Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia u. Truro Church ("Truro") involves a property dispute. The core issue is who owns or controls property held in trust for an Episcopal congregation after a majority of that congregation votes to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church of the United States of America ("TEC") and affiliate with a different church. Deciding a church property dispute is inherently difficult because courts are generally "not a constitutionally permissible forum" to resolve ecclesiastical issues. Indeed, the desire to avoid such issues can lead courts to decline to decide particular cases. However, faced with the property dispute, a significant procedural history, and the need to determine the application of Virginia Code section 57-9(A) to the dispute, the Supreme Court of Virginia decided this case.This case raises several issues involving church doctrine. However, rather than resolve any of those issues or the broad issue of who owns the property, the court focused on issues of statutory interpretation and the statute's applicability to the dispute, leaving other issues for the circuit court to decide or decline to decide on remand.6 It is understandable that the court took such a narrow approach. However, it neither resolved all of the issues that the appellants raised on appeal nor provided significant guidance to the circuit court regarding lurking ecclesiastical issues that may need to be addressed for the underlying property dispute to be resolved fully. 7 This essay reviews the issues the Supreme Court of Virginia resolved in Truro and notes important issues it did not resolve. Part II supplies the factual background and procedural history of the dispute. Part III summarizes the court's opinion and the reasoning underlying its determination that Virginia Code section 57-9(A) is not applicable to this particular action. Part IV critiques the opinion, rioting the issues the court resolved and how it resolved them. Part V briefly addresses issues that remain unresolved by the court's decision and discusses the implications of leaving those
Henry L. Chambers & Isaac A. McBeth, Much Ado About Nothing Much: Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Truro Church, 45 U. Rich. L. Rev. 141 (2010).