Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fairfax Circuit Court schedules hearing for Nov. 12th

via email:

From the Fairfax Circuit Court:

THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA, Plaintiff,

TRURO CHURCH, et al., Defendants.

CH-2007-248724

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY

ORDER

The Court has received the attached Orders from the Supreme Court of Virginia, which require prompt action. The Court requests that Counsel for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese confer with opposing counsel and prepare orders in accordance with the directives from the Supreme Court and submit such orders for entry by the Court within ten (10) days.

Further, if any recipient of this e-mail is aware of any counsel who has a new e-mail address, please forward the new e-mail address to Ms. Fields immediately.

Finally, the Court will hold a hearing in order to determine the appropriate procedure and schedule to resolve all outstanding matters, and set briefing and trial schedules as necessary. That hearing will be held at 2:00 pm on Friday, November 12, 2010 in Courtroom 4G.    Each party who wishes to be heard at the hearing shall file by November 7, 2010 their position with regards to the matters to be taken up on November 12.

IT IS SO ORDERED this 15 day of OCTOBER, 2010.

Judge Randy I. Bellows Circuit Court Judge

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

The other order (which I found on the diocese website) has a provision for CANA to pay $30,000+ in costs. What on earth costs $30K? Is that a lawyer fee?

Steven in Falls Church said...

Anonymous, I believe that cost pertains to construction of minarets, which will eventually be a required component of TEC's disposition of the CANA churches in accordance with the precedent TEC has established with other property it has already seized.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see Judge Bellows' name. Does this mean he will preside over the next phase - the neutral principles trial?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BabyBlue said...

We are getting quite weary of the adolescent snippyness of some posts. One would think some of have forgotten their age or the fact they are sitting across the table from the very people they are being snippy to. Please check your age on your drivers license before posting. Hagrid thanks you - he is growing weary himself of tossing so many out the door lately and is complaining to management.

bb

Anonymous said...

I had so hoped that some kind of reconciliation or mediation could happen before another round of court hearings, briefs, etc. all costing large sums of money that could be better used (rebuilding the Virginia Seminary Chapel? helping the CANA folks find a new church?). What is the point now? Without 57-9, it is unlikely that CANA will be able to hold onto the properties. Could the lawyers just get out of the way and let the principals work it out?

BabyBlue said...

It would be a wonderful thing to return to the negotiating table - certainly not easy, but a wonderful thing and something to pray for. Virginia historically does not have implied trusts unlike other states (and the Dennis Canon did come up in the court record earlier with some interesting results - including some comments from Christ Church Alexandria and Pohick Church, among others, that might cause the diocese to pause). I do think it would behoove all parties to sit down and prayerfully reason together.

bb

Anonymous said...

7:11 Anonymous, why do you think the lawyers are calling the shots?

BB, care to be more specific about this supposed interesting stuff in the record?

Anonymous said...

BB, what would a settlement look like? Blue sky for us!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the lawyers are calling the shots. Easy to think that, and blame the straw man, but this comes down to leadership on both sides, not lawyers.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the return of the properties will be based primarily or perhaps even at all on the Denis Canon, BB. It will be fairly clear in most cases that the property documents recognize a trust or other ownership interest in favor of the Diocese. This is why the best hope for those who left but who thought they might hang on to to property was to invoke the Division Statute and hope it would apply. It doesn't.

Scout

Anonymous said...

Re: who is calling the shots? I certainly don't know, but I have to believe that some parties, at least, are getting tired of all the expensive litigation and just want to have some resolution. I know I do -- I am part of one of the continuing congregations.

And to Anon 10.20, no one wins in this sad and painful episode of greed and pride.

BabyBlue said...

The Diocese of Virginia does indeed hold parish properties in trust and those trusts are held by the Bishop of Virginia - a list of those properties are included every year in the documents distributed at Diocesan Council. When I was a Council Delegate I remember reviewing those documents. But as we learned during a post-57-9 trial, the Diocese was aware of the Dennis Canon and knew that they needed to move all the parish properties into the trust of the bishop to comply with the property laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. When asked why they didn't do it, the attorneys for the diocese admitted it would have caused a firestorm. So this is certainly an issue for litigation and not a slam dunk by a longshot, something we saw also an indication of in South Carolina which has a similar history of property trusts to Virginia.

I do think it would behoove both sides to lay down arms and return to the table and allow 815 to deal with it, as the Diocese of New Jersey and the Diocese of South Carolina are all ready doing. It will be interesting to see what kind of authority the new bishop of Virginia will take in regards to the opinions of the current Presiding Bishop that she has powers over him that have never been enjoyed by any of her predecessors.

As we saw in the last General Convention, the current administration at 815 moved away from organizing convention by dioceses and toward creating "community organizations" by political affiliations centered at 815. This basically marginalized the dioceses in their traditional roles at General Convention. It was very effective.

But it is not clear whether the bishops - now perhaps realizing how marginalized their roles have become under this current administration - will continue to allow 815 to dictate how they run their own dioceses under threat of litigation against them as well (which the bishop of South Carolina illustrated by releasing the documents he has been receiving from 815). The reason 815 keeps doing this is that it has been extremely effective in shutting down dissent.

The question remains whether the new bishops being elected - such as the bishop of Virginia - will allow this practice to continue. A test case will be on how Bishop Johnston will approach this next phase in the litigation in Virginia.

It also means that the parishes of the Anglican District of Virginia prayerfully consider what I might call a Reagan Strategy of "trust but verify" - meaning taking a risk to trust the Diocese of Virginia but also verify that the trust is grounded in factual actions. Here we have the Diocese of New Jersey as a possible example of what has traditionally been a liberal diocese (at least more liberal than Virginia) now negotiating with its Anglican congregations in defiance of the current administration of 815.

What is clear is that this is a matter for prayer - a commitment to prayer. The pain and loss of the last five years is deep. But we need to start somewhere. My prayer is to recall what Bishop Lee originally said to us - that we might find a way to stay in as close a communion as possible.

There have been little shining lights of hope this past summer of what that might look like - as to when an Episcopal congregation and their rector held a wedding at Truro this past summer. That went very very well. Who can say that the way forward may come from the ground up and perhaps in some of the most surprising ways. For example, I am not sure that there are many congregations that are comfortable with the idea that the Bishop of Virginia owns their properties. That may have a chilling affect on the Sunday plate. It may be wise for all parties not to cross that Rubicon and instead find other ways to heal the wounds, to bind up the brokenhearted, and to set the captives free.

bb

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say that the day of courageous bishops in TEC has been effectively snuffed out. There are now very few who will risk being singled out for elimination, and there will be no more after they are gone. There will be no more consents for those who are not totally in step with 815. Thus, I don't expect to see a critical mass develop to challenge the power grab from the top.

RalphM

Anonymous said...

It is indeed unfortunate that things have come to such a sorry state that the National Church feels compelled to alter the instruments of governance to address this problem of clergy who, having come to a decision that conscience (or whatever) compels them to depart, instead stay in place for considerable periods of time, hatching stratagems for taking things and people with them. It's an absolutely intolerable and inexcusable situation, but has happened here and there around the country more frequently than one would expect from people who one normally would look to for moral and spiritual leadership. This has caused enormous damage to both those who leave and those who stay.

Organizations and governments under stress often over-react. viz., the federal government at the start of the Civil War or at the beginning of WWII. The difficulty is that what 815 is proposing to do, while on one level a logical approach to these problems, is a distortion of the type of governance that the Church in the United States has had since its separation from the Church of England. By trying to protect the Church, these measures play into the hands of critics, who portray the proposed alterations as pure power grabs by a peevish PB and her evil counsellors. I have considerable concern about where this all goes, but I have no doubt that it would not be necessary if people on both sides of the debate behaved correctly. As awkward and inadequate as it may be, I would think it preferable to pursue individual inhibitions and dismissals where it is clear that particular clergy and vestry have turned the corner and have decided to leave, but do not have sufficient moral judgment or courage to act immediately on that decision. The Diocese should take the lead in that process. If Diocesan officials find themselves at a similar compromised point of decision, of course they should also leave immediately.

I do not think any member of the clergy has been dismissed or inhibited because of their theological views, Ralph. That may have not been your point, but I read that into your statement about courageous bishops. The courageous clergy bishops are the ones who stay and witness for correct doctrine or who leave immediately upon getting to a point in their decision-making that indicates to them that staying is not God's will for them. It is not courageous to have reached a decision to eventually leave a parish or diocese, but in the meantime continue to take benefits while encouraging other departures. Nor is it courage to compromise oneself on matters of conscience and stay inside without a strong commitment to witness within the organization for correct doctrine. On this latter point, although I very much hope excellent leaders like Bishop Lawrence will stay within the church, I question the value of absenting that diocese from the governance of the church. It is precisely the wrong time for that voice to be more, as opposed to less, distant.

Scout

Steven in Falls Church said...

Scout -- In the case of Virginia, the process of departure of the CANA parishes was not only entirely disclosed and transparent, but it was specifically acquiesced to by the Diocese, whose representatives negotiated the Protocol for Departing Congregations. The Diocese can't claim to be hoodwinked or victimized by the process when its own skirts are so dirty.

DavidH said...

Baloney Steven. The CANA folks, after having spent years telling the Diocese that they had no intent to leave, spent years scheming to leave. Their participation in the Diocese the last couple of years was a farce -- including their effort to turn a committee specifically charged with finding a way to go on together into a vehicle to lay groundwork for their planned litigation. Their pre-litigation efforts failed -- the Diocese's governing bodies did not approve or adopt the Protocol. Their litigation efforts are now crumbling, BabyBlue's wishful thinking notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

Steven: My issue is not whether anyone was hornswoggled. My issue is that once someone reaches a point of decision where he feels he cannot stay, he should leave. This is universally true, in my book, but the obligation is particularly acute among clergy and lay leaders. In the Virginia situations with which I'm familiar, vestry members continued to sit and clergy continued to preach long after they had reached the point of determining that they could not stay. If your point is that the actions of the then Bishop and the Diocese left room for wishful interpretations, I guess I agree with that in hindsight. But that really doesn't go to my point about acting without ambiguity on the important points of principle that underlay the decisions to leave.

Scout

BabyBlue said...

I'll push back on that reasoning, Scout. That reasoning calls into question whether the Signers of the Declaration of Independence should have just packed up their bags and left and not had Jefferson draft up that particular document. Your write, "This is universally true," and that kind of reasoning means perhaps we should ring up Queen Elizabeth II right now and say "ooops."

Of course it's not universally true - either wise not only did everything the founders do they did in vein, but Dr. King should have just packed up his bags as well.

What was - and continues to be - at issue is the matter of trust. If we can find a way to restore some kind of trust (and I would invoke the Reagan doctrine of "trust and verifty") then all we need is the faith of a mustard seed to move forward and attempt to find a way to remain in as close a communion as possible and honor the years of good-faith work that went in to creating the Virginia Protocol, written I may add, by the Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

bb

Steven in Falls Church said...

C'mon, David, the issues were long being discussed (if they had not been then you'd accuse us of having acted rashly) but you can't call it "scheming" as these steps were entirely open and disclosed to the Diocese. I assume you were not a TFC member. If you had been, you might have attended a 2005 parish meeting where the rector, in response to a congregation member's question, specifically discounted the idea of disaffiliation. At any rate, if you're accusing the CANA parishes of deception, isn't the Diocese guilty of the same thing, having through its Chancellor and two other appointees negotiated a document called "Protocol for Departing Congregations" that it never intended to live up to?

DavidH said...

Steven, your example proves my point -- John Yates kept saying to the Diocese and publicly that he didn't intend to leave, all the while scheming to do so. The only thing that was "open and disclosed" were the 40 Days of Predetermined Outcome at the end.

As for "deception" and the Protocol, I don't see it. A few representatives of the Diocese and a few representatives of the CANA folks produced a proposal. The Chancellor is not a pope and had no authority to make deals on his own (something the Protocol clearly stated). When the proposal went to the Diocese's governing bodies, it met a chilly reception and failed. The CANA folks knew that but went ahead with votes anyway, purporting to act under a never-approved Protocol in the hopes that it would bolster either their PR case or their legal case. Other than PR among folks who would have been on their side anyway, I don't think it's worked.

Anonymous said...

BB - I find the analogy to the events of 1775-1776 to be as strangely inapposite as I did your recent reference to the Federalist Papers. Are you saying that forming a new government in rebellion against the English Crown is the same process as affiliating with or creating a new church? Were seceding priests and bishops waiting to make their move because they needed to draft a proclamation?

Look, a priest knows when he reaches the point where he cannot, in comfortable conscience, stay affiliated with a particular denomination. He doesn't then summon the vestry and lawyers to plan a multi-year procedure whereby he only acts on that determination after months of preaching dissent and secession and ensuring that his departure includes little risk of discomfort or loss of parishioners and familiar surroundings. He leaves. A certain number of people will follow. The machinations to keep the pews and those who sit in them marred terribly what could have been a very noble stand on principle and cost those who left and those who stayed greatly. None of the drama and destruction that now seems to occupy discussion at this site and elsewhere would have occurred but for this inability of these people to step away and act on their convictions without plots to lay claim to properties. They all would now be established in lovely new churches and supervising active mission programmes funded by treasure that has been poured into the secular court system.

Scout

BabyBlue said...

No, the Protocol did not fail. There was an attempt to sink it, but a personal plea from Bishop Lee allowed it to continue where it was accepted. Believe me, there was an attempt to derail it but that attempt failed - due in fact to Bishop Lee's intervention.

The Chancellor was personally chosen by the Bishop of Virginia to represent his interests on the Special Committee. The other personal representatives were the chairman of the Reconciliation Commission and the just-retired President of the Standing Committee (and later candidate for Bishop of Virginia). I certainly trusted them as official representatives of the diocese, wouldn't you?

bb

Anonymous said...

Check your facts, BB. The protocol required approval of the Executive Board and the Standing Committee. The Executive Board voted to "receive" it. It's in the minutes. The Standing Committee never voted on it. I understand they declined to do so because they did not want to embarass Bishop Lee by voting it down.

You are overlooking the nature and limits of their authority as agents. They were allowed to come up with a proposal, but was it not stated, IN THE PROTOCOL, that it was subject to approval by those with the authority? I'm sorry, but it is irresponsible to say "we were betrayed" when the Protocol upon which you claim was violated was, in fact, never put into effect.

Jeterius

Anonymous said...

BTW, to answer directly the first question in the thread, the Supreme Court's order directs the departing groups to pay $30K+ in costs to the Diocese and TEC. This is standard treatment for the losing side in these matters. It is not attorneys' fees (in some countries, the loser routinely pays the winner's attorneys fees, a practice that I think would really restrict frivolous suits here, but many others believe, with some credibility, that such a practice would deter people with legitimate claims from risking that cost and would thus repress meritorious access to the courts). The costs at the appellate level are largely the costs of reproducing portions of the trial record to create and appendix to which the parties and the court can refer. The Court's itemization of the costs reflects that most of the money involved here is related to the preparation of the Appendix.

Scout

The Lakeland Two said...

BabyBlue,

Keeping you and all in our prayers. Keep on keeping the Faith, sister-in-Christ.