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