The U.S. Supreme Court on March 10 upheld a Virginia court ruling denying ownership rights to an Episcopal Church building in Falls Church, Va., from a conservative congregation that broke away from the church in 2006 over the appointment of gay Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
The high court gave no reason why it let stand an earlier ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court that the multi-million dollar church building and grounds belonged to the mainline Episcopal denomination of Virginia. The breakaway congregation, which named itself the Congregation of Anglicans of North America, initially seized control of the historic church building and sprawling grounds before being ousted from the building by a lawsuit filed by members of the mainline church.
Nick Benton, editor and publisher of the Falls Church News-Press, which reported on the dispute, called the court rulings siding with the establishment Episcopal Church an important victory for the more progressive, LGBT supportive faction within the Episcopal denomination.
He said the decision by the congregation to leave the Episcopal Church was based “explicitly on grounds that the leadership of the National Episcopal Church had voted to elevate an openly gay priest, the Rev. Gene Robinson, to standing as a bishop in the church in 2003.”