|Who won? Who lost? Can't tell? That's the point.|
(For those of you unfamiliar with this issue, a bit of background: in 2013, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a unanimous ruling in favor of The Falls Church Episcopal, The Diocese of Virginia, and The Episcopal Church, against the case of the so-called "break away" church now called The Falls Church-Anglican, whose leaders attempted, when they left the Episcopal Church in 2006, to claim Episcopal Church property as their own....something they did from 2006 until 2012, when the courts ordered them to turn the properties back over to The Falls Church Episcopal, the Diocese, and The Episcopal Church. It is the grounds of all or part of that Virginia Supreme Court decision which is now being appealed.)
If, on the other hand, the United States Supreme Court grants the certiorari petition, it means this legal case/wrestling match will continue, with the United States Supreme Court likely to hear the case sometime in the fall of this year, and a ruling indicating who "won" or "lost" taking place even later.
If we get good news on Monday, I'll feel a great deal of relief. But because I'm a relative newcomer to this battle, most of my relief and happiness will be for those who have struggled and fought and sacrificed for the worthy cause of keeping millions of dollars' worth of buildings and grounds built by previous generations of Episcopalians for future generations of Episcopalians.
Had leaders within The Falls Church-Anglican acknowledged -- as George Beavens (Christ our Lord, Lake Ridge) did in this Diocese and as did many others in other dioceses -- that when you leave an Episcopal church, you leave its property behind, we would not ever have been in court. Period.
Had that been the leadership provided, hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of dollars would have been freed for other purposes. Not to mention the time and energy that has been spent on litigation over the past seven years.
So why are we in court? I suppose we (as The Falls Church Episcopal, The Diocese of Virginia, and The Episcopal Church) could be biblical literalists, and when someone tries stealing our garment, to give them our cloak, as well. In fact, as I've written before, I like to think that if someone stole all the computers at our church, or the Christmas or Easter offering, and that person knew he was stealing it -- knew he was doing wrong but doing it anyway -- that maybe we would find it in ourselves to give that person our fine silver and several thousand of our pledge dollars as well, in the hope that such actions would bring him to repentance and amendment of life, à la the Bishop of Digne and the thief Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.
More to the point: Episcopal Church property is not "ours" to surrender over to them anyway. Again, vestries and Bishops are stewards -- care-takers -- of property that previous generations of Episcopalians built for future generations of Episcopalians.
The Falls Church Episcopal congregation is simultaneously one of the oldest, and one of the newest faith communities in the Diocese and the nation. What a joy to be part of this new story.