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By David W. Virtue

COLUMBUS, OH (6/14/2006)--Northern California Bishop elect Barry Beisner confronted his critics head on at a hearing on the consecration of bishops addressing the issue of his two divorces and three marriages, offering, as he said, "no justification or rationalization" for his behavior but simply a statement that they had occurred.

The committee put off a decision to recommend this candidate for approval by the convention.

It was clear that the issue was over his multiple divorces and remarriages, commonly known as serial monogamy.

Outgoing Bishop William Lamb spoke enthusiastically of his successor and said he had served well on multiple positions. He had asked him four years ago to be his canon to the ordinary. "He is extremely well thought of in our diocese," said Lamb. "I bring before you today an extraordinarily gifted priest. He has been on a diocesan staff and was finally elected on the fourth ballot.

"The diocese is a microcosm of our country and the Episcopal Church. We have held together barely at times largely because of the work Bishop Lamb has done in building relationships of trust."

Beisner quickly got to the point of his presentation. "I am previously married twice and have been married three times he told a lively and packed crowd." He has been married to his present wife Anne, a therapist and an Episcopal priest for eight years. Each brought three children into the new blended family, he said.

Beisner explained how he had been first married in 1970 as a freshman in the context of the radical Jesus movement. "Basically people were doing LSD, we were doing Jesus. Quoting St. Paul, he said it was better to marry than to burn. "I was 19. I am not seeking justification or rationalization. Three years later marriage was over, now a single parent with a two year old. I was joining the Episcopal Church at the time and became a postulant for Holy Orders. I later remarried which lasted 16 years and produced two kids. "We parted tragically, rooted in human sinfulness, but the parting was respectful and honorable. Six years after the end of that marriage Anne and I were married. Bishop Lamb presided. "It's an issue but not much of an issue in our diocese. It has become more of an issue outside the diocese. The search committee knew and thought it to be a non issue.

A person from the American Anglican Council said we were lucky to have him. "The conservative clergy as a block voted for me, they trust me passion to go forward together. I will fight for them - conservative and liberal alike and work for unity of this church."

A series of diocesan persons spoke glowingly of his pastoral and personal skills

Later when this reporter confronted him on the issue of whether his multiple marriages were an "wholesome example", Beisner, with Lamb at his side, said "I don't want to talk to you. I may have a press conference later."

After being asked by one panel member if he had considered the implications for pastoral care of his own multiple marriages, The Rt. Rev. Russell Jacobus, Bishop of Fond du Lac, asked him the more penetrating question concerning the Windsor Report and whether the overseas churches would regard his consecration as similar to that of Gene Robinson's?

In response, Barry, had little to say other than that he hoped that Bishop Jacobus would support him. He did acknowledge saying, "I don't think divorce is okay, it is a tragedy rooted in human sinfulness"

Maine Bishop Chilton Knudsen said to Beisner, "You have been through crucifixion and resurrection several times in your personal life, could you share with us some of the insights you have gained."

A theologian observed that the two questions that must be answered are, are you in a fit position to offer advice and pastoral care to any with matrimonial problems, and secondly do you not think that your consecration may have similar effects in the Anglican communion to that of V. Gene Robinson?

A bishop in Anglican thought is seen as the living symbol and sign of the unity of the church in space and time, and therefore only those who should be bishop ought to be able to fulfill this high calling. You can't, as this is a sign of disorder, said a theologian observing the proceedings.

Do you see the seriousness of your divorces affecting the bonds of affection and the unity in communion of the Anglican provinces, Beisner was asked. It is not seen as acceptable for a bishop in some provinces. Beisner replied citing the Windsor Report, paragraph 125, where it is not an issue. "There are some areas in which the issue of acceptability [of a bishop] is unclear. For example, practice varies across the Communion in relation to divorce and remarriage: there are provinces where it would be unthinkable to appoint a bishop who had been divorced and remarried; there are others where this would be regarded as a secondary issue. The fact of divorce and remarriage would therefore not seem per se to be a crucial criterion."

This presumes one divorce and one only, said a theologian familiar with the background to this statement. Beisner said he was "in ministry with a bishop in Uganda," but would not name him.

A senior spokesman for the Anglican Communion Network said that in theory they were wholly opposed to this candidate's acceptance, but politically they did not want to rock the boat for fear of losing support with regard to the forthcoming resolutions on the Windsor Report.

FOOTNOTE: VOL will return to this story tomorrow when the committee finally decides whether to recommend the acceptance of this candidate.


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