A.S. Haley Analyzes the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's Motion for pre-judgment interest

There is one immediately perceivable flaw in the Diocese’s argument, and it also casts doubt on the legitimacy of Judge Bellows’ characterization of the evidence as “compelling” and “clear.” For at the time of his first ruling in this matter in 2008, which told the CANA congregations that they could keep their properties under the terms of Virginia’s Division Statute (§ 57-9), it was then “clear” to Judge Bellows that the Diocese did not have any entitlement to the parish properties or bank accounts.

The only thing that changed the Judge’s view was the Virginia Supreme Court’s quixotical decision, two years later, to read the statute in such a way that it could never apply to that sacred category of religious institutions defined as “hierarchical” by the courts. From that date on, perhaps, it was now “clear” in Virginia that the Diocese would prevail — or was it? At any rate, the point is that all of the evidence which the Diocese (leaning on Judge Bellows, to be sure) now characterizes as “compelling” did not amount to anything approaching that description in 2008, and could have become so only after June 2010.

But the principal point here is that with this motion, the Diocese has revealed its truly impecunious state, and hence its inability to maintain and operate all of the properties it has won in the judicial jackpot. Moving for an award of prejudgment interest in these unique circumstances — secular lawsuits between thousands and thousands of Christians on each side, contrary to the tenets of the Christian religion — is to rub salt into a gaping wound in the body of Christ.

Read it all.


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

15 comments on “A.S. Haley Analyzes the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's Motion for pre-judgment interest

  1. MichaelA says:

    Good comments from the Curmudgeon, as always.

    Personally I hope that, if the congregations decide not to appeal Judge Bellows’ decision, they throw the keys to the diocese and walk away. In other words, that they do not enter into an arrangement where they stay in the properties and fund their maintenance, as +Johnston hopes they will. I think that this move by him has lessened the prospect of the congregations entering into such agreement, which is a good thing.

    +Johnston’s motion is understandable – his Diocese clearly does not have the funds to maintain these properties. Experience shows that the Diocese will not be able to grow the congregations beyond where they presently stand so it is the Diocese that will have to pay for them. He is perhaps hoping that he can use the threat of this motion as part of a “carrot and stick” manoeuvre to drive the congregations into staying and paying the maintenance.

    Anyway, whatever the reason, +Johnston is clearly no different to Katherine Schori and its just as well that everyone is learning that at the beginning of his tenure.

  2. MichaelA says:

    It is also good that this move will be publicised in Britain. Part of TEC’s publicity strategy has been to play down the seriousness of the sanctions which it has taken against departing and dissenting congregations. News of this should help to sway more Synod members into voting for recognising ACNA.

  3. NoVA Scout says:

    No sanctions have been imposed against “departing and dissenting” groups by the Diocese of Virginia, No. 2. I don’t even know how one would do that. When someone chooses a new church, they are necessarily outside the discipline of the church they left. In Virginia, at least (my knowledge of other jurisdictions is far from perfect, but I am not aware that it is different elsewhere), there has been some view, rather haphazardly applied, that those who are within the Church (e.g., clergy, vestry) should honor their undertakings of loyalty or, if that is not possible as a matter of conscience, they should leave. But I am a member of an extremely conservative parish where absolutely no action was ever taken against the parish or its clergy by diocesan or national authorities. We were completely free to espouse what many of us considered to be a more orthodox view of scripture than some elements of the church elsewhere were following. In fact, we were imposing sanctions against the Diocese (not the other way around), as the parish began withholding diocesan contributions and imposed a ban on visits by the bishop (both of which actions I considered to be misguided). So I very much doubt that, other than disagreement, there was ever any sanction imposed on “traditional” views within the church. A considerable number of our parishioners and clergy eventually decided to leave the church to affiliate with another denomination, but, again, I don’t think there ever was any retribution exacted for that decision. The principle widely accepted, even among those who did not leave, is that a member of a church must adhere to what his conscience and his appreciation of Scripture tell him is best and that sometimes one does reach a point where the only appropriate decision is to “vote with one’s feet.” No opprobrium attaches to that. There was considerable objection (and legal action) that resulted when those people tried to take property with them, but that’s a completely different story and one that now appears to be close to resolution.

  4. Sarah says:

    RE: “Part of TEC’s publicity strategy has been to play down the seriousness of the sanctions which it has taken against departing and dissenting congregations.”


    I’m with you. Best option is for an appeal, of course, and I’m hopeful the Virginia parishes will do just that. Second best option is that the parishes toss the keys to the property to Johnston and watch the diocese scramble to maintain the property.

    The last thing those Anglicans who believe the Gospel need to do is to have any engagement at all with the heretics in the Diocese of Virginia, even as a landlord. One just doesn’t deal with corrupt, untrustworthy liars and oathbreaking leaders — not in business, and certainly not as landlords.

    Slight difference, though, with you MichaelA, on what the diocese will do regarding the property. [i]At all costs[/i] — at least from a publicity and branding point of view — they’ll maintain the properties, especially the ones they use to symbolize and act as if they’re a church that is actually Christian. Those symbols are literally about all they’ve got at this point to ape the Christian faith, and blessedly, the publicity over the past 8 years has been [i]so bad[/i] that the vast majority of Christians in the US understand what the majority of current leaders of TEC are. If that entails gutting the budget of any and all other “mission” activity, so be it. You better believe they’ll come up with the millions a year necessary to maintain the buildings, without significant congregations to fill the buildings. [i]They have to.[/i]

    The good news about that is that these people will have less money to promote their particular gospel while they’re maintaining buildings. It’s all good!

    I think the other thing that’s good from all of this is that the publicity helps to build an increasingly unbridgeable chasm between the revisionists and conservatives. Less hope of “working together,” faux “reconciliation”, etc, etc. Sure — there will be some attempts to pretend as if there is some reconciliation and working together down the road. Some outliers, of course. But I’d far sooner work with an Islamic mosque than work with revisionist Episcopalians on religious or charitable matters. And I’m an Episcopalian! And I’m certainly not alone.

    First thing people ask is “where does he or she stand on the lawsuits, theology, Schori, and so forth.”

    And that’s all to the good.

  5. NoVA Scout says:

    How does one know which of us in the Diocese of Virginia are heretics, no. 4 (or “corrupt, untrustworthy liars”)? We did have a lot of trouble with “oathbreaking leaders,” but most, if not all, of them left.

  6. Sarah says:

    RE: “How does one know which of us in the Diocese of Virginia are heretics . . . ”

    Oh, the heretics don’t need to know the answer to that question and folks who believe the Gospel in the Diocese of VA are already well-aware of which parish leaders and bishops in the Diocese are corrupt, oath-breaking heretics.

  7. pendennis88 says:

    Even before the CANA votes, any clergy who asked for a letter dimissory to transfer to another Anglican province were deposed for “abandonment of communion”.

    Many parishes going through the calling process were told by Bishop Gray that no priest from Trinity would be approved to serve. The effort to eliminate the evangelicals through attrition was pretty open.

    I’ve heard a lot of Virginia parishes refer to themselves as conservative. In my experience, it means either high church, country club, or conservative in the same way that many TEC revisionists like to say they are orthodox, in other words, only by redefining the term. Certainly not evangelical.

  8. MichaelA says:

    Sarah at #4, good points. I am sure you are right.

  9. MichaelA says:

    NoVA Scout at #5,

    If you don’t know how to pick what is heresy and what is not, why are you involved in a church?

  10. MichaelA says:

    NoVA Scout,

    What does your post at #3 have to do with my post at #2? You don’t appear to have read it.

  11. NoVA Scout says:

    You talked of sanctions against departing and dissenting groups, No. 10. My direct response to that reference was that there have been no such sanctions.

  12. pendennis88 says:

    #4 – In my business experience here in the NE, I would say that whatever approach a party in litigation takes, it takes to the end. If they are scorched earth litigators, they will do that to the end. They do not change once they win the largest issue, say, and start settling the others. Leopards don’t change their spots (unless the Lord wants them to, which would be nice, but not what I expect).

    I think the NOVA parishes understand that pretty well, too. I suspect they will want to disengage as fast as they can while keeping the various ministry needs for space taken care of. And for the reasons above, I doubt that TEC will offer a very good deal, anyway. I understand there is some interest in keeping some preschools in place for a while, but that is another matter entirely.

    People forget that the members of these parishes knew their parishes were targeted by the TEC diocese for elimination of their orthodox clergy as they retired anyway, to be replaced by revisionists. And they weren’t approving them to plant daughter churches. So they knew that, under pressure, if they did not leave as a group in 2007, they’d be gone a few years later one way or the other. So once the TEC diocese reneged on the protocol for departing congregations, it is not as though there was an option to stay in place as evangelical parishes. There was leaving, and there was surrender.

  13. MichaelA says:

    NoVA Scout at #11,

    Please at least give me the courtesy of reading my posts before responding to them. Even if your #3 was accurate (its not, but what’s new?) it doesn’t respond to my post about TEC.

  14. MichaelA says:


    Quite right. This was always an attempt by ultra liberals and their supporters to suborn the church in Virginia away from its Christian foundations. The dissenting parishes did the right thing.

    The reaction of the liberals (i.e sueing to take the parishes’ properties from them) was understandable – one doesn’t expect a jackal not to kill lambs, after all.

    For this reason, the actions by the parishes to fight the lawsuits was a courageous and noble witness. They have drawn the attention of the whole world to the way liberals and their supporters in Virginia and TEC generally have behaved. Our prayers are with them whatever they decide to do now, whether to appeal, or whether to throw the keys to +Johnston and the other liberals and walk away.

  15. NoVA Scout says:

    I read carefully and responded to one of the premises of your comment in No. 2, Michael. I take no position in this context on how litigation events will affect perceptions about ACNA by members of the Synod. I suppose it depends to some degree on how well informed they are about events in Virginia.

    No. 12, the preschools preceded the departures by a number of years, and there is no reason why they should not continue. I have no information (and had none at the time) that orthodox clergy were “targetted for elimination” by the Diocese. This Diocese has a pretty consistent track record of promoting a range of clergy and respecting local decisions. New Reformation Advocate put up a fairly good comment on a closely related subject not long ago.

    No. 14, many of us view protection of these properties from takeover by seceding parishioners as a quintessentially “Conservative” action under the governing rules of the parish and diocese. The “liberal”/”conservative” designations are not very useful in this context.