vendredi, novembre 16, 2007
My commentary from today's Inky on Bishop Bennison's suspension
Impact of bishop's suspension
The investigation of an Episcopalian leader has wide effects.
> Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and elsewhere have spent the past couple of years engaged in overt and behind-the-scenes conflict focused on the contentious figure of our diocesan bishop, Charles E. Bennison Jr.
> But for any healing to happen in this divided and disenchanted judicatory, we are going to have to turn the analytical lens on ourselves.
> Bennison currently is under ecclesiastical inhibition, or suspension. In articles, he has been dubbed as "disconnected," a "weak Christian," and a man "void of substance" - and that's just a sample from a flood of condemnatory adjectives.
> Why is Bennison forbidden from exercising the office to which he was duly elected by clergy and lay delegates at a special convention back in 1997?
> The bishop was investigated by church authorities at the highest levels of the United States Episcopal hierarchy for allegedly covering up his brother's sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl in the early 1970s. Apparently, there is plenty of evidence to initiate an ecclesiastical trial.
> Prepared by a national church committee, the 12-page presentment (church language for indictment) describes the bishop as "deliberately and systematically concealing" information about his brother's misconduct. Although the bishop may fight the charges, his ecclesiastical future (he could ultimately be stripped of all clergy rank) looks extremely cloudy.
> There also is the possibility of a second presentment on a complaint by the Standing Committee (an elected group of clergy and lay leaders) sent to Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori charging the bishop with using diocesan funds without its consent.
> But for the moment at least, the bishop is gone. And without the distraction of a common foe that brought some very disparate diocesan elements together, we are brought face to face with ourselves.
> As a priest who earns her keep primarily as a writer rather than in a parish setting, I find myself in the odd position of being more an onlooker than a combatant.
> The dangers of our current stalemate are obvious: paralysis, resentment and continued trauma.
> I have talked to a number of clergy around the diocese recently, and they expressed a sense of both betrayal and mistrust.
> While the feeling of mistrust is constant, the target differs, depending to whom one is speaking.
> The upper echelons of the former Episcopal Church leadership have come under fire for apparently not sharing what at least a few of them knew about the Bennison brothers and sexual misconduct allegations 15 years ago.
> The very Standing Committee long publicly at odds with the bishop is under attack for what seemed to some to be its dogged and unyielding pursuit of the bishop.
> Certain conservative and liberal factions in the diocese, temporarily united in their distaste for a common foe, may find that their alliance doesn't last long. A coalition built on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" cannot stand the test of doctrinal disagreements.
> Where can we find healing?
> Asked the best way to repair trust between individuals in the diocesan family, one Standing Committee member spoke of the need to be consistent in telling the truth - whoever the audience might be.
> Another said that moving beyond polarization to genuine dialogue involved prayerful "deep listening," a commitment that he hopes will begin Sunday in an open "Diocesan Conversation" to be held at 3 p.m. at St. Mary's Church, 104 Louella Ave., Wayne.
> Our diocesan dilemma mirrors the crisis currently afflicting both the national church and the Anglican Communion. Bound more by common interests than by shared theology or understanding of authority, it is easy for us to fracture under stress. At that point, we are prone to let our lawyers do the talking for us.
> In this moment of testing, we are called to embrace truth spoken in charity and a deep sense of humility for our own shortcomings, not just those of others.
> Wherever we stand on these tragic issues, we are united both in sin and in a common need for God's redemption.
> I suspect that if we spend time on our knees, we may be surprised to find out who chooses to kneel beside us - fellow sinners, Christ-followers, children of God.
> Surely that is a good place, the best place, to start.
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