Skip to comments.Olympia's Peaceful Example
Posted on 12/06/2005 3:43:41 PM PST by sionnsar
Throughout the 17 years he has served as Bishop of Olympia, the Rt. Rev. Vincent W. Warner, Jr., has maintained a consistent aversion to using canon law as a means to compel members of the clergy or the congregations in western Washington to act contrary to their consciences. Last month, during the annual diocesan convention, Bishop Warner called for the election of his successor, and as his proposed mid-May 2007 retirement date looms closer, his aversion to using canon law as a cudgel is under increasing strain.
The day after the Oct. 18, 2004, release of the Windsor Report in London, the rectors of St. Stephens Church, Oak Harbor, and St. Charles, Poulsbo, informed Bishop Warner that their congregations had voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from the Episcopal Church and that the Rt. Rev. Robinson Calvalcanti had accepted their applications to affiliate with the Diocese of Recife in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil.
Since the 2003 General Convention, nearly every diocesan bishop has been confronted with at least one similar announcement. In most cases, what follows is depressingly predictable: mutual recriminations, deposing of the clergy, replacement of the vestry, and legal action to evict the defectors from the property. So far none of this has happened in the Diocese of Olympia. Instead, Bishop Warner and other members of his staff have held several meetings with the clergy and parish leadership.
From the beginning it was agreed that neither side would take any action without giving 15 days notice. Both parishes agreed not to divest assets except for normal and usual operating expenses. Also, both parishes agreed to place their diocesan assessment money into escrow, but mostly these meetings have not been about posturing or legalities. Instead they have included Bible study and sharing about struggles and prayer. At a meeting on April 5, Bishop Warner asked those gathered to pray for his healing with the laying on of hands. The Rev. Carol Harlacher of St. Stephens offered holy water from Lourdes. The bishop offered something unusual in return his crozier. The crozier was cracked and broken, Bishop Warner said. He asked if the people of one of the congregations would take and fix this symbol of his office. Ms. Harlacher agreed to accept repair of the staff on behalf of St. Stephens.
A few months later the repaired crozier was returned to Bishop Warner in better condition than when it was new. Previously, the one-piece staff was too long to fit in the trunk of Bishop Warners sports car. The repaired crozier unscrews in half and fits perfectly in the Corvette. In addition, Bishop Warner received an embroidered cloth carrying case to protect the crozier, something he did not have previously. The bishop has made a point of mentioning this gift when making visitations. He also shared the news in an Easter-season letter to the clergy, but not because he is courting publicity.
Instead he is seeking to respond to a growing number both within and beyond the diocese who are expressing concern. Some resent that the two parishes refusal to pay their assessment has placed a larger burden on those diocesan parishes which are contributing. Others are concerned over the amount of time Bishop Warner has devoted to reconciliation efforts and question the lack of results. Still others worry that the longer the present situation persists, the harder it will be for the diocese to obtain possession of the properties.
In an interview after diocesan convention with a reporter from The Living Church, Bishop Warner said he remains determined that he will not be forced into imposing a canonical solution, but admits that he cannot guarantee that his successor will adhere to the same policy.
There has been a huge amount of pressure on me to have some accountability, but I know they [the two congregations and their clergy] are taking a stand based on principle, Bishop Warner said. Whatever decision is taken must be mutually acceptable. When you are in a relationship with someone and you pray for each other, we are called to love one another. Its not in my hands to do anything. Things happen in Gods time.
Our guest columnist is Robert R. Chapman, Jr., a technical writer who is a member of St. Dunstans Church, Shoreline, Wash.
"Still others worry...the harder it will be for the diocese to obtain possession of the properties."
When someone says it's not about the money, you can bet it's about the money. Still, I give Warner credit, for now, of taking the higher road on this even though I don't trust him one iota. His successor will not be so kind.
Isn't St. Mark's Cathedral the diocesan seat? A recent report says things appear to be quite far gone there (I don't think I've even been there since the 90s).
Yes, it is. I haven't been inside the cathedral probably since I was a kid.
My apologies. I owe you a letter about how our start-up congregation is doing. I will try to do that in the next few days. -Bob
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