Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Response to Who is Bishop John Howe?

I have received a response to our discussion of last month regarding Bp. John Howe. The author of this essay is a priest whom I consider to be a friend and a mentor. Even though we may disagree on various issues, I trust this man. He offers us a glimpse of Bp. Howe from the perspective of one who has served under his authority and has known him personally. Here is Canon Powers' response in its entirety:


Who is Bishop John Howe?

I am a priest serving in the Diocese of New Jersey, but in 1999-2001 I served a congregation in the Diocese of Central Florida. I am entitled to receive the clergy ListServe of that Diocese, and on that ListServe I learned of your posting of an article entitled “Who is Bishop John Howe?” In addition to your own opinions, you quote sources identified as an article written by Lewis Daly entitled “A Church at Risk: The Episcopal ‘Renewal’ Movement,” a David Corn description from 1991 (source not identified), and a posting to your site by someone identified as Charlotte. I don’t know if any of these people speak from personal knowledge of or experience with Bishop John Howe, but I would be glad to offer my own observations.

First, in response to certain statements in those sources, I offer Bishop Howe’s own words:

Daly: Howe supported Pat Robertson when he ran for president in 1988 and, more recently, he participated in a charismatic re-ordination service for Robinson held at Regent University.

Howe: I actually urged Pat Robertson NOT to run for President. And Pat’s service was NOT a re-ordination but a rededication. (Bishop Howe’s comments on the ListServe)

Daly: He was formerly president and chairman of the board of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life.

Jake: Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania was accredited as a seminary of the Episcopal Church in the early 1980s.

Bishop Howe has always been proud of his role in protecting the lives of the unborn and in raising up evangelical leaders with a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the planting of new churches. To charges about his role with NOEL and Trinity, he gladly pleads Guilty. And I, for one, wonder what is objectionable about fighting to save the lives of the unborn and raising up evangelical clergy for the building up of the church.

Charlotte points out that the Diocese of Central Florida has lost 8.5% of its membership in the last two years. Recent studies by C. Kirk Hadaway and Charles Fulton of the Episcopal Church point to dramatic membership losses throughout the Episcopal Church over the last four years. I suspect that the Dioceses in the conservative sections of the church have indeed suffered serious losses in recent years. You can select your own reasons for that.

Charlotte also states that This Lent just past, Bishop Howe called, in his column in the Central Florida Episcopalian, for priests to make a practice of denying Communion to anyone they identified as ‘notorious sinners.’ Charlotte does not provide a full quote, but regarding that practice, you might refer to the Book of Common Prayer, page 409.

Charlotte also refers to Bishop Howe’s answer to the question: Can you learn to do miracles just like Jesus, as being, Yes. I didn’t attend the workshop mentioned, and cannot comment on the conversation in question. But I can tell you of times when I have prayed with people, and we have been blessed with an outcome that the recipient and I both felt was miraculous. I prayed for healing for a young woman who was scheduled to have polyps surgically removed from her throat in two days. Just before the surgery, the Doctor did a procedure to verify the size and location of the polyps, only to discover that they were completely gone. I can’t confess that I have received the requested outcome of every prayer, but I have seen many prayers answered in ways I would describe as miraculous. The greatest numbers of such “answered prayers” have seemed to occur amongst people who pray with expectation that the Lord can and will heal. I don’t think any of us would consider ourselves to be healers, but we can give witness to those times that the Lord has blessed his people with a miraculous cure. It seems that where expectancy is the greatest, so is the level of miraculous response. I think Jesus experienced this reality amongst the people of his time, as well as the power of unbelief in Nazareth: And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)

My time in Central Florida was brief, and now several years past. When I received the call to come to a parish in that Diocese, the very next phone call I received, after that of the Senior Warden, was from Bishop John Howe. He called to welcome me to the Diocese of Central Florida and to offer to do anything he could to help me and my family arrive, and to help me in my ministry to the people of St. Mary’s Church. On many occasions, he fulfilled that promise. He prayed with my wife and me when we first visited the Diocesan office. He introduced me to Canon Ernie Bennett, his Canon to the Ordinary, who went out of his way to make me at home in the Diocese. Bishop Howe never required me to agree with any of his positions: he asked only for mutual respect. I can see that he continues that policy in the many postings he makes on the Central Florida ListServe.

I am privileged to work with Canon Bennett on a CREDO faculty team. Often Ernie is initially subjected to suspicion because he comes from Central Florida. One participant at a conference actually asked him, Do you agree with everything your Bishop says? Ernie’s response was classic, Heck, I don’t agree with everything I’ve ever said. I echo those sentiments.

Over twenty-five years of ministry in the Episcopal Church, I have served under five very different Bishops: Albert VanDuzer, Mellick Belshaw, Joe Morris Doss, John Howe and George Councell. I have found things that I loved in each of them, and I have found things that I thought could be better if different. But I have always supported them if they were being the Bishop they believed the Lord was calling them to be. That support has never been equated with full agreement. Yet I have come to know each of them as my Bishop. None was perfect, and neither am I. I pray for all the Bishops of our church regularly.

I offer these musings as another voice in your question, Who is Bishop John Howe? Please don’t stop with mine. Perhaps you might ask Presiding Bishop Griswold for his answer to this question. He had enough faith in Bishop Howe to ask him to serve on the Committee of Twenty-Five which was asked to review the many proposed resolutions on human sexuality for the 2003 General Convention.

Or perhaps, even better, would be to ask the man himself.

Yours in Christ,
Lee Powers, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of New Jersey


I ask that in your responses to this essay you keep in mind that this is the viewpoint of a priest who has served God's Church faithfully for many years. It is not the perspective of an extremist. As you can see, it is written with the intention of speaking the truth in love. Of course readers are free to disagree, and discuss various points of disagreement. But, to honor my friendship with this man, I ask that you do so gently.


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