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Settlements in 2 US property cases: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 6. May 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Georgia, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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Christ Church, Savanah

The Dioceses of Georgia and Virginia have settled lawsuits brought against two of their breakaway congregations, ending five years of litigation with Christ Church, Savannah and Truro Parish in Fairfax, Virginia.

On 3 May 2012 the Diocese of Georgia and Christ Church issues separate statements announcing that the parish was withdrawing its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the November state court decision that ruled the property of Georgia’s oldest Anglican church – the one time home of John Wesley and George Whitfield – must remain in the Episcopal Church.  Approximately 78 lawsuits have been brought by dioceses and the national Episcopal Church seeking to retain the property of breakaway congregations and dioceses.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the diocese agreed to withdraw its lawsuits seeking to recover approximately $1 million in legal costs from the vestry and rector. The agreement also allowed the congregation to keep the name “Christ Church” and the church’s historic ministries to the city.

The congregation vacated the building in December and will now turn over the endowments to the diocese.  The Episcopal congregation retains the name Christ Church, Savannah, while the breakaway congregation will be called Christ Church Anglican.

“We are pleased that these remaining issues could be resolved and that all parties can move on,” Bishop Scott Benhase said.

The rector of Christ Church, the Rev. Marc Robertson, told the Church of England Newspaper that he expected there to be mixed views within the congregation over the decision to leave their building.  However, it “was time” to move forward and focus on the work of the Gospel in Savannah, he said.

On 17 April 2012 the Diocese of Virginia and Truro parish released a joint statement announcing that they had settled their lawsuit.  The statement said the diocese had given the parish a “rent-free lease of the church buildings” until June 2013, while the parish agreed to “deed the properties to the Diocese by April 30, 2012, and will pay the operating costs of the properties during the term of the lease.”

The diocese agreed to accept $50,000 in lieu of its claims for $700,000 of cash.  But in a break with previous settlement agreements, the diocese has not attempted to force the congregation to withdraw from the Anglican Church of North America while it remains in the building.  “Because the Diocese and Truro Anglican are part of different ecclesiastical bodies who share the Anglican tradition, they have

“This is an important step for the Diocese of Virginia and Truro Anglican,” Bishop Shannon Johnston said. “What the Diocese has sought since the court’s ruling has been a ‘witness’ and not merely an ‘outcome.’ The parties have carried on a public dispute for five years and it is important that we publicly begin to make peace.”

“We are grateful for the Diocese’s generosity in allowing us to continue to use the property for another 15 months at no cost,” said Truro rector the Rev. Tory Baucum. “This allows us time to make a good transition to interim facilities and then to our new church home.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Diocese of Virginia prevails in parish property case: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2012 p 7. January 16, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Virginia circuit court has ruled that the properties of seven breakaway congregations belong to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.  The 10 January 2012 decision by Judge Randy Bellows comes almost five years after litigation began and millions of dollars expended over the control of seven Northern Virginia congregations.

In his 113-page opinion, Judge Bellows held that national Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia have a “contractual and proprietary” interest in each of the churches.  The court “denied in their entirety” the counter-claims of the breakaway congregations, and ordered the congregations to turn over the properties and assets of the congregations acquired before the state of the lawsuits in 2007 to the diocese.

“Our goal throughout this litigation has been to return faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and Episcopal properties to the mission of the Church,” said Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia after the verdict was announced.

He added that he was “grateful for the decision in our favor” but was “mindful of the toll this litigation has taken on all parties involved, and we continue to pray for all affected by the litigation.”

A spokesman for the congregations stated “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.”

The Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, one of the properties involved in the lawsuit 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,” Mr. Yates said.

Bishop John Guernsey of the ACNA’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic told the seven congregations not to be afraid for the future.  “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.”