Bishop Bennison to retire at end of 2012

The Episcopal News Service confirms Preludium's sense that things were afoot in the Diocese of Pennsylvania regarding Bishop Bennison.  According to ENS Bishop Bennison will retire at the end of 2012. Read the whole ENS report HERE. 

The notice of his decision came by way of two letters to the Diocese, one from Bishop Bennison and one from the Chair of the Standing Committee, The  Rev. Ledlie Laughlin.  Here are the two letters:

From Bishop Bennison:


240 South Fourth Street ∙ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106

October 9, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On October 1, the Rev. Ledlie Laughlin, the President of the Standing Committee, informed me that the Committee wishes to elect a Provisional Bishop for some period following my retirement, rather than having me call for the election of a Coadjutor, or having the Diocese elect a Diocesan who would be consecrated on the day of my retirement. 

I believe that the interests of the Diocese are best served if the process envisioned by the Standing Committee begins sooner rather than later, and therefore I have informed the Committee that I will retire on December 31, 2012.

I will do so in the confidence that my work is done. Across the Diocese our congregations, not least our mission churches, have attracted outstanding clergy for their ministries.  The Dean and Chapter have made remarkable progress with the Cathedral Development Project, and the Standing Committee has agreed to relocate the Bishop’s Office there, once it is completed.  The members of the Diocesan Staff are outstanding in their skill and dedication. Wise, visionary, and committed leaders – clergy and lay – serve our Diocesan ministries and governance bodies. Our Diocesan financial house is in the best order ever.  The bonds of unity within the Diocese and with the Episcopal Church are strong.  Our witness to Christ’s love and to social justice remains undiminished.

For the privilege and joy of serving as your Bishop, I shall always be profoundly grateful.  I have loved my work, and I have loved each of you. Please pray for me, and know of my prayers for you. May the love of Christ hold sway in all our hearts now and always.


Charles E. Bennison, Jr.

From The Rev. Ledlie Laughlin


240 South Fourth Street ∙ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106

October 9, 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Bishop Bennison has informed the Standing Committee of his intention to resign effective December 31, 2012. We are making plans now to honor his tenure as our Bishop during the upcoming Diocesan Convention and we will share those with you as soon as possible.

The Standing Committee has concluded, in consultation with the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews, the Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development in the Episcopal Church, that the best interests of our Diocese will be served by the prompt election of a Provisional Bishop to serve as our Ecclesiastical Authority during the upcoming time of transition while we go through the process of electing a new Bishop Diocesan. (A “provisional bishop” exercises the full authority of a diocesan bishop but is elected to serve for a set period of time, generally as an interim between bishops. As a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff, Bishop Matthews assists dioceses through pastoral transitions and the election of bishops). It is our intent to hold a Special Convention to elect a Provisional Bishop in early 2013 and we have asked Bishop Matthews to start the process of identifying possible candidates for this position.

The Standing Committee, working collaboratively with other Diocesan Leaders, will articulate basic goals for diocesan health and vitality that we may all address during this upcoming time of transition, determine how long our Provisional Bishop should be asked to serve, and will prepare a job description which Bishop Matthews can use to identify candidates. We will present a comprehensive timeframe at our Diocesan Convention. We hope you will share with us your wisdom and concerns as we move forward.

Looking ahead, please be assured that the Standing Committee intends to engage other Diocesan Leaders in decision making, work in close consultation with the office of the Presiding Bishop, and provide timely communication to the entire Diocese so all of us may be fully engaged in this vital next chapter of our common life.

 With faith in Christ,


The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin

President, The Standing Committee

With The Rev. Dr. Samuel Adu-Andoh, The Rev. W. Franklin Allen, The Rev. Kathryn Andonian, Mrs. Jane Cosby, The Rev. Sherry Crompton Deets, Mr. Christopher Hart, Ms. Jo Ann B. Jones, Mr. Norman M. McCausland, Ms. Arlene McGurk

It is time for the Diocese of Pennsylvania, one of the great dioceses of The Episcopal Church, to move on. 

It has been clear for some time that the leadership of the Diocese has wanted Bishop Bennison to resign. While there may have been mixed feelings about Bishop Bennison, his ability to effectively lead the diocese was strongly compromised by his past actions and an ecclesiastical trial.  The details of those actions and the trial are well known and the ENS article points the reader to pertinent materials. There is no need here to say more about that history except to say that Bishop Bennison and the people of the Diocese have had a rough go of it for a long time. 

There is considerable wreckage in the fast lane, and some of the worse is found when a pastor, for whatever reason, continues in a pastorate when the sheep have become wary of the guidance and nurture given by the pastor. 

It is true for parish clergy, it is true for bishops.  At some point pastors need to realize they are no longer welcome in too many homes, no longer called on in times of trouble, no longer trusted in things spiritual or material.

Unfortunately the reality of this has very little to do with the justice of the charges or complaints against the pastor. 

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, the Dean of the Cathedral in New Orleans was accused of having an inappropriate relation with (I think) his secretary. But behind the accusation was the reality that the Dean had the audacity in the mid '50's to suggest that segregation must come to an end and that the emerging civil rights movement was vital to the health of the nation. Whether or not he had such an inappropriate relation turns out to have been of little import. The fact was that he stood accused - on the surface of one thing, underneath another.  The bishop, to his credit, supported the Dean. But at the last the Dean determined that his pastoral abilities were compromised to the point where he could no longer be the pastor needed in that place and time. So he resigned.

Our family was saddened and my father offered his family our summer home for a year while they searched for another position.  

I realize then what I have seen many times since: in some ways it is not justice that is the guiding factor in such situations, it is the pastoral reality.

The pastoral reality is that it is time for the Diocese to move on.  God's Grace be with them in their journey, and with Bishop Bennison in his. 

1 comment:

  1. In any situation, guilty as charged or not, all most of us really want for ourselves and those we care about is mercy. For those we don't love so much we clamor for justice. Our expression of Christianity suffers when we don't temper our quest for Justice for those we deem guilty with the Mercy that extends the grace of God in both directions. Thanks, Mark, for your real-life analogy that reminds us that sometimes the stones we cast bounce back and hit the thrower!


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