Saturday, April 21, 2007

Good News From Connecticut

There has been a tense situation existing in the Diocese of Connecticut for the last couple of years. To summarize this dispute, six priests (sometimes referred to as "the Connecticut Six") refused to acknowledge the authority of their diocesan bishop. This led to an unfortunate confrontation which included, among other things, Bishop Smith, accompanied by a diocesan team, showing up at St. John's, Bristol and taking charge of that congregation.

Following that confrontation, ecclesiastical charges were filed against Bp. Smith. The parishes whose rectors and vestry members filed the charges were Bishop Seabury Church, Groton; Trinity Church, Bristol; St. Paul’s, Darien; Christ & the Epiphany, East Haven; Christ Church, Watertown and some of the former vestry members of St. John’s, Bristol.

Earlier this month, the Episcopal Church Review Committee decided to drop all charges against Bp. Smith.

But that is not the good news that I wish to highlight. Yesterday, Bp. Smith sent this letter to the clergy of the diocese. Here's the segment worth noting:

I am writing to you in advance of your receiving an invitation to the Ordination to the Priesthood of the Rev. Bill Hesse, in Bishop Seabury Church, Groton, on Saturday, May 12, by the Rt. Rev. Henry Scriven, who will be acting for the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

First, I want you to know that the ordination will be celebrated with my permission. As I have in two other recent Connecticut ordinations by a visiting bishop, I intend to participate and will share in the ordaining.

Also, on Trinity Sunday, June 3, I will make a canonical Episcopal Visitation in Bishop Seabury Church. I will preside and preach as Bishop of the Diocese at the regular services of the parish that morning...
Note that Bishop Seabury Church was one of the six congregations that filed charges against Bp. Smith.

Bp. Scriven, acting for Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh, will ordain Deacon Hesse. Bp. Smith will be present, and will participate, but not preside.

A way was found to work through the differences between this congregation and their bishop. It required no decree from the Primates, intevention from Canterbury, directive from the Presiding Bishop or resolution from General Convention. It is not given any fancy name like AlPO, DEPO, or Primatial Vicar. No doubt that neither the congregation nor the bishop are completely happy with this arrangement, but it appears they can live with it. This is good news indeed!

This is also yet another example of why some of us are so strongly opposed to foreign bishops claiming Episcopal congregations. There has never been a time in the history of TEC when there were not a few congregations in some kind of dispute with their bishop. In such disputes, the goal has always been reconciliation. Sometimes, as in this case of Bishop Seabury Church, such reconciliation may take many years, and require creative solutions. But if there is a foreign bishop standing in the wings wooing the congregation away from TEC, such reconciliation may never get a chance to happen.

Give thanks to God for this graceful reconciliation. And continue to pray for the Church.


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