Southern Virginia diocese asks for Presiding Bishop's intervention

February 16, 2005

The 113th Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Southern Virginia agreed February to ask Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to intervene in "conflict and division in the diocese surrounding Bishop Bane's episcopacy."

The compromise was the result of an exhausting session at the diocese's annual meeting where both the Executive and Standing Committees of the diocese called for the resignation of Bane, who was elected Bishop of Southern Virginia in 1998.

On Saturday morning Bud Schoolar and Marceile Riddick reported on the work of the Executive Board over the past year.

"Bishop Bane needs to resign and we must use consultants to take care of a sick diocese," said Schoolar. "The problems have been identified; let's get on with what needs to be done."

"We are in a state of brokenness," declared the Rev. Ed Tracy, president of the Standing Committee of the diocese, and called for the bishop to resign.

Bane chose not to address his calls for resignation directly, but rather posed the question, "Who will have the courage to ask what is really going on here?" He said that in the coming year, the focus of the diocese should be on youth ministry, ministry to small churches and building "Christ-centered relationships throughout the diocese."

"If we loved one another as Christ loved us ... we'd be in a very, very different place this morning," Bane said. "We wouldn't have the time or the interest to fight and argue with each other about who's in charge, because we'd all know that Christ is."

The Rev. Peg Buelow moved to suspend the agenda in order for delegates to respond to the bishop, Executive Board and Standing Committee reports. Numerous delegates spoke in favor of Bane, while others cited problems with his leadership style.

"The truth is we have all been gallant at times and pretty despicable at others. We clergy have created a part in this. We need to all repent," said the Rev. Al Hooker.

"You've had an opportunity to lead," Betty Anne Kyle, a parishioner of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Suffolk and former member of the Standing Committee of the diocese, told the bishop. "You, in turn, have not led, and have walked away from us."

Later that day, Resolution R-5, signed by 66 people, was presented from the floor. The Rev. Ron Greiser introduced a substitute resolution that he and others, including the Rev. John Eidam and Hugh Patterson, had drafted. The Rev. David Davenport revised their motion in such a way that it received overwhelming support, passing in the lay order by a vote of 229 to 12 and in the clergy order by a vote of 92 to 6.

Resolution R-5 reads as follows:

"Resolved that the 113th Council of the Diocese of Southern Virginia acknowledges that there is conflict and division in the Diocese surrounding Bishop Bane's episcopacy, which impedes the joy and effective life and ministry of the Diocese.

"Be it further resolved, that Bishop Bane be required to communicate with the Presiding Bishop within thirty (30) days concerning our current diocesan situation, and with his assistance, engage within sixty (60) days the services of three (3) bishops acceptable to Bishop Bane and the Executive Board to review current diocesan issues, and make appropriate recommendations in association with Bishop Clayton Matthews and the work already performed in the diocese. If there is no agreement between the Executive Board and Bishop Bane regarding the identity of the three (3) bishops within sixty (60) days, the Presiding Bishop will be requested to appoint them. It is expected that Bishop Bane will communicate and work with the Executive Board in these discussions and subsequent recommendations in an open and cooperative manner."