By Quin Hillyer
Conservatives and common sense together won a big victory last week when a Virginia state judge ruled in favor of parishioners in 11 individual churches who have broken away from the Virginia Diocese and the national governing body of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
By astonishingly overwhelming votes within each congregation, the parishioners decided instead to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which is affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion through the Church of Nigeria. Naturally, the state and national Episcopal churches have not taken kindly to the breakaway parishes, and have sued to force the parishioners to leave the church properties involved. What the parishioners won on April 4 was just the first battle in what may be a long-running, multi-pronged lawsuit, but it was a hugely important victory nonetheless. Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ruled that something called the Virginia Division Statute means what it very clearly states, which is that the majority of a church parish is entitled to its property when there is a division within the congregation -- and that the 90-plus percent vote in eight of those 11 parishes (the lowest vote in favor of breaking away was 72 percent) clearly represent a "division" from the Episcopal Church. the rest