Thursday, January 12, 2012

Virginia Court Awards Property of Break-Away Churches To Episcopal Diocese

In 2010, the Virginia Supreme Court held that Virginia's 1867 "Division Statute" does not apply to nine congregations that broke away from The Episcopal Church and affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. This holding revived the declaratory judgment actions that had been filed to determine ownership under real property and contract law of the property of the break-away congregations. (See prior posting.) On remand, a Virginia state trial court held a 22-day trial and on Tuesday issued a 113-page opinion in the case. In In re Multi-Circuit Church Property Litigation, (VA Cir. Ct., Jan. 10, 2012), the trial court ruled that all the property of the break-away congregations is to be conveyed to The Episcopal Church's Diocese of Virginia. It held that:
the CANA Congregations, in that they are not Episcopal Congregations, do not possess either contractual or proprietary interests in the property of the seven Episcopal Churches at issue. They are, therefore, enjoined from further use or control of these properties and must promptly relinquish them to the Diocese.
Finally the court held that the directors of the Falls Church Endowment Fund are to be elected by the vestry of the continuing Falls Church congregation-- the congregation that remained affiliated with The Episcopal Church.

Episcopal Cafe reports on the reactions of the parties to the court's decision. [Thanks to both John Chilton and George A. Sommerville for the lead.]