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COLUMBUS, OH: "There May Be An Issue" About California's Bishop-Elect

COLUMBUS, OH: "There May Be An Issue" About California's Bishop-Elect

By Auburn Traycik
Special to VirtueOnline

COLUMBUS, OH (6/13/06)-- "There may be an issue" with Diocese of California Bishop-elect Mark Andrus that could come up when the Consecration of Bishops legislative committee considers his election at 7 p.m. this (Tuesday) evening, says the Rev. Tobias Haller, a committee member.

There was relief in several quarters when the California diocese bypassed three homosexual candidates in a May election, instead choosing by a wide margin the pro-gay but married Alabama Suffragan Bishop, Mark Andrus, to succeed Bishop William Swing. The action avoided a widening of the crisis in the Anglican Communion focusing on ECUSA's deviations from Anglican sexuality policy.

But a recent story by VirtueOnline revealed that Andrus left a Pennsylvania parish in 2001 under the terms of a confidentiality agreement, and it is the details of that which the committee could seek during its deliberations tonight.

Haller, of St. James Episcopal Episcopal Church in the Bronx, said the issue had been mentioned in the committee's most recent meeting and "could well come up" this evening. He added that members of the committee are allowed to introduce the matter. "Anyone who wants to bring it up may," he said. "I assume at this point [someone] probably will."

If so, Haller thought that, though the committee follows an "open process," the matter would likely be considered in private session due to its probable sensitivity.

In its May 27 story, VirtueOnline reported that Andrus was a curate at the Church of the Redeemer on Philadelphia's historic Main Line from the early 1990s, but that both he and the Rev. Bruce Jacobson left the parish in 2001 under the terms of a confidentiality agreement also backed by then-Pennsylvania Bishop Allen Bartlett. Jacobson resigned and became rector at St. John's, in Bala Cynwyd, another parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania where he remained as rector till he retired to New England. Andrus went on to become an Episcopal school chaplain before accepting his present position in Alabama.

Contacted by VirtueOnline, Andrus said he "cannot lift" the confidentiality agreement with Jacobson and Bartlett and that "I did nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide."

Also contacted by VOL, Bartlett said he had "no comment" on the confidentiality agreement and believed there was no impediment to Andrus being consecrated the next Bishop of California.

Andrus said that "no formal allegations were ever made" about what he called a "painful" episode. "There is nothing there that would challenge my claim to being fit for the job in California," he added.

However, when Andrus was elected Suffragan Bishop of Alabama, VOL was advised that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania refused to give its consent. But the Standing Committee refused consent because they knew what really happened.

Fr. Haller said it was also possible that a question may be raised during Consecration of Bishops legislative committee deliberations at 2 p.m. tomorrow on the Diocese of Northern California's election of Canon Barry Beisner as the successor to Bishop Jerry Lamb. Beisner has been twice divorced and is married to his third wife. He would not be the first divorced and remarried bishop in the Episcopal Church but would be the first to be as much married before he is consecrated.

Haller indicated that the committee's main responsibility is to ensure that papers and other matters regarding an episcopal election are in order before sending the name of the bishop-elect forward to the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, which must decide whether or not to consent to their consecrations.

The committee is holding its meetings in the Harrison Room in the convention center complex.


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