News for Week Ending 4/7/2008
Virginia trial court rules for CANA on one issueEleven congregations that have broken away from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia have won an initial round in court. A Fairfax County (Va.) trial judge ruled late Thursday that a Civil War-era Virginia law regarding “division” within a religious body applies to the present situation in which majorities in 11 parishes have voted to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the newly created Anglican District of Virginia. (The Anglican District of Virginia is part of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in America, or CANA.) The court rejected arguments by the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church that the “division” statute does not apply in this instance.
The court reserved judgment on the question of whether the Virginia statute is constitutional, setting oral arguments on those issues for May 28. A separate trial on church property issues is scheduled this fall. The court further said that legal proceedings on the validity of the voting process employed by the congregations will be scheduled at a later date.
The Lead has provided the best coverage of both the decision itself and the reaction to it here. Its coverage includes links to the court opinion itself, to the Virginia statute that is central to it, and to press coverage. Conservative journalist David Virtue has written his own story on the decision.
Litigation involving parish property of congregations that have left The Episcopal Church has generally favored the church, though state law and parish history can be important factors in determining the outcome of such litigation. The Virginia statute is apparently unique, and its ultimate effect on the Virginia cases cannot be predicted.
Bishop and congregation clash in B.C.Just as congregations have voted to leave The Episcopal Church, congregations in Canada have voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada for much the same reasons. This past weekend saw a flare-up in British Columbia involving a parish on Vancouver Island.
The congregation of St. Mary of the Incarnation, Metchosin, voted in February to align with the Anglican Network in Canada. On Friday, April 4, the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia changed the locks on the church, installed a security system in the building, and issued this press release. A court issued an injunction, however, requiring the diocese to allow the breakaway congregation to worship in the church on Sunday. The diocese relented, allowing services to be held, but Bishop of British Columbia James Cowan asserted Sunday that the facts of the case were misrepresented to the court and, apparently, the legal action will continue. News stories can be read here and here.
The Anglican Network in Canada is an arm of Anglican Essentials Canada. It is led by Bishop Donald Harvey, who came out of retirement to head the group now associated with the Southern Cone, as described in an Anglican Communion Network press release. The other arm of Anglican Essentials Canada is Anglican Essentials Federation, which seeks to change the Anglican Church of Canada from within.
Network bishops to meet April 24Bishops of Anglican Communion Network-affiliated dioceses will meet April 24 in Chicago. Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator, has said that he called the meeting because “we need to talk frankly and openly about the future.” The meeting is reported on the Network’s Web site. The bishops will likely be discussing, among other matters, the relationships among the Network, the Common Cause Partnership, and such entities as the newly declared Diocese of San Joaquin of the Province of the Southern Cone.
Diocesan Council: Southern Cone ‘wisest forward course’The Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Pittsburgh adopted a “sense of the council” resolution on April 1 asserting “that alignment with the Province of the Southern Cone is the wisest forward course for the Diocese should the second reading of the constitution changes adopted on November 2, 2007, be passed at second reading.” The vote was 20-1 with 3 abstentions. The motion, which is not binding, asks that a resolution providing for such realignment be drawn up and submitted to the Council for final consideration no later than June. It will then be scheduled for a vote at the diocese’s November 2008 convention. The action of the Council is reported on the diocesan Web site here.
Diocese drops church insuranceAs of April 1, the diocese dropped insurance coverage offered by the Church Insurance Corporation and the Church Insurance Corporation of Vermont. These companies are part of Church Pension Group, a company specifically set up to serve Episcopal churches.
In a post on the diocesan Web site, the diocese explained that it was switching coverage to other providers based on cost, the desire for local representation, and because it “provides stability of coverage as the diocese considers realigning to another province of the Anglican Communion.” The change covers worker’s compensation; directors & officers insurance; and property, casualty, and liability policies.