Diocese of Virginia settles with Oatlands church

The Church of Our Savior, Oatlands, Virginia, has settled with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in its property dispute, a diocesan statement reports.

The diocese’s statement follows, with our emphases in boldface.

The Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church announced a settlement with Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands following a congregational vote in favor held today. Our Saviour is one of nine congregations that left the Episcopal Church in 2006 that then sought to retain Episcopal church property. “It is truly heartening for us to come to an agreement,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, Bishop of Virginia. “This settlement ensures that the legacy entrusted to the Episcopal Church continues, while providing a clear way forward for the Oatlands congregation.”

The Church of Our Saviour will discontinue its efforts to keep the Oatlands church and all litigation regarding the Oatlands church will conclude immediately. Our Saviour will lease the Oatlands church from the Diocese for up to five years, and retain the parish funds it has on hand. Our Saviour will use a significant portion of those funds for maintenance and much-needed repairs of the Oatlands church. At Our Saviour’s request, the congregation will also retain several memorial items.

As part of the settlement, the Church of Our Saviour will also voluntarily disaffiliate from any connection to the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA), the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Lastly, Our Saviour has agreed that no bishop will visit the congregation without the permission of the Bishop of Virginia.

Church of Our Saviour is located six miles south of Leesburg, a thriving community in Northern Virginia. “We have a long-term view that looks forward to an Episcopal presence in that area in the future,” said Bishop Johnston. “At their essence, that’s what our efforts have been about: ensuring that the mission of the Episcopal Church continues in churches and communities across Virginia.”

Bishop Johnston added, “We are grateful to the leadership of the Church of Our Saviour for engaging in these good faith negotiations. It is my hope that other congregations in this litigation will consider the benefits of a similar approach.”

The trial on property issues for the remaining Episcopal church properties is scheduled to begin in the Fairfax Circuit Court on Monday, April 25.

ADV Chairman Jim Oakes says the whole thing was really just an unproductive diversion after all.

We are saddened that our ADV member parish, Church of Our Saviour, was put in such a difficult position. As we have said all along, this litigation has been a tragic distraction from the good work these churches are trying to undertake as servants of Christ. For many months, we have encouraged our congregations to pray for an end to this costly litigation. There has been a great deal of discussion and soul searching and we will continue to pray that His will be done. No matter the path Church of Our Saviour has chosen, they will remain our brothers and sisters in Christ and we pray for the opportunity to have continued fellowship together.

Addendum, Monday, AM: The Washington Post reports,

The Rev. Elijah White, longtime rector of Church of Our Saviour, said the parish had spent $400,000 in the dispute over the property, which he said is worth $314,000. The congregation, which has 120 members, will immediately begin looking for a new place to worship, he said. “I feel better than I have in years because we’ve been tied up in this litigation,” he said. “It’s a total distraction from real Christian ministry.”

The Oatlands deal requires the congregation to give up its claim to the church building, which dates to 1878. The congregation will get an inexpensive lease for five years with the diocese but is forbidden from affiliating with breakaway groups while still using the building.

Leesburg Today also has a report.

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