Truro Anglican Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced today a settlement that concludes five years of litigation that arose after Truro Anglican and other parishes left the Episcopal Church in 2006 to become part of what is now the Anglican Church in North America.Noting the length of the litigation, the parties looked to go beyond victory into witness; as the press release concludes, each of the leaders affirmed their commitment to the spiritual dimension of the resolution; Rev. Baucum stated that "Bishop Johnston and I have become friends...[i]n spite of our significant theological differences, we care for and are committed to each other as brothers in Christ." Bishop Johnson confirmed that "Tory and I believe that this is an opening for a transformative witness to many across the worldwide Anglican Communion."
The settlement follows a January ruling in which the Circuit Court of Fairfax County held that all real and personal property held by the parishes at the time they left the denomination belongs to the Diocese.
Under terms of the settlement, the Diocese has given Truro Anglican a rent-free lease of the church buildings at 10520 Main Street in Fairfax, as well as two rectories, until June 30, 2013. Truro Anglican will deed the properties to the Diocese by April 30, 2012, and will pay the operating costs of the properties during the term of the lease. In addition, the Diocese has the option to use a small portion of the church building during the lease, as determined between the Rev. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Anglican, and the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of the Diocese of Virginia.
Additionally, Truro Anglican has agreed to pay $50,000 to resolve diocesan claims for liquid assets due under the court's order. The parties had already agreed on division of the tangible personal property held by Truro Anglican.
In several previous settlements, Anglican parishes that leased Episcopal property agreed to sever ties with all Anglican bodies during the term of the lease. Under today's settlement, however, the parties have agreed that Truro Anglican will maintain its affiliation with the Anglican Church of North America and its Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. Because the Diocese and Truro Anglican are part of different ecclesiastical bodies who share the Anglican tradition, they have agreed to follow a process during the term of the lease by which bishops may visit Truro Anglican with the permission of Bishop Johnston.
An important feature of this settlement is that both sides have agreed to enter into a covenant of mutual charity and respect. This document will frame the way the Diocese and Truro Anglican will deal with one another and speak of one another. The covenant is being drafted by the Rev. Baucum and Bishop Johnston.
I am delighted to see this kind of irenic conclusion to this internecine dispute. This is exactly the approach I have hoped to see since 2007, and even includes the relationship-building aspects I've come to realize was needed to make such resolutions meaningful. Bishop Johnston and Rev. Baucum are modeling a Christian spirit in the wake of painful conflict.
To steal a line from Andrew Sullivan, "Know hope."
(h/t The Lead)