Oct. 20, 2008
It's been five years since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, but the shockwaves are still rippling through the national church. Across America, congregations have exploded in protest. Despite pleas from many in the 2.2 million-member church, Episcopal leaders stubbornly refuse to back down from their liberal, pro-homosexual theology.
After months of negotiations failed to bring the denomination back to its conservative teachings, a band of 11 Virginia churches took the unprecedented step to sever all ties and realign under the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Together, these congregations made the courageous-and costly-decision to separate from a denomination whose American roots are more than 300 years deep.
But the stand for Biblical truth has come at great price to the faithful in Virginia. They face financial hardship, eviction from their property, and a multi-million dollar lawsuit from Episcopal headquarters.
Since early 2007, the Diocese of Virginia has attacked the churches in a vicious suit that threatens to confiscate their church homes. With almost no resources, the 11 churches banded together in defense of their land, resulting in the largest property dispute in the history of the Episcopal Church.
At every stage of the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia court battle (now four rounds old), Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows has ruled in favor of the breakaway churches. Last week, Judge Bellows rounded out this series of victories by ruling that Truro Church-the second largest parish-"could retain ownership of land sought by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia." In a story of true David versus Goliath proportions, the news continues to stun the mainstream church.
But despite how far the Virginia parishes have come, the Episcopal Church shows no sign of giving up. Its national leaders have vowed to fight these decisions all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. In a press release, the Diocese says it "will continue to explore every legal option available" to seize these church homes. Despite the mass exodus this month from parishes in Pittsburgh and San Joaquin (see George Will's Sunday column "A Faith's Dwindling Following") and the impending rift in Fort Worth, the Episcopal Church leaves no doubt that the legal battle has just begun. In fact, it could continue for years.
If you're interested helping the churches at "Ground Zero" in the Anglican crisis, please log on to Truro's website and consider standing with them for biblical truth.