News for Week Ending 12/22/2008
Virginia judge delivers final setback to Diocese of Virginia; church to appealTo no one’s surprise, Virginia judge Randy I. Bellows handed down decisions on December 19, 2008, mostly favoring breakaway congregations in the long-running property dispute in the Diocese of Virginia. The nine congregations involved—two other congregations without any real property settled their dispute with the diocese earlier—are now part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).
The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, missionary bishop in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and former rector of Truro Church, one of the breakaway churches that is party to the litigation, called the decision “a great victory for religious freedom.” (See statement from CANA here.) Bishop Peter Lee, in a statement by the Diocese of Virginia, said “We continue to believe the [state] Division Statute [that Judge Bellows has relied upon in his various decisions] is a violation of the United States and Virginia constitutions because it intrudes into the freedom of the Episcopal Church and other hierarchical churches to organize and govern themselves.” The diocese has indicated that it will take its constitutional concerns to the Virginia Supreme Court. The initial response from The Episcopal came from the Presiding Bishop’s canon, the Rev. Dr. Canon Charles K. Robertson. In a statement, he said, “As we have stated previously, we shall now seek review of this case by the Supreme Court of Virginia and are optimistic that that court will reverse the trial court’s interpretation and application of the Virginia statute and reaffirm Virginia’s historic commitment to religious freedom.”
More information is available in the Episcopal News Service story here. The most recent Pittsburgh Update story on the Virginia litigation can be found here. Documents relating to the litigation are available from the Diocese of Virginia here.
Windsor Continuation Group meetsThe Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) met December 15–19 at the Mustang Island Conference Center, near Corpus Christi. The Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas, a member of the Group appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to deal with issues raised by the 2004 Windsor Report, hosted the meeting. The WCG is expected to report on its deliberations to Archbishop Rowan Williams; it issued no statement on its work. The meeting is reported on the Religious Intelligence Web site here.
Pittsburgh diocese posts more information on convention; schedules leadership meetingThe Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has posted additional information about its December 12–13 special convention. In addition to its own account of convention events, the diocesan Web site hosts a complete list of those people elected by the convention. (Other accounts of the convention are available from Episcopal News Service and The Living Church.)
In another story, the diocese has announced a leadership meeting to take place at Calvary Church on January 10, 2009. Attendees will include members of the Standing Committee, Board of Trustees, and Diocesan Council. The Rt. Rev. Robert Johnson, named at the convention as assisting bishop, and the Rev. Rick Cluett, tasked by the Presiding Bishop to assist reorganizing diocese, will also participate.