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Bishop Dan Herzog Answers Questions about His Return to the Episcopal Church

Bishop Dan Herzog Answers Questions about His Return to the Episcopal Church

A VOL Exclusive Interview

By David W. Virtue
June 2, 2010

Recently the former Episcopal Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. Dan Herzog returned to the Episcopal Church after more than three years in the Roman Catholic Church. On March 28, 2007, he informed Bishop William Love that he and his wife would return to their roots after a three and half year long period of "focused prayer and study," Now he has returned to the Episcopal Church and will function as a bishop in the Diocese of Albany under the supervision of Bishop Love. The two men are old friends. Both are orthodox in faith and morals. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has agreed to his return.

Virtueonline wrote to Bishop Herzog following his return to the Episcopal Church. He graciously agreed to answer questions about his decision to go to Rome and then return to the Episcopal fold.

VOL: What has been the immediate response to your return to TEC in the Diocese of Albany?

HERZOG: I can tell you that Carol and I have received a warm embrace from this spiritual family.

VOL: My first question concerns a statement you made in your letter of resignation in March 2007. You wrote, "There is a sense of joyful contentment in being in union with the office of Peter and the universal church." Did that "joyful contentment" suddenly end? What was it about the "office of Peter" that no longer seemed quite so attractive to you and Carol?

HERZOG: I believe I overestimated my ability to set aside a ministry that has been at the heart of our life a long time. The people, both clergy and lay, have been intertwined in Carol's and my life for than more than forty years. During the past three years we still began each day with the Office of Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer A part of every day's intercessions was the clergy and their families. At Mass I often found myself praying the 'Prayer of Humble Access' (We do not presume...) before communion.

VOL: You were born and raised a Roman Catholic, so it would seem that "going home" was a natural step for you, and yet you felt compelled to become an Anglican for nearly 35 years. Then you left and then you returned. Was the tension theological or was something else at work here?

HERZOG: Churches are perfect, until we let people in. When I reopened a small church in the north about thirty-five years ago, we put a sign near the main entrance: This is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. All churches have blotches; some are more visible than others. All need the cleansing blood of Jesus on a continuing basis.

I remain committed to the received teachings of the Scriptures and Christian belief regarding sexuality. I voted for Lambeth Resolution 1.10 in 1998 and believe it is an accurate teaching and reliable guide. The Diocese of Albany firmly assents to this teaching and its Convention and its Bishop have been constant in its stand. It is probably important to state that no one, at any level, attempted to influence or coerce me into any other stance on these issues.

VOL: You left the diocese in good hands with Bishop Bill Love, who has continued to take a hard line with respect to the moral innovations of TEC. You wrote to the diocese at that time, "Your subsequent election and consecration discharged that duty and has given me the liberty to follow my conscience, and now resign my orders and membership in the House of Bishops." When you wrote those words, did you believe in your heart of hearts that you had made a clean break or was there still some uncertainty about the decision you and Carol made?

HERZOG: Our network of personal friendship still revolved around the clergy and people of the diocese. We continued to support ministries of the diocese and to join in various spiritual activities. I tried to attend the funeral of every priest and was honored to preach at two of them. Carol continued to attend the Clergy Wives Retreat and each year Bp Bill [Love] invited me to share in the priests' retreat. In the end it was impossible to deny this was our family.

One priest, Father Hap Carrier, developed pancreatic cancer about a year and a half ago. I wound up as one of a group of priests who spent time with Fr Hap, took him to chemo, spent a day each week, took him to the movies (and sometimes to Mass). Hap died during Holy Week. He celebrated Mass at home in mid March, his last. He spoke to us about the Olympics and how being first was their driving force, but not in the service of our Lord. That evening and the weeks before and after made me aware of how much the priestly fellowship of Albany was at the core of my life.

VOL: You wrote at that time about the turmoil which has enveloped the Episcopal Church since the decisions and actions of the General Convention in 2003. You said that turmoil was not merely external. "It also caused a lot of hidden tears. To my mind, the power which the Convention claimed to exercise in fact negated any previous authority on which I had relied. It caused me to engage in a fresh examination of apostolic teaching and authority." How has that changed in your coming back to TEC?

HERZOG: Two repeated experiences of apartness were Holy Week, and each year the weekend of the Diocesan Convention.

In the past three and a half years, we have been blessed with new friendships and in a sense were given an extensive time for prayer and reflection. And I am grateful to our Lord for this. I told the clergy the last day of the Priests' Retreat when Bishop Bill made the announcement of restoration that for the past three years I had avoided any public criticism of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I intend to maintain the same attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church.

VOL: You have stated that the body count is not all going one way. The Episcopal Church has lost four bishops to Rome, several dioceses to the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and some 800 parishes and 100,000 plus parishioners. But you left and came back. Are you concerned at what sort of signal or message that sends to a lot of undecided Episcopalians, many of whom look to their leaders for direction?

HERZOG: It's significant to note that with all the flux in the Anglican world, the Diocese of Albany and its bishop remain in unbroken and unimpaired communion with every Anglican church in the world- no mean accomplishment these days. I am committed to so support Bishop Bill and the whole diocese in this. In fact, I believe that my vocation now is simply to support Bishop Love as he exercises his episcopal leadership and to carry out whatever ministries and apostolates he chooses to entrust to me. I believe that he has set the right direction and I am honored to support him as we follow Jesus.

I count a number of the ACNA bishops and faithful among my friends. I regularly pray for them and for the work they do for Christ. Living on the border (where the nearest parishes were in the Anglican Church of Canada) I was aware that there were different forms of churchmanship and theological emphases (with English and North Irish roots). It was my first exposure to solid Anglican evangelicalism. We don't need to be afraid of variant Anglican strains, especially when it's gospel-rooted. Gamaliel's advice is probably still best: if it's not of God, it will fail; if it is, we can find ourselves in conflict with God himself.

VOL: In your restoration by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, Canon lawyer Allan S. Haley argues that there is no provision in the Canons for doing what the Presiding Bishop and her Advisory Council have claimed the power to do. Canon III.12.7 provides for a bishop to renounce his orders in the Church; it does not provide a means for him to be reinstated upon his "rescinding" his earlier renunciation. He wrote: "The problem here again is that Bishop Herzog was not under any "Sentence" imposed upon him; he had simply voluntarily given up his orders. So there was no "Sentence" to remit or terminate. But the Presiding Bishop required him to subscribe to a new Oath of Conformity -- exactly as is required in remitting a sentence of deposition under Canon IV.13.2: Is that your understanding of the canons? Haley wrote: "No one, as I say, quarrels with the restoration of Bishop Herzog to the episcopacy; he is beloved by all in the Church, and proved his dedication to it by service over thirty-five years. What troubles me here is the lack of respect for the canons by the Presiding Bishop, and her inventing procedures -- borrowing from this Canon and that one as she sees fit -- to suit her purposes." Is that how you view things or do you have a different interpretation of the canons of restoration?

HERZOG: I am no canonist, but I won't quarrel with this outcome.

VOL: When you were in the Roman Catholic Church, were you a priest or were you laicized? If a priest, were you given an opportunity to minister as a Roman Catholic while in the archdiocese of Syracuse?

HERZOG: I was never a Roman Catholic priest, nor did I minister in any RC parish the past three years. In fact, in the past three years I never celebrated the Eucharist. Those close to me know how hard that was. So it was a particular joy to celebrate the closing Mass at the Priest's Retreat, in fact to concelebrate with my predecessor Bp Ball and my successor, Bp Love along with our retreat leader and my dear friend from Ireland, Bp Ken Good, the Bishop of Derry.

VOL: I get the sense that this had more to do with your relationship with Bishop Love and the Diocese of Albany, which is orthodox, rather than with the Episcopal Church. Is that a correct assumption?

HERZOG: I am grateful to our Lord for his great mercy in restoring me to the priesthood (and the episcopate) to Bishop Bill for his friendship over many, many years, to the Presiding Bishop for her responsiveness to Bishop Love's offer, to my wife Carol for her constant prayerful support and to all our dear friends, ordained and lay, Anglican and Catholic for their encouragement and prayers.

VOL: Thank you, Bishop Herzog


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