Trying to buy a bishop
Something stinks in the Diocese of Central Florida, and it isn't just the fish.
A couple of priests reported from a clergy meeting Sept. 10.
One said,"The information is shocking to many of us. The short summary is that an effort has been made to 'buy out' the Bishop or give him a 'golden parachute' to retire in an attempt to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church. The information we have from our meeting last week is that five of the Anglican Communion Network Bishops are preparing to take their dioceses out of the Episcopal Church after October 1, 2007. The other five Anglican Communion Network Bishops (including Bishop Howe) are not leaving. Bishop Howe has also said that he has no plans to retire.
Another priest reported the bishop didn't come to the Sept. 10 meeting of priests who want to stay Episcopal, held at the diocesan retreat center, so priests could speak freely, but he will be present at future meetings with this group.
Canon Ernest Bennett was at the meeting, and made a presentation. He had consulted with Bishop Howe on his talk before the meeting.
Canon Bennett referred to "those who see things differently" as "the
"He went into some detail about how we need to speak respectfully," the report stated.
It went on:
"15-22 Rectors and Vestries in the Diocese have talked in one way or
another about leaving the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). 17 Central Florida Anglican Communion Network (ACN) parishes are thinking of leaving ECUSA on October 1. The Bishop is now being told that there is no firm date to leave, which is technically true. When asked if they will leave, the answer is, 'Not Yet.' Canon Bennett indicated that this is like one spouse saying to another, "I will not divorce you yet.'"
"The Chancellor (Butch) [Wooten] has said that congregations cannot leave, that
clergy and parishioners can leave."
"An overall strategy of 'The Twenty' has been to always deal at the highest level possible first. The justification given is that this strategy would spare parishioners in the pew from making hard choices to leave. They could simply be told by the "higher level" that their church was re-aligning. They sought and succeeded in controlling the Diocesan Board and the Standing Committee. There has been an attempt to join with other ACN Dioceses in separating from ECUSA. 'The Twenty' were very disappointed that the Bishop would not do this. There was an effort to change the Constitution of the Diocese to eliminate the 'accession clause.' the clause that states that the Diocese accedes to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."
"The Bishop ruled this out of order."
"There has been an attempt to move out of the Episcopal Church as a 'block.' This proposal was for 'The Twenty' to pay a block amount of money so that all the departing parishes would exit with their property at the same time. The Bishop has said that he will not negotiate with any 'block' but is ready to negotiate with any individual in good faith."
"A group of four persons, including members of the Standing Committee, approached the Bishop to ask him to retire. They offered to pay off his mortgage ($335,000) plus give him the difference between his salary and retirement income if he had served until age 72. The Bishop was born 11/4/42; he is 65 years old. (His yearly compensation according to the Journal of the 2007 Convention is $131,700)."
"The Bishop refused this 'golden parachute' or 'buy-out' for two reasons: (1) He
wants to be there for those who are staying in ECUSA and (2) He wants to be there for those who are leaving ECUSA."
"There have been efforts to get vestries to act on behalf on congregations (rather than congregational meetings) to remove congregations from ECUSA. The Canons of the church Title I.17.8 prevent this, as does Florida state law which states that when you cease to be a member of an organization, you cannot act on behalf of that
"What is the role of the National Episcopal Church? ECUSA has said that it will not intervene in a diocese unless a Diocese refuses to enter into good faith negotiations or unless the diocese attempts to transfer property to another part of the Anglican Communion."
"Plans are already underway in some congregations to lay the groundwork to leave. In at least one instance money that has been pledged in a particular congregation is being channeled into a separate corporation and current expenses are being paid from Memorial and other accounts."
"Canon Bennett stated that Vestry members have been asked by the rector
to resign for not going along with this plan."
"Bishop Howe is sad right now, but is completely committed to those who remain in the Episcopal Church. He has no immediate plans to retire, but the option is tempting given the health of his wife. If he were to announce his retirement it will be orderly, announced at Convention with a future election of a Coadjutor Bishop who would serve under Bishop Howe for a time."
"'The Twenty' asked Bishop Howe to fire Canon Bennett. Bishop Howe does not plan to do so.The Diocese is not preparing a budget yet for 2008 as there is great uncertainty and the likelihood that several parishes may leave reducing diocesan assessments. They know that there will be a financial impact, but it is not yet predictable."
"Canon Bennett urged the clergy present to think about elections in the upcoming Diocesan Convention particularly the ones involving the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Board."
"Canon Bennett and Bishop Howe are in complete agreement, but have come
to this from different perspectives."
"There may be a need for retired clergy to help the diocese by serving,
perhaps without pay, in situations where priests will be needed."
Episcopalians were asked to keep Bishop Howe and Canon Bennett in their prayers, and send them both notes of encouragement.
I will keep them in my prayers, and I thank God the bishop and canon will remain in the church.
As for the diversion of funds within a parish, that certainly seems a violation of trust.
I would say more on the topic, but I have to go now.