There has been lively conversation here and elsewhere about the election of the Rev. Dan Martins of Northern Indiana as Bishop of Springfield. Many people whom I respect have urged the diocesan bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church to consent to his election. I’ve been of very mixed mind about this from the beginning.
I think the Rev. Martins speaks and writes in ways that leave plenty of collateral damage, and that those he damages are often already marginalized in our church and our society. I believe the people who are now trying to put the Diocese of San Joaquin back together again when they say that if the Rev. Martins truly opposed former Bishop John-David Schofield’s schismatic faction it sure was news to them.
On the other hand, he has been extremely responsive to questions from the wider church since his election. His responses have been quite thoughtful and generally reassuring to those of us who had doubts about him. I believe him when he says he will not lead the Diocese of Springfield out of the Episcopal Church. He obviously has a gift for making friends with church leaders who disagree with him. And there is much to be said for having a diversity of viewpoints represented among the leadership of our church.
I could imagine voting in favor of his election if I were on a Standing Committee except for one thing. The Rev. Martins has said he has no firm opinion on whether bishops have the authority to lead their dioceses out of the Church. The idea that he thinks that this issue is somehow open to debate—that the authority of the General Convention is open to question—alarms me. It seems to me a notion invented out of whole cloth by poorly qualified tailors to suit the political needs of a dissatisfied minority. Simply put, I am not sure how the church can consent to the election of a bishop who won’t say what powers he believes he is entitled to wield.
I sense that voting in the Rev. Martins’ favor would in some significant ways be good for the Church. So I would happily surrender this objection if someone could explain to me why a person who is never going to embrace the notion of diocesan autonomy (i. e., me) should support a bishop who has not made up his mind about this issue.