Virginia's supreme court ruled Thursday against nine congregations that split from the Episcopal Church after a series of doctrinal disputes that arose over the 2003 installation of an openly gay bishop.
The unanimous decision by the five-judge panel dismissed a previous lower-court ruling and found the Civil War-era law governing how property is divided when churches split was wrongly applied to this dispute.
"We continue to be confident in our legal position as we move forward and will remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith," Jim Oakes, chairman of the umbrella organization of local Anglican congregations, toldThe Washington Post. "Ultimately, we know that the Lord is in control and our congregations will continue to put our trust in him, not in secular courts or buildings."
The panel sent the parties back to a Fairfax County circuit court for a second, similar case that focuses on who owns the properties.