Earlier this month, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows has ruled against seven Episcopalian congregations that broke away from the main Episcopal Church over the issue of gay rights. The congregations, which split from the church in 2006 and 2007, argued that $40 million in real estate was rightfully theirs rather than the national denomination’s.
The specific catalyst for the schism was the national church’s doctrine holding that same-sex relationships are equal to heterosexual ones. Since then the congregations have switched their allegiance to the more conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria.
If the congregants do not appeal the ruling, they will be required to vacate the properties in question. The congregants have been using temporary spaces for worship services while Bellows heard the case. Bellows’ ruling states that the national church and the Diocese of Virginia have a “contractual proprietary interest” in the real estate in question.
Spokeswoman Caitlin Bozell Manaois told the Washington Post that while the congregations have not reached a decision on their next step, they have backup plans if forced to vacate.