Back at Starbucks after a full day of testimony in court. First up was Dr. Paul Julienne who continued his testimony on his service on the Diocese of Virginia’s Reconciliation Commission (see below) and following Paul’s testimony was the Rev. Dr. John Yates, Rector of The Falls Church and member of Bishop Lee’s Special Committee which developed the Protocol for Departing Congregations. John Yates testified on the growing crisis in the Anglican Communion and the division as the fabric of the communion was torn by the actions of the Episcopal Church General Convention in 2003.
It appears (to me, just to me, this is my opinion) that the TEC/Diocese of Virginia counsel were caught by surprise that it was through John Yates testimony that the Windsor Report was presented as Exhibit 61. TEC objected using what is fast becoming the most-talked about “objection” in this case – something called “The Religious Thicket.”
What is the religious thicket? Objections were raised before the trial began that this trial would be impossible to conduct without entering into the “religious thicket” – in other words, entering into debating the merits of the cause of the division in the Diocese and the Episcopal Church – the division over doctrine. With agreement that counsel will avoid entering the religious thicket, it has become the “objection of choice” by TEC to object to exhibits presented by the CANA congregations. It appears that if the word “Jesus” or “God” or heaven forbid “scripture” is used in the document, the document should be excluded as entering into the “religious thicket.”
On that ground (or is that in that brier patch) entering into the record of both Exhibit 61 (the Windsor Report) and Exhibit 67 (the Protocol sent to Bishop Lee which was followed by Exhibit 126, the official Protocol) were objected to on the grounds that they were entering the “religious thicket.” Earlier in the day, the official report from the Diocese of Virginia Reconciliation Commission also raised objections from TEC/Diocese of Virginia on the same ground – that it too was entering the “religious thicket.” In addition, TEC objected to the Windsor Report’s inclusion into the court record maintaining that there really is no Anglican Communion (hints of things to come from the Episcopal Church since we’ve all ready heard that some leaders think the Anglican Communion is just a dream or an idea) and so there can be no official documents of the Anglican Communion (I kid you not). But that objection was overruled.
Since these documents clearly state the nature of the division, the judge overruled all the objections and the Reconciliation Commission Report, the Windsor Report, Bishop Lee’s official draft of the Protocol, and the final of the Protocol (which is basically identical to the draft sent to Bishop Lee, he did not make any changes) were all entered into the court record today.
John Yates spoke of his meetings with Bishop Lee, including the Sept. 2005 meeting with 25 rectors with Bishop Lee sharing from their hearts the depth of the division in the Episcopal Church, of Bishop Lee’s meeting with Special Committee which he personally formed and telling John when he was given the protocol that “yes, this is a way forward.” He talked about how the bishop and the diocesan leadership participated in the congregations period of discernment as they prepared to vote following the protocol. John also spoke of the conversations with Bishop Lee on December 7 when Bishop Lee warned that “a new sheriff was in town” with the recent installation of a new presiding bishop who held different views than her predecessor who believed that dealing with the issues of property was a diocesan issue and not one for 815. After all the work of his Special Committee, it appeared that the Bishop of Virginia had totally departed from the tenor of the meetings of his Special Committee. He threatened litigation, even after the Special Committee had done all they could to avoid that outcome. You could see the sorrow on John Yates face.
Another great moment was when John Yates was being cross-examined by the Episcopal Church counsel. They were trying to get him to affirm that the ultimate authority in the Episcopal Church was the constitution and canons and John would affirm that, but qualify it by adding “under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” And when he was questioned whether he would obey the constitution and canons he said he would “unless they go against the teachings of Christ.” It was extraordinary to hear that affirmation in a court of law, while Lord Fairfax and George Washington and James Madison looked down from their portraits.
The final witness late this afternoon was the official Register of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and elected member of the Anglican Consultative Counsel, Abraham Yisa. He reminded us that Kenneth Kearon is not a member of the ACC but provides secretarial support. I have to say, I enjoyed that moment.
Got on an elevator with a bunch of folks from the CANA congregations, including our Bishop, chatting about the day. At one point the elevator opened before getting to the ground floor and there was Bishop Jones trying to find the exit out of the court house. We cheerfully invited him into our almost full – but still room for one more – elevator and after hesitating a moment, he got in and rode the rest of the way down with us and we left the court together, the Senior Warden of Truro and Bishop Jones chatting politely as we walked down the road and headed home.
For the record, I also want to thank Doug LeMasters, the Administrator of Truro. I realized when I went back to my car during the lunch break that I had left my lights on (it was very foggy this morning) and the battery was nearly dead. He got his portable jumper cables (you don’t even need another car to jump start your car – it’s a compact unit!) and he got the Trusty Turcel going again. Thank God for friends.
NOTE: You can click on the “drawing” (I still use that word loosely) to find what is in the “Religious Thicket.”