Update on Virginia property settlement

Henry D.W. Burt II reported to the Council (Convention) of the Diocese of Virginia last week about “the efforts… to recover Episcopal properties for the mission of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia.”

So this brings us to the ruling. Under the opinion, we are to submit a final order by February 24, which the judge will enter at some date after that. That order will provide a date specific when all property – real and personal, tangible and intangible – must be conveyed or returned to the Diocese of Virginia. It is important to remember that the CANA congregations have the right to seek an appeal. The Supreme Court of Virginia also has discretion over whether to hear that appeal. The CANA congregations have not yet informed us of their plans.

Now that being said, Bishop Johnston has made it clear from the moment he became our diocesan bishop, if not many times before, that he – and we – will be gracious. That would be the case had we lost. It is even more so imperative that we do so, having prevailed.

So what does “gracious” mean?

First, it means that we pray for our brothers and sisters in the CANA congregations, acknowledging the uncertainty, the sense of loss and the pain they are experiencing. We know too well that uncertainty, that sense of loss and that pain, as we have experienced it as a diocese and in our continuing congregations. We are open to a variety of creative arrangements. Those could allow some CANA congregations to remain in place under negotiated terms for some period of time, and we are in regular contact on that issue. We will report developments as soon as we can. It is also without question that we will move forward in a way that will not disrupt – and that we will not disrupt – certain key ministries of these churches: four of them have pre-schools that serve their communities; one of them hosts the Prince William Free Clinic, which provides indigent medical care to a large and ever growing population. I can report to this Council that we will be entering into discussions with the Free Clinic the Monday after next about not simply remaining at St. Margaret’s property on Church Hill Road, but perhaps expanding their clinic to meet the needs of their clientele.

So where do we go long-term? Where are we called to go? That is what the Dayspring effort that Bishop Johnston announced will work – with all stakeholders – to determine. Dayspring Vision will work with our continuing congregations – and honestly, it’s time to let that term go – so they will work with our Episcopal congregations on their future plans and ministries – whether to return, replant or revision. Dayspring Vision will also look at the ways to best leverage our returned real estate and other assets to situate this diocese for powerful, creative and transformative ministry. And the question will be – always – how can the mission of this diocese and its people best be served by a building, a house, a piece of land or a fund. Every layer of this diocese will and must have input into this effort.

Dayspring Resources will bring together banking, real estate and other strategic expertise to execute on that vision for the Episcopal properties and for those Episcopal congregations. I have read much in the blogosphere, and expect to later today – and I have to tell you I am looking forward to this litigation being concluded because I have a number of bookmarks in my browser that I will be eliminating – nevertheless, I have read much that this is a “Pyrrhic victory” and we are going to sell everything that is returning to us because we cannot handle it. I simply cannot imagine that being the case. It remains to be seen what the decisions will be – but the Episcopal Church has a powerful story to tell and a transformative ministry to offer. And we will do so, I am sure and certain, in new and creative ways everywhere we possibly can with and in these Episcopal properties. To those who criticize us and presumptively condemn us to failure I would say this, to take a phrase from Churchill Gibson: do not underestimate the power of the Living God in his transforming works in this diocese.

Dayspring Messaging will tell the story – to you, to your parish churches, to the world – of where we – all of us – are going on this path. In a charged situation like this, information – some of it unintentional, much of it unintentional, regrettably some of it intentional – can run rampant and cause tremendous anxiety and pain. We will work to keep such nonsense, frankly, to a minimum. As a result, we will have regular Dayspring updates on the e-Communiqué, on the Web site and in the newly redesigned Virginia Episcopalian. I do want here to commend Emily Cherry for that effort – it was all her. She worked so hard, and she did so well.

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