By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Nine bishops who expressed a dissenting view on the nature of church hierarchy have agreed to refrain from further expression until General Convention addresses the matter. An Accord of Conciliation drew mixed reviews as the March 8 announcement coincided with the House of Bishops’ semi-annual meeting at Kanuga Conferences in North Carolina.
While bishops held a retreat on the theme of “Godly Leadership in the Midst of Loss,” they “did not spend substantive time” talking about church structure or the accord, according to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. They instead focused on other types of loss, from personal grief to an earthquake in Haiti to a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
That agenda left some bishops feeling they were ignoring “the elephant in the room,” according to a March 10 blog post by the Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, who is among the nine who signed the accord. In another post, Bishop Martins said he and his named peers feel “battered and wounded … [by] a demeaning experience.”
The eight other bishops who signed the accord are the Rt. Revs. Maurice M. Benitez, Peter Beckwith, John W. Howe, Paul E. Lambert, William H. Love, D. Bruce MacPherson, Edward L. Salmon, and James M. Stanton.
“All nine of us are processing some degree of anger and are feeling substantially alienated from those who brought the charges against us,” Martins wrote. “We feel manipulated and victimized. We are nowhere near happy about this outcome, even though we stand by our decision to accept the Accord.”
If bishops named in the accord felt victimized or alienated, that was not evident at the five-day retreat, said the Rt. Rev. Dean Wolfe, Bishop of Kansas and vice president of the house. Wolfe added that most bishops believe the church has dealt correctly with people who have left the Episcopal Church.
“The house feels like it has gone to second and third miles in dealing with disagreements, and has done everything it could do,” he said. “There is a sense of peace. The loss is there, but regrets about the actions are not.”
For their part, Martins says, the nine named bishops believe they made a helpful difference by participating in court cases and are not weakening those stances by signing the accord.
“We have made our point about the polity of our church in Texas and Illinois courts. Those points are now matters of public record,” Martins said in his blog post. “There is no more reason for us to intervene as we did to protect the truth about [the Episcopal Church’s] polity and interests of our own dioceses.”