10 June 2010

Virginia property dispute news

The Virginia Supreme Court has stated the lower court erred in its judgment regarding the Truro property.

They did rule that a "division" as occurred in The Episcopal Church - no surprise there. But, here is the important bit of the ruling.
In light of our holding that the circuit court erred in granting the Code § 57-9(A) petitions, the control and ownership of the property held in trust and used by the CANA Congregations remains unresolved. Accordingly, the declaratory judgment actions filed by TEC and the Diocese, and the counterclaims of the CANA Congregations in response to those suits, must be revived in order to resolve this dispute under principles of real property and contract law."

For these reasons, we will reverse the judgment of the circuit court and remand with direction to dismiss the CANA Congregations’ Code § 57-9(A) petitions. We will further direct the circuit court to reinstate the declaratory judgment actions filed by TEC and the Diocese and the counterclaims of the CANA Congregations to those actions, and conduct further proceedings thereon consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.
This is a huge "victory" for TEC. What the decision means is that when the lower court rehears the case they cannot use 57.9 to make a determination. Remember 57.9 was what the lower court used to base their ruling in favour of CANA - now they cannot use the statute. CANA is now without their ace-in-the-hole, to use the vernacular.

This leaves only two arguments as I see it. They will argue that the Dennis Cannon is not valid. and they did not agree to it even though they lived with it for years, and thereby consented to it by not having objected. The Virginia courts ruled in favour of TEC in the 1970s before there was a Dennis Cannon so I cannot see how this argument will fly.

The other argument they will use is the fact that Truro was a parish before there was an Episcopal Church in the United States. That is a fact. However, for over 200 years they've been part of TEC. Virginia law tends to favour hierarchical churches.

The matter has not been resolved and the matter will be in litigation for years because CANA will not vacate the property until the local constabulary arrives to escort them from the property. But the light at the tend of the tunnel can be seen, now, even though it's just a faint light.

Remember to pray for those who are most unhappy about this ruling. Even though they caused a lot of pain to their fellow Christians, they, too, are hurting now. And pray for TEC, too.

Read the decision here.

More later.