Ruth Gledhill just yesterday (November 8) reported that Tony Blair will become a Roman Catholic by Christmas, at least if her and other prognostications hold. Sometimes Ruth's comments are tender. This one is not.
It got me to wondering again about other conversions following retirement. The retired Bishop of Albany, Bishop Herzog was converted to Rome, following retirement. Bishop Pope of Fort Worth the same, twice. Bishops Bena and Fairfield were convinced that The Episcopal Church had lost its way and converted themselves into Church of Nigeria and Church of Uganda bishops.
Now retirement proceeding conversion has certain niceties built in: pension is at full flood, political fall-out, at least for the person undergoing conversion is limited, accountability to the "old" is reduced. Both Mr. Blair and the good bishops of the Episcopal Church would have had to face into much more difficult issues had they converted while in office. On the other hand it might well have been more honest.
Bishop Steenson, of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, did the much more difficult, and I think more honorable thing. He came to the conclusion that he was convinced of the need to become Roman Catholic and asked the House of Bishops to be relieved of his ministry as an Episcopal Bishop. He did not wait for the next years to go by so that he had greater pension benefits, he did not avoid the political and pastoral repercussions of his leaving, he held himself accountable for the pledges he made at ordination.
The retired or resigned Mr. Blair and the retired bishops of Albany and Fort Worth are free to do as they wish, of course. I have no doubts about their convictions and having the courage of those convictions. Yet somehow it is odd that Mr. Blair and the good bishops acted only after retirement. It is a bit like being willing to face the lions only after they have been well fed.
As for the retired bishops who join other Provinces who have broken communion with The Episcopal Church - they are another matter. They, it appears, have gone to join the lions.
I am sure there are opinions on this.