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By David W. Virtue

COLUMBUS, OH: (6/14/2006)--The Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus Suffragan Bishop of Alabama received accolades by supporters and the Committee on the Confirmation of Bishops at an early morning hearing.

They recommended to both Houses that he be confirmed as the next Bishop of California, despite unanswered questions about a confidentiality agreement he signed while a priest in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

This contrasts vividly with the claim made by representatives of the Diocese of California that there process was wholly transparent, completely open and without any prejudice.

How can there be this closed book, this uninvestigated dark corner with regard to the selection of a bishop of such an important diocese as California?

When it became apparent that no one in the room was going to ask about the confidentiality agreement that he signed in 2001 at the Church of the Redeemer on Philadelphia's tony main line, and for which he did not obtain consent from the Diocese of Pa when he became Suffragan Bishop of Alabama, the committee was prepared to give him a pass.

Andrus had spoken up vigorously for the rights of gays, women justice and environment issues while choosing not to talk about the person of Christ, evangelism, and how he would grow the diocese both in maturity and numbers. (The Diocese of Alabama continues to decline in weekly attendance).

When this reporter got up during a question and answer period and asked the question that, in the light of increasing sexual scandal now emerging among bishops if a confidentiality agreement ought to be made known to this committee, he was told to sit down as he was not permitted to ask a question.

However, following my interjection, Andrus chose as a point "of personal privilege" and attempted to answer the question, recognizing that a cloud now hung over the room.

Andrus waxed eloquent on "charity" and "trusting one another" and he asked people to bear in mind the possibility that by this agreement he was protecting others. "The cloud that kind of comment creates in my eyes is unfortunate with people of California and Alabama and Virginia and they don't deserve to have their joy shattered in that way. I have gone through four background checks, including talking to my former bishop Allan Bartlett of PA.

Several years earlier-another committee-the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania - refused to give their consent to his election in Alabama because that committee-unlike this committee-performed their duties and discovered the true facts being covered up by the confidentiality agreement. That agreement was signed in 1990.

Said Andrus: "That is not a question which needs to be raised in this body; it has been settled."

At the end of his presentation, Andrus turned on a small cassette recorder and invited everyone present to join him in the singing of a chorus inspired by Taize - a chant that the Kingdom of God is justice and peace in the Holy Spirit. This was played over and over whilst increasing numbers attempted to join in the singing.

If this was designed to get people on board it was an enormous success. The level of empathy for Andrus rose dramatically.

Later, when VOL spoke with Bishop D. Bruce McPherson, (Western Louisiana) he said that the committee was satisfied with the explanation offered, even though no one had been given a sight of the actual text of the agreement.

Bishop Andrus refuses to tell part of his story because it was a closed book. All these people accept he can have a closed book, while all the time talking about transparency, openness, freedom, no secrets and no hidden recesses.

The occasion was a giant love fest of good feelings toward Andrus, and a religion wholly of peace and justice with seemingly no transcendent dimension to it at all, VOL observed.

At one point Andrus offered up that he was a LIBRA, "I search for balance. If you mix the red state of Alabama and the blue state of California you get this color purple, (pointing to his shirt)...that seemed right to me," he said.

His confirmation was greeted by his supporters who composed 98 percent of the audience with a standing ovation and multiple rounds of applause.

California has gotten themselves a man for all seasons and a person for all persons.


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