Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Strikingly ineffective bishop prepares for tension at diocese's annual meeting - Virginia Pilot

In the fall, a diocesan report faulted Bane as a strikingly ineffective leader and found major financial mismanagement and a near-total absence of accountability in the diocese's operations.

Many are calling for the resignation of Bishop Bane (Diocese of Southern Virginia, Episcopal USA). In the Episcopal Church, the employment relationship* between the bishop and the diocese can only be severed by the bishop. (There is a mandatory retirement age for bishops; an illustration that the church is not subject to federal age discrimination law.) When the bishop is not otherwise inclined to resign, incentives may be created; he or she may be bought out or opponents may make the bishop's life uncomfortable. Buyouts are not uncommon, although I fear this expedient is abused.

Somewhat like using courts in divorce, bishops can be removed from office if it is shown in a presentment that they did not faithfully carry out their vows. Incompetence or mismanagement is not, I suspect, grounds for a presentment. Presentments are rare.

Why do the canons of the Episcopal Church give bishops tenure? Are the rules surrounding divorce between a diocese and a bishop appropriate? Presumably bishops need tenure because sometimes things need to be said and done which are not popular with their constituents. Just think of what Jesus could have achieved with tenure.

If we grant that tenure for bishops has benefits, we still must acknowledge the evil it can lead to when a bishop is ineffective, or a bishop-diocese relationship becomes counter productive and irreconcilible.

Given the high degree of alienation that exists between some bishops and some of their people over issues like homosexuality (where both sides believe they are on the side of the good), perhaps this is the wrong time to suggest that the church reexamine its canons governing the bishop-diocese relationship. I am convinced, however, that a reexamination is long overdue. Given human frailties, leader for life, or at least until mandatory retirement, is generally not a good idea whether in the secular or sectarian realms. Perhaps we simply need term limits. (The Rev. Kevin Martin (broken link now repaired) is among those thinking outside the box.)

_*Most in the church find the terminology "employment relationship" theologically incorrect in the context of clergy. In this short post intended for general consumption, I use the terminology for clarity. And, employment relationship or not, it is subject to economic analysis.

Update: This vicar didn't ask for immediate tenure. But it sounds as if he earned it.

Another update: Welcome to readers steered this way from titusonenine.

More: Welcome to CaNNet (reg. req.) readers.


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