Here's a press release from our diocese. It's greatly troubling; themissioner who was named here has been affiliated with the most conservative church in our diocese, as well as the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is also conservative, as I understand it. It seems this fellow is pressing the issue of canonical authority. I have also heard that the diocese will continue its plant in this community, even with this group leaving. We've had several large conservative churches withhold their diocesan pledges, but no one left until now. I think I'll go pray for a while.
South Riding Missioner Resigns, Congregation Leaves Episcopal Church
November 15, 2005
In an afternoon meeting, Monday, Nov. 14 with Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones, the Rev. Phil Ashey, missioner of South Riding Church since 2002, announced his resignation as missioner effective Nov. 13, 2005. In that meeting and in his letter of resignation Mr. Ashey also stated that the congregation of South Riding had voted on Sunday, Nov. 13 to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Diocese of Rwenzori of the Anglican Church of Uganda, placing themselves under the Canonical authority of the Rt. Rev. Benezeri Kisembo.
News of the congregation’s vote was posted to an American Anglican Council Web site at 8:25 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14. This is the first congregation in the Diocese of Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church.
In his letter of resignation, Mr. Ashey also said he was “giving notice that I have been received by the Diocese of Rwenzori.”
“I reject the assertion that Mr. Ashey is under any Episcopal authority other than that of the Bishop of Virginia or any canonical authority other than the Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia,” said Bishop Jones.
In his meeting with the Bishop Suffragan Mr. Ashey returned the parish register, service book, a copy of the congregation’s 2004 audit and an inventory of all assets purchased from the operating funds of South Riding Church up to Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005 which he acknowledged belong to the Diocese of Virginia. As a forming congregation, South Riding Church has no canonical status and did not file parochial reports. Financial and membership information could not be readily confirmed.
“I am saddened that a member of the body has chosen to break with the body and feel that our community is diminished for it,” said Bishop of Virginia Peter James Lee. Lee added that church membership is an individual choice and said he appreciated Mr. Ashey’s forthright manner in returning congregational documents and property.
Bishop Lee also reaffirmed that Mr. Ashey remains under his canonical authority and rejected the assertion of property rights made by Bishop Kisembo in a Nov. 13 letter to Mr. Ashey purporting to accept his “letter of transfer.”
“The Bishop of Rwenzori has no authority in the Diocese of Virginia,” said Bishop Lee. “Only a diocesan bishop has the authority to transfer a cleric from the Diocese of Virginia. Mr. Ashey remains under my canonical authority until disciplinary action is taken if any.”
Since beginning as a church plant in 2000, over $350,000 in direct financial support has been given to South Riding Church by the Diocese of Virginia. In 2001, the Diocese purchased 8.4 acres on Poland Rd. in South Riding at a cost of $680,000 for the intended benefit of South Riding. That property is titled in the name of the Bishop of Virginia. Mr. Ashey was the third missioner assigned to the plant in 5 years.
Mr. Ashey was named missioner of South Riding in 2002 after serving for 3 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Prior to moving to that diocese, Mr. Ashey was an associate at Church of the Apostles, Fairfax from 1992-1999. From 1988-1992 he served churches in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The press release posted to the American Anglican Council blog site at 8:25 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, 2005, stated that the congregation will keep its name and continue to worship at Little River Elementary School in South Riding.
The Diocese of Virginia, organized in 1785, is a community of over 90,000 members worshipping in 195 congregations in 38 counties throughout one-third of the Commonwealth of Virginia.