For those who don’t know, my wife M is—in addition to being a gifted priest and a wonderful wife and mother—a dedicated athlete. She is a great distance runner; she beat her Boston Marathon qualifying time by over 20 minutes. In the last couple of seasons, she has been focusing on triathlons. She’s easing into them and has only done a few, but in those few has earned a spot in the age-group nationals coming up in Milwaukee.
I don’t worry about her so much when she goes out to run or swim. What concerns me is when she goes out to bike.
It’s dangerous to cycle here in the city. For the most part, she goes out to the surrounding areas where the roads are wider and there are fewer cars, but even out there it’s not terribly safe. There are a few areas where there are dedicated bike lanes on wider roads that offer cyclists a margin of safety—one being the wide roads in the Roland Park area of the city.
Despite precautions, there have been a number of cyclists hit in the Baltimore area by cars in the last year or so with very little repercussions on the part of the offending drivers, and the cycling/tri communities are very unhappy with the situation.
You can only imagine, therefore, how our household is responding to the news coming out about the suffragan bishop killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run accident. It’s been reported in the Living Church here and in the local press with more detail here.
No one around here knows the full story yet. We are torn between passions of justice and mercy.
One aspect of our calling as Christians is forgiveness, second chances, and clinging to the promise of the resurrection. Even when we believe that the story has ended—as on the first Good Friday—God may yet not be done with it.
Another aspect of our calling as Christians is about the process of transformation. Sin is a reality in life. We are called to lay it bare in confession—if only to ourselves—and to seek transformation into something different. Something better. Something that knows the truth, has made the decision to be aware of the truth, and is prepared to live that truth. In so doing, we demand justice on our behalf and on behalf of others. For justice and truth are deeply connected, frequently being two sides of the same coin.
For us in the Diocese of Maryland this story wan’t be going away anytime soon. I suspect there may be implications for the broader church as well. There are questions opened up by this tragedy in several areas:
- questions about the process for selecting bishops, about who knows what about candidates for bishop (M was at the electing convention—nothing was mentioned about candidates’ prior legal woes)
- questions about the role and place of clergy (bishops included) as the leaders of communities of moral growth
- questions about addiction and recovery in the church
For now we pray for all involved. And tomorrow we go to a vigil ride for the slain cyclist; clergy have been asked to wear their collars.
I share your concern about the election of bishops. Our bishop was elected in spite of being married to his fourth wife. His three divorces were known by the clergy, but the lay delegates were clueless. I doubt he would have been elected had it been known.
Clergy should be moral leaders – look at the damage done to the Roman Church by the pedophile priests. There is a difference between forgiveness for sin and accountability for one’s actions. The church can forgive the Suffragan Bishop, and discipline her by removing her from office as part of that forgiveness.
Addicted clergy should be in a recovery process. Overseeing that is part of the Bishop’s pastoral responsibility to the clergy. It’s really hard when the addicted person is a Bishop, and the facts were hidden in the election process.
Prayers for your diocese, and for your wife’s safety.
I appreciate the nuance and humility in your post but, frankly, this story is about a Bishop committing murder and running from the scene. This is not about forgiveness or addiction recovery or any such thing. She should be publicly exposed and shamed, and the Episcopal Church should be leading the way.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, in line with the ancient canons, any cleric who takes a life, even unwillingly, is automatically deposed.
Just so you know.
Rdr. James Morgan
James Morgan: In theory, such a provision remains a part of the canon law of the Church of England and came into question with respect to an Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, in the 17th century. The canon law of the Episcopal Church pretty much has no concept of irregularity, as far as I know. It is interesting to note that the Roman Catholics have not considered involuntary homicide to incur irregularity since at least the 19th century.
Derek: Prayers ascending for your Diocese…
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Archbishop Robert Runcie served as a tanker in WWII, and engaged in several battles, winning a military cross for rescuing a comrade, and then going on to destroy three German artillery positions. He was also one of the liberators of Bergen-Belsen. He was not in orders at the time, having left Oxford without a degree in order to enlist. Obviously he was ordained and consecrated despite having deliberately killed quite a few people in WWII, so homicide can’t be an absolute bar to ordination or episcopal office in the CoE.