PENNSYLVANIA: Standing Committee Turns Up Heat to Get Rid of Bishop Charles Bennison
By David W. Virtue
December 14, 2010
Despite repeated calls for returning Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison to resign, the disgraced bishop has steadfastly refused to heed calls for him to step down.
On December 8, eight members of the Standing Committee drove to New York City to meet with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, her chancellor David Booth Beers, and Bishop Clayton Matthews, officer for Pastoral Development.
According to a memo VOL received, the meeting was arranged at their request "to offer support and leadership for the diocese." TRANSLATION. We want your help to get rid of Bennison.
They noted that at the recent Diocesan Convention, 73% of delegates called for Bennison to resign saying that his continued presence stands in the way of attending to the important word of proclaiming the love of God in Christ Jesus and carrying forth the mission of the Church."
The eight described their time with Episcopal Church leadership as a time of "good conversation; we felt heard, understood, supported and encouraged."
Charges of conduct unbecoming a priest or bishop still remain against Bennison. He was found guilty of covering up his brother's sexual abuse of a minor. The verdict against the bishop was overturned because of a narrow interpretation of the "Statute of Limitations".
Since his return, there have been repeated calls for him to resign including from the Presiding Bishop, the entire Episcopal House of Bishops, Bonnie Anderson, HOD President, numerous priests (both liberal and conservative) in the Diocese of Pa, entire deaneries, a neighbor Bishop Paul Marshall, (Bethlehem), the Diocesan Standing Committee and a number of outraged laity and VOL, all to no avail.
Although he stated that he would be a listener, six weeks back on the job, the Diocesan Standing Committee wrote Bennison accusing him of throwing up obstructions, creating dissent through distrust and misinformation, and investing heavily in anything that stretched the finances of the diocese beyond anything realistic, causing more and more parishes to withhold funds.
They expressed shock that Bennison said witnesses at his 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.
"Bishop, the letter of the law has allowed you to return. Please consider the spirit of the law as you determine your way forward, for yourself and for the Diocese of Pennsylvania."
Clearly angered by Bennison's high-handed approach to running the diocese, its leaders still are pressuring the National Church to get rid of Bennison.
The revised Title IV Changes to the canons which grants the National Church greater authority to the church's presiding bishop over other bishops, and to diocesan bishops over their clergy, when they are accused of misconduct, could give Jefferts Schori all the authority she needs to remove Bennison permanently from his position.
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