Judge Randy Bellows ruled today that property disputed by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia is indeed held in trust by Truro Church, Fairfax and therefore, subject to the Virginia Division Statute, 57-9.
This property was originally bought by Christ the Redeemer, a mission church-plant of Truro Church. The original mission dissolved and the property was given to the mother church. TEC and the Diocese intervened, claiming that this particular property was not subject to 57-9 but were unable to answer testimony given in court today by the former Senior Warden of Christ the Redeemer (Truro mission) and the current Senior Warden of Truro Church. The judge ruled from the bench that indeed this particular property is held in trust by Truro Church and therefore subject to 57-9.
The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia acknowledged just prior to trial that the Division Statute 57-9 applies to all the other property held in trust by Truro Church.
UPDATE: Here is the official statement from the Anglican District of Virginia:
Ruling confirms that Truro Church owns land
given by Christ the Redeemer Episcopal
FAIRAX, Va. (October 14, 2008) – The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) responded to the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruling issued today that found that a parcel of property that once belonged to Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church was properly deeded to Truro Church trustees, and as a result, is covered by the Virginia Division Statute.
“We are pleased with today’s ruling, which found that the intent of Christ the Redeemer Church, a former mission of Truro, was to give its property, a parcel of vacant land, to Truro Church. This ruling confirms that Truro Church owns the land, and that it is to be considered under the Virginia Division Statute, which our congregations have successfully invoked in our defense,” said ADV Vice-Chairman Jim Oakes. Christ the Redeemer and Truro Church are both ADV members.
On April 3, 2008, Judge Bellows issued a landmark ruling that acknowledged a division within The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Virginia and the larger Anglican Communion, and that the Anglican congregations in Virginia could invoke the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9) in their defense. The Virginia Division Statute states that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when a group of congregations divide from the denomination. On June 27, 2008, Judge Bellows issued a ruling that confirmed the constitutionality of Virginia Division Statute.
The Episcopal Church and the Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations in January 2007 and filed lawsuits against the Virginia churches, their ministers and their vestries. The decision of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese to redefine and reinterpret Scripture caused the 11 Anglican churches to sever their ties.