23 September 2010

Bennison: "I have suffered"

In one of the biggest acts of arrogance since Dick Cheney said he's saved the world, Bennison stepped up to the place and told the Episcopal Church, it's House of Bishops, and his own employers to go to hell.

Saying that he has "always been innocent of the charges" Benison  announced  that he would not honor his colleagues' request that he resign his position.

And get this, his publicist released the statement. His publicist? The statement also makes this claim: "the suffering I have endured during the past three years has strengthened me and will enable me to work for reconciliation within the diocese." What about the suffering he caused the victim?
;I have deep compassion for the young woman who was abused. If I could have prevented that abuse, I would certainly have done so.>blockquote>. That is a lie. He knew and he did all he could to protect the perpetrator, his brother.
This is the most revealing bit.
However, they have no cause to be worried. I am, and have always been, innocent of the charges against me. And now the Court of Review of the Episcopal Church has reversed the erroneous decision of the Trial Court, and I have been restored to my position as Bishop of Pennsylvania.
Bennison needs to reread the document by the Court of Review They said that he was guilty but the time limit for charging him had expired. 
For the reasons stated herein, we find that Appellant committed conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. Because the statute of limitations has run on that offense, we have no choice under the canons of the Church but to reverse the judgment of the Trial Court finding that Appellant is guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy under the First Offense.

Prosecution is bared by the applicable statute of limitations and, for that reason, alone, we are compelled to order and we hereby order that the judgment of the Trial Cour is reversed and judgment is rendered here in favor of the Appellant on the First Offense.

The Judgment of the Trial Court finding that Appellant is guilty of conduct unbecoming to a member of the clergy under the Second Offense is reversed and judgment is rendered here in favor of the Appellant on the Second Offense.
I don't see how "I am innocent" can be supported by the Court of Appeals pronouncement.

Is it possible to bring presentment for mental incompetence? The man is clearly delusional.

UPDATE: Episcopal Life has an article on Bennison's lunacy here.

22 September 2010

For those of you who missed the now removed statement of defense of Don Armstrong on his parish's website, here it is.

Parish Response to Father Armstrong’s Plea Agreement

Today our Rector, The Rev. Donald Armstrong, accepted a plea agreement offered by the Pueblo District Attorney which precludes the pending trial and begins to bring to conclusion this long and torturous ordeal for our congregation and the larger Christian Community.

Specifically, Father Armstrong made an Alford plea, which is a special plea used when there is no admission of guilt or basis of fact for the charge, but the charge, in this case a misdemeanor, is accepted to take advantage of an offer, in this case to reduce the original 20 Felony counts to a single misdemeanor.
We are grateful to Don and Jessie for their courage, strength, and witness during this time of personal persecution. Over these last years God has blessed us greatly as individuals and as a congregation.

In preparation for the now canceled trial we have become convinced even more strongly that controversies within the larger denominational church were the catalyst for the Diocese's investigation and complaint, for the purpose of silencing our bod and successful defense of orthodoxy though our parish's life, discipline, and teaching ministry.

We believe that the courts are not the place to deal with theological differences, and that to have allowed this dispute to continue to be played out in the news by going to trial would have served only to diminish all Christian witness. With this plea offer now in place such further harm to the entire church in this already difficult age for Christianity will be prevented.

We further believe the disparity between the magnitude of charges made against Father Armstrong by the Episcopal Diocese and the final content of the plea agreement vindicates not only Father Armstrong, but also clearly affirms our confidence that we ran an effective and well managed church in our days at the helm of Grace & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and continue to do so at St. George’s Anglican Church.

With only a restitution hearing to be held in the distant future, this essentially concludes this long and expensive attempt to silence orthodox resistance to theological innovations in the Episcopal Church. We are thankful we can now move forward under our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, into a future productive for the Kingdom of God. [END]

This entry was posted in Rector Recommends. The statement has disappeared since the local newspaper exposed the deliberately dishonest statement.

It's important to take note of this: Armstrong pleaded "no contest" to a third-degree felony theft charge with a deferred sentence. If he violates his four years of probation, he could face massive fines and up to 12 years in prison. That doesn't sound like "exonerated" to me.

21 September 2010

Thoughts on the election of Dan Martins

Blog-friend Doxy has written an excellent post on the election of Dan Martins as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield. Towards the end of her post we find this:
IMO, if Fr. Martins cannot do those things, he has no business being a bishop in TEC. Because to make him one otherwise is to do something doubly violent. It is to consign this church to having yet another bishop who is not prepared to honor his consecration vows, [by] some misguided attempt to show how "inclusive" we are.
Including conservatives in our church is what we must do for the gospel and the church is, to use the tired phrase, "a large tent." However, giving "friends-of-the-fox" the keys to the chicken coop is shear insanity. The church, and especially the bishops, have a responsibility to be good stewards. That means saying no to those who have actively supported the theft of church property.

19 September 2010


The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Lectionary

Collect of the Day: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


“Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth.” Jesus didn’t really say that, did he?

Imagine the disciples hearing this story. They probably ask Jesus to repeat himself, clean the wax out of their ears, and look at each other for verification: did he really just say that?

It seems he did. Someone remembered this story, and Jesus has demonstrated a knack throughout Luke’s gospel for telling memorable stories. Most of them are parables, which invite us to remember the story and mull on it. It is always a mistake to treat parables in the same way we treat allegories, and this story in particular could represent real trouble for the interpreter who treats it as allegory. Who is God in the story? Who is the dishonest manager supposed to represent?

That’s not what Jesus is doing. It’s difficult to know precisely what he is doing, but he hasn’t stopped believing in and demonstrating the kingdom of God, a reality that includes perfect justice and mercy; so we assume that the dishonest manager, who operates entirely out of self-interest, isn’t a direct stand-in for God, or for us.

This story highlights our need to take great care in interpreting pieces of scripture in light of their context. If we were to read this passage under the rubric that we are to take everything in the Bible literally, we’d find ourselves in real trouble, and probably in jail.

Clearly, the startling image of the dishonest manager as the “hero” of Jesus’ story will help us to remember it. But if it’s not literal, what are we supposed to make of it?

The story in Luke that comes immediately before today’s story is the much-beloved story of the prodigal son, the cranky older brother, and the ridiculously forgiving father. Today’s story may well highlight the same situation: someone in trouble stumbles into grace practically by accident. In the story of the prodigal, the younger son does not acquit himself well. He makes some very selfish choices that offend nearly everyone, and only comes to his senses to the degree that he realizes something must change so that he can survive. Continuing to act in his own self-interest, he returns home to discover that grace and forgiveness have been waiting for him the whole time, and we have a sense that he may finally get what it means to be loved.

In today’s story, the dishonest manager is in an equally bad situation, and for the same reason: he has acted entirely selfishly without concern for how his actions will affect others, just so he can slip some money into his pocket that doesn’t belong to him. When his employer figures out what he’s done, he figures his goose is cooked, and so he continues to act in his own self-interest by cutting deals with his employer’s debtors. What he wants is for these people to owe him something, because he is sure that manual labor is beneath him, and begging is so embarrassing. What’s disturbing to those of us listening to his story is that it works! It works even better than he had planned; not only do the people who owe money to his boss get a better deal, the manager himself has regained some status in the eyes of his employer because of his shrewdness.

This is just crazy, upside-down grace. We who hear his story want him to pay for his dishonesty, not to get out of a sticky situation smelling like a rose. What kind of moral example is this?

Well, it isn’t one. What Jesus seems to be highlighting in this story, which we can perhaps see more clearly by comparing it to the story of the prodigal son, is the ridiculous nature of God’s grace, and our call to live in it.

This foxy manager and self-serving younger son sound a lot like Jacob, whose name became Israel; he connived and manipulated, wrestled and argued, when God’s blessing was available to him from the beginning.

Jesus commends the shrewd – and shady – manager as an example, not for his dishonest dealings, but for his clever solution. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says this manager – who is “of this world,” meaning someone whose values are entirely plebian and self-oriented – has managed to scratch and claw his way into a better situation; what can Jesus’ followers do, he asks, with the grace of God behind them?

What Jesus thinks his followers are capable of is what he himself has been busy doing: healing, reconciling, truth-telling, and proclaiming the kingdom. We must be as clever as the manager in today’s gospel, with a different goal: serving our self-interest, alongside the best interests of the world that God loves, by building the kingdom of God.

Today’s collect contrasts being “anxious about earthly things” with “loving things heavenly.” It would be simple to imagine that “loving things heavenly” means some kind of ethereal, spiritual experience, bathed in light, with some harp music playing in the background. However, the stories Jesus has been telling in this long narrative of his journey to Jerusalem don’t sound ethereal at all. They are earthy, everyday stories that connect right into regular human lives. It’s once of the central ironies of the Christian life that in order to “love things heavenly,” we must turn toward the dust and dirt of which we are made, and try to envision and build the reign of God.

Today’ gospel is a reminder of a couple of things: when we get anxious about money, status, power, what letters come before or after our name, what kind of car we drive, what brand of clothes we wear; when we get anxious about those things, we end up using our best skills for ourselves alone. It’s also a reminder that in spite of ourselves, we are bathed in grace and forgiveness.

We are called to be shrewd about recognizing grace and sharing it. We are called to love things heavenly, by loving God’s creation, seeking justice for everyone,

Perhaps most importantly, today’s gospel is centered on one action: forgiveness. The manager intends to make his own situation better when he forgives his master’s debtors, but the more he thinks about it, the better it gets: the people who have owed his master more than they’ll ever be able to repay are suddenly going to have their burden lightened, and that’s going to make the master look good, and that’s going to make the master happy, and that means the manager won’t lose his job. Everybody wins. Forgiveness – which is an act, not a feeling – has positive consequences for everyone.

We can get hung up on the undeniable fact that the person in the story who forgives is acting dishonestly and manipulatively, and we’d like to distance ourselves from that kind of behavior. But Jesus chooses his story illustrations carefully, and this one sticks in the memory precisely because it’s outside the boundaries of any conventional morality tale.

Forgiveness and its consequences are central in this gospel and in the story of the prodigal that precedes it. No matter who does the forgiving, it’s going to create ever-widening circles of positive consequences. Forgiveness, Jesus seems to be saying, is the starting point for building the kingdom of God, and of course, this cycle begins with God’s grace toward us. If God kept score, we would be in some serious debt, like the people who owed more than they could pay in today’s gospel. But God’s grace precedes our entire existence, and if we choose to be kingdom-builders, we begin by accepting God’s grace, and extending our own forgiveness to others. There is really no other way to transform our limited sense of tit-for-tat justice into an expansive sense of God’s justice and mercy.

The Good News is today’s gospel isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s there; forgiveness is the engine that drives our journey toward the kingdom, and we who receive it gladly are called to share it freely.

-- The Rev. Kay Sylvester is the assistant rector at St. Paul's in Tustin, California. She is a teacher, trainer, retreat leader, and preschool chaplain. Her prior experience includes teaching piano and guitar, and selling volleyball and wrestling equipment.