|Faifax County Court House.|
The seven-week trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Court was presided over by Judge Randy Bellows. The briefs should be completed in October with a ruling from Judge Bellows to follow. Both sides expect Judge Bellows to take his time in reviewing the briefs with a ruling expected some time next year.
A dark shadow was cast over the proceedings with the unexpected death of the Diocese of Virginia's long-time chancellor, Russ Palmore the week before the trial began. Russ Palmore was the chair of the Bishop's Special Committee and author of the Diocese of Virginia Protocol for Departing Congregations which outlined the steps the voting parishes followed to find an amicable way to separate.
|Bishop Schori at the National Cathedral.|
|Judge Bellows in the Circuit Court.|
That ruling was overturned last year by the Virginia Supreme Court in Richmond.
With the overturning by the Virginia Court of of the Circuit Court 57-9 ruling, the focus of attention returned to the original 2007 lawsuits filed by Bishop Schori and Bishop Lee. Attorneys from both sides expect a ruling some time next year, six years after the original parish voted to separate.
UPDATE: Henry Burt, Secretary to the Diocese of Virginia has the official response from the Diocese of Virginia to the wrap-up of the trial here. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro, writes his reflections, including the hope that even at this late hour we can find a peaceful and mutually beneficial solution to litigation:
On Wednesday, the trial in the church property lawsuits filed against us and six of our sister churches wrapped up.
Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro.
There were 22 days of trial stretching over almost seven weeks. I have been told that Fairfax County Circuit Judge Randy I. Bellows heard testimony from more than 65 witnesses and that literally thousands of documents were put into evidence. Paul Julienne, Ernie Wakeham, Doug LeMasters, Tom Yates and Chap Peterson testified on behalf of Truro. Those present in the trial courtroom have told me our legal team and witnesses have represented us well. I want to especially commend George Peterson, our lead attorney, who continues to put heart and soul into advocating for us. Pray that God restores him and Tania in the weeks ahead. Their recent marriage, and their friendship to me, is an unexpected blessing having already come out of this trial. I receive this blessing as a promissory note of future blessings.
With the trial completed, the case now moves into the next phase, in which the lawyers for each side submit to the Court their written arguments about the evidence presented at trial and the controlling law. Each side will submit three sets of briefs - in August, September, and October - up to a total of 600 pages per side. Judge Bellows has said that after all of this briefing is finished, he will set another day for the lawyers to come back to court to answer any questions he has. His final ruling may not occur until early 2012.
I know that many of you are praying, and I urge you to continue to do so. Pray that God will somehow be glorified in this dispute and that we can, even at this late hour, find a mutual and redemptive outcome with the diocese of VA. Pray especially for Bishop Shannon Johnston, whom I have come to know as a good man who inherited this ungodly litigation. Pray that God gives him wisdom and perseverance to find a redemptive way forward.
Bishop Shannon Johnston.
Please pray for continued wisdom and discernment for Judge Bellows as he considers all of the testimony, evidence, and legal arguments and as he prepares his decision. Above all, please pray that the Lord Jesus Christ would be honored and exalted by all that we do and by all that occurs, including the final outcome.
Finally, I ask you pray for me, Elizabeth and the girls that we will have the wisdom, grace and stamina to love and lead Truro through this set of circumstances. We want, above all, for our God to be glorified in this situation and for people outside of faith in Jesus be drawn to him - and we believe He will be.
May it be so.