FAIRFAX, Va., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Seven Virginia congregations that left the Episcopal Church must leave their churches and other real estate behind, a judge says.
Fairfax County Circuit Judge Randy Bellows, in a 113-page decision Tuesday, said the diocese of Virginia and the national church have "a contractual and proprietary interest" in the property, The Washington Post reported. The churches involved include The Falls Church, an 18th-century building and successor to the church that gave Falls Church, Va., its name, and the original Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., a small 18th-century building now known as The Chapel.
The seven congregations voted in 2006 and 2007 to leave the Episcopal Church. The main issue was the church's increasing acceptance of homosexuality, which included the consecration of an openly gay bishop.
Four small groups within the congregations decided to remain in the national church and have been worshiping in makeshift spaces.
A leader of the breakaway congregations said they remain part of the Anglican Communion.
"The core issue for us is not physical property, but theological and moral truth and the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world," the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, said. "Wherever we worship, we remain Anglicans because we cannot compromise our historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, 'Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.' "