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Bennison to step down: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 6 October 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr.

The Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., has agreed to step down from office on 31 December 2012.

One of the American Church’s most controversial bishops, Charles Bennison was inhibited in Oct 2007 by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from exercising his ministry as Bishop of Pennsylvania and as a priest when the Episcopal Church’s Title IV Review Committee formally accused him of misconduct.  The Trial Court found him guilty but the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop overturned the conviction. While it found that he had been guilty as charged, the lower court erred in proceeding against Bishop Bennison as the passage of time had tolled the statute of limitations. Bishop Bennison returned to office in August 2010.

In September 2010, the Pennsylvania Standing Committee called upon the House of Bishops for their aid in having Bishop Bennison resign. The Fall 2010 meeting of the House of Bishops subsequently passed a non-binding resolution calling upon Bishop Bennson to submit his “immediate and unconditional resignation.” Bishop Bennison declined.

Charles Bennison notoriety began at the start of his episcopal ministry when he angered Anglo-Catholics for violating an election pledge.  In return for their votes, Charles Bennison promised to give members of the Episcopal Synod of the USA (now Forward in Faith) alternative episcopal oversight from a fellow Angl0-Catholic bishop. After his consecration the new bishop declined to honor his election promise.

Some conservatives responded to Bishop Bennison’s actions and theological statements by refusing to allow him to visit their parishes. In one Easter letter to the diocese he observed that Jesus was a sinner like other men. A series of lawsuits  led to the deposition of a number of clergy and the withdrawal of several congregations. It also marked the first use of the church’s Abandonment Canon, which had hitherto been used to remove clergy from the ministry without trial after they had entered the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Bennison also incurred the enmity of the Standing Committee, who called for the bishop to resign due to his management style, financial dealings, and troubling inter-personal skills.  Past attempts by the standing committee to remove the bishop had proven fruitless, but changes to the rules governing a bishop’s tenure adopted at the July 2012 General Convention in the wake of the Bennison scandals now permit the involuntary dissolution of the bishop’s relationship with his diocese.

In his 9 Oct 2012 letter announcing his resignation, Bishop Bennison said he was leaving the diocese in good shape.

“I have informed the committee that I will retire on December 31, 2012,” Bishop Bennison wrote. “I will do so in the confidence that my work is done.” He will be 69 years of age at that time.  The Pennsylvania Standing Committee is expected to call for the election in early 2013 of a provisional bishop as an interim before beginning the search for a new diocesan.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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