Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An official with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia said yesterday the diocese is committed to meeting the needs of its churches, but did not address whether the diocese will drop lawsuits against the 11 congregations that recently left the denomination.

The statement, by diocesan Secretary Patrick Getlein, comes a day after Anglican leaders worldwide issued a statement calling for the suspension of all property litigation between the Episcopal Church and the breakaway congregations, most of which are in Northern Virginia.

At the close of a six-day conference in Tanzania, the Anglican leaders, called primates, also urged “both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.”

Mr. Getlein said Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee looks forward to working with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the American denomination, in interpreting the primates’ 11-page report.

“When majorities in those congregations voted in December to leave the Church and affiliate with Nigerian Anglicans they set in motion a spiritual and legal conflict that remains unresolved,” Mr. Getlein wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Times.

“The fact is Episcopal Church property has been alienated and abandoned and loyal Episcopalians have been and continue to be excluded from their churches,” he wrote. “Bishop Lee and the diocesan leadership remain committed to preserving the sacred legacy entrusted to us by previous generations for the future of the Church here in Virginia.”

Officials with the departing congregations, which are affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a mission of the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria, have said they remain open to those who wish to remain with the Episcopal Church.

The CANA congregations from Virginia have reiterated their desire to reach an agreement with the diocese out of court.

“I think it’s incumbent on the diocese as well as the Episcopal Church to read that [report] very carefully,” said Jim Pierobon, a spokesman for the Falls Church and Truro Church, two of the breakaway congregations.

The Episcopal Church has been called to “stand down with these lawsuits and work toward an amicable settlement,” he said.

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