The Worst Time to Plant a Church

The Gospel Coalition | 11/20/2019 | Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra
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In 2006, more than 90 percent of The Falls Church voted to leave the Episcopal denomination.

In one sense, the decision was easy—two years earlier, The Episcopal Church (TEC) had installed openly gay bishop Gene Robinson, the “flash point that showed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone,” wrote The Falls Church then-rector John Yates and author Os Guinness.

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In another sense, the decision was painfully difficult. Technically, everything The Falls Church had purchased—from the buildings to the communion silver to the choir robes—belonged to TEC. Even though 94 percent of the congregation voted to try to hang onto the $26 million property, they knew they’d have a fight on their hands.

They did. The court battle was expensive ($5 million in legal fees) and exhausting (over five years, The Falls Church saw a ruling for them, an appeal, a ruling against them, a remand back to the trial court, and a final ruling against them). In the end, they’d have to walk away from their building, the parsonage, and the bank account.

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But if you’d walked into the sanctuary back then, you wouldn’t immediately know there was trouble. Giving was up, enthusiasm was high, and The Falls Church was—of all things—planting other churches.

Six years after the vote, Anglican bishop John Guernsey described what happened:

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When the crisis hit The Episcopal Church in 2003, The Falls Church responded by planting a church among the poor in Washington, D.C. When The Falls Church left The Episcopal Church in 2006 and was sued, they responded by . . . planting another church. Millions of dollars were drained away in litigation before they received a first-round victory in court. Their response . . . was to plant two more churches. Then the positive ruling was reversed on appeal and they were sent back for another trial....
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Gospel Coalition
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