January 2012


You’ve probably heard about the decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to force religious employers who aren’t specifically in the Word-and-Sacrament business (hospitals, colleges, etc.) to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, including abortifacients such as IUDs. Almost all of the outrage that has been expressed since has come from Roman Catholic leaders or from commentators such as Michael GersonYuval Levin, and James Capretta (whose column is especially worth reading) who have focused almost exclusively on the impact the decision will have on Catholic institutions. But lots of other religious folks should be concerned, too.

For one thing, this will effect conservative Protestant organizations just as much as Catholic ones. Every para-church organization, from Focus on the Family to the Wycliffe Bible Translators to Inter-Varsity, will come under this mandate, because they are not primarily houses of worship. Evangelical Protestant schools from Wheaton College to Reformed Theological Seminary will also be effected. In the rule that was finalized on January 20, HHS says this about who is exempt from the requirement:

Specifically, the Departments seek to provide for a religious accommodation that respects the unique relationship between a house of worship and its employees in ministerial positions….

…[T]he amended regulations specify that, for purposes of this policy, a religious employer is one that: (1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Code. Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) and (iii) refer to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.

So one thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t only Catholics who are going to be told, “we don’t care what your religious principles are–you have to cover this at your own expense.”

For another, while those mainstream news outlets that have bothered to cover this issue have generally referred to the decision as covering “birth control,” at least some are in fact abortifacients. For instance, the “emergency contraception” drug Ella, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2010, acts to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Supporters say it doesn’t “terminate pregnancy,” because technically speaking “pregnancy” doesn’t begin under implantation. It does end a unique human life, however. Under this decision, religious organizations that object to abortion and believe the scientific evidence that a human life begins with conception will be forced to pay for such drugs.

Finally, something that has been missing in all of the commentary I’ve read is that the supporters of this decision have no intention of stopping here. It is their goal that eventually the federal government will force all religious organizations, including churches, to include all manner of “reproductive services” in their insurance policies, or face government fines if they refuse. The Moloch-worshiping Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, for instance, said this when the HHS decision was announced:

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) celebrates the decision by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on January 20, 2012 to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential to the new health care plans and requiring that most religious employers comply with it. We recognize this is a victory for many women, but her decision not to extend this coverage to all Americans, no matter the religious perspective of their employer, is disappointing. All women deserve access to affordable birth control.

The Sebelius decision permits some religious institutions to refuse to provide contraceptive services if they are devoted to worship and employ and serve people of the same faith. Other religiously-affiliated nonprofits and employers will be required to offer contraceptive coverage with no co-pays or deductibles. In her ruling, Sebelius finalized rules proposed on August 3, 2011. She also allowed some religiously-based institutions to have an additional year to comply with the ruling.

We believe contraceptive services are critical for women’s reproductive health, regardless of religious affiliation. RCRC supports individual decision making about the use of contraception, based on the exercise of an individual’s conscience and values. The Sebelius decision reaffirms the critical need for contraceptive coverage by limiting the types of religiously-based institutions that can refuse to offer these contraceptive services to a narrow group. [Emphasis added.]

The RCRC, you’ll remember, includes the Episcopal Church, UCC, PCUSA, and General Board of Church and Society and Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church. They apparently stand for the power of the government to force their fellow Christians to bow the knee to Caesar and deny their Lord.

Planned Parenthood certainly doesn’t like exempting those religious Neanderthals, according to head honcho Cecile Richards:

The Obama administration reached this decision after hearing from major medical societies, patient advocates, members of Congress, and, most importantly, regular Americans who disagreed with efforts to undermine the birth control benefit. Indeed, a small but vocal group of women’s health opponents launched a campaign to pressure the administration to exempt religiously affiliated universities, hospitals, social service agencies, and schools from the birth control benefit. The law already allows religious organizations like churches and church associations to deny birth control coverage for their employees–an exemption Planned Parenthood disagrees with. But that wasn’t enough for opponents of contraception….

No employer should dictate whether their workers have access to affordable birth control, especially since it’s basic health care. [Emphasis added.]

The grand poobah of NARAL Pro-choice America doesn’t put it as baldly as these, but it’s still clear where she wants to go:

All women should have access to contraceptive coverage, regardless of where they work,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The administration stood firm against intensive lobbying efforts from anti-birth-control organizations trying to expand the refusal option even further to allow organizations and corporations to deny their employees contraceptive coverage. As a result, millions will get access to contraception—and they will not have to ask their bosses for permission.” [Emphasis added.]

Make no mistake about it: this is the camel’s nose under the tent, and it isn’t just a Catholic tent, either. Sooner or later, these and their fellow “reproductive rights” fanatics will be demanding insurance coverage for abortion from every employer in America, religious convictions be damned.

UPDATE: Via MCJ, here’s Ace (of Ace of Spades HQ) on what lies behind this decision, a bit of cultural analysis that hits the matter square on the head:

I don’t know what to say except the arrogance is breath-taking. Obama doesn’t understand the point of government.

The point of government is to run an orderly house in which a great many people may live together in relative harmony despite sharply disagreeing with each other on many things.

A hotelier, if his goal is to just run a successful hotel, should not care very much if some rooms are rented by Jews, and some by Catholics, and some by atheists; and some by families, and some by pairs of cheatin’ spouses.

Only if the hotelier puts his own moralism over the business would he attempt to force his guests to live by his specific rules of life.

Obama is a moralist, and an arrogant one. For all the talk of Christians being rigid moralists, the dirty little secret is that the left is far more rigidly, arrogantly moralistic, and it is cheerleaded by our cultural institutions (media, academia) rather than pushed back against, so its arrogance is encouraged.

Obama is pushing, very hard, a rigid moral system, and attempting to “shove it down the throats” of people who do not seek nor need his moral instruction.

It just happens to be that his code of morality is an unconventional one, borne not in the first century but in the twentieth, and which, when taken to extremes, has included conceptions of sexuality which are essentially Satanic in their license.

Can he make a little space for those who do not rush to embrace his Madonna Moralism?

No. For to do so would be to confess doubt about the Moral Scheme he has in mind for people; it would signal that he’s not utterly certain of his own moral beliefs.

And few on the political left have any sense of modesty about any of their culture-changing schemes.

They are so right that of course the coercive power of the state — with its machinery of stripping away the property and liberty of those who run afoul of it — should be deployed to wipe out mendicants and heretics.

One of the most cherished rights, never expressed anywhere but truly central to any truly free society, is the right to be Wrong. By which I mean, you should not just be free to do the things which the hegemonic culture deems to be “right.” No one ever tries to outlaw that which they themselves believe to be right.

What they attempt to do, of course, is outlaw that which they believe to be wrong.

If you do not respect a citizen’s right to be wrong — if your first impulse is to use the frightening machinery of state coercion to compel him to be “right,” as you see “right” — then you do not respect him at all.

This is the chief character flaw of the leftist movement — their inability to respect anyone at all but their own. A very provincial and solipisitically childish way to view the world, of course, which leads to a vicious arrogance in attempting to pound, pound, pound square pegs into the round holes the state has cut for them.

The left would just be wrong, and not dangerous, if it weren’t so arrogant about disposing of people’s freedom with a single thoughtless line of legislation.

It is that, the arrogance and the profound disrespect of anyone who does not wear the feathers and warpaint of their tribe, that makes them not just wrong but sinister. [Emphasis added.]

 

How does Robert Reich, former Bill Clinton cabinet member, and noted public policy analyst, respond to this pairing of Gingrich and [contributor Sheldon] Adelson? He claims not to know what lies behind the Adelson support for Gingrich.

I believe Reich feigns ignorance in his blog posting, rather than admit the obvious, the linkage of Jewish money to American politics, which we all know, is a taboo topic for establishment media types. [Emphasis added.]

James Wall, who is either 1) asserting that the Treasury prints two kinds of money, Jewish and Gentile; 2) contending that Adelson makes campaign contributions in shekels rather than dollars; or 3) using an old anti-Semitic trope to make a perfectly legal campaign contribution sound sinister–you be the judge.

I got this link from my friend Greg Griffith at Stand Firm, and I have got to share this with you. I’ve filed it under the heading of “worship,” but that probably doesn’t really fit, since watching it brought tears to my eyes, and not in a good way. Rather, it was more like the reaction I had the first time I saw Groucho Marx dance. Anyway, I bring you today’s Lord’s Day highlight, from a man who makes me sound like Luciano Pavarotti:

Today is the 221st anniversary of the birth of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, on January 25, 1790. Now, I’m sure you haven’t given a lot of thought to ol’ Jawn (best known as the back half of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!”, he  succeeded William Henry Harrison upon the latter’s death in office one month after inauguration), but he has an extraordinary legacy: he has living grandchildren. According to Yahoo News:

So, how is it possible that a former president who died 150 years ago would still have direct descendents [sic--he means grandchildren--DSF] alive today? As it turns out, the Tyler men were known for fathering children late in life. And that math is pretty outstanding when added up:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He became the 10th president of the United States in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died in office. Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853, at age 63.  Then, at the age of 71, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and four years later at age 75, Harrison Ruffin Tyler. Both men are still alive today.

Think about that: John Tyler was born less than ten years after the end of the Revolutionary War, less than three years after the ratification of the Constitution, less than a year ater the inauguration of George Washington as our first president. That man has living grandsons, one of whom is only seven years younger than Ron Paul, who is running for president today. Incredible.

When I spoke with openly gay bishop Gene Robinson about following him through a particularly harrowing period that he was about to enter, I told him that talking to him was like talking to Joan of Arc, in a time when a doc crew could capture the drama of the church/state firestorm he had found himself in. He laughed but said that it was true – he was caught in the crosshairs of cultural change and it was important to record it along the way, so he invited me to follow him for the next four years.

Macky Alston, director of the film Love Free or Die, a documentary about Joan of Arc Bishop Robinson that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week; what “church/state firestorm” Robinson was supposedly caught up in is a mystery to me, but I suppose it does enhance the Joan/Gene analogy

(Via Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm.)

Anti-Semitic loon James Wall of the Christian Century and Veterans Today (whose column is frequently linked by the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network) has divined the political tea leaves stirred by the South Carolina Republican presidential primary and announced who the results help: the Jooooooos:

Newt Gingrich is the current holder of the Republican crown. Saturday night, NBC projected Gingrich as the winner in the South Carolina Republican primary over his closet rival, Mitt Romney.

The race for an opponent to run against incumbent President Barack Obama is down to two candidates, a former House Speaker, and a former Governor.

That will come as a surprise to Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Anyway, after some boilerplate political analysis, Wall gets to the subject that really animates him:

The early South Carolina primary was pivotal for Gingrich and a major setback for Romney. After losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich appeared on his way out of politics. He was a distant second  in polls the week before the South Carolina voting. Republican big money was lining up behind Romney.

Money dried up for Gingrich. It certainly did not help that he is a candidate who carries some of the heaviest political baggage this country has seen in these quadrennial shifts in American political power,  three wives, admitted infidelities, two divorces, and an ethics charge that led to disciplinary action during his time as House speaker.

Gingrich was not giving up. He turned for help from one of the richest men in America, Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner and Mr. Gingrich’s longtime friend and patron. The two men share a politically conservative ideology and a deep loyalty to Israel.

And for the Israel-fixated Wall, who thinks that the “Israel lobby” (read: Jooooooos) run America, that’s all that really matters.

He then goes on to extensively quote a New York Times article on the Gingrich-Adelson connection (this from a newspaper that has virtually no interest in, for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and any of the big money men who will be raising close to a billion dollars for his 2012 campaign, and who have been involved in scandals from Solyndra to LightSquared to BrightSource). First, there’s this:

Mr. Adelson was building his newest resort casino, the Venetian, and became embroiled in a battle with a local culinary union trying to organize his employees. The conflict soured further when Adelson helped finance a campaign in Nevada to pass legislation curtailing the ability of labor unions to automatically deduct money from members to finance political activities.

Gingrich helped Adelson’s team develop an anti-union pitch in support of the Nevada legislation. Gingrich supported the legislation and was honored with a Nevada fund raiser. Gingrich and Adelson became fortuitous pals out of this initial anti-union campaign.

Most Americans would probably consider the idea that unions can take money from members without their consent to fund political activities of which those members disapprove to be more than a little unAmerican. But that’s only a lead-in to the real story:

Their friendship extended to their common support for Israel:

“Both men have long been staunch American allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Mr. Adelson owns a free daily newspaper in Israel [Israel Hayom] that is credited with helping Mr. Netanyahu return to power in 2009.

“In May 2010, the cover of a special section of the paper featured a full-page photograph of Mr. Gingrich in front of an American flag, with Mr. Gingrich criticizing the Obama administration for not moving more aggressively against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

After Obama’s election, the bond that centered on Israel grew deeper. In an interview he gave in December, 2011, Gingrich declared “that Palestinians are an “invented” people — meaning they had no historical claim to have their own state and that they remain committed to destroying Israel.

Mr. Adelson endorsed Gingrich’s comments a few days later in an interview withHaaretz, an Israeli newspaper in which he declared: “Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people.”

Adelson is the money man; Gingrich the political leader.  Together, once they get past Mitt Romney, they plan to confront Barack Obama in November about his failure  to provide Israel 100% support.

Calling the Palestinians an “invented people” may have been a less than artful way of expressing the truth, but there’s little doubt that Gingrich is correct on the substance, which is why people like Wall have not bothered trying to refute him and instead engaged in character assassination. But of course the real point is that Wall’s weaving a classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: Adelson is the Jewish money man, controlling the politician who will do his bidding, and who apparently all by himself buy the politician a presidential nomination for the purpose of giving blind and total support to the Jewish state. And in Wall’s reading, it’s a good thing all that Jewish money turned up in South Carolina:

The South Carolina primary was his last chance. Fortunately for him, Adelson’s PAC money, and a majority of South Carolina Republican voters combined to hand the former Speaker a significant victory.

Leave aside the fact that virtually all observers have credited Gingrich’s debate performances over the last week before the voting for his victory. Instead, note that Mitt Romney and his supporting super PAC outspent Gingrich and his by more than 2-1. That Jewish money is magic, my friends.

Gingrich has once again proven that he is a politician who is smart, tough and attuned to the conservative political pulse, especially in a state like South Carolina, where loyalty to Israel has become a conservative Protestant White Christian biblical belief.

Voters, who once could not find Israel on a world map, have found Israel in their Bibles. This is not a group that will embrace Barack Obama’s reelection. They will go with whatever candidate the Republican Party hands them. Gingrich is, at the moment, that candidate.

Of course, no screed about the power of the Joooooos would be complete without some snide cracks about their willing stooges, the Christian Right. The fact that exit poll information indicated that voters primary concerns were about jobs, the economy, the federal debt, government spending, and defeating Barack Obama in November. If white evangelicals are involved, they must have voted the way they did because of Israel.

Israel supporters form narrow, but strategically located voter blocs, dependable, to be sure, though not yet a national majority. But Gingrich is adaptable and shifty in a political fight. His next primary comes in Florida, January 31, where two dependable voter blocs should help him repeat the South Carolina pattern, once again overlooking his past sins and embracing his devotion to Israel and political conservatism.

The two voting groups in Florida are ethnic Jewish voters who live in the southern part of the state, and conservative biblical literalist Protestant White Christians in the middle and northern sections of the state.

And here’s where it’s clear that what’s operating in Wall’s paranoid fantasy is not merely anti-Israelism, but anti-Semitism. See, those “ethnic Jewish voters” who live in South Florida, who can be counted upon to “embrace his devotion to Israel,” are overwhelmingly Democrats, and Florida has a closed primary. Even in the general election, most Jews (my guess would be 75% or more) would no more vote for Newt Gingrich than they would try to make latkes out of pig’s feet. But in Wall’s world, Jews are not overwhelmingly reliable Democratic voters, they are Mossad robots who will automatically vote for whoever the Jewish money men tell them to vote for.

This is what happens when an anti-Semite tries his hand at political analysis: it becomes all about the Jooooooos. And yes, the IMPN has already linked to it.

 

You may have seen it on the PCUSA’s web site: “Preach-In on Global Climate Change“. (“Let’s have a ‘preach-in’! It’ll be just like the 60s!”) There we’re told:

Interfaith Power and Light is hosting a national preach-in on global warming on Sunday February 12th. Planned to communicate a love for, and dedication to, God’s creation as Valentine’s Day approaches, this preach-in invites people of all religions to consider preaching, teaching, praying, and otherwise bringing awareness about climate change.

Here’s the flyer calling all environmental religion people to arms, er, mouths, er, whatever:

I will not be registering for this august event, so I won’t get any of the fact-free downloadable resources, or any of the “sample sermons” that I could pass off as my own use as models for my own. But then, I also won’t be promoting a new religion in my pulpit on February 12, either.

LifeSiteNews reports on a legal case from New Jersey that is of a type that we’re going to be seeing more and more of in the future unless the U.S. Supreme Court puts a halt to it. A judge has ruled that a United Methodist retreat house has to open its facility to same-sex union ceremonies because non-discrimination is a more important value that religious freedom:

A New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.”

On Thursday, administrative judge Solomon A. Metzger ruled that religious liberty did not exempt the seaside retreat, which is associated with the United Methodist Church, from renting its facilities out for purposes that violate its moral beliefs.

In March 2007, Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association declined Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster’s request to rent its Boardwalk Pavilion for the ceremony. The couple sued, claiming they had been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. In December 2008, the state Division on Civil Rights found the Christian campground had likely violated the state Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and joined the case.

Judge Metzger said church doctrine was irrelevant. “As to ‘free exercise’ [of religion], the LAD is a neutral law of general application designed to uncover and eradicate discrimination; it is not focused on or hostile to religion,” he wrote. The free exercise clause did not factor into his ruling, he stated, but “a much lower standard that tolerates some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” He believed the “arm’s-length nature of the transactions” gave Ocean Grove “comfortable distance from notions incompatible with its own beliefs.”

Metzger agreed in his ruling that Ocean Grove “is fundamentally a religious organization, free to form its mission without government oversight or intrusion” and that its owners had not “acted with ill-motive.” The facility “opposes same-sex unions as a matter of religious belief, and in 2007 found itself on the wrong side of recent changes in the law.”

Metzger ruled that, since the facility allowed non-Christians to use its facility for [weddings], it had no doctrinal limitations. But Methodists do not limit their sacramental ministry to Christians and historically do not recognize marriage as a sacrament.

The judge in this case had no business basing any of his decision on his understanding of Methodist doctrine. The only relevant religious issue is whether the Camp Ground Association was using the teaching of its parent denomination in making its decision, and the answer to that is unequivocally yes. At that point, the issue becomes whether to prefer the non-discrimination rights of gays to the religious freedom of practitioners. The place of religious freedom in the First Amendment, and the fact that sexual orientation does not (yet, at least) have protected class status under the SCOTUS doctrine of “strict scrutiny” means that this should have been an easy decision to make in favor of the CGA. That it went the other way is an indication that personal and political preference was at work.

Given the culture of the bench, I predict you’ll see more and more judges making the same choice to prefer gay rights over religious freedom until such time as the SCOTUS makes a definitive ruling in favor of the First Amendment. And if the latter should ever decide the other way, that’s when it’s going to be time to head underground, or give up our consciences and faith altogether.

Religious freedom won a victory–and a unanimous victory, at that–today at the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court ruled for the first time Wednesday that federal discrimination laws do not protect employees of religious organizations who perform “ministerial” duties.

The court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion dictates the organizations “be free to choose those who will guide it on its way.”

The case involved a Michigan schoolteacher who said Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church violated the Americans with Disability Act in 2005 when it fired her after she tried to return to work after being diagnosed with narcolepsy.

The church said Cheryl Perich was not fit for ecclesiastical office and that her threat to sue violated Lutheran teachings that disputes be handled within the church rather than in civil courts.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court that such decisions are reserved to religious organizations.

“The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important,” Roberts wrote. “But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.

“When a minister who has been fired sues her church alleging that her termination was discriminatory, the First Amendment has struck the balance for us.”

This was a first, evidently, for the recognition of the religious exemption:

Wednesday’s ruling marked the first time the Supreme Court had acknowledged such an exception. Requiring a religious group to accept or retain unwanted ministers, the justices said, deprives the group of “control over the selection of those will will personify its beliefs.”

The Obama administration supported Perich in her suit, which suggests how far out of the mainstream it is on matters of religious freedom. The usual suspects, meanwhile, threw the expected hissy fit. Americans United belched:

“Blatant discrimination is a social evil we have worked hard to eradicate in the United States,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “I’m afraid the court’s ruling today will make it harder to combat.”

Thank God. The last thing I want is the government stepping into intra-church disputes to decide what constitute permissible and impermissible personnel decisions. Religious organizations practice “blatant discrimination” every day, unless they stand for absolutely nothing. Allow the state to dictate who they can and cannot hire and fire would be the end of the free exercise provision of the First Amendment.

Today’s decision, AU says, reinforces that unfortunate trend. Under the ruling, AU says, a house of worship would have the right to fire a minister for reasons completely unrelated to religion. A pastor who objected to being sexually harassed, for example, could be fired for raising that issue and have no recourse in the courts.

Roberts referred in his opinion to a “parade of horribles” that the EEOC and Perich (and likely AU in their amicus brief as well) imagined could happen if the Court ruled in favor of the school. According to the Post, “He said those questions could be addressed when and if they arise. ‘We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct,’ he wrote.” So if AU hears about a pastor being fired because she objected to sexual harassment, Barry Lynn (who is also a lawyer) should provide her with pro bono assistance in filing suit.

“Clergy who are fired for reasons unrelated to matters of theology – no matter how capricious or venal those reasons may be – have just had the courthouse door slammed in their faces,” Lynn said.

Near as I can tell, Lynn has never served a local church, which would explain how he could say something so detached from local church reality. Pastors are fired every day in this country for reasons that would seem to them to be capricious, venal, or downright evil. One might irritated the congregational patriarch, another might have put his congregation to sleep with his preaching, a third might not have visited the shut-ins often enough. Some of the reasons for which clergy are fired are good, some are bad, some are Satanic. And the state is incompetent to judge between them, especially when it comes to a secularist fetish such as “discrimination.”

The idea that the only firing offenses for clergy should be connected to “matters of theology” is like claiming that a manufacturer should be unable to fire a lazy or uncooperative employee if he happened to know how to run his machine. It’s an absurdity in business, and a recipe for state tyranny in religion. I’m delighted to see that the Supremes, conservatives and liberals alike could see that, even if an anti-discrimination fetishist such as Barry Lynn cannot.

There is big news out of Virginia this morning that has to do with the Anglican churches in the state, but which could have an impact on any PCUSA churches that seek to leave that denomination in the future. Even if it doesn’t, there are a lot of Anglican brothers and sisters that need our prayers. From BabyBlue Online:

Seven Anglican congregations in Virginia that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s ruling by the Fairfax County Circuit Court that the property should be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese.

The Circuit Court heard the case last spring after the Virginia Supreme Court remanded it in June 2010. The congregations previously had succeeded in their efforts on the Circuit Court level to defend the property that they bought and paid for.

“Although we are profoundly disappointed by today’s decision, we offer our gratitude to Judge Bellows for his review of this case. As we prayerfully consider our legal options, we above all remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith. Regardless of today’s ruling, we are confident that God is in control, and that He will continue to guide our path,” said Jim Oakes, spokesperson for the seven Anglican congregations.

Among the seven are two of the best known evangelical Anglican congregations in the United States, the Falls Church and Truro Church, as well as one in the town I live in, St. Margaret’s Church in Woodbridge.

The full ruling is here, but this is a summary from the opinion:

1. TEC and the Diocese have a contractual and proprietary interest in each of the seven Episcopal churches that are the subjects of this litigation. Specifically, the Court finds for TEC and the Diocese in their Declaratory Judgment actions and, among other relief, orders that all real property conveyed by the 41 deeds, as well as all personal property acquired by the churches up to the filing date of the Declaratory Judgment actions (on or about January 31, 2007 or February 1, 2007) are to be promptly conveyed to the Diocese. (Additional instructions are provided at the conclusion of this Letter Opinion.)

2. The CANA Congregations‟ Amended Counterclaims are denied in their entirety. Specifically, the Court finds that the CANA Congregations, in that they are notEpiscopal Congregations, do not possess either contractual or proprietary interests in the property of the seven Episcopal Churches at issue. They are, therefore, enjoined from further use or control of these properties and must promptly relinquish them to the Diocese. Moreover, the Court finds no merit in the CANA Congregations‟ claims for unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and constructive trust and grants TEC‟s and the Diocese‟s motions to strike these claims.

3. The vestry empowered to elect directors to the Falls Church Endowment Fund is the vestry recognized by the Diocese as the Episcopal vestry of The Falls Church, that is to say, the Continuing Congregation.

This is from the Fairfax County Circuit Court, which means that if the congregations want to pursue appeals, there are ways to go. BabyBlue doesn’t indicate whether it will be appealed, and I’m sure it will take some time for them to decide whether to do so. I would expect that at the least they’ll ask for a temporary stay that would prevent their immediate eviction from the properties. Regardless of how they decide to proceed, you can be sure that their priorities are straight. The Rev. John Yates, rector of the Falls Church, said:

The core issue for us is not physical property, but theological and moral truth and the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. Wherever we worship, we remain Anglicans because we cannot compromise our historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, ‘Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.’

Please be praying for these seven churches and the decisions they have to make.

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