Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PENNSYLVANIA: Hearing set for bishop's appeal of church court decision

From Episcopal Life Online-

An Episcopal Church court will meet May 4 to hear oral arguments on Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison's request that a 2008 ruling that he engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy be overturned.
The argument before the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop will take place at the Cathedral of St. John in Wilmington, Delaware. The court is Bennison's last resort in the ecclesiastical process.

After Bennison's 2008 trial, the church's Court for the Trial of a Bishop found in February 2009 that 35 years ago when Bennison was rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, California, he failed to respond properly after learning that his brother, John Bennison, then a 24-year-old newly ordained deacon (later priest) whom he had hired as youth minister, was "engaged in a sexually abusive and sexually exploitive relationship" with a minor parishioner. The abuse allegedly lasted for more than three years from the time the minor was 14 years old.

Charles Bennison was found to have failed to discharge his pastoral obligations to the girl, the members of her family, and the members of the parish youth group as well as church authorities after he learned of his brother's behavior. The court said that he suppressed the information about his brother until 2006, when he disclosed publicly what he knew.

Bennison appealed on Jan. 19 to the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop, arguing that the charges stem from incidents that began more than 30 years ago and should never have come to trial. It also said that the Court for the Trial of a Bishop should not have called for Bennison to be deposed from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church because he was not involved in the sexual abuse.

The bishop has been inhibited, or barred from exercising his ordained ministry by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori since October 2007 when he was first ordered to stand trial.

A chronology of the Bennison case is available in this Sept. 25, 2009 ENS story.


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