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From Columbus: Beisner gets Convention's nod

By Melodie Woerman

The Rev. Canon Barry Beisner, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Northern California, was elected May 6 as bishop coadjutor of his diocese.  
[Episcopal News Service]  The General Convention, meeting June 20, gave its consent to the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Canon Barry L. Beisner to become bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Northern California.

The House of Deputies consented to Beisner's election first, as required by canons. Beisner's soon-to-be colleagues in the House of Bishops followed suit.

"It's wonderful to see so many friends old and new, and so many people I've so greatly admired and respected for so long, and to see you from this end (at the podium). This is a surreal moment for me; thank you all."

"I'm aware of the controversy attached to my consent and aware my presence is not altogether welcomed by everyone. Thank you for your gracious willingness to receive me," Beisner told the House of Bishops from the dais after he got its approval. His wife, the Rev. Ann Hallisey, was with him.

"I pledge to those who might be a little unsettled by my presence that I am praying and working for every opportunity to begin relationships of trust. I pledge to you that I will do everything in my power to assist you in working for the benefit of this church which I know we all love so."

Questions have arisen since Beisner's election May 6 because he has been divorced twice and is married for a third time. Currently canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Northern California, he told the Joint Legislative Committee on Consecration of Bishops earlier in the Convention, his marital status had not been an issue during pre-election meetings with bishop nominees, but was brought up after the election by people from outside the diocese.

The deputy members of that committee gave the required recommended consent for Beisner's consecration, but a minority report was filed opposing that consent. In it, the six signers said such consent:

  • could imply a weakening of the teachings of the Episcopal Church on the lifelong sanctity of marriage;
  • could cause pain to divorced persons and to "traumatized children shuttled between one home and another;"
  • likely would strain the bonds of affection within the Anglican Communion;
  • could compromise his ability to pass judgment on those seeking remarriage in the church; and
  • may "provide far too much room for his conscience to be compromised by his prior failures."

Bishop members of the committee did not make a recommendation on Beisner's election, although they had done so on the other five bishop nominees the committee considered.

Some who opposed Beisner during debate in the House of Deputies June 20 said they did not criticize him personally, but believe his marital history disqualified him from the office of bishop. The Rev. Kendall Harmon, a deputy from South Carolina, said, "I'm sorry it's about a person, but this person could not serve as a priest in South Carolina." He said he could not support Beisner because "a bishop is chosen for the whole church."

The Rev. Adam Trambley, deputy from Northwestern Pennsylvania, referred to 2 Corinthians 4:7 by saying, "Bishop-elect Beisner has made it clear he is a clay vessel broken by sin, but redeemed by Christ's love." He also noted the Windsor Report said the fact of divorce and remarriage is not, per se, a key criterion in electing bishops across the Anglican Communion.