Thursday, April 03, 2008

Judge rules in favor of the Virginia churches: A division has occurred; statute applies

I have no idea if this ruling helps the case in California at all - I hope it does. I know these property issues are state issues, but I'm sure the lawyers look at how other states interpret the structure of the Episcopal Church.

From BabyBlue Online:

Here is a brief summary of the conclusions from the Letter Order:

Findings and Conclusions:

A. As used in 57-9(A), the term "church" or "religious society" does apply to the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion.

B. As used in 57-9(A), the term "attached" applies to the CANA Congregations, in that they are "attached" to the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion.

C. 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.

D. As used in 57-9(A), a "division" has occurred in a church or religious society to which the CANA Congregations were attached, at all three levels of the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion.

VI.) Conclusion:
ECUSA/Diocese 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. ECUSA/Diocese 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. . .

Read it all. And from Stand Firm, a link to Judge Bellows' ruling.

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