The Bishop of Northern Indiana on the March 2008 House of Bishops Meeting

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I found myself troubled and profoundly conflicted. As many of you know, I served in the Diocese of San Joaquin for fourteen years before coming to Northern Indiana. Thus Bishop Schofield – and many of the leaders of the diocese – have been part of my life for a long time. Bishop Cox, too, is revered and respected, with an important place in the church’s recovery of the ministry of healing. Both bishops acted in accordance with their consciences. Yet I believe that their actions are disordered, theologically and canonically. Nothing good ever comes from schism. When Christians separate from one another, the gospel is hampered and our ability to offer Jesus to a needy world severely compromised. In the days leading up to the vote on the two bishops, I found myself torn between conflicting responsibilities: to the unity and canonical integrity of the church on the one hand, and to honoring conscience in the midst of conflict on the other.

As a matter of theological and pastoral conviction, I am committed to the ministry of reconciliation. This season in the church’s life challenges us, I believe, to find ways of living together in Christian community when we find ourselves caught in conscience-driven conflict. Is it possible for Christians of good will who have come to very different convictions on (for example) painful issues of human sexuality to flourish together in the same institution? I believe that we can; but in our own church we are struggling to discover ways of making that happen.

In the end, I voted No on the resolutions to depose Bishops Schofield and Cox, one of a very small number of bishops to do so. (Since the resolutions passed on voice votes, there’s no specific count.) During the debate over the resolution to depose Bishop Schofield, I spoke to the House and said something like this: that Bishop Schofield is guilty as charged, and his actions have unleashed chaos upon his diocese and on the church. And yet, I said, I would vote against the resolution to depose him. Why? Because a deposition is the canonical equivalent of the “death penalty”; it effectively closes the door to the possibility of future reconciliation. And so, I said, it would be better to find a way of accomplishing the same end (removing Bishop Schofield from his position as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin) without the negative overtones of a deposition. A cord gently cut can be more easily re-tied. If we allow our friends to depart peacefully, we are more likely in God’s time to welcome them home.

What troubles me most deeply is that we are finding it easier and easier to resort to canonical solutions in matters which are at their core theological, spiritual, pastoral, and relational. While I have no doubt that these bishops violated the canons, the issues before us are not purely canonical, and they do not lend themselves to a canonical solution. They touch the heart of what it means to follow Jesus, to be called into community, and learn the complementary imperatives of mutual forbearance and forgiveness (Colossians 3:13). I’m concerned that, with each passing meeting of the House, we will repeat the scene that we experienced at Camp Allen; and each time, the debate will be less agonized and the result more assured.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: San JoaquinTEC Polity & Canons

12 Comments
Posted March 29, 2008 at 6:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Grandmother wrote:

we will repeat the scene that we experienced at Camp Allen; and each time, the debate will be less agonized and the result more assured.

Sounds very pastoral, but a bit naive.  I don’t believe for one second that 815 is at all interested in “reconciliation”, without capitulation.

Gloria in SC

March 29, 8:06 am | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

And its “reconciliation” based on everyone doing what they want to do and no one objecting.  Or at least letting the reappraisers do what they want without objection.

March 29, 8:11 am | [comment link]
3. littlesisterofthechurch wrote:

Grandmother, when he says “the debate will be less agonized and the result more assured” he is NOT saying that is a GOOD thing!  He’s saying that that is what he FEARS.  And essentially, he is agreeing with you that TEC is not interested in reconciliation.

March 29, 8:36 am | [comment link]
4. Phil wrote:

I agree with him that, “Nothing good ever comes from schism.”  So why has ECUSA done it?  And why does he support that institution?  And, if “theologically disordered” actions cause him so much concern, what’s he doing about his own institution, his own General Convention and his own Presiding Bishop?

March 29, 9:26 am | [comment link]
5. RalphM wrote:

“When Christians separate from one another, the gospel is hampered and our ability to offer Jesus to a needy world severely compromised.”

Let me offer a few changes to the quote above:
“When Christians separate from the gospel, our ability to offer Jesus to a needy world severely compromised.”

March 29, 10:05 am | [comment link]
6. Chris Hathaway wrote:

It’s one thing resorting to canons. It’s another thing resorting to a flagrant abuse of them. Why does the actual words of the canon seem to make no difference to him?

Utterly rhetorical question, I know.

March 29, 10:42 am | [comment link]
7. Frances Scott wrote:

When Paul and Barnabas separated from one another over John Mark, the result was TWO powerhouse missionary teams where there had been only one.  The Gospel spread twice as fast.

I shall pray that Bishop Little continues to be unsettled and conflicted in his mind until he comes to the clear realization that TEC and the reconciling Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, are diametrically opposed to one another.

March 29, 11:00 am | [comment link]
8. Dick Mitchell wrote:

Bishop Little reports that he voted NO on the Cox and Schofield depositions, and this was the first I had heard of NO votes.  Any other bishops claiming to vote NO?
  Also, Bishop Little reports that Bishop Cox was deposed for unauthorized ordinations and confirmations; I thought those charges were dropped after Bishop Cox switched over to Southern Cone, and that he was deposed for the PSC affiliation, not for the unauthorized sacraments.  Did no one read the charges?

March 29, 11:03 am | [comment link]
9. TLDillon wrote:

I agree with him that, “Nothing good ever comes from schism.” So why has ECUSA done it?  And why does he support that institution?  And, if “theologically disordered” actions cause him so much concern, what’s he doing about his own institution, his own General Convention and his own Presiding Bishop?

Thank you Phil #4…Exactly! Let us also ask why Bishop Little did not ask why this vote was even taking place without the correct amount of Bishops in attendance voting not too mention the fact that there was no consent by three senior bishops for Bishop Cox? As well as for something as serious as this why was it a voice vote? Where was his protesting on these very serious issues?

March 29, 12:42 pm | [comment link]
10. Islandbear wrote:

“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
Beware, Bishop.  You may be next ...

March 29, 12:43 pm | [comment link]
11. BlueOntario wrote:

I find no little irony that the “open minded” folk who are taking the lead in TEC branded orthodox believers with the label “Pharisee” for having an unyielding affinity to “law.”

March 30, 10:37 am | [comment link]
12. francis wrote:

This is a Windsor Bishop?

March 30, 9:56 pm | [comment link]
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