Yesterday, March 12th, there were news items concerning two bishops in The Episcopal Church whose sad condition says something about the cost of office and the isolation that sometimes comes.
Bishop David Bane, resigned of Southern Virginia, has for three years been without a new call to minister in The Episcopal Church. According to The Living Church he was essentially shunned. Now he had decided to quit TEC and join the Province of the Southern Cone on a temporary basis and take up new ministry in the emerging Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), assisting its Archbishop to be, Robert Duncan, deposed bishop of TEC.
Bishop Bane leaves a church that apparently had no place for him to join a religious organization not yet fully formed. ACNA may not ever be recognized as a Province or regional church by the instruments of the Anglican Communion but if it is it will be at the expense of the Anglican Communion as it is presently constituted. So Bishop Bane may well be leaving one place of exile for another.
Bishop Charles Bennison, inhibited Bishop of Pennsylvania, has been tried in ecclesiastical court, convicted and sentence of deposition has been imposed. He is now appealing the sentence and an appeal court for the trial of a bishop will have to hear his case. At this point there is no question of his conviction, only of his punishment. His attorney will be making the case that the sentence is unwarranted. The ENS article on this notes that "The bishop's attorneys emailed a statement to Episcopal News Service on Feb. 4 expressing disappointment at the court's refusal to modify "the unwarranted sentence of deposition" it had imposed."
Should the appeal be heard and accepted some lesser sentence could be imposed, the case could be returned to the trial court, or the Review court could make its own judgment. But in any case there seems to be almost no condition under which Bishop Bennison could return to the diocese as Bishop. For that to happen the Court of Review would have to completely throw out the findings of the trial court, both as to sentence and as to judgment. Whatever the legal outcome, Bishop Bennison has used up his reserves of authority.
Bishops Bane and Bennison have lost their place of call. This is a sad business. Bishop Bane may find new call in ACNA, but the call of that religious organization is not at all clear. Bishop Bennison may find some way out of deposition, but where that will leave him in the House of Bishops or in TEC is unclear and where he might exercise ministry is painfully unclear.
There is always light and life, but it is not always found by insisting on a particular ministry to which we were once called. There is life after being a bishop, I suspect, just as there is life after being a priest or deacon or any other office or call in the church.
We have life and light by being followers of Jesus Christ, not by being in this or that particular order of ministry. After the sadness perhaps there is joy to be found. May they find that joy and may we all.