclesiology. Local Episcopal churches didn’t “choose” to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy. These churches were, many decades and in some cases centuries ago, established by that very hierarchy. Indeed, as the name suggests, episcopal church government (a mode of ecclesiological government found–and arguably even mandated–in Scripture, by the way) is an inseparable component of what it means to be Episcopal(/Anglican). These aren’t congregations established by a yokel who, at some point, decided it would be beneficial to align with a formal denomination. Leaving is a big deal, not least because they were never separate.

    Given that fact, it’s absurd to suggest that local congregations have some sort of “contract” that allows them to leave whenever they want. Just as pre-nuptial agreements undermine the sacred trust that is supposed to undergird marriage, such an “agreement” would undergird the idea of unity and communion that undergirds the Anglican communion. The church is the church, in this conception, not a tenuously bound collection of independent parishes who can come and go as they please. In fact, your idea is unthinkable for most Anglicans (not to mention Catholics, Orthodox, etc.). Even if there was a point at which these congregations decided to “join” the Communion (which, I repeat, never happened), why would they reserve the “right” to leave at any time?

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: Your comments is quite helpful from a legal perspective, but I take issue with a couple of your later statements.

    After all, it’s not like this shrinking, dead, mainline denomination is ever going to revitalize and have a use for these buildings. But, pettiness reigns supreme, apparently.

    After all, it’s not like this shrinking, dead, mainline denomination is ever going to revitalize and have a use for these buildings. But, pettiness reigns supreme, apparently.

    Obviously, TEC has been declining in numbers (and doctrine) for a few decades. But upon what grounds do you claim that it is never going to revitalize? That’s not the only problem I have with this particular statement (to wit, is it “petty” for a Church not to permit people it believes to be wrong to leave willy-nilly with very valuable property that belongs to the Church?). But, speaking of pettiness, it seems a bit foolish and self-righteous to claim that denomination can’t recover from a period of decline. There are many faithful Episcopalians working to restore their Church, and there is hope as well that seceding Anglicans can revitalize Anglicanism in America as well.

    This should serve as a warning to any local church that chooses to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy — make sure you own your own property and you can exit the denomination at any time without penalty.

    So, a brief lesson in ecclesiology. Local Episcopal churches didn’t “choose” to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy. These churches were, many decades and in some cases centuries ago, established by that very hierarchy. Indeed, as the name suggests, episcopal church government (a mode of ecclesiological government found–and arguably even mandated–in Scripture, by the way) is an inseparable component of what it means to be Episcopal(/Anglican). These aren’t congregations established by a yokel who, at some point, decided it would be beneficial to align with a formal denomination. Leaving is a big deal, not least because they were never separate.

    Given that fact, it’s absurd to suggest that local congregations have some sort of “contract” that allows them to leave whenever they want. Just as pre-nuptial agreements undermine the sacred trust that is supposed to undergird marriage, such an “agreement” would undergird the idea of unity and communion that undergirds the Anglican communion. The church is the church, in this conception, not a tenuously bound collection of independent parishes who can come and go as they please. In fact, your idea is unthinkable for most Anglicans (not to mention Catholics, Orthodox, etc.). Even if there was a point at which these congregations decided to “join” the Communion (which, I repeat, never happened), why would they reserve the “right” to leave at any time?

  • Cincinnatus

    HTML/copy and past fail.

    Also, would undermine* the idea of unity and communion

  • Cincinnatus

    HTML/copy and past fail.

    Also, would undermine* the idea of unity and communion

  • P.C.

    I have a close relative who is employed at the historic Falls Church and she reports that although disappointed with the judge’s order they are pressing on with all their ministerial programs. Although, sadly, they may have to relocate to a new location, the church may continue to appeal this decision, perhaps to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Episcopal Church is showing its true, vicious colors not just in Virginia but here in California and other states. Shame on them but they know no shame.

    On Wednesday, The Falls Church held a worship service for their members. Although sad, the service was uplifting. Why? Because the …

    The Church shall never perish!
    Her dear Lord to defend,
    To guide, sustain, and cherish,
    Is with her to the end:
    Though there be those who hate her,
    And false sons in her pale,
    Against both foe or traitor
    She ever shall prevail.

    Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed:
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song!

    Please keep The Falls Church in your prayers.

  • P.C.

    I have a close relative who is employed at the historic Falls Church and she reports that although disappointed with the judge’s order they are pressing on with all their ministerial programs. Although, sadly, they may have to relocate to a new location, the church may continue to appeal this decision, perhaps to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Episcopal Church is showing its true, vicious colors not just in Virginia but here in California and other states. Shame on them but they know no shame.

    On Wednesday, The Falls Church held a worship service for their members. Although sad, the service was uplifting. Why? Because the …

    The Church shall never perish!
    Her dear Lord to defend,
    To guide, sustain, and cherish,
    Is with her to the end:
    Though there be those who hate her,
    And false sons in her pale,
    Against both foe or traitor
    She ever shall prevail.

    Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed:
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song!

    Please keep The Falls Church in your prayers.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 14 & 15: I get that this is not entirely a black and white issue. There are minority factions in each congregation, I’m sure, who donated monies over the years to the purchase and maintenance of the facilities because the church was part of the Episcopal denomination, for example. And I don’t necessarily oppose or disagree with the courts’ decisions in these cases. They have to resolve the issues in accordance with law, and the law is far from clear when civil property law crosses with diocesan agreements. Which is why I made the comment about a local congregation protecting itself in the event it makes a substantial investment in a church property, to ensure it can be extricated if it ever becomes necessary to leave a wayward denomination.

    Your comments are substantive, particularly given your status and knowledge as an Anglican, so let me unpack them in smaller segments:

    Obviously, TEC has been declining in numbers (and doctrine) for a few decades. But upon what grounds do you claim that it is never going to revitalize?

    You’re right. I shouldn’t have said “never”, not as long as God is active in this fallen world. In human terms, it seems like never, and I fell into that construct. Here’s my point — stated hopefully better. There is nothing on the horizon to indicate that the Diocese is going to need these facilities for ministry, since it has been shrinking fairly dramatically for decades. So, there is no reason why it couldn’t negotiate some kind of good faith settlement with these congregations that is fair to both sides — recognizing that the congregations actually purchased and maintained the properties, but providing funds to the Diocese as well. This should have been done without having to resort to the courts, as Christians biblically don’t belong there for resolution of their own disputes, but that’s a separate issue.

    So, a brief lesson in ecclesiology. Local Episcopal churches didn’t “choose” to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy. These churches were, many decades and in some cases centuries ago, established by that very hierarchy.

    I understand this point. These churches are stuck. These agreements were imposed on them at their creation, and at the time no one could possibly have understood that the denomination would have so fully and whole heartedly abrogated and disavowed the absolute truth of the Scriptures. I was speaking to congregations now, who may have an option to get themselves into a better situation, and have been warned that denominations change, and they may not always want to be associated with them.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 14 & 15: I get that this is not entirely a black and white issue. There are minority factions in each congregation, I’m sure, who donated monies over the years to the purchase and maintenance of the facilities because the church was part of the Episcopal denomination, for example. And I don’t necessarily oppose or disagree with the courts’ decisions in these cases. They have to resolve the issues in accordance with law, and the law is far from clear when civil property law crosses with diocesan agreements. Which is why I made the comment about a local congregation protecting itself in the event it makes a substantial investment in a church property, to ensure it can be extricated if it ever becomes necessary to leave a wayward denomination.

    Your comments are substantive, particularly given your status and knowledge as an Anglican, so let me unpack them in smaller segments:

    Obviously, TEC has been declining in numbers (and doctrine) for a few decades. But upon what grounds do you claim that it is never going to revitalize?

    You’re right. I shouldn’t have said “never”, not as long as God is active in this fallen world. In human terms, it seems like never, and I fell into that construct. Here’s my point — stated hopefully better. There is nothing on the horizon to indicate that the Diocese is going to need these facilities for ministry, since it has been shrinking fairly dramatically for decades. So, there is no reason why it couldn’t negotiate some kind of good faith settlement with these congregations that is fair to both sides — recognizing that the congregations actually purchased and maintained the properties, but providing funds to the Diocese as well. This should have been done without having to resort to the courts, as Christians biblically don’t belong there for resolution of their own disputes, but that’s a separate issue.

    So, a brief lesson in ecclesiology. Local Episcopal churches didn’t “choose” to affiliate with a denominational hierarchy. These churches were, many decades and in some cases centuries ago, established by that very hierarchy.

    I understand this point. These churches are stuck. These agreements were imposed on them at their creation, and at the time no one could possibly have understood that the denomination would have so fully and whole heartedly abrogated and disavowed the absolute truth of the Scriptures. I was speaking to congregations now, who may have an option to get themselves into a better situation, and have been warned that denominations change, and they may not always want to be associated with them.

  • SKPeterson

    I suppose the question becomes, if the Falls Church parish buildings are seized or controlling ownership transferred to the ECA diocese, would the rump ECA congregation be able to financially survive. If so, then so be it. If not, though, why couldn’t the conservative Anglicans purchase the property from the ECA? Or has the ECA explicitly stated that they will not sell to the conservative Anglicans? I know it has done this in other areas (hence my mosque comment), but is the ECA that interested in spiting the ACNA folks that they would literally cut off their nose to spite their face?

  • SKPeterson

    I suppose the question becomes, if the Falls Church parish buildings are seized or controlling ownership transferred to the ECA diocese, would the rump ECA congregation be able to financially survive. If so, then so be it. If not, though, why couldn’t the conservative Anglicans purchase the property from the ECA? Or has the ECA explicitly stated that they will not sell to the conservative Anglicans? I know it has done this in other areas (hence my mosque comment), but is the ECA that interested in spiting the ACNA folks that they would literally cut off their nose to spite their face?

  • Steve Billingsley

    SKPeterson

    “I know it has done this in other areas (hence my mosque comment), but is the ECA that interested in spiting the ACNA folks that they would literally cut off their nose to spite their face?”

    I hope not, but the evidence thus far suggests that the answer to that question is yes. The ECA has obviously spent a lot of money in legal fees up to this point (and I believe in the rule of law and they certainly have the law on their side in this instance). But it didn’t have to be that way. I gave the South Carolina example earlier as a different path that could have been chosen.

  • Steve Billingsley

    SKPeterson

    “I know it has done this in other areas (hence my mosque comment), but is the ECA that interested in spiting the ACNA folks that they would literally cut off their nose to spite their face?”

    I hope not, but the evidence thus far suggests that the answer to that question is yes. The ECA has obviously spent a lot of money in legal fees up to this point (and I believe in the rule of law and they certainly have the law on their side in this instance). But it didn’t have to be that way. I gave the South Carolina example earlier as a different path that could have been chosen.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Churches wishing to leave the Episcopal church could mortgage their properties and put the $$ aside and use it to pay salaries etc while the elders create a new account and fund into which offerings for a new facility could go. Once they have enough in the new account, they could let the diocese have the heavily mortgaged property.

    But is it technically legal? If yes, it is worth it.

    The galling thing to me in these disputes is that the folks who began and sustained these facilities for their contemporary and future use by the congregation are theologically aligned with the current congregations not the Episcopal leadership. The current Episcopal church leadership consists in a group of folks who have gradually usurped the church herself. The leadership is in effect a new denomination very different from the one that exists in many of the parishes. And this new denomination is stealing the properties of the parishes that remain faithful.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Churches wishing to leave the Episcopal church could mortgage their properties and put the $$ aside and use it to pay salaries etc while the elders create a new account and fund into which offerings for a new facility could go. Once they have enough in the new account, they could let the diocese have the heavily mortgaged property.

    But is it technically legal? If yes, it is worth it.

    The galling thing to me in these disputes is that the folks who began and sustained these facilities for their contemporary and future use by the congregation are theologically aligned with the current congregations not the Episcopal leadership. The current Episcopal church leadership consists in a group of folks who have gradually usurped the church herself. The leadership is in effect a new denomination very different from the one that exists in many of the parishes. And this new denomination is stealing the properties of the parishes that remain faithful.

  • helen

    Steve Billingsley January 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm
    In South Carolina the Bishop there (Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence) sent quit claim deeds to all the churches is that diocese – allowing the parishes to decide about the property. A much better way to deal with the issue in my opinion.

    Very decent!
    But the female head of the Episcopalians is determined to prove she’s the boss, if she wrecks the whole thing to do it… Samson style.
    [We've got some Lutherans like that, too.] :(

  • helen

    Steve Billingsley January 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm
    In South Carolina the Bishop there (Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence) sent quit claim deeds to all the churches is that diocese – allowing the parishes to decide about the property. A much better way to deal with the issue in my opinion.

    Very decent!
    But the female head of the Episcopalians is determined to prove she’s the boss, if she wrecks the whole thing to do it… Samson style.
    [We've got some Lutherans like that, too.] :(

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    some Lutheran denominations own the property of individual congregations-BAD!
    My thoughts-LIFE LIBERTY PROPERTY should be the norm of individual congregations as well as for the general populous of the US Republic-
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    some Lutheran denominations own the property of individual congregations-BAD!
    My thoughts-LIFE LIBERTY PROPERTY should be the norm of individual congregations as well as for the general populous of the US Republic-
    Carol-CS

  • Bruin

    Cincinnatus and Don might enjoy reading this article, which talks about the shift in ecclesiastical law that, oddly enough, was brought on by the low church denominations of Virginia among other factors: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/2012/01/12/virginias-new-ecclesiasticism/

  • Bruin

    Cincinnatus and Don might enjoy reading this article, which talks about the shift in ecclesiastical law that, oddly enough, was brought on by the low church denominations of Virginia among other factors: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/2012/01/12/virginias-new-ecclesiasticism/

  • Cincinnatus

    Bruin@23: Interesting article from an historical standpoint, but I’m not sure of its bearing on the present discussion. Yes, in the pre-revolutionary era in Virginia it was customary for parishes to own and maintain their own properties. But that hasn’t been the case for centuries (literally!), and the law is no longer on the side of such an arrangement.

    It is ironic, however, that the ancestors of the same Baptists et al. who pooh-pooh the Anglican predicament in Virginia were, shortly after this pre-revolutionary era, responsible for pouring the foundation of this predicament.

    Meanwhile, DonS@17, you still seem to be misunderstanding the nature of the (Anglican) Church. Again, a decision to affiliate with a denomination didn’t follow the founding of these congregations. These churches were founded as Anglican parishes, as inseparable members of that communion. Scenarios like the ones you pose–”Ah yes, but what if the Anglicans become heretical someday?” “Eh, we’ll just affiliate with Baptists then.”–would have been unthinkable, as in literally not something capable of being articulated in the minds of those founding the churches. In fact, just this morning I was discussing with my rector (“pastor” for you low-churchers) the history of Episcopal parishes in my part of Wisconsin. Apparently, most of them were founded by an Anglican/Episcopal missionary bishop (who also founded the thoroughly orthodox Nashotah House seminary near Milwaukee) around the 1830′s. These churches were founded by Anglicans as Anglican churches. Period. All this stuff about “choosing” to affiliate with a “denominational hierarchy” and leaving at will, etc., would have been–and still is–patently absurd. Such logic is only possible when one has already been seeped in congregationalist ecclesiology in the first place. Anglicans, meanwhile, maintain notions like communion, apostolic succession, episcopacy, etc. We/they don’t think that way. And neither do the separatist Anglicans, by the way. They’re not leaving Anglicanism. Their argument is that the Episcopal church has left Anglicanism first (via doctrinal corruption), and that thus so-called separatists are merely reestablishing proper communion with Canterbury. Hence, the efforts of the Falls Church, for instance, to affiliate with the Archbishop of Nigeria (gotta have a properly consecrated Bishop!) and to obtain official recognition from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself–which, due to Rowan Williams’s perpetual dithering, still isn’t forthcoming, last I heard.

    In short, DonS, the lesson for other churches isn’t to beware of “affiliating” with a “denominational hierarchy,” but, in my opinion, simply to remain faithful to your historical creeds and liturgies. This has been a problem for most Western church traditions. Due to the particulars of Anglican ecclesiology, such doctrinal disputes have manifested themselves within the Episcopal church, at least in the public’s eye, primarily in the form of property disputes like these. But I’m willing to bet that petty property disputes are less schismatic and hurtful than, say, the Lutheran church’s perpetual coopting and reordering of various letters of the alphabet.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bruin@23: Interesting article from an historical standpoint, but I’m not sure of its bearing on the present discussion. Yes, in the pre-revolutionary era in Virginia it was customary for parishes to own and maintain their own properties. But that hasn’t been the case for centuries (literally!), and the law is no longer on the side of such an arrangement.

    It is ironic, however, that the ancestors of the same Baptists et al. who pooh-pooh the Anglican predicament in Virginia were, shortly after this pre-revolutionary era, responsible for pouring the foundation of this predicament.

    Meanwhile, DonS@17, you still seem to be misunderstanding the nature of the (Anglican) Church. Again, a decision to affiliate with a denomination didn’t follow the founding of these congregations. These churches were founded as Anglican parishes, as inseparable members of that communion. Scenarios like the ones you pose–”Ah yes, but what if the Anglicans become heretical someday?” “Eh, we’ll just affiliate with Baptists then.”–would have been unthinkable, as in literally not something capable of being articulated in the minds of those founding the churches. In fact, just this morning I was discussing with my rector (“pastor” for you low-churchers) the history of Episcopal parishes in my part of Wisconsin. Apparently, most of them were founded by an Anglican/Episcopal missionary bishop (who also founded the thoroughly orthodox Nashotah House seminary near Milwaukee) around the 1830′s. These churches were founded by Anglicans as Anglican churches. Period. All this stuff about “choosing” to affiliate with a “denominational hierarchy” and leaving at will, etc., would have been–and still is–patently absurd. Such logic is only possible when one has already been seeped in congregationalist ecclesiology in the first place. Anglicans, meanwhile, maintain notions like communion, apostolic succession, episcopacy, etc. We/they don’t think that way. And neither do the separatist Anglicans, by the way. They’re not leaving Anglicanism. Their argument is that the Episcopal church has left Anglicanism first (via doctrinal corruption), and that thus so-called separatists are merely reestablishing proper communion with Canterbury. Hence, the efforts of the Falls Church, for instance, to affiliate with the Archbishop of Nigeria (gotta have a properly consecrated Bishop!) and to obtain official recognition from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself–which, due to Rowan Williams’s perpetual dithering, still isn’t forthcoming, last I heard.

    In short, DonS, the lesson for other churches isn’t to beware of “affiliating” with a “denominational hierarchy,” but, in my opinion, simply to remain faithful to your historical creeds and liturgies. This has been a problem for most Western church traditions. Due to the particulars of Anglican ecclesiology, such doctrinal disputes have manifested themselves within the Episcopal church, at least in the public’s eye, primarily in the form of property disputes like these. But I’m willing to bet that petty property disputes are less schismatic and hurtful than, say, the Lutheran church’s perpetual coopting and reordering of various letters of the alphabet.

  • Cincinnatus

    By the way, I’m not implying that I agree with diocesan ownership of property as opposed to parish ownership.

    But it is what it is. If the dioceses have a clear claim to the property, then the parishes have to leave. This isn’t a theological question.

  • Cincinnatus

    By the way, I’m not implying that I agree with diocesan ownership of property as opposed to parish ownership.

    But it is what it is. If the dioceses have a clear claim to the property, then the parishes have to leave. This isn’t a theological question.

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    the Lutheran Church has already sold properites – the Lutheran Chapel at Uof M comes quickly to mind!!!!! SHAME on the LC MS- Is the UCLA Lutheran Chapel next!
    VERY valuable property for a Synod in $$$ trouble!
    Time for the LC MS to have a bigger vision—like—
    Carol-CS
    LA LFL

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    the Lutheran Church has already sold properites – the Lutheran Chapel at Uof M comes quickly to mind!!!!! SHAME on the LC MS- Is the UCLA Lutheran Chapel next!
    VERY valuable property for a Synod in $$$ trouble!
    Time for the LC MS to have a bigger vision—like—
    Carol-CS
    LA LFL

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 24:

    Not to belabor the point, but I do understand what you are saying concerning local churches that were founded by their denominational hierarchy. I was talking only about a local church in a position where it has title to its property, or is contemplating the purchase of property in the future, and it is also contemplating affiliation with a denomination (eg. a local Episcopal church that somehow extricated itself from the Episcopal diocese and now wants to re-align with the Anglican church through a more faithful means, such as the Archbishop of Nigeria). That local congregation would do well to ensure that its property remains in its hands alone.

    @ 25: “If the dioceses have a clear claim to the property, then the parishes have to leave. This isn’t a theological question.”

    Legally, it’s not a theological question. But, in fact, it certainly is. Why are Christian brethren in a secular court? That, in itself, is a serious theological question. Why can they not negotiate and resolve their differences in a fairminded way — another theological question indeed.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 24:

    Not to belabor the point, but I do understand what you are saying concerning local churches that were founded by their denominational hierarchy. I was talking only about a local church in a position where it has title to its property, or is contemplating the purchase of property in the future, and it is also contemplating affiliation with a denomination (eg. a local Episcopal church that somehow extricated itself from the Episcopal diocese and now wants to re-align with the Anglican church through a more faithful means, such as the Archbishop of Nigeria). That local congregation would do well to ensure that its property remains in its hands alone.

    @ 25: “If the dioceses have a clear claim to the property, then the parishes have to leave. This isn’t a theological question.”

    Legally, it’s not a theological question. But, in fact, it certainly is. Why are Christian brethren in a secular court? That, in itself, is a serious theological question. Why can they not negotiate and resolve their differences in a fairminded way — another theological question indeed.

  • Joe

    Attention LCMSers. If your congregation used the form constitution suggested by your district, you most likely have a provision that says in the event of a split of the congregation the property shall stay with the faction that wants to stay in the LCMS. You might want to evaluate whether you want such a provision.

  • Joe

    Attention LCMSers. If your congregation used the form constitution suggested by your district, you most likely have a provision that says in the event of a split of the congregation the property shall stay with the faction that wants to stay in the LCMS. You might want to evaluate whether you want such a provision.


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