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Episcopal Diocese of Virginia faces costs of legal victory

By Jeff Walton, IRD

A recent court ruling in a dispute between current and former Episcopalians has awarded all church properties to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Reports have focused on the theological disputes precipitating the legal battle. Less covered has been the cost of the conflict, both in finances and church attendance.
If the departing congregations decide not to appeal, the Episcopal Church has won a major legal victory – but one that may prove to be pyrrhic.
Framing their litigation as “seeking to recover Episcopal Church property,” diocesan officials have stated that their goal is to “return faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and Episcopal properties to the mission of the Church.”
A majority of members in the seven Anglican churches in 2006-2007 voted to sever their ties to the Episcopal Church and the diocese following disputes over the redefinition and reinterpretation of Scripture. These churches became part of The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under the authority of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. They included some of the diocese's largest and fastest growing churches. In some cases, it’s unclear what Episcopalians will now reclaim evacuated church buildings.
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