3/13/2009

Bishops of Sadness

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.

7 comments:

  1. Mark,

    Beautiful and deep statement in this post, thank you:

    "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."

    Thank you,

    Peter Carey+
    http://santospopsicles.blogspot.com

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  2. Having been a colleague of Bishop Bane's before his election in Southern Virginia, I can only say he is reaping what he sowed. It is very sad, but not a surprise. He may have served the church for 25 years, but his service left a wake of unhappiness and squandered opportunity.

    Mr. Arabin

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  3. The bishops choose actions that will result in their not being part of TEC, but they seem not content to leave peaceably, but rather inclined to break the institution. I suppose they have what they consider to be good reasons, but it seems a shame to me.

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  4. "...inclined to break the institution..."

    In the case of Dr Bennison, how is asking for the full measure of due process doing this?

    Paul Goings

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  5. Paul Goings, he has the right to due process, but, as I see it, he has no chance of being a bishop in the Episcopal Church, so what's the point? He will have his due process, but how can the outcome be different? He's joined another province. Why not just go?

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  6. G.M.,

    Just to be clear...

    Bishop Bennison has not joined another province...you have the two bishops confused. Bishop Bennison is involved with a legal proceeding and is seeking due process.

    As for whether he should do this or not, I'm sure there are many many opinions in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

    Peter Carey+

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  7. My apologies to Bishop Bennison and to all. Indeed, I confused the names of the two bishops. I was speaking of Bishop Bane.

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