THE House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States has called on the Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Charles Bennison, to resign.
The bishops issued a “Mind of the House” resolution during their autumn gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, held on 16-21 September, in which they urged Bishop Bennison to step down.
The Bishop was suspended and removed from office two years ago, after he was found guilty of failing to act when his brother abused a 14-year-old girl in his congregation. But this decision was reversed by an appeals court last month, as time to bring a prosecution had run out (News, 3 September).
Bishop Bennison made the first parish visit since his return to Trinity Episcopal Church, in Boothwyn, and is reported to have said he intends to continue until he reaches the retirement age of 72. He is 66.
In the resolution, the bishops issue an apology to the woman “who has been victimised by Bishop Bennison’s lack of responsible action, and to all those who have in any way been hurt by our Church. . . As the House of Bishops, we have come to the conclusion that Bishop Bennison’s capacity to exercise the ministry of pastoral oversight is irretrievably damaged.
“Therefore, we exhort Charles, our brother in Christ, in the strongest possible terms, to tender his immediate and unconditional resignation,” for the sake of “the wholeness and unity of the body of Christ, in the diocese of Pennsylvania and in the Church”.
At their meeting, the bishops also discussed a wide range of other issues, including immigration, same-sex blessings, and the Millennium Development Goals. On immigration, the bishops issued a pastoral letter calling for the “gracious welcome of immigrants, documented or undocumented”, as this “is a reflection of God’s grace poured out on us and on all”.
The letter also said that “inhumane policies directed against undocumented persons (raids, separation of families, denial of health services) are intolerable on religious and humanitarian grounds.”
About 50 bishops and their spouses visited the Arizona-Mexico border before the meeting, to investigate conditions for immigrants.
The Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, described the six-day gathering as “remarkably full”.