The Church of England Newspaper, Apr. 3, 2003
A new row over whether Jesus sinned broke out this week around the controversial Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles Bennison.
Last year the radical bishop drew the fire of both the former and current Archbishops of Canterbury after his decision to sack a traditionalist priest. Both Dr Carey and Dr Williams told the priest, Fr David Moyer, that they would have no problem licensing him for ministry in their dioceses, despite the fact that he was deposed by the diocese of Pennsylvania.
But, according to critics in his diocese, his latest statement suggesting that Jesus sinned dwarfs any other incidents in his turbulent episcopate.
Tucked away in his Easter column in the Pennsylvania Episcopalian, Bishop Bennison wrote the statement: “Jesus acknowledged his own sin. He knows himself to be forgiven.”
In a column on the miracle of forgiveness, Bishop Bennison criticises “rigid obeisance to the divine will as set forth in certain laws or rules or canons.” He praises the ironic approach to sin and the law. He writes: “After his baptism, the Spirit did not protect Jesus from question, but rather cast him into the midst of them, he was between the wild beasts and the angels who ministered to him. He lived with the questions. He did not rush to judgement. He avoided the pitfalls of imperialism. He was ironic.”
Arguing that Anglicanism is borne out of the irony of the English, an island nation used to ‘muddling through’ with Common Law, he also took a swipe at those who wanted “to enforce UN Resolutions, set and keep deadlines and act pre-emptively against an incontrovertibly evil regime in Iraq.”
He added, “Others want to work ironically, patiently, broadly, expansively…”
The conservative ‘shock-jock’ Episcopalian journalist, David Virtue, said of Bishop Bennison’s statement that, “there is no historic parallel in contemporary ecclesiastical history for the bishop’s latest outrage.”
Even Bishop John Spong, he said, had not gone so far, despite repudiating almost every other aspect of Christian belief.
Deposed priest, Father David Moyer, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd said, “Here we go again with an outrageous statement from Charles Bennison that attacks the Christian faith, and misleads people who look to a bishop as a sound teacher and spiritual guide.”