Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Story of the Protocol for Departing Congregations

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the testimony of the Rev. Dr. John Yates, Rector of The Falls Church, in the Fairfax Circuit Court on Wednesday, Nov. ,2007. It is well worth the read. More of the court documents will be up shortly at the Anglican District of Virginia website here. Stay tuned. I have not had the time to take out the line numbers, so just set those aside as you read. This is the story of the Protocol for Departing Churches in the Diocese of Virginia until the new sheriff arrived.



12 4110 Chain Bridge Road

13 Courtroom 5E

14 Fairfax, Virginia 22030

15 Wednesday, November 14, 2007


7 Q Reverend Yates, in the time period we're

8 talking about, 2004 after the issuance of the Windsor

9 Report, what was happening at the Diocesan level in

10 Virginia regarding these events?

11 A It was about that time that, in the Diocese

12 of Virginia, the Bishop appointed a Reconciliation

13 Commission to give attention to the rising level of

14 concern about these issue that we're talking about.

15 And this Reconciliation Commission, as I

16 understand it, was made up of folks from different

17 perspectives coming together to attempt to find a way

18 through this time for the Diocese.

19 Q To your knowledge, was the establishment of

20 the Reconciliation Commission an attempt to address

21 the divisions in the Diocese of Virginia?

22 A Well, this was around 2004, I believe?


1 Q That's correct.

2 A There were churches leaving around the

3 country. There was concern about this in the Diocese

4 of Virginia. And so there was a recognition that such

5 strong feelings were held on this that opinions were

6 not likely to change, and there was concern that this

7 would lead to churches leaving the Episcopal Church

8 and leaving the Diocese.

9 Q And after the Reconciliation Commission

10 issued its report, what occurred at that point?

11 A You know, we've had so much going on, it's

12 hard to keep straight exactly what happened when.

13 But I believe the report was issued in January of

14 2005, I think. And not long after that, various ones

15 of us, clergy, had private meetings, group meetings

16 with the Bishop expressing concern about this.

17 And in September of 2005, I Chaired a group of

18 about 25 clergy that met for an afternoon with Bishop

19 Lee. We wanted to -- we wanted to be sure that he

20 understood the extremely high level of intensity that

21 we were experiencing in our churches over these

22 issues.


1 Members were leaving our churches, a number had

2 left, others were saying that they were going to

3 leave. Many people were talking about churches

4 leaving the Episcopal Church at that point, and our

5 concern was that we wanted to be sure that Bishop Lee

6 really understood the seriousness of the level of

7 concern that we were all dealing with pastorally in

8 our parishes.

9 Q Can you recall any of the other clergy

10 members who met with you and Bishop Lee in September

11 of 2005?

12 A Yes. I don't have a list with me, but I

13 could remember several who were there.

14 Q And who do you recall being there?

15 A Martyn Minns from Truro; John Guernsey;

16 David Harper; I believe Robin Ralph from Epiphany

17 Church was there; Nicholas Lubbefeld; I believe David

18 Jones from Haymarket. If you really pushed me, I

19 could probably come up with some more.

20 Q I think that's sufficient.

21 A There were about 25 there, almost all

22 Rectors.


1 Q Did those clergy share your concerns that

2 were being expressed to Bishop Lee?

3 A Yes, they did. And they were given an

4 opportunity to express their concerns, and the height

5 of emotion was quite moving at that meeting.

6 Q And what was the result of the meeting in

7 September of 2005 with these clergy and Bishop Lee?

8 A Well, on behalf of the group, I made a

9 request of Bishop Lee asking if he would appoint a

10 special diocesan committee to give attention to this

11 rising threat of division in the Diocese. I knew that

12 Rectors were talking about -- some Rectors were

13 talking about the possibility of leaving the Episcopal

14 Church.

15 There had been a number of most unfortunate

16 developments within the denomination around the

17 country where groups of churches and individual

18 churches had begun to take steps to leave the

19 Episcopal Church, and the result had been unfortunate

20 publicity, ungentlemen-like behavior, unChrist-like

21 developments.

22 We've always had a great concern in Virginia that


1 when we had to deal with difficult differences, we

2 dealt with them in a way that would be pleasing to

3 Christ. We felt that attention needed to be given to

4 the possibility that some churches would leave. We

5 did not want this to be an occasion for criticism for

6 the cause of Christ in Virginia. We did not want it

7 to lead to lawsuits. We did not want it to lead to

8 difficult public confrontations.

9 Q And did that committee have a name? Did

10 that take on a name?

11 A It came to be known as the Special

12 Committee.

13 Q And that was, I believe you testified, was

14 established by Bishop Lee, correct?

15 A Yes, that's right.

16 Q And who was on the Special Committee?

17 A Bishop Lee appointed Russell Palmore, who is

18 the Chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia; Carolyn

19 Parkinson, a Rector from the Plains; and Andrew

20 Merrow, a Rector from Arlington.

21 And he asked me to choose three people to serve

22 on the Committee, as well. And I asked Hugo


1 Blankenship, Former Chancellor of the Diocese of

2 Virginia, from Fairfax; I asked Tom Yates, a former

3 Vestry member of Truro Church; and I asked a number of

4 other clergy if they would serve, and they all told me

5 that they thought I should serve. And so I

6 volunteered myself as the third member of our group.

7 So there were a total of six of us; three that I

8 chose, three that the Bishop chose.

9 Q Reverend Yates, will you please describe for

10 the Court the work of the Special Committee?

11 A We began to meet, I believe, before the end

12 of that year. And we met, the six of us, every three

13 to five weeks from December of 2005 through September

14 of 2006.

15 Q And was the Special Committee tasked with a

16 particular assignment or assignments?

17 A Yes. Yes, we were.

18 Q And what were those?

19 A There were really two tasks before us. We

20 were seeking to discern in what ways we could maintain

21 a sense of common mission in our time of division, and

22 we were also seeking to discern if there was a way


1 that, should a church seek -- should a church decide

2 that they wanted to leave the Episcopal Church, we

3 were trying to discern a way in which that decision

4 could be reached and that step could be taken that

5 would be done in a fair way that was reasonable and

6 would be acceptable to all those involved.

7 Q And who provided these tasks to the Special

8 Committee?

9 A Bishop Lee.

10 Q Reverend Yates, at some point the Special

11 Committee completed its work; is that right?

12 A Yes. We completed our work in, if I

13 remember right, it was in August of that year. And we

14 asked for a meeting with Bishop Lee. That meeting

15 took place in mid-September.

16 Q And that would be which year, Reverend

17 Yates?

18 A 2006.

19 Q So just to get the timeframe correct. The

20 meeting and the request to establish this Special

21 Committee was in September of 2005, correct?

22 A That's right.


1 Q And then shortly thereafter the Committee

2 was established.

3 A And began to meet.

4 Q And about a year later --

5 A Yes.

6 Q -- finished its work. Thank you. I'd like

7 you to turn in your book, Reverend Yates, to

8 Exhibit 67, please.

9 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, may I

10 approach to help him find it?

11 THE COURT: Yes.

12 MR. FARQUHARSON: Thank you. Maybe we

13 can use what's on the screen.

14 Q Reverend Yates, it's a little bit tight

15 there on the screen, but can you make that out?

16 A Yes.

17 Q Okay. Can you tell the Court what

18 Exhibit 67 is, please?

19 A This is the Special Committee Members'

20 report dated September 23rd, 2006. If I remember

21 correctly, this -- if I remember correctly, this was a

22 draft, and I believe that we met with the Bishop a few


1 days later, and I think perhaps the report we gave him

2 was dated three days after this. It might have been

3 slightly different, but I don't remember.

4 Q Reverend Yates, do you recall how Exhibit 67

5 came to be drafted?

6 A Yes. During the summer of that year, we

7 were seeking to come up with a recommendation, and

8 various members would put pen to paper and offer

9 possible approaches.

10 And towards the end of the summer our Chairman,

11 Russell Palmore, brought these thoughts together and

12 he wrote -- he put together this final report.

13 Q Was there a chief or lead author of

14 Exhibit 67?

15 A Yes. Mr. Palmore was the lead author.

16 Q Was the Committee given an opportunity to

17 make changes or revisions to the Special Committee

18 report that was circulated on September 23, 2006 prior

19 to its submission to Bishop Lee on September 28th,

20 2006?

21 A Yes.

22 Q Reverend Yates, can I direct your attention


1 to the first paragraph of Exhibit 67?

2 A Yes.

3 Q And the one that begins with, "We are the

4 six members." Do you see that?

5 A Yes.

6 Q Can you read that please for the Court?

7 A "We are the six members of the Diocese of

8 Virginia serving on a Special Committee to help

9 reconcile the divisions within our Diocese. The

10 members of the team appointed by the Bishop of

11 Virginia, Peter James Lee, are comprised of three

12 laity and three presbyters. We have been charged with

13 helping congregations continuing in conflict over the

14 decisions of the 2003 General Convention get on with

15 their mission in as close a union as possible with the

16 Diocese."

17 Q Do you have an understanding as to what the

18 meaning or purpose of that paragraph was in the report

19 identified as Exhibit 67?

20 A Yes. I think it was an effort to say that

21 we are now in a time of serious division, and we want

22 to do everything we can to continue working together,


1 and we want to discuss this and see where it leads.

2 Q I direct your attention now to the third

3 paragraph beginning, "During these nine months."

4 A Yes.

5 Q Can you read that paragraph for the Court,

6 please?

7 A "During these nine months, the "bonds of

8 affection" amongst the six of us have deepened

9 significantly. Even as we candidly and regretfully

10 acknowledge that we may be entering a period in the

11 history of the Anglican Communion when we, the Church,

12 the Body of Christ, will be walking the way of the

13 cross together but apart."

14 Q Reverend Yates, was that the sentiment of

15 the entire Committee?

16 A We all agreed to that, yes.

17 Q Let me ask you to turn to the second page of

18 Exhibit 67. Do you see the top of this page? What is

19 the name of this page?

20 A "Protocol for Departing Congregation."

21 Q And what was the purpose for including a

22 protocol for departing congregation in the Special


1 Committee report?

2 A Well, it was clear that there was a

3 possibility that some churches might choose to part

4 from the Episcopal Church. And the desire was to

5 develop a way in which this might take place that

6 would be peaceful, orderly and acceptable to those

7 leaving and those in the Diocese of Virginia.

8 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, we would

9 offer Exhibit 67 into evidence at this point.

10 MR. SOMERVILLE: I have to object to

11 that, your Honor. This document is replete with

12 religious doctrine. You can't stay out of the thicket

13 and admit this in evidence.

14 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, I believe

15 the exhibit is admissible for the purpose of showing

16 the status of the division, the understanding by all

17 involved that separation either had taken place or was

18 imminent, and it goes to show that they even had a

19 plan for how congregations could leave.

20 So I think the Court is able to set

21 aside any of the religious statements in the document,

22 which you would fully expect to find in such a


1 document, and consider only those portions that relate

2 to the secular aspects of the congregations and the

3 problems in the Diocese that were resulting in the

4 need for a protocol to separate.

5 THE COURT: Mr. Somerville, let me ask

6 you a question. Can you turn back to the first page

7 on -- I'm not asking you, Mr. Farquharson, but can you

8 turn back to the first page and blow it up a bit?

9 Mr. Somerville, there's a line in here,

10 for example, which says -- it's not a specific line,

11 but it does describe a separation within the Diocese.

12 Wouldn't you agree with that?

13 MR. SOMERVILLE: No, your Honor. And I

14 do expect to examine the witness on that question.

15 THE COURT: Let me ask you this. Would

16 you agree that one of the issues before me is whether

17 there is a division within the Episcopal Church?

18 MR. SOMERVILLE: Yes, sir.

19 THE COURT: And if there is evidence

20 being offered of a Special Committee that is

21 appointed, as I understand it, half by Reverend Yates

22 and half by Bishop Lee, and it expresses a separation


1 within the church, wouldn't that be relevant in the

2 determination as to whether there is a division within

3 the Episcopal Church?

4 MR. SOMERVILLE: Well, this document

5 refers to a division, not to separation. It refers to

6 division. But that does not necessarily mean a

7 division within the meaning of Section 57-9.

8 We heard testimony yesterday of the

9 various meanings of the word division, and this

10 witness has not yet been asked what was meant by the

11 word division in this document.

12 THE COURT: Well, the term protocol for

13 departing congregation, doesn't that suggest that what

14 is contemplated is a separation? It may not use the

15 word separation, it may use the word separation, I

16 haven't read it word for word yet, but it's referring

17 to the possibility of churches departing from the

18 Diocese.

19 MR. SOMERVILLE: Yes. On a looking

20 forward basis. It anticipates the possibility of

21 separation, I agree with that.

22 THE COURT: And why would that not be


1 relevant to this Court's determination as to whether

2 there was a division?

3 This is a document, as I understand it,

4 that was created by a committee appointed jointly by

5 both the Diocese and a church representative who is a

6 party to these proceedings.

7 MR. SOMERVILLE: The objection, your

8 Honor, is not that it's irrelevant, it's that it is so

9 replete with religious dogma doctrine theology that

10 it's improper to take it into account in the

11 resolution of civil property disputes.

12 THE COURT: Well, objection is

13 overruled. Document will be admitted.

14 (CANA Congregations Exhibit 67 received into

15 evidence.)


17 Q Reverend Yates, at the time that the Special

18 Committee issued Exhibit 67, the September 23 draft,

19 had congregations in the Diocese left?

20 A That would have been late September, 2006.

21 Yeah, I'm not sure about that. I believe a

22 congregation left soon after that. I don't remember


1 exactly when that was.

2 Q Do you recall any congregations leaving in

3 2005?

4 A Well, are you asking about throughout the

5 Episcopal Church or just in the Diocese of Virginia?

6 Q Both.

7 A I believe there were a number of churches in

8 the Episcopal Church that had left the Episcopal

9 Church by September of 2006. There was a group in

10 California, there was a group in Connecticut, many

11 individual churches had left, as well. Of course a

12 number had left in the year 2000 with the Anglican

13 Mission of America.

14 Q Thank you. Can you look at Exhibit 126,

15 please? And Reverend Yates, we're going to have to

16 ask you to look at that electronically, please.

17 Reverend Yates, I believe you testified that

18 Exhibit 67 was a draft that members of the Committee

19 had an opportunity to comment on prior to the final

20 draft, which you thought issued a few days later.

21 I'm asking you to look at Exhibit 126 and tell

22 the Court if Exhibit 126 is the final document that


1 you were referencing in your prior testimony.

2 A Yes, it looks like it.

3 Q Okay. And to whom is the report addressed?

4 A To the Right Reverend Peter J. Lee.

5 Q And what is the date on the report?

6 A September 28, 2006.

7 Q I'd like you to look at the first paragraph

8 of Exhibit 126, please.

9 A Yes.

10 Q I'd like you to read the first -- let's just

11 start and see if we can do just the first sentence of

12 that paragraph to see --

13 A "We are the six members of the Diocese of

14 Virginia serving on a Special Committee to help

15 reconcile the divisions within our Diocese."

16 Q And is it your -- let me ask it this way.

17 Were there any changes to that sentence from the draft

18 to the final report?

19 A I'm not aware of any.

20 Q And let me ask you to turn to Page 2 of

21 Exhibit 126. And it is also titled, "Protocol for

22 Departing Congregation," correct?


1 A Yes.

2 Q And were there any changes to that part of

3 the document prior to the final issuance of it?

4 A I'm not aware, Paul, if there are.

5 Q Let me ask you to read the first paragraph

6 of the second page under, "Protocol for Departing

7 Congregation."

8 A "After nine meetings spanning nine months

9 the Committee believes for some members of the Diocese

10 separation from the Diocese and the Episcopal Church

11 is increasingly likely. Accordingly, with a view

12 toward prudence and stewardship the Committee offers

13 the following protocol to departing members including

14 concomitant issues concerning real and personal

15 property."

16 Q Thank you. And to your knowledge, no

17 changes were made during this revision period to that

18 portion of the, "Protocol for Departing Congregation,"

19 correct?

20 A All I remember is that we were given the

21 opportunity to make changes. I don't recall if any

22 changes were made.


1 Q Thank you.

2 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, we would

3 offer Exhibit 126 as the final report from the

4 Committee.

5 MR. SOMERVILLE: Same objection.

6 THE COURT: All right. It will be

7 admitted.

8 (CANA Congregations Exhibit 126 received into

9 evidence.)


11 Q Reverend Yates, after the final report of

12 the Special Committee was provided to Bishop Lee, what

13 happened next with respect to the Special Committee?

14 A That was the end of the work of the Special

15 Committee. We gave the report to Bishop Lee, he

16 accepted it and said he would distribute it to the

17 Diocese, and a number of churches entered into a

18 period of discernment about this matter.

19 Q Did Bishop Lee acknowledge or say anything

20 regarding the final report?

21 A Yes, he did. When we met that day in

22 Fredericksburg and gave him the report, he received it


1 I would say with resignation, but he received it and

2 he said, "Yes, this is a way forward, and I will

3 present this to the Diocese."

4 Q Reverend Yates, I think you got just a

5 little bit ahead of me. You did say that some

6 congregations engaged in a period of discernment after

7 the issuance of the Special Committee report, correct?

8 A Yes.

9 Q Was the Falls Church one of those?

10 A Yes.

11 Q Were there other congregations?

12 A There were a number of congregations that

13 engaged in the sort of discernment process that was

14 described in the protocol.

15 Q To your knowledge, was the Falls Church and

16 the other congregations, were they following the steps

17 outlined in the protocol?

18 A Yes.

19 Q And the other congregations that you

20 referred to, are they the CANA Congregations?

21 A Yes.

22 Q Were there others entering this discernment


1 process pursuant to the protocol that were not members

2 of the CANA Congregation, to your knowledge?

3 A There may have been. I don't remember.

4 Q Reverend Yates, with respect to the Falls

5 Church, did the Vestry take any steps in November with

6 respect to the protocol?

7 A Yes. After the Vestry and congregation had

8 participated in an extended period of discernment,

9 meetings, study, prayer, the Vestry of the Falls

10 Church recommended to the congregation that we

11 separate from the Episcopal Church and join the

12 Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

13 Q And did the Falls Church at that point

14 arrange for a vote to be taken?

15 A Yes. The Vestry set aside a period about

16 three weeks later than that in which the congregation

17 was invited to express their opinion about this

18 matter.

19 Q Now, as part of the protocol, did the

20 Diocese have any role in the -- either the discernment

21 process, or the election, or the runup to the

22 election?


1 A Yes. A part of the understanding was that

2 each congregation would hear from Peter Lee or his

3 representatives or documents that he felt would be

4 helpful to us.

5 And we received at Falls Church two

6 representatives of Bishop Lee who addressed the

7 congregation at some length on a Sunday morning prior

8 to our vote.

9 Q Did Bishop Lee send either the Falls Church

10 or members of the Falls Church any correspondence in

11 December?

12 A There was a letter, I believe, sent by

13 Bishop Lee to members of all churches that were in a

14 period of discernment in which he asked us to consider

15 very carefully the decisions that we were about to

16 make.

17 Q Can we bring up CANA Exhibit No. 68, please?

18 And again, Reverend Yates, I'm going to beg your

19 patience with us so you can see it on the screen

20 rather than dig through the binders there.

21 This is a letter on Diocese of Virginia

22 letterhead dated December 6, 2006 that's been marked


1 as Exhibit 68. And it appears to be signed by Bishop

2 Lee. Is this the letter to which you were referring?

3 A Yes, this is the letter.

4 Q And did you receive this letter?

5 A I did.

6 Q I'd like to draw your attention, Reverend

7 Yates, to the second to last paragraph. I think we're

8 going to get some help blowing that up.

9 A Yes.

10 Q Can you read that for the Court, please?

11 A Yes. "American Christianity has been

12 punctuated over the years by frequent divisions with

13 one group choosing to separate because they believe

14 the separated group might be more pure than their

15 former identity. This has not been characteristic of

16 the way we Anglicans have dealt with differences."

17 Q Reverend Yates, did you have an

18 understanding based on all of the time you had spent

19 and the work that you had done on the standing -- on

20 the Special Committee, excuse me, as to what that

21 paragraph meant?

22 A Yes.


1 Q And what is your understanding of what that

2 paragraph meant?

3 A Well, I saw it as in response to the work of

4 the Special Committee and the fact that there had been

5 churches separating from the Episcopal Church around

6 the country, and he was acknowledging that this is

7 happening, and it had happened in our Diocese, and he

8 was hopeful that there would be no more division.

9 Q And by division, what do you mean?

10 A A congregation leaving the Episcopal Church

11 and joining some other body.

12 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, we would

13 offer Exhibit 68 at this point.

14 THE COURT: Any objection?

15 MR. SOMERVILLE: No, sir.

16 THE COURT: All right. 68 is in.

17 (CANA Congregations Exhibit 68 received into

18 evidence.)


20 Q Reverend Yates, after you received the

21 letter from Bishop Lee in early December, Exhibit 68,

22 did you have any further communications with Bishop


1 Lee in December?

2 A Yes. Shortly after that letter was sent, I

3 had a meeting with Bishop Lee. If I remember right,

4 the Standing Committee of the Diocese asked to meet

5 with the Rectors and Wardens of churches that were in

6 a period of discernment that had announced they were

7 going to have a vote about staying or departing.

8 And we had a meeting in Fredericksburg with the

9 Standing Committee of the Diocese. I believe it was

10 December 7th. And at the end of the afternoon, Bishop

11 Lee joined us and met with us as a group, and then I

12 and some of the other clergy present met with Bishop

13 Lee privately.

14 Q What was the topic of the conversation with

15 Bishop Lee?

16 A Well, he wanted to express his hope that we

17 would not take this step, that he disagreed with what

18 we were about, and that he communicated to us that

19 there was some changes in the environment by that

20 time. He told us that since the work of the Special

21 Committee had been completed, that a new Presiding

22 Bishop of the Episcopal Church had been installed, and


1 that the new administration brought in a rather

2 different view about division.

3 The former Presiding Bishop had said that in

4 matters of division of churches leaving Diocese, that

5 was going to be left up to the Bishop. But now it was

6 going to be -- it was going to become a matter of

7 concern to the national church. The Bishop said

8 there's a new sheriff in town, the situation is

9 different.

10 MR. ANDERSON: Objection, your Honor.

11 That's hearsay.

12 THE COURT: Well, these are statements

13 by Bishop Lee; is that not correct?

14 MR. FARQUHARSON: That is.

15 MR. ANDERSON: Statements partly by

16 Bishop Lee about what the various Presiding Bishops of

17 the Episcopal Church had said.

18 THE COURT: Well, first of all, a

19 statement by Bishop Lee would come in as party

20 admissions, wouldn't they? Miss Anderson?

21 MR. ANDERSON: I think that's fair.

22 THE COURT: So they come in as party


1 admissions. And what I heard in the testimony was not

2 that Bishop Lee was quoting somebody else, but what

3 his expectation was based on the presence of a new

4 Bishop. So the objection is overruled.


6 Q Were you concerned, Reverend Yates, after

7 that meeting with Bishop Lee that litigation would

8 ensue?

9 A I was very concerned. Bishop Lee said we

10 could expect litigation. This was a total departure

11 from the tenor of our meetings over the last year. It

12 was totally unexpected.

13 Q Now, your testimony, Reverend Yates, was

14 that the meeting occurred on or about December 7th of

15 2006. When was the Falls Church vote scheduled to

16 take place?

17 A I believe it was about the 10th of December.

18 I believe we began the voting on December 10th.

19 Q So it was after the meeting with the Bishop?

20 A Yes.

21 Q And did the vote proceed?

22 A It proceeded as planned.


1 Q How did the congregation vote?

2 A About 90 percent of the congregation voted

3 to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the

4 Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

5 MR. FARQUHARSON: I have no further

6 questions, your Honor. Thank you, Reverend Yates.


Václav Patrik Šulik said...

Thanks Mary.

A small correction (since these are uncorrected transcripts) - on page 0477, line 16 it should read Rev. Robin Rauh (not Ralph).

Br_er Rabbit said...

Will there be a transcript of the +Schori deposition?

Matthew said...

Thank you for posting this.

I normally try not to indulge in "woulda, coulda, shoulda" and "if onlies", but reading this grieved my heart. I think Bishop Lee has a lot to answer for. I think he is aware of that and to whom he must answer.

The Diocese of Virginia truly missed an opportunity to witness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, bb, for posting this. I could not attend the proceedings, but now I feel like I was least for a little bit.

Vivian Jewell