A Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge issued a ruling on Jan. 10 against seven conservative Episcopal congregations in Northern Virginia that broke away from the church in 2006 in protest of the church’s earlier decision to accept same-sex relationships.
The ruling could force the breakaway congregations to turn over to the Episcopal Church buildings and property in Virginia worth more than $40 million that the conservative faction seized after congregations voted to separate from the church over the gay relationship dispute.
However, a final decision on the matter may not come for another year or more if the losing side chooses to file an appeal.
The dispute between the conservative and more progressive congregations within the U.S. Episcopal Church came to a head in 2003 when church leaders approved the ordination of a gay Episcopal priest, V. Gene Robinson, as the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, making Robinson the denomination’s first out gay bishop.
Nicholas Benton, editor and publisher of the Falls Church, Va., News Press, said the court ruling would have an enormous positive impact on the LGBT-supportive Episcopal leaders and worshipers who lost possession of their church buildings, including an historic Episcopal Church building in the City of Falls Church.