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PENNYSLVANIA: Bennison Makes Unwelcome Visit to Largest Diocesan Parish


By David W. Virtue

PAOLI, PA (6/6/2004)--Charles E. Bennison, the revisionist Bishop of Pennsylvania made his unwelcome visitation to three services at the Church of the Good Samaritan on Sunday, despite being asked by the rector, vestry and the Diocesan Standing committee not to do so.

Only 14 turned out to the 7.30am Rite 1 service most of whom were church officials, the rector, wardens and this journalist. Seven took Holy Communion from the bishop. Three of them were from Florida and were unaware of the situation at the church. Bennison was accompanied by dean Dean Evans, Dean of the Brandywine Deanery. The church sees more than 800 members come to four services.

On Saturday night more than 300 showed up for a special Eucharistic service at the orthodox parish called by the rector Fr. Greg Brewer.

In his sermon Bennison said Jesus made a distinction between his earthly message and the message he reveals to us. "There is to be a continuing, evolving, revelation for all of us. We do not limit the truth of God. There is more truth to come from his word."

What is truth, asked Bennison? "Truth is to be found in our unity and love for one another. A house is not a home unless it is filled with love."

Bennison then produced a family heirloom on which were written the words, 'love one another'.

Bennison then explained why he had come to the parish. "I felt it was important to be
physically present despite the rector and vestry urging me not to come. We cannot love one another if I am not in unity with you. I see no other way."

"We need connection and care and physical presence one with another. It is why I came today." Bennison did not mention that his own Standing Committee also told him not to come.

Bennison met with the Vestry and "clarified" his position that the Bible and its teachings were relevant for the past, but what bound us all together now was God speaking to us through our unity.

The parish had requested assisting PA Bishop Clarence Coleridge to come in place of Bennison, but Bennison nixed that idea, insisting that he had the canonical right to come. He was treated courteously, but it was clear that the three priests were under deep strain the whole time he was there. None of them took Holy Communion from Bennison nor did they participate with him in its distribution.

Brewer had written to the members of the Standing Committee asking how it was pastorally permissible to use the sacrament as a weapon to force a congregation into submission? Isn't using the sacrament as a weapon of control skirting dangerously close to blasphemy?

At the 9am service Bennison reiterated his theme that God was evolving and revelation was not fixed. "The earthly Jesus draws a distinction between his ministry on earth and the truth yet to be revealed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Some 100 persons showed up at the service where some 68 took Holy Communion from the bishop and his dean. Between 25 and were 30 ringers from outside the parish, mainly older couples who had to support Bennison.

Bennison said a distinction had to be made between Jesus' Galilean ministry and what we experience right now.

Preaching on the same text Saturday, Fr. Brewer said, "We aren't original, we are becoming more alive to the Holy Spirit." Brewer said that nothing that we discern from the Holy Spirit is ever counter to what Jesus said or how he lived while on earth."

Less than 30 people showed up at the 11.15am service. All in all about 10 percent of the congregation's 800 members showed which did not include ringers and visitors.


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