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Diocesan Digest - January 19, 2006

[Episcopal News Service] 

CENTRAL NEW YORK: Episcopal priest sues diocese, claims retaliation
CONNECTICUT: Bristol priest deposed
FLORIDA: Bishop inhibits priests, pledges to be responsible steward
LOS ANGELES: Judge says breakaway congregations can keep property
MICHIGAN: Bishop replaces priest in breakaway congregation
SOUTHERN OHIO: Diocese ready for nominations for 9th bishop

CENTRAL NEW YORK: Episcopal priest sues diocese, claims retaliation
[SOURCE: Associated Press] An Episcopal priest is suing the Diocese of Central New York for $4.35 million, saying Bishop Gladstone "Skip" Adams retaliated against him for calling attention to sexual misconduct allegations against another priest.

The Rev. David Bollinger, rector of Saint Paul's in Owego for more than 20 years, has been barred from his church for nearly a year by the diocese, which accused him of misusing church funds. Bollinger says that's a false allegation that has never led to charges.

The lawsuit, filed in Tioga County Superior Court, names Adams and the diocese.

Bollinger told the Binghamton (New York) Press and Sun Bulletin newspaper that in 2002 a former parishioner made allegations of sexual abuse against the other priest, and he reported the abuse to the bishop but no action was taken against the priest.

Adams told the newspaper last year that the alleged victim never came forward to meet a diocesan team that investigates such allegations.

CONNECTICUT: Bristol priest deposed
[SOURCE: Diocese of Connecticut] Bishop Andrew D. Smith of Connecticut, as of January 13, 2006, has deprived Dr. Mark H. Hansen, formerly rector of St. John's Church in Bristol, of the right to exercise the office of priest in the Episcopal Church.

Hansen is one of six priests who have been involved in a long-standing dispute with Smith and the diocese over Smith's 2003 consent to the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.

Diocesan officials have said that the six priests refused an offer of delegated Episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) unless the assigned bishop was permitted to oversee future succession of clergy and future candidates for ordination in the parishes instead of the diocesan bishop, provisions that are contrary to DEPO procedures. They also asked for release from the obligation to pay diocesan assessments.

The Connecticut Standing Committee recommended inhibition of the clergy of the six congregations in April. Smith inhibited Hansen in July on a number of grounds which Hansen maintains are unsupported.

The action was taken according to the canons of the Episcopal Church after Hansen's completion of the inhibition.

FLORIDA: Bishop inhibits priests, pledges to be responsible steward
[SOURCE: ENS] In a letter posted on the diocese's website January 11, Bishop John Howard of Florida said that, since several priests and lay leaders have decided to leave the diocese, "it is vital that we as a Diocese and I as your Bishop be responsible stewards of the mission of the Episcopal Church in Florida."

"Our thoughts and prayers can only be that they find a spiritual place more suited to the judgments they make," he wrote.

Howard wrote that he, with the consent of the Standing Committee, has inhibited the rectors who announced that they have left the Episcopal Church. The order prevents them from performing priestly duties in the Episcopal Church.

The priests inhibited were: the Rev. Neil Lebhar, Church of the Redeemer, Jacksonville; the Rev. Samuel Pascoe, Grace Church, Orange Park; the Rev. C. Alexander Farmer, Servants of Christ, Gainesville; the Rev. James Needham, St. Luke's Community of Life, Tallahassee; the Rev. James McCaslin, All Souls, Jacksonville; the Rev. David Sandifer, Calvary, Jacksonville; and the Rev. Robert Sanders, Jacksonville Anglican Fellowship, Jacksonville.

Howard said that all involved in the leave-taking must return real and personal property to the diocese. "Any refusal to do so will be at their collective and individual legal peril. As a matter of Christian ethics, the responsibility is not only a fiduciary one but a solemn one," Howard wrote.

"It should also be noted that in the Episcopal Church, churches don't leave, although people might," he wrote.

The Rev. Canon Kurt Dunkle told the Florida Times-Union January 17 that the diocese expects the breakaway leaders "to turn over all symbols of possession, like keys, the books and records."

"If they are unable to do that, if they need some time, of course we'd be willing to work with them," Dunkle told the newspaper. "But that would be a short amount of time."

"The vast majority of the members of the Diocese of Florida do not share the views of those who are leaving," Howard wrote, noting for instance that at St. John's in Tallahassee, many may have left, but more than a thousand have stayed.

LOS ANGELES: Judge says breakaway congregations can keep property
[SOURCE: North County Times] An Orange County, California, judge on January 12 dismiss the last of the lawsuits seeking the return of property from three churches that split from the Episcopal Church to place themselves under a conservative Ugandan bishop. Superior Court Judge David Velasquez dismissed suits by the Episcopal Church against St. James Church in Newport Beach, All Saints in Long Beach and St. David's in North Hollywood. He had dismissed those claims in October, but allowed lawyers to amend the complaints.

However, Velasquez ruled that the amendments had "not added anything legally material" to the original complaints. Velasquez dismissed suits by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles against the churches last year. In his rulings, Velasquez said that neither the diocese nor the Episcopal Church has a rightful claim on land, buildings or items such as hymnals and prayer books used in worship by the congregations of the three churches. John Shiner, who represents the diocese, has said in the past that the diocese is confident that the rulings will be overturned on appeal.

MICHIGAN: Bishop replaces priest in breakaway congregation
[SOURCE: Diocese of Michigan] Michigan Bishop Wendell Gibbs appointed the Rev. John Henry as temporary priest-in-charge of St. Andrew's, Livonia, on January 7 to provide immediate pastoral care to the congregation west of Detroit that has been divided for several years about whether to leave the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Allen Kannapell, who served the church since 2002, and members of the vestry and congregation apparently planned to leave the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

Kannapell and members of the vestry sent Gibbs a letter, dated January 5, insisting that the bishop place the church under the oversight and jurisdiction of an overseas Anglican bishop. The issue of episcopal oversight of the church has been at the heart of a conflict between St. Andrew's and the bishop. Gibbs has stated that the Episcopal Church has no provision for transferring jurisdiction to a bishop outside the geographic area of the diocese.

Gibbs offered to accommodate St. Andrew's request for oversight by another bishop through Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) but after negotiations the St. Andrew's vestry in September declared that the DEPO provisions were "totally inadequate."

At a special meeting on October 2 the parish voted to remove St. Andrew's from the jurisdiction and leadership of the Diocese of Michigan's bishop. Gibbs attended the meeting and expanded his list of DEPO candidates to include Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Diocese of Quincy in Illinois.

The St. Andrew's leadership planned to meet with Ackerman on January 25. But before that meeting was held, Kannapell wrote Ackerman to cancel the meeting.

"Our Vestry has come to conclude that our obedience to God's call should not be predicated on the future obedience of any bishop currently in ECUSA [Episcopal Church] no matter how orthodox that bishop may be ..." wrote Kannapell.

Gibbs offered Kannapell the chance to renounce his orders. When Kannapell chose not to do so, Gibbs temporarily inhibited him on January 7 for "abandonment of the communion of this church" as defined by Episcopal Church canons.

Gibbs went to the church for services that evening and the next day, Sunday, January 8, to explain his actions.

St. Andrew's will elect a new vestry at its annual parish meeting on January 29.

SOUTHERN OHIO: Diocese ready for nominations for 9th bishop
[SOURCE: Diocese of Southern Ohio] The Nominating Committee for the Diocese of Southern Ohio is receiving recommendations for the diocese's ninth bishop.

The diocese had previously postponed its planned election after the House of Bishops made a covenant to withhold consents for bishop elections until General Convention in June. Because bishops must retire at age 72, and Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr. turned 72 in December, the diocese amended its constitution to allow a bishop suffragan to have ecclesiastical authority in the absence of a diocesan bishop.

In November, diocesan convention delegates approved Bishop Kenneth L. Price Jr. as bishop for the diocese beginning January 1. Price was bishop suffragan of the diocese. He will head the diocese until the consecration of the next bishop, scheduled for April 2007. He will then resume his duties as suffragan.

The committee has been charged to add nominees. There are currently three nominees: the Very Rev. Stephen H. Bancroft, dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Detroit, Michigan; the Rev. Canon George Aldrich Hill III, rector of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Ohio; and the Rev. Stephen Hoff Wendfeldt, rector of St. Peter's Church in Del Mar, California.

The election will be held in November 2006. For more information, go to -- click on "Bishop search" on the left side of the page. The site contains an updated diocesan profile, an on-line form for recommending a name or names, and other relevant documents.