An Open Letter to the People of the Episcopal Church, the People of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Bishop Charles E. Bennison, and the Congregation of the Church of the Good Samaritan
August 30, 2010
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
With sadness and concern we learned of Bishop Bennison’s decision to return as Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. We mourn with any young or vulnerable person; we mourn the fear and anxiety in our own diocese; we mourn damage to the proclamation of the good news; we mourn for those whose faith is shaken and for those who may not arrive at faith. We mourn that his actions, past and current, and decisions in this case bring scandal to the Church and hinder the proclamation of the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected.
Within the examination of all who are to be ordained to the priesthood, the ordinand vows to “do your best to pattern your life (and that of your family, or household, or community) in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people.” (Book of Common Prayer 532) As bishop, each is required to vow to “defend those who have no helper” (BCP 518) and to be a guardian (BCP 519, 521) to all in a diocese. Among other qualifications, the bishop must be above reproach (I Tim 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9). Our Lord warned against scandalizing the young (Mt 18:6, Lk 17:2, Mk 9:42-50). The Apostle Paul likewise speaks on the dangers of sexual sin and forbids sheltering any who scandalize the church with such action (1Cor. 5:1-13). Christ’s call is for us to turn away from sin: “”¦ the kingdom of God is near; repent and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:15, Mt 4:17). Holy Scripture proclaims the gravity of the office.
Many have asked Bishop Bennison to step down for the good of the diocese, the wider church and for himself. We join their request and call him to repent of the harm done to individuals and to the witness of the church. A public sign of this repentance would be resignation.
Further, we call ourselves to repent and proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. We urge all members of the congregation of the Church of the Good Samaritan, the diocese, and the Episcopal Church to join us in repentance for our individual sins and for any negligence inside the Church in protecting the vulnerable, scandalizing the young, damaging the witness of the church, and neglecting to proclaim the good news of Christ’s atoning work.
We will celebrate a service for prayer for the state of the church at the Church of the Good Samaritan on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 7 p.m. All are welcome, and if you are not joining us in person, we invite you to join us in prayer at that time.
In faithfulness and prayer,
Vestry, Church of the Good Samaritan
Bob Anewalt, Tom Connett, Rich Englander, Charlene Fitzwater, Joanne Gillespie, Chuck Gregan, Andrew
Krider, Peter Niedland, Steve Ross, John Searle, Brenda Shantz, R.J. Snell, Mark Stockwell, Ronnie Tousignant