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Dean of Cathedral caught up in ‘Baby Jack’ baptism scandal to leave post

Dean of Cathedral caught up in ‘Baby Jack’ baptism scandal to leave post

On Sunday the Cathedral Church of St Luke in Orlando, FL celebrated the ministry of its Dean, the Very Rev Anthony P. Clark as he prepares to embark on a “transitional sabbatical.” In his farewell sermon, the Dean mentioned he will be on a six month sabbatical focusing on spiritual counseling, personal goals and where the future will lead him and his family and asked for support during this “season of change.”

In a blog post, Dean Clark said;

The Cathedral will have seen significant changes in senior leadership by the end of August: Canon Anne Taylor’s resignation, Canon Gary L’Hommedieu’s retirement and my departure for a transitional sabbatical.

When I think of all the anxiety and uncertainty caused by this fast and significant change, I am reminded of home building and hurricane straps. Hurricane straps are used to strengthen the framing and roof of a building so that it endures the high winds of a hurricane. In a sense, we are in the midst of a storm and need emotional and spiritual hurricane straps to help us endure the changes and uncertainty we all will face.

The Dean came under criticism back in May for his handling of a baptism for a young boy named Jack who was the son of a gay couple. You can read our previous story here. Earlier in the month, Canon Gary L’hommedieu also left his position for retirement. L’Hommedieu is a noted conservative, and marriage equality opponent who was a long-time blogger on the conservative Anglican site Virtue Online. It isn’t clear whether that episode had any bearing on the departure of the Dean and Canon, though it was surely a stressful time for them and for the Cathedral.

Interestingly, this is not the first time a Dean of the Orlando cathedral has left under a cloud due to their handling of LGBT issues. Back in 1991, Dean Harry Sherman left after being criticized for being too welcome to LGBT persons. From the Orlando Sentinel;

The leader of downtown Orlando’s Episcopal cathedral has decided to resign and minister elsewhere after months of turmoil concerning his support of gay and lesbian parishioners.

The Very Rev. Harry Sherman, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, wrote a letter to be mailed to parishioners today, saying his resignation is effective Feb. 2.

”I pray for your love, support and understanding as I vigorously begin to pursue a new ministry in a new place,” Sherman read from the letter when contacted by a reporter Thursday evening.

Members of the cathedral’s lay board accepted his resignation with regrets.

”I appreciate his decision, which I know was a very difficult one, but I think it was in the interest of the parish family,” said Tom Lang, a member of the cathedral’s chapter, or governing board. ”We all love Harry Sherman very much, and Harry Sherman has been caught in the middle of a problem that is going to be facing this church and other churches for a number of years to come.”

We would hope for an effective transition and a spirit of reconciliation for the Cathedral as it deals with issues which have been percolating now for decades.



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John Chilton

Whatever it’s called, it tells us that the dean was asked to leave and had to be given an incentive to do so, or offered to leave if he was given severance. We are witnessing the fall out of an internal conflict among members of the congregation over baby Jack — cleaning house.

Jay Croft

We used to call it “using up vacation time” or something like that. A sabbatical implies that you’ll be coming back. Indeed, some places require you to come back.

I’ve also heard of “retirement sabbaticals,” where the cleric goes away while the church begins the search process.

Six months with full pay, with no expectations of further service. Very nice.

Carolyn Peet

It’s called severance pay. “Sabbatical” just adds a religious dressing to it.

Marshall Scott

Well, I have also heard use of “terminal sabbatical.” I suppose that could reflect whose Sabbath time it is. The Cathedral isn’t taking time away, as it were. The Dean may be expected to return to service somewhere, but not at the Cathedral. Even when I first saw the reference to a “terminal sabbatical,” it was about a bishop retiring; except they don’t say they’re “retiring” these days, because so often then also return to service somewhere (in his case, in several provisional episcopal positions). So, at General Convention there were certainly retired bishops; but those retiring most recently, or planning it in the near future, all used the term “resigned.”

David Allen

It has been explained here at EC, and elsewhere, that the difference in resigned and retired in the HoB, is that resigned bishops have not reached the canonically mandatory retirement age.

Jay Croft

Interesting. I retired in 2009 and began receiving benefits from the Church Pension Fund. But I served as supply in Mobile, Alabama and now in the Diocese of Washington.

The only sabbatical I ever took was a month in England, which is the normal vacation time for clergy anyway. The churches I served simply didn’t have the funds for a real sabbatical, with replacement clergy, etc. The dioceses I served were of no help at all in this matter.

My prediction is that as church budgets shrink and more clergy are part-time, the sabbatical will largely become a thing of the past.

Jay Croft

“Transitional sabbatical.” Pfui.

Ric Schopke

I’m not sure why the implied derisive tone of voice. A transitional sabbatical is what it is. Sometimes people (and words) mean exactly what they say. We pray for God’s continued leading for Dean Clark and his family as well as for the Cathedral.

Geoff McLarney

“A transitional sabbatical is what it is.” Yes – an oxymoron.

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