A.S. Haley Makes Preliminary Comments on the Virginia Court Decision

The opinion is remarkable for its exhaustive consideration of every possible Virginia statute and previous case (including an unreported one) that could bear on the issues at stake. Along the way, it notably holds that the Dennis Canon (and its local diocesan equivalent) were ineffective per se to create a trust interest in favor of the diocese or national Church. But the bulk of the opinion appears (on a very quick first read) to be devoted to arriving at the same result (i.e., as if the Dennis Canon and its local equivalent had established a trust) by other means. It reaches its conclusion in favor of ECUSA and its diocese by drawing upon a minutely detailed analysis of the course of conduct between the parishes in question and the former entities over more than a hundred years (and in the case of Falls Church and a few others, for many more years than that — but in the case of the Church of the Epiphany, on a course of conduct extending for just the first twenty of the last twenty-four years).

In doing so, however, the court ends up equating what it terms a “proprietary and contractual interest” of the diocese in individual parish property to the functional legal equivalent of an express or implied trust in favor of the diocese (and the national Church). And since it recognizes that Virginia law does not allow express or implied trusts in favor of denominations, the marvel is that Judge Bellows can still conclude, by drawing heavily upon his interpretation of a Virginia statute (§ 57-16.1), that the parishes effectively controlled their own properties only for so long as they remained constituent member of the Episcopal Church (USA) — which is exactly what the Dennis Canon states, in haec verba.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes

4 comments on “A.S. Haley Makes Preliminary Comments on the Virginia Court Decision

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    A calm and reasonable preliminary assessment of this momentous legal ruling. Like many others here, I’m sure, I will eagerly await Counselor Haley’s fuller and more detailed analysis.

    In the meantime, I admit that I’m surprised and keenly disappointed. I was expecting more justice from Judge Bellows, since he did such a fine and objective job the first time around. But the ruling is what it is, and now we in VA must deal with it as best we can.

    Now “the VA seven” joins the CT six, the Vancouver six, and a much larger number of churches in Pittsburgh that have had their properties wrongly confiscated by TEC. Not to mention single congregations all over the place: Grace & St. Stephen’s in Colorado Springs, Christ Church, Savannah, etc. For whatever reason, in his inscrutable providence, God Almighty has sovereignly allowed this major setback to happen. We simply have to trust that He will also sovereignly work it somehow for good.

    The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

    David Handy+

  2. Capt. Father Warren says:

    Not to try and second guess God, and not to make light in any way of the tragedies that these all are; this begs the question, what will TEC do with all these Churches? Run them with interim rectors and 5 people in the congregations? Throw money at them? How long can they continue to do this? Maybe TEC is augering its way into the ground while pursuing its scorched earth policy.

  3. Cennydd13 says:

    They will end up closing them and selling the properties…….and then what’s to prevent Anglican parishes from buying them from the people who buy them from TEC?

  4. MotherViolet says:

    Church of the Word, Gainesville, seems to be the only Virginia congregation to have escaped TEC with their property.