Thinking Anglicans

developments in Connecticut

Updated Sunday 31 July

Since the last report there have been some major developments.

The Living Church published a further report headlined Archbishop’s Panel Stays Out of Connecticut Dispute.

Then, a group of nine ECUSA diocesan bishops issued a public letter to Andrew Smith.

In response, the Bishop of Connecticut has published his reply (PDF copy) which is reproduced below the fold here.

Update Another letter, dated one day earlier, addressed to the members of the parish, has now also been published. PDF file here, full text below the fold (scroll down).

The Living Church has reported this here.
Earlier TLC had published this interview with Jack Iker one of the signatories to the 9 bishops letter.

The Associated Press reported Bishops plan to take Connecticut cleric to church court.
Reuters had US Episcopal clerics to sue bishop in church court
Bristol Press Bishop’s peers threaten charges
New London The Day Out-of-state Bishops Threaten Action

July 28, 2005
Response to Open Letter of July 27, 2005, from Bishops Adams, Beckwith, Duncan, Herzog, Howe, Iker, Salmon, Schofield, and Stanton

Dear Brother Bishops,

I write to respond to your “open letter” of July 27 to me and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Connecticut.

Your public letter to us is filled with assumptions, conclusions, and emotional, highly charged language. In it you have passed judgment on a brother bishop and a diocese without even attempting to ascertain the facts.

Had you first inquired concerning Father Mark Hansen and the conditions at Saint John’s, Bristol, our communication would be far more productive. I regret that none of the bishops who signed the letter had the wisdom or courtesy to call before launching this broadside. If we are engaged in a “very public conflict,” it is the work of others, and of letters such as yours.

I deny your contention that the Standing Committee or I have misapplied Title IV, Canon 10, which in fact does not address parishes (as you state) but only clergy.

I also wonder where you got the notion of my “refusal to allow appeal to the Panel of Reference.” First of all, a bishop cannot refuse to allow appeal to the Panel of Reference, nor would I consider doing so. Second, I have the deepest respect for Archbishop Williams and for his leadership. The Panel of Reference is an offering of his ministry, under his guidance, and is a resource for the Church when local initiatives have not been successful.

From the time of the House of Bishops meeting in March 2004 I have offered delegated episcopal pastoral oversight in Connecticut, as contained in “Caring for All the Churches.” In fact I have implemented this arrangement with one parish of the diocese.

But the six clergy you mention have consistently refused to consider delegated episcopal pastoral oversight, as is clear in their correspondence and public statements. The situation was precipitated by a May 2004 letter of demands from six parishes and their rectors. Their letter limits me to two choices. One is that I repudiate decisions I have made as bishop so as to believe as they do. The other is that I suspend the Constitution and Canons of the Church and this diocese just for them.

These demands far exceed delegated espiscopal pastoral oversight, which is what this Church can offer, and which has been recognized by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

I have initiated action under Title IV Canon 10 against only one priest in this diocese. The Standing Committee found that the Rev. Mark Hansen had abandoned communion with his bishop by the demands of the May 2004 letter. Further, he ignored well-established disciplines required of priests by ECUSA Canon and the policies of this diocese. Also important, for a time which as yet we have been unable to determine, he has abandoned his ministry in Saint John’s to hold a secular position in another state while at the same time on sabbatical from Saint John’s.

The parish leaders of Saint John’s enabled and protected Father Hansen in these arrangements, and are uncooperative, evasive and not forthcoming when questioned by members of my staff. For more than a year the parish has ignored its payments to our revolving loan fund. Members and leaders who disagree with Father Hansen have felt intimidated, and many left the parish. There are significant outstanding bills, and the electric company had sent the parish a shut-off notice. We have not seized any funds of the parish, as you claim we have, and in the past week we have paid more than $20,000 in parish bills from diocesan resources – including $8,500 owed on Father Hansen’s pension.

Should you get to know us better, you will find that Connecticut is a diocese that enjoys wide theological and liturgical diversity, and that our clergy represents the great breadth of the church’s spectrum of belief and practice.

In the spirit of “Caring for All the Churches,” I continue to look for ways forward together. To that end, at the invitation of its rector, I met with members of one of the six parishes you name on Sunday afternoon, July 24, for an open and direct conversation. For me it was a time of grace, both during formal discussion and our informal reception afterward –the beginning of a renewed relationship, I pray.

Our Lord Jesus will be better served if we, especially those of us who lead and serve as bishops, discipline ourselves to refrain from publicly-paraded, instantaneous judgments and automatic condemnations. I also ask you to refrain from the repeated incursions which members of the Anglican Communion Network have made into the life and ministry of this diocese.

And I pray that, even as we know him differently, we may all serve the Lord Christ in unity and harmony, grace and love – and so be a blessing to Jesus and for the world.
Yours in Christ,
Andrew D. Smith
Bishop of Connecticut

————————————

Letter to Saint John’s Church Members

July 27, 2005

Dear Members of Saint John’s Church, Bristol,

I write as your bishop to clarify some matters about recent events in Saint John’s and to express my hope for the future.

In light of the mounting evidence that the spiritual and financial health of Saint John’s was at risk, evidenced by my discovery of the extended absence of your rector from his ministry while employed in another state, unpaid parish financial obligations, and the lack of co-operation with the diocese by lay parish leadership, I determined, as the Bishop responsible for Saint John’s, to make a pastoral intervention in the parish.

There have been a number of rumors, allegations and misinformation persistently circulated in the parish concerning the Diocese of Connecticut and the actions that I have taken. In addition, there is a need to tell you some of what has been happening and to take a look to the future.

On Wednesday, July 13, about 9:45 a.m. the Rev. Susan McCone and I came to the parish office to deliver copies of the Inhibition of Father Mark Hansen and a copy of the letter in which I appoint the Rev. Susan McCone Priest in Charge of the parish. Several other persons from my office did accompany us. It is not true that we forced our way in or that any damage was done to the buildings.

No one who came that day or since seeking access to Saint John’s on parish matters has been denied access to the building. The groups which use the Church for their meetings (AA, Weight Watchers, TOPS) have all continued to meet as regularly scheduled. We had no keys to the building and the locks were changed late in the afternoon to ensure the security of the property. Keys to the new locks have been issued to parishioners who have assumed responsibilities for certain work already begun as part of the effort to rebuild Saint John’s life, mission and ministry.

Parishioners have come to the Rev. Susan McCone with reports about what has been happening in the parish, and also with concerns about what they have been told “the diocese” would do and not do. There was a lot of pure misinformation. Susan has tried to respond to such concerns on a one-to-one basis, and I encourage any member with questions about what you have been told or rumors that you have heard to ask the questions and talk with her.

There are several persistent allegations that I would like to address. One is that the Diocese would halt the regular celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays. That is false. The Eucharist is the principal act of worship on Sunday mornings in the Episcopal Church. And no member of the parish has been denied access to the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Another rumor is that same-sex marriages would begin to happen at Saint John’s altar. Again, false. In this Church Christian marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman. Further, priests of this diocese do not have permission to have permission to officiate at civil unions when they become legal in Connecticut in October.

There is a report that I dismissed the Rev. Clayton Knapp as Sunday supply priest. In fact right away I asked Father Knapp to continue to serve on Sundays, but he has declined.

On July 13 I told the Senior Warden of Saint John’s that it is my hope that we could work together, Bishop, Priest in Charge, Wardens and Vestry, for Saint John’s future. However, on July 18 most of the Vestry of Saint John’s chose not to meet with Mother McCone. Several parishioners and one Vestry member did come that night, and they began to talk about the future.

As this date Father Hansen is Inhibited in Connecticut (relieved of priestly privileges for up to six months), and there has been no meeting or agreement between me and Father Hansen concerning his future status with the Church or Saint John’s.

We have begun to address the parish finances. We asked several times for the Treasurer to work with Mr. Ed Seibert, who is assisting Mother McCone, so together they could bring the parish into financial order. Since that cooperation has not happened, we have set up an account with the diocesan funds for Saint John’s in order to pay staff and outstanding bills — more than $20,000. Payments for Father Hansen’s pension were in arrears by $8500, and we have brought that up to date. We also paid Connecticut Light and Power, thereby averting the threatened shutoff of electricity to the parish buildings.

The work of rebuilding St. John’s parish has already begun and the signs of renewed life are promising. On July 17, of worshippers in church, at least 38 were identified as regular St. John’s parishioners, some returning after a prolonged absence. On July 24, the number of St. John’s parishioners had risen to 47 with still others calling to say they would be back in the days ahead. A group of parishioners, eager to revive the family traditions for which St. John’s was once known, have already organized a pot luck supper, as you have heard, for July 30.

The devotion of the people to St. John’s is inspiring and encouraging and the Diocese is committed to helping the parish rebuild – financially as well as spiritually – and to renew its relationship with the larger Episcopal family. If you have questions or thoughts of ways in which I, Mother McCone or my staff can be helpful, please call the Church. I certainly am keeping all of Saint John’s in my prayers, asking Christ’s peace and blessing.

Yours in Christ
+Andrew D. Smith
Bishop of Connecticut

Cc: The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate

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John D
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John D

Wonder if Bishop Jack(or any of the Notorious Nine) has ever faced a clergyman who declared the bishop’s pastoral office invalid, abandoned his parish on a ruse sabbatical, and had led the fiscal destruction of self-same parish? Andrew Smith’s response to the pompous public rebuke of his “brother” Bishops should be reqired reading in every Network church this Sunday.Far from being instruments of healing, the meddlers seek only to incite further an unruly mob.

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

John D. is correct, this *should* be req’d reading for the AAC faithful. It’s about time someone stood up to the bullying of the “Network.” Well said, Bp. Smith.

steven
Guest
steven

Gee, I’ve never been referred to as an unruly mob before . . . or maybe you’re referring to the parrishioners. Gosh, maybe its the whole vast right-wing conspiracy. Naw, they couldn’t be an unruly mob–they’re devilishly clever and organized, conspiratorial and machiavellian in their machinations. Hmm. I can never quite get it straight whether us traditionalists and conservatives are unruly mobs or cold and calculating usurpers. I guess there’s just no room in the middle for us to be ordinary folk that just happen to be passionate believers.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Obviously these unruly bullying conservatives clergy just want to be kicked out of their JOBS and their churches want to be kicked out of their BUILDINGs!

“He was asking for it” is the bully’s excuse!

John Robison
Guest

*”He was asking for it” is the bully’s excuse!* Bullying being something that the Network knows all about. Let’s face it, a parish played chicken with their Bishop, and lost. They broke the rules and are now screaming because there are consequences for their actions. There are none so clear in their own sense of aggrieved rights than a bully, which is being proven out right now. As a side note: 5 of the 9 Bishops (Beckwith, Stanton, Iker, Herzog and Schofield) who signed the letter either weren’t at the last HoB meeting or left early. Admittedly, Bishop Stanton went… Read more »

JWood
Guest
JWood

As a member of a Connecticut parish, I may have followed this conflict with more interest than many. I signed a letter of recommendation for one of the Six during his ordination process.

I have read the statements by Bishop Smith and “the usual suspects”. It is clear to me which more nearly reflects the Spirit of Christ.

I have never been more disgusted with the machinations of the nine bishops, which is a considerable qualifier, nor more proud of my current diocesan bishop than I am of Bishop Smith.

May God bless us all

Ian Montgomery
Guest
Ian Montgomery

The actions of the ECUSA establishment and Smith in particular remind me of what happened to Bonhoeffer and his colleagues. We now honor Bonhoeffer and his prophetic stance — a martyr for the faith in the face of totalitarian rule, that was endorsed by a morally and spiritually bankrupt German Church. Fr. Hansen and his Ct colleagues are to be applauded and supported for their resistance. God bless these bishops whose actions give hope to the rest of us who have felt the jackboot of the ECUSA gauleiters.

steven
Guest
steven

Somehow I keep getting confused here. Isn’t the bully supposed to be the bigger more powerful party in a conflict? How could one little parrish (or even 6) bully the whole diocese? Similarly, how could the small number of conservative dioceses in the U.S. bully ECUSA? Haven’t the actions taken already proved who holds the whip hand here. Folks like the Network and/or the recently invaded parrish may kick up a fuss–but bully??–get serious. That’s a little bit like saying mean old Granada’s been pickin’ on the USA.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

If there’s one thing conservatives know well about, its bullying – just like their hectoring, bullying god.

Of course, if they were really concerned about nothing but the purity of their religion, they would leave ECUSA and turn their splinter organisations into a fully fledged churech in waiting for Akinola, Southern Cone and Sydney’s split.

But they want the buildings and the money – now, isn’t that a surprise?

Dave
Guest
Dave

John Robison wrote: “Let’s face it, a parish played chicken with their Bishop, and lost. They broke the rules ….” Back to the same sad old arguement… that the people who stand up for biblical faith and morality, against the wishes of liberal ECUSAn bishops, are “breaking the rules” and deserve to be run out of their jobs and churches. In the meantime ECUSAn liberals reject the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, encourage immorality, spread doubt – instead of faith – in God, and oppress or persecute faithful Christians. But the rules presumably say that that is OK –… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Dear Merseymike: Get real. Can’t you recognize the irony implicit in your statement? Your statements indicate the true source of your own concerns: “the buildings and the money.” This thing is broken–irretrievably broken as the divorce laws would say. So, why not do what wise judges do in such situations and make an equitable division of goods and let people get on with their lives. I speak from experience as a lawyer who has seen many a divorce in my time. And, just as in any angry divorce I see one of the parties (liberals) demanding that the “&%$#*&” get… Read more »

John Henry
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John Henry

It is very inappropriate for the traditionalists (or shall we call them “reasserters” or “neo-puritans”?) to claim Dietrich Bonhoeffer as one of their own. The German Christians, whom he confronted, held positions very similar to those of the traditionalists. They praised Adolf Hitler for upholding “family values” (against gays and Jews), defying international law and conventions in the self-interest of their nation state (“Deutschland ueber alles”). For many, if not most, of the “reasserters,” the American empire is justified in invading any country on mere pretense, such as alleged non-existent WMD. Bon-hoeffer would have supported none of that!

friend_from_afar
Guest
friend_from_afar

I have watched Thinking Anglicans for some several months now, and even posted a few short comments. I feel truly stunned at the type, kind, and style of the comments that appear here, especially from a few regular commentors. The use of equivalences between the absolute horror and evil of the Nazis and ECUSA, as in a comment above, and those possesed of views different from said Church with martyr Bonhoffer, of blessed memory, only demonstrate the bankruptcy of heart that has come to characterize so much of the commentary here. This does not mark the first use of similar… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“The actions of the ECUSA establishment and Smith in particular remind me of what happened to Bonhoeffer and his colleagues.”

Bonhoeffer was MURDERED BY THE NAZIS! This example is so not relevant.

Could we *please* tone down the rhetoric?

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy

The Diocese of Dallas and the Diocese of Ft. Worth make me ashamed that I live in Texas. I am grateful, however, that I live far enough south to be in the Diocese of Texas which, so far, has exercised some restraint. I have attended choral evensong on several ocassions in a large, beautiful church in Dallas. They have superb music. They are one of the great conservative places. Not once has anyone in that church ever greeted me or spoken to me following services. It is apparent they are carrying their lack of hospitality nationwide!

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I agree with those who are critical of the tone of some comments here. In particular, I agree with the criticism of Ian Montgomery’s attempt to compare the situation of American conservative Anglicans with that of Bonhoeffer and his companions.

Martin Hambrook
Guest
Martin Hambrook

Simon: I hope, in the interests of historical accuracy, you don’t also agree with John Henry’s absurd attempt to depict ‘reasserters’ as the latter day equivalent of the ‘Deutsche Christen’. John Henry: do you really know anything about this semi-pagan group and their actual ‘Blut und Boden’ theology? Are you really saying that ‘reasserters’ are Nazi sympathizers? Do you think they are anti-semitic? (There are many who say ECUSA’s leadership is the anti-semitic party, given its one-sided attitude toward Israel and blindness to violence perpetrated by Palestinian Muslims!) Do you think that Dietrich Bonhoeffer approved of homosexuality, any more than… Read more »

JWood
Guest
JWood

Thanks to “friend from afar” for an eloquent statement of a troubling fact. I also agree with the criticism of Mr. Montgomery’s historical analogy. As a historian, I am doubly suspicious of such comparisons made in heated argument, especially when one side is being equated with the Third Reich. I was saddened to see that Mr. Henry yielded to a response in kind. I, too, am sick of these arguments which aim, not to convince, but condemn one another. I see enmity, anger, spite, quarreling; do we not agree on this, if nothing else, that these are not works of… Read more »

steven
Guest
steven

Dear JWood:

Very well put and timely. However, it raises a question. If the two sides here cannot live in charity together as part of the same communion–what should (in charity) be the next step? Shouldn’t they try to come (in charity) to an amicable division of goods and properties and go their separate ways? Wouldn’t this also (rather than a prolongation of an increasingly vicious conflict) be in the best spiritual interest of their “children” (i.e., their respective adherents)?

Cordially,
Steven

Anna
Guest

I absolutely agree, JWood and friend from afar.

Prior Aelred
Guest

Let me join Anna in expressing appreciation for the words of “friend” & JWood — sadly, I fear that steven is also correct — but I believe that how it plays out may well determine who ends up where (at least in the short term)

The lines of the coming split in the Western Hemisphere are already coming into focus with the West Indies & the Southern Cone alligning themselves apart from the other provinces

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Can we keep the comments here focused on the situation in Connecticut. There are other places on TA where the global Anglican situation can be more directly addressed. Thanks.

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

Martin Hambrook posed the following question to me: “John Henry: do you really know anything about this semi-pagan group (i.e., the Deutsche Christians) and their actual ‘Blut und Boden’ theology? Are you really saying that ‘reasserters’ are Nazi sympathizers? Do you think they are anti-semitic?” Although those questions have nothing to do with the situation in Connecticut, and ought not to be discussed on this thread, I firmly deny this mis-impression created by Mr. Hambrook that I even suggested that the “reasserters” are Nazi sympathizers and anti-semitists. Not all Deutsche Christen bought into Alfred Rosenberg’s Blut und Boden ideology. Their… Read more »

steven
Guest
steven

Dear Simon:

I think your last comment effectively chilled further commentary on this subject. One of the main reasons any single battle or skirmish is interesting is by virtue of its place in a larger conflict and how it affects the overview, strategies, tactics, prognosis, etc. for that conflict. If we can’t discuss Connecticut in the context of the total situation in ECUSA and/or Anglicanism, most of our reasons for discussing it at all are gone.

Cordially,
Steven

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

battle? skirmish? conflict?
If military terminology is the only language that can be used to comment on Connecticut, it is rather sad.
But it is not as bad as using pre-World War II terminology.
Comments which discuss Connecticut, and do so by reference to other ECUSA issues, are welcome here.

steven
Guest
steven

Dear Simon:

Yup, battle, skirmish, conflict–I see no point in euphemism. And, as far as I know, the terminology is not dated. However, I hope that it is not the “only” language used by myself or others in this context. As you imply, conflict between Christians is not and should not be the same as conflict between belligerents in the wider world.

Cordially,
Steven

James
Guest
James

I usually just “lurk”, but thought I’d share this link about “Godwin’s Law”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

This law states that whenever a comparison to the Nazis enters a thread the conversation is over and whoever fisrt made the comparison lost the argument!

Martin Hambrook
Guest
Martin Hambrook

Actually, it’s not as simple as that, as the article says: ‘Many people have extended Godwin’s law to imply that the invoking of the Nazis as a debating tactic (in any argument not directly related to World War II or the Holocaust) automatically loses the argument, simply because the nature of these events is such that any comparison to any event less serious than genocide, ethnic cleansing or extinction is invalid and in poor taste.’ It isn’t enough to think one has shamed the other into silence with a triumphant ‘aha!’ There are times when the behavior of an authority… Read more »