BB NOTE: By the way, religious freedom was exactly what was exercised when thousands of the laity voted to separate from The Episcopal Church. What Bishop Lee is looking for is sustaining a privileged class standing to corporate institutions over and beyond the liberty of individuals to vote their conscience. The fact remains – if the Diocese of Virginia is hierarchical, why didn’t the bishop put all the properties in his name like the real hierarchical churches did? Why – because there would have been a massive revolt, the diocese admitted it in court. Our ancestors did not place limitations on the power of the bishop and a feudalistic institution for nothing. They fought a whole bloody war over it. That Bishop Lee could seriously invoke the Virginia contributions to religious liberty by the likes of Thomas Jefferson – who had no love for the Church of England when he wrote the original draft of the document on religious liberty – is extraordinary. It was precisely aiding to save Virginians from these kind of seizures by institutional ecclesiastical bodies that we are free today. His name is not on the deeds for a reason. He had thirty years to fix it and he didn’t.
July 3, 2008
Dear Friends in Christ,
The most recent opinion of the Fairfax Circuit Court, issued last Friday, June 27, is disappointing to many, perhaps most especially the faithful members of our continuing congregations. We must keep the members of these continuing congregations of Epiphany, Oak Hill; The Falls Church, Falls Church; St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; and St. Stephen’s, Heathsville ever present in our thoughts and prayers. They represent the long, faithful tradition of Episcopalians in Virginia. The Diocese continues steadfastly to stand by them throughout this complicated, important and regrettably necessary dispute.
The ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute threatens all hierarchical churches in Virginia. We continue to believe that hierarchical churches have the First Amendment right to organize themselves without interference from the State. The Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church will exhaust every possible option to correct what I believe to be a profound injustice and injury to America’s First Freedom, born here in Virginia.
As my fellow bishops and I prepare for the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, our hearts are heavy at the necessity of this lawsuit, but we remain ever hopeful for the mission and ministry that continue everyday to manifest themselves in the lives of faithful Episcopalians throughout the Diocese. Thank you for your persistent faith, prayers and dedication to living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ both here in Virginia and around the world.
Peter James Lee
Bishop of Virginia