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Published:June 29th, 2008 10:27 EST
Courts in Favor of Departing Churches Due to Virginia Constitution

Courts in Favor of Departing Churches Due to Virginia Constitution

By Garrett Godwin

WASHINGTON: A second ruling was issued yesterday by Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court that favors Virginia churches who have left the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia by finding the constitutionality of the Virginia Statue on Religious Division, Va. Code 57-9(A).

"The ruling", stated IRD President Dr. James T. Tonkowich, "should give the Episcopal Church further pause at how it chosen to approach church property disputes.  Both the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia have possibly frittered away millions of dollars to litigate something that could have been solved at a negotiating table with the departing congregations."

According to Judge Bellows, the diocese could have used routine civil documents to protect its property, but didn`t.  The law, which was enforced in 1967, "did not parachute into this dispute from a clear blue sky", Bellows writes. 

A majority of members in 11 Anglican churches agreed to cut their ties to the Episcopal Church and the diocese because of conflicts over redefining and reinterpreting Scripture.

"The Episcopal Church", Tonkowich said, "and its increasingly liberal mainline counterparts refuse to accept what has become obvious: the majority of many congregations across the country do not want to depart their denominations, but will do so if liberal leadership continues down an unfaithful path."

A trial over the question of property ownership has been set for this fall. 

"Christians can legitimately differ about who lawfully should possess these properties" Tonkowich continued.  "Sadly, the Episcopal Church appears more interested in property than people, and more interested in the recovery of property than reconciliation."

Source: Christian Newswire (