Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Midwest Bishops Working on Reconciliation?

Earlier reports have detailed the conflict between St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (Edwardsville, Ill.) and Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith. According to today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it appears the parish is working with its bishop and neighboring Missouri bishop George Wayne Smith to find a way toward reconciliation. The article is reproduced here in full.

Episcopal church and bishop attempt reconciliation

By Tim Townsend St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- Wednesday, Dec. 20 2006

EDWARDSVILLE — The rector of an Episcopal church in Edwardsville said Tuesday she was "cautiously optimistic" that her church's frayed relationship with its bishop may be on the path to recovery.

In October, the vestry, or lay board, of the 200-member St. Andrew's Episcopal Church accused Bishop Peter H. Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Ill., of refusing to provide pastoral care over the past year. It asked Beckwith to allow them to seek another bishop to provide them with pastoral oversight, such as George Wayne Smith, bishop of the Diocese of Missouri.

St. Andrew's is at 406 Hillsboro Avenue.

In a letter to the congregation Sunday, St. Andrew's senior warden, Donna Ireland, said Beckwith "expressed his willingness to meet and work with us, to address our concerns for our parish and our rector" during a meeting with the vestry Dec. 11 in Edwardsville.

In 2005, Beckwith, a theological conservative, refused to confirm a lesbian and, later, anyone at all at St. Andrew's. Two of the church's eucharistic ministers — lay people who help the priest during communion — subsequently refused to accept the Eucharist from Beckwith, who then stripped all 15 of St. Andrew's eucharistic ministers of their authority.

The Rev. Virginia L. Bennett, rector of St. Andrew's, said that at two recent meetings between Beckwith and the vestry, the bishop took responsibility for his actions against the eucharistic ministers. "He seemed very, very anxious to reconcile with us," she said.

Beckwith could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

At the Dec. 11 meeting, Beckwith restored the eucharistic licenses he had stripped and on Sunday St. Andrew's worshipped with eucharistic ministers for the first time in nearly a year.


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