Episcopal Church property dispute back in court

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FAIRFAX, Va. – A years-long dispute between the Episcopal Church and several breakaway congregations over homosexuality and important tenets of Christian doctrine was back in a Virginia courtroom on Monday, where the fight will likely be decided on mundane aspects of real estate and contract law.

A Fairfax County judge heard opening statements in the case between the denomination and seven dissident congregations, who voted nearly five years ago to leave the Episcopal Church and realign as conservative branch of the worldwide Anglican church. The move was precipitated by the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop from New Hampshire. However, it also involved fundamental differences on Scriptural matters, including what some conservatives say is equivocation from Episcopal leadership on the divinity of Christ.

The Episcopal Church and its diocese in Virginia sued to gain control of property held by the breakaway congregations, which includes some of the denomination's most prominent and historic churches. Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church — for which the city of Falls Church is named — trace their roots back to Colonial times, when George Washington served as a vestryman....

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