Expelled from Historic Falls Church, Anglican Defectors Buy New Site

June 18, 2015 4:39 PM10 comments
THE NEW PROPERTY acquired last week by the Falls Church Anglican at 6565 Arlington Blvd. (Photo: News-Press)

THE NEW PROPERTY acquired last week by the Falls Church Anglican at 6565 Arlington Blvd. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church Anglican, the large congregation of defectors from the Episcopal Church denomination who occupied but was eventually forced by the courts to vacate the historic Falls Church site on S. Washington St., has bought a new five-acre location at 6565 Arlington Blvd. within a mile of its former site in Fairfax County. The Rev. John Yates, who led the congregants en masse out of the Episcopal Church in 2006 but occupied the F.C. church property for over six years, announced to his flock last week that the closing on the new property was completed, and now the hurdles associated with permits and licensing from the county will be pursued. The property, on Route 50 at the intersection of S. Cherry Street, is currently home to a four-story commercial office building and a two-story parking deck. Preliminary plans are to demolish the parking deck, build a new one on the other end of the property and construct a new sanctuary building.

Fairfax County’s Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, who was aware the church group was looking for something in that area, told the News-Press today that “there will be challenges for them” at that site. “There will have to be a close look taken at land use regulations and the business and residential neighbors to the site will have to be consulted,” she said. “Route 50 is a very busy roadway and the impact of traffic of a house of worship there will have to be examined.” She said she will also look at the loss to the county’s tax rolls of having a commercial property convert to a non-profit use.

In a glossy 20-page brochure shared with the congregation, which was also urged to keep the plans silent, it is stated, “It is true that this new church home will cost us a lot of money,” with an estimated purchase price of $30,9925,000 and an additional $23 million for new construction. Going to closing, it stipulated, would require “pledges and cash totaling at least $10 million: of that $5 million is needed up front for the down payment.” The brochure predicts that new worship space could be constructed by 2017 or 2018.

According to Gross, the property is assessed by the county at $19 million, considerably less than what the church paid for it, and in its current use it provides $238,856 annually in taxes, about $207,000 of which are real estate taxes that go into the county’s general fund and would be lost if the property were converted to non-profit use.

Since being expelled by the courts from the historic Falls Church property in 2012, the congregants loyal to Yates have been renting locations around the area for their Sunday worship and other purposes, including the auditoriums at Bishop O’Connell High School and Kenmore Middle School in Arlington. That has been costing almost $1 million a year, the brochure says. The congregation’s defection from the Episcopal Church in 2006 was due in large part to the Episcopal Church’s 2003 election of the Rev. Gene Robinson as an openly-gay priest as a bishop. Those in the Falls Church Episcopal Church who did not go along with the defectors maintained their identity as “continuing Episcopalians,” worshiping in the fellowship hall of the Falls Church Presbyterian across the street, and have been returned to the historic Falls Church since 2012, with the congregation steadily growing since.

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10 Comments

  • I wish the Falls Church Anglican congregation much luck with this new site. I hope everything falls into place and that they will be able to call this location their new home.

  • So what? This is a free country and the Anglican congregation has the right to purchase and develop property without undue interference from either the press or the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

    I will be forever grateful to the Anglican congregation as the Jobs Ministry they sponsor helped me get back on my feet following a layoff during the Great Recession. I hope they will be able to reopen the Career Resource Center, which was a casualty of the legally questionable court decision awarding the Anglican congregation’s historic property to the Episcopal Church.

  • From what i know about the plans, the building will be owned by a for profit business and cost the tax payers of fairfax county nothing. My doctor is in that building so I know there are empty floors. If they manage it well, it will bring in more tax dollars. The new Anthony’s restaurant is right across the street. I bet Sunday will be their best day of the week. So lets ask them how they feel about the move.

  • Tom_Tildrum

    However distasteful some of their beliefs may be, it’s unseemly for Gross to be threatening the power of the state against a disfavored religious minority. If she voiced this sort of intimidation toward a mosque, it would rightly be seen as bigotry.

  • “She said she will also look at the loss to the county‚Äôs tax rolls of having a commercial property convert to a non-profit use.” In our country churches do not pay property tax. I hope that the statement above means that as a county leader she will be assessing how to deal with the loss of revenue. I hope that it does not mean she will be attempting to stop the sale because she does not like the beliefs of the religious group.

  • Falls Church Resident

    God bless them. Sorry to have them leave the city.

    Supervisor Gross sounds money-grubbing in her concerns. It’s shameful how politicians look down upon churches for not bringing in tax revenue like a Walmart. I’d rather have their prayers lifting the community up. And here in Falls Church City they pass a water “fee” so that they can get $$$ from churches by not calling it a tax. No doubt Gross and her cohort will figure out how to pull that one off in the county. I’m lobbying my church in the city to tear up its parking lot — I’ll park on grass or dirt to enjoy the satisfaction of not paying their fee, and helping the environment is an added bonus.

  • This congregation has endured hardships due to the Episcopal Church’s attitude of suing rather than negotiating. I hope and expect that they will land on their feet.

  • The “defectors” this and “the defectors” that. Man! You can hear the bias in the choice of words. Did they “defect?” Did they separate as a matter of conscience? In the Episcopal Church, members are called Episcopalians. In the Anglican Church, Anglicans. Perhaps I missed it, but I only noticed them being called defectors.

  • will wright

    I wish the Reverend Yates and his Anglican congregation all the best and am excited by the prospect of the new location. I think the LLC that owns the building will continue to rent space that the church doesn’t use so that should help ease Penny’s fears regarding revenue loss. Plus I think the church plans on doing space enhancements so that will pump funds into the local economy too.

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