THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF THE TRIAL
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History, Emeritus
The trial has ended, mercifully. Yesterday, Friday, July 25, was the fourteenth and final day of the trial. To say that this trial has been remarkable would be an understatement. And, finally, we have our three eye-witnesses to thank for their daily reports: Steve Skardon (www.scepiscopalians.com), Holly Behre (www.episcopalchurchsc.com), and the independent diocese (www.diosc.com). I highly recommend Behre's report from yesterday.
There was only one witness yesterday, Mark Lawrence. Lawyer Runyan put him on the stand as a surprise and then proceeded to go over his history as bishop of the dioceses. Lawrence testified that no one ever asked him to take the diocese out of TEC. They did not have to do that. He had made his attitude to TEC very clear in word and deed before he became bishop. He also said he tried to keep the diocese in TEC. I do not have space here to go into all of that. I'll just say that to me the facts strongly suggest a gradual removal of the diocese from TEC; and I think a longer explanation will make that clear. I am working on just such a manuscript. I do not believe that the removal of the majority of the old diocese from TEC was a random accident.
Runyan also implied in his questioning that TEC had not treated Lawrence fairly. It is absolutely not true that TEC treated Lawrence unfairly. The facts on this are very clear. Church leaders went out of their way to please Lawrence, all to no avail. The Presiding Bishop was foremost in this effort. It was Lawrence who broke away from the Episcopal Church, and he did so voluntarily when he announced such to the Presiding Bishop by phone on October 17. He made it retroactive to October 15 because of the standing committee resolution of October 2 that required the diocese, including the bishop, to "disassociate" from TEC upon "any action of any kind against The Bishop." The special convention of November 17 was only a formality to amend the diocesan constitution and canons. Lawrence could have stayed in TEC and even been cleared easily by the Presiding Bishop if he had sent her a letter of explanation. He refused.
As the judge ended the trial at 3 p.m., she said it would be at least ninety days before she gives a ruling. She also said, "this has been one of the joys of my life." It was an astonishing end to an astonishing fourteen-day trial.