Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the falling sky

Some days, more than other days, I feel like the Church, or at least the little corner of it I inhabit, is crumbling. Today was one of those days. First there was the commentary from England about the synod vote to clear the way for women bishops and, what's sort of worse, the apparent unliklihood of much in the way of concessions to the catholic-minded. (More on this to follow.)

And then there was the news from Connecticut. This situation is really scandalous, and has taken a turn for the truly disheartening and sad. Here following are some of the documents to come out today regarding the sudden inhibition of Fr. Mark Hansen by Bp. Andrew Smith. I have pilfered them from T-1-9. Thank you, as often, Fr. Harmon.

In my humble opinion, this is all terrible for everyone involved. I can't see how it helps Bp. Smith or the diocese, nor ECUSA's theological cause, nor our standing with the rest of the Communion. It will only confirm the suspicions of conservatives, that progressives are acquisitive and intollerant, despite the rhetoric. Etc. Etc. Etc. And in the meantime, Fr. Hansen and his family are put in straits, along with the people of St. John's. Its all very sad, and I exhort you, good readers, to pray. Pray for Fr. Hansen, Bp. Smith, the people of St. John's, the Diocese of Connecticut, and the other Connecticut 6 priests and congregations.

(1) A Press Release from the Diocese of Connecticut

Contact: Karin Hamilton, Director for Communication & Media
860-233-4481 or home: 860-434-0087 or cell: 860-608-6969 email:

This morning, the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese
of Connecticut, inhibited the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in
Bristol, the Rev. Mark H. Hansen, removing him from that office, and
appointed the Rev. Susan J. McCone to serve as priest-in-charge of the
parish, effective immediately.

In March, Fr. Hansen announced to his parish that he would be taking
sabbatical for an unspecified period of time. Although Episcopal priests in
the Diocese of Connecticut formally apply for sabbatical, Fr. Hansen
neglected to notify Bishop Smith of his departure as rector of the parish.
In recent months, the bishop has become increasingly concerned for St.
John’s well-being as a full and healthy member parish of the Episcopal
Diocese of Connecticut.

“I am concerned for the life and ministry of St. John’s,” said Bishop
Smith. “In the past few months Fr. Hansen has made decisions that left the
parish without sustained clergy leadership.”

A letter formally inhibiting the Rev. Mark H. Hansen, St. John’s rector,
was delivered by Bishop Smith to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bristol.
The Bishop was accompanied by the diocesan Canon for Stewardship and
Administration, John ("Jack") W. Spaeth III, the Rev. Susan J. McCone, and
Mr. Ed Seibert, who will provide administrative assistance. Fr. Hansen was
not at the church or rectory; the bishop has not been notified of an
alternate address.

In April, the diocesan Standing Committee, a council of advice for the
bishop with specific responsibilities for clergy, recommended that Fr.
Hansen be inhibited for abandoning the communion of the
church. “Inhibition” means that the Fr. Hansen may not exercise the
privileges of ordained ministry in the Diocese for a period up to six
months. If before six months is over, the bishop is satisfied that he has
returned to the communion of the church, the inhibition will be lifted
(removed). If after six months the bishop does not believe Fr. Hansen has
returned to the communion of the church, the bishop may depose him,
permanently removing the privileges of ordained ministry in this and all
other dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Smith has appointed the Rev. Susan J. McCone as priest-in-charge of
the parish, effective immediately. She now has the responsibility for the
worship, ministry, mission, and property, under the bishop’s direction. Ed
Seibert, an administrative and financial consultant, has been asked to
assist in parish administration and to review parish records. The bishop
will provide pastoral counselors who will be available to meet with and
listen to members of the parish who may wish to speak with them.

A letter is being sent today to the members of St. John’s, notifying them
of these events and inviting them to a special meeting with Bishop Smith on
Sunday evening, July 17. That meeting will be open only to members of St.
John’s Episcopal Church, Bristol, and closed to the media and non-members
of the parish.

(2) A Letter from Bp. Smith to Fr. Hansen

July 13, 2005

The Rev. Mark H. Hansen
831 Stafford Avenue
Bristol, Connecticut 06010

Dear Father Hansen.

In a letter to me, dated March 17, 2005, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, acting in accordance with the provisions of Title IV, Canon 10, Section 1 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, signified to me that they have determined that you have abandoned the communion of this Church. The Standing Committee, again in accordance with Title IV, Canon 10, Section 1, on April 29, 2005, set forth for me in writing the facts upon which they relied in making their determination.

In accordance with Title IV Canon 10, Section 1 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church I have affirmed the determination of the Standing Committee of this diocese, and I do Inhibit you as of the date of this letter, July 13, 2005, from the exercise in this diocese of the responsibilities and privileges conferred on you in ordination.

Please find enclosed with this notice a copy of the Standing Committee’s determination and statement, and additional matters which have led me to affirm the Standing Committee’s determination.

Unless it is lifted by me (or an appropriate ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of Connecticut) this Inhibition shall remain in effect for six months. The six months’ Inhibition allows time and gives opportunity for reconciliation and resolution of the matter of abandonment of communion.

I hereby notify you that you have rights specified in Title IV, Canon 10, Section 2 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

So long as this Inhibition is in effect, you are not to attend worship or other functions in Saint John’s Church, Bristol, nor enter the church or buildings used by the parish for worship, meeting and education. You are to arrange to have your personal property removed from these buildings under my supervision. And you are to refrain from interfering in any way with the life of Saint John’s Parish and with the deliberations of its leaders.

In the coming days I shall be reviewing the arrangements that you have made with Saint John’s Church Bristol concerning compensation, housing and your sabbatical, to ensure that the agreements meet diocesan policies and that they are appropriate and fair for you and for the parish.

I am deeply concerned for your well-being and that of Saint John’s Church. It is regrettable that your actions have brought us to the point where the initiative which includes this Inhibition has become necessary. I do pray and trust that we will find a way forward.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Yours in Christ,

Andrew D. Smith
Bishop of Connecticut

(3) A Personal Statement from Fr. Hansen in Response to Bp. Smith's Inhibition

The Rev. Mark Hansen

A Personal Statement in Response to Bishop Smith’s Inhibition

I am personally devastated by Bishop Smith’s actions today. In inhibiting me on the grounds of abandonment of communion, he has misrepresented facts and caused tremendous stress on both my family and St. John’s Church. The bishop is fully aware that family circumstances necessitated a sabbatical leave. I have informed him of the fact that our son has needs requiring a variety of specialized support services. The needs are real, and the services are expensive. In inhibiting me, the bishop has knowingly and willfully endangered my family’s well-being and security. If the bishop had issues with my contractual arrangements with the congregation, surely his concerns could have been expressed through pastoral rather than canonical actions, particularly in light of his knowledge of my specific circumstances.

I have done all in my power to be faithful to providing for my family, but I have never lost sight of my responsibility to St. John’s. I have had the full support of the church leadership and congregation and remain committed to the church. Despite the bishop’s claims to the contrary, St. John’s has never been without pastoral care in the form of supply clergy for both weekday coverage and Sunday services. I am deeply saddened at the tactics displayed by Bishop Smith and his 12 associates who ignored pleas of St. John’s elected leadership, intimated those who attempted to reason with them, and hacked into computers to obtain confidential church records. How can this possibly be construed as being “concerned for the life and ministry of St. John’s”?

My wife Ceil and I ask for your prayers during this difficult trial.

1 comment:

The Ranter said...

The situation of our church is very depressing. I take a small ammount of hope in the fact that the church has gone through low, heretical periods before... but it makes me very cynical about things.