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Former Southern Virginia Bishop Joins ACNA After being Snubbed for Three Years

Former Southern Virginia Bishop Joins ACNA After being snubbed for Three Years

The Rt. Rev. David C. Bane, Jr.
163 Pelican Pointe Drive
Elizabeth City NC 27909

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori,
Presiding Bishop
Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Ave,
New York NY 10017
March 9, 2009

Dear ++Katharine,

I am writing to you to tell you what has been going on in my life and ministry as I have reached an unexpected yet, I believe, inevitable decision. When I resigned as Diocesan Bishop of Southern Virginia on February 10, 2006, it was with mixed emotions. As you may recall, there had been a period of confusion, discord, and tension as divisive issues within the Diocese came to the surface in a variety of expressions. I have a deep and abiding love and affection for the people of Southern Virginia, and as the anger and divisions grew in intensity, I did my best to make decisions that I believed were in the best long-term interest of the people of the diocese.

While I have my own perspective about all that happened, I have never been asked to share my thoughts, and I have no need to go into that now. The bottom line is that I came to believe that my remaining as bishop would prevent the Diocese from healing and moving forward as so much of the blame and animosity continued to be focused on me personally.

This was a very scary and increasingly lonely time for Alice and me as we had never found ourselves in such a situation. Since I was not sure about the possibilities for ministry after an early retirement I spoke with Bishop Clay Matthews about my concern. His response was, "that is not a problem. You will have more opportunities than you will know what to do with."

Two months later at the House of Bishops Meeting in Puerto Rico, Alice and I sat with Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Bishop Matthews, Bishop Chilton Knudsen, and Bishop Gordon Scruton. Bishops Knudsen and Scruton, along with Bishop Charles Jenkins, had been the authors of the "Three Bishops' Report" called for at the 2005 Annual Council.

We were assured by all parties that if I resigned there would be many and varied ministry opportunities for me in the Episcopal Church. With that encouragement I did resign at the 2006 Annual Council and moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. With that in mind, here is a brief history of the past three years.

After your election I wrote to you offering my assistance in any way you might identify.

I called Bishop Matthew two years ago to ask to be considered for ministry somewhere in TEC. He asked if I had any geographical restrictions and I said that I did not. Since that time I have watched as time after time retired bishops have been appointed to various ministries all over the Episcopal Church without any contact from Bishop Matthews about any of them.

Before I left Southern Virginia I wrote to the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, Bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina. We were in the same "bishops' class" and had been together many times at various HOB functions. I told him how excited I was to be moving to his diocese and that I would love to assist him in some way. I asked to be introduced to his Executive Board and Standing Committee so that they knew who I was. There was no response. After we moved to Elizabeth City I called three times before I was able to meet with him over lunch. Once again I offered my help and he indicated how glad he was that I was there and that he hoped to use me to "get the diocese used to the idea of two bishops."

I invited him and Ann to stay at our home whenever he was in this part of the diocese. Since then I have called him four more times, including asking to be considered for interim possibilities. I was told that he took my name out of an interim process at St. Andrew's, Nags Head, but he did not tell me so. He has not returned my calls and has been in Elizabeth City several times with no contact. Despite my requests I am still not on the clergy mailing list and I have not been invited to the Annual Clergy Conferences. I assume that Bishop Daniel does not trust me nor see me as a helpful colleague, but that is a guess at this point as I have not heard from him.

Two years ago I met with the Rev. Canon Win Lewis, my former Canon to the Ordinary, to ask him to submit my name and resume to the semi-annual meetings of the Deployment Officers. After the first such meeting I had to call him to ask what had happened. He said that he wanted to handle my application personally and would get back to me. I have never heard from him again.

I have to admit that my hope has always been that I would be invited to return to the people and parishes I love and to support the bishop who followed me in Southern Virginia, but I must accept the reality that this will not happen. The new bishop, the Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith, has not asked me to assist in the diocese other than to pass on the crozier to him at his Consecration on February 13th which I was happy to do. Two times since his election last October I invited him and his wife Lizzie to join Alice and me for a relaxed dinner and conversation at a time convenient for them. The invitations were not acknowledged and there has been no other contact.

I had also looked forward to serving part-time on the staff of a local Episcopal congregation, in this case Christ Episcopal Church, Elizabeth City NC. Shortly after my arrival I was told that I was a helpful presence during a split in this parish as well as during the subsequent interim period and search process. When the new rector, the Rev. Brent Melton, arrived, I had a meeting with him. He asked if I would chair the Newcomers Committee and I agreed. I told him of my hope to help out in some part-time way and to be helpful and supportive of him in his first call as rector.

As he had a perfect right to do, he said that he was not interested. Two weeks later I talked to him about my experience that many retired clergy had told me over the years that they really missed celebrating the Holy Eucharist, and I told him that I found myself in that same situation. Would he be willing to invite me to serve alongside him every now and then as the Celebrant? He said that he did not think that would be possible. Yet later on I offered to begin a much needed Men's Group in the parish and he could attend as much or as little as he wished. He said he would have to think about it and call me back, but he has never done so.

Last year I wrote to thirty-five bishops whom I consider to be friends and colleagues. Once again I indicated my interest in doing some kind of ministry to support them. I received one response thanking me for the letter and wishing me well. While I realize that this could be seen as a list of complaints, I want to be clear that I am not angry and have no sense of being a "victim," nor do I wish to cause trouble for anyone. All of the people I have mentioned have the perfect right to decide for themselves what they wish to do and not do and with whom they want to work. I accept that and harbor no animosity toward any of them although I do regret the lack of honest and direct communication which I have found to be so prevalent in the Episcopal Church. I will say that Alice and I have been completely baffled by the total lack of care or support of any kind from anyone in the Church we have served in for twenty-five years.

Katharine, what would you conclude if this were your experience? I do not know what else I could have done since my retirement to try to find ministry in the Episcopal Church. My father died a priest in the Episcopal Church. I have spent my entire life in this Church and intended to do so for as long as I live. However, it is abundantly clear that, for whatever reasons, I am not welcome to serve as a bishop in the Episcopal Church. I can accept that reality, but cannot accept that this also means God's call to me to serve the Gospel is therefore null and void. With a family of six, I left the business world at the age of forty to spend my life trying to help others find and deepen personal relationships with Jesus Christ, and that desire and passion has not disappeared with retirement, nor with the lack of opportunity I have experienced. My call to serve the Gospel is a higher call to me than my life-long loyalty to the Episcopal Church.

For these reasons I have joyfully and gratefully accepted an invitation from Archbishop Gregory Venables to be received as a bishop in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. I have also accepted an invitation to serve as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and to minister in the Anglican Church in North America. On the one hand this is one of the saddest and most unanticipated decisions in my life. On the other hand, I can no longer deceive myself that I can be fulfilled and happy without being engaged in Christian ordained episcopal ministry. Therefore, I look forward with excitement to the new opportunity opened up for me in another venue to serve the Gospel. Where one door has closed, another has opened, and I have been received with open arms and enthusiasm. I am well aware of the response this decision will provoke from you and I accept that with sadness, but also peace of mind. May our Lord guide and bless you and your ministry in the days ahead.

Your brother in Christ,

CC: The Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith, IV, Diocese of Southern Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III, Diocese of East Carolina
The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., Secretary of the House of Bishops

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