Skip to comments.The Only Thing Necessary... [The CT 6]
Posted on 04/09/2005 8:44:09 AM PDT by sionnsar
I first met Ron Gauss, Rector of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, Connecticut, in seminary.
He entered the year after I did. Although he had a pleasant smile, he tended to be an intense person and was passionate at moments. Sometimes his conversations with faculty and other students were a bit strident. I do not think he has changed much over the years. I have come to appreciate him better, however, after my own post-seminary conversion to Christ. Ron is a convert from Judaism and his personality is what I think another convert, Saul of Taurus, must have been like. He is smart, wiry, intense, compassionate, and above all an excellent teacher. While we are not close friends, I am honored that we have shared ministry and work on occasions. I number him as one of the finest parish Priests that I know.
Ron took over Bishop Seabury when it was a small struggling congregation and has over the years built it into one of the larger congregations of his diocese. It now appears that he and a group of five others priests in the Diocese of Connecticut are about to be deposed for "abandonment of the Communion." Of course, Ron has no intention of abandoning the Communion. He believes that he stands with the Communion is disagreeing with his Bishop's decision to approve of the ordination of Gene Robinson as a bishop.
Ron's problem is that he has been outspoken in this opposition. His congregation has requested alternate Episcopal oversight and has disagreed with the limited alternative oversight that Bishop Smith offered. In the mean time, Ron's congregation has decided to withhold funding from the diocese. Given the impasse, his Bishop has proceeded with charges against him.
This conflict is indeed unfortunate and it is the kind of situation that many of us would hope could find some sort of amiable resolve. It is not a situation that justifies actions by the Bishop and Standing Committee of Connecticut. Allow me to make three points
First, the canon under which this action is being carried out was never intended to be used in this kind of situation. It was written to deal with the difficult situation of what a bishop and diocese could do when a clergy person left this church, but did not resign from his or her orders. Before this canon, it was difficult to resolve such a matter, since it was always assumed that a clergy person who left us would reasonably renounce orders. However, in recent years, some clergy who have left for Rome have not done so.
Second, the long history of the Episcopal Church has seen many situations where Bishops and their clergy have come to strong disagreements. I know of several situations in my 33 years of ordination where a Bishop and Rector would not speak to each other. I have known of several situations where the Rector's parish refused to fund the diocese amidst the disagreement. Let me also point out that when Bishop Hines resigned as Presiding Bishop, 44 dioceses of the Episcopal Church withheld financial support from the National Church. How have these situations been resolved in the past? Fortunately, for the church, bishops and clergy do retire. Some situations are best left for time to resolve.
Third, the issue that Ron has dissented over stretches far beyond Connecticut. No matter which side you may take in our present situation, you must admit that for the Bishop of Connecticut to take such action ignores the considerable disagreement throughout the Communion. So far, the vast majority of Anglicanism has sided with Ron's position. Of course, the issue isn't over and that is my point. Why the rush to resolve what cannot be resolved on the local level.
All this allows me to share something that I passionately believe and that I hope to ask others of you to passionately believe. Whether you agree with Ron or his Bishop, the Episcopal Church will be a poorer church when a priest like Ron is driven from it
Where is the wide tent, the community of diversity that is so lauded by so many in the leadership of our denomination? What kind of diversity do you have when you have driven from your midst all those who disagree with you? I find it ironic that, liberals who were once a tolerated minority in our Church, are now in charge and are being such intolerant leaders.
Furthermore, let me lift up this fact. There are many clergy in this church who agree with Ron who if we where in the Diocese of Connecticut would be in exactly the same situation. We are not in that situation. Should geographical location make a difference in how the clergy of this church are treated?
I want to ask my fellow presbyters, no matter what side of the present conflict that you are on, this question. Do you believe that we should remain quiet when some of our Bishops act so arbitrarily toward those who disagree with them? What are my fellow presbyters in Connecticut thinking? More importantly, what are they doing? Right now they are sitting in silence and complying with an unfair decision. No doubt, many if not most justify this because they agree with their Bishop's position in the present matters. Edmund Burke has famously said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!"
What should the Bishop of Connecticut do? He should do nothing, certainly nothing until the 2006 General Convention. After all, he signed on to the decision of our House of Bishops to postpone arbitrary actions before then. Even Bishop Smith realizes that this current issue, to quote Gene Robinson, "Isn't just going to go away."
If Ron Gauss is forced out of ECUSA, we are all weaker for it. It is time for more clergy and laity, no matter which side of the issues we take, to stand up and say so.
What do you think?
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning.
Every time a Bishop has taken a parish to Court, the Bishop has "won". No one I've talked to expects this to come out any differently.
Tick tock......ECUSA is coming apart at the seams.
Sadly, I think you're right.
You know, sionnsar, here in DC we are fortunate in that while Bishop Peter James Lee voted "yes" for V. Gene Robinson's consecration, he has left those of us alone here in No. VA. Six Churches, among them the 4 largest in his Diocese, have not sent a dime since the consecration of the NH Bishop.
Bishop Lee has sent out a letter asking those same six Churches to please go back to the level of giving they were at, but has not taken any steps to force any money out of the Churches by making them somehow miserable enough to think that sending money to Richmond would get him off of their back.
It may also be that Bishop Peter James Lee is still recovering from heart bypass surgery he had, and on restricted hours, just doesn't have the time to find or think about a way to harass the part of his Diocese that give some 70% of his budget. I frankly don't know what the Diocese is doing without the money but the last "Virginia Episcopalian" that I saw seemed to indicate that there was *no* shortfall. How can that be? Either someone is juggling the books (cooking them is more like it) or the Diocesan has managed to convince a whole lot of other Churches in his See to give a larger share than they had been giving. One or the other.
What disturbs me about CT is that it might give other Bishops the idea that it is time to "crack down" and get serious or something, with Churches who don't agree with him, Churches who have asked for flyover coverage and instead, the Bishop starts working very hard at making their life miserable.
Force their hands, and the conservative Churches are forced to leave because they are not going to give one dime to a Bishop who voted "yes".
Who knew that it would be the Bishop of CT who would wind up splitting apart ECUSA?
I sure didn't see that one coming.
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