“Behold a Great High Priest”
That’s what the choir will sing (Elgar’s version, I hope) as Bishop Charles Bennison processes down the aisle of St Clement’s on our Patronal Festival, Tuesday November 23. The congregation will go down on their knees as he passes, like sheaves of corn before the reaper.
Poor Bishop Bennison was not treated with quite so much respect yesterday at the Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. In fact, over two thirds of the delegates voted Yes on a motion asking him to resign. When the result was announced, the Bishop simply moved on to next business, making no attempt to defend himself.
In the debate, I spoke on the side of those who wanted him to stay on as Bishop. This is what I said:
“As a Brit, I have always admired the respect Americans have for the Constitution and the rule of law. The highest Church court found that the lower court which heard the case against Bishop Bennison had made many errors of fact concerning his dealing with a delicate matter of sexual misconduct in the 1970s. They also found that the statute of limitation had long passed the time when such a charge could even be considered.
U.S. civil and criminal law values the statute of limitation very highly. It protects accused people from faulty memories from forty years ago, from evidence that has been lost, etc. Surely our Church should not suffer a lesser standard of law to prevail. And the House of Bishop’s vote was simply a voice vote – not in any way appropriate for such an important expression of opinion.
So those who have called for Bishop Bennison’s resignation should have the grace and courage to change their minds. It also seems to me very odd that at no time have we ever heard from the Standing Committee that even one of their members was going to resign on this matter of conscience!
It is time for us to move on with Bishop Charles. Of course we don’t agree with everything he says or does – I’ve never yet had a Bishop with whom I agreed on everything.
Father Zabriskie has just quoted Scripture at us to say that, as St Matthew’s Gospel recommends, having pulled the Bishop up before the Church for his faults, we should now treat him as a tax collector and a sinner. Well, Jesus would agree – and He would treat the Bishop to a great meal, befriend him and work with him for the sake of the Gospel. And that is what we should all do from today on.”
Come to St Clement’s on St Clement’s Day (Tuesday, November 23 at 7 p.m.). The Bishop will preside from the Throne and preach the Sermon. The Choir will sing a glorious Mozart setting (with orchestra). St Clement will be honoured; God will be glorified; and the Bishop will be treated like a tax collector by having his hand kissed a lot during the Mass, and then welcomed with open arms at a sumptuous reception afterwards.