Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there was a Standstill Agreement

DECEMBER 18, 2006

1. The Diocese of Virginia ("Diocese") and The Episcopal Church ("TEC"):

a. will not initiate any attempt to take possession the congregations' property.
b. will not initiate any canonical or ecclesiastical actions against the congregations or their clergy or vestries.
c. will not initiate any civil legal action against the congregations, their clergy, their vestries, or their trustees.
d. will permit the congregations' clergy and stay to continue to pay premiums and receive benefits under the Diocesan health care plan until at least January 31, 2007.

2. 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 congregations' Va. Code 57-9 filings will state that notice has been provided to The Diocese/TEC. The congregations will not take any further steps to bring the Va. Code 57-9 filings to judgment. Upon the Diocese's request, the congregations will seek a stay of their Va. Code 57-9 filings. If the Diocese seeks to intervene in the Va Code 57-9 filings, the congregations will not oppose such intervention and upon the Diocese's request will jointly with the Diocese move to stay the filings. In not opposing the intervention, the congregation of course reserve the right to contest the Diocese/TEC's alleged interest in the property.

3. The Diocese/TEC and each of the congregations:

a. will seek in good faith to negotiate with each other an amicable resolution of their differences concerning the property and clergy status.
b. may terminate the agreement by giving 7 days notice to all other parties, but this shall not affect the agreement between any remaining parties unless they independently invoke their right to terminate. This Agreement shall terminate on January 18, 2007 unless renewed by mutual agreement.

Patrick Getlein, Secretary to the Diocese of Virginia, has written to the Washington Times and asserts that the congregations (who entered into this Standstill Agreement with the Diocese -oops, he doesn't mention the Standstill Agreement at all and for some reason it's still not on the Diocese of Virginia website) have "filed claims in Virginia courts to authorize that unlawful effort" to "take that property with them" by the "congregations that chose to leave The Episcopal Church."

As we see in this Standstill Agreement by Standing Committee and the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia, they agreed that the congregations "may report their congregational determinations by filing a petition/report with the relevant VA Circuit Court pursuant to Va. Code 57-9 without violating the agreement." Which of course, is what we did. We thought we were heading to Bishop Lee's Property Committee, as All Saints Dale City had done before us, to negotiate the next steps. The Standstill Agreement plainly acknowledged that filing the petitions/reports by the congregations with the court was not - repeat, was not - the initiation of any civil legal action.

Why would Patrick, on the Diocese of Virginia's stationery, write to the Washington Times asserting that the congregations who voted to depart following the Protocol for Departing Parishes and had negotiated the Standstill Agreement and had elected representatives to Bishop Lee's Property Committee had "filed claims in Virginia courts to authorize" what he calls an "unlawful effort"? He then asserts that the Diocese of Virginia is in court "defending" against their claims.

The fact remains that the Standstill Agreement acknowledged that there had been no civil legal action taken when the congregations filed their petitions/reports with the Virginia Circuit Court. We all thought, until the Diocese of Virginia withdrew from the negotiating table (they left us at the table, remember?) that we were moving forward, in the words of the Standstill Agreement, to "seek in good faith to negotiate with each other an amicable resolution of their differences concerning property and clergy status."

Instead, the Diocese (following a fateful meeting with David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church) suddenly withdrew renewing the Standstill Agreement and instead initiated lawsuits, followed closely by The Episcopal Church which did the same thing separately, against all the congregations, their rectors, and their vestries. The Standstill Agreement was left in tatters on the floor by the Diocese. Perhaps that is why they don't have a copy to put up on the website - the Standstill Agreement is still missing from their collection of the Diocese's public legal documents. What's up with that, Patrick?

Can it be because the Standing Committee, the Executive Board, the Secretary, and the Bishop of Virginia do not want the members of the diocesan community to know that the Diocesan leadership actually entered into this Standstill Agreement in the first place and, as such, had publicly admitted that the congregations had not, as Patrick Getlien attempts to claim to the Washington Times, that the congregations had "filed claims in Virginia courts to authorize" what he now calls "that unlawful effort"?

The Standing Committee and Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia cannot state one month that the filing of the reports/petitions were not civil legal action against the Diocese and the next month claim that it was.

It will be very interesting to see whether the Diocese of Virginia will finally admit to entering into the Standstill Agreement and post that legal document on their website.

And just to be clear - the ADV does not take out lines of credit to pay legal expenses. People give out of the kindness of their hearts - it's truly amazing what the people have done and continue to do. If you'd like to contribute to the ADV Legal Defense Fund, click here.

One more thing, the Diocese is attempting to do a "Baghdag Bob" spin on their failure to get Judge Bellows to permit the diocese and The Episcopal Church to go to trial right away over the property, which is what they were in court to do last Friday. Instead, the judge ruled that they would have to wait until at least next fall to even consider the topic - for the subject of what ever trial might take place in October 2008 will actually depend on the judge's ruling on the current case (57-9) now before him. Last Friday the Diocese attempted to force the congregations to spend enormous amounts of money on legal expenses to respond to requests for voluminous discovery on every aspect of the relationship between the congregations and the diocese and that attempt failed. The judge said no.

WED. PM UPDATE: We have learned that Patrick "Baghdad Bob" Getlein's letter to the editor will be published in tomorrow morning's edition of The Washington Times. We expect there may be other interesting things to read tomorrow. And again, if you'd like to give to the Anglican District of Virginia Defense Fund, please click here.


Jeff H said...

I also liked how Mr. Getlein purports to correct an "inaccuracy and misrepresentation" by asserting as uncontroverted truth precisely that which is the disputed point in the lawsuits, viz., that the Episcopal Church is the rightful owner of the properties. Nothing wrong with the court of public opinion...

Isn't it in fact accurate to say that the Diocese is seeking to "win back" the property in terms of who's in possession of it now, as opposed to the question of ownership? That's pretty evidently what Ms. Duin was talking about, and it would've been fair for Mr. Getlein to point out that ownership is disputed. Asserting the Diocese's position is just silly.

Anonymous said...

Will you write a letter in rebutal?

Anonymous said...

Where is the love in any of this - perhaps this is why Julian of Norwich appeals to me - all I see in this is money, mowey, money and power,power, power and ,frankly Scarlett, it disgusts me and I don't give a **** ettu

Anonymous said...

Getlein's letter sounds whiny to me. I think his approach undercuts the Diocese's position. BB's Baghdad Bob analogy is right on.