Diocese Warns Breakaway Churches

Diocese Warns Breakaway Churches

Churches Say Little Has Changed

Since the Potomac Falls Episcopal Church left the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the Rev. Jack Grubbs said little has changed.

Grubbs, the leader of the eastern Loudoun church, and his congregation voted in December 2006 to break ties with the Virginia diocese and join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), based in Nigeria.

"We haven't really been affected at all," Grubbs said.

Several weeks ago, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia officially warned 11 churches who severed ties with the diocese for various reasons, including Christ the Redeemer Church in Centreville, Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, Church of the Savior in Oatlands, Church of the Word in Gainesville, Potomac Falls Episcopal Church in Sterling, St. Margaret’s in Woodbridge, St. Paul’s in Haymarket, St. Stephen’s in Heathsville, Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church.

Patrick Getlein, spokesperson for The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, said Bishop Peter Lee "inhibited" the clergy associated with the 11 congregations. That means, the bishop has suspended the leaders of the churches from functioning as Episcopal priests.

"They have broken our rules and abandoned the Episcopal Church," Getlein said.

Inhibition lasts six months. After six months, clergy have the option to return to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

"If they want to come back after that time period, they can do it," Getlein said.

THE DIOCESE is also seeking legal action to gain back any real and personal property held by the breakaway churches. Some churches are in danger of losing their land and buildings, but the three Loudoun County churches that split from the diocese worship at public school buildings. However, they do have property that belongs to the Episcopal Church, Getlein said.

Potomac Falls Episcopal Church worships on Sunday mornings at Horizon Elementary School in Sterling. While Grubbs' congregation isn’t in danger of losing its place of worship, it could loose its Bibles, prayer books, hymn books and chalices.

"Basically all of the things we use during worship," Grubbs said. "We’ll just replace them."

"All that property is Episcopal Church property," Getlein said.

THE SOUTH RIDING Episcopal Church, led by Father Phil Ashey, left the diocese in November 2005 to join the Diocese of Ruwenzori, Uganda.

"They did the same thing to me," Ashey said.

The South Riding Episcopal Church worships at Little River Elementary School in South Riding. When it left the diocese Ashey was forced to give back a piece of the diocese’s land, worth more than $1 million, that the church was scheduled to build on.

Ashey said his congregation has grown a considerable amount since it left the diocese and the church is looking into buying a piece of land to build on.

"I am a priest in good standing in the Anglican Church [of Uganda], in the same way these clergy are in the Anglican Church of Nigeria," Ashey said.

Grubbs left his rector assistant position at Truro Church to become the full-time pastor of Potomac Falls Episcopal Church in July 2001. The pastor, who graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, said that he is not worried about being stripped of his title.

"I am authorized, licensed to serve as a priest under CANA," he said. "We will continue doing all the same things we've done in the past."

Grubbs hopes that the diocese and the breakaway churches can resolve their problems outside of the courts.

"I am hopeful we can come to some kind of resolution," he said. "Outside of legal action."