Monday, October 30, 2006

Be careful of even short "hiati;" because life does move at a quick pace

So, after a week back in PA, a lot has happened:

Mom is in subacute care at a care facility, discharged from the hospital (not a good experience for the family, as Sue got the call "OK, she is ready to be picked up" the day after being told she would be in the hospital for at least another week), the Tigers lost the World Series in a disappointing showing against those sadly unimpressive St. Louis Cardinals, we had the kick-off of stewardship season that rose to a penultimate moment with the stewardship dinner last night, the church continues to grow and evolve, and the Philadelphia Inquirer posted a story about our Bishop in which he is accused of helping to cover up his brother's patterns of sexual abuse in the 70's and 80's.

And somewhere in there, Laura and I attempted to celebrate our wedding anniversary and her birthday.

Actually, that latter part went very well. On Friday and Saturday, we took the time to be away from church in order to enjoy each other. On Friday, we went down to Longwood Gardens and tripped happily into the debut of the Chrysanthemum Show--sort of a "sneak peak" of what was opening that evening. Both of use enjoyed the displays. The orchid room really caught us up, both with the variety of blooms and the grace of the perfumes. Made me think of my grandfather and his love of cultivating orchids. Mom reminded me that both he and my grandmother loved Longwood and would make trips to visit as often as they could get to Philly from Michigan. Then, after some time in the gift shop and after a relatively eventless trip back up 202, the long way home, we crashed. Most of the next day was spent actually relaxing, with a movie or two on the television and then a lovely dinner at the Hotel du Villages down in New Hope. Excellent meal.

Then, after a night's rest and an extra hour of sleep (thank you daylight savings time), I walked out the door for Sunday's liturgies to the phone buzzing at my hip. It was Cliff Nesbit, calling to fill me in on the contents of that morning's newspaper. I spent the next hour or so figuring out what to tell the congregation. The final consensus was simply to alert people to the article, to draw their attention to the conflict and to talk a little about what I knew of the history of the conflict.

The reality is that this is, to some extent, "old news." The fact that SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) has taken aim at our bishop broke as news about six months ago, when the local chapter joined the people asking for Bennison's resignation/retirement. All of this is better read in the article in the paper. Better to let people in the fray speak for themselves.

My disappointment is two-fold: I am angry about the allegations. As clergy, we occupy an incredibly powerful position in people's lives. Given access to their homes, to their privacy and to the intimacies of the families in our worship communities, we have a deep and profound responsibility to care for, and not abuse, those trusts. John Bennison, by all accounts, abused those trusts and a young woman's health and emotional and spiritual well being were the price paid. Not acceptable. Now, our bishop has been accused of helping to cover up, either by implicit or explicit actions, the things his brother did while under his pastoral watch.

I don't want this issue played out in the media. I do want to make sure that we make every effort as a diocese to discern the truth and accept responsibility for the harm done by the agents of this Church. Not an easy thing to accomplish, because I am also disturbed to see this issue being used as a weapon in an ongoing conflict with the bishop that this diocese has been dealing with for years.

Granted, sin is sin and wrong is wrong; but it is apples to oranges if Bennison is being asked to resign over issues of his management style...And the main club expressed right now is his brother's sexual misconduct. Pushing this story does not move us close to resolution. It takes us as a community of faith more deeply into the fray. Now, we are in the position of trying to pull out the bigger gun when threatened. What will the bishop respond with in the end? What will "we" have to do in order to find resolution? Clearly for many, we are past reconciliation.

All this as Trinity and most of the other parishes in the diocese attempt to beat the drum for the proclamation of the Gospel during "stewardship season."

So, I knew it was coming, but at the same time I am disappointed. There really is so much to celebrate in the life of the Church. The Gospel is being proclaimed, even-at times over and against-when we seem to be able to offer our level best to NOT rise to the occasion.

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