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Clifton Daniel elected Bishop of Pennsylvania: Anglican Ink, January 15, 2013 January 15, 2013

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Clifton Daniel, III

A special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has elected the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III to serve as provisional bishop of one of the Episcopal Church’s oldest and largest dioceses.

On 12 Jan 2013 the diocese elected by unanimous acclamation Bishop Daniel, the resigned Bishop of East Carolina, to serve as bishop for two years, or until the election of a diocesan bishop.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

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

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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.

Charles Bennison to resign: Anglican Ink, October 9, 2012 October 9, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Pennsylvania, The Episcopal Church.
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The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr.

The Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., has announced that he will step down from office on 31 December 2012.

Bishop Bennison has had a rocky tenure as bishop of one of the church’s oldest and largest dioceses.  The conflicts began during the race for his election as bishop when at the special convention held to elect a successor to Bishop Allen Bartlett, Charles Bennison promised members of the Episcopal Synod of the USA (now Forward in Faith) that he would honor Bishop Bartlett’s program of permitting Anglo-Catholic bishops from outside the diocese to exercise episcopal ministry on his behalf.  After offering this pledge the Anglo-Catholic bloc in the diocese, led by the Rev. David L. Moyer, put their votes behind Bennison giving him the victory.  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.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Bishop Bennison must go, Pennsylvania says: The Church of England Newspaper, Nov 12, 2010 p 8. November 15, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The synod of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has called upon its bishop to “resign immediately.”

On Nov 6, delegates to the 227th annual meeting of the diocesan convention voted 341 to 134 in support of a resolution that said the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, Jr., did “not have the trust of the people and clergy of the Diocese of Pennsylvania to continue to serve as their bishop.”

On Aug 5, Bishop Bennison was restored to office following a three year suspension after the Episcopal Church’s appellate Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop threw out a lower court decision that found him guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, and ordered he be defrocked.

The appeals court found that while it considered Bishop Bennison’s actions 35 years ago to have been improper, it ruled that he could not be deposed from office due to the church’s statute of limitations which required the prosecution to have been brought decades ago.

After the vote was announced, Bishop Bennison offered no comment and returned to his chair as the presiding officer of the meeting in Philadelphia.

The vote followed publication of an open letter written by the Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Paul Marshall, to Bishop Bennison calling upon him to step aside.  “There simply comes a time to call it quits, and I hope that for the sake of our common mission, this will happen in the Diocese of Pennsylvania,” he said.

At the conclusion of its Sept. 16-21 meeting in Phoenix, the US House of Bishops issued a non-binding statement calling upon Bishop Bennison to resign.  The bishops were “profoundly troubled by the outcome of the disciplinary action” and believed his “capacity to exercise the ministry of pastoral oversight is irretrievably damaged.”

Bishop Bennison declined to act upon the synod’s suggestion that he go, and he cannot be compelled to step down from office until he reaches the age of 72 in six year’s time.

Bennison says he won’t go: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 1, 2010 p 7. October 2, 2010

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The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Pennsylvania has rebuffed a call for his ouster made by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops stating he will not resign.

“I am, and have always been, innocent of the charges against me,” the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennsion, Jr., said last week, in response to the Sept 21 resolution from the House of Bishops meeting in Phoenix that called for him to step down for the “sake of the wholeness and unity” of the church.

The final action of the House of Bishops’ meeting, the resolution calling for Bishop Bennison to resign has no legal force, and has been criticized for undermining the church’s disciplinary process, which last month acquitted the Bishop of Pennsylvania of misconduct.  “This latest action is as pathetic as it is risible,” canon lawyer Allan S. Haley said.

It was “pathetic” because it “confesses their lack of will to address” the problem of clergy sexual abuse.  “Instead of addressing the problem, they mouth pious platitudes which are completely belied by their confessions of inability to act.

Their failure to act is risible in light of the manner in which” the House of Bishops “found it ‘necessary’ to vote to depose the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan at their September meeting in 2008,” Mr. Haley said.

The Sept 21 Bennison resolution stated the bishops were “profoundly troubled” by the bishops acquittal.  While they respected the “decision of the Court of Review,” the “ultimate resolution of this matter [was] unsatisfactory and morally repugnant.”

“As the House of Bishops, we have come to the conclusion that Bishop Bennison’s capacity to exercise the ministry of pastoral oversight is irretrievably damaged,” the resolution stated, and called upon him “to tender his immediate and unconditional resignation as the Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.”

On Sept 23 SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group representing those abused by clergy denounced Bishop Bennison, saying  he “insists on rubbing even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of clergy sex abuse victims by minimizing their suffering and selfishly clinging to his personal power and prestige.”

SNAP stated the bishop could help the young woman in question by stepping down as “clergy sex abuse victims find it healing and comforting when those who ignore or conceal child sex crimes are held responsible, ousted or step aside.”

In his Sept 22 response, Bishop Bennison said that the “Court of Review clearly determined from its review of the facts,” that he was unaware of his “younger brother’s inappropriate relationship with a minor” until late 1977, “after the relationship was over, and the young woman was legally an adult.”

The basis of the misconduct charge was that Bishop Bennison had failed to respond appropriately to his brother’s actions when his brother served as the bishop’s youth minister in a California parish 35 years ago, and that Bishop Bennison had conspired to cover up the scandal.

Bishop Bennison noted the Court of Review “determined that I did not conceal anything about this matter” and did not “deem” his conduct to “be unbecoming a member of the clergy.”

He added that he had also kept quiet when he learned of the abuse at the request of the parents of the young woman.  “If I could have prevented that abuse, I would certainly have done so.”

However, “resigning my position” as bishop “will not ease her pain or remove the sting of the abusive relationship,” Bishop Bennison said, adding that the suffering he had endured “during the past three years has strengthened me and will enable me to work for reconciliation within the Diocese.”

US House of Bishops calls for the Bishop of Pennsylvania to resign: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 24, 2010 p 6. September 28, 2010

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

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The US Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has called upon the Bishop of Pennsylvania to resign.  In a resolution adopted at their Sept 16 to 21 meeting in Phoenix, the bishops called upon the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., to step down for the “sake of the wholeness and unity” of the church.

In a decision dated July 28, but released in mid August, the Episcopal Church’s Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop overturned the conviction of Bishop Bennison on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.  It concluded the conduct in question had occurred more than 35 years ago and the church was accordingly barred from prosecution under the ten-year statute of limitations rule.

The appellate court’s unanimous decision restored Bishop Bennison to office following his June 26, 2008 conviction, dealing a sharp blow to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her chancellor, Mr. David Booth Beers, who had championed the case.

Protests over the Bishop Bennison’s successful appeal have been made by the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Standing Committee and lay leaders in the Episcopal Church, and on Sept 21 the House of Bishops passed a resolution that stated they too were “profoundly troubled by the outcome of the disciplinary action” against Bishop Bennison.

The bishops said that while they respected the “decision of the Court of Review” the “ultimate resolution of this matter [was] unsatisfactory and morally repugnant.”

The resolution stated Bishop Bennison had offered a “wholly inadequate response” towards explaining his conduct thirty-five years, and believed his protestations of innocence were an “inexcusable violation of his ordination vows.”

“As the House of Bishops, we have come to the conclusion that Bishop Bennison’s capacity to exercise the ministry of pastoral oversight is irretrievably damaged,” the resolution stated.

“Therefore, we exhort Charles, our brother in Christ, in the strongest possible terms, to tender his immediate and unconditional resignation as the Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. For the sake of the wholeness and unity of the body of Christ, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and in the church, we implore our brother to take this action without further delay.”

Bennison conviction overturned: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 20, 2010 p 6. August 27, 2010

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

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

An ecclesiastical court of appeal has overturned the conviction of the Bishop of Pennsylvania on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

In a decision dated July 28, but released last week, the Episcopal Church’s Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop found that the conduct in question had occurred more than 35 years ago, and the church was accordingly barred from prosecuting Bishop Bennison under the ten-year statute of limitations rule.

The appellate court’s 38-page unanimous decision by the court’s eight bishops restores Bishop Bennison to office as Bishop of Pennsylvania after a two and a half year suspension.  It also comes as a sharp blow to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her chancellor, Mr. David Booth Beers, who had vigorously prosecuted the case.

In 2008 a nine judge panel has ordered Bishop Bennison be removed from the ordained ministry for conspiring to cover up the sexual abuse of a minor.  He displayed a “fundamental lack of professional awareness” of the consequences of his actions, which represented “very significant failure to fulfill his responsibilities” as a priest, the Court for the Trial of a Bishop said on Sept 30, 2008.

On June 26, 2008 the trial court convicted Bishop Bennison on two counts of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.  The bishop was found guilty of having failed to respond appropriately in 1973 after having learned his brother, whom he had engaged to be his youth minister, had “engaged in a sexually abusive and sexually exploitive relationship” with a 14-year-old girl.  Bishop Bennison was also found guilty of having conspired to cover up the abuse.

As a result of the guilty verdict, the “court finds that [Bishop Bennison] should no longer serve as a member of the clergy of the church.”

However, the Court of Appeals found that the bishop had not engaged in acts of sexual abuse.  While there was no question that his brother would have been liable for trial on that charge, Bishop Bennison’s failure 35 years ago to investigate his brother’s conduct “are not actions that constitute sexual abuse of a victim.”

“To the extent the Trial Court relied upon those findings to apply the sexual abuse exception [that waives the statutue of limitations0 and allow a guilty verdict against Appellant, the Trial Court was clearly erroneous,” the Court of Appeals held.

While the Trial Court held that Bishop Bennison was “guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, those actions do not constitute sexual abuse and, therefore, a Presentment for that offense cannot be made because it is barred by the applicable statute of limitations,” it held.

Throughout the trial and appeals process, attorneys for Bishop Bennison had argued that their client was being tried for his brother’s bad actions.  They also argued that the sexual abuse charge was a ploy by the national church and the diocesan standing committee to rid themselves of Bishop Bennison over his mismanagement of diocesan funds.

Bishop Jefferts Schori had offered a plea deal on several occasions to Bishop Bennison, offering to drop the charges in exchange for his departure.  However, Bishop Bennison refused to concede his guilt and fought the allegations of cover up and abuse.

The court’s finding shocked many members of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, who gathered at the cathedral in Philadelphia on Aug 8 and called for the bishop to step down.  At 66, Bishop Bennison cannot be compelled to retire until he turns 72 years of age.  He told a press conference after the decision was announced that he planned to return to work on Aug 16, and would continue in office “if it seems appropriate and in the best interest of the church.”

Bishop Bennison launches his final appeal: The Church of England Newspaper, May 7, 2010 p 7. May 13, 2010

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

A nine-judge panel of bishops heard the appeal of the Bishop of Pennsylvania this week, who in 2008 was found guilty of misconduct and ordered deposed from the ordained ministry.

On May 4, attorneys for Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Jr., and the Episcopal Church were granted two hours each to present their case before the court meeting at Trinity Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

In 2008 Bishop Bennison was convicted of charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy for covering up the sexual abuse 35 years ago of a teenage girl by his then 24-year old brother, who was serving as his youth minister at St. Mark’s Church in Upland, California.

In February 2009 the Trial Court ordered the bishop be deposed from the ordained ministry, but in April attorneys for the bishop filed a motion to dismiss the charges saying newly uncovered evidence—letters between the ‘victim’ and Bishop Bennison’s brother—showed the affair had been consensual and that Bishop Bennison had been deceived by the pair.

Testimony offered by the victim at the bishop’s trial, was found to have been at variance with the documents produced by the bishop. The bishop’s trial was further plagued by the refusal of the Diocese of Los Angeles to cooperate with the court and provide evidence the bishop’s attorneys believed would prove to exonerate their client, and by the lapses of memory of retired bishops who had knowledge of the affair.

James Pabarue, attorney for Bishop Bennison, told the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop, the sentence handed down by the Trial Court was too harsh, that the statute of limitations prevented the case from being tried, and that a miscarriage of justice had been committed in the trial through the suppression of exculpatory evidence.

The Church Attorney Lawrence White argued the court should honour the sentence handed down by the Trial Court, which held the contradiction in testimony offered at trial and the evidence produced by the bishop was irrelevant. “Whether or not the minor thought at the time that she wanted the relationship to continue is irrelevant to the existence of [the bishop’s] duty to protect the minor and his failure to fulfill that duty,” the Trial Court held.

Bishop Bennison “has made and perpetuated serious and grievous mistakes for which he should be held responsible,” Mr. White said, arguing the bishop “doesn’t belong in the company of the spiritual leaders of the church.”

“I came here today optimistic, and I remain optimistic about this court reversing the judgment and the sentence of the last court,” Bishop Bennison told the Associated Press after the hearing.

The Court of Review may uphold the sentence, substitute a lesser sentence, or order a new trial. The decision will be taken by eight members of the Court, as the Bishop of Delaware; the Rt. Rev. Wayne Wright—a friend of Bishop Bennison—declared an interest and did not hear the case. A decision is not expected for several weeks.

Bennison loses American court appeal to have charges dismissed: CEN 10.02.09 p 6. October 5, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop has denied a motion by Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E Bennison, Jr, to dismiss charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, or in the alternative, grant him a new trial.

On Sept 24 the Trial Court held that “newly discovered evidence” provided by Bishop Bennison was “not material to the evidence” that led the court to rule he had “failed to respond appropriately” to a case of sexual abuse.

Bennison loses appeal

In 2008 Bishop Bennison was convicted of charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy for covering up the sexual abuse 35 years ago of a 14-year-old girl by his then 24-year-old brother who was engaged as his youth minister at St Mark’s Church in Upland, California.

In February 2009 the Trial Court ordered the bishop be deposed from the ordained ministry, but in April attorneys for the bishop filed a motion to dismiss the charges saying newly uncovered evidence — letters between the ‘victim’ and Bishop Bennison’s brother — showed the affair was consensual and that Bishop Bennison had been deceived by the pair.

The 256 letters written between 1974 and 1994 impeached the testimony of the victim that she had been abused, the bishop’s attorneys argued. However, the court held the letters proved the bishop’s brother had engaged in “criminal and abusive” behaviour with a minor. It also held the evidence showed the bishop was aware of the relationship as early as 1975, and could not now plead ignorance.

“Whether or not the minor thought at the time that she wanted the relationship to continue is irrelevant to the existence of [the bishop’s] duty to protect the minor and his failure to fulfill that duty,” the court held. The court also rejected a motion from the Episcopal Church to seal the records of the case, including the letters, noting the information was already outside of the control of the court. However the court asked all those with copies of the documents to honour the privacy of the victim.

Bishop Bennison’s case now proceeds to the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop to hear his appeal of the 2008 conviction.

Gag order for Bennison: CEN 6.05.09 p 6. June 8, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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A gag order has been issued against the former Bishop of Pennsylvania forbidding him to make public evidence he believes will exonerate him from charges of conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse.

On April 17, attorneys for the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., filed a motion with the Episcopal Church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop asking that it set aside its guilty verdict. The court found that the bishop, when he was a parish rector in California, had committed of two counts of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy for conspiring to cover up the 1973 affair between his brother John Bennison, his parish youth minister, and a 14-year old member of the congregation.

In 2006, John Bennison was deposed from the ordained ministry, and on June 26, 2008 the court held Bishop Bennison was guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy and recommended that he be defrocked. Bishop Bennison appealed the finding and remains suspended from office pending the case’s final disposition.

The April motion states that new evidence—200 letters written by the victim to the bishop’s brother, John Bennison, had been unearthed that impeached the victim’s testimony.

The victim swore under oath that she wanted Charles Bennison to break up the relationship, but the new evidence, his lawyers claimed, shows the victim had sought to hide the affair from Charles Bennison. The victim’s motive was not outrage for having been abused, but revenged for having been abandoned by John Bennison for another woman.

“John Bennison ultimately left his wife, not for [the victim], but for another woman. It was after John married the second woman that [the victim] lodged her allegations of a cover-up against Bishop Bennison, 17 years after the relationship with John Bennison ended,” the bishop’s lawyers claimed.

On May 19 the court directed Bishop Bennison not to release the letters. “The complainant has submitted a sworn declaration from a psychologist who opines that public release of the materials underlying the respondent’s motion could inflict trauma on the victim,” the court noted.

“It is astounding that the church attorney, who on June 26, 2008, issued a statement to the press praising The Episcopal Church for using ‘an open and transparent process that allowed the truth to come to light,’ now seeks to suppress the truth and hide the process from the public,” attorney James Pabarue told the Living Church magazine.

“We believe that the court – having reviewed the contents of the letters – should throw out the conviction and restore the bishop to his position. The bishop has already suffered unjust damage to his reputation and career. The church can do the right thing and avoid the further embarrassment that might ensue with the release of the letters.”

Will new evidence clear Bennison?: CEN 5.01.09 p 6. May 4, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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New evidence has been unearthed that defense attorneys claim exonerates Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison of the charges of conspiracy and misconduct. In an April 17 motion filed with the Episcopal Church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop, lawyers for the suspended bishop have asked the court to toss out their guilty verdict, or grant the controversial bishop a new trial.

Letters allegedly written by the victim to her abuser, the Rev. John Bennison, brother of the bishop, the bishop’s lawyers argue impeach her testimony at trial that the bishop knew about his brother’s abuse but took no action.

On June 26, a trial court convicted Bishop Bennison on two counts of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The bishop was found guilty of having failed to respond appropriately in 1973 after having learned his brother, whom he had engaged to be his youth minister, had “engaged in a sexually abusive and sexually exploitive relationship” with a 14-year-old girl. Bishop Bennison was also found guilty of having conspired to cover up that abuse.

In September the court ordered Bishop Bennison be defrocked and that he “no longer serve as a member of the clergy of the church.” Bennison’s attorney James Pabarue objected to the sentence saying it was “utterly immoral” and “completely wrong,” and that his client would appeal.

The April 17 motion states that new evidence has been unearthed in the form of 200 letters written by the victim to John Bennison. In testimony before the court last year, the victim stated that she wanted Charles Bennison to intervene and stop his brother’s affair with her, a teenaged member of the church youth group. However, the bishop’s lawyers claim the letters show the affair was consensual, and that the victim sought to hide the affair from Charles Bennison.

The motive for the victim’s actions against Charles Bennison was revenge, the bishop’s lawyers said. “John Bennison ultimately left his wife, not for [the victim], but for another woman. It was after John married the second woman that [the victim] lodged her allegations of a cover-up against Bishop Bennison, 17 years after the relationship with John Bennison ended,” the bishop’s lawyers claimed.

“As the trumpet of the priests brought down the walls of Jericho, this latest revelation destroys the foundation of the case against Bishop Bennison,” the motion argues, as the letters show “Charles Bennison was deceived and duped.”

Under American canon law, the presiding judge of the court sets a briefing schedule for consideration of the motion. If it rejects the April 17 motion, Bishop Bennison may then ask for appellate review of the lower court’s proceedings.

The Rt. Rev. David Moyer April 17, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania, Traditional Anglican Communion.
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The Rt. Rev. David Moyer.  Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, Suffragan Bishop of the Armed Forces for the Anglican Church in America, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of The Murray in the Anglican Church of Australia. Photo printed on April 17, 2009 in The Church of England Newspaper

The Rt. Rev. David Moyer. Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, Suffragan Bishop of the Armed Forces for the Anglican Church in America, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of The Murray in the Anglican Church of Australia. Photo printed on April 17, 2009 in The Church of England Newspaper

Court bid to regain control of Forward in Faith parish: CEN 4.17.09 p 6. April 17, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania, Property Litigation.
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THE DIOCESE of Pennsylvania has filed suit against the flagship parish of the Forward in Faith movement in the US, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, seeking control of the property.

Last month’s pleading, filed on behalf of the diocesan standing committee, asked a suburban Philadelphia court to eject the Rt Rev David Moyer and his congregation from the property, arguing the parish’s secession from the diocese violates canon law which requires parish property to be “held or used for the work of the Episcopal Church.”

The battle between Rosemont’s rector and the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles Bennison, began in 2002, when Bishop Bennison deposed Fr Moyer for “abandoning the communion” of the Episcopal Church for contumacy. Fr Moyer filed suit against Bishop Bennison in a civil court for damages, and in a legal first persuaded the court that the bishop’s actions were so egregious that a civil review was needed. A jury in October 2008 found that Bishop Bennison’s actions did not merit redress.

After he was deposed, Fr Moyer was received by the Traditional Anglican Communion, a continuing church group, and is now a bishop within that church. Following the conclusion of the litigation last year between Bishop Bennison and Bishop Moyer the standing committee in Pennsylvania started legal proceedings to gain control of Rosemont.

“We approached the Diocese of Pennsylvania to seek an amicable solution. Now we are stunned to receive their response of aggression with the intent to terminate the life and mission of a diverse Christian community engaged in healing the sick, caring for the poor, and witnessing to the love of God as set forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Moyer said.

The congregation would “do everything possible” to remain in its historic property from whose “walls emanate the prayers of generations of faithful Anglo- Catholic men and women.” Bishop Moyer told The Church of England Newspaper the parish seeks to remain an “orthodox Anglo-Catholic” bastion dedicated to the mission and ministry of the church “while offering God worship and devotion in ritual and ceremony that aims to offer God the very best.”

Bennison appeal lost: CEN 2.13.09 p 8. February 13, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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The former Bishop of Pennsylvania’s request for a modification of his sentence of deposition from holy orders was denied last week by a church tribunal in Philadelphia. On Feb 4, the Court for the Trial of a Bishop declined to modify its sentence removing the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison from the ministry for having covered up the sexual abuse of a young girl committed by his brother, John Bennison, when Bishop Bennison was a parish priest in California in the 1970’s.

The court rejected the request to impose a lighter sentence of suspension or admonition, but noted that its ruling did not “alter the church’s deep and abiding compassion” for Bishop Bennison, saying they hoped the finality of its verdict would allow him to find “reconciliation and peace.”

Lawyers for the former bishop said they were “very disappointed” by the decision, saying it was “unwarranted” given the facts before the court. “The court’s unwillingness to recognize the victims’ desire over 30 years to not see the bishop punished and its disregard for both the evidence presented at trial and the additional evidence uncovered after trial amount to a grave injustice against a man who has served the Episcopal Church faithfully for four decades,” his lawyer said.

Bishop Bennison’s attorney announced that his client would take his case to the appellate Court of Review. Under canon law, the former bishop has 30 days to file his appeal, with a hearing to following within 60 days.

Former Bishop of Pennsylvania launches appeal: CEN 11.14.08 November 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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The former Bishop of Pennsylvania has asked a church appellate court to reverse its order defrocking him from the ordained ministry. On Nov 11 attorneys for the Rt Rev Charles E Bennison, Jr, asked the nine-member court meeting at a Philadelphia hotel to modify its sentence, saying that deposing their client was tantamount to an ecclesiastical “death penalty.”

In June, the Episcopal Church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop convicted Bishop Bennison of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, and conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of a teenage girl committed by his brother in the 1970s. While a parish rector in California, Bishop Bennison had engaged his brother John Bennison to be his youth minister. Testimony presented to the court showed Bishop Bennison had been aware of the abuse, had taken no substantive action, and had subsequently covered up the crime.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Former Bishop of Pennsylvania launches appeal

Diocese cleared of fraud charges over dismissal of traditionalist priest: CEN 10.31.08 p 6. November 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Pennsylvania.
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Ruling on a narrow point of law, on Oct 24 a Montgomery County jury voted 10 to 2 that the Diocese of Pennsylvania did not commit fraud for having used the “abandonment canon” to depose the Rev. David Moyer, leader of Forward in Faith USA from the priesthood.

The case of Moyer v. Bennison had attracted national attention as it was the first time a civil court had agreed to hear a dispute between a priest and his bishop over the bishop’s conduct. Had Fr. Moyer won his case, and survived an appeal, it would have constituted a significant change in American church-state law.

After having barred the controversial bishop from visiting his parish, Bishop Bennison retaliated by invoking the “abandonment canon”, charging Fr. Moyer with having left the Communion of the Episcopal Church in 2002. Evidence presented by the attorney for Fr. Moyer indicated Bishop Bennison had misled the diocese in seeking to oust the troublesome Anglo-Catholic leader.

However, in his summing up, Montgomery County Court Joseph Smyth asked that the jury first determine whether the diocese had engaged in fraud when it deposed Fr. Moyer for having “abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.”

Determining whether the diocesan process for removing Fr. Moyer was fraudulent was a “gateway” to subsidiary questions as to whether Bishop Bennison had been dishonest or deceitful, the judge said.

After deliberating for three hours, the jury returned its verdict acquitting the diocese of fraud, thus rendering the charges against Bishop Bennison moot.

The Pennsylvania Standing Committee, which had demanded Bishop Bennison’s resignation last year over charges of financial malfeasance, said it was “pleased with the verdict” that cleared the diocese of fraud, stating that it did not believe there “was any legal or factual basis for the suit.”

Bishop Bennison, who was deposed last month by the Episcopal Church for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, told the Philadelphia Inquirer he was pleased with the verdict as well.

However, Fr. Moyer—who currently serves as a Bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion—said he was shocked by the verdict. In a sermon preached the Sunday after the jury verdict, Fr. Moyer said, “I thought I would win in Court. I really did,” but no matter the outcome “we would trust in the Providence of God.”

“I lost the case, but God was glorified in what was said in the Courtroom” by his attorney and the witnesses called before the bar, who spoke the truth in glory to God, Fr. Moyer said.

Bishop Bennison is deposed: CEN 10.10.08 p 5. October 11, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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A nine judge panel has ordered the Bishop of Pennsylvania be removed from the ordained ministry for conspiring to cover up the sexual abuse of a minor.

The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., displayed a “fundamental lack of professional awareness” of the consequences of his actions, which represented “very significant failure to fulfill his responsibilities” as a priest, the Court for the Trial of a Bishop said on Sept 30.

Even now, Bishop Bennison has “not shown that he comprehends the nature, significance and effect of his conduct and has not accepted responsibility and repented for his conduct and the substantial negative effects of that conduct,” the court ruled.

On June 26 a trial court convicted Bishop Bennison on two counts of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The bishop was found guilty of having failed to respond appropriately in 1973 after having learned his brother, whom he had engaged to be his youth minister, had “engaged in a sexually abusive and sexually exploitive relationship” with a 14-year-old girl. Bishop Bennison was also found guilty of having conspired to cover up the abuse.

As a result of the guilty verdict, the “court finds that [Bishop Bennison] should no longer serve as a member of the clergy of the church.”

Lawyers for the deposed bishop said they were disappointed by the court decision, and charged the proceedings had been a show trial designed to oust the “prophetic” bishop. Attorney James Pabarue said the sentence was “utterly immoral” and “completely wrong,” and his client would appeal.

The family of the victim of the abuse, now over 50 years of age, welcomed the sentence telling the Philadelphia Inquirer it sent a “welcome signal that the church doesn’t tolerate the kinds of misconduct that were described so compellingly at trial.”

Under American canon law, Bishop Bennison has 30 days to file a petition requesting a modification of the sentence. If the petition for review is denied, he then has 30 days to file an appeal with the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop—a second panel made up of nine bishops. Pending the final adjudication, Bishop Bennison remains an ordained clergyman of the Episcopal Church, but is suspended from exercising ministerial office.

Bishop Bennison’s legal woes are far from over however, for on Oct 20 trial begins in the civil court case brought by the former president of Forward in Faith USA, the Rt. Rev. David Moyer.

In a legal first, a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania court has permitted Fr. Moyer—now a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion—to pursue a trial for damages by a priest against his bishop for having “fraudulently” defrocked him without benefit of a church trial. Should he lose the Moyer case, Bishop Bennison will be liable for substantial damages, and will have created a legal precedent that allows the civil courts in Pennsylvania to sit in judgment on ecclesiastical disputes.

Calls for Bennison to be defrocked: CEN 8.15.08 p 4. August 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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Sentencing recommendations have been submitted in the trial of the Bishop of Pennsylvania, calling for the Rt Rev Charles E Bennison, Jr, to be defrocked.

On July 30, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania — the diocese’s governing board — stated Bishop Bennison should be removed from the ordained ministry. US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, however, advocated a less severe penalty, urging the bishop never be permitted to hold episcopal office again.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Calls for Bennison to be defrocked

Pennsylvania Bishop ‘found guilty’: CEN 7.11.08 July 12, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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THE BISHOP of Pennsylvania has been found guilty of “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy” by an ecclesiastical trial court in Philadelphia. On June 26 the nine-judge Court for the Trial of a Bishop found that Bishop Bennison had conspired to cover up acts of sexual abuse against a minor committed by his brother.

The court returned a unanimous guilty verdict on the charge Bishop Bennison failed “to respond appropriately” to the abuse committed by his brother, John Bennison, when his brother served as Charles Bennison’s youth minister in the 1970s at St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland, California.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pennsylvania Bishop ‘found guilty’

Bishop of Pennsylvania cleared of fraud charges: CEN 6.27.08 p 8. June 26, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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The Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles E. Bennison Jr., has been cleared of charges of fraud and misappropriation of assets by a review committee of the Episcopal Church, however the controversial bishop still faces trial in the Pennsylvania civil courts and he also awaits the verdict of a church court trying him for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

In November 2006 the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, the diocese’s governing board, brought charges of financial misconduct against the bishop, alleging he had spent millions of dollars of diocesan funds without having received board approval. Bishop Bennison was accused of using diverting funds from diocesan trust accounts to pay for improvements to a pet project, the diocese’s youth camp.

However, the church attorney investigating the allegations found “Bishop Bennison committed no offense in these matters” under the canons of the Episcopal Church. The committee reached its decision on May 21, but did not release its findings until last week.

Earlier this month the bishop was a defendant in a week-long trial. Bishop Bennison was accused of conspiring to cover up acts of sexual abuse committed by his brother, when his brother served as his youth minister in the 1970s.

During his conspiracy trial, Bishop Bennison’s attorney James Pabarue asserted the abuse charges were a ruse, and were motivated by the diocesan standing committee’s desire to remove the bishop for financial misconduct.

Representatives from the standing committee, however, noted the charges of abuse had been brought by the victim, not by the diocese. A decision on the abuse charges is expected in the coming weeks. A right of appeal, however, is granted to the bishop should he be found guilty.

Bishop awaits outcome of trial: CEN 6.23.08 June 23, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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The trial of the Bishop of Pennsylvania for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy has concluded, with a plea from the defendant’s lawyer not to judge the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison Jr., for the crimes of his brother, the Rev. John Bennison.

Bishop Bennison was accused of failing to discipline his brother John, who as a seminarian served as his youth minister in the 1970’s at St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland, California. John Bennison, who resigned from the priesthood in 2006, was accused of having seduced a teenage member of his parish youth group—and that his brother, Charles, had knowledge of the affair, but took no action.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop awaits outcome of trial

Trial of Bishop Bennison begins in Philadelphia: CEN 6.13.08 p 7. June 13, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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The trial of the Bishop of Pennsylvania for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy began on June 9 before a nine-judge panel in Philadelphia.

The Rt Rev Charles E. Bennison, Jr., is accused of covering up the sexual abuse by his brother John Bennison of a 14-year old girl. In 2006 the family of the victim brought charges against the bishop, accusing him of having of having knowledge of the offense, but taking no action. The abuse allegedly took place in the 1970’s while he was rector of a Los Angeles parish where he had engaged his brother, a seminarian at the time, as youth minister. He is also accused of withholding information of the abuse from the Diocese of Los Angeles when his brother applied for ordination.

In his opening remarks Church Attorney Larry White, the prosecutor of the case, said the matter before the court was a “painful case”, but “duty and obligation” compelled it be carried forward. The court heard testimony that on two occasions Bishop Bennison found his brother John in flagrant delecti with the teenage girl, but took no action to end the affair or discipline his brother.

Attorneys for the bishop said Bishop Bennison’s training, and the prevailing code of conduct at the time, led him to confront his brother privately about the matter. However, “John Bennison lied to him.”

The bishop has expressed remorse about his handling of the affair, writing to his diocese in 2006 his “efforts to maintain confidentiality and prevent scandal were very misguided.”

In interviews before the trial, the bishop’s lawyer claimed the allegations were “half-truths,” and were a ploy to remove him from office. Attorney James Pabarue said the allegations of John Bennison’s sexual misconduct were known by two bishops of Los Angeles and the national church, noting that Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning received a detailed letter from the victim in 1993, yet served as Bishop Bennison’s chief consecrator four years later.

The case “should be of concern, not only to bishops but also to priests and deacons,” because it seeks to apply the standards of the present to actions that took place over 30 years ago, Mr. Pabarue told The Living Church magazine.

In a May 23 email to The Church of England Newspaper, John Bennison denied the allegations the girl was 14 years of age. “In 1977, the prior relationship with a minor, who was older than 14 years of age, was fully acknowledged by me before” the Bishop of Los Angeles, he said.

“I voluntarily left the priesthood in 1977, in light of the prior relationship which ended after the individual was an adult female. The deposition was later remitted in full accordance with canons, and the applicable 5-year statute of limitation expired, without any formal charges being filed by any number of persons who were fully aware of the prior relationship; including the former teen or her parents. Those same canonical statutes of limitation were only revised more than a quarter century after this matter was duly adjudicated,” John Bennison said.

The abuse story was “dealt with in 1978; then again in 1992 with a re-investigation and more public disclosure; then finally in 2006, when a TV reporter renowned locally for his tabloid journalism sensationalized the matter. Thus, the TV reporter only ‘broke’ the 30 year old story for the third time,” he said.

John Bennison resigned from the priesthood in June 2006.

The trial is expected to last the week and a verdict is not expected until next month.

Pennsylvania’s Bishop Bennison to face trial: CEN 3.07.08 p 5. March 8, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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A trial date has been set for the Bishop of Pennsylvania to adjudicate charges under canon law that he conspired to cover up the sexual abuse of a parishioner.  The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., will also come before a civil court in May to answer charges that his use of the “abandonment canon” to depose a priest without benefit of trial was an egregious violation of law and equity.

Bishop Bennison will stand trial before a bishops’ court on June 9, and before the Montgomery Country Court of Common Pleas outside Philadelphia in its May session

On Oct 31 US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori suspended him after a review panel found there was prima facie evidence to proceed against him for his actions as a parish rector in the 1970’s.

Bishop Bennison is accused of covering up the sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl by his brother.  The family of the victim brought charges against the bishop in 2006, accusing him of having knowledge of the offense, but taking no action.  He is also accused of withholding information of the abuse from the Diocese of Los Angeles when his brother applied for ordination.

In May Bishop Bennison will answer charges before a civil court brought by the former president of Forward in Faith, USA, the Rt. Rev. David Moyer.

In a legal first, the Pennsylvania court will allow Bishop Moyer to test the legality of the use of the “abandonment canon” used to rid him of the Anglo-Catholic leader.

Lawyers for Bishop Bennison had argued the court should dismiss the lawsuit saying the First Amendment of the US Constitution forbad state interference in internal church disputes.

Bishop Moyer’s lawyers countered that equity and justice required a trial as the Pennsylvania bishop had misused the canons, lied to the diocese’s standing committee, and fraudulently withheld crucial documents that led to Bishop Moyer’s deposition.

On Feb. 15, 2005, Bishop Moyer was consecrated a bishop of the Anglican Church of America, a continuing church body that is part of the global Traditional Anglican Communion.  He has also been licensed as Assistant Bishop of the diocese of The Murray in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Bishop Bennison to face trial: CEN 11.09.07 p 7. November 10, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Pennsylvania.
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charles-bennison.jpgThe Bishop of Pennsylvania has been inhibited by the US Presiding Bishop, suspended from office pending the outcome of an ecclesiastical trial on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

On Oct 31 US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informed Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Jr., that a disciplinary review committee had recommended he be brought to trial before on two counts of misconduct stemming from his actions as a parish rector in California in the mid 1970’s.

Bishop Bennison allegedly took part in a cover up of a case of sexual molestation that took place in his parish. The Bishop’s brother, John Bennison, had served as youth minister to the parish and had an affair with one of his 14 year old charges.

Bishop Bennison is accused of conspiracy, stonewalling investigations, and of having failed to inform the Church of the particulars of the case when his brother was subsequently ordained to the priesthood. The Rev. John Bennison resigned his orders in 2006 after a San Francisco television station broke the sexual abuse story.

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, cases of the sexual exploitation of minors are not subject to rules governing the statutes of limitations.

During his diocese’s 2006 synod, Bishop Bennison survived a vote of no confidence but acknowledged that “my efforts to maintain confidentiality and prevent scandal were very misguided.”

A second church committee is reviewing charges brought by the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Standing Committee against Bishop Bennison alleging financial misconduct and abuse of office. These charges remain under review and are still pending, a member of the Standing Committee told The Church of England Newspaper.

Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Pennsylvania Bishop to Proceed: TLC 1.26.07 January 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Living Church, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Pennsylvania.
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The legality of deposing clergy without a church trial through the use of the “abandonment canon” will be tested before a Pennsylvania civil court. In a ruling handed down on Jan. 25, Montgomery County Judge Thomas Branca permitted a suit for damages against the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., Bishop of Pennsylvania, brought by the Rt. Rev. David L. Moyer to proceed to trial.

A former priest of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Bishop Moyer was inhibited and then deposed on Sept. 4, 2002. by Bishop Bennison under Title IV Canon 10 “Abandonment of Communion” for refusing Bishop Bennison permission to make a visitation at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, a Philadelphia suburb. This dispute was grounds for use of the canon, Bishop Bennison argued, as the Rosemont rector had “abandoned the Communion of this Church” by an “open renunciation of the…discipline…of this church.”

Lawyers for Bishop Bennison argued the court should dismiss the lawsuit saying the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Pennsylvania case law discouraged state interference in internal church disputes.

Bishop Moyer’s lawyers countered that equity and justice required a trial as Bishop Bennison had improperly used a canon to remove him from the ministry that did not provide for a church trial or redress. They further argued Bishop Bennison had misled the standing committee, which had affirmed the deposition, by fraudulently withholding documents necessary for their deliberations.

Bishop Bennison pioneered the use of the abandonment canon to remove clergy from office without benefit of a church trial; a tactic most recently invoked against 21 Virginia priests for their “association with a group of people that has abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church.”

In a 2005 interview with The Living Church the Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, noted the abandonment canon has “a very specific purpose. It is for those instances when a member of the clergy leaves the Episcopal Church to become, say, a Roman Catholic or a Presbyterian, without officially renouncing his/her Episcopal orders. A bishop who says that a member of the clergy who joins the Network, or who–for conscience sake–joins the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), has ‘abandoned communion’ is simply outrageous.”

“The ‘abandonment’ canon denies the accused any due process whatsoever: there is no facing his or her accusers, no weighing of evidence, no answering of charges, no jury, no appeal. To use this canon to silence or remove a member of the clergy who does not support his or her bishop is, in my opinion, a violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,” Bishop Howe said.

On Feb. 15, 2005, Bishop Moyer was consecrated a bishop of the Anglican Church of America, a continuing church body that is part of the global Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), with oversight of the ACA’s military chaplains and 25 TAC priests in England. A former president of Forward in Faith North America, Bishop Moyer has also been licensed as Assistant Bishop of the diocese of The Murray in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Bishop Moyer told The Living Church he was “thrilled” with the ruling.

“I in no way abandoned the Communion of the Church,” he said. “It has been my contention that Charles Bennison is a false teacher who separated himself from the teachings of the Church. I could not in good conscience welcome him to Good Shepherd and expose my people to false teaching.”

Bishop Bennison did not respond to TLC’s request for comment.

John Lewis, Bishop Moyer’s lawyer, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he believed the case would be “the first time that a case will go to trial which involves ecclesiastical discipline of a priest in a hierarchical church.”

First published in The Living Church.

Pennsylvania Bishop ‘Committed to Staying,’ Won’t Resign: TLC 1.26.06 June 26, 2006

Posted by geoconger in Living Church, Pennsylvania.
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The Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., has rejected a request from the standing committee, stating in an e-mail message to the clergy that he will not resign.

After an all-day meeting with his staff on Jan. 26, Bishop Bennison said his resignation “would not be a solution to the challenges” facing the diocese. Bishop Bennison said the best way forward was to “pursue together a rigorous long-term process for addressing our problems.”

He pledged his cooperation with the reconciliation process and invited “the standing committee and all of you to be part of it.” To comply with the standing committee request would not set a proper example for the Church in the midst of its present difficulties, he said.

“Fundamental to our understanding of who we are as the Body of the Risen Christ is the conviction that disagreements among us, however difficult and painful, are not a cause for dissolving the relationship we have with one another through baptism and ordination,” he wrote, adding he was “committed to staying” with his present relationship to the diocese.

In an addendum to his email, Bishop Bennison asked the clergy to read his letter to their congregations on Jan. 29.

First published in The Living Church.

Standing Committee Asks Bishop Bennison to Resign: TLC 1.26.06 January 26, 2006

Posted by geoconger in Living Church, Pennsylvania.
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By unanimous vote, the standing committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has asked its Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., to retire or resign. Standing committee member the Rev. Glen M. Matis, rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Philadelphia, told The Living Church “the actions of the Standing Committee involved judgments concerning trusts and the bishop’s ability to lead the diocese now.” The standing committee is expected to issue a formal statement shortly.

In a letter to diocesan clergy dated Jan. 25, Bishop Bennison said he was “seriously praying about the standing committee’s request,” and called for prayer “for me, for our colleagues throughout the diocese, and above all for the unity and health of our diocese.”

In recent years, the diocese has spent $9.6 million in unrestricted net assets in order to meet program expenses as parochial contributions have declined. Bishop Bennison opened the diocese’s 222nd convention on Nov. 5 with a call to affirm his leadership. “If you feel I’m not leading you effectively, tell me, and if I feel it is God’s will, I’ll resign,” he said as reported in the diocesan newspaper, The Pennsylvania Episcopalian.

Convention rejected the proposed $4.8 million budget. It also rejected a proposed mandatory parochial assessment and approved a resolution calling for the election by convention of finance and property committee members, removing their appointment from the bishop’s authority.

On Jan 14., Diocesan Council approved an interim budget, cutting spending by $318,000, and asked that a special convention be held on March 25 to resolve the financial impasse.

First published in The Living Church.

Pennsylvania Special Convention to Weigh Spending Cuts: TLC 1.18.06 January 18, 2006

Posted by geoconger in Living Church, Pennsylvania.
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The Diocese of Pennsylvania will hold a special convention on March 25 and implement significant spending cuts to resolve the impasse over its 2006 budget, Diocesan Council announced following its Jan. 14 meeting.

On Nov 5., 2005, the 222nd meeting of diocesan convention rejected a proposed $4.8 million budget by a vote of 205-175. It also rejected a proposed mandatory parochial assessment and approved a resolution calling for the election by convention of Finance and Property Committee members, removing their appointment from the bishop’s authority.

Following that convention, Diocesan Council passed a resolution approving an interim budget subject to revisions at its January meeting. The council also requested the Standing Committee freeze all diocesan salaries “including the bishops, funded by the Episcopate Budget, so that all staff are treated equally.”

The impasse over the 2006 budget arose over the use of the diocese’s unrestricted net assets (UNA) to fund programs while parochial contributions to the diocesan budget were in decline.

The council voted to limit the use of UNA funds to $950,000, a reduction of $318,000. Should congregational income fall below the estimated $1.535 million currently budgeted, further cuts will be made. The March special convention will also hear the results of a capital campaign feasibility study, enabling the diocese to budget realistically for future operations.

“The cuts create a minimal amount of difficulty for the diocese,” one of those present at Diocesan Council told The Living Church. “That is how they were engineered—mostly through salary freezes, less money going to the diocesan conference center, and some very minimal cuts in program.”

The cuts were far less than Concerned Pennsylvania Episcopalians, a coalition opposed to the use of liquidating diocesan assets to fund operations, had desired. But “it is still seen as a step in the right direction,” one of the coalition’s members said after the Diocesan Council meeting.

First published in The Living Church.

No witch hunt for occult worshippers: Southern Cross 12.17.04 December 17, 2004

Posted by geoconger in Pennsylvania, Southern Cross, Syncretism, Wicca/Druidism.
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First published in The Southern Cross.

There would be no “witch hunt” for Druids, the Anglican Bishop of Pennsylvania declared following revelations that two of his clergy were active in the occult.

On October 29 Bishop Charles Bennison stated allegations that two rectors, the Rev William Melnyk and his wife, the Rev Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, were “practicing druids and in violation of their ordination vows are extremely serious and merit further inquiries to establish the facts”.

The allegations have shocked conservatives around the world who are already critical of the US Church over the consectration of a gay bishop.

Charges of occult practices against the two were first raised when a staffer at the Washington think-tank, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), noticed that a liturgy entitled “A Celebration of the Divine Feminine” published on the website of the Office of Women’s Ministries of the Episcopal Church was identical to a “Eucharist to our Mother Goddess” posted on a pagan website.

Investigations revealed that the authors of the pagan liturgy submitted to the Episcopal Church were the Melnyks, and that they had written under the Druid and Wiccan names and conducted rituals evoking pagan gods and goddesses including some condemned in Scripture.

In an internet chatroom, under the pseudonym “Druis”, Mr Melnyk wrote in May that he was “57 and has been a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids since 1998. My spouse and I are both Druid graduates of the training course. We are also both priests in the Episcopal Church. Between us, we lead two groves, some call them ‘congregations’, of Christians.”

Last month the Melnyks “recanted and repudiated” their connection with Druidism in a letter to Bishop Bennison.

The reason for their involvement with the occult, they explained, was to “help others who had lost connection to the Church to find a way to reconnect.”

Mr Melnyk resigned the next day after the parish vestry determined it would not be possible for him “to continue effectively as the Rector”.

Mrs Ruppe-Melnyk continues in her post. They declined to respond to queries about their involvement in pagan worship.

While warring with traditionalist Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical clergy in his diocese, Bishop Bennison has taken a softer line with pagan clergy, issuing a letter of admonition to the Melnyks saying they “assure me that [druid worship] has never been used in liturgy or in their prayer life.”

Bishop Bennison gained notoriety after stating that while Christ forgives sins he “acknowledged his own sin [and] knows himself to be forgiven.”

Mr Bennison blamed right wing agitators for the Druid fracas, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer the IRD sought “to intimidate people in our church who would exercise theological imaginations, who would think out of the box.”

Sydney’s Anglican Church League called the move a ‘staggering celebration of paganism’.

Christianity Today accused US church leaders of diverting attention from the crisis over homosexuality by promoting pagan deities.