Comments: Court rejects request to review in Pittsburgh

This really does soud like 'Game, Set and Match' in court to the lawful Diocese of Pittsburgh in TEC. No doubt this will give heart-burn to the ACNA schismatics. But then, that's what the dodgy game of schism is all about: you don't get to take the silver when you go! Vale, Abp Bobby!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 1:03am BST

Of course Anglicanism was birthed in a schism, and took all the property!

In 1829 on the granting of Catholic emancipation, the Catholic church had to agree not to claim it back as a prerequisite!

Posted by Robert Ian Wiliams at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 8:26am BST

Where do we stand in Falls Church, Virginia?

Posted by Andrew at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 8:54am BST

Well, they can still appeal to the Superior Court and then the Supreme Court of PA...and, then, provided they have argued any federal constitutional issues so far, to the US Supreme Court. (If no federal issues have been involved at the state level, then the US SC will not take the case.)

But one would hope they'd stop wasting the courts' time and everyone's money.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 12:12pm BST

The remaining VA cases come before the court for a final disposition later this month. Some of the smaller breakaways may settle, but I suspect that neither of those groups now occupying Truro and The Falls Church will settle - the two occupy large tracts of very valuable land in N.Va suburbs of DC. The courts have already ruled that there are no constitutional issues at stake, so nobody can appeal to the Supremes.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 1:42pm BST


I'm not sure the law on ownership of church property in the 16th and 17th centuries was as clear as you make it out to be. I'm neither lawyer nor historian, however (and neither are you, to my knowledge), so maybe someone with greater expertise in those matters can clear that up.

In any case, the law in the United States as to church property is pretty clear--it relies on the established practices and canons of each denomination.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 1:47pm BST

Uh, RIW, do you think for a minute that France, (in which the national or local government owns the churches) is any better?

Posted by evensongjunkie at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 4:43pm BST

For Cynthia ...On the issue of Falls Church and Truro. Would it not be SCOTUS that would rule whether or not there were any constitutional issues involved? I would think that it would be they that would decide if they were were willing to grant cert.? I really don't know and would appreciate a response and reference to the documents?

Posted by EmilyH at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 7:02pm BST

On Falls Church recollection is that the appeals court never dealt with the issue of the constitutionality of 57-9 because, assuming it validity, Truro and Falls Church did not meet its standard. The statute required that the entity which they joined be a "branch" of the church that experienced a "division". Even assuming that the Anglican communion is a "church", the branch that they joined, CANA of Nigeria, was not a branch of TEC. I believe they remanded the case back to the trial court for disposition of the property issues and that is what is coming? My memory may be fuzzy and I am happy to be corrected. Depending upon that result, it would seem that it would be up to CANA/Anglican District to appeal further?

Posted by EmilyH at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 7:18pm BST

I am no lawyer, but I think that the ruling of the VA Supreme Court precludes appeal to the Supremes. Since the matter has gone to the VA Supremes and been sent back down, I think there is no appeal beyond the local court. The thieves have run out of tricks, I think. And I think it quite possible that between now and then, some of the smaller bands of thieves may come to settlement, as happened earlier this year with one of them.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 9:26pm BST

To RIW-please stop. The laws of England, such as they were in the 16th Century would not have prevented the action of the Monarch. The question of who "owned" them didn't exist in the legal sense. Besides, the "split" had nothing to do with the congregationalism we see in ACNA. Remember that Henry did not intend to actually found a new Church, but after Mary the Pope decided to excommunicate Elizabeth and say that killing her would be an act approved by God. Not a situation in which property issues have a lot of importance.

Posted by Richard Grand at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 10:15pm BST

How do I put this charitably? This is a site for Thinking Anglicans. IF, unlikely, it were to attract members of ACNA or FiF, despite the occasional appearances of Fr Ed, now of blessed memory and Ordinariate membership, and gone from our midst but for his faithful adherence to BCP 1662, would we not feel that we had somehow been intruded upon? There, the emphasis would be on the interpretation of the word 'Thinking.'

We're not required to disclose our credentials (but I would do so happily, as on the SCP site where our Chapter allegiance is required to be disclosed) and many of us 'recognise' each other as thinking Anglicans. I am inclined to conclude that RIW is a Roman Catholic, perhaps formerly of some Anglican allegiance, who wishes constantly to muddy the waters of those of us who are in a different part of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I think that the last comment - please stop - is entirely appropriate, unless you are an 'Anglican' and indeed a 'Thinking' one, in which case some of us would appreciate knowing your credentials - like ordained in the Church of England Diocese of Southwark in 1985. A title and two incumbencies in that diocese, during which time SCP was conceived on my very own Vicarage sofa in 1993 - I was not alone; and followed by appointments within the Costa Blanca Anglican Chaplaincy in the Church of England's Diocese in Europe. My brains followed me in the furniture van 2 days after my arrival in May 2003, enabling me to continue thinking. Can't do Yahoo smileys on this, but :)

Posted by Peter Edwards at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 12:45am BST

To clarify the question about the U S Supreme Court - the VA Supremes simply did not rule one way or anohter of the constitutional issue, but only on Virginia law. Since no constitutional issue was ruled on, there is no appeal the the Supremes. I think I got that right.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 1:24am BST

One final comment on the Virginia case: the final hearing is scheduled for April 24.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 1:39pm BST

Yes Cynthia, I agree there was no ruling on the constitutionality of 57-9. It would seem, to me, that VA congregations are caught in a no win position. If 59-9 is constitutional, they lose because they did not meet the conditions of the statute. If it is not, then the issue becomes hierarchical preference vs neutral principles and they lose?

Posted by EmilyH at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 4:39pm BST

If TEC prevails in these very old Virginia parishes, would that put an end, everywhere in the US, to the efforts of schismatics to take property? Or would the precedent only apply in Virginia?

Posted by Andrew at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 5:51pm BST

This ruling does not concern ownership of the property of parishes which seceded from the diocese of Pittsburgh, let alone the ownership of parish property in other dioceses. It relates only to assets - property and financial - of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. A few years ago, Bishop Duncan signed a legally-binding agreement which pretty-well ruled out any future claim to diocesan property in the event of his leaving TEC to form a parallel diocese. He tried it anyway, but obviously hadn't a leg to stand on.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 6:46pm BST

The legal system in Canada seems far quicker, fairer and efficient than the US.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 7:31pm BST

By St. George, I think I´ve got it: No wonder Archbishop Nicholas Okoh/Nigeria has distanced himself from Nigerias very own +Martyn Minns and tossed/passed him and the ¨Virginia Caper¨ onward to the ¨continuing¨ ACNA -- apparently CANA doesn´t live at Falls Church or Truro anymore--no need to pack up and find alternative Church of Nigeria/Anglican Communion properties-- presto/changeo--back to pretending noth´n happened at all.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 9:03pm BST


Any ruling in Virginia state courts applies only in Virginia...though the precedent can be pointed to in other states as justification for making similar rulings in similar situations. If the issues were to be ruled upon in federal district court, any ruling would apply within that district. The next step, then, would be an appeal by the losing party to the Supreme Court...whose ruling, if any, would apply nationwide.


Quicker and more efficient, perhaps....but fairness is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 11:38pm BST

The Virginia ruling will apply not only to the Truro and The Falls Church properties,but several others whose congregations joined the Nigerians and stole property. The hearing in April may last several days, and there's no knowing how long it will take the court to rule. Not knowing squat about the Canadian system, I will leave that debate to others. Since the VA Supremes declined to make a constitutional finding, there is nothing in this case that could go to the Big Supremes.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 1:42pm BST

From Cynthia Gilliatt:

"One final comment on the Virginia case: the final hearing is scheduled for April 24."


Posted by Dirk Reinken at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 1:43pm BST

As a Canadian, I can't figure out what RIW is getting at. Our system, like all others, works according to the issues and the evidence. No "schismatic" Anglican parish in Canada has won their case and taken the property. They have lost every time in the courts. The "exception" in Ottawa happened because the Diocese allowed a congregation to purchase the property, but not to keep their endowments. The Diocese had little use for the building, probably due to its condition. However, the Diocese did "win back" another building (there were two congregations that joined ANiC-the Anglican Network in Canada). Please note that this dispute never went to court and was settled by negotiation, so this has little to do with the Canadian legal system.

Posted by Richard Grand at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 2:25pm BST

On the Nigeria CANA connection and ACNA. I have the following from an interview of David Virtue with newly appointed/elected Bishop Dobbs

"DOBBS: The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) continues to endow the Convocation of Anglicans in North America with a great gift - direct and unimpeachable membership in the Anglican Communion. As, the Communion does not yet recognize a 39th Province in North America and the other constituent jurisdictions of the ACNA are not members, only the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) through CANA offers an authentic, orthodox connection to the Anglican Communion. We hold two passports; remain effectively 'dual citizens,' of both the ACNA and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). If by the grace of God I am elected as the Diocesan Bishop in May, I will serve as the ACNA Diocesan Bishop while maintaining Standing Orders in the House of Bishops in Nigeria [Anglican Communion]. A number of ACNA bishops serve under the authority of Archbishop Duncan with identical connections to the Communion: Bishop Bill Attwood is the ACNA Bishop of the International Diocese and a member of the House of Bishops of Kenya and Bishop Roger Ames is the ACNA Bishop of the Great Lakes Diocese and a member of the House of Bishops of Nigeria.

VOL: Why is connection to the Anglican Communion so important?

DOBBS: It is important for spiritual, evangelistic and legal reasons. The Convocation of Anglicans in North America is irrevocably committed to a cross-cultural vision of ministry. Our 'Nigerian passport' dynamically underscores our vital engagement with global Christianity and specifically, global Anglicanism. With Courts examining the nuances of 'who was invited to the last Lambeth Conference and who was not' when ruling on parish property rights, it is not prudent for those congregations engaged in litigation to cut the ties that grant our parishes 'clear credentials' within the Communion. At best, it is premature at this point in our continued growth through this contentious process; at worst, it seems irresponsible to voluntarily surrender internationally recognized, relevant credentials in the midst of legal appeals. There is also the question about our history. We are Anglican Christians and as such, we cherish and value our unbroken connection with 77 million Anglicans around the world through our relationship in the Anglican Communion which is the third largest Christian communion in the world.

VOL: Does "dual citizenship" between ACNA and Nigeria ever cause a conflict of interest?

DOBBS: Dual citizenship' is not 'divided loyalty. Since its foundation, our bishops, clergy and congregations have energetically supported the foundation and growth of the ACNA while remaining faithful members through CANA of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The establishment of the new Diocese in Virginia neither substantially alters nor addends this relationship."

Make of it as you will...

Posted by EmilyH at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 3:05pm BST

To follow up on the CANA Nigeria situation and Bishop Dobbs's comments below.... In the litigation and briefs filed, CANA attys argued that there were two branches of the Communion, one led by Canterbury, the other Nigeria. They used the substantial changes made in the Nigerian church constitution deleting references to Canterbury and, the following: "As a result of these recent changes, the Anglican Communion is now divided into two “branches”—those that relate to all provinces that relate to the See of Canterbury, and those that relate only to those who are understood as adhering to the historic faith, doctrine, and discipline of the Anglican Communion. See Sept. 14, 2007, Tr. 41 (directing the parties to address the branch issue at the Anglican Communion level). The Church of Nigeria, with which the CANA Congregations have affiliated, is the principal leader of this new branch. Tr. 363-64, 372-74 (Minns); Tr. 639-40 (Yisa). Indeed, TEC Presiding Bishop Schori herself referred to CANA as a distinct “part” or “branch of the Anglican Communion” repeatedly in her deposition. Schori Dep, Designations 54-56, 79, 83. The evidence at trial thus independently satisfied the “branch” requirement of § 57-9 at the Anglican Communion level." Bishop Dobbs, however seems to be arguing that he is related to Canterbury. Since, for the legal argument to have worked, and the leadership different, Dobb's comments about the relationship to Canterbury seem disingenuous. It would seem you can't have it both ways. A similar situation exists with San Joaquin where Bishop Schofield, in two letters required to be read non successive sundays before the date of the vote to be taken regarding departure, promised that the departing congregations would maintain their relationship to Canterbury through Southern Cone. If one is to re-read the Allison Barfoot memo that emerged from the discovery in the Calvary Pittsburgh case, it is clear that the strategy she recommended, with little change, was adopted and implemented.

Posted by EmilyH at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 4:01pm BST

In the Pawleys Island case, TEC lost because the propperty had been deeded by the diocese to the parish in 1900.

Could Bishop Lawrence deed all the parishes to his suporters and then leave TEC?

Posted by robert ian Williams at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 5:19pm BST

The hearing must of course NOT be on April 24. I suspct the 25th but will try and find out. Sorry for the confusion.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 6:16pm BST

Of interest in the Pittsburgh case -

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 7:11pm BST

Dobbs sounds cynical to me. What a shame. Disappointing in one so Biblical and conservative in doctrine.

High ground occupied by cynics.

Makes me wonder, why bother ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 8:04pm BST

He could, but he would then face lots of lawsuits for breach of fiduciary duties (and aiding and abetting same).

And any aiders and abetters ("his supporters") would not likely keep the fruits of their malfeasance.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 3:23am BST
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