NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the testimony of the Rev. Dr. John Yates, Rector of The Falls Church, in the Fairfax Circuit Court on Wednesday, Nov. ,2007. It is well worth the read. More of the court documents will be up shortly at the Anglican District of Virginia website here. Stay tuned. I have not had the time to take out the line numbers, so just set those aside as you read. This is the story of the Protocol for Departing Churches in the Diocese of Virginia until the new sheriff arrived.
TRANSCRIPT OF DAY 2 OF TRIAL
11 FAIRFAX COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
12 4110 Chain Bridge Road
13 Courtroom 5E
14 Fairfax, Virginia 22030
15 Wednesday, November 14, 2007
6 BY MR. FARQUHARSON:
7 Q Reverend Yates, in the time period we’re
8 talking about, 2004 after the issuance of the Windsor
9 Report, what was happening at the Diocesan level in
10 Virginia regarding these events?
11 A It was about that time that, in the Diocese
12 of Virginia, the Bishop appointed a Reconciliation
13 Commission to give attention to the rising level of
14 concern about these issue that we’re talking about.
15 And this Reconciliation Commission, as I
16 understand it, was made up of folks from different
17 perspectives coming together to attempt to find a way
18 through this time for the Diocese.
19 Q To your knowledge, was the establishment of
20 the Reconciliation Commission an attempt to address
21 the divisions in the Diocese of Virginia?
22 A Well, this was around 2004, I believe?
1 Q That’s correct.
2 A There were churches leaving around the
3 country. There was concern about this in the Diocese
4 of Virginia. And so there was a recognition that such
5 strong feelings were held on this that opinions were
6 not likely to change, and there was concern that this
7 would lead to churches leaving the Episcopal Church
8 and leaving the Diocese.
9 Q And after the Reconciliation Commission
10 issued its report, what occurred at that point?
11 A You know, we’ve had so much going on, it’s
12 hard to keep straight exactly what happened when.
13 But I believe the report was issued in January of
14 2005, I think. And not long after that, various ones
15 of us, clergy, had private meetings, group meetings
16 with the Bishop expressing concern about this.
17 And in September of 2005, I Chaired a group of
18 about 25 clergy that met for an afternoon with Bishop
19 Lee. We wanted to — we wanted to be sure that he
20 understood the extremely high level of intensity that
21 we were experiencing in our churches over these
1 Members were leaving our churches, a number had
2 left, others were saying that they were going to
3 leave. Many people were talking about churches
4 leaving the Episcopal Church at that point, and our
5 concern was that we wanted to be sure that Bishop Lee
6 really understood the seriousness of the level of
7 concern that we were all dealing with pastorally in
8 our parishes.
9 Q Can you recall any of the other clergy
10 members who met with you and Bishop Lee in September
11 of 2005?
12 A Yes. I don’t have a list with me, but I
13 could remember several who were there.
14 Q And who do you recall being there?
15 A Martyn Minns from Truro; John Guernsey;
16 David Harper; I believe Robin Ralph from Epiphany
17 Church was there; Nicholas Lubbefeld; I believe David
18 Jones from Haymarket. If you really pushed me, I
19 could probably come up with some more.
20 Q I think that’s sufficient.
21 A There were about 25 there, almost all
1 Q Did those clergy share your concerns that
2 were being expressed to Bishop Lee?
3 A Yes, they did. And they were given an
4 opportunity to express their concerns, and the height
5 of emotion was quite moving at that meeting.
6 Q And what was the result of the meeting in
7 September of 2005 with these clergy and Bishop Lee?
8 A Well, on behalf of the group, I made a
9 request of Bishop Lee asking if he would appoint a
10 special diocesan committee to give attention to this
11 rising threat of division in the Diocese. I knew that
12 Rectors were talking about — some Rectors were
13 talking about the possibility of leaving the Episcopal
15 There had been a number of most unfortunate
16 developments within the denomination around the
17 country where groups of churches and individual
18 churches had begun to take steps to leave the
19 Episcopal Church, and the result had been unfortunate
20 publicity, ungentlemen-like behavior, unChrist-like
22 We’ve always had a great concern in Virginia that
1 when we had to deal with difficult differences, we
2 dealt with them in a way that would be pleasing to
3 Christ. We felt that attention needed to be given to
4 the possibility that some churches would leave. We
5 did not want this to be an occasion for criticism for
6 the cause of Christ in Virginia. We did not want it
7 to lead to lawsuits. We did not want it to lead to
8 difficult public confrontations.
9 Q And did that committee have a name? Did
10 that take on a name?
11 A It came to be known as the Special
13 Q And that was, I believe you testified, was
14 established by Bishop Lee, correct?
15 A Yes, that’s right.
16 Q And who was on the Special Committee?
17 A Bishop Lee appointed Russell Palmore, who is
18 the Chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia; Carolyn
19 Parkinson, a Rector from the Plains; and Andrew
20 Merrow, a Rector from Arlington.
21 And he asked me to choose three people to serve
22 on the Committee, as well. And I asked Hugo
1 Blankenship, Former Chancellor of the Diocese of
2 Virginia, from Fairfax; I asked Tom Yates, a former
3 Vestry member of Truro Church; and I asked a number of
4 other clergy if they would serve, and they all told me
5 that they thought I should serve. And so I
6 volunteered myself as the third member of our group.
7 So there were a total of six of us; three that I
8 chose, three that the Bishop chose.
9 Q Reverend Yates, will you please describe for
10 the Court the work of the Special Committee?
11 A We began to meet, I believe, before the end
12 of that year. And we met, the six of us, every three
13 to five weeks from December of 2005 through September
14 of 2006.
15 Q And was the Special Committee tasked with a
16 particular assignment or assignments?
17 A Yes. Yes, we were.
18 Q And what were those?
19 A There were really two tasks before us. We
20 were seeking to discern in what ways we could maintain
21 a sense of common mission in our time of division, and
22 we were also seeking to discern if there was a way
1 that, should a church seek — should a church decide
2 that they wanted to leave the Episcopal Church, we
3 were trying to discern a way in which that decision
4 could be reached and that step could be taken that
5 would be done in a fair way that was reasonable and
6 would be acceptable to all those involved.
7 Q And who provided these tasks to the Special
9 A Bishop Lee.
10 Q Reverend Yates, at some point the Special
11 Committee completed its work; is that right?
12 A Yes. We completed our work in, if I
13 remember right, it was in August of that year. And we
14 asked for a meeting with Bishop Lee. That meeting
15 took place in mid-September.
16 Q And that would be which year, Reverend
18 A 2006.
19 Q So just to get the timeframe correct. The
20 meeting and the request to establish this Special
21 Committee was in September of 2005, correct?
22 A That’s right.
1 Q And then shortly thereafter the Committee
2 was established.
3 A And began to meet.
4 Q And about a year later —
5 A Yes.
6 Q — finished its work. Thank you. I’d like
7 you to turn in your book, Reverend Yates, to
8 Exhibit 67, please.
9 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, may I
10 approach to help him find it?
11 THE COURT: Yes.
12 MR. FARQUHARSON: Thank you. Maybe we
13 can use what’s on the screen.
14 Q Reverend Yates, it’s a little bit tight
15 there on the screen, but can you make that out?
16 A Yes.
17 Q Okay. Can you tell the Court what
18 Exhibit 67 is, please?
19 A This is the Special Committee Members’
20 report dated September 23rd, 2006. If I remember
21 correctly, this — if I remember correctly, this was a
22 draft, and I believe that we met with the Bishop a few
1 days later, and I think perhaps the report we gave him
2 was dated three days after this. It might have been
3 slightly different, but I don’t remember.
4 Q Reverend Yates, do you recall how Exhibit 67
5 came to be drafted?
6 A Yes. During the summer of that year, we
7 were seeking to come up with a recommendation, and
8 various members would put pen to paper and offer
9 possible approaches.
10 And towards the end of the summer our Chairman,
11 Russell Palmore, brought these thoughts together and
12 he wrote — he put together this final report.
13 Q Was there a chief or lead author of
14 Exhibit 67?
15 A Yes. Mr. Palmore was the lead author.
16 Q Was the Committee given an opportunity to
17 make changes or revisions to the Special Committee
18 report that was circulated on September 23, 2006 prior
19 to its submission to Bishop Lee on September 28th,
21 A Yes.
22 Q Reverend Yates, can I direct your attention
1 to the first paragraph of Exhibit 67?
2 A Yes.
3 Q And the one that begins with, “We are the
4 six members.” Do you see that?
5 A Yes.
6 Q Can you read that please for the Court?
7 A “We are the six members of the Diocese of
8 Virginia serving on a Special Committee to help
9 reconcile the divisions within our Diocese. The
10 members of the team appointed by the Bishop of
11 Virginia, Peter James Lee, are comprised of three
12 laity and three presbyters. We have been charged with
13 helping congregations continuing in conflict over the
14 decisions of the 2003 General Convention get on with
15 their mission in as close a union as possible with the
17 Q Do you have an understanding as to what the
18 meaning or purpose of that paragraph was in the report
19 identified as Exhibit 67?
20 A Yes. I think it was an effort to say that
21 we are now in a time of serious division, and we want
22 to do everything we can to continue working together,
1 and we want to discuss this and see where it leads.
2 Q I direct your attention now to the third
3 paragraph beginning, “During these nine months.”
4 A Yes.
5 Q Can you read that paragraph for the Court,
7 A “During these nine months, the “bonds of
8 affection” amongst the six of us have deepened
9 significantly. Even as we candidly and regretfully
10 acknowledge that we may be entering a period in the
11 history of the Anglican Communion when we, the Church,
12 the Body of Christ, will be walking the way of the
13 cross together but apart.”
14 Q Reverend Yates, was that the sentiment of
15 the entire Committee?
16 A We all agreed to that, yes.
17 Q Let me ask you to turn to the second page of
18 Exhibit 67. Do you see the top of this page? What is
19 the name of this page?
20 A “Protocol for Departing Congregation.”
21 Q And what was the purpose for including a
22 protocol for departing congregation in the Special
1 Committee report?
2 A Well, it was clear that there was a
3 possibility that some churches might choose to part
4 from the Episcopal Church. And the desire was to
5 develop a way in which this might take place that
6 would be peaceful, orderly and acceptable to those
7 leaving and those in the Diocese of Virginia.
8 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, we would
9 offer Exhibit 67 into evidence at this point.
10 MR. SOMERVILLE: I have to object to
11 that, your Honor. This document is replete with
12 religious doctrine. You can’t stay out of the thicket
13 and admit this in evidence.
14 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, I believe
15 the exhibit is admissible for the purpose of showing
16 the status of the division, the understanding by all
17 involved that separation either had taken place or was
18 imminent, and it goes to show that they even had a
19 plan for how congregations could leave.
20 So I think the Court is able to set
21 aside any of the religious statements in the document,
22 which you would fully expect to find in such a
1 document, and consider only those portions that relate
2 to the secular aspects of the congregations and the
3 problems in the Diocese that were resulting in the
4 need for a protocol to separate.
5 THE COURT: Mr. Somerville, let me ask
6 you a question. Can you turn back to the first page
7 on — I’m not asking you, Mr. Farquharson, but can you
8 turn back to the first page and blow it up a bit?
9 Mr. Somerville, there’s a line in here,
10 for example, which says — it’s not a specific line,
11 but it does describe a separation within the Diocese.
12 Wouldn’t you agree with that?
13 MR. SOMERVILLE: No, your Honor. And I
14 do expect to examine the witness on that question.
15 THE COURT: Let me ask you this. Would
16 you agree that one of the issues before me is whether
17 there is a division within the Episcopal Church?
18 MR. SOMERVILLE: Yes, sir.
19 THE COURT: And if there is evidence
20 being offered of a Special Committee that is
21 appointed, as I understand it, half by Reverend Yates
22 and half by Bishop Lee, and it expresses a separation
1 within the church, wouldn’t that be relevant in the
2 determination as to whether there is a division within
3 the Episcopal Church?
4 MR. SOMERVILLE: Well, this document
5 refers to a division, not to separation. It refers to
6 division. But that does not necessarily mean a
7 division within the meaning of Section 57-9.
8 We heard testimony yesterday of the
9 various meanings of the word division, and this
10 witness has not yet been asked what was meant by the
11 word division in this document.
12 THE COURT: Well, the term protocol for
13 departing congregation, doesn’t that suggest that what
14 is contemplated is a separation? It may not use the
15 word separation, it may use the word separation, I
16 haven’t read it word for word yet, but it’s referring
17 to the possibility of churches departing from the
19 MR. SOMERVILLE: Yes. On a looking
20 forward basis. It anticipates the possibility of
21 separation, I agree with that.
22 THE COURT: And why would that not be
1 relevant to this Court’s determination as to whether
2 there was a division?
3 This is a document, as I understand it,
4 that was created by a committee appointed jointly by
5 both the Diocese and a church representative who is a
6 party to these proceedings.
7 MR. SOMERVILLE: The objection, your
8 Honor, is not that it’s irrelevant, it’s that it is so
9 replete with religious dogma doctrine theology that
10 it’s improper to take it into account in the
11 resolution of civil property disputes.
12 THE COURT: Well, objection is
13 overruled. Document will be admitted.
14 (CANA Congregations Exhibit 67 received into
16 BY MR. FARQUHARSON:
17 Q Reverend Yates, at the time that the Special
18 Committee issued Exhibit 67, the September 23 draft,
19 had congregations in the Diocese left?
20 A That would have been late September, 2006.
21 Yeah, I’m not sure about that. I believe a
22 congregation left soon after that. I don’t remember
1 exactly when that was.
2 Q Do you recall any congregations leaving in
4 A Well, are you asking about throughout the
5 Episcopal Church or just in the Diocese of Virginia?
6 Q Both.
7 A I believe there were a number of churches in
8 the Episcopal Church that had left the Episcopal
9 Church by September of 2006. There was a group in
10 California, there was a group in Connecticut, many
11 individual churches had left, as well. Of course a
12 number had left in the year 2000 with the Anglican
13 Mission of America.
14 Q Thank you. Can you look at Exhibit 126,
15 please? And Reverend Yates, we’re going to have to
16 ask you to look at that electronically, please.
17 Reverend Yates, I believe you testified that
18 Exhibit 67 was a draft that members of the Committee
19 had an opportunity to comment on prior to the final
20 draft, which you thought issued a few days later.
21 I’m asking you to look at Exhibit 126 and tell
22 the Court if Exhibit 126 is the final document that
1 you were referencing in your prior testimony.
2 A Yes, it looks like it.
3 Q Okay. And to whom is the report addressed?
4 A To the Right Reverend Peter J. Lee.
5 Q And what is the date on the report?
6 A September 28, 2006.
7 Q I’d like you to look at the first paragraph
8 of Exhibit 126, please.
9 A Yes.
10 Q I’d like you to read the first — let’s just
11 start and see if we can do just the first sentence of
12 that paragraph to see —
13 A “We are the six members of the Diocese of
14 Virginia serving on a Special Committee to help
15 reconcile the divisions within our Diocese.”
16 Q And is it your — let me ask it this way.
17 Were there any changes to that sentence from the draft
18 to the final report?
19 A I’m not aware of any.
20 Q And let me ask you to turn to Page 2 of
21 Exhibit 126. And it is also titled, “Protocol for
22 Departing Congregation,” correct?
1 A Yes.
2 Q And were there any changes to that part of
3 the document prior to the final issuance of it?
4 A I’m not aware, Paul, if there are.
5 Q Let me ask you to read the first paragraph
6 of the second page under, “Protocol for Departing
8 A “After nine meetings spanning nine months
9 the Committee believes for some members of the Diocese
10 separation from the Diocese and the Episcopal Church
11 is increasingly likely. Accordingly, with a view
12 toward prudence and stewardship the Committee offers
13 the following protocol to departing members including
14 concomitant issues concerning real and personal
16 Q Thank you. And to your knowledge, no
17 changes were made during this revision period to that
18 portion of the, “Protocol for Departing Congregation,”
20 A All I remember is that we were given the
21 opportunity to make changes. I don’t recall if any
22 changes were made.
1 Q Thank you.
2 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, we would
3 offer Exhibit 126 as the final report from the
5 MR. SOMERVILLE: Same objection.
6 THE COURT: All right. It will be
8 (CANA Congregations Exhibit 126 received into
10 BY MR. FARQUHARSON:
11 Q Reverend Yates, after the final report of
12 the Special Committee was provided to Bishop Lee, what
13 happened next with respect to the Special Committee?
14 A That was the end of the work of the Special
15 Committee. We gave the report to Bishop Lee, he
16 accepted it and said he would distribute it to the
17 Diocese, and a number of churches entered into a
18 period of discernment about this matter.
19 Q Did Bishop Lee acknowledge or say anything
20 regarding the final report?
21 A Yes, he did. When we met that day in
22 Fredericksburg and gave him the report, he received it
1 I would say with resignation, but he received it and
2 he said, “Yes, this is a way forward, and I will
3 present this to the Diocese.”
4 Q Reverend Yates, I think you got just a
5 little bit ahead of me. You did say that some
6 congregations engaged in a period of discernment after
7 the issuance of the Special Committee report, correct?
8 A Yes.
9 Q Was the Falls Church one of those?
10 A Yes.
11 Q Were there other congregations?
12 A There were a number of congregations that
13 engaged in the sort of discernment process that was
14 described in the protocol.
15 Q To your knowledge, was the Falls Church and
16 the other congregations, were they following the steps
17 outlined in the protocol?
18 A Yes.
19 Q And the other congregations that you
20 referred to, are they the CANA Congregations?
21 A Yes.
22 Q Were there others entering this discernment
1 process pursuant to the protocol that were not members
2 of the CANA Congregation, to your knowledge?
3 A There may have been. I don’t remember.
4 Q Reverend Yates, with respect to the Falls
5 Church, did the Vestry take any steps in November with
6 respect to the protocol?
7 A Yes. After the Vestry and congregation had
8 participated in an extended period of discernment,
9 meetings, study, prayer, the Vestry of the Falls
10 Church recommended to the congregation that we
11 separate from the Episcopal Church and join the
12 Convocation of Anglicans in North America.
13 Q And did the Falls Church at that point
14 arrange for a vote to be taken?
15 A Yes. The Vestry set aside a period about
16 three weeks later than that in which the congregation
17 was invited to express their opinion about this
19 Q Now, as part of the protocol, did the
20 Diocese have any role in the — either the discernment
21 process, or the election, or the runup to the
1 A Yes. A part of the understanding was that
2 each congregation would hear from Peter Lee or his
3 representatives or documents that he felt would be
4 helpful to us.
5 And we received at Falls Church two
6 representatives of Bishop Lee who addressed the
7 congregation at some length on a Sunday morning prior
8 to our vote.
9 Q Did Bishop Lee send either the Falls Church
10 or members of the Falls Church any correspondence in
12 A There was a letter, I believe, sent by
13 Bishop Lee to members of all churches that were in a
14 period of discernment in which he asked us to consider
15 very carefully the decisions that we were about to
17 Q Can we bring up CANA Exhibit No. 68, please?
18 And again, Reverend Yates, I’m going to beg your
19 patience with us so you can see it on the screen
20 rather than dig through the binders there.
21 This is a letter on Diocese of Virginia
22 letterhead dated December 6, 2006 that’s been marked
1 as Exhibit 68. And it appears to be signed by Bishop
2 Lee. Is this the letter to which you were referring?
3 A Yes, this is the letter.
4 Q And did you receive this letter?
5 A I did.
6 Q I’d like to draw your attention, Reverend
7 Yates, to the second to last paragraph. I think we’re
8 going to get some help blowing that up.
9 A Yes.
10 Q Can you read that for the Court, please?
11 A Yes. “American Christianity has been
12 punctuated over the years by frequent divisions with
13 one group choosing to separate because they believe
14 the separated group might be more pure than their
15 former identity. This has not been characteristic of
16 the way we Anglicans have dealt with differences.”
17 Q Reverend Yates, did you have an
18 understanding based on all of the time you had spent
19 and the work that you had done on the standing — on
20 the Special Committee, excuse me, as to what that
21 paragraph meant?
22 A Yes.
1 Q And what is your understanding of what that
2 paragraph meant?
3 A Well, I saw it as in response to the work of
4 the Special Committee and the fact that there had been
5 churches separating from the Episcopal Church around
6 the country, and he was acknowledging that this is
7 happening, and it had happened in our Diocese, and he
8 was hopeful that there would be no more division.
9 Q And by division, what do you mean?
10 A A congregation leaving the Episcopal Church
11 and joining some other body.
12 MR. FARQUHARSON: Your Honor, we would
13 offer Exhibit 68 at this point.
14 THE COURT: Any objection?
15 MR. SOMERVILLE: No, sir.
16 THE COURT: All right. 68 is in.
17 (CANA Congregations Exhibit 68 received into
19 BY MR. FARQUHARSON:
20 Q Reverend Yates, after you received the
21 letter from Bishop Lee in early December, Exhibit 68,
22 did you have any further communications with Bishop
1 Lee in December?
2 A Yes. Shortly after that letter was sent, I
3 had a meeting with Bishop Lee. If I remember right,
4 the Standing Committee of the Diocese asked to meet
5 with the Rectors and Wardens of churches that were in
6 a period of discernment that had announced they were
7 going to have a vote about staying or departing.
8 And we had a meeting in Fredericksburg with the
9 Standing Committee of the Diocese. I believe it was
10 December 7th. And at the end of the afternoon, Bishop
11 Lee joined us and met with us as a group, and then I
12 and some of the other clergy present met with Bishop
13 Lee privately.
14 Q What was the topic of the conversation with
15 Bishop Lee?
16 A Well, he wanted to express his hope that we
17 would not take this step, that he disagreed with what
18 we were about, and that he communicated to us that
19 there was some changes in the environment by that
20 time. He told us that since the work of the Special
21 Committee had been completed, that a new Presiding
22 Bishop of the Episcopal Church had been installed, and
1 that the new administration brought in a rather
2 different view about division.
3 The former Presiding Bishop had said that in
4 matters of division of churches leaving Diocese, that
5 was going to be left up to the Bishop. But now it was
6 going to be — it was going to become a matter of
7 concern to the national church. The Bishop said
8 there’s a new sheriff in town, the situation is
10 MR. ANDERSON: Objection, your Honor.
11 That’s hearsay.
12 THE COURT: Well, these are statements
13 by Bishop Lee; is that not correct?
14 MR. FARQUHARSON: That is.
15 MR. ANDERSON: Statements partly by
16 Bishop Lee about what the various Presiding Bishops of
17 the Episcopal Church had said.
18 THE COURT: Well, first of all, a
19 statement by Bishop Lee would come in as party
20 admissions, wouldn’t they? Miss Anderson?
21 MR. ANDERSON: I think that’s fair.
22 THE COURT: So they come in as party
1 admissions. And what I heard in the testimony was not
2 that Bishop Lee was quoting somebody else, but what
3 his expectation was based on the presence of a new
4 Bishop. So the objection is overruled.
5 BY MR. FARQUHARSON:
6 Q Were you concerned, Reverend Yates, after
7 that meeting with Bishop Lee that litigation would
9 A I was very concerned. Bishop Lee said we
10 could expect litigation. This was a total departure
11 from the tenor of our meetings over the last year. It
12 was totally unexpected.
13 Q Now, your testimony, Reverend Yates, was
14 that the meeting occurred on or about December 7th of
15 2006. When was the Falls Church vote scheduled to
16 take place?
17 A I believe it was about the 10th of December.
18 I believe we began the voting on December 10th.
19 Q So it was after the meeting with the Bishop?
20 A Yes.
21 Q And did the vote proceed?
22 A It proceeded as planned.
1 Q How did the congregation vote?
2 A About 90 percent of the congregation voted
3 to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the
4 Convocation of Anglicans in North America.
5 MR. FARQUHARSON: I have no further
6 questions, your Honor. Thank you, Reverend Yates.