Now that most of the defendant congregations have reached settlement with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, it seems like a good time to sit back and reflect on what has happened, what it all means, and how we can move forward.
First, I have to acknowledge that there is a difference between what is legal and what is right. Certainly, we have been subjected to a legal ruling that awards real and personal property to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. But although we are complying with the order coming from that ruling, I cannot imagine that I will ever be persuaded that it is a just outcome. There does come a time, however, when it is best to move on. I think many of us have come to that place. Knowing that a wrong has been done to us does not mean that we need to let ourselves be hostages to fear, anger, or any of the other negative feelings that could creep in if we let them.
As I say this, I recognize that at least one congregation is still in the legal battle, and I continue to pray for a successful outcome for them. They may find justice in another venue, and we will all rejoice at that turn of events!
I have also come to understand more deeply that our Lord has no respect for buildings. I have had the wonderful opportunity to visit Jerusalem twice in the past few years, and stood amazed at the ruins of the temple mount. I learned that the City of Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt 24 times in its history. Now I would imagine that if God had a particular affection for one specific place on earth, Jerusalem would be the place. And yet He has allowed it to be destroyed again and again. Why would this be? I think the answer is obvious – He cares about us, not about our “stuff”! And if we put Him first, the rest won’t matter!
It is clearer to me than ever before, however, that we had to take the stand for biblical truth that we did. We said all along that our disagreement with the Episcopal Church wasn’t primarily about buildings, or even about homosexuality, or any of the other peripheral issues that were discussed and debated for so long. At the end of the day, the root issue was one of the authority of scripture – does it mean what is says, or not? If you answer “yes” to that question, then the stand we took was absolutely necessary, and the price we have paid pales in significance compared to the victory we have gained. I hope that we will remember going forward that standing up for truth is not always popular, not is it always profitable, but it is always the right thing to do!
Jim Oakes served as Chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) 2009-2011.