(RNS) The embattled Episcopal bishop of Philadelphia is defiantly refusing to resign, saying his three years of “suffering” through various church trials has “strengthened” his ability to lead his diocese.
Bishop Charles Bennison was removed from ministry in 2007 after being charged with “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.” He was found guilty in 2008 for failing to investigate or discipline his younger brother and former fellow priest John Bennison for an affair with an underage parishioner in the 1970s.
He was reinstated as bishop in August after a church appeals court ruled the statute of limitations on the charge had expired.
Late Wednesday (Sept. 22), after the church’s House of Bishops called for Bennison’s “immediate and unconditional resignation,” Bennison again refused, saying his resignation would not change the outcome of the abuse.
“Resigning my position as Bishop of Pennsylvania will not ease her pain or remove the sting of the abusive relationship,” he said in a statement to Episcopal News Service. “Instead, I hope that the suffering I have endured during the past three years has strengthened me and will enable me to work for reconciliation within the Diocese.”
The Rev. Glenn Matis, president of Philadelphia’s elected Standing Committee, said the diocese is likely stuck with Bennison, 66, until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72.
“This diocese is facing major issues of finances, property, and declining church membership,” Matis said in a statement to Episcopal News Service. “Under his leadership, it is a just matter of time before we are facing serious financial problems. His continued presence among us will further divide the diocese.”
Bennison has acknowledged “mistakes” in how he handled his brother’s abuse, but has repeatedly insisted he never intentionally tried to cover up the situation.
“Because the young woman was an adult when I first learned of the relationship in 1977, I did not inform her parents,” Bennison said in his statement. “When her parents did learn of the relationship, they requested that I keep the matter private, and I respected their wishes.”