Congregations Give Warning On Property

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 20, 2007

The dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and a coalition of congregations that has broken away from the diocese escalated this week over who will control church properties.

In a letter Tuesday, attorneys for the breakaway churches warned diocese officials that they would be exposed to "substantial legal risk -- including liability for trespass and unlawful entry" -- if they attempted to take possession of the property. The diocese declared the churches "abandoned" Thursday and said it would pursue the return of the property.

The church properties are the focus of an increasingly bitter tug of war between the Virginia diocese and the congregations, whose members voted in December to leave the Episcopal Church over differences in interpreting Scripture.

Also this week, police in Falls Church and Fairfax City said they are investigating graffiti on the doors of two churches whose congregations recently voted to break away. The number "666" and circles with "x" marks in the middle were discovered spray-painted on several doors of Truro Church in Fairfax City and The Falls Church in Falls Church, police said.

At Truro, a church parishioner saw someone spray-painting graffiti on the front doors of the church at 6:20 p.m. on Jan. 13, police said. Police found that three outer doors and one inner door had been spray-painted. At The Falls Church, eight doors spray-painted with similar images were discovered Jan. 9

The number 666 appears in the Bible in the Book of Revelation, where it is called the "number of the Beast." In popular culture, it is often used as a reference to Satan, the antichrist or mysterious evil.

Fairfax City and Falls Church police are jointly investigating the incidents, said Nicole Gobbo, a City of Falls Church spokeswoman. "The graffiti is identical," she said.

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