Monday, September 22, 2008

Diocese of Virginia forgoes voting issue, prepares for appeal

From the Diocese of Virginia [boldface mine]:

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced today that the trial scheduled to begin October 6 will focus solely on the issue of which properties occupied by the CANA congregations are actually subject to their 57-9 petitions.

Though loyal Episcopalians have expressed grave concerns about the validity and fairness of the voting procedures used by the CANA congregations, the Diocese will forgo judicial review of that process to focus on those issues that will most effectively and quickly return Episcopalians to their church homes and result in the overturning of the 57-9 "Division Statute."

The Diocese is preparing to mount a vigorous appeal that addresses the serious legal and religious questions and implications that have arisen from this unfortunate situation. The Diocese will explore fully every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia.

In a trial beginning on October 6, the Court will examine precisely which property is subject to the Division Statute petitions filed by CANA congregations. The Court will determine several issues either before or during trial, including whether the congregation attempting to take the property actually owns the property they seek under its 57-9 petition, whether deed restrictions require the property to remain with the Episcopal Church, and, in one instance, whether a last-minute transfer of property was valid. Once these issues are decided, the Diocese will appeal the Court's rulings on the applicability and validity of the Division Statute.

"In the Episcopal Church, congregations exist because they are in communion with the bishop of a diocese, through recognition by diocesan governing bodies," said the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of Virginia. "They cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese, and take Episcopal property with them, using the secular court system to validate their actions."

The Diocese is steadfast in its goal of returning faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and restoring the full and time-honored protections of the First Amendment and the Virginia Constitution for religious freedom.

"The court proceedings of the past several months have shown that the Division Statute, which exists only in Virginia, is uniquely hostile to religious freedom and our faith. We are resolute in our commitment to pursue every avenue in seeking the return of Episcopalians who have been exiled from their church homes," said Bishop Lee.

The Diocese again noted the regrettable necessity of these proceedings. "While we have hoped that the CANA congregations would propose a reasonable alternative to litigation," said Henry D.W. Burt, Secretary of the Diocese, "the Church must vigorously protect the legacy of those faithful generations who have gone before for those who will follow."

Check it out.
H/t to Stand Firm.

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