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Snubbed Former Southern Virginia Bishop David C. Bane Joins ACNA

Snubbed Former Southern Virginia Bishop David C. Bane Joins ACNA

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

Snubbed for more than three years after resigning as Bishop of Southern Virginia, the Rt. Rev. David C. Bane has joined the Anglican Church of North America and has accepted an invitation to serve as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In a copy of a letter sent to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Bane told VOL he described his action "as 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."

In the letter, Bishop Bane said that he tried to accept the fact that his active service in the ordained ministry might be over, but still felt called to proclaim the gospel and celebrate Holy Eucharist. He had continued to hope that an opportunity for him to continue his ordained ministry within The Episcopal Church would emerge until he participated in the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith IV as Bishop of Southern Virginia, last month. Bishop Bane said he felt like a "pariah" and that people he had considered long-time friends and colleagues "refused even to look me in the eye."

The truth is this. Bishop Bane was railroaded out of The Episcopal Church in October 2006 because he insisted that his clergy uphold the findings of the Windsor Report and because he is also orthodox in faith and morals. Bane voted against Gene Robinson's consecration, voted for the creeds and he embraced the Windsor Report.

At that time, he wrote VOL a letter saying that a "2004 DOC Report" which was supposed to be an impartial and pastoral look at the functioning of the diocesan organizational structure with recommendations for areas of improvement, concluded that he, not a dysfunctional diocese, was the cause of the problems in the diocese.

"In my opinion, and in the opinion of many people in the diocese, it was a misleading and often hostile document filled with personal attacks, no statistical validity and no record of the sources of the conclusions. It was a sad and unprofessional attempt to try to take all of the serious historical problems in the diocese and simply blame the "style" of the current bishop for all that was wrong, past, present, and future."

The other "elephant in the room" was that a great deal of the energy for the call for a new bishop manifested itself "after my vote against the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003 and my refusal to permit same-sex blessings. I did not do so angrily and did not break relationships with those who did not agree with me, but these were obvious factors despite protestations to the contrary from some long-time diocesan leaders," wrote Bane. VOL needs to confess that at that time we fell for the line that Bane was to blame for the diocese's problems and that his departure was probably a good thing. In hindsight, we were wrong.

The diocese was in transition from orthodoxy to heterodoxy, following the consecration of the openly non-celibate homosexual Gene Robinson to Bishop of New Hampshire with sides being drawn up in the diocese over the rightness and wrongness of that act. The laity was mostly on the side of Bishop Bane on this issue. The clergy were divided, but a majority was supportive of the national church's position.

Bishop Bane got caught in the middle. Did he handle it perfectly? Probably not, but he took the brunt of the battle and retired. He did so in good faith, told that his skills would be useful in other areas of the church. That never happened.

"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 resigned at the 2006 Annual Council and moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina."

Then began the snubs. He wrote to the national office offering his assistance in any way he could. "I called Bishop (Clayton) Matthew two years ago to ask to be considered for ministry somewhere in TEC. I 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 he left Southern Virginia, he wrote and called the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, Bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina, offering his services, but got no response. Bane learned that Daniel took his name out of an interim process at St. Andrew's, Nags Head, but did not tell him. Two years ago, he met with the Rev. Canon Win Lewis, his former Canon to the Ordinary, to ask him to submit his name and resume to the semi-annual meetings of the Deployment Officers. He said he would handle Bane's application personally and get back to him. He never did.

Last year. Bane wrote to thirty-five bishops whom he considered to be friends and colleagues offering to work in their dioceses. He received one response thanking him for the letter and wishing him well.

In a direct appeal to Jefferts Schori, Bane wrote, "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. 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."

The failure of the church to offer Bane ecclesiastical work made him realize that his days in TEC were numbered. He would never hear from them, again. The gorilla grip of revisionism was now a stranglehold on the throat of the church. Bishop Bane decided to make his own move.

"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."

Bane wrote VOL, "Last week Bob Duncan and I spent a day together at his home in Donegal, PA and shared our life stories and our hopes to serve the Gospel in healthy and life-giving ways. Over the past few weeks I have become convinced that this is God's call to me and, as surprised as I am to find myself in this situation, I feel blessed and excited to be invited back into Gospel ministry as a bishop."

Since the publication of his letter to Jefferts Schori, Bane has received many supportive responses from the newly formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) bishops. In a personal note to VOL Bane wrote, "At this point I have received no response of any kind from any bishop in the Episcopal Church. I honestly wish nothing but the best for all of my former colleagues but I am surprised by and regret the lack of graciousness and common courtesy that Alice and I have experienced. It remains a mystery to me but I also believe it points to a confusion of priorities so prevalent in so much of the Church today. It affirms once again my belief that the institutional church and the Body of Christ are all to often mutually exclusive and I pray that the emerging Anglican community in this country can find a better way."

On hearing the news of Bishop Bane's departure to the Southern Cone, The Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith, IV, Bishop of Southern Virginia, wrote a disingenuous letter from the House of Bishop's meeting in Kanuga, NC, to the clergy in the Diocese of Southern Virginia expressing "sadness" at the actions of Bishop Bane but completely ignoring the charges Bane raised in his letter to Jefferts Schori.

"I know that this news will be for you, as it was for me, a surprise. His leaving will also be a loss for those of you who have tried to maintain a relationship with him since his retirement," wrote Hollerith. He made no mention of the snubs by Hollerith and others that Bane alluded to in his letter.

Hollerith quickly concluded, "I do not know what action Bishop Katherine and/or the House of Bishops will take in response to David's letter, but I am sure they will be forthcoming with any decisions and communications as they develop."

[Hollerith letter here: http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/445107/letter.pdf]

You can be sure that Bishop Bane will hear from Mrs. Jefferts Schori and he will be told that he is being deposed for "abandoning the communion of the church" when what has happened is the exact opposite, the church has abandoned him.


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