Category : TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Jeremy Bonner on the recent Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention

The teachings by Bishop Lebhar and his wife Marcia represented one of the high points of the convention. Conflict in churches, he told the assembly, is “a major problem for American Christians. We go shopping for non-conflict churches ”“ good luck!” We are generally viewed as failures if we’re involved in conflict, and yet sometimes conflict is a necessary part of our spiritual growth. Often the problem is not so much with the information that we gather on a problem but how we interpret it, and it is in the white heat of interpretation that conflict flourishes. In a conflict situation, the default position for those who are afraid is to cling to the familiar rather than to trust in God’s power to preserve us from even the worst of situations. God’s purpose in difficult times is both to humble and to test. Often our preference is to relieve pressures rather than have the inner workings of our hearts revealed. Members of his Diocese were all obliged to go through a process of coming to terms with their lack of control and of learning to forgive their detractors.

Marcia Lebhar later took up the theme of trust with a reflection on the reality of the paucity of water in Canaan as compared with the Israelites’ experience in Egypt. The heart of idolatry is the insistence on a “Plan B” and God has prepared a new Anglican for ACNA that its members must expect on God’s terms. Finally, and at the close of proceedings Bishop Lebhar, introduced the imagery of the challenge posed to Judaism posed by the Romanized culture of Herod the Great’s Caesarea and the warning to the infant Christian Church given by the Epistle of Jude, namely of cultural surrender. “Many Americans,” said, “have become co-dependent on the culture.” His greatest fear for ACNA is that today’s vitality will weaken and acculturation make its way in, for if we acquiesce to the prevailing culture we cannot save those now imprisoned by it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Phil. Inquirer) Defrocked Episcopal priest loses bid to retain Philadelphia Area parish

A Episcopal priest defrocked by the local diocese must step down as rector of his Rosemont parish and vacate the premises after 21 years there, a Montgomery County Court judge has ruled.

The Rev. David Moyer, 60, said Wednesday that he was saddened by Judge Stanley Ott’s decision but would abide by his order to leave the Church of the Good Shepherd. He said he hoped to become a Roman Catholic priest.

An outspoken critic of liberal trends in the Episcopal Church, Moyer was defrocked in 2002 by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania after he agreed to become a bishop in a small, conservative Anglican denomination.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

ENS–Pennsylvania Convention calls on bishop to leave

The 227th annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, by a vote of 341-134, has asked Bishop Charles Bennison Jr. to “resign immediately.”

A resolution containing the request also said that Bennison “does not have the trust of the people and clergy of the Diocese of Pennsylvania to continue to serve as their bishop.”

Bennison made no comment on the resolution after it passed.

Passage of the resolution came hours after Bishop Paul Marshall of the neighboring Diocese of Bethlehem wrote to Bennison and the convention, calling on him to resign and suggesting that convention participants urge Bennison to leave.

“You need to realize, I humbly submit, that you are the premier diocese of the Episcopal Church in this Commonwealth, and arguably (along with Connecticut) the mother diocese of our church in this country,” Marshall wrote. “It matters to the rest of us, and to the world, how you get along. It is not a confession of sin to admit that things have not worked out well, but it is surely a matter of empirical evidence.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

An ENS Article on the Ongoing Dispute between the Bishop and Diocese in Pennsylvania

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Standing Committee writes another Letter to Bishop Charles Bennison

As the diocese prepares to come together in convention, and as the hard facts of the Program Budget shortfall become evident to the diocese, we are extremely concerned that your apparent insistence on putting everything back the way it was before you left will cause a large number of parishes to hold back funding to the diocese, both assessments and pledges. The Standing Committee continues to hear from people in the diocese daily, through letters, emails, and phone calls, concerning your return. About 85% of these communications are negative. When it becomes clear to more and more that you want to move us back to some vision of your own, we are afraid that this will add to the potential “revolution” in the diocese.

Bishop, we ”“ i.e., you, the Standing Committee and all the leadership of the diocese ”“ are not here to affirm our own personal vision but to help guide and support the diocese in determining a shared vision. Can we please let that work go forward without throwing obstructions up, creating dissent through distrust and misinformation, and investing heavily in anything that will stretch the finances of the diocese beyond anything realistic and cause more and more parishes to withhold funds.

Finally, and perhaps most shocking of all, we have been made aware of what you said at Diocesan Council on September 25, 2010, concerning the witnesses at your trial: “It is known now that all the witnesses at my trial intentionally perjured themselves.” These are shocking words, and words which we feel you need to address immediately. Can you possibly have meant what you said? If so, this is one more indication of a serious problem. You have managed to ignore or discount the opinions and conclusions of three courts, two Presiding Bishops, the House of Bishops, and untold numbers of lay and clergy in the diocese of Pennsylvania, and now all the witnesses at your trial. We find it amazing that you are able to think that this is in any way normal behavior.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

RNS: Embattled Philadelphia Episcopal bishop says he won't resign

The embattled Episcopal bishop of Philadelphia is defiantly refusing to resign, saying his three years of “suffering” through various church trials has “strengthened” his ability to lead his diocese.

Bishop Charles Bennison was removed from ministry in 2007 after being charged with “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.” He was found guilty in 2008 for failing to investigate or discipline his younger brother and former fellow priest John Bennison for an affair with an underage parishioner in the 1970s.

He was reinstated as bishop in August after a church appeals court ruled the statute of limitations on the charge had expired.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

ENS–Pennsylvania Bishop declines request to resign

Saying he has “always been, innocent of the charges against me,” Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison announced late Sept. 22 that he would not honor his colleagues’ request that he resign his position.

Bennison, via a statement e-mailed to Episcopal News Service by his publicist, said that he hoped “the suffering I have endured during the past three years has strengthened me and will enable me to work for reconciliation within the diocese.”

The House of Bishops announced their request at the end of their Sept. 16-21 fall gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. In a lengthy and strongly worded “mind of the house” resolution, they said they were “profoundly troubled by the outcome of the disciplinary action” against Bennison, and had concluded that his “capacity to exercise the ministry of pastoral oversight is irretrievably damaged.”

Read it all and make sure to follow the link to Bishop Bennison’s whole response.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

House of Bishops Action on Charles Bennison

(The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs)

[September 21, 2010] The House of Bishop of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Phoenix, AZ, approved the following resolution:

Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord. As the bishops of The Episcopal Church, bound by solemn vows to share in the governance of the whole church, guard its unity, and defend those who have no helper, we are committed to safeguarding the dignity of every person entrusted to our care. We are devoted especially to the care of the young, the weak, and those most vulnerable among us. Because of the depth of these commitments, long held among us, we are profoundly troubled by the outcome of the disciplinary action against the Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, The Right Reverend Charles E. Bennison, Jr.

In a lengthy judicial process Bishop Bennison was found guilty on two counts of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy during a lengthy judicial process. Subsequently, the Court of Review reversed one count, upheld one count, but vacated the sentence because the statute of limitations had expired. We respect the decision of the Court of Review and we share their disappointment and find the ultimate resolution of this matter unsatisfactory and morally repugnant. The wholly inadequate response of our brother bishop to the sexual assault upon a minor is an inexcusable violation of his ordination vows. We note here two excerpts from the decisions of the ecclesiastical court:

The tragedy of this conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy is exacerbated by the fact that, during the trial of the case, Appellant testified that, upon reflection on his failure to act, he concludes that his actions were “just about right.” They were not just about right. They were totally wrong. Appellant’s testimony on this subject revealed impaired judgment with regard to the conduct that is the subject of the First Offence and that is clearly and unequivocally conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. (Court of Review, page 25).

”¦ we find that Appellant committed conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. Because the statute of limitations has run on that offense, we have no choice under the canons of the Church but to reverse the judgment of the Trial Court finding that Appellant is guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy . . . (Court of Review, page 38).

The bishops of this church stand in unequivocal solidarity with anyone who has been sexually abused or mistreated by a member of our clergy or by any member of our church. We apologize, out of the depths of God’s compassion for every human being, to the woman who has been victimized by Bishop Bennison’s lack of responsible action, and to all those who have in any way been hurt by our church. We are deeply sorry and we are committed to consistent discipline for those who bring shame upon the Body of Christ by sinful, demeaning, and selfish behavior that takes from another human being their God-given dignity.

As the House of Bishops, we have come to the conclusion that Bishop Bennison’s capacity to exercise the ministry of pastoral oversight is irretrievably damaged. Therefore, we exhort Charles, our brother in Christ, in the strongest possible terms, to tender his immediate and unconditional resignation as the Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. For the sake of the wholeness and unity of the body of Christ, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and in the church, we implore our brother to take this action without further delay.

This matter has weighed heavily upon the hearts of every member of the House of Bishops and it has been held in prayer not only among us, but by the good and faithful clergy and people of our church. We will continue to pray for Charles, his family, and every person who has been hurt by the church. We pledge to continue to seek God’s guidance and we resolve to lead our church with compassion, justice, and mercy.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Episcopal Bishop's return puts church in a quandary

His wish now to serve out his time as diocesan bishop “is not an ego trip,” he said. “I think I’d always regret that I did not finish what I started.”

What he hopes to achieve is vague, but seems to revolve around preparing his diocese for a new era of Christianity.

“The Episcopal Church is a small but great church,” he said. But with fewer young people identifying themselves by denomination or attending church, Christianity must look toward a “deinstitutionalized” model of faith.

Denominations, including his own, should build partnerships and share resources, he said – not compete for members, prop up failing congregations, or hold on to vacant buildings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

The Diocese of Pennsylvania Standing Committee writes HOD President Bonnie Anderson

The diocese is reeling with emotions and Bishop Bennison’s refusal to confront the truth of what has been determined concerning the findings of his Presentment continues to confuse and confound us. His most recent public communication, his response to your letter of September 1 to the witnesses in his Presentment, continues this pattern of disassociation with what has been determined. He states that “there is nothing in my forty-two-year ordained ministry to indicate that I have ever covered up or looked the other way when I have learned of sexual abuse” flies in the face of the fact that two courts have concluded that he was guilty of “conduct unbecoming a clergy person” in the case brought to light by the Presentment. This, added to his oft quoted remarks that he “has been vindicated,” along with his insistence that his actions at the time were “just about right,” concerns us greatly. He seems not to be able to grasp the reality that while his guilt is “unpunishable” two courts still concluded and stated that he was guilty.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), House of Deputies President, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, Theology

ENS–Pennsylvania Bishop objects to House of Deputies president's letter

Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison has told House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson that a recent letter she wrote about his re-instatement has made his ministry in the diocese “more difficult.”

In a letter dated Sept. 10, Bennison also characterized Anderson’s letter as “so misleading as to raise the question whether you actually read all of the trial evidence on which your statements are based.”

Read it all and follow the link to the text of the actual letter as well.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), House of Deputies President, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

ENS–Pennsylvania Standing Committee asks for help in getting bishop to leave

The members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Standing Committee have asked the leaders of the House of Bishops for their “support and assistance in constructing a way to go forward in this diocese and to secure Bishop [Charles] Bennison’s retirement or resignation.”

Bennison resumed his role as diocesan bishop Aug. 16, some 11 days after the church’s Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop overturned a lower church court’s finding that he ought to be deposed (removed) from ordained ministry because he had engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The review court agreed with one of the lower court’s two findings of misconduct, but said that Bennison could not be deposed because the charge was barred by the church’s statute of limitations….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson Writes the Bp. Bennison Trial Witnesses

(This is an open letter, dated September 1, written in response to the August 20th open letter from witnesses at the trial of Bishop Charles Bennison; I tried to find a copy to link to on Ms. Anderson’s own website and failed–KSH).

September 1, 2010

To Bennison Trial Witnesses:
Julia Alexis, Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real
Martha Alexis, Western Diocese, Anglican Church in North America
Andy Alexis, Catholic Diocese of Sacramento
Maggie Thompson, Episcopal Diocese of Vermont
Rev. Margo Maris, pastor, advocate and editor, Episcopal Diocese of Oregon

I was moved by your letter expressing your pain and frustration over the recent ruling by the Episcopal Church’s Court of Review which has made it possible for the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison to resume the position of Bishop of Pennsylvania. Good people can disagree about how the court interpreted our canons. I believe that most Episcopalians who have followed this case agree that Bishop Bennison’s choice to resume his episcopacy presents significant problems for the Diocese of Pennsylvania and for the wider Church.

I want you to know that I share your hope that the Episcopal Church can be, “a guiding beacon to all people everywhere who are affected in some way by clergy sexual abuse.” I also share your frustration that in your case, and in others, our churches were not “safe sanctuaries” for vulnerable people. And I share your outrage that individuals in positions of authority have been complicit in maintaining a climate of silence and denial that has inhibited our efforts to end sexual abuse within our church.

Like the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Standing Committee, and many diocesan clergy and laity, I wish that Bishop Bennison had the wisdom and generosity of spirit to resign. As bishop he is more likely to deepen divisions and discredit the church than he is to bring healing or advance our common mission. I join the Court of Review in its assessment that Charles Bennison’s handling of the sexual abuse charges against his brother John was “totally wrong.” Bishop Bennison’s lack of remorse about his handling of this situation, and his solipsistic view of what is at stake, concern me deeply.

I have spoken recently with Bishop Bennison, whom I have known for many years. I have also spoken with members of the Standing Committee. I wish I could say that I can imagine a just and speedy resolution to this situation, or for that matter, a satisfying outcome following a protracted campaign, but I do not. It is my prayer that the Bishops of The Episcopal Church, when they are together this month in Arizona, will prayerfully consider this matter and either prevail upon Bishop Bennison to resign, or undertake other measures that lead to Bishop Bennison’s removal from office.

As a result of your letter and those of numerous others, I have turned my attention to considering the steps that our Church might take to prevent this kind of injustice from happening again. In the wake of this decision, it seems essential to address a deficiency in the structures of our Church, namely that there is no means of dissolving the relationship between a bishop and a diocese that find themselves in untenable circumstances. I am also considering the calls coming from many Episcopalians to amend our canons to include clergy and laity on the Court of Review.

In preparation for General Convention, a review of the canons relevant to these concerns is in order. I am presently in consultation with members of my council of advice, deputies and others with particular interest and knowledge in these matters to determine the most expedient and efficient way to proceed in this review.

I wish there were more that I could offer you in gratitude for your bravery in the face of all that you have endured at the hands of our Church. It grieves me to be another person telling you that my hands are tied, and I know the potential remedies that I am proposing may serve the church in the long-term but do nothing to right the wrongs inflicted upon you.

But within our polity, this is what is within my power to do. Please know that I will pursue these issues seriously and actively, and with the support and counsel of others in the church who also find this situation unacceptable.

All of you, and all the people of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, remain in my prayers.


Bonnie Anderson, D.D.
President, The House of Deputies

cc: The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Deputies and First Alternates
The Standing Committee, Diocese of Pennsylvania
The Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison

Update: An ENS story about this appears there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), House of Deputies President, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, TEC Polity & Canons

An Open Letter from Good Samaritan, Paoli to the Church on Bishop Bennison

(Via email–KSH).

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

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Evans on the Charles Bennison Matter–Sins of Omission

Browning is now retired, but his name recently surfaced in an unrelated case. It is alleged that he did not inform secular authorities when he learned in 1993 of allegations against Donald Davis, the former bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania diocese. Davis, who died in 2007, was accused of abusing several minor girls in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

By the time Charles Bennison was a bishop candidate in the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1996, a lot of people wielding power in the Episcopal Church knew of the serious allegations against him and his brother – and they chose to keep quiet. This information could have been decisive in the selection of a diocesan leader.

Allegations of such collusion have, with good reason, long roiled dioceses in the Roman Catholic Church, fueling accusations that church leaders are more interested in protecting their own interests, and those of their colleagues, than in truly protecting victims and prosecuting abusers.

Regrettably, this appears to also have been the case with a number of spiritual leaders in the Episcopal Church, men and women charged with shepherding the weakest and most vulnerable members of the flock.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, Theology