News for Week Ending 6/16/2008
GAFCON opens next weekendThe Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) opens next weekend in Jerusalem with registration beginning on Saturday, June 21. The conference will run through Sunday, June 29. According to its Web site, the conference aims to “prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred mission is a top priority,” in addition to providing opportunity for fellowship and to “develop a renewed understanding of our identity as Anglican Christians.” The conference was planned largely by primates of the Global South and their Northern evangelical allies. Some GAFCON attendees have announced that they will boycott the Lambeth Conference, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury July 10–Aug. 3, although a widespread boycott seems unlikely. Some bishops, including both Pittsburgh bishops, have said will attend both conferences.
Male priests “married” in London ceremonyTwo male priests who had already registered in England as civil partners were “married” June 14 in a London service that used the traditional marriage rite and included a Eucharist. The Telegraph reported on the service performed in defiance of the Bishop of London. The couple, the Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord, participated in a ceremony at St. Bartholomew the Great Church. The Rev. Martin Dudley officiated. Conservative reaction was strong and quick. Ugandan primate Henry Orombi, for example, called upon the service “blasphemous” and urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to take decisive action to prevent such ceremonies.
Executive Council expresses hope that Bishop Robinson can have Lambeth impactThe Executive Council of The Episcopal Church wound up a three-day meeting Sunday, June 15, 2008, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by adopting a resolution on this year’s Lambeth Conference. The resolution contains language expressing hope that Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, although not a formal participant, can nevertheless have some influence. Robinson, the only active openly gay Anglican bishop, plans to be at the conference site as an observer to “see and be seen.” The resolution says that, although the conference’s “structured discussions will not include the voice and face of the Bishop of New Hampshire, who has not been invited to participate, we pray that his voice will be heard through those who are there speaking the truth about The Episcopal Church and hearing the truths of others, to the benefit of the wider Communion." In earlier remarks, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori reminded Council members that the conference “is not going to be a legislative Lambeth; it’s going to be a conversational Lambeth, as was the first Lambeth.”
In other Council business, Linda Watt, chief operating officer for the church’s central offices, reported that a new regional office in Los Angeles is “up and running” and that another in Omaha is nearing the same status. In Seattle, she said, the church is close to settling on space on a school campus adjoining St. Mark’s Cathedral. But in Atlanta, Ms. Watt said, “hope is kind of faint” that rent-free space owned by the diocese can be found. She said the church remains committed to having a regional office in Province IX, made up of seven Latin American and Caribbean dioceses.
The Council was also briefed on proposed changes to Title IV, the church’s disciplinary canons. An attempt to revise the Title IV canons at the 2006 General Convention was unsuccessful.
Episcopal News Service has provided extensive coverage of the Executive Council meeting, most of which cannot be dealt with in this brief overview. The final ENS story on the meeting can be found here. It contains links to earlier stories.
President of House of Deputies has new Web siteFor the first time, the president of the House of Deputies has her own Web site. President Bonnie Anderson welcomes visitors to the site, explaining that “the work and ministries of the deputies continue throughout the triennium.” She pledges to use the site to report on her ministies and those of other deputies to the General Convention. Initial features include remarks Anderson delivered at the Episcopal Relief and Development network meeting in April and at the Diocese of Missouri Flower Festival in May. It also includes news stories and a “Featured Voice” essay by the Rev. Brian N. Prior, of the Diocese of Spokane, the House of Deputies vice president.
Two California bishops urge couples to wed in civil ceremony firstAccording to an Episcopal News Service story, Bishop Marc Anrus of the Diocese of California said June 11 that all couples planning marriage, regardless of sexual orientation, should be wed in a civil ceremony before seeking a church blessing. He said such actions would be a way to support same-gender couples and “our continued witness to God’s inclusive love.” Bishop Mary Gray Reeves announced similar guidelines to her clergy according to The Living Church. Three other bishops in California—Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, James Mathes of San Diego, and Barry Beisner of Northern California—said their dioceses have not yet decided how they will deal with same-sex couples seeking blessing of their unions. The California Supreme Court ruled that, beginning June 16, gay couples can marry in that state. Interim Bishop Jerry Lamb of San Joaquin said his priority now is continued work to reconcile and restore the diocese because its previous leadership attempted to align it with South American Province of the Southern Cone.
Church court weighs fate of Pennsylvania bishopA nine-member Court for the Trial of a Bishop is deliberating the case of Bishop Charles Bennison of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. His trial on a charge of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy ended Friday, June 13, after three days of testimony taken at a downtown Philadelphia hotel. The court has 30 days to reach a verdict. A two-thirds majority is required for conviction on each charge. Bennison faces a sentence that could range from a reprimand to deposition.
Bennison is accused of failing to respond properly 35 years ago when, as a novice rector in Upland, California, he learned that his married younger brother John, a deacon and newly hired youth minister, had a ongoing sexual relationship with a girl that had begun when she was 14 years old. The bishop is further charged with covering up that information when his brother, who had once renounced his orders, was reinstated as a priest. John Bennison was forced from the priesthood a second time in 2006 after the abuse was publicly revealed.
Bennison’s attorney contended that his client had no church training, guidelines, or protocol to govern how he should respond at the time. He said that the 31-year-old rector handled the situation as best he knew how, a position Bennison himself took later in the proceedings when he testified on his own behalf.
The trial has been covered in detail by the Diocese of Pennsylvania. (Detailed accounts of the trial can be found here. Note that they appear in reverse chronological order.) The same reporter, Jerry Hames, who is providing stories for the Diocese of Pennsylvania, is also filing stories with Episcopal News Service. His ENS story on the final day of the trial can be found here. It contains links to earlier ENS stories on the trial.