Bishop Ackerman, diocesan of Quincy, has announced that he will retire November 1, 2008, just one week before the Diocesan Convention in Quincy where a vote will be taken by clergy and lay members of the convention to remove themselves from the Episcopal Church. Read the Living Church article on this HERE.
At the beginning of the year I predicted that
"Several bishops will be removed from the roll of the House of Bishops by deposition without their consent having declared that they are no longer under the authority of the Episcopal Church and its canons. Two will retire early, ask to be relieved of their inclusion in the House of Bishops (a la Bishop Steenson.) They will then declare they are part of some other Anglican agency (a la Bishop Bena) or going to Rome, or just bowing out."
The two I had in mine to retire early were Peter Beckwith of Springfield and Keith Ackerman of Quincy. Bishop Peter Beckwith is nearing mandatory retirement. Bishop Ackerman is 62.
Why did Bishop Ackerman decide to retire? The statement in The Living Church hints at health concerns. But it then quotes the statement from the Bishop to the Standing Committee:
“While Bishop Ackerman is retiring from his administrative duties as executive officer of the diocese, he plans to remain in the area of the diocese for some time and will make himself available, under arrangement with the standing committee, to perform episcopal acts and provide spiritual counsel to member of the diocese, as have Bishop Donald Parsons and Bishop Edward MacBurney [his two immediate predecessors.]"
Whatever the health problems they are not meant to interfere with Bishop Ackerman's continued engagement with the diocese.
One of the two resolutions being considered at this year's Diocesan Synod is this:
Annulling Accession to the Constitution and Canons of
The Protestant Episcopal Church
WHEREAS, the General Convention and leaders of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the
United States (“The Episcopal Church”) have failed to uphold the teaching and authority of
Holy Scripture, have challenged or belittled core doctrines of the Christian faith, have refused to conform to the agreed teaching and discipline of the Anglican Communion, and have rejected the godly counsel of the leaders of our Communion; and
WHEREAS, the Diocese of Quincy desires to remain faithful to Holy Scripture and to the
historic faith and order of the Church as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, and to
preserve its link to historic Anglicanism by considering affiliation with the Anglican Church of
the Southern Cone;
therefore be it
RESOLVED, under the authority and provisions Article II of the Constitution of this Diocese as
adopted in 1993, that this 131st Synod of the Diocese of Quincy, gathered the ____ day of
November, 2008, hereby annuls its accession to the Constitution and Canons of The
Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United
States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church; and be it further
RESOLVED, that by this action the Diocese of Quincy is no longer subject to, nor bound by,
the authority of the Episcopal Church, its General Convention, its officers, councils or agents; and as of this date no actions or asserted claims of the Episcopal Church, or its General Convention, or its officers, councils, and agents, whether for acts or omissions alleged to have occurred before or after the date hereof, shall have any canonical or legal effect upon,or application to, this Diocese, its Bishop, any retired bishop, its clergy, its lay members, or its member churches."
Perhaps the writers of this legislation were simply covering all the bases, but it is mighty convenient that the reference to "any retired bishop" makes it into the resolution. Did they know something when they wrote this resolution?
I believe this retirement is as reported: the result of prayer and deep thought by Bishop Ackerman. I also believe it is deliberate and related to playing out realignment senarios.
Bishop Schofield got deposed months after the fact of the decisions made at the Diocesan Convention in San Joaquin. The situation was messy. Bishop Duncan was deposed prior to the DIocesan Convention in Pittsburgh and while the situation there is confused by the fact that there is an incorporated entity in the hands of the now deposed bishop, matters on the ground are clearer. Now Bishop Ackerman is retiring prior to the DIocesan Convention in Quincy, leaving him, as retired bishop in a somewhat less vulnerable position, or so it would seem. As I said of retired bishops, they can "then declare they are part of some other Anglican agency (a la Bishop Bena) or going to Rome, or just bowing out." Bishop Ackerman can declare that he is part of another Anglican entity - the Diocese of the Southern Cone and by that agency "put in charge" of those who have left the Episcopal Church formerly part of the Diocese of Quincy.
I would guess that he will be accepted into the Province of the Southern Cone as soon as his retirement is effective. His resignation as bishop of Quincy may be effective November 1, 2008, but his resignation from the House of Bishops requires action by the House. So it is still possible for the HoB to depose him if he clearly has abandoned the communion of this Church, that is taken an ecclesiastical position with a Province not in communion with this Church and without the permission of the HoB.
So Bishop Ackerman may be playing out yet another route to realignment.
All of this is of course dependent on the actions of the Synod in Quincy. When they meet they have before them proposals to leave the Episcopal Church and to join with the Province of the Southern Cone. If those pass all the usual consequences will follow. If they do not, then the Bishop is retired and life goes on.
As to Bishop Peter Beckwith's future. Who knows? Some of us have been watching with interest the conversations between Springfield and Quincy, which seem pretty healthy and responsible to the mission of the church. Like Quincy, Springfield has been part of the Anglican Communion Network. But unlike Quincy, the Bishop of Springfield has been less vocal about realignment. I have thought that perhaps Bishop Beckwith would retire and make himself available to the Common Cause Partnership in some way without his diocese necessarily resolving for realignment. We shall see.
But for the moment we have Bishop Ackerman, who is retiring just at the right moment.