Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day Three: Update from the Courthouse

The day began fiercely, with a wind and rain squall rushing through Fairfax. I've discovered a short cut from Truro to the Courthouse and managed to get across Main Street and inside the Courthouse in fifteen minutes, the umbrella still in tact.

The morning session began with cross examination by the counsel for the Diocese of Virginia and then the Episcopal Church of Abraham Yisa, official Register of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and elected member of the Anglican Consultative Counsel. He testified - and continued to testify under cross examination - that indeed there is a division in the Anglican Communion. This was dramatically illustrated by the changing of the Anglican Church of Nigeria changing their constitution to reflect that they are in communion with those Anglican provinces that hold to the faith. The Church of Nigeria as well as the Church of Uganda and the Church of the Southern Cone and many others are in broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church. He also testified in his capacity as an elected member of the ACC that the Episcopal Church did not attend the last AAC meeting in Nottingham as voting or seated members, following the advice from the Primates Meeting. He described broken communion as the breaking of fellowship, of exchanged visits, by sharing of clergy, of training, workshops, financial assistance and through the primates.

What I found moving during his testimony was his refusal to compartmentalize the Church. While TEC continues to focus on the constitution and canons, asking of every clergy person or elected lay person who takes the stand about their loyalty to the constitution and canons, Mr. Yisa spoke eloquently about the shared fellowship of the Gospel, of the partnership in the work of Jesus Christ. He spoke of the living church, not just the one on paper and it was seamless. It was especially moving coming from a barrister who cares deeply about law and procedure and the care of documents - it was clear he takes those tasks very seriously. But woven into his expertise of law and procedure and documents was a deep and resilient faith.

A lot more of the documents we all know and love were entered into the official court record, including the Primates Communique from Dar es Salaam.

After Mr. Yisa completed his testimony we broke for lunch. I headed down to the cafeteria and sat by the window with friends and watched through the window as people went through security, emptying their pockets, handing over lighters, giving up their camera/cell phones for secured safekeeping, and waiting for their stuff to be scanned or themselves to be wanned if they set off the alarms while walking through the checkpoint. A new courthouse is being built here in Fairfax and it is quite a contrast to the monstrous modern fortress that was built back in the 70s. The new one reminds me of the old Arlington Courthouse before it was torn down and replaced by a 90s monstrosity.

The oddest part of the days have been standing in the halls outside the courtroom. When we see courtroom dramas we often see some of the big dramas actually happening out in the corridors and I can see how that happens. But we're Virginians and we all remain civil. The highlight probably was when we discovered that there was a massive water leak in the ladies bathroom and we went to find the bailiff to call someone before the roof fell in. There seems to be a metaphor in that somewhere. There are always signs that there is a break.

When we returned to the courtroom after lunch we heard testimony from David Allison, one of the officers of the Anglican District of Virginia and a member of Church of the Apostles, Fairfax, who testified that there are now 20 congregations in the Anglican District of Virginia with 7,500 members and still growing.

Following this testimony came excerpts from the video testimony of the person in this so-called "artwork" (and we still use that term lightly) above. I do have another drawing that looks like something out of Wizard of Oz where I was trying to illustrate all the testimony about "branches" but it frightened me too much to put up. If, after having this chai at Starbucks, I change my mind I'll get it scanned in later and you can see exactly how I was feeling listening to the testimony about branches in the Anglican Communion. Or that I was having a bad hair day. (LATER: Drinking the chai did not help the drawing, so we'll just give you this instead - we were thinking of this, but it turned into something like this - so we'll just leave it in the notebook for now.)

I'm sorting out what to say about that testimony. So stay tuned. What I can say is that is it's way okay to turn your church into a saloon, but don't interfere with the TEC franchise or kaboom - a new sheriff comes to town. Oh, and someone did not agree with this - no, not at all. The yes meant meant no. And now we know.

What Andrew Carey writes here is what we saw - very clearly - on video today in the courtroom. The case was made.

After this particular testimony, the CANA Churches rested their case (with the possibility of calling one more witness next week) and the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia began their case. The Diocese of Virginia counsel presented a short opening statement and then called their first witness, an old friend who serves on the Diocese of Virginia Standing Committee. It was a bittersweet reunion to see him and catch up on his life and his family - we served together on the Truro Vestry , even though the causes of our meeting are sad. He was testifying for the diocese in his capacity on the Standing Committee. I still have not changed my mind of his integrity and his call to be a reconciler. That was so apparent - at least to me - while he was on his stand.

And in one of the portraits of old Fairfax judges that surrounded the room, looking down on him as he testified, was the portrait of his own father. I don't think that was lost on him as he testified and it certainly was not lost on me. And perhaps that was why he was there.

The trial breaks until Monday and should finish mid-day on Wednesday. Please keep praying - now the Episcopal Church starts their case that there is no division in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is just a dream.

Oh, and Steve Waring, call your office.

PS: Alas, that's not Elvis.

LATER: I was driving home tonight from Starbucks where I stopped first after leaving the courthouse and as I drove down the road towards home tears began to fill my eyes suddenly, almost inexplicably. I realized that it broke my heart to see that first witness put on by the diocese and that is exactly why they did it. That was mean - mean, there is no other way to explain it. Of all the members of the Standing Committee, they picked him and perhaps it was to warn him as much as it was to break our hearts. To even see the pain on this witness' face made him a victim as well. He's trying to do the right thing, I understand that. He's trying to find a way for the Diocese of Virginia to get through this and survive. It hurt him to testify. His last words in answering a question about Bishop Lee and the 57-9 churches was to say that he, this witness, is a reconciler (implying he would support the protocol, his law partner was a member of the Special Committee that wrote it). And that is so true. To find him on the stand being the designated person to actually be the one to challenge the Bishop's own protocol's authority was twisted. It was mean. I'll tell you friends, there are wonderful, wonderful people who are in the Diocese of Virginia, including the man who testified on the stand today. But something is really wrong in Richmond and today reminded me of why we voted to separate from the Diocese. Listening to Mr. Yisa's testimony about the fellowship of churches and what they do for one another, not based on legalism but on love, reminded me that there is a new kind of legalism all over the Episcopal Church (if you are not for us, then you are against us) and perhaps that is the real "new thing" after all. But legalism is the death knell to the ministry of reconciliation - as the final witness on the stand today showed in the deep sorrow that was on his face and in his voice. I've known him a long time and that moment, when I looked across the courtroom at him, his father's portrait nearby, was one of the saddest in this whole journey. And that, my friends, was precisely why the Episcopal Church put him there.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee -- and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.

W. Shakespeare

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17


Václav Patrik Šulik said...

They found Elvis?

Anonymous said...

. . . and he's wearing a collar . . .?

Anonymous said...

If you run your cursor over the drawing, it says I guess it is the Presiding Bishop--looks like video testimony perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Ah clever of you "anonymous". Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Is that a date in the left corner- Oct 26 2007?
My tri-focals just aren't helping.

Anonymous said...

Elvis look-a-likes are not accepted at the Briar Patch. They do not seem to do well there.

Robbie said...

I'm a bit confused...

"After this particular testimony, the CANA Churches rested their case "

Was KJS a witness for the defense?

Unknown said...

Katharine Jeffert Schori's testimony from her video deposition (she is out of the country and not able to come to Virginia we were told by the TEC counsel) was for the CANA Churches presentation. She said several things in her deposition - including finally admitting under oath that when asked if she agreed with the Primates Dar es Salaam Comminque after repeatedly being asked (and giving evasive answers) she finally said no. Period.

She also admitted that Bishop Lee could sell properties to anyone, that they could even be turned into saloons, but they could not be sold to other branches - yes, branches - in the Anglican Communion (and guess what the branch is - CANA).

She also admitted that all the litigation against the churches are by her personal order and by no other authority but her own.

She also said an outrageous thing about Living Church's ace reporter, Steve Waring which actually caused a loud gasp in the courtroom when she said it.

We listened to excerpts from her testimony for almost an hour. I don't know that it will be available at Netflix any time soon, but it certainly was compelling testimony and helped the CANA case to show that the Virginia Division Statute is applicable. And so the counsel for the CANA Churches put her video testimony up as their final witness before they rested their case (with one more witness that may be called next Wednesday).

Hope this is helpful. You could hear a pin drop as her video was shown to the court. Except for the gasp.


Anonymous said...

I'm almost afraid of what was said about the Living Church reporter that would cause such a gasp.

Was Steve Waring present for the comment and courtroom reaction?

Anonymous said...

Do you know if anyone is intending to make the video of Mrs Schori available online?

Anonymous said...

C'mon, BB. Don't leave us hanging. At least give us a tiny hint about the nature of what KJS said about Steve Waring. How did Steve Waring come into it at all, anyway?

Unknown said...

The counsel conducting the video deposition asked KJS about a Jan 24, 2007 Living Church article that included information on the litigation in Virginia. The counsel asked KJS if she had made the statement about the litigation.

She said that she didn't recall making the statement to the Living Church reporter. She then said, "This reporter is not historically terribly accurate."

She was then asked who the reporter was and she replied, "Steve Waring."

Well, that caused a gasp in the court room for there were many in the court room who know Steve or have read his articles and know full well he is one of the best reporters on Episcopal Church news beat out there. I was astonished.

When asked, KJS admaitted that that she'd read the article and that she never called Steve up to say she'd been misquoted or that he had distorted what she said and that in fact, she continues to grant him interviews!

The courtroom had been very still until this moment.


Anonymous said...

Was the Steve Waring comment in relation to an Episcopal News Service article in which Katharine Jefferts-Schori refers to the "division" in the Diocese of Virginia? I found the following quote in an article on The Episcopal Church News Service Archives:

Jefferts Schori called on the rest of the Episcopal Church to "remember to pray for everybody involved – those who feel a need to leave and those who remain – to pray that those people and their families can find some peace and remember that communities can reach beyond this kind of division"

It seems so silly to be arguing over whether there's a division or not ... even KJS has referred to the division in the diocese.

Link to full article on TEC News Archives

Unknown said...

Gee, bb, when you mentioned the Wizard of Oz I rather had something else in mind...

Anonymous said...

"finally admitting under oath that when asked if she agreed with the Primates Dar es Salaam Comminque after repeatedly being asked (and giving evasive answers) she finally said no. Period."

This is very serious - Reports from other Primates including Drexel Gomez were that this is not the case - it is one thing what one says to other members of the church but to a Court one is always under the sanction of perjury.

Both versions cannot be true surely, perhaps +John Chew can clarify.

Anonymous said...

Was the article from the mouth piece of the TEC which quotes KJS as using, herself, the term "division" presented in the trial? Do the ADV lawyers know about this article?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the testimony about DeS, it seems clear the presiding bishop fears the secular power of man rather than any judgement from God for her actions. When she was elected, although I am strongly in the reasserter camp, I genuinely hoped she could foster some healing. I sent her regular e-mails informing her that I and other were praying for her. I stood up for her in the Falls Church congregational meeting. I believe still my actions were correct, but my judgement was wrong.


Anonymous said...

Jan 24 2007 article here

There is not quote about litigation, but the following statement is made by Waring in the article.

The rise of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is a further provocation to the territorial integrity of The Episcopal Church, according to Bishop Jefferts Schori, who said the church’s polity has no way of recognizing itself in communion with such jurisdictional entities. The development of rival U.S.-based Anglican dioceses under the oversight of overseas primates was one of the primary reasons she said she is willing to pursue litigation regarding property that both the Diocese of Virginia and 11 departing congregations believe they legally own.

Anonymous said...

and another interesting quote from that Jan 24th 2007 article...

Circumstances have changed since last year, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, when then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told a clergy gathering in the Diocese of Western Louisiana that church property ownership disputes were primarily internal diocesan matters and that nothing in the so-called Dennis Canon prevented a diocese and congregation from reaching an amicable purchase price for church buildings.

So there is confusion in the Episcopal managment about whether property ownership a local matter or not... CANA do your lawyer know aobut this?

Unknown said...

Here's a letter from Jim Oakes, Vice Chair of the Anglican District of Virginia dated Friday, Nov. 16:

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The historic court case that we have all been anticipating is finally here. As I write this, I do not know what the outcome of the legal case will be. The past few days have been interesting, with attorneys presenting our arguments before the court as to why our property indeed belongs to us. Our arguments are persuasive, but I expect that the other side thinks their arguments are persuasive as well. And I understand just enough about our legal system to know that no case is ever a "slam-dunk" for either party. However, several things have become clear to me as I have watched this legal case unfold.

First, we all owe an incredible debt of gratitude to our legal team. As I sat and listened to their opening statement in the courtroom, I was struck by how clear, logical, and articulate they are. We have made our case with honesty and integrity, and have done so without attacking anyone on the other side. I am proud to be associated with these men and women who are representing us, and I think they have represented us to the best of their ability. I am confident they have put forth the best case that can be put forth at this time in this place.

Second, as I read the evidence put forth by both sides, and as I listen to the continuing voices out there, it becomes more apparent to me every day that we are where God wants us to be. I don't know if He wants us to stay in our buildings or not (I hope He lets us stay where we are!), but I am confident that we have been obedient to Him. And since I am secure in that knowledge, I am serene about the outcome. If we lose in secular court, it will be because God has something greater in store for us. And if we win in secular court, it will be because He has something greater for us to do with the resources He has given to us. At the end of the day, God owns the property and He will do what he wants with it.

And that leads me to my third observation - that by listening to God's will, and then by following His commands, we have already won this battle. The courts may decide where we will worship, but we have collectively decided that we will indeed worship Him, and that we will remain faithful to His claim on our lives. And I can't think of a better place to be. If we win in court, we will continue to have our buildings to call home. But regardless of the outcome, we are already victorious in our Lord.

To God be the glory!

Jim Oakes
ADV Vice Chairman

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to get a copy of the Primates Dar es Salaam Comminque to see whose signatures are on it? That would be an interesting exercise if there really are signatures and this is not mearly a "gentleman's agreement."

I am astonished that such an action could be misunderstood by parties so that there would be a disagreement as to whether or not it was signed!

Unknown said...

Here is the account of Covenant Design Committee Chair and Primate of the West Indies Archbishop Drexel Gomez at the 5/16/2007 meeting with the Diocese of Central Florida clergy regarding the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, reported by Canon Gary L'Hommedieu:

One moment in the morning session brought the house to a standstill. In a long series of illustrations of the principle that "Covenant is making promises and keeping promises", Archbishop Gomez related how TEC has earned the distrust of the rest of the Communion. He recalled how former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold had agreed that proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson would "tear the fabric of the Communion at the deepest level," then thirty minutes later told a press conference that the American Church had no intention of canceling its plans to proceed with the consecration a month later.

His next illustration was the real shock. He explained that at the recent Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Archbishop of Canterbury had broken the usual precedent of decision by consensus and required each of the Primates to stand and declare whether or not he (or she) agreed to the text of a Communique that contained the Primates' shared commitments for the future. Each of the 34 Primates said "yes" to the Communique. The American Primate, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, said "Yes, but I'll have trouble selling it" to her fellow American bishops.

The point is, as Archbishop Gomez stressed, she said "Yes." She could have, but did not, issue a minority report. When she returned, and when the House of Bishops Convened in March, Jefferts Schori claimed she had only consented to present the text of the Communique to her bishops. She took no responsibility for agreeing to it. One of the conference participants recalled she had claimed that "she never signed it." Archbishop Gomez cut in: "None of the Primates signed it." The Primates' Communiques are never signed. Their verbal responses are taken at face value. The Presiding Bishop's public statement that she hadn't signed it would appear to be a deliberate misrepresentation of the process.

One of the diocesan clergy stood in stunned amazement, and fluttering with emotion said he didn't realize the extent to which we had been lied to. Bishop Howe stood, and with equal emotion insisted that the Presiding Bishop may very well have believed that she was agreeing to deliver the message and not that she was agreeing to the content itself, and that we should be very careful not to infer that she was lying.

Archbishop Gomez interrupted the Bishop: "Sir, that was not the question she was asked by the Archbishop."

You can read the full account here:


Anonymous said...

So, bb, she testified in the sworn video deposition that she told the ABC "no"?

Or, did she testify that she didn't agree with the Communique -- not as to what she said to the ABC / other Primates at DeS??

Is it too late to call Abp. Gomez as a rebuttal witness?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a pair of pants could be added to the portrait above, suitably aflame?

Anonymous said...

From Selah:

An important issue was raised at SF, and Baby Blue is the best person to address it. Please, bb, do you have an answer to this?

From "Brother Sinner":

Calling all constitional scholars:
Does CANA/ADV represent a ‘protected class’ (religion) when it comes to the disposition of property? Does this apply to disposition of church buildings? What are the triggers? e.g., what if the Diocese/ECUSA said it wouldn’t sell to a synagogue or mosque? Is the sale by a religious instiution exempt? Under what circumstances would the exemptions apply? e.g. OK to baptists but not to X?

Unknown said...

Sorry 9:59 Anon, but it looks like Hagrid just tossed you out the door.

We show mercy here because we have been shown great mercy.