A large theologically conservative congregation that broke away from The Episcopal Church will open its new sanctuary seven years after losing its original property in a lengthy legal battle with the mainline denomination.
The Falls Church Anglican, a church based in Falls Church, Virginia, that draws its existence back to the 18th century, will hold its first worship services at their new sanctuary on Sunday.
There will be two consecration services held at the new church building, one at 8:30 a.m. and the other at 11:15 a.m.
It will mark the first time that the Anglican congregation has had a sanctuary to worship in since 2012, when they had to relinquish their property to The Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Sam Ferguson, rector at The Falls Church, said in a recent video message online that his congregation experienced “a seven-year season of tabernacling, a season of faithfulness, a season of trusting the Lord.”
“We worshiped at several different local high schools, in a hotel ballroom, in a middle school,” recalled Ferguson. “Although we never missed a Sunday, we missed having a church home.”
Ferguson also celebrated that he's getting to experience “the great honor of stepping into leadership at this church, at this moment” when the congregation opens their new sanctuary.
“We will celebrate God’s faithfulness to this people as we consecrate this beautiful new space, which is just about finished,” he continued.
“I’d like to invite you, our friends from Falls Church, friends from near and far who have been part of our story, to come home on Sept. 8 and to join us for this amazing moment.”
The Falls Church Anglican was one of 11 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia that voted to leave the mainline denomination in 2006 and 2007.
At issue was the denomination’s liberal theological direction, notably through the 2003 decision to ordain the first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson, as head of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.
In response to their leaving, the Diocese of Virginia sued the 11 congregations in a dispute over ownership of the church properties. Four congregations were removed from the suit because of technicalities or out-of-court settlements.
In 2008, Fairfax County Circuit Judge Randy Bellows ruled in favor of the remaining seven departing congregations. However, the Virginia State Supreme Court later overturned Bellows' decision and returned the case back to Fairfax County.
In January 2012, Bellows ruled in favor of the diocese against the conservative breakaways. That May, the Anglican congregation at The Falls Church held their last official worship services at the historic property.
The property is now overseen by The Falls Church Episcopal, a congregation comprised of those who wanted to remain with The Episcopal Church.