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Diocese of Lexington Standing Committee votes to dissolve pastoral relationship with Bishop

Diocese of Lexington Standing Committee votes to dissolve pastoral relationship with Bishop

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington voted unanimously to dissolve the pastoral relationship with their bishop, The Rt. Rev. Douglas Hahn.

Hahn was suspended by the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in March, after it was discovered that he had had a previous affair with a parishioner which he did not disclose during the vetting and interview process before his election in August, 2012.

Lexington Herald-Leader:

The six-member standing committee said that in a unanimous vote Oct. 5, the committee agreed that “it desires the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between Bishop Hahn and the Diocese of Lexington,” according to a letter to parishioners.

Hahn, however, “has not accepted our decision; therefore, we are not in agreement,” the letter stated. The presiding bishop of the church has been notified of the situation as called for by church laws, according to the letter.

The committee said that it undertook a seven-week “listening process” this summer and concluded that “1. Bishop Hahn was dishonest throughout the episcopal search process. 2. As a priest, Bishop Hahn abused his position of power when he committed sexual misconduct with a parishioner in violation of the canons. 3. The emotional and spiritual effort necessary to attempt restoration of the relationship would continue to divert significantly diocesan focus and resources away from the mission and ministry to which we are called.”

According to the Herald-Leader, the Standing Committee spent seven weeks this summer gathering feedback from clergy and laity of the diocese, “hosting five “listening sessions” where about 175 people offered feedback about the situation. More than 100 people also offered written feedback.”

The committee said that it undertook a seven-week “listening process” this summer and concluded that “1. Bishop Hahn was dishonest throughout the episcopal search process. 2. As a priest, Bishop Hahn abused his position of power when he committed sexual misconduct with a parishioner in violation of the canons. 3. The emotional and spiritual effort necessary to attempt restoration of the relationship would continue to divert significantly diocesan focus and resources away from the mission and ministry to which we are called….”

The committee, which also met with Hahn, said that while most of the respondents had forgiven Hahn’s “sexual misconduct,” 80 percent said they still struggled with his “deception and do not believe the integrity of the relationship with the diocese can be restored.”

The committee said Hahn was asked “on several occasions” during the hiring process “if he had ever engaged in a sexual relationship with a parishioner. He failed to respond truthfully or to voluntarily remove himself from the nominating process.

“The most serious consequential effect for the majority of respondents is the violation of trust by our bishop,” the committee wrote.

The Rev. Peter D’Angio, President of the Standing Committee, says in a letter to the Diocese:

On October 5, the Standing Committee voted unanimously that it desires the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between Bishop Hahn and the Diocese of Lexington.  Authorized representatives of the Standing Committee communicated this decision to Bishop Hahn.

Bishop Hahn, at this point, has not accepted our decision; therefore, we are not in agreement.  Pursuant to Canon III.12.12(a), we have notified the Presiding Bishop of our desire to dissolve the pastoral relationship.

We recognize that there are those in the Diocese, people we love and respect, that may not agree with this decision.  They may be disappointed by it or even angered because of it. We can assure you that none of us takes pleasure in this work that was thrust upon us, as it has been a stressful and challenging six months.  However, we are encouraged and inspired by the kindness and Christian love we feel from so many of you.

We believe we have done what is best for our Diocese.   We will continue our commitment to the Gospel and the people of the Diocese of Lexington, working and communicating honestly and transparently.  We are in prayer for you, all people affected by these events, and the whole Church.  We desire and request your prayers, too.

 

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Philip Snyder

Desire for high church or political office is prima facia evidence that the person is unfit for it. By lying to the Diocese about his past, he shows further lack of fitness to lead the people of God.
Further covering up the transgression (sex outside of marriage has always been considered a sin in the Church) he shows that either he does not believe that it was a sin or that he is not repentant of it. If he had repented, confessed it, and received forgiveness,then he would no longer feel the shame of it. Lying shows that he still feels shamed or that his ambition out weighs his repentance - in either case he shows he is not fit to lead the Church of God in an ordained capacity.

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Michael W. Murphy

I am not trying to be Bishop Hahn's defense lawyer. My point is that: While the people in the pews of this church are called upon to decide issues of ethics (including but not limited to sexual morality), those same people have not been prepared to discuss and consider these issues. God gave Gen. 9:3-17 to all humanity. Are we prohibited from consuming blood? Acts 15:19-21 is a reference to Gen. 9:3-17. Is it possible for a modern American not to be a remote cause of someone's death and thus being liable for the death penalty? Does not a purchase of a product which someone died in the manufacture of that product make a person a remote cause of a person's death? Are we liable for a person's death if we could have prevented that death by donating food? If we told our congressman to vote for a war? Because a person was made in the image of God, any person's unnecessary death is an infinite loss. Even the most remote cause makes us liable for the death penalty. We cannot even comply with God's most basic commands.

These issues keep coming up in different contexts. It is our duty to study.

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Scott Fisher

Excellent and thoughtful comments from Mr. Orloff and Ms. Fontaine. Perhaps this example of the duplicitous Bishop Hahn will stiffen the spine of the Church to insist that this type of behavior between priest/bishop and parishoners is unacceptable. Hahn betrayed his diocese and the Church and should not be rewarded for his disgraceful behavior with severance or other ongoing perks as Jay Croft has suggested. Of course, there may be some kind on of contractual situation between the two parties which, if so, will need to be worked out, but that's their business. Kudos to the diocese of Lexington!

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Jay Croft

He will always be a bishop; ordination cannot be erased. However, the diocese can break the relationship in various ways. The simplest way is probably just cutting off his paycheck and other perks.

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Ann Fontaine

He can find forgiveness but he just can't be a bishop nor should he be a priest IMO

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