East Carolina bishop is candidate for Pennsylvania bishop provisional

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jan 4, 2013

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania will meet Jan. 12 to elect Diocese of East Carolina Bishop Clifton Daniel III as its bishop provisional.

Daniel, 65, told his diocese Jan. 4 that he had met with the East Carolina Standing Committee the previous day to inform them of his intent to resign Feb. 28 after 15 years as bishop there and to take the Pennsylvania post.

1-4_Daniel“It is an honor to be elected to serve that diocese at a critical point in its continuing life and ministry,” Daniel wrote, adding that “I do love and treasure our Diocese of East Carolina and count it as a privilege to serve as your bishop for these years.”

The Pennsylvania Standing Committee said Jan. 4 in an e-mailed statement that Daniel wss “a deeply Christian person who listens, builds consensus, works with diocesan leadership effectively, and cares about the work and life of the congregations and missions of the church.”

“We believe that Bishop Daniel will bring healing and gracious leadership to our diocese,” the committee said. “As we welcome Bishop Daniel to the Diocese of Pennsylvania, please keep in your prayers the people and the Diocese of East Carolina as they experience the loss of Bishop Daniel and enter into a period of transition.”

Daniel’s biography is here.

Daniel will serve in place of Bishop Charles Bennison, who retired at the end of 2012 after an at times contentious episcopate.

A bishop provisional has all the authority and responsibilities of a diocesan bishop, but typically serves for a set period of time and is meant to be a bridge into the time when the diocese is ready to elect a diocesan bishop or make other decisions about its future. The Pennsylvania Standing Committee predicted that Daniel would serve for two years or until the diocese elects a new bishop diocesan.

Daniel is due to attend the diocese’s special convention at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral Jan. 12 to speak to the delegates and respond to questions, the Standing Committee said. The convention will also discuss the upcoming period of transition, including what the committee called “strategies for healing and reconciliation,” and how those efforts “will inform our readiness to call a bishop diocesan and undertake new and renewed ministries in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.”

The Episcopal Church’s canons (Title III.13.1) require a diocese seeking a bishop provisional to work with the presiding bishop’s office. The Standing Committee said in an earlier statement that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori requires such dioceses to use “a highly confidential interview and selection process and may present only one name to its convention.”

The committee said that it understands the policy is meant “to encourage the broadest number of bishops in our church who may feel called to serve as the bishop provisional in a particular diocese to seek that position privately and without fear that their interest in serving as a bishop provisional will complicate their current positions.”

The members “sought to ensure that we had the most representative process for the selection of the bishop provisional that was possible within the confines of the presiding bishop’s policy” and in the process “learned the extent and depth to which we were willing to trust each other’s judgment and focus on the best interests of our diocese.”

“The presentation of one candidate will allow the diocese to move forward in our work of healing, reconciliation, visioning and preparing to select and elect a new diocesan bishop,” the committee said.

Bennison announced Oct. 9 in a letter to the diocese that he would retire at the end of 2012. He noted that the Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin, president of the diocesan Standing Committee, told him that the committee wanted to elect a bishop provisional rather than either have Bennison call for the election of a coadjutor or have the diocese elect a diocesan who would be consecrated on the day of his retirement.

Bennison, 69, could have continued to serve until November 2015, when he turns 72, the church’s mandatory retirement age for all clergy. He became bishop in early 1997.

The Pennsylvania Standing Committee has been at odds with Bennison since the mid-2000s over concerns about how he managed the diocese’s assets and other issues.

During Bennison’s tenure, the Standing Committee called for his resignation more than once, including on the day he returned to work in August 2010 after the church’s Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop overturned a lower church court’s finding that he should be removed from ordained ministry because he had engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The review court agreed with one of the lower court’s two findings of misconduct, but it said that Bennison could not be deposed because the charge was barred by the church’s statute of limitations.

The review court said that Bennison failed to respond properly in the mid-1970s when he was rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland, California, and learned that his brother, John, who worked initially as a lay youth minister in the parish, had been having a sexual relationship with a member of the youth group that began when she was 14. John Bennison later was ordained a priest but deposed in 1977 for an unrelated offense. He was restored to the priesthood in 1980, but he was forced to renounce his orders again in 2006 when accusations of his abuse became public.

Jefferts Schori inhibited Charles Bennison in October 2007 from exercising his ordained ministry when the church’s Title IV Review Committee formally accused him of the inaction. The inhibition expired with the review court’s August 2010 decision.

In September 2010, the diocesan Standing Committee asked the House of Bishops for its “support and assistance” in securing Bennison’s retirement or resignation. The bishops later that month called for Bennison’s “immediate and unconditional resignation.” The next day, Bennison refused to resign and remained the diocesan bishop until his retirement.

The bishops and deputies who gathered in Indianapolis in July 2012 for the 77th meeting of General Convention made a historic statement about the relationship between bishops and dioceses, acknowledging that, on rare occasions, that relationship becomes severely strained, sometimes to the point of breaking.

The convention, by way of Resolution B021, set up a canonical process for reconciling or dissolving an episcopal relationship.

Resolution B021 was the result of a call (via Resolution B014) from the 2009 meeting of General Convention about how to help dioceses and bishops resolve their differences.

The process outlined in B021 was not invoked in Pennsylvania.

—  The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (8)

  1. Joseph F Foster says:

    This is intended as a request for information–not to start an argument.
    Since when could sitting bishops dicesan or coadjutor be translated?

  2. Prayers for East Carolina as they begin a search for a new bishop.

  3. Jesse Glenn says:

    As a member of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, I wish to express my gratitude to all of those who worked to make this transition possible. I offer thanks to God that we are finally at a point where resolution and reconciliation can begin. Let us all offer our support and prayers as the Diocese of Pennsylvania searches for a new Bishop. Let us also pray for the Diocese of East Carolina as they begin their quest to find a new spiritual leader.

    “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
    Psalm 100: 5 King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

  4. Dan Daniel is the perfect person for this job. He has the love, the patience, and the ability to communicate to all. The rev. Dr. Margaret Shepard

  5. Scott Turner says:

    I believe the canon allowing translation was approved in 1976 or 1979. Bp. Willis Henton was elected bishop of the newly formed diocese of Western Louisiana while diocesan of Northwest Texas in 1979 or 80. I believe he was the first under the new canon.

    1. Joseph F Foster says:

      Thank you. I was beginning to wonder whether anybody reading these things knew — or knew what translation of a bishop is.

      1. If I’m not mistaken, I believe Bp. Robert Witcher was elected Diocesan of Long Island in 1977 was “translated” from another Diocese.

  6. Hilda Weaver says:

    Having lived in the Diocese of East Carolina for several years, I came to know Bp. Daniel as a marvelous leader and reconciler, actively seeking the opportunity to make “All Welcome in this Place”. East Carolina’s loss; Pennsylvania’s immense gain.

Comments are closed.