Last night I was trolling through my emails and opened the ENS news feed to find that our Bishop, the Right Reverend Charles Bennison, will be inhibited by the Presiding Bishop as of just after midnight this Sunday. The full story is here.
We have known for quite a while that this news would eventually arrive on our collective doorstep. There are three different presentment sets before the Presiding Bishop and to my knowledge they have all been referred to committees for review and are pending the PB's decision to act upon them in succession.
This news comes on the threshold of this year's Diocesan Convention, and as the delegation from Trinity Church (myself, Mariclair+, Angela and Jean) prepares to make its way down to the Cathedral in Philadelphia, that sense that things are not as they should be is upon us. I think all of us want to live in a diocese that is not dealing with the challenge of a bishop who faces inhibition and the reality of being brought before a judges' panel in the Trial of a Bishop...but here we are. To say that it colors our energy, our emotions and our enthusiasm for this part of the work of the Body of Christ is an understatement...but I confess to you all a sort of epiphany as I sit here pondering the coming weeks, months and perhaps years as this whole process works it way through to conclusion: what matters is prayer, mutual ministry and the hope of healing found in Christ.
Our bishop faces serious accusations, but they are for the moment just that, accusations. Due process is by right and by canon extended to all. The downside is that we expect of our ecclesiastical leaders a moral standard that does not always embrace due process. +Charles is innocent until proven guilty...not just in a regular, secular court of law, but also in an ecclesiastical context as well. Still, his pastoral and personal integrity continue to be under fire. It is an impossible position to be in, and one I would not wish on anyone.
The hard part for him will be putting one foot in front of another as this all works out. The hard thing for us all is being a diocese that is working through, and enduring, the once-in-over-a-hundred-years experience of seeing its Bishop and chief pastor standing accused of anything, and having that anything lead to the formal Trial of a Bishop. It hasn't happened in any of our lifetimes. God willing, it won't happen again soon to ANYONE.
Now, the Diocese of PA has its issues, and they are quite serious. As I reflect on these events, I am finding new resolve to pray for my Bishop and this Diocese as we enter the next chapter of our ongoing experience of conflicts over power, money, position, definition of canon law, etc. +Charles has a great deal to answer for as this process continues to unfold, but as one Body, it is important to realize that we are all responsible for, and connected to, our current estate. As in all times of trial, real trial, more than just one man's life and ministry are on the line. Our ability and resolve to be the Body of Christ is about to be tested in some very particular ways.
The truth is that we all carry responsibility for caring for each other and the wider Church throughout the course of this moment in history. People's lives and livelihoods are on the line...our integrity as a Diocesan Body is in question and we will distinguish ourselves not by getting rid of the irritant of controversy, but instead by how we embrace each other and work toward healing and reconciliation. So, that perhaps, there will be a better Church to hand on to our children, and theirs, once this age passes.
God be with +Charles, and with us, in the days ahead.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen. (BCP 1979, page 815 "For the Human Family")