Skip to comments.ECUSA Reps Recommend Against Conciliation Process In Bennison Case
Posted on 03/15/2006 12:53:18 PM PST by sionnsar
Informal First Report From The Christian Challenge
March 14, 2006
If things looked grim for ultra-liberal Pennsyvania Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison when his diocesan Standing Committee asked him to resign or retire by March 31 over trust and financial issues, they are looking even grimmer now.
Bennison refused to go, calling instead for mediation. But now representatives of the Episcopal Presiding Bishop's Office of Pastoral Development have recommended against a conciliation process, citing the "unanimous opinion that the bishop is incapable of entering into any process without being in control of it."
In a report of their consultations with various parties in the diocese, the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews and Ms. Woodriff Sprinkel added that if the diocesan Standing Committee and Bishop Bennison "still insist that some process be devised for them to address the issues that have been raised and/or to work on terms of separation through formal mediation, then the Presiding Bishop's Office will assist as long as the ground rules are defined by outside persons to insure that neither party tries to control the process. The expense of this work would be solely that of the diocese, and the choice of the mediation firm would be that of the Presiding Bishop's Office."
In response to the report, the Pennsylvania Standing Committee said "we do not feel it would be beneficial to embark on a strenuous and lengthy reconciliation process...We will follow the advice given to us by Bishop Matthews in the report."
The report by Matthews and Sprinkel confirms that Bennison's leadership style began to have negative effects virtually from the start of his episcopate in 1998, and that various attempts to rectify matters with the bishop have come to naught. Cited among the many complaints that have developed against Bennison are an "authoritarian and controlling style of leadership" and lack of collaboration, "withholding of financial information" and "manipulation of finances," the creation of mistrust and fear of retribution, and "breaches of confidentiality."
The report reflects the fact that, when Matthews and Sprinkel asked deans of the diocese on February 21 if Bennison was capable of entering into a process without trying to control it, they said it was highly unlikely. They also believed that the bishop could not change his previous pattern of behavior.
At the end of their consultations in the diocese, Matthews and Sprinkel said they told Bennison they could "not recommend any long-term process for reconciliation," and that "if he persisted in this pattern of behavior, the issues before him and the diocese would deteriorate into an ugly and unfortunate battle in which he would ultimately have to leave."
At this writing it appeared that Bennison had not yet publicly responded to the Matthews/Sprinkel report. An earlier story on the diocesan website has Bennison saying that there are indeed "serious" divisions in the jurisdiction, but that the diocese is working toward reconciliation. He points to divisions between the diocesan convention and the Diocesan Council, and between the Council (which he noted is not asking for his resignation) and the Standing Committee. He also cited a division "between those who believe that the diocese has more than $2.6 million of unrestricted net assets available to advance its initiatives in congregational, camping, campus, and cathedral ministries, and those who think that funds already expended were spent contrary to canonically-defined restrictions and must be restored."
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