Special Message from the Rector – June 2010
In view of the recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling that sends our case back to the circuit court to be re-tried, I want to review with you a few facts.
The first modern exodus from the Episcopal Church (TEC), which was the first wave in the long and complex process that has now ultimately led to the creation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), began in the 1970s over doctrinal issues. A second larger modern exodus began in 2003, with TEC’s election and consecration of an openly practicing non-celibate homosexual person to be a bishop and its refusal to approve a resolution affirming the authority of Holy Scripture.
Until a few years ago, the local Episcopal bishops always negotiated property issues with departing congregations, and in 2005 and 2006, Bishop Lee’s special committee devised a procedure for churches considering leaving the Diocese of Virginia to follow in coming to a decision to leave. This is the procedure we followed and fully satisfied, by overwhelming majorities – but we understand that within days of our parish vote, the Presiding Bishop (Mrs. Schori) of TEC informed Bishop Lee of the Diocese of Virginia that TEC would not allow the Diocese to negotiate any church's departure.
Our decision to depart TEC was based upon the agreement we had already reached with the Diocese of Virginia, and upon the Virginia “Division” statute governing how churches that have experienced a division deal with property.
A small number of TFC members voted not to leave TEC. An even smaller number of those TFC members then decided to begin to meet separately for worship. They were never told they could no longer worship here. They have always been welcome. They are our friends. When they asked to be given exclusive use of the historic church and several classrooms between 9 and 11 AM on Sundays, we told them the space was already in use. When various of these folks have asked to use the historic church for funerals, we have agreed. This summer the child of one of these former members will be married here.
The Episcopal Church, as it has become, and the Anglican Church in North America represent rather different perspectives on the meaning and practice of the Christian faith. This does not mean we cannot respect each other’s various viewpoints or be friends. But neither can we gloss over our differences. Several of the largest Anglican provinces (representing a substantial majority of Anglicans) around the world have broken off their formal relationship with the Episcopal Church because of such major doctrinal differences.
The Rev. Dr. John Yates II
Rector, The Falls Church