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Bishop Ed MacBurney: A Personal Reflection

Bishop Ed MacBurney: A Personal Reflection

By David Duggan
Special to Virftueonline
March 19, 2022

I met the Rev. Edward MacBurney more than 50 years ago when I was a freshman at Dartmouth College and he was the rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, placed between two fraternity houses in Hanover NH. I had decided not to trek to Boston for the Harvard game and on a bright New England fall Saturday we met in his study at his home and talked. He wanted to know about me and I gave him the litany of my upbringing in suburban Chicago, parents who had endured World War II and Korea, during which I was born at Camp Lejeune, an intact family with two sisters and for most of my then 17-year life, nearby grandparents.

Afterwards, he said that I had told him a lot about my origins, but little about myself. It was the first time that I was viewed as something other than an extension of my forbears.

I never lost my faith during college, but I can't say that I had any reinforcements of it either. I attended and participated in services as circumstances allowed, including once when I had an eye patch after a car accident. Little memorable of a spiritual dimension occurred in those three years. I struggled with athletics, studied enough to get by and found my niche on the college newspaper. Vietnam persisted, racial intolerance existed and I subsisted, largely indifferent to these real-world concerns. If my teams were winning and the kegs were filled, what else was there to worry about.

In the 1950s when Dartmouth had a decent basketball team, Ed was the team's official scorer. One of its assistant coaches later won a national championship at Marquette. I have no idea whether any of their conversations included the theological in addition to the merits of man-to-man defenses over zones. In his 20 years in Hanover, many students went into the priesthood, including the late Bishop of Fresno, The Rt. Rev. John David Schofield, and the priest who baptized my son at St. Bartholomew's NYC. The Sunday I graduated Ed hosted a brunch at his always well-appointed house. His wife, the most gracious host I've probably ever met, had platters of bacon and pastries. I met his son, home from prep school in Massachusetts. One of the attendees had founded a dance company that would go on to international fame. Another was a top track athlete and was going off to the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. I was off to graduate journalism school, not knowing if I would ever see any of them again.

Not quite 20 years later I saw Ed in Chicago. He gave the benediction at an alumni dinner and remembered me. He was then the Bishop of Quincy now a defunct diocese having been the victim of a hostile takeover by the Chicago Diocese. It cost the Diocese of Chicago at least $1 million in fees to acquire a handful of struggling parishes in central Illinois. Some of that money went to pay the departing parishes' fees because the Chicago Diocese's legal position was utterly without merit.

Years after that the son whom I had met in the early 1970s took ill. Ed had incurred the wrath of the presiding bishop for daring to give aid and comfort to parishes throughout the country who disagreed with the prevailing zeitgeist of the Episcopal Church. At these parishes' invitation, he traveled to confirm young people, always a concern of his. Although a common practice of "fly-in" bishops in England, this stepped on the toes of those bishops here who sought to preserve their satrapies. One of those bishops, formerly of Chicago, ratted Ed out and Katharine Jefferts Schori (note that I will not use her title) "inhibited" Ed from performing any sacerdotal duties, including serving communion. Contrary to canon law she did not give Ed a hearing on any defense he might have to whatever charges he might face, but she gave him a dispensation so that he could perform the funeral mass for his son. What grace.

Ed left TEC and linked up with ACNA. We stayed in touch, largely through a mutual friend, a Chicago priest who has long since retired. I received a Christmas message from him two years ago before Covid. In it he wrote how he said prayers over meals asking for those who lacked food to be fed and those who caused their lack to be chastened. They were long prayers, he wrote.

Edward Harding MacBurney, faithful servant of the Church and apostle of the risen Christ, rest in peace. We shall not see his likes again. He was 94.

For more go here: https://livingchurch.org/2022/03/20/controversial-bishop-edward-macburney-dies-at-94/

David Duggan is a retired attorney living in Chicago. He writes occasional devotionals for VOL.

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