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Will 'Gracious Restraint' Make a Difference?

Anglicans urged to work out their problems with a new commitment to Christian charity.

Update: 4:30, CST

Reactions to statements from Anglican primates are piling up in my in box.

Here's one important voice: Bishop Martyn Minns, CANA:

"We also welcome a period of gracious restraint as the Primates describe it but are distressed by the reality that The Episcopal Church continues to initiate punitive litigation on a massive scale. To date, there are at least 56 lawsuits initiated by The Episcopal Church, or its dioceses, against individual churches, clergy and vestries across the country.

"We are saddened to read that within hours of agreeing to this statement Presiding Bishop Schori is already questioning whether the Primates' call for gracious restraint is something to which The Episcopal Church wants to make a commitment ?'the long-term impact of ?gracious restraint' is a matter for General Convention,' she said in a statement.

"We appreciate the encouragement for those of us connected with the Anglican Church in North America to continue to move forward as faithful Anglicans and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ."

If you have loads of time, read the final communique, here

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Noon, Thursday, Feb. 5, CST

Today, Anglican watchers worldwide have been awaiting the release of the communique from the Anglican Communion's top bishops and archbishops, who have been meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, this week.

Episcopal News Service reports:

Anglican leaders meeting in Egypt have affirmed the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group and called for the development of a "Pastoral Council" and the appointment of "Pastoral Visitors" to assist in healing and reconciliation given the current "situation of tension" in the Anglican Communion.

In a communiqu? released on the final day of their February 1-5 meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, the primates are also encouraging all parties in the current controversies to maintain "gracious restraint" with respect to actions that could exacerbate the tensions, such as same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.

For the Episcopal Church and Anglicans in Virginia, this initiative from Anglican primates comes at an exceedingly touchy time since they have entered the appeal phase of their litigation.

Recently, the Anglican District of Virginia issues a public call to conclude all litigation. In a press statement, ADV said:

FAIRFAX, Va. (February 3, 2009) ? In response to the appeal filed today by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) called for an end to the two year Virginia church property litigation. Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Bellows issued his final rulings in December. The rulings were in favor of the nine ADV congregations and found that each has a legal right to their church property.

"Judge Bellows upheld the written law, correctly applied the Constitution, and was judicious in his rulings throughout this legal process. We hoped that TEC and the Diocese would recognize this and would have put this legal battle behind us," said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV. "We are saddened that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese find it necessary to continue with more litigation. An appeal process will cost additional millions of dollars that could be spent on mission and ministry. Both sides have already spent some $5 million in legal costs, money that could have gone to our communities in need during these tough economic times. Although we are disappointed by this development, we are fully prepared to continue to defend ourselves and remain confident in our legal position.

"These legal victories for religious freedom have encouraged us to stand firm in our Anglican faith. Our congregations will continue to work together delivering the message of Christ. All we have ever wanted to do is continue to worship and serve God in the same tradition as our ancestors and the worldwide Anglican Communion."

On December 19, 2008, the Anglican District of Virginia congregations received favorable final rulings regarding whether four parcels of property owned by the Anglican congregations were covered by the congregations' Division petitions. (TEC and the Diocese had previously acknowledged that the congregations' other properties were all covered by the congregations' Division petitions.)

So in a matter of days, it should be clear whether The Episcopal Church will change its strategy of litigation against departing parishes and presentments against bishops who are leaving TEC.

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