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+David Bena leaves TEC for CANA; Nigerian bishops flout Primates' Communiqué

The Church of Nigeria's House of Bishops has issued a statement from their meeting Sunday, March 4. At that meeting they consecrated, twenty new bishops, and then, while everyone was there, they elected six more bishops, five of them for new dioceses. If the Lambeth Conference in 2008 votes on anything, and assuming that the Church of Nigeria does not make good on its Primate's threat to boycott Lambeth, it looks like Nigeria's going to have a lot more votes than they did in 1998.

That statement discloses a couple more surprising points, though.

The first is that +David Bena, the retired suffragan bishop of Albany, has left The Episcopal Church to join CANA.

The second is that "in light of the report from the recent meeting of Primates in Dar Es Salaam," the Nigerian House of Bishops has agreed not to elect any more bishops for CANA -- until their September 2007 meeting. Since even the least generous "deadline" for action from The Episcopal Church to conform to the requests of the Primates' Meeting is September 30, this seems to me to indicate clearly that despite the Primates' timetable (which is hardly expansive!), the Nigerian House of Bishops (or at least their Primate) apparently feels entirely free to expand incursions into TEC jurisdictions before any deadline has passed, and certainly before any kind of prayerful consultation in the Communion could take place about it.

Is there a more generous way to read this last point?

The Church of Nigeria is a church in a very, very big hurry.

[Update: The Diocese of Albany has posted this letter from +Bena, which suggests that +Bena intends to provide oversight in TEC dioceses other than Albany.]

March 5, 2007 in ++Peter Akinola, Church of Nigeria | Permalink

Comments

So how do we get +Bena off our roles? Seems the least he could do would be to relinquish rights to the pension. His letter states that he is "transferring" and that the current bishop has issued a Letter Dimissory for the retired bishop. I'm confused. I didn't know our polity allowed for such transfers. If you're leaving, you don't ask for permission but he states quite clearly that he's not leaving. Hrmph.

The September deadline (to coincide with Nigeria's deadlines) as well as the March 16 (to preempt our HoB meeting) deadline for nominiations all point to much more workings behinds the scene than anyone has let on. So does ++KJS truly believe these guys are acting in good faith? I don't believe her Kum-ba-ya approach (yes, that's my perjorative description of how I experience how she's interpreting this mess) will do anything except explode in our faces.

If we could "request" how it is the Primates now believe they have authority to make requests of any Province and to suggest consequences for non-compliance, and if we could "request" to be shown how and when and why Lambeth resolutions are now elevated to "official teaching" to which Provinces must give assent then perhaps we would have a basis for even entertaining the Primates.

Posted by: Rodney Hudgen | Mar 6, 2007 10:01:40 AM

Here's how I interpret the Church of Nigeria's action in light of Bishop Bena's letter.

From Bishop Bena's letter, we know two things:

1. Bishop Bena asked sometime in January that his letters dimissory be transferred to Nigeria.

2. Bishop Herzog agreed to this.

To reach a generous reading from there requires only one more step: That the Church of Nigeria agreed to Bishop Herzog's request before the primates convened in Feburary.

I do not know the third point to be true, but it's my effort at a more generous reading.

Posted by: Douglas LeBlanc | Mar 7, 2007 4:14:11 PM

The Living Church has now published a report that says Bishop Bena's transfer was effective as of his retirement date of Jan. 31.

The report also acknowledges the tensions arising from this arrangement.

Here's the link:

http://www.livingchurch.org/publishertlc/viewarticle.asp?ID=3120

Posted by: Douglas LeBlanc | Mar 7, 2007 4:53:19 PM

The attack on the Nigerian "time line" seems a little harsh. The Executive Council of the TEC indicated at its very recent meeting in Portland, OR that it will address the Primates' Comminque and related issues at its June meeting in Parsippany, NJ. The TEC's House of Bishops also has meetings before September. TEC's response should be well known before September. Presumably ++Akinola would like any further bishops appointed to CANA to be elegible for invitation to Lambeth, and the Nigerian Church can't wait too long on that front.

Mr. LeBlanc suggests that Bishop Bena surrender his pension from the relevant TEC fund. Why? Contributions based on his services have been made to the fund throughout his clerical career. Reasserters who have, from time to time, suggested that the pension fund might be manipulated to pressure orthodox clergy have been met, fairly, with the argument that clergy's interests in the fund, at least after some quite minimal service, are fully vested and not subject to the political whims of 815 or of the Fund managers.

Posted by: Richard Schumacher | Mar 7, 2007 9:33:37 PM

FYI Richard, - It wasn't Doug LeBlanc that suggested that Bishop Bena surrender his pension, it was Rodney Hudgen above who made that rather unfortunate remark.

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Posted by: BabyBlue | Mar 7, 2007 11:32:30 PM

I think Rodney's point, which is not without merit, is that +Bena and other clergy who are now actively campaigning for a new American Anglican province are doing so while at the same time drawing an often substantial pension from the church which they are now actively opposing. While I don't think they should be struck off the pension roles (who wants to go down THAT road?) I do think it is at least slightly hypocritical to cash your pension check from the Church Pension Fund and then actively work in opposition to TEC's policies and positions.

I'm also not quite with Rodney on ++KJS response being a "Kum-ba-ya approach." I was much more of the opinion that her predecessor was a little too calm and collected as the fires of division blazed up around him. Our Presiding Bishop appears to be attempting to balance the desire of all of us for this to be "over" with the knowledge (based on both theology and biology, two subjects with which she is familiar) that life doesn't work quite that way.

Posted by: Tom Sramek, Jr. | Mar 9, 2007 3:53:38 PM

I really have a hard time believing these comments. It just reinforces many of the conservatives views that the dominent liberal leadership view this as some "winner take all" power game. The issue of clergy pensions is a very big one. For those social justice types, churches per se are not subject to ERISA requirements which means that prior to retirement there is often no vesting. The reason why ERISA vesting requirements were enacted was to protect rank and file workers from having their pensions yanked days before retirement by abusive corporations.


This is the hammer held over the head of clergy for quite a long time. This is also the reason why many of the thousands in the pews were unaware of what was going on behind the scenes in the church until GC 2003. The more orthodox priests were afraid to make waves by being public about the controversies in the church. This is still happening today in my church in conservative parishes under liberal bishop and standing committees.

To think that a bishop who payed into the pension fund for all those years and is still working for the Lord be deprived of his pension? In corporate America many leave one company and go to work for a true competitor and their previous pension contributions are vested. I have met Bishop Bena several times and he is a great man of God with a profound gift of healing.

Posted by: Roger | Apr 8, 2007 10:42:13 AM

Roger, only ONE commenter has suggested that +Bena should surrender his pension, and so far as I know there are no serious proposals that would take away pensions in such circumstances. People who pay into the pension fund draw benefits from it -- they just don't CONTINUE to acrue benefits after they've left the church and are no longer paying into it. Since +Bena waited until after he retired to leave the church, his pension will not in any way be affected, as I understand the situation. In other words, if the reason you think that "liberals" (and only "liberals"?) are playing power games has to do with +Bena losing his pension, you can breathe easy and hug the nearest "liberal" with joyful abandon.

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer | Apr 8, 2007 12:50:59 PM

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