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COLUMBUS, OH: Minority report on Nthn. California bishop's election

The following is the text of the Minority Report regarding the election of Barry Beisner, the bishop of Northern California.

Resolution D038 Title:

Believing that the work of Legislative Committee 07: Consecration of Bishops is more than merely a verification of correct procedure, but is equally concerned with the appropriateness of the candidate's wholesomeness of life; and that this wholesomeness of life is not merely a model for an individual diocese, but also for The Episcopal Church, there are some troubling impediments to granting consent for this election.

Therefore, we the undersigned are constrained to bring this matter before the House of Deputies at this 75th General Convention. All of these impediments are concerned with the fact that the Reverend Canon Barry L. Beisner is twice divorced and presently in his third marriage.

It must be stated clearly at the outset that we do not wish to impugn his present ministry in the diocese of Northern California , where he is obviously loved and appreciated. This was resoundingly expressed at the public hearing of our legislative committee meeting. We state even more emphatically that we do not wish to question God's gracious forgiveness nor the sincerity of Canon Beisner's repentance.

He has publicly acknowledged the wrongfulness of his prior actions and we affirm him in seeking God's forgiveness of which we all stand in need. Indeed, we trust, as all Christians should, that Christ's redeeming work is greater than any of our moral failures or mistakes.

Nevertheless, assurance of forgiveness does not determine the appropriateness of advancement to higher office. We are cognizant of the fact that the Episcopacy is the sacramental symbol of our unity with the apostles and the catholic Church throughout the world.

He or she represents the Church to the world as well as to the faithful. He must, as St. Paul states, "be above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2). So, before this house proceeds with consenting to this election its members need to rightly weigh the following concerns:

* It is likely that the anomaly of a twice-divorced and thrice-married bishop may be broadly interpreted by the larger body of Christ, individual Christians, and even by peoples of goodwill in various non-Christian religions, that we in the Episcopal Church have weakened our teaching and commitment to the lifelong sanctity of marriage.

* It is likely in a time when so many in our nation are suffering because of the widespread fracturing of families, the approval of this election will send a confusing message to the members of our Church and to the unchurched in our communities. As the great Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once stated, "The Church must be very clear in its public pronouncements so that she may be very pastoral in her application."

The consecration of a bishop is by its very nature a public teaching. Frankly, it is difficult to fully anticipate how the many divorced spouses within our church, as well as the traumatized children shuttled between one home and another, may interpret our consent to such a consecration.

* It is likely that it may further strain "the bonds of affection" within the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, causing them to question our commitment to the teaching of Holy Scripture, our marriage rite, our Canons and the resolutions of prior General Conventions regarding the sanctity of marriage (i.e., that we believe marriage to be "a lifelong commitment").

* We are concerned that since the duties of a bishop require him or her to pass consent to those applying for permission to remarry after divorce, the bishop-elect's prior marriages and divorces may hinder his ability to function in this capacity.

It may also hinder his ability to exercise proper discipline and pastoral care for those priests or deacons and their spouses and families who are experiencing marital difficulties, estrangement, and divorce proceedings to say nothing of possible clergy persons' applications for re-marriage.

* It needs to be considered that these prior marriages and divorces may provide far too much room for his conscience to be compromised by his prior failures and thus hindering the exercising of godly judgment towards those under his pastoral care. There is also the remote possibility of remaining woundedness from these failed marriages and that the stresses of the episcopacy are far too great and the risks far too significant.

In conclusion, it needs to be remembered that there are consequences to a person's actions and that one is often required to live with these consequences. Forgiveness through Christ is sure. Nevertheless, one lives with the consequences. For this body of the Church catholic to attempt to disregard this truth is not only inappropriate, it puts the Church and her members in unnecessary compromise.

Finally, it needs to be noted that the above points are a compilation of concerns, and all are not necessarily held by every signatory of this report. We the undersigned respectfully file this minority report and suggest denial of the consent to this election, which is before you as D038.

The Very Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, San Joaquin
The Rev. Richmond Webster, Alabama
Alma Thompson Bell, Maryland
Christopher Hart, Pennsylvania
The Rev'd Hayden G. Crawford, Southwest Florida
The Rev. Richard S. Westbury, Jr., Florida

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