THE FIFTH DAY OF THE TRIAL
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History, Emeritus
We now have three eye-witness reports on the fifth day of the trial, Monday, July 14, 2014. We should all take a moment and express our gratitude to Steve Skardon, Holly Behre, and (Jan Pringle?) for their daily accounts. They are the eyes and ears of those of us who cannot be present in the courtroom. I say a big thank you to all three!
Day five was a continuation of the plaintiffs' (independent diocese) presentation of witnesses from local churches. Representatives from thirteen churches took the stand yesterday to repeat over and over the obviously pre-planned and rehearsed vaudeville act, some with unintentional hilarity. Apparently the repetition was mostly tedious and wearisome. The attorneys did made an agreement to speed up matters by allowing documents to be submitted to the court in batches rather than by very time-consuming individual submission. The plaintiffs did not end their list. They have five more witnesses from local parishes to take the stand today (Tuesday) before the defendants (TEC and ECSC) can start their presentations. We can expect that the Church side will begin its presentation of witnesses today. It will be most interesting to see whom the defendants have called to appear on the witness stand. I expect everyone is waiting to see if the most important person in the room will be sworn in on the stand. If so, I hope our reporters will give a detailed account of his testimony. It is bound to be fascinating. Apparently Judge Goodstein has recognized that the trial may well drag on into next week, a third week in order to give the defendants' equal time. She had planned to finish up by Friday the 18th. That appears to be impossible now.
Skardon reported that the main ever-recurring theme of the witnesses was that their local parishes had never been part of the Episcopal Church. In my opinion, that thought is simply laughable, even if a bit sad in its overreach. However, we have to bear in mind that the testimony is not for us. The testimony is for the benefit of one person, the one judge who is sitting behind the big desk in the courtroom. She alone will render the decision in this case. It is helpful to remember that everything going on in the courtroom is meant to favorably impress the judge.
Amid the humdrum of the repetition, there were several points mentioned in the reports that jumped out at me. One was a report that Canon Jim Lewis (assistant to Bp Lawrence) put pressure on one local church to join in the lawsuit. There had been rumors that diocesan officials pressured local churches to join in, but this is the first hard evidence I have seen that the stories were more than rumors.
Another interesting item was that the land that Good Shepherd stands on in West Ashley was deeded to the church on the condition that the church remain subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Also, apparently Our Savior on Johns Island had a similar stipulation, but the witness from there said that Our Savior never disassociated from the Episcopal Church because it was never part of the Episcopal Church (I'm scratching my head).
Then, there was the testimony of Ann Hester Willis, senior warden at monumental St. Michael's in Charleston. (According to documents of the Standing Committee, Willis was the committee member who moved the adoption of the resolution in the Oct. 2, 2012 meeting "withdrawing accession to Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and withdrawing membership in the Episcopal Church, effective upon 'taking of any action of any kind' against the Bishop." It passed unanimously. It was this resolution that Lawrence announced to the Presiding Bishop on Oct. 17 as the purported legal basis of the disassociation which under the terms of the resolution would be noon of Oct. 15, the moment the "action" was taken.) Willis made the apparently unintentionally hilarious comment that no one in the leadership of St. Michael's had ever read the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. One might wonder why people felt the necessity to leave officially an institution in which they were never a part (still scratching my head).
On one last small point, thank you to Jan, or whoever is writing the independent diocese's daily reports. The original four propaganda points at the end of the report are down to two in Day Five, the least offensive ones (the Diocese was founded in 1785, and the Diocese has been recognized by Anglicans). The two sides are opponents but they should not be enemies. Reducing the shouting on both sides is a step in the right direction. I think when all this unpleasantness is over, everyone (including myself) should be able to look back and say we all did our best to be Christians.