As the next round of litigation is heating up in Virginia on the fate of nine church properties, a coalition of prayerful Episcopalians and Anglicans is forming to pray and seek ways to find an amicable settlement between the The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and nine Anglican churches. “Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement” has all ready launched their website called “Seeking Common Ground in Common Prayer” that aims to provide helpful information, encouragement, and insight on how the different sides in the Virginia litigation between the Episcopal Church/Diocese of Virginia and nine Anglican churches that voted to separate from The Episcopal Church four years might approach a “win-win” settlement.
Virginia Laity for a Win-Win Settlement are “Virginian lay members of Episcopal and Anglican parishes who believe that the current litigation between the Anglican District of Virginia, the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church (TEC) must end,” they write at Seeking Common Prayer in Common Prayer. The organizers of the website/blog are Kathryn Peyton, a member of St Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, and Dan Van Ness, a member of Truro Church in Fairfax.
What are some of the reasons why a win-win settlement is the best alternative to prolonged and costly litigation? From the blog:
There are lots of reasons for looking for a win-win settlement:
- Litigation costs money we could be spending on mission.
- Litigation turns people into enemies. We all have heard of situations where a dispute between neighbors divided the neighborhood when the case went to court, or when families were split apart by a bitter divorce. The same thing can happen in parishes as we have learned in the four places where there are both Episcopal and ADV congregations.
- Litigation between Christians causes scandal. 1 Cor 6:7 says, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.” As former Secretary of State James A Baker has said, “Squabbling over church assets is the wrong way to resolve this impasse. The predictable result of continuing this battle will be public conflict without end in sight, to the utter dismay of most Episcopalians.”
- Win-win settlement allows creative solutions. Courts must apply the law and the result can be unsatisfactory. For example, some of the pieces of property in dispute have multiple deeds. It is possible that a judge or jury would determine that the wording of the deeds means some parcels belong to one side and others belong to the other. Furthermore, in negotiating a win-win settlement it is possible to find solutions to problems created by the separation that aren’t even part of the litigation (like figuring out how to deal with the conflicting claims to be part of the Anglican Communion).
- Win-win settlement is faster. If there is a trial for this second phase of the litigation it is possible there will be no judgment until Summer 2011. The appeal process took an additional 18 months in the first phase, so litigation may not be over until 2013 or later. While we might need the help of a mediator to do it, negotiation could produce a win-win settlement by Spring 2011.