At least seven Virginia Episcopal parishes, opposed to the consecration of a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions, have voted overwhelmingly to break from the U.S. church in a dramatic demonstration of widening rifts within the denomination.You can see the actual vote tallies here. At least two of the churches will place themselves under the oversight of a Nigerian bishop, with plans to form a Fairfax, Virginia, mission base of the Nigerian Church.
Two of the congregations are among the state's largest and most historic: Truro Church in Fairfax City and The Falls Church in Falls Church, which have roots in the 1700s. Their leaders have been in the vanguard of a national effort to establish a conservative alternative to the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.
The result of the week-long vote, announced yesterday, sets up the possibility of a lengthy ecclesiastical and legal battle for property worth tens of millions of dollars. Buildings and land at Truro and The Falls Church are valued at about $25 million, according to Fairfax County records.
Regardless of the degree to which Episcopalian ordination of homosexual bishops factored into this ultimate decision, I'm grateful that the official Falls Church resolution and news release included the following rationale for the separation:
The Episcopal Church has departed from the authority of the Holy Scriptures and from historic Christian teaching on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior of humankind.