Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Supreme Court declines to take up Episcopal Church’s gay rift
First Published Mar 10 2014 07:57 am • Last Updated Mar 10 2014 01:49 pm

Falls Church, Va. • The Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene in a dispute between the Episcopal Church and a conservative northern Virginia congregation that left the denomination in a rift over homosexuality and other issues, ending a seven-year legal battle over a historic church that traces its roots back to George Washington.

The justices rejected an appeal from The Falls Church Anglican, one of seven Virginia congregations that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2006 and has now aligned itself with the more conservative Anglican Church of North America.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The breakaway congregation claimed a right to keep the church building and surrounding property, and in 2008 a Fairfax County judge sided with it. But the Virginia Supreme Court overturned that ruling and sent the case back for reconsideration. In 2011, the same judge who first sided with the conservative congregation sided with the Episcopal Church. Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves that ruling intact.

The Falls Church and the other congregations left the Episcopal Church because of theological differences, including the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. But as of Monday’s ruling, all the other congregations had settled their disputes, leaving only the fate of The Falls Church to be settled.

Rev. John Yates, who was defrocked by the Episcopal Church but remains rector of the Falls Church Anglican congregation, said Monday that he is disappointed with the ruling but believes his congregation was allowed a fair chance to make its case.

Yates said the vast majority of the congregation has remained with him since the split. They typically hold services in a nearby Catholic high school, and he estimated attendance of more than 2,000 at weekly services — nearly the size of the congregation before the 2006 split.

While he said he regrets that so much time and money was spent in litigation — both sides spent millions of dollars — he feels the split was necessary.

"If you are in a marriage that is failing, that is just not working, sometimes divorce is necessary," he said. "We feel we did the right thing, and as difficult as it was, I would not do it differently."

The Falls Church Episcopal congregation, which had been displaced until it was allowed back onto the property in the summer of 2012, has about 200 or so attending Sunday services, said its rector, Rev. John Ohmer.

"It continues to be a diverse group," Ohmer said. "Our doors are wide open to everyone."

story continues below
story continues below

The Episcopal Church, with nearly 2 million members, is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has 80 million members. The congregations that broke from the Episcopal Church reorganized themselves as Anglican churches under the authority of bishops who supported their conservative theology.

The Falls Church was established in 1732, and the city of Falls Church draws its name from the congregation, in which Washington served as a warden and vestryman.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.