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VIRGINIA: Bishop Writes Diocese: "The legal struggle will continue..."

VIRGINIA: Bishop Writes Diocese: "The legal struggle will continue...freedom under attack," he says

By Shannon S. Johnston
October 9, 2009

Dear Diocesan Family,

A panel of the Virginia Supreme Court will hear our petition for appeal on October 21 and, while it is unfortunate that these legal proceedings were necessary, I trust that this hearing will bring us one step closer to resolution.

I am proud that the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church have chosen the path consistently to defend loyal Episcopalians, and to safeguard and to protect the Church's legacy and the Church from unwarranted governmental and legislative interference. It is with the same determination to stand by the people, traditions and legacy of our diocese that I look toward our appeal.

For nearly 225 years, the Episcopal Church has had the freedom to govern itself according to its beliefs. But that freedom is under direct attack here in our diocese in the form of a Virginia law that allows the government to interfere with the faith, polity and structure of our Church and other hierarchical churches in the Commonwealth.

I believe that this law is unconstitutional and that there is too much at stake to let it remain in effect. The legal struggle to secure our right to organize as we choose and safeguard our churches from those seeking to seize them has not been easy. This journey has been a long one, but now more than ever we must all gather around those who need us most at this difficult time.

Loyal Episcopalians have been exiled from their Episcopal homes for too long and I ask you to keep all of them in your prayers. This includes St. Stephen's, Heathsville; St. Margaret's, Woodbridge; Epiphany, Oak Hill; and The Falls Church, Falls Church.

These parishioners have been denied the ability to worship as they wish at the very same churches where they were married, where they baptized their children and where they buried their loved ones. I view this next hearing with great hope for the day when I will join these faith-filled Episcopalians as they return to their church homes to celebrate and worship together.

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
Bishop of Virginia

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