Thinking Anglicans

A martyr in Connecticut?

Updated

There has been intensive coverage elsewhere this week of the disciplinary action taken by the Bishop of Connecticut towards the Reverend Mark Hansen, one of the Connecticut Six about whom TA has reported in the past.

The official diocesan statement is here, together with links to several other documents that give more background, and ENS earlier included a similar report in this diocesan news roundup.
The report by The Living Church magazine is here and further information is in this report.

The New York Times carried Episcopal Priest Is Removed in Connecticut
and the Associated Press had Episcopal bishop suspends one of six embattled priests
while the Bristol Press reported that Bishop suspends Episcopal priest

The CEN has this week reported the story as Mediating Panel not wanted in US diocese.
The Church Times also has a report, not yet available on the web except to its paid subscribers, titled Dispute over support for gay Bishop worsens, which says in part:

The six asked to be released from their ordination vows of obedience to the Bishop, and for suspension of selected canons, and withdrew their parish share.

They refused the terms of the offer of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight approved by ECUSA’s House of Bishops last year, asking that the delegated rather than the diocesan bishop take responsibility for the future succession of clergy and future candidates for ordination in the diocese.

In March, the diocese determined that the six rectors had “abandoned communion” and recommended the inhibition of all six priests — the first step towards unfrocking. A meeting between Bishop Smith and the six in April reached an impasse, but the recommendation was not carried out (News, 22 April).

Mr Hansen has been on sabbatical leave since 10 April, having declared to his parishioners on 15 March that the day would be “my last Sunday as your priest”. Bishop Smith has declared his absence unauthorised.

The St John’s Church Vestry accused the Bishop on Sunday of violating canon, civil, and criminal law, and refused to accept the ministry as priest-in-charge of the Revd Susan McCone, the executive director of Affirming Catholicism.

Mr Hansen declared himself “personally devastated” by Bishop Smith’s action in inhibiting him on the grounds of abandonment of communion, and accused him of misrepresenting the facts. “The Bishop is fully aware that family circumstances necessitated a sabbatical leave. . . [He] has knowingly and wilfully endangered my family’s well-being and security,” he said.

Here is the website of the Connecticut Six which contains links to many who support them. They include the Moderator of NACDAP and the AAC and there is also this riveting eyewitness account of the events when the bishop came to the parish on Tuesday.

A comprehensive report from Fr Jake The Making of a Connecticut Martyr suggests that the facts are not as straightforward as the supporters of Fr Hansen have made out.

Kendall Harmon has expressed surprise more than once that so few people other than conservatives have criticised the bishop’s actions.

I do not think this is because there is widespread support for Smith, but rather that there is very little support for the position taken by the Connecticut Six in the first place.

See also this commentary from Alistair Highet in the Hartford Advocate.

And this criticism from AKMA.

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Steven
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Steven

Bishops in jackboots with lesser thugs in tow. Well, everyone knew it would come to this sooner or later. Now, we only have to wait for the other shoe to drop (so to speak) in other orthodox parishes around the country. It probably won’t require a lot–the others will be cowed, the members will drift away or leave in organized groups to start their own churches–and ECUSA will take another giant leap in the direction of liberal ideological purity. So much for inclusiveness . . .

Merseymike
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Merseymike

The blog from Fr. Jake is particularly insightful – he talks a lot of sense.

Looks like at least ECUSA have a bit of courage and direction, making it clear that recalcitrants who no longer wish to be part of the denomination are no longer indulged.

Peter
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Peter

I agree, Fr. Jake’s piece makes the most sense. Remember, in January 2004 the American Anglican Council–in their “Secret Covert Memo” which the Washington Post exposed–said that their attack plan was acts of “civil” and “canonical” disobedience. The mess in CT fits the script. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the neo-Puritans “protesteth too much.” These so-called “martyrs” will have a very short shelf-life. Bishop Smith has done the right thing, though the way it’s been rolled out leaves a bit to be desired. I agree with Fr. Jake that Bishop Smith blew it on four counts: 1) He should have never backed… Read more »

Anna
Guest

Prepare for a firestorm of comments on this one! I agree with Highet on the authority issue, and see a priest’s vow of obedience to his/her bishop as like a monastic vow. You don’t get to break it unless you’re leaving orders. But I also agree with Father Jake that even if inhibition was the proper action, the Bishop went about it all wrong. He shouldn’t have brought a locksmith. He shouldn’t have installed a priest who was so clearly not the type of priest the congregation would follow or respect. The bishop of a diocese has more power than… Read more »

John Henry
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John Henry

The Diocese of Connecticut Website has also made available links to various documents that help shed some light on what really happened behind the scenes. Those documents would support Fr. Jake’s conclusions. Does the Episcopal Church have a constitutional and canonical structure? If yes, individual priests in charge of parishes do not select the bishops under whose jurisdictions they wish to place themselves and their parishes. If they insist on rejecting the constitutional and canonical structure of the Episcopal Church, they are rightfully subject to the disciplinary canons, which eventually remove them from office.

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Anna’s made a wise comment. I do wonder what might happen in the Church if we were to fast for a time from the auto-intoxication of posturing and shouting and press-release-issuing, and “study to be quiet.” I believe ++Rowan has even suggested we do this.

Prior Aelred
Guest

Bishops in “jackboots”? Really? Perhaps it was gaiters. Perhaps what Tallyrand said about Napoleon’s assasination of the Duke of Enghien, “It was worse than wrong; it was a mistake,” applies to the Bishop of CT as well — I honestly don’t know. I do know that I can function as a priest of the Episcopal Church only as the representative of a bishop of the Episcopal Church (this talk of an over-arching Anglican Church taking precdence of the actual legal entities that are the true manifestations of the Anglican tradition is innovative & false). My home town parish was “high”… Read more »

Annie
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Annie

What I find myself wondering is if a priest not involved in a controversial action had done the same thing last March–announcing to his congregation that he is going on a sabatical due to family responsibilities and yet not informing his bishop? What would the bishop do then? I think the whole lock and key situation arose naturally from the bishops perception, not unfounded, that the congregation wouldn’t be receptive to any other action that he could take to rectify the situation that clearly needed to be dealt with after nearly four months. In fact, from what I read, he… Read more »

David Ould
Guest

Father Jake likes to have his cake and eat it. He cites the Chicago-Lambeth quadilateral as a basis for demanding episcopal loyalty with no regard for any of the other parts of that quadilateral. This is, however, the ECUSA basis of authority. Canons over everything else. Anglicanism has long been a generous denomination, allowing great flexibility as long as there was faithful Christian witness. This flexibility has been vastly abused by the ECUSA leadership who now insist upon the right to deny orthodox Christianity in the name of “generosity”. And, in a few places, orthodox parishes will not conform and… Read more »

Michael
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Michael

I wonder how, in terms of the history of Christianity, any form of Anglicanism can be called orthodox. And further, what constitutes orthodoxy *within* Anglicanism? Does Orthodoxy mean one can adore at the elevation (BCP 1549 & 1559) or that one cannot? (1552) Anglicans have never fully agreed with each other on what was important and what was right. And if, as I suspect, what is being refered to as “orthodox” is a “traditional understanding of sexuality”, than perhaps the Anglican church should, as Rome, start investigating during confessions to be sure that no one is using birth control or… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Thanks to Anne, Peter and others here who have mentioned that “changing the locks” at St Johns, Bristol, was rather OTT. In discussions about these emotive issues it seems to so rare (to me, being more conservative)that liberal commentators ever criticise their own side. Maybe there is more hope of dialogue than some extreme liberals say there is. The main repeated assertion in support of such actions by “liberal” Bishops is that it is they who are over all the churches of the diocese, and that all priests are in a vow of obedience to them. In addition, in the… Read more »

David Huff
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David Huff

Besides the whole debacle with the “go on sabbatical, but don’t tell my Bishop” situation (and the parish leadership’s collusion with same), there’s the small matter of the $77,000 still owed on a $100,000 loan from the diocese – and no payment made since 2003. One hopes that the parish doesn’t see a theological disagreement as an excuse to stop paying on a loan given to them in good faith, but it certainly doesn’t look good… I have some sympathy with Fr. Jake’s view that it could have been handled better by Bp. Smith, but with “foreign bishops prowling the… Read more »

Connecticutian
Guest

Regarding the Highet opinion piece… Highet: “It would be unsporting of me to weigh in on the internal struggles of a religious denomination that I don’t belong to, but, you know, what the hell.” After reading the article, I can add that it’s foolish as well as unsporting. He has little grasp of the facts of the matter, nor apparently a point of scriptural or ecclesiological reference. But what the hell… Highet: “This is not, in my view, a gay issue. This is an authority issue, and I think the Connecticut six are simply in error… Moreover, the churches that… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

As Anglicans, we belong to Christ *through* the Church . . . and, in turn, we belong to the Church *through* our bishops.

The Church “is no more Smith’s than it is” yours, Connecticutian: true enough. But the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut—and EVERY parish within it—IS. (+Andrew Smith, too, shall pass: elect yourselves someone better next time!)

Tim Stewart
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Tim Stewart

This was posted on HoBD without atribution: ————————————– “7/22/2005 Connecticut Attorney Ralph Dupont responds to Diocese of Connecticut Attorney Alan Baker July 21, 2005 Alan Robert Baker, Esq. Baker O’Sullivan & Bliss PC Putnam Park, Suite 100 100 Great Meadow Road Wethersfield, CT 06109-2371 Dear Mr. Baker: Your letter to Attorney Reeve, under date of July 19, 2005, has received careful consideration and review. We expressly deny the many factual generalizations therein. We are responding to your implied suggestions for an immediate resolution of the St. John’s dispute. We are prepared to respond as permitted by Canon IV.10.2. We assume… Read more »

Catholicus
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Catholicus

“As Anglicans, we belong to Christ *through* the Church . . . and, in turn, we belong to the Church *through* our bishops.”

We have no need of any earthly mediator as Christians: we certainly do not belong to Christ *through* our bishops.

See 1 Tim.2.5: “there is one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus…..”

J. C. Fisher
Guest

And you call yourself “Catholicus”? {puzzlement}

There are so many sects to choose from: I’m sure you can find one (or *found* one) by which you can (putatively) have Christ as your earthly mediator . . . and thereby have no other *human accountability* whatsoever.

Me? I’m sticking to the Apostles . . . and staying Episcopalian! 🙂

John Henry
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John Henry

Catholicus misinterprets church tradition. Read, e.g., St. Ignatius (c.AD 112), Epistle to the Smyraeans, c.viii: “Avoid divisions as the beginning of evils. All of you follow the bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and follow the presbytery as the Apostles; and respect the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no man perform anything pertaining to the church without the bishop. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as, wherever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church” (Documents of the Christian Church, ed. Bettenson [1963], pp.89-90).

Peter
Guest
Peter

Priests don’t get to dictate the terms under which they will serve with a bishop in a diocese. Hansen is guilty of “conduct unbecoming” at a minimum. Worse, it looks like he created something of a cult at his former parish and certainly fostered a toxic atmosphere in terms of relations between the Bishop’s Office and ECUSA. In fact, these so called CT Six all need Polity 101. Bp. Smith has done the right thing, and probably should have done it sooner. The AAC-orchestrated response, including the slick CT Six website, smacks of a game plan these folks had warmed… Read more »

steven
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steven

Dear Peter: Toxic? In what sense toxic and how? Were people being brought to Christ and nurtured in the faith? What is toxic in that? Is taking a principled stand toxic? Does it become toxic because you don’t agree with the principles annunciated? Does it become toxic because the local Bishop doesn’t agree? Then what of the liberals in a conservative Bishop’s diocese? Are their stands, attitudes and actions toxic? Is disagreeing with one’s bishop a spiritual poison? Is it the presence of an anti-authoritarian or rebellious steak that is toxic? Is it taking actions reflecting stands and/or rebellion against… Read more »

Michael Ware
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Michael Ware

This is a copy of a post I made on Southern Anglican. I am posting it here also as it seems germane to this discussion. I have been following the comments of our revisionista bretheren on various sites since this story broke. The sense I have gotten is that if ++smith had shown up with a squad of AK47 toting Khmer Rouge and summarily executed Hansen+ and his entire vestry, that would have been OK because HE IS THE BISHOP. Even if Hansen+ and the St.John’s vestry had done something wrong (which I don’t admit), TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A… Read more »

Jake
Guest

Is that supposed to be funny, Michael? If so, I’d say you fell well short of the mark, and clearly crossed the line of civil discourse. Regarding Steven’s note of caution, it is a point worth remembering. Unfortunately, those of us who have a high regard for the office of the bishop have already been forced to adjust to the tensions that now exist in ECUSA. No longer can you consider a call based only on the congregation. One must carefully consider who the current diocesan bishop is as well. There are certain dioceses in which I could never consider… Read more »

Michael Ware
Guest
Michael Ware

Jake: It was not intended to be funny as I most definitely do not consider this to be a “laughing” matter. Nor do I see anything in it that is the slightest bit “uncivil”. It was simply an observation based on a large number of posts I have read on various sites since this story began. Almost every post I have read from the revisionista side has pretty much said that Hansen+ and his vestry and parishoners pretty much deserved what they got and more. The posts that had any criticism of ++smith were few and far between and most… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

Steven, Thanks for your post and your response. Here’s my bottom line: Either work within the system, work within the system to change it, or find yourself another gig. Imploding the church and using covert methods to attain a goal are neither Anglican nor Christian. Subversion in the name of some type of orthdoxy is the way of darkness, not light. Hansen knew what he was doing in Bristol. Worse, he started believing his own press. Somewhere along the way he crossed the line into idolatry. It seems unlikely, given the toxic atmosphere he’s fostered at Bristol, that the parish… Read more »

Mike C
Guest
Mike C

There are two aspects of this thing called the “Church” that I see: the temporal aspect which is organized into provinces, diocese, and congregations, each with humans as the temporal authorities (primates, bishops, priests, vestries); the other is the spiritual aspect of which Christ Jesus is the Head and Authority, as revealed in Scripture. Each has its own rules. The temporal church’s rules are codified in its Constitution and Canons. If you want to play this ‘game’ called “the ECUSA”, then you play by these rules. These rules have an aspect unique to most games, in that there are rules… Read more »

Michael Ware
Guest
Michael Ware

Re: the above post from Peter

I rest my case.

the snarkster

catholicus
Guest
catholicus

1 Tim.2.5: “there is one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus…..” There is nothing unCatholic about 1 Tim.2.5 – unless perhaps you are a member of ECUSA, JCFisher, John Henry? The problem seems to be your uncritical – even sycophantic – adulation of your bishops. In the Catholic tradition bishops are subject to the law of the Church, but in ECUSA you seem to treat them as being above the law. In the present case it is sheer Alice-in-Wonderland: “a canon means exactly what I want it to mean, no more and no less.” “On my authority as a… Read more »

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

Catholicus: The CT 6 rectors pushed the envelope too far when they refused to accept visitations from their Ordinary, and denied the bishop’s canonical right to be involved in the placement of clergy as far as the six parishes were concerned. Alternative episcopal oversight is an option in ECUSA, but it does not envisage rectors and their parishes seeking placement in other, alternative jurisdictions. Also, the CT 6 refused to honor their canonical obligation to pay their diocesan assessments set by diocesan convention. The Bishop of CT needs to be commended for his restraint by not taking canonical action against… Read more »

steven
Guest
steven

One would think (from most of the posts) that the rectors of the CT6 have turned their congregations against the Bishop, apparently transforming innocent fawning sheep into ravening anti-Smith wolves. So, remove the evil shepherd and the sheep will come safely back into the fold. Is this credible? I think most of you are hiding from your own motivations as well as from Smith’s motivations. These folks are who they are and believe what they believe. Most people are in a liberal or conservative church because they already agree (and/or are inclined to agree) with what it teaches/preaches in these… Read more »

The Very Rev'd Michael Waverly+Shank
Guest
The Very Rev'd Michael Waverly+Shank

Most of the pro-Bishop Smith comments are making a serious mistake!! All Episcopal clergy take similar vows that we believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necesary to Salvation. I took those vows 39 years ago and have tried to keep them ever since – This is Smith’s mistake -= He is NOT keeping this vow – and since he is not how can he ask his clergy for thier loyalty???

Jake
Guest

Affirming that the scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation does not exclude the possibility that they also include really bad science, some awful ethical guidelines, and a bit of twisted theology as well, does it?

steven
Guest
steven

Dear Jake: Perhaps not, but affirming that the scriptures are the word of God means that the burden of proof lies on those alleging fallibility in any area. Indeed, I would say that the burden of proof on this issue must, from the nature of the case (i.e., given God’s hand in the composition of the scriptures), be extremely high. In addition, the scriptures would otherwise become virtually useless with every Tom, Dick and/or Harry deciding that the scriptures just happen to “err” in the areas where they would prefer to ignore the import of God’s word. Gee whiz! That… Read more »

Rand
Guest

First, thank you Jake for giving another view of the Fr. Hansen-Bishop Smith issue. It is interesting that people are so focused on the “historic episcopate” and authority when in a post modern world both of those things mean absolutley nothing to the non churched. Is it possible that affinity will have more to do with cooperation and mutual ministry between bishops and clergy in the future, and that diocesan geographic boudries in an internet age are now totally artificial?

Father Michael
Guest
Father Michael

back to Jake – isn’t it a bit wierd to have a priest trash Scripture the way you did in yoor reply to my statement about our vows? It sure is! And as far as I am concerned it is apostate!

Martin Hambrook
Guest
Martin Hambrook

Jake writes: “Affirming that the scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation does not exclude the possibility that they also include really bad science, some awful ethical guidelines, and a bit of twisted theology as well, does it?” This is the “wheat and chaff argument” – not the classical Anglican view (Article XIX) that the Bible is God’s Word Written but the Enlightenment view that the Bible *contains the word of God. OK, but how do you tell which is which? Surely you need some extra-biblical source to distinguish truth from error; or do you know this already? In which… Read more »

Jake
Guest

That was the abbreviated version, Michael. Here’s the expanded one; http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/001181.html#more Just a brief excerpt; “The classic Anglican position, found in Hooker’s “Laws” is that scripture is the primary source of revelation for “all things necessary for salvation” not all things simply. The WR and the Neo-Puritans are attempting to make it necessary for all things simply. Books II and III of the Laws are quite clear on the boundaries set on Scripture’s “prima” authority having already rejected it as having “sola” authority. So while Scripture is perfect for the purpose for which it was created, it is for Mr.… Read more »