Monday, February 13, 2006

A Cloud Over Albany

Some recent reports have appeared regarding the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. The first one is entitled Spiritual Shift Splits Diocese. Here's part of it:

...For months, internal debate has revolved around outgoing Bishop Daniel Herzog, who is accused by some in his flock of concealing church finances, short-circuiting the election of his successor and sidelining those who clash with his theological beliefs.

The climate in the diocese has added significance because of the high-profile battle Herzog has waged as a national leader in the Episcopal Church's internal fight over the ordination of gay clergy, which Herzog vociferously opposes...

...Clergy who don't share Herzog's theological bent, critics complain, have also been frozen out of leadership positions within the diocese.

And some feel his plan to fast-track his succession, approved when Herzog announced his impending retirement at last year's diocesan convention, short-circuits the lengthy stock-taking crucial to picking a leader who will guide the diocese for years to come...
The article goes on to delve into questions being raised regarding diocesan finances, and specifically the funding of Bishop Herzog's pet project, the Spiritual Life Center, which includes a healing ministry. The diocese sold the Children's Hospital of Albany and placed the proceeds in a charitable foundation, designating those funds for "health care services and health care-related educational and religious programs." Hundreds of thousands of dollars from this foundation have been poured into the new "healing ministry".

A follow-up report can be found here.

The process of the election of a coadjutor for Albany is also worth noting. Here is how Bishop Herzog explained it at the Diocesan Convention of June, 2005:

...As you know in the wake of New Hampshire the House of Bishops decided to withhold all consents to the election of new bishops until the General Convention meets in Columbus a year from this month. A lot of nominees will be piled up.

I believe that an environment of graciousness regarding consents to the election of new bishops now prevails in the Episcopal Church. How that will stand after the General Convention of next year is less certain. Giving this Diocese the option of electing a bishop coadjutor and securing consent at the next general convention would more likely assure the Diocese of Albany having a bishop into the 21st century who accurately reflects our commitment to the apostolic faith and to evangelical mission...
The "environment of graciousness" seems to point to the idea that since consents for bishops will be backed up due to the moratorium, there will be some move at General Convention to approve them all quickly. In other words, now is the window of opportunity to slip a bishop who will "reflect our commitment to the apostolic faith" easily through the consent process.

The diocesan canons had to be changed, to allow the election process reserved for a suffragan to be used to elect a coadjutor. Once on the fast-track, the nominations commenced. Even though I disagreed with some of his answers, I was pleased to see Bill Love nominated. He was a year behind me at the House. A gentle man, and a devoted father and husband. I know another candidate as well, and wouldn't vote for him as dogcatcher. I have too much respect for dogs.

What is fascinating is the questions these candidates were asked. Here's a few:

...4. Are there any articles of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds with which you are in anything but full personal and theological agreement? If so, which and why? In your response, please address the following questions: Was Jesus raised bodily from the dead, such that the tomb was empty of his physical being, and in his body he appeared unto his disciples until his Ascension into heaven? Do you believe Jesus was virginally conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary? Do you agree that the Persons of the Trinity are only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and no other expression or naming may be substituted? For example, do you believe that a person baptized in the name of “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” is validly baptized...

...6. Under what circumstances would you authorize the use of rites for or any practice of same-sex blessing, union, or marriage in this diocese or support such rites or practices anywhere in the Church? Under what circumstances would you permit or approve the ordination or licensing of a person who is sexually active outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman?

7. In John 14:6, Jesus stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV) What is your understanding of this passage, and what does it say about Christianity’s relationship with other world religions...
Does one sense a possible agenda here?

Albany Via Media has some suggestions for additional questions that might be asked of these candidates. One of my own springs to mind:

"Do you believe it is wise for the Diocese of Albany to be affiliated with the Network, in light of the evidence that it is the goal of that organization to destroy the Episcopal Church?"

May God have mercy on the faithful of Albany.


UPDATE: The Rt. Rev. David Bena, Bishop Suffragan of Albany, responds to the Times Union articles.

FURTHER UPDATE: Anglicans Online points us two of the documents mentioned in the article and refuted by Bp. Bena; the letter from a trustee and one from Dean Kris.

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