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Friday, January 12, 2007

How Will They Fill Those Empty Pews?

The divorce is getting messy. From the Washington Times:

"The Episcopal Church plans to intervene in a property dispute involving two Northern Virginia parishes that voted to leave the American denomination last month, officials with the departing congregations said.

The intervention would mark a dramatic shift in the relationship between the national church and individual dioceses."

Yes, it certainly would. I guess the Diocese of Virginia and 815 Second Avenue, realizing the many millions represented in the two properties, decided a peaceful resolution really wasn't in the best interest of Christ's Church after all, despite earlier pronouncements to the contrary. But the oft asked question still remains: What’s to become of the property should the diocese prevail in a lawsuit? The large parishes of Falls Church and Truro Church voted overwhelmingly to run for their lives and souls from ECUSA. They appear to have ample war chests but should they still lose the fight for their property they will in no way come back to ECUSA. How could they, in good conscience? Bishop Lee of the Diocese of Virginia (whom, I should add, seems to an honorable man by most accounts and so probably is acting on orders from above) will have two large, attractive and, yes indeed, valuable properties on his hands. However they will not take the shape of office buildings or condos but of churches, churches with acres of empty pews. How will he fill them?

If the parish and clergy of Falls Church and Truro are forced to leave their homes, never again will there be viable parishes of the Episcopal Church on those properties, even if replacement clergy are brought in. It's not as if other Episcopal churches, even in prosperous Northern Virginia, are bursting at the seams, begging the diocese for a place to send their cast-offs. It’s not as if there are thousands of New Religionists lurking in Fairfax who will flock to those churches once the hidebound conservative reactionaries are given the boot. The buildings will be empty, yet even empty buildings and grounds need to be heated and maintained. That requires bucks. With people no longer dropping checks into the alms basins and with other Virginia parishes also threatening to vamoose, the diocese may find itself land poor. Selling the properties may be the only option and while that may prove to be a public relations embarrassment it will at least provide the diocese with capital, for a while anyway. It will do nothing to bring people back to the Episcopal Church.

(h/t Transfigurations)

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