Friday, January 19, 2007

Bishop Lee: "We have intervened in that action"

As the Archbishop of Canterbury has made clear, CANA is not a branch of the Anglican Communion and does not have his encouragement.

When the membership of these congregations voted to sever their ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with CANA, they left remaining Episcopal congregations in those places without vestries, without clergy and without their churches, whether the remaining congregations numbered one or 100 souls.
. . .
I have tried to find a way forward in our dispute over property that would keep us from having to resort to civil courts. No longer am I convinced that such an outcome is possible, nor do I believe that such a move at this time is dishonorable. Rather, I believe as does the leadership of our Diocese and of our Church, that the actions taken to secure our property are consistent with our mission and with our fiduciary and moral obligations to the Church of our ancestors, to the church we serve today, and to the church of those who will follow us.
. . .
Recently, attorneys for the dissidents sent a letter threatening action against me and any other diocesan officials who “set foot on” or “trespass” on Episcopal Church property. By contrast, your leadership has not moved to change locks or freeze assets. Rather, once again, we have moved to accommodate these dissidents at the expense of our faithful people.

Following the votes of the majority of members of these congregations, the counsel of these now non-Episcopal congregations filed reports with the clerks of the courts in their jurisdictions under a statute in the Code of Virginia that they think gives them the right to Episcopal Church property. We have intervened in that action.
. . .
In the coming days and months there will be many opinions aired in the media, in letters and in countless blogs, opinions disguised as facts. I urge you to turn away from those as the distracting noise of the world intended to take your mind and your heart off the mission of the Church.
Read all of News Release 26 here.

See also the supporting action of Executive Committee and Standing Committtee in News Release 25 here.

Here, perhaps, are some of the "many opinions." And here. And here. As in hundreds. Very few at places like this.

Washington Post:
Although the board's vote is procedural, lawsuits "are a strong possibility," diocesan spokesman Patrick Getlein said.

Jim Pierobon, spokesman for the breakaway churches, said last night that they still want to negotiate fair prices for the properties.
Richmond Times Dispatch:
Jim Pierobon, a member of Falls Church and a spokesman for the breakaway churches, said all 11 of the congregations are fully prepared for a court battle.

"We intend to protect our churches' property rights to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

Valerie Munson, a Philadelphia attorney specializing in religion-based law, said a legal dispute over church property could take as long as three or four years before it is resolved through the courts _ assuming the two sides refuse to agree to a settlement.

Pierobon said church members have filed reports with court clerks, informing the state as required by civil law, of congregations' decisions to leave The Episcopal Church.
Washington Times:
Diocesan officials didn't specify whether or when the congregations and their leadership are required to vacate the property, what the resulting consequences might be or how court action might affect that timeline.

"I think it's premature in the process to know exactly what will happen next," said Patrick Getlein, secretary of the diocese, in an e-mail to The Washington Times. "Today's action by the Board was procedural, and I think that we will have to wait and see what exactly the next steps are in due course."
. . .
Truro Church and the Falls Church were among the diocese's largest and most historic churches, with combined property worth an estimated $27 million to $37 million.

"These churches are saddened, but, sadly, not surprised at what the diocese and what the national church have elected to do," said Jim Pierobon, a spokesman for both congregations.
. . .
"Our lawyers, after assessing the law, have concluded that the law in Virginia favors congregations -- even within large denominations such as the Episcopal Church," he said. "Denominational trusts in congregational property are not valid in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
What Jim Pierobon is quoted as saying appears to be inconsistent. (Compare the portions in bold above.) Why be willing to pay fair market value if you are asserting property rights? It's news to me that Truro and Fall Church are willing to pay fair market - not that fair market would match meet the value the diocese places on these properties.

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