Press coverage of the VA property hearings

The day after the presentation of arguments to the Virginia Supreme Court regarding the ownership of church property in the instances when congregations have decided to depart the Episcopal Church, the press coverage has started to appear online.

An important point is underlined in the Times-Dispatch coverage:

George A. Somerville, representing the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, said the Virginia law is not neutral because it discriminates against churches run by hierarchies, or mixed hierarchies as with the Episcopal Church, as opposed to those run strictly at the congregation level.

Also, Somerville said, “it singles out churches for a rule that does not apply to comparable secular institutions.”

Johnson [representing CANA congregations], however, said the majority rule is a neutral solution that keeps courts out of theological thickets and that it does not impose congregational governance.

There’s this from Channel 9 in Washington DC:

The justices heard oral arguments in the case Tuesday. A decision could be made as early as June.

A judge in Fairfax County ruled last year that state law allows the departing congregations to keep their buildings and other church property worth an estimated $30 million to $40 million. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia appealed.

Tuesday’s arguments focused largely on whether the breakaway congregations can still be considered a branch of the Episcopal Church under state law.

And these transcripts from over the air broadcasts by the local NPR associate and this from CBS 6 in Richmond.

The report from the Loudon Times ends its very good report with this hopeful note quoting James Oakes of the Anglican District of Virginia:

“Both sides look forward to a decision that will bring some sort of resolution.

‘I would be crazy to predict what the outcome would be,’ Oakes said.

‘From a layman’s perspective, I felt like we were sitting in the same room with our brothers and sisters and I really wish we could be in the same room worshiping with them instead of slugging it out in court,’ Oakes said. ‘I think all of us look forward to the day it’s behind us.’”

The Café’s own John Chilton filed this eyewitness report yesterday. He’s since updated the post with links to the AP and the reporting of the Washington Times as well.

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