Comments: Presiding Bishop inhibits Pennsylvania bishop

All this has been known for years.....why has this taken so long??

Posted by NP at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 8:20am GMT

"John Bennison was forced in 2006 to renounce his orders again when news of his abuse became public."

Hardly known about for years. It is policies of keep it under your mitre that have allowed child abusers to move from parish to parish across all - there can be no shelter for child abusers in the church.

Posted by Stephen Roberts at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 9:37am GMT

What bothers me about the timing of this is that it all hits just two days before the diocesan convention for Pennsylvania. (I'm a parish delegate.)

The real issue in this diocese has been financial and political--with certain parishes withholding monetary support of the diocese over disputes with Bennison regarding his "liberal" policies and others over the purchase of a campsite for children's summer camp and retreats. In 2007, the diocese was forced to cancel virtually all outreach mission for lack of funds.

I suspect those who oppose Bennison's policies will use this as a reason to force him out of office.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 11:12am GMT

"All this has been known for years.....why has this taken so long??"

Probably for much the same reasons that abuse by members of the CofE was ignored for so long. Also, NP, note who is now doing something about it. I don't think this can be seen as some sort of liberal conspiracy.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 11:52am GMT

Clearing the decks for the seemingly inevitable deposition actions against Duncan, Iker, et al, if and when they jump ship, NP. The Radical Right Secessionist faction will no longer be able to hide behind the slogan "What about Bennison?" whenever the topic of depriving separatist bishops is raised. And there's clearly a case against Bennison, just as there is against Duncan and Iker.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 11:53am GMT

Hi Ford:

RE: Liberal Conspiracies

Hmmm. I'm wondering whatever happened to the "case" against that priest in Colorado who withdrew his church from TEC. His name was Armstrong wasn't it? I suppose the police have him safely behind bars by now. Of course, TEC was sure to press for state prosecution of his "crimes" to the limits of the law given the vast amounts of church money he supposedly absconded with. Simultaneously, I suppose they have instituted civil suits to recover the moneys he misappropriated from his parish and the larger church. What?!! TEC HASN'T DONE THIS YET?!! I wonder why . . . ?

Perhaps this would be a good case for comparison and contrast vis-a-vis Bennison? The facts are definitely not identical, but the enthusiasm of a liberal bishop to inhibit and remove a conservative secessionist (for what appears increasingly to have been made-up financial malfeasance) as opposed to the dilatory handling of Bennison (a liberal stalwart) for his actions by his liberal cronies does bear closer scrutiny.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 2:30pm GMT

Steven-
The IRS is still looking into Armstrong's financial misdoings.
Presentments against Bishops take a long time and there was an ongoing review of Tittle IX. I think that some of this is also a difference in how the current PB looks at these matters from her predesesor.

Posted by John Robison at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 2:37pm GMT

Steven,
As I remember, when the Colorado case came to the fore, it was the more Conservative Evangelicals on this site who were baying for his blood, the only ones who used phrases like "not fit" to describe him. The only call for any kind of compassion for the man came from liberal quarters. Your confidence that TEC would definitely have wanted to go to court with this just shows your understanding of sin as lawbreaking and punishment as the only option. I have no idea, but might it just be TEC doesn't want to go to court? Also, in such cases as this, it is usually the State, not the individual, that presses charges, no? Sorry, but what you just said proves my point. You seem to be implying that our lack of knowledge of any court work in a case that only happened two months ago (not exactly an eternity as courts go), suggests that he was framed by TEC. Concocting false charges of criminal activity to silence one's opponent. That's a pretty serious charge. I hope you have more evidence than simple paranoia.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 2:48pm GMT

Ford...I don't think there is "a liberal conspiracy" just that our miserable organisations (including the RC) have failed kids

+Armstrong has been cleared by an independent audit......let's see what other hoops he has to jump through to prove himself but so far he is is still innocent until proven guilty......as I have always said, if he is proven guilty, he should step down.

Pat - says "I suspect those who oppose Bennison's policies will use this as a reason to force him out of office."
SO, you don't think there is reason to force him out of office????

Posted by NP at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 3:17pm GMT

".... for what appears increasingly to have been made-up financial malfeasance."

Bull-poop, Steven! Go to the diocese of Colorado's presentment against Fr. Armstrong - http://www2.gazette.com/interactives/pdf/Presentment.pdf - and read that section (pp 3-5) of it that pertains to the Bowton Trust - the purpose of the Trust and the uses to which Armstrong put it.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 3:18pm GMT

Lapinbizarre:

If it is necessary for TEC to protect the financial assets of TEC by suing parishes that withdraw from TEC, why aren't they suing Armstrong for his alleged conversion of large sums of money? More importantly, why hasn't the state preferred criminal charges and why has he just been cleared by an independent audit?

If he's guilty, go after him. But, if TEC doesn't go after him--especially after making such a fuss over preserving the assets of TEC in other contexts--one cannot help but suspect that the charges were a trumped up load of . . . hmm, how did you so pithily put it . . . Bull-poop.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 5:00pm GMT

Comment combining this and the comments of Archbishop Fred Hiltz here:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/11/reality-and-abstraction.html

And a cartoon.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 5:09pm GMT

I second Lapinbizzare - to the best of my knowledge the "independent" audit was paid for by the defense in this case - it was most emphatically not done by the court authorities so cannot be said to have been done in such a fashion that the court outcome is preordained - in fact I believe court proceedings are planned although I am not ceertain if a date has been selected - I will be happy to be corrected if the FACTS are otherwise ettu

Posted by ettu at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 5:26pm GMT

NP claims: "+Armstrong has been cleared by an independent audit"

Wrong on three counts, NP.

First, Armstrong isn't a bishop . . . yet. I'm sure he will be soon, since the schismatics seem to like giving out pointy hats.

Second, an auditor hired and instructed by an interested party (CANA) hardly constitutes independence. CANA and (+)Minns have a major stake in having Armstrong cleared.

Third, the audit actually did find there was wrongdoing, financial irregularity and fiduciary negligence. It just blames layfolk vice the rector. I'm still curious to know what sort of rector figures it's okay to use parish trust funds to pay his children's tuition.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 5:48pm GMT

The comment was made about the length of time it has taken for this to happen.

It appears that the first formal accusation presented to the Church was in early September (or perhaps late August) of last year. The accusations deal with offenses which originally occured 32 years ago.

In this context, no investigative authority is going to rush to judgement. A 14 month process, including investigation and then the decision to charge and on which charges does not seem overly slow in a 32 year old case.

We should all pray for "the 14 year old."

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 6:06pm GMT

Has there ever been another inhibition (or other form of severe condemnation, e.g., defrocking) of an Anglican bishop ANYWHERE for (lack of oversight regarding) sexual abuse?

[It's not like anyone can pretend that similar things haven't happened, in dioceses throughout the AC!]

May this act of justice, however delayed, be the first of many in the AC...

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 6:14pm GMT

"If he's guilty, go after him."

You would do well to consider that this may not be the most Christian response to this, or indeed any, issue. And I ask again, it is one thing to accuse those one considers one's enemies of various schemes and misstatements, quite another to suggest that the leaders of TEC are willing to actually fabricate a criminal offence, to actually frame someone, because they do not agree with his theology. Are you actually saying this? Other than paranoia, what is your evidence for such a serious charge? Have you really fallen so far into the persecution myth that you actually believe TEC's leaders, whatever else you think they might be, would actually frame someone?

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 6:25pm GMT

JCF

There's been things happening globally in pockets, South Australia had some nasty stuff go down the other year.

The main problem seems to be that souls often going into "denial" and try to avoid the problem, and then once they've been part of the problem for a while, find it hard to backtrack as they have become complicit.

It is a similar dynamic to what has happened at some theological colleges and boarding schools.

The interesting thing is once the cat is out of the bag, there's usually a few confessions from the more gentle souls who weren't happy at the time but lacked the courage, strength or wherewithall to change the dynamics.

The Milgram's pscyhology experiments come into play - it doesn't affect just the military or secular society. Even churches (up to and including primates) can get caught up with these kind of dynamics.

http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=psychology+experiments+milgram+electric+jolts&meta=

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 7:12pm GMT

Ettu:

CANA's audit is certainly as likely to be "independent" as the audit paid for by TEC. As you may recall, there are two sides here--TEC is not an unbiased third party. However, unlike the TEC audit, the recent audit was a complete audit with full access to the information required. Perhaps I should have said complete and independent (inasmuch as the earlier audit was also carried out--I believe--by an independent auditor).

Ford:

You're being a bit silly here Ford. TEC has already gone after Armstrong, and done what they could safely accomplish in-house with a kangaroo court. The fact that they haven't taken it further does not reflect on their charity, but on their unwillingness to put the matter before an unbiased tribunal. This is particularly true when they are so obviously willing to take that step elsewhere when money is involved--charity be damned. I'm merely challenging them to prove they actually had a case by putting it before a real judge. If they do so, I'll think better of them in at least one respect--they'll have shown themselves to have more guts than I thought.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 8:04pm GMT

The one thing TEC has in its favour is a presiding Bishop who is so shrewd and clever.

Just go to the American conservative blogs and contrast the vile and unChristian comments...some of which are nearly as bad as Westboro Baptist.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 9:20pm GMT

"Pat - says "I suspect those who oppose Bennison's policies will use this as a reason to force him out of office."
SO, you don't think there is reason to force him out of office????"

I don't know at this point. Presumption of innocence and all that. But I don't think those who oppose him on grounds of a liberal/conservative split should be permitted to use a completely different set of arguments to get what they want.

Because even if found innocent, these charges will continue to haunt Bennison and make it virtually impossible for him to function as a diocesan bishop.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 9:44pm GMT

For Steven... On the Armstrong+ case in Colorado Springs. No, the allegations are far from made up and they are very real and as someone very well versed in not-for-profit tax law particularly as it affects such things as when is a "scholarship" a "tax free" scholarship vs. taxable compensation/fringe benefits, I would not want to be Fr. Armstrong facing an IRS audit. Fr. Armstrong's accountant (H & R Block tax preparer) states in his letter reviewed by Grace/St. Stephen's vestry's forensic accountant that Fr. Armstrong told him of a "church" scholarship. Apparently he neglected to tell him the details of how the alleged "scholarship" was created or funded. On the face of it, it appears that the Diocese of Colorado moved against Fr. Armstrong+ on the basis that he caused the filing of inaccurate employment returns to the IRS and the state compromising its relationship with these civil agencies. Fr. Armstrong, based on the report of his vestry's forensic accountant, (including the H&R Block letter), has claimed that his opponents have been "proved" wrong. The Diocese has turned the case over to the civil authorities after its forensic accountant found Fr. Armstrong's actions inappropriate, that inappropriateness ranging from embezzlement to incompetence.

By US law, Fr. Armstrong is presumed innocent unless proved else wise in a court of law. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the dioceses' fiduciary responsibilities to the state and the feds, for it to have failed to act would have been a serious omission. In addition, the diocese has a moral responsibility to the donor and his or her heirs who created the scholarship in accordance with US laws. This scholarship was open to all Colorado residents studying for the Episcopal priesthood. It was received by Fr. Armstrong's children, neither of whom were studying for the Episcopal priesthood. Further complicating the situation, Armstrong was the CEO of the organization designating the recipient. There is not a chance that, in this sequence of events, TEC or the Diocese of Colorado was trying to frame anyone

Posted by EmilyH at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 10:56pm GMT

Steven - please re-read my post - no where in it do I mention a TEC audit - I did not even remember there had been one (thanks for jogging my memory) I said there had not been a truly independent audit since the defendants had paid for this audit and that it would not control the legal outcome - which I stil believe is pending - if he has been found totally innocent then why are legal proceedings still a possibility? I repeat I am happy to learn from FACTS but am not dissuaded by opinions --especially when words are put in my mouth - please do read my post and show me where I mentioned a TEC audit before making additional defense of Armstrong - I realize he may be totally innocent but puulleeeeze don't dismiss the posssibility of further audits and legal investigation on the basis of the defense audit you cite.

Posted by ettu at Thursday, 1 November 2007 at 11:00pm GMT

EmilyH:

Yes, these are all very serious charges. And, when and if the IRS comes after Armstrong I'll know that, like millions of other Americans, he has run afoul of the IRS. However, barring a civil or criminal prosecution leading to a definitive resolution of the issue of his guilt or innocence I will continue to consider him to be "under a cloud" but still presumed innocent of theft, breach of fiduciary responsibilities, tax fraud, conversion, embezzlement, or etc.

My primary interest is in the fact that TEC seems so indifferent to prosecuting its "claims" against Armstrong before a neutral tribunal. When the Armstrong matter first came up I observed that this would be a key indicator to me, as a lawyer, of whether TEC actually thought that it had a case worthy of prosecution in a real court (as opposed to the home cookin' accorded Armstrong in TEC's inhouse proceedings). I am still waiting, and growing increasingly suspicious.

Still, TEC may surprise me yet. Time will tell, but if neither they nor the criminal authorities ultimately choose to take this matter any further I will conclude that it was a trumped up bit of nonsense. The idea that TEC is motivated by "charity" towards Armstrong in not moving forward is on a par with belief in the "Easter Bunny".

Steven

Posted by Steven at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 12:29am GMT

As morals in Anglicanism seem to follow secular law closely, it will be interesting to discover if a crime was committed: what was the age of consent for that locality at the time? Was adultery actually illegal in that locality at the time?

If no crime occurred, any outrage can only be ascribed to the "ick" factor. If crimes did occur then the Bishop should be treated as all other criminal Bishops are treated.

Posted by trog at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 3:44am GMT

I love it.....for a money related sin, Malcolm is not willing to give Armstrong much benefit of the doubt (because he is a "conservative"?).............but we have a serious accusation (which is not new) and involves a child but Pat is willing to give Bennison some benefit of the doubt (because he is a liberal?)

Sure, both are innocent until proven guilty.

I would have wanted both suspended from the allegations, to prove their innocence or go.....but I would worry most about crimes against a child and certainly not wait a year (at least) to inhibit someone with such poor judgment.

I agree, this has happened so "conservative" bishops can be inhibited too with TEC HOB being called on this issue.

What has happened to the cathedral Bennison spent $20m on?? Of course, he could not fill it with TEC doublespeak.....so now....

Posted by NP at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 7:18am GMT

"the fact that TEC seems so indifferent to prosecuting its "claims" against Armstrong before a neutral tribunal."

You are a lawyer, is it really reasonable in your jurisdiction for a case to come before the courts this fast? A case like this in Canada would not be ready for trial for years, so unless you have evidence to the contrary, why do you think it is delayed? I still think your "if he's guilty, go get him" attitude is pretty far from the Gospel, whether or ont you, or TEC, agree with me.

And NP, as far as defending the actions of people on one's own side, you seem unaware that you live in a glass house, and thus are unaware of the danger of throwing stones, I guess.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 10:49am GMT

NP:

The charges involve something that happened three decades ago. Despite programs like "Cold Case," such investigations are not resolved in a few days.

They are also incredibly difficult to prove...human memory being what it is. I'm greatly saddened by all of this...not least because I think Bennison is a good man who--early in his career--found himself caught between family loyalty and moral conscience. I wouldn't want to be in that place myself.

My concern is that--no matter how the trial comes out--the people in my diocese who have been fighting to get rid of Bennison practically since he was elected will finally have their way.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 11:15am GMT

I doubt that the Diocese of Colorado can make a civil case against Armstrong because of their own negligence in not reacting to footnotes in five annual parish audits claiming weak internal controls and severely innacurate bookkeeping. This was followed by several years when no parish audits were performed. The diocese should have taken action. TEC cannot demand internal controls from parishes when it does not have corresponding controls at the diocesan level.

The parish's audit does not really "clear" anyone. Instead, in a discursive series of "explanations" of the diocesan audit's findings, it distributes blame widely to everyone involved except Fr. Armstrong. The bookkeeper, the tax preparer, H&R Block, the external auditors, the wardens, the treasurere, the vestry, all get their share, but the rector comes out smelling like a rose. It's sort of funny. Some of these explanations are plausible. Some seem to miss the point entirely. It doesn't seem to meet the diocesan charges head on.

I am curious about Steven's dismissal of the diocesan court as a "kangaroo" court. Is this simply because it is an ecclesiastical court and all ecclesiastical courts are kangaroo courts? If so, how should canon law cases be handled if not by ecclesiastical courts? Or is canon law itself kangaroo law? I have seen no claims of overt bias on the part of individual members of this court, and I have followed the details of this case. Of course any court might get a little snippy when the defendant won't give them the time of day, or even send a representative.

Posted by Anthony W at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 11:47am GMT

Pat says "My concern is that--no matter how the trial comes out--the people in my diocese who have been fighting to get rid of Bennison practically since he was elected will finally have their way."

You are concerned your opponents may get their way, Pat? If the guy hid child abuse, whatever side he is on, he should go....and he should have gone a long time ago - before he was found out if he had any integrity.

Posted by NP at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 12:00pm GMT

Steven, just for a few minutes quit grandstanding and READ the diocese's presentment against Armstrong (URL above), in particular the pages (3-5) that concern the Bowton Trust. "Kangaroo Court" accusations are pretty strong stuff (FYI the diocesan committee that approved the Armstrong presentment contained a disproportionate number of "conservatives") and only muddy the waters. Sheri Betzer, the independent forensic auditor on whose report the presentment is based, is one of the most highly-regarded US professionals in her field and not one against whom charges of cooking the books should be lightly aimed ( http://www.bccllp-cpa.com/deux.jsp?content=502&decider=betzerc ).

The author of the Grace Church audit, by contrast, is a local, Colorado Springs, accountant, whose connections, if any, to the secessionist Grace Church vestry, are unclear. His report states that while improper transfers of money took place, neither Armstrong nor his vestry is at fault since they were unaware that these were improprieties at the time they approved them. In the US, as in the UK, ignorance of the law - if ignorance there is - is a factor to be taken into account at sentencing, not an argument for acquittal.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 1:28pm GMT

Ford:

There has not been time for any kind of judicial decision, but there has certainly been time for a case to be filed by TEC.

Anthony W.:

You are correct, I have made a serious accusation.

As a preliminary matter, I certainly don't believe that every ecclesial court is a Kangaroo Court, or that every TEC court is a Kangaroo Court.

However, aside from any questions I may have about the motives in prosecuting the case initially, I am particularly disturbed by the local diocese's decision to continue prosecution of the case when the issue had become moot as Armstrong had already resigned from TEC. In addition, any decision rendered was not only moot, but absurdly weak and questionable given the lack of a complete evidentiary foundation.

If Armstrong was still in TEC and refused to participate, then by all means proceed--he cannot escape prosecution by prejudicing the fact-finding process by refusing to participate. However, if he has withdrawn and refuses to participate because of his withdrawal, what is the point other than to try and make a point for propaganda purposes. This lowers what should be a judicial tribunal to the level of a propaganda organ of the diocese. To that extent, I have no qualms in referring to it as a Kangaroo Court.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 1:56pm GMT

For Steven, as a lawyer which I am not, it seems to me that there are multiple levels of government and therefore venues for action regarding Armstrong+ On the question of criminal charges, the diocese has turned over everything to the District Attorney . He will appoint a special prosecutor as he is/was? a member of the church if a complaint moves forward. On the issue of civil litigation, who is tbe injured party that has standing to file a complaint? On the alleged misapplication, misuse, of the scholarship funds, it would seem that only the heirs have standing and why would they bother. Litigation would cost them money and, if restitution is made, wouldn't it be to the fund, not them. It seems they are in a lose/lose position here.

As to the diocese, and the other funds involved, it would seem that they would wait for action or not on a criminal complaint. There the standard of proof would be more stringent than in civil court (preponderence of evidence) so, a ruling against Amstrong+ in criminal court would pretty much guarantee a similar verdict in a subsequent civil action?

On the IRS..an area I do have a pretty good handle on. If it elects to do a personal audit, and it is unclear to me on what basis they would elect (the allegations by the diocese?), it would determine if 1. the returns were inaccurate, payment undermade interest and penalties. 2. If the errors were intentional or not. In the first instance, we would probably never find out as the only person to tell us would be Armstrong+ In the second, and he is prosecuted for tax evasion, false reporting, etc., we might. Either way, if the IRS' audits, I believe Armstrong has some serious IRS liability ahead.

Posted by EmilyH at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 2:35pm GMT

http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/7304/#comments

sadly, maybe some knew earlier than we have been led to believe....

Posted by NP at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 2:45pm GMT

Steven said: "My primary interest is in the fact that TEC seems so indifferent to prosecuting its "claims" against Armstrong before a neutral tribunal. When the Armstrong matter first came up I observed that this would be a key indicator to me, as a lawyer, of whether TEC actually thought that it had a case worthy of prosecution in a real court (as opposed to the home cookin' accorded Armstrong in TEC's inhouse proceedings). I am still waiting, and growing increasingly suspicious."


Good Lord, Steven, what exactly are you expecting here?

In what perverse legal system would anyone proceed with a civil suit when the possibility of criminality is still under active investigation by the authorities?

The Diocese has proceeded on certain canonical matters in the manner prescribed. The fact that Fr. Armstrong refused to defend himself is hardly the Diocese's fault.

Then the Diocese (appropriately and correctly) turned the matter over to the authorities.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 5:01pm GMT

I'm not willing to give Fr. Armstrong much benefit of the doubt because, based on what evidence I have seen, the balance of probabilities leads me to believe he is likely guilty. Were I to see further evidence suggesting otherwise, I'd probably shift my position. And at the end of the day, my personal opinion is irrelevant anyway.

For what it's worth, I'm not willing to give Bishop Bennison much benefit of the doubt either because, based on the evidence I have seen, the balance of probablilities leads me to believe he is likely guilty as well, Again, further evidence might change my view. And again, my personal opinion is pretty much irrelevant.

Unlike some folk, NP, I don't judge a person's integrity based on whether or not they agree with me. I think that Bishop Howe of Central Florida, for example, has significant integrity. As far as I can see, David Virtue can't even spell the word.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 5:09pm GMT

Lapinbizarre:

Your first point is off target. I have never accused the auditor for the diocese of "cooking the books", as you put it. My concern is with the diocese, not with either of the professionals involved in auditing Armstrong. As far as I can tell, they both have done professional jobs based on the information they had access to at the time. The diocese's auditor did not have access to all of the information desired, and, I believe, noted the fact at the time (which is a very professional way of handling such situations). (BTW-You are the one casting aspersions on auditors, not me--namely the "local" accountant performing the second audit).

However, your second point is well taken. Ignorance is certainly not, in many cases, an excuse. The problem is, that many crimes and torts require some degree of intentionality, or at least a close substitute, such as "reckless disregard". The difficulty in proving such in this situation could well be the reason why no criminal case has been forthcoming.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 5:46pm GMT

EmilyH:

Excellent post, as before. If you're not a lawyer, you are certainly trained in a related field (and might want to consider adding a JD at some point or another as "icing on the cake").

Unfortunately, work calls, so I can't say more at this time. I'll try to respond later today. You've certainly made some good points.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 5:54pm GMT

If you want to talk about Armstrong -- why not start a thread on him. Otherwise, it all seems like a bit of a red herring.

We are all Christians before we are liberals and conservatives. Christians of any stripe, last I checked, -- do not believe in exploiting the vunerable, nor in condoning an authority that allows an exploiter continuing access to the vunerable. Most Christians are also not big fans of financial mismanagement.

For a long, long time, it appears that Bennison has not been open with his diocese and perhaps with himself as well. To many of us here in PA., including many of us liberals, he has seemed imperious and insensitive, almost irresponsible in his assumptions that as a prophetic leader, he did not need to heed his flock. He would have done far far better to have worked with a more Quaker-based idea of leadership, building consensus and commitment, instead of stumbling over a cliff, wasting most of our endowment and a good deal of his own integrity, in the process.

Do I sound bitter? Perhaps a tad. Because the wheels of justice have ground slowly. But they have ground. He is being called to account for his actions. A liberal bishop is being called to account by a liberal church, to the relief of many a liberal member of his diocese. Which seems right to me.

Once we start being liberals or conservatives before we are Christians who believe in justice tempered by mercy, we have lost a bit of our souls. And that is the worst of all this political blather -- that it tempts us to put expediency before core values--most of which we very much agree on.

Thrice Broad

Posted by Thrice Broad at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 7:21pm GMT

I am a lawyer and have been a judge on my diocese's ecclesiastical court (not Colorado) for 5 years. Speaking only for myself, I would be offended at a characterization of us as a "kangaroo court." TEC has a fairly open disciplinary process and I would certainly want to see some supporting evidence before a label like that was tossed about.

Posted by Paul Davison at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 7:52pm GMT

Ettu

This is the second time in two weeks that I've seen people quoted as saying something in a thread that they actually hadn't.

It happened to me last week. http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002708.html#c963331

See the exchange between myself and someone else on 30 & 31 October, at this stage they have not responded to my defense.

Et al, be aware that this kind of gutter politics is going on and that they are purporting you have said things that you have not. Call their bluff and cite that it has happened.

They won't stop doing it unless they realise the collateral damage of outright lying about what someone has said costs them more than losing the argument on its merits.

Such strategies actually help us more than them, it proves they are prepared to use outright deceit to "win". God doesn't have to lie to win, nor does God rely on "perfect" "infallible" souls. If you make a mistake, confess, correct the error i.e. restate the sentence with corrected grammar, find and refer to the correct passage numbers, put your claim into context.

Remember, every time you apologise, you are honoring and committing to God's covenant of peace and Jesus' promise of gentleness, something that aggressive scribes seem determined to deny ever happened or that they were required to implement or support.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 8:22pm GMT

"You are concerned your opponents may get their way, Pat? If the guy hid child abuse, whatever side he is on, he should go....and he should have gone a long time ago - before he was found out if he had any integrity."

But it's not the abuse his opponents really object to, NP. It's his theology. They were trying to get rid of him based on that from the time he was elected.

Just as it's not really the financial matters that came up at last year's convention that they object to...that was just a way to get him out when they couldn't get him out on theology.

As for the material in the presentment--as I just said on the phone to our rector's warden--it's horrible stuff. It's terribly sad. But I don't really know if I could have made a better decision 30 years ago placed in the same position.

And it's wise to consider that the societal attitude toward such things has changed a lot in those intervening three decades. This comes close to condemning a man for being a man of his time and place, like condemning Tom Jefferson as a slave holder.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 8:41pm GMT

Steven, OCICBW, but I don't think Fr. Armstrong ever formally "left" the roster of the Diocese of CO. I think he was waiting for them to fire him, meanwhile, collecting whatever perquisites accrued, such as benefits. If I am wrong please set me straight on this. Did they have any other canonical means to dismiss him? If yes, I kind of agree with your view. As I think I mentioned on another blog at the time, never underestimate the importance of health insurance in the USA.

Posted by Anthony W at Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 1:59am GMT

Steven. Echoing you, I will also say "point taken". Sometimes, used to endlessly repeating discussion to no effect, one makes the mistake of thinking that a sledge-hammer needs to be taken to every issue. Sorry.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 2:43pm GMT

I am so happy to read about the bishop's misfortune! I am sorry that it took so long but delighted that he is no longer in a position to allow anyone to sexually abuse children. He has been spared a bullet!

Posted by Cholo at Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 11:46pm GMT

Pat says "But it's not the abuse his opponents really object to, NP. It's his theology. "

Pat - the two are unrelated. Those who agreed with his "theology" should certainly object to his alleged behaviour with regard to his brother's involvement with a child - and most "liberals" will not defend him in any way, I am sure.

Posted by NP at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 7:40am GMT

EmilyH:

Still no time to respond decently, especially since some legal research would be involved--which I'm discinclined to do since I spend time here in order to involve the legal research I should be doing on other matters. You're right, though. There could be some complicated matters that make it difficult for TEC to sue. (Malcolm's point is also true, to the extent there is a serious criminal investigation going on, which seems somewhat doubtful to me).

Thricebroad:

VG post. There is definitely a tendency to get into sneering matches at TA. Mea Culpa.

Pat Davidson:

I know these are serious matters handled by serious people, who are often well qualified to engage in judicial proceedings of this type. My objection and criticism is based on my perception that the proceeding continued when it had been mooted by Armstrong's resignation from TEC, not with the professionals and laymen involved. However, see my post to Anthony W. to follow.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 2:21pm GMT

AnthonyW.:

I'd really like to figure this thing out. If there was a good and legitimate reason for continuing the process after Armstong withdrew, I might have to pull an "Emily Latella" and say, "oh, . . . nevermind" very sweetly. OTOH, what I might define as a good reason might not be what the diocese would consider a good reason. And, once again, this would still leave open the question of why Bennison escaped for so long when, as a counter example, Armstrong was pursued so diligently.

Lapinbizarre:

Thank you for your gracious post. I really appreciated what both you and Thrice Broad had to say. Good reminders.

All & Sundry:

I should make it clear that I have personal problems with the kind of sweetheart deals big steeple churches make with popular pastors--including a lot of what I'm seeing with Armstrong. Maybe I shouldn't, and maybe these guys are really worth every perk and penny, but it certainly looks like everybody is willing to play fast and loose in order to squeeze out the last perk and penny for these guys. The consequences and "clouds" created are obvious to all.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 2:33pm GMT

"maybe these guys are really worth every perk and penny"

My problem with these kinds of deals is that people actually see it in terms of whether or not their priest is "worth" some amount of money or another. Sorry, it ain't just a job, and anyone who frames it in these terms is speaking another language. It's the same thing as a "clergy union" or some such, to defend the rights of the "worker" against the impositions of the "employer". It's an incredibly worldly attitude.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 4:20pm GMT

Ford:

I hear ya, and I don't quite know how to approach these things. On the one hand, these guys are qualified and gifted professionals who could potentially be making a very good living doing something else (aside from the call of God), and who also have families and financial needs like the rest of us. On the other hand, when it comes to the point that everyone is fudgin' with various accounts and trust funds to try and make sure the preacher and his family gets oodles of benefits, something is obviously wrong.

The problem is, I don't really have a vision for how far a church should go in this direction short of avoiding the "ethically questionable and/or obviously wrong". I guess I'll just have to leave it in the hands of the ones that are dealing with the issue.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 7:35pm GMT

Ford - the worker is worth his wages but St Paul also says very clearly that we should not have leaders who are greedy for money.

AS you know, I tend to think St Paul knew what he was talking about when he wrote about what makes people fit to be a leader in God's eyes....and greed for money certainly disqualifies a person.

I have written to you today elsewhere that I do not ask you to copy me or evos etc but to copy Christ. For our church leaders, when it comes to their earthly wealth and status, I would also say, "Follow your leader!"

He is the model for the godly leader and he was not interested in perks or status. He was interested in pleasing God and holiness, being light in the world.

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 11:29am GMT

"these guys are qualified and gifted professionals who could potentially be making a very good living doing something else (aside from the call of God), and who also have families and financial needs like the rest of us. "

This statement surprises me. Now, I'm not saying a priest should be a monetary martyr. The Church has a responsibility to ensure that those who answer God's call can actually carry out their vocation without financial hardship. You seem to be suggesting, however, that refusing to answer their vocation is somehow justified if they can get paid more somewhere else, that God has to offer financial incentives to compete with the marketplace for employees. It is a bit much for you to expect me to bear the Cross of lifelong loneliness and lack of support so as to follow the Gospel, yet you do not expect the same level of sacrifice from those who answer the call to priesthood. One could argue, idealistically of course, that their having families represents a reluctance to sacrifice for the Gospel. You certainly imply that of gay people.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 2:13pm GMT

"He was interested in pleasing God and holiness, being light in the world."

Interesting then that so many who quote him seem interested in being darkness in the world. You have no inkling how you foster the forces of darkness, do you, NP?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 3:37pm GMT

Ford says "Interesting then that so many who quote him seem interested in being darkness in the world. You have no inkling how you foster the forces of darkness, do you, NP?"

Well, I know I certainly do not do that by saying honestly to people what the bible says on issues.....especially when I do not promote my view but the teaching of the church for the last 2000 years and the current position of the CofE. I would be promoting darkness by telling people God does not mind what he says he hates.....that would be a terrible thing to do, would it not Ford?

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 5:28pm GMT

"Well, I know I certainly do not do that by saying honestly to people what the bible says on issues"

Is that all you do? Think about it. Do you really consider your actions so innocent? Really? Just telling people what the Bible says? You never do anything more than that?

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 9 November 2007 at 4:50pm GMT
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