Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ECUSA Loses Church Property to Exiting Christians

Nearly a dozen conservative church congregations in Virginia have won a lawsuit in which they sought to split from the U.S. Episcopal Church in a dispute over theology and homosexuality.

UPDATE 10/6/09: U.S. Supreme Court allows California ECUSA to take property from local members

-- From "Conservatives win court case in Va. church dispute" by Matthew Barakat, Associated Press Writer 12/19/08

The final rulings came Friday from a Fairfax County judge who said the departing congregations are allowed under Virginia law to keep their church buildings and other property as they leave the Episcopal Church and realign under the authority of conservative Anglican bishops from Africa.

Several previous rulings had also gone in favor of the departing congregations. The diocese said it will appeal.

The case was decided under a Civil War-era law unique to Virginia, which stated that when a division occurs within a particular denomination, a congregation can vote to decide with which branch it wishes to affiliate.

Whether the decision in the Virginia case is indicative of what will happen nationally is doubtful. Even leaders in the departing congregations acknowledge that the judge's rulings turned on interpretation of a statute unique to Virginia.

Jim Oakes, vice chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, an organization formed by the departing congregations said he thinks the ruling will be "encouraging to other orthodox congregations across the country."

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