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--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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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.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Theology Theology: Scripture
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.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues
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.
Read it all.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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
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.
We were shaken, but not undone, by the reversal of the verdict of the Trial Court by the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop. We have had, after all, disappointing experiences with bishops, spanning three decades, and we have been routinely discouraged with their responses. We are particularly concerned that Bishop Charles E. Bennison stated publicly at trial that he still believes that he acted appropriately in this matter and would take the same approach again if called to do so. He has learned nothing.
The light of truth shone in the verdict of the Trial Court. They had the courage to listen to our testimonies with open hearts. Always with spiritual presence, they acted with utmost integrity and diligence. How brave they were. Their landmark ruling gave us hope that the Episcopal Church could be a guiding beacon to all people everywhere who are affected in some way by clergy sexual abuse and the complicit behaviors of those bishops who again and again choose to protect their own, instead of protecting their flock.
Read it all.
Maggie Thompson, the ex-wife of John Bennison, was instrumental in sharing information that resulted in the presentment. She underwent grueling hours of testimony at the original trial, and was present along with other persons mentioned in the trial briefs at the hearing held in May by the Court of Review.
The Court of Review, while acknowledging that Charles Bennison was guilty of Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy, overturned the conviction because the statute of limitations had expired.
The victims of the Brothers Bennison were victimized once. Now they’ve been victimized yet again by the judgment of the Court of Review. Fortunately, John Bennison is no longer a priest. Unfortunately, Charles Bennison is free to once again resume the reigns of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained
A controversial ruling to reinstate a Pennsylvanian bishop includes a tie to Saginaw.
Bishop Todd Ousley of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan, which includes land east of Interstate 75 from Genesse to Alpena counties, was a member of the church’s court of review that, earlier this month, reversed a 2008 decision by a lower court that removed Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison as bishop.
Bennison’s brother, John Bennison, was youth pastor of the church where Charles Bennison was a priest in the 1970s in California. John Bennison, who later became a priest, is accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in the parish. John Bennison was forced to renounce his priesthood in 2006 when accusations became public. His brother was removed as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania in 2008 for his inaction in the 1970s.
Read it all.
The embattled Episcopal bishop of Philadelphia said he erred in not investigating his brother's sexual abuse of an underage girl 35 years ago, but brushed aside calls for his resignation, saying it is more "interesting" for him to remain in office.
Bishop Charles Bennison was removed from ministry in 2007, when he was charged with "conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy." A church court found him guilty in 2008. But Bennison returned to his Philadelphia office on Monday (Aug. 16) after a church appeals court ruled last month the 10-year statute of limitations on the charge had expired.
Even so, prominent Philadelphia Episcopalians -- including the diocese's elected standing committee -- said Bennison should resign.
Read it all.
Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison said Aug. 17 that since he returned to the diocesan offices the day before he has "concentrated on listening."
"I have learned a great deal, and my listening has been very productive," Bennison said in a statement emailed to Episcopal News Service by Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy, a Philadelphia media relations firm.
The bishop said that he met with diocesan Assisting Bishop Rodney Michel and asked him to remain in his position "indefinitely."
Read it all.
Although Episcopal leaders in the Philadelphia region are urging him to resign, long-suspended Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. told them Tuesday that he intended to stay at the helm of the five-county Diocese of Pennsylvania.
At a meeting at Episcopal Church House in Society Hill, "he made it clear to us he would resume his responsibilities," said the Rev. Glenn Matis, president of the standing committee that has run the 55,000-member diocese during Bennison's nearly three-year absence.
It was the 66-year-old bishop's second day at work since the Episcopal Church charged him in October 2007 with mishandling and concealing his brother's sexual abuse of a minor three decades earlier.
Read it all.
Read it all.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Pastoral Theology
Although he could not exercise Ecclesiastical Authority or exercise any of the gifts of ordination of a Priest or a Bishop during the period of his inhibition, he remained at all times the Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania throughout the process. With the entry of the Final Judgment, Bishop Bennison’s Ecclesiastical Authority in the Diocese of Pennsylvania was automatically restored.
Bishop Bennison will be returning to Church House on Monday, August 16, 2010. The Secretary of the Standing Committee, Ms. Arlene McGurk and Father Glenn M. Matis, President of the Standing Committee will meet with Bishop Bennison on Tuesday afternoon, August 17, 2010 at Church House. Bishop Rodney Michel, who has been serving as Assisting Bishop for the past two years in Bishop Bennison’s absence, has been asked by Bishop Bennison to remain for a period in order to effectuate an orderly restoration of Bishop Bennison’s assumption of authority.
We in the Diocese of Pennsylvania owe a great debt of gratitude to Bishops Rodney Michel, Allen Bartlett, and Edward Lee and Chancellor Michael Rehill for their willingness to assist the Standing Committee during the period of Bishop Bennison’s inhibition.
Read it all.
Now that the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop has overturned your sentence of deposition, and you may continue to be a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, you have the right to return as Bishop of Pennsylvania. But is it right to do so?
I urge you to give this question the deepest consideration with your best advisers before making your final decision on returning August 16.
Let me tell you my advice, so you know.
To be Bishop is to unify the Church, but your return would further divide our diocese. To be Bishop is to build up the Church, but your return would tear down the fragile foundations of trust and hope that have been built these past two years. My strong belief is that your return will do more harm than good, create more anger and less reconciliation, and hinder, not advance, the Church’s mission in our diocese. These realities may be unfair and unjust, but I believe them to be true.
Read it all.
Advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse have blasted the Episcopal Church for reinstating the bishop of Philadelphia who had been charged with not investigating sex abuse allegations about his brother.
A church appeals court ruled July 28 that Bishop Charles Bennison committed conduct inappropriate for a member of the clergy, but said charges against him had to be dismissed because the statute of limitations had run out.
Read it all.
Members of a sex-abuse victim support group picketed the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Tuesday to protest the reinstatement of Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., who had been suspended nearly three years for concealing his brother's sexual abuse of a minor.
"It's heartbreaking that he has been returned on a technicality," said Karen Polisir, president of the Philadelphia area chapter of the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). She was joined by two SNAP members from Lancaster County who were abused as youths by Roman Catholic priests.
In 2008, a church trial court ordered Bennison defrocked and removed as head of the five-county diocese for mishandling abuse by his brother about 35 years ago. However, an appeals court ruled last month that the church's statute of limitations had expired on the matter, and ordered Bennison restored to his position.
Read it all.
Read it all (a 39 page pdf).
“The sexual abuse exception to the statute of limitations, if improperly applied, can wrongfully label a Respondent a sexual abuser,” eight bishops of the court wrote in their unanimous ruling. A ninth member of the court, the Rt. Rev. Wayne P. Wright, Bishop of Delaware, recused himself for personal reasons.
“Title IV courts must guard against allowing that exception to be used without proof of actual sexual abuse,” the ruling added. “This is especially true under circumstances where the exception is invoked not so much to deal with sexual abuse but, rather, as an effort to use events in the distant past when the Respondent was a priest to remove a bishop during current times of strife within the diocese. To allow Title IV and the sexual abuse exception to the statute of limitations to be used in this manner diminishes the monumental efforts of the Church to address, punish and remove incidents of actual clergy sexual abuse.”
Pabarue said in a conference call Thursday that he was disappointed the review court considered his client guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, but he was thankful for its ultimate decision.
Bishop Bennison joined his attorney in discussing the case.
“I’m very gratified by the decision of the court. I’ve always believed that the charges were without merit,” he said.
Read it all.
Attorneys for the Episcopal Church and for Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison argued before an ecclesiastical appeals court here May 4 about whether the bishop should have been tried and convicted on charges stemming from his response to his priest brother's sexual misconduct some 35 years ago.
Among the issues facing the eight-bishop Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop after three hours of oral arguments are questions of whether the evidence presented at Bennison's trial supported his conviction, whether the canonical statute of limitations on those actions had run, and whether the trial court's sentence of deposition would be unduly harsh because Bennison himself did not engage in the sexual abuse.
The hearing took place at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Bennison, the alleged victim and her mother were present for the hearing, along with nearly 45 other people, including officials from the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Read it all.
Suspended Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. will get his last chance to make a case for reinstatement as head of the Diocese of Pennsylvania when he goes before a church appeals court in May.
In September 2008, a lower church court found Bennison guilty on two counts of failing to respond adequately when, as a new rector decades ago, he learned that his younger brother was having sexual relations with a minor.
John Bennison had been youth minister at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, Calif. The abuse began when the girl, a member of the parish, was 14.
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Following a Mass devoted to church unity, Rev. Aaron R. Bayles, the assistant pastor, reported that the majority of parishioners would be “on board” with the development.
He said he himself was exultant when he heard the news because he had always hoped for the unification of Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. The new provision for Anglicans may be “a step in that direction,” he commented.
For 17 years the parish has refused to allow the local Episcopal bishop to come for a pastoral visit or confirmation. It also stopped paying its annual financial assessment to the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. The diocese sued to take over the Church of the Good Shepherd’s building in 2009. It is a replica of a 14th-century English country parish that was built in 1894. The property is estimated at $7 million in value.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Anglican Continuum Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
“We’d been praying for this daily for two years,” said Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, a parish in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia that is battling to keep its historic property. “When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears.”
This parish could be one of the first in the United States to convert en masse after the Vatican completes plans for a new structure to allow Anglicans to become Catholic while retaining many of their spiritual traditions, like the Book of Common Prayer and married priests.
The arrangement is tailor-made for an “Anglo-Catholic” parish like this one, which has strenuously opposed the Episcopal Church over decisions like allowing women and gay people to become priests and bishops. Mass here is celebrated in the “high church” style reminiscent of traditional Catholic churches, with incense, elaborate vestments and a choir that may sing in Latin.
“The majority of our members will be on board with this,” the Rev. Aaron R. Bayles, the assistant pastor, said as he finished celebrating a noon Mass devoted to church unity in a small side chapel lighted with blue votive candles.
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The defense attorney for the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., has expressed exasperation with the Episcopal Church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop as he prepares to appeal his client’s conviction and sentencing.
Most recently the court rejected the bishop’s request for a new trial based on 200 personal letters, which his attorney, James Pabarue of Philadelphia, said conflicted with testimony given in court.
Mr. Pabarue believes the court misapplied Canon IV.14.4 because the case involved Bishop Bennison’s response to sexual misconduct by his brother and not any sexual misconduct by the bishop.
“The church has a way of playing more games than do secular courts,” Pabarue told The LivingChurch.
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An ecclesiastical trial court has refused to dismiss charges against Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison or grant him a new trial on those charges.
In a September 24 decision released to the public the next day, the church's Court for the Trial of a Bishop said that "the newly discovered evidence is not material to the evidence on which the court concluded that [Bennison] failed to respond appropriately once he knew that his brother had sexually abused a minor."
Pennsylvania's diocesan standing committee issued a short statement September 25 outlining the decision and saying "we continue to keep in our prayers all who have been affected by this trial."
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A court of the Episcopal Church USA has rejected a request from deposed Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. for a new church trial.
Bennison, head of the five-county Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania since 1998, was suspended from his duties nearly two years ago on charges that he had concealed his brother John Bennison's sexual abuse of an underage girl about 35 years ago in California. At the time of the abuse, Charles Bennison was pastor of a parish outside Los Angeles, and John Bennison was his youth minister.
Last year, after a four-day trial here, the church court unanimously found the bishop guilty on two counts and ordered him deposed, or removed, from all ministry.
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Bennett Hill, a retired teacher, long-time parishioner, and historian of the parish has summed up Good Shepherd in three phrases. First is “orthodoxy,” which is to say faithful adherence to the Christian faith, little different from that of Roman Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox, found in the Bible, and the ancient creeds and traditions of the Church. Second is “the beauty of holiness,” which is to say to make worship as beautiful as can be made: Good Shepherd uses vestments, candles and incense in its liturgies and has fine music (though no professional choir). Finally, Mr. Hill lists “undying commitment to mission work;” Good Shepherd supports missionaries overseas, but the church also participates in soup kitchens and similar work in Philadelphia. In the 19th century, the church started a hospital, The Home and Hospital of the Good Shepherd, the first on the Main Line, which existed for 50 years. Good Shepherd is the “Mother Church” of three parishes it founded: Good Samaritan (Paoli), St. Martin’s (Radnor) and Christ Church (Villanova).
To this could be added a certain lack of interest in the social dimensions once so important in church going. Good Shepherd never charged pew rent. Today, the congregation is a real slice of America in its diversity. Parish life is a whirl of activity, from worship to coffee hours to a Mardi Gras party, but all somehow adult. The congregation is there for only one reason: because they consider the church to be the real thing—straight, no chaser.
Churches like Good Shepherd, however, have been attacked in recent years owing to immense changes in the doctrines and practices of the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. Orthodoxy is questioned or even scorned: (now disgraced) former Bishop Charles Bennison of Philadelphia dismissed Scripture with the words, “we wrote the Bible, we can re-write it.” Morality now includes sexual activity outside of marriage even among priests and bishops. (Bishop Bennison was removed when it transpired that he had been aware that his brother, also a priest, was sexually abusing a minor, but had done nothing.)
The attempt to impose such changes has been resisted globally, with the result that the Anglican Communion today is split in many directions....
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At 81 and in poor health, Ralph White Jr. is not confident he will live to see a dime from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
But White voiced relief yesterday that a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court had ordered the church to respond to his lawsuit alleging his pastor sexually abused him in the 1940s, when he was a boy, and later took his inheritance.
White, of West Philadelphia, is seeking unspecified damages from the five-county diocese and All Saints parish in Wynnewood, and the return of his modest inheritance.
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The ecclesiastical Court for the Trial of a Bishop has issued a temporary gag order prohibiting the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., Bishop of Pennsylvania, from making public more than 200 letters that Bishop Bennison claims would exonerate him of charges that he failed to report sexual misconduct committed by his brother, John.
The misconduct occurred while John Bennison was serving on the staff of a California church where Bishop Bennison was rector in the 1970s. John Bennison previously admitted to sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl who was a member of the church youth group. He was deposed from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church in 2006.
Bishop Bennison maintains that he did not know about his brother’s misconduct until many years later, but in 2008, the court found Bishop Bennison guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy and recommended that he be deposed. He remains under inhibition pending appeal.
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Prior to the start of the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison’s appeal before the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop, new evidence has come to light. The evidence, revealed on April 27, purportedly reveals that the teenage victim conspired with Bishop Bennison’s brother, John, in order to conceal their sexual relationship from Bishop Bennison, who was serving as rector at the California parish where his brother was the youth minister in the early 1970s.
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The Diocese of Pennsylvania has filed suit against the flagship parish of the Forward in Faith movement in the US, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, seeking control of the property.
Last month’s pleading, filed on behalf of the diocesan standing committee, asked a suburban Philadelphia court to eject the Rt Rev David Moyer and his congregation from the property, arguing the parish’s secession from the diocese violates canon law which requires parish property to be “held or used for the work of the Episcopal Church.”
The battle between Rosemont’s rector and the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles Bennison, began in 2002, when Bishop Bennison deposed Fr Moyer for “abandoning the communion” of the Episcopal Church for contumacy.
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After biding its time for years, the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has asked a civil court to remove the Rev. David Moyer as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, and to declare the diocese as owner of the renegade parish's property.
Moyer, a vocal critic of liberal trends in the Episcopal Church, has served as the parish's rector and lived in its rectory since 1989, even though he was deposed as a priest nearly seven years ago.
Last week, the diocese informed him and Good Shepherd's vestry that it had petitioned Montgomery County Orphans Court to order the parish to transfer the title to its buildings, as well as all other assets, to the diocese.
It also asked the court to "restrain and enjoin" Moyer "from further use and occupancy" of the site, which fronts on Lancaster Avenue.
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The Court for the Trial of a Bishop has denied a request for modification of his sentence of deposition by the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., Bishop of Pennsylvania. The decision was made public Feb. 2.
Bishop Bennison was accused of failing to report allegations of sexual misconduct by his brother, John, who was working as a youth minister at the California parish where Bishop Bennison was rector in the 1970s, and then attempting to cover up the scandal. John Bennison has admitted to the misconduct and was deposed from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church in 2006.
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With its towering stone steeple, marble steps and crimson doors, Pittsburgh's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral looks every bit a "mighty fortress" of faith.
But the 226-year-old cathedral is a house divided, like the denomination that built it.
Since October, Trinity's priests have been saying Sunday Masses for two warring dioceses: the older one composed of 28 theologically moderate or liberal parishes, and one newly created of 66 breakaway conservative parishes. Each claims to be the true "Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh." Each is dug in.
The cathedral parish has not taken sides. "They're both in our prayers," said the Rev. Canon Catherine Brall, Trinity's rector.
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The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., Bishop of Pennsylvania, has expressed remorse for the emotional trauma inflicted on a teenage girl who was sexually abused by his brother at a California parish where Bishop Bennison served as the rector in the 1970s. But he maintains the charges against him “are not fair and are not true.”
A nine-member church court ruled unanimously in October that Bishop Bennison should be deposed from ministry in The Episcopal Church for failure to report his brother and to protect the girl.
“This was a terrible, monstrous sin,” Bishop Bennison told The Living Church. “I have always expressed remorse for my direct responsibility in this tragedy, especially hiring my brother as the youth director, inadequately supervising him and not thoroughly investigating the situation when it was first brought to my attention in 1976.”
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The suit brought in the Montgomery County Court by David Moyer, former Rector of Good Shepherd Church, Rosemont, against the Diocese of Pennsylvania and Bishop Charles Bennison was dismissed today following the entry of a jury verdict in favor of the Bishop and the Diocese. The trial began on Monday and continued through Wednesday. After closing arguments by counsel this morning, the case went to the jury and the verdict was announced at about 2:45.
The Standing Committee is pleased with the verdict returned in the Montgomery County Court. We never believed that there was any legal or factual basis for the suit, and we are gratified by the jury verdict. We would also like to express our appreciation for the fine work of our attorney, Mary Kohart of Drinker Biddle, who has worked tirelessly on our behalf.
The unusual trial could establish a precedent for clergy in hierarchical religious institutions to turn to civil courts to challenge their superiors over personnel matters.
In his opening statement at the Montgomery County Courthouse, lawyer John Lewis portrayed his client, the Rev. David Moyer, as the target of a cynical plot by Bennison to "fraudulently" remove him from the priesthood.
Head of the five-county Diocese of Pennsylvania for 10 years, Bennison deposed Moyer in 2002 as a priest and rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont. Moyer, a conservative, had publicly clashed with the more liberal Bennison over the ordination of women and the acceptance of homosexuality and had repeatedly accused him of dishonesty.
Moyer, 57, is suing for unspecified damages on the ground that his removal not only was improper under Episcopal church law but also caused him suffering, isolation and loss of income.
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Just three weeks after a church court ruled that he should be removed from office, Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. faces the start of an unusual civil trial today that could cost the financially struggling Diocese of Pennsylvania millions of dollars.
Bennison, 63, is being sued for damages in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas by the Rev. David Moyer, who alleges that Bennison used fraud and deception to defrock him as a priest of the diocese six years ago.
Moyer's attorney, John Lewis, said that Moyer v. Bennison appears to be the first trial in American jurisprudence involving "the ecclesiastical discipline of a priest in a hierarchical church."
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Eleven months after being barred from performing episcopal acts, an ecclesiastical court has determined that Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison should be deposed from the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.
The Court for the Trial of a Bishop, which spent four days in June hearing the case against Bennison, ruled September 30 that deposition was appropriate "in recognition of the nature of the offense and because [Bennison] has failed to demonstrate that he comprehends and takes responsibility for the harm that he has caused."
Bennison was determined by the court in June of having engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.
"We are extremely disappointed with the Court's decision today," Bennison's Philadelphia attorneys James A. A. Pabarue and Carolyn Bates Kelly said in a statement emailed to ENS. The statement said that the court's determination in June "was completely wrong" and that a sentence of deposition would be "utterly immoral in light of the Bishop's four decades of faithful service to the Episcopal Church."
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A nine-member church court has ruled unanimously that the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., the inhibited Bishop of Pennsylvania, should be deposed from ministry in The Episcopal Church.
The court ruled on June 25 that Bishop Bennison was guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The court found that Bishop Bennison failed to report that his brother, the Rev. John Bennison, had engaged in sexual relations with a female member of the youth group at St. Mark’s Church, Upland, Calif., when Charles Bennison was rector there in the early 1970s. The court also found that he failed to protect the young woman from further sexual advances by his brother, or to provide adequate pastoral care to the young woman or her family.
Brad Babbitt and Hamilton Doherty, Jr., two attorneys who helped the Court for the Trial of a Bishop conduct the trial, released the sentencing documents late Friday morning. The two documents — the sentence and an order denying Bishop Bennison’s final motions to dismiss the case — are both dated Sept. 30.
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Clergy and lay deputies to the annual convention in the Diocese of Pennsylvania will consider competing resolutions on the fate of Camp Wapiti, a high-profile project begun during the episcopacy of Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Jr. Convention meets Nov. 8 at Philadelphia Cathedral.
In October 2004, the diocese executed a complex financial agreement that included outright purchase of part of approximately 700 acres of undeveloped land along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The contract included an option to purchase the remaining parcel. Soon afterward, at the direction of the bishop, the diocese began making improvements to the site with the idea of constructing a camp and conference center.
After several years of increasingly acrimonious relations, the standing committee of the diocese filed a presentment complaint against Bishop Bennison, alleging that he had not been completely forthcoming with the standing committee about expenditures, particularly with respect to the development of Camp Wapiti. The standing committee complaint, which did not include any criminal allegations against Bishop Bennison, were eventually dropped.
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Anyone? I cannot get the link on the Evening Bulletin in Pennsylvania to work, and cannot find the article on their website.
The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has received the news of Bishop Bennison’s conviction and shares in the grief of the victims and all whose lives have been impacted by these events. Our prayers and thoughts are with those affected by the trial and now the verdict. We pray for healing for all. The canonical process is long and far from over. The Standing Committee will be continuing its responsibilities as the Ecclesiastical Authority in the diocese until the matter is finally concluded.
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An Episcopal bishop was found guilty by a church panel of covering up his brother's assaults of a teenage girl in the 1970s.
Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, was convicted of two counts of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy, according to his attorneys and the church verdict, dated Tuesday and released Thursday. He could be reprimanded, suspended or ousted from the church.
"We are proud of the Episcopal Church for holding Bishop Bennison accountable, and for using an open and transparent process that allowed the truth to come to light," church attorney Lawrence White said in a statement Thursday.
It was not immediately clear when the sentence would be handed down for Bennison, bishop of the nation's fifth-largest Episcopal diocese. The special Court for the Trial of a Bishop must wait at least 30 days before handing down a sentence, and Bennison's attorneys said they will request a hearing before sentencing.
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