Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Make a Note: Judge Bellows puts trial dates on calendar - has not yet ruled what will be covered on those dates

The Diocese of Virginia has just released a statement on the state of their lawsuits against the eleven Virginia Churches that followed the Protocol for Departing Churches and voted to separate from the Episcopal Church.

In their weekly Communique under the headline "Judge Sets Date for Trial," the diocese states that “The Hon. Randy I. Bellows has set Oct. 6-30, 2008 for the second phase of the trial over ownership of Episcopal Church property.” The Diocese then asserts that "In this second phase The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church seek declaratory judgment regarding the property, a ruling that requires the CANA congregations to vacate Episcopal property, transfer of title and a full accounting of all property. "

This is not true.

The judge has reserved trial dates this fall, but the judge has not yet ruled on the subject covered by those dates and won’t make a decision until after he rules on the 57-9 filings, some time after January 19, 2008 (which will probably be in February or March 2008).

On January 4, 2008, the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church had originally petitioned Judge Bellows to begin litigation of their lawsuits immediately, which would have caused a dramatic increase in legal costs for the eleven churches now sued by the Diocese and TEC. These eleven churches followed the Diocese's Protocol for Departing Churches and voted to separate from the Episcopal Church. The protocol followed the Canons of the Diocese of Virginia and the statutes of the Commonwealth, including Virginia's Statute 57-9

The judged said no.

The Diocese had originally agreed that they did not consider the filing of the reports (no property has ever been transferred) a hostile action and made this clear in the Standstill Agreement approved by both the Standing Committee and Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia. The Standstill Agreement still does not appear on the Diocese of Virginia’s website.

What the Diocese calls the “second phase” is actually the original lawsuits the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in separate actions filed against the eleven churches, their trustees, their rectors, and over 200 lay volunteers who had operated in good faith under the Protocol for Departing Churches under the authority of the Bishop of Virginia. This was done despite the fact that the Diocese and the eleven church had begun the next steps (following the model set by Bishop Lee with the property negotiations with All Saints, Dale City), including electing representatives to Bishop Lee’s own Property Committee. This was in place, as the Standstill Agreement illustrates, until the Episcopal Church intervened and the negotiations were shut down.

While the judge has reserved trial dates this fall on his calendar, he has not yet ruled what the content of those dates will be - let us make that perfectly clear. There are all kinds of speculation now underway on what the focus of those dates will be (others have differing opinions, depending on the judge’s opinion), but the judge has not yet ruled – and the last time we checked, he has the final say in the matter.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

bb, do you ever get tired of writing the same stuff regardless of whatever's actually happening? What does the Standstill have to do with calendaring a trial for October? And what exactly do you think is left to try other than the cases filed by the Diocese and TEC?

BabyBlue said...

The Standstill has to do with the current case in front of the judge - the 57-9. A few weeks ago I had dinner with an old friend and learned that she believed that the parishes had sued the diocese. I was so stunned by what she said I thought she was joking - but she wasn't. I had assume that members of the Diocese of Virginia knew about the Standstill and it appears that they do not. If you read it you will know that these press releases being put out by the diocese regarding the actions taken by the eleven parishes following their votes was not considered hostile action. Here's what the Standstill said:

The congregations:

a. will not initiate any transfer or conveyance of their property.
b. will not initiate any civil legal action against The Diocese/TEC, but may report their congregations determinations by filing a petition/report with the relevant VA Circuit Courts pursuant to Va. Code 57-9 without violating the agreement.


The Diocese suddenly shifted and started writing things like "The dispute over property in the Diocese of Virginia entered the civil courts when the separated CANA congregations filed petitions with the courts in their jurisdictions reporting the results of their congregational votes and seeking the court’s declaration that the property belonged to the congregations."

That is incorrect, as the Standstill shows. We thought we were going into negotiations through Bishop Lee's Property Committee. That's where it stood until the Diocese turned around and sued all the parishes. As you may know, All Saints Dale City had been the test case on how we could proceed into negotiations - this was Bishop Lee's "center aisle" way until the Episcopal Church intervened. To put it mildly, they were not happy that Bishop Lee negotiated with All Saints - but that was done on Frank Griswold's watch. As we know from court testimony, there was a new sheriff in town when Katharine Jefferts Schori took over 815 and the way that the Diocese had handled the crisis dramatically changed once she became Presiding Bishop.

Now it is as if the Standstill Agreement and all that represented of the goodwill that had been established through the Bishop's Special Committee never existed.

That's why I keep bringing it up. If we are going to tell the story, we need to tell the story that includes the words that are in that Standstill Agreement. You can read the Standstill here: http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2008/01/yes-virginia-there-was-standstill.html

Ah, to your second question - it does depend on what the judge rules in the case before him. How he rules will determine the next steps. The judge was clear that he would not define what those trial dates will cover. It could cover the lawsuits instigated by the Diocese and TEC against the eleven churches. Or it may be something else.

I could speculate on what I think it could be - but that would be my speculation. The Diocese is also speculating.

What we do know is that it appears the judge wants to deal with first things first. And what is first is what is on the docket right now.

57-9.

bb

Anonymous said...

OK, once more around the Standstill tree. The Standstill itself shows that you're wrong, bb. It says that the congregations won't file civil legal actions but then has an exception: that they may file the petitions. There would be no need for the exception if the petitions weren't legal action.

And, in any case, it's not an agreement that determines the nature of the thing. More lawyers than you have fingers and toes writing dozens of numbered paragraphs. A petition, seeking a declaration from the court that the congregations own the property. A case number assigned to the filing. An answer. Discovery. A trial. A judgment. So, tell me, where is the non-lawsuit part again?

BabyBlue said...

Listen ver carefully, Anon. That is all the eleven churches had done - file reports of the votes when the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church sued eleven Virginia churches and their rectors and their trustees and 200 lay volunteers. That's all we did.

And then Katharine Jefferts Schori intervened just as Bishop Lee was appointing his Property Committee to continue the next steps - do you hear me? Katharine Jefferts Schori intervened and Bishop Lee cancelled his Property Committee, told all the Vestry appointed representatives to stay home, refused to renew the Standstill and then filed suit - followed swiftly by TEC doing the same thing in separate lawsuit (perhaps just in case conscience once again returned and the Bishop would decide to negotiate).

You see he's between a rock and hard place, isn't he? He has to continue the lawsuits and not return to the negotiating table because TEC - in it's cynicism (you tell me a better word?) has a separate suit just in case. They didn't join TEC's suit (the court actually did that, for now) they filed separately, just in case.

Want a refresher: go here:
http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2007/01/anglican-alert-code-red.html

and here:
http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2007/01/anglican-district-of-virginia-leaders.html

and here:
http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2007/01/urgent-breaking-news.html

As you will see - and there's more if you care to read through January 2007, the Standstill Agreement was not renewed and the Diocese filed suit. We hadn't done anything. And indeed, if you see in the original press release from the diocese - the diocese declared that the property had been abandoned. The problem is, when they went to court to force us off the property the court said no.

So the diocese changed its strategy when it realized it could not declare the property abandoned. Or don't you remember that?

All we did was file our votes - as the Standstill showed that it was not a hostile court action. We filed our votes. We didn't take the next step about the property because we thought we were going to Bishop Lee's Property Committee.

The Standstill Agreement is not on the Diocesan Website - though it wsa a legal document that was negotiated between the parishes and the diocese in good faith - because it shows the diocese is not being honest. The diocese said one thing in the Standstill and when they could not get the court to rule that the property was abandoned, the filed lawsuits.

We continue to seek a way to return to the negotiating table. But as we learned from Katharine Jefferts Schori herself - that is never going to happen on her watch.

And that, my dear anon, breaks my heart.

bb

Rick Arllen said...

BB, some are just willfully and persistently in denial of the plain truth. WRT anon I suggest Matt 7:6 be your guide.

ettu said...

Wow - all I can say is Too Much Information - altho if I were involved in such a weird case I suppose I also would be so involved that every detail would consume me! Anyway, whatever the merits of the case, I pray truth and justice will lut - personally, I would have walked long before this never being one to stay in a voluntary organization that clearly did not want me. Call this cowardice - or call it street smarts as you will but I do believe the first mandate is survival - mentally, spiritually, physical - and I do not see how you are ever going to survive this lawsuit intact and able to forge forward with full energy into whatever mission calls you in the coming 10 or 20 years.

ettu said...

sorry lut = out

Anonymous said...

You had a Standstill agreement, and I won't debate the finality of that arrangement or not, but the Bishop told you before the votes and filings what the outcome of those actions would be. Those outcomes have come to pass. To say you were only going along as agreed is disingenuous.

(different anon from above)

Steven in Falls Church said...

BB--You've pulled thankless yeoman duty playing whack-a-mole with the Diocese and its fans on the Standstill Agreement. They want to bury the incontrovertible facts: (a) the Diocese signed an agreement to negotiate; (b) under the agreement the Diocese consented to the 57-9 petitions; (c) while the agreement was in effect the Diocese failed even to have one preliminary discussion with the departing parishes consistent with that agreement; and (d) the Diocese let the agreement expire and filed lawsuits on the date of expiry.

ettu said...

I am coming at this from a distance so apologize for any naive comments - however, if this standstill agreement *expired* then what is all this sturm und drang about?? I sell and buy options and when they expire worthless or whatever then it is a dead issue. How does this differ from a legal agreement that has expired??

Mike said...

Pathetic. What is the purpose of arguing that your former church is "dishonest" "cynical" and "acting in bad faith?" Even if true, what sort of buzz do you get in making the point?

BabyBlue said...

Ah, so having given up on a discussion of the facts we turn to ordering cream pies. Hmmmm .... just don't hit the Giant.

bb

Mike said...

I get the cream pie reference, but honestly have no idea what else to which you are referring.

Is there a fact at issue that we disagree about ... or are you just saying that my opinion is factually wrong?

I have a suggestion. Why not focus on your beliefs rather than castigating my church? Does that work for you? Or do you need to prove me wrong to make yourself feel better?

Anonymous said...

bb, you wrote: "All we did was file our votes - as the Standstill showed that it was not a hostile court action. We filed our votes."

You have to know better than that. Every congregation filed 2 things: a petition and a report. Your statements above would be accurate if the only thing filed was the report. Each of them gives the whole long sad story, the vote, etc. The petition on the other hand, seeks a legal judgment as to ownership of the property. You filed your votes, plus a petition.

And I notice that your very long response to me didn't really address anything I said. Revealing.

BabyBlue said...

Hmmm...thought you might be new here, Mike. You are of course always welcome - though perhaps calling the proprietor of this establishment "pathetic" might make one think you don't like what's on the menu?

Since you are new to the Cafe you might as well know - I am still a card-carrying Episcopalian (and have been Episcopalian for twenty-three years). I was also reaffirmed by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, four years ago. I'm in this for the long haul - unless I decide to fulfill the Dream of My Youth and become a Flower Child and move back to California. Now that might be a buzz. I was about five years too late last time.

Here at the cafe we talk about all sorts of things (you can see it in the banner on the front page) including the Crisis in the Episcopal Church. We also talk about Bob Dylan and the Potter Series and Bono when I'm not mad at him and we play tunes and watch films. Oh, did I mention Bob Dylan? Right.

We welcome all here, we just ask that you order the cream pies to eat, not to throw. If you must toss something, order the pancakes. We love Shrove Tuesday.

Which reminds me - Ash Wednesday is fast approaching which means we will be having the Second Annual CafeAnons Ball on Shrove Tuesday when we celebrate all our Anons who post here at the cafe and who's real identities are known only to God.

And as for the Giant, well, perhaps some else can explain who he is ...

bb

Mike said...

Not new here exactly, but, respectfully ... being a card carrying Episcopalian justifies calling the church "dishonest" "cynical" and "acting in bad faith" ?

And yes we can talk about another topic if you would prefer.

What's your next post about?

BabyBlue said...

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

-Benjamin Franklin

ettu said...

Wow Talk about avoiding substantive points -- and as to the Ben Franklin quote it brings to mind a faintly remembered quote (source not recalled but I know it is not original) that goes something like "the last recourse of (not reliable thinkers ((paraphrased out of courtesy)) is to wrap themselves in the flag" Such dialogue - or, rather, lack of it - has led to unnecessary wars - and unnecessary schisms.

Anonymous said...

The Episcopal flag?

ettu said...

Whatever flag you desire - the original was, I believe, the national flag - but if the shoe fits wear it (another non-original quote).

Anonymous said...

LOL.

I've just gotta laugh at the most recent comments.

BabyBlue, I think you are missing their point. They would like you, BabyBlue, to stop critiquing your church. ; > )

I personally think that truth-telling about institutions is important. So . . . keep it up, BB!

Signed,

Sarah, a card-carrying Episcopalian who still wants BB to continue telling the truth about the national church leadership

Mike said...

Well that just might be the issue right there in nutshell. Thanks Anon/Sarah at 10:11.

BB by all means continue - wouldn't be here if your work had no purpose, right?

But just a tweak on Anon's suggestion: Keep telling A truth about OUR church.

See the difference?

Anonymous said...

Define, exactly, "card carrying Episcopalian". Surely you don't mean the TEC?

(the other anon)

ettu said...

re Sarah's comment "BabyBlue, I think you are missing their point. They would like you, BabyBlue, to stop critiquing your church. ; > )"

Well, rest assured that was not my point - I would not presume to speak for others and their motivations but assuredly does not describe me critique away - just hope the critical comments are able to be held up to the light of reason

Anonymous said...

RE: "See the difference? . . ."

No, not really. You said "being a card carrying Episcopalian justifies calling the church "dishonest" "cynical" and "acting in bad faith" ?"

If it's the truth then being an Episcopalian or not does not matter.

RE: "Surely you don't mean the TEC?"

Yep.

Signed,

Sarah, a card-carrying Episcopalian who still wants BB to continue telling the truth about the national church leadership

Robin said...

"Card carrying Episcopalian" is misleading. If you don't agree with the Episcopal Church, you can carry a card all you want but you shouldn't consider yourself part of TEC. Why not go and get confirmed in a church in which you actually believe in their teachings?

Anonymous said...

That's nice. Does the same apply to the Anglican Communion. If you don't believe what the Anglican Communion believes perhaps you should just go and join a communion where you can believe what they believe.

Mike said...

Sarah - For mere man, there is no "THE" truth there is only "A" truth from whatever perspective you bring to the table. BB, and I, and you, and everyone else participating, are only able to offer their versions of the truth. A truth. But not THE truth.

Believing that you know THE truth is one of the traps of literalism, and, of course, is at the heart of the whole issue with TEC and CANA.

Anonymous said...

This is a banner comment topic for here.

bb, how about a blog entry on the Diocese and TEC's response to the AG? I'm sure you've got something to say about it.

Anonymous said...

RE: "If you don't agree with the Episcopal Church, you can carry a card all you want but you shouldn't consider yourself part of TEC."

Wow -- double wow!

If only all the progressive gay activists had done that 20 years ago. ; > )

Talk about incredible hypocrisy, huh? Now that the progressives are large and in charge . . . everybody else just needs to leave -- and especially leave quietly with no resistance . . . so that they can get on "being inclusive."

Just too rich and gives me a fit of the giggles.

Sorry -- but the progressive activists will have to just put up with my being a card-carrying member of TEC. ; > ) It's my church too. Oh the humanity!


Sarah

Card carrying member of TEC no matter what progressive activists desire . . .

Anonymous said...

RE: "or mere man, there is no "THE" truth there is only "A" truth from whatever perspective you bring to the table. BB, and I, and you, and everyone else participating, are only able to offer their versions of the truth. A truth. But not THE truth."

Certainly there is The Truth. And a part of our quest as humans is to find The Truth. We may mistake The Truth. But it does exist.

And of course . . . as Christians we believe that we know The Truth personally.

Because Christians believe in special and miraculous revelation, both through the revelation of The Truth, and His word written.

That would be one of the many many central differences between those who believe the Christian gospel and those who believe another gospel.

Which is why the organization known as TEC encompasses both gospels -- pretty much impossible long-term, but here we are.

Sarah

Anonymous said...

Sarah - I'm sorry, but if you don't believe in the teachings of the TEC and the growth that has occurred over time, maybe the TEC isn't your cup of tea anymore. And if you are with the group that voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese, didn't you in fact vote that you don't agree with the teachings? I have no problem with differences of opinions in the church- as a matter of fact, I encourage them. I think diversity within a group is healthy and good. We learn from eachother. But to say you are a "card carrying member of the TEC" and then castigate it just sounds bitter and sounds like you aren't trying to be part of the diversity inside the group - you just want to throw stones and call the leadership names. The Anglican Communion is just that - a communion of groups that all believe truths a little differently - and we are all supposed to learn from eachother. Please stop trying to throw TEC out.

Anonymous said...

RE: "but if you don't believe in the teachings of the TEC and the growth that has occurred over time, maybe the TEC isn't your cup of tea anymore. . . . "

Heh. Like the progressive activists of 20 years ago I'll be staying, thank you. ; > )

Furthermore . . . the "teachings of the TEC" are nothing more than the "teachings of the current crop of progressive activists who happen to be in power at the national level" . . . and as I suspect that you know, that isn't "TEC."

RE: "And if you are with the group that voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese . . ."

I'm not.

RE: "I have no problem with differences of opinions in the church . . . "

Good -- there's a whole bunch more like me out there, and we won't be agreeing with the progressive activists' gospel.

RE: "But to say you are a "card carrying member of the TEC" and then castigate it just sounds bitter and sounds like you aren't trying to be part of the diversity inside the group . . . "

I'm unconcerned as to what your thoughts are about my feelings. And I'm castigating the progressive activist leadership currently in charge at the national level -- something that folks like you ought to love, if you think about America and GW Bush. ; > ) Or are you for all American citizens "leaving America" when they don't agree with those in power in the White House?

No -- I didn't think so. ; > )

I don't have to "try" to be "part of the diversity" -- I am "part of the diversity" . . . and those that are "part of the diversity" on the other side seem to be eerily eager for those of us who will resist their agenda to . . . leave! [gasp!]

RE; "Please stop trying to throw TEC out."

Huh?

I have no power to do any such thing.

Certainly the Anglican Communion ought to be wise enough to rid itself of those dioceses who do not believe the gospel.

We'll see if it does so. Time will continue to tick and it should be interesting.


Chippers,

Sarah, card-carrying member of TEC -- and enjoying it

Robin said...

Again - your interpretation and my interpretation of the gospel differ. So...being as we are both Episcopalians and "card carrying members" (and heck, I'm a cradle Episcopalian - does that carry any additional water??) I guess I'll see you in the pews!

Robin said...

Sarah - a question for you. You responded to my question of you finding another church to not liking George Bush and moving to another country. Of course, the requests aren't the same - but let's pretend they are. There are a lot of reasons to stay in the US besides the current Administration. What are some GOOD things in TEC that makes you want to stay associated with it instead of joining another denomination that may have current beliefs closer to your own?

Anonymous said...

RE: "Again - your interpretation and my interpretation of the gospel differ."

Indeed.

Two gospels. One organization. Which is why the next decade or so will be quite challenging for all.

RE: "Of course, the requests aren't the same . . . "

Right.

For instance . . . George Bush is not a bishop. And he's not KJS.

And the US is a country, not a denomination. ; > )

But other than that the metaphor is quite apt.

RE: "What are some GOOD things in TEC that makes you want to stay associated with it instead of joining another denomination that may have current beliefs closer to your own?"

There are many -- but revisionists really only need to know one reason.

The current theology of the *leadership* of the national church is not Anglican.

But TEC is an Anglican church, despite its national leadership. I choose to stick around until TEC -- or its replacement -- has leaders at the national level who are Anglicans . . .

And along with that, of course, it will be nice when they believe the Christian gospel.

As you will see again, the parallel with our country's leadership and the country's actual identity -- at least for those on the politically liberal -- is striking.