Reacting to the ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court issued this morning, the Rev. John Yates, leader of the breakaway congregation at The Falls Church, sent a letter to his followers calling the ruling “a very disappointing result, to be sure.” He added that by having the case remanded to the Fairfax Circuit Court where “the Episcopal Church and the Diocese must still carry the burden of showing, apart from the division statute (which the Supreme Court ruled did not apply in this case — ed.) that they are the rightful owners of this property.”
The “property” referenced is the historic Falls Church in the center of the City of Falls Church, which Yates and his breakaway group has held onto since voting to defect from the Episcopal denomination in December 2006.
Meanwhile today, in an exclusive interview with the News-Press, the Rev. Michael Pipkin, leader of the “continuing Episcopalians,” members of The Falls Church who did not chose to defect and who’ve been locked out of The Falls Church by the defectors, said he hoped that while the case has been remanded back to the lower court, that a reconciliation between the two congregations could occur, and that arrangements could be made for his “continuing Episcopalians” to also worship on the campus of The Falls Church, specifically at 10 a.m. on Sundays in the historic chapel of the church, which is now not being used for any other purpose.
He noted, however, that Yates’ letter today made no mention of such matters, but that he was open to working something out for both congregations to share the property while the court matter is being finally resolved. “We do not want to do to them what we perceive they did to us (by locking the continuing Episcopalians off the property –– ed.),” Pipkin said
Pipkin’s congregation will gather for a worship service tonight at 7 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the Falls Church Presbyterian Church, where it has been meeting since January 2007, and Yates’ breakaway congregation will meet at the sanctuary of The Falls Church Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in a closed meeting open only to his members. The Yates meeting will be addressed by the Rev. Martyn Minns, bishop of the association of breakaway congregations known as the Council of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Minns’ home church, the Truro Church of Fairfax, was the principal church named in the case ruled on by the Supreme Court ruling today.