A Letter from John Yates, Rector of The Falls Church on the Virginia Situation

BB NOTE: John Yates provides an excellent overview of where we are right now, including a clear update on the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church’s lawsuits against the Virginia Churches.

April 4, 2007

TO THE FAMILY OF THE FALLS CHURCH:

If you read the local paper, you know that there have been regular articles featuring the group of TFC parishioners who felt they could not go along with our decision to sever our ties with The Episcopal Church. You might be interested in my most recent letter to Bill Fetsch regarding the request they made of me to have use of the Historic Church, several classrooms and fellowship space for a portion of Sunday mornings. I’ve attached that letter.

As you probably know, at a recent Tanzanian gathering of all Anglican primates, they asked TEC (The Episcopal Church) to place a moratorium on rites blessing persons living in same sex unions and on any further consecrations of non-celibate gay bishops – both of which violate Anglican teaching – or lose its standing in the Communion. The primates also asked for an end to lawsuits against parishes that have left TEC to come under the shepherding of Anglican bishops in Africa and South America.

At a March meeting in Texas of Episcopal bishops, these requests were rejected. The bishops expressed their desire to remain in the Anglican Communion, but said they were unable to make the decision requested by the primates. They asked for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Attached also is a summary of the statement of the House of Bishops, as reported in the Living Church magazine. The full text is available on our website.

I also wanted to briefly update you about the lawsuits filed in the Virginia courts by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and by The Episcopal Church against The Falls Church, our sister churches in the Anglican District of Virginia, and members of our vestries and other individuals.

First, on February 22, and again on March 8, our lawyers wrote to the lawyers for The Episcopal Church and for the Diocese, asking that everyone agree to suspend all pending actions in law and other legal proceedings until after September 30, just as the primates of the Anglican Communion directed in their February 19 Tanzania Communique. Both TEC and the Diocese rejected this request and indicated that they intend to proceed with their lawsuits. Copies of this correspondence have been posted on our web site at http://www.TheFallsChurch.org.

Second, on March 23, a three-judge panel appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court conducted a telephone conference with lawyers for our church, for our sister ADV churches, for the Diocese, and for TEC. The panel indicated that it would grant the applications filed by our lawyers and those filed by the Diocese and TEC to consolidate all of the legal proceedings pending in various Virginia county courts into a single case in the Fairfax County courts. We expect that an order regarding consolidation will be issued by the panel sometime in the next several weeks, and that a single judge from Fairfax County will then be designated to hear consolidated cases.

Third, on March 12, lawyers for our church and for our sister churches filed with the Virginia courts our responses to the lawsuits filed by the Diocese. These responses asked that the courts dismiss the lawsuits for a variety of legal reasons and also that, even if the lawsuits were to go forward, that the vestry members and others named as individual defendants be dismissed because there is no valid legal reason for suing them. No schedule for arguing these matters in the courts has yet been set, but we expect this will occur after these cases are all consolidated in Fairfax County. Copies of these court filings have also been posted on our web site.

Finally, lawyers for The Episcopal Church have indicated that they intend to proceed with their lawsuit in Fairfax County against our church, our ADV sister churches, and more than 200 individuals, named and unnamed (primarily vestry members and trustees of these churches). They and our counsel have agreed that our responses to these lawsuits will be due in mid-April.

Please continu e to keep all of these matters in your prayers. Please pray for the appointment of a wise judge who will rule justly and for godly wisdom and grace for our leadership and our lawyers. Most of all, please pray that God will resolve all of these disagreements in a way that honors Him and His word and that draws people to our risen and redeeming savior Jesus Christ.

In the family,

John Yates

BB NOTE:Many thanks to the ever-diligent Greg and the amazing team at StandFirm!