Refusing to accept as final the April 18 ruling of the Virginia Supreme Court denying their appeal, leaders of the breakaway congregation from the historic Falls Church Episcopal filed yet another appeal to the state’s Supreme Court last Friday.
The breakaway group, reconstituted as the Falls Church Anglican congregation under leadership of a Nigerian bishop, is seeking to reverse the January 2012 ruling of the Fairfax Circuit Court affirming that the campus of the historic church in downtown City of Falls Church is rightfully owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its congregation of “continuing Episcopalians” in Falls Church.
The “continuing Episcopalian” congregation, made up of members of the historic church who did not follow the defectors out of the denomination in 2006, returned to the historic campus a year ago, based on the circuit court ruling, and last week held a service to welcome their new rector, the Rev. John Ohmer, in which Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia participated.
The defectors, led by the Rev. John Yates, who occupied the campus for five years, forcing the “continuing Episcopalians” to worship in the fellowship hall of a church across the street, have been worshipping mostly in the auditorium of Bishop O’Connell High School, a few blocks from the City of Falls Church boundary in North Arlington. The group based its action to defect in December 2006 on its opposition to the National Episcopal Church vote to elevate an openly-gay priest to standing as a bishop, its opposition to the ordination of women and other issues.
Their latest appeal for a Supreme Court rehearing is based, it says, on the fact that the “constructive trust” theory “on which the court has relied has never – in over six years of litigation – been pled, argued, briefed or proven.”
A single justice of the Supreme Court can determine, based on the merits of the petition, if there is good cause for a rehearing, and a decision on that is expected within a few weeks.