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IRD Calls for Diocese and National Church to Work with Virginia Parishes, Not Against Them

"Worst of all, if the Diocese pursues its rumored course of action, it may well create an even greater 'tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion' as a whole." -- Ralph Webb, Director of Anglican Action


Contact: Loralei Coyle, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org


WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Diocese of Virginia released a press release on January 9 indicating that it had chosen not to renew its 30–day standstill agreement with the nine original departing Virginia parishes. It stated that after the standstill ends on January 17, "legal or canonical actions" may be taken. Additionally two Virginia parishes—Church of the Epiphany in Herndon and Church of Our Savior in Oatlands—joined the nine departing parishes by overwhelming votes on January 14. The two parishes, like many of the previous nine, are joining the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).


The IRD's Director of Anglican Action, Ralph Webb, said,


"While the Diocese did not in its press statement commit itself to a course of action following the expiration of the agreement, all indications are that it prepares to act against the parishes with litigation and the assistance of the national Episcopal Church. The Diocese's Standing Committee also is reviewing courses of action to take regarding the clergy of the parishes.


"These courses of action are unbecoming of a diocese that has long sought to walk the 'center aisle' in the middle of church controversies. Churches in other denominations have been allowed to leave by paying some agreed-upon amount for their property. Such a solution holds the possibility of goodwill being maintained among all parties. Litigation over property and acts against the clergy invariably destroy any such hope.


"Worst of all, if the Diocese pursues its rumored course of action, it may well create an even greater 'tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion' as a whole. During this tense time in the Anglican Communion, the Diocese of Virginia's—and The Episcopal Church's—most wise course of action would be to work with the Virginia parishes, not act against them.


"We at the IRD recognize that many faithful Anglicans no longer can stay in the Episcopal Church in good conscience. We support the congregations of the Church of the Epiphany and the Church of Our Savior as they join CANA. At the same time, we continue to support those who feel called by God to stay within the Episcopal Church.


"Sadly, the Episcopal Church appears to be in denial about the significance of these departures. The parishes are constantly dismissed by diocesan officials and national church leaders as comprising either a small number of parishioners or small percentage of congregations. The Episcopal Church's health truly continues to fail when 11 parishes of any size—and some of these parishes are well-known to be large—leave a diocese that is considered 'moderate.'"