Bishop Little on Dan Martins

Bishop Little of the Diocese of Northern Indiana wrote the following letter in response to a letter from Bishop Lamb’s October 16th letter regarding the Rev. Dan Martin’s nomination to be bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am writing in response to a letter dated October 16, 2010 from my friend and colleague, the Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb, Bishop of San Joaquin, and the Standing Committee of that diocese, concerning consent to the episcopal election of the Rev. Daniel H. Martins as Bishop of Springfield.

I have known Fr. Martins since 1994, when he and I both served as rectors in

the Diocese of San Joaquin. We shared our lives in a clergy support group until I left for this diocese in early 2000; and in 2007 I asked him to consider the possibility of discerning a call to St. Anne’s Church, Warsaw, in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. He entered discernment in large part because the situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin had become intolerable, and its drift away from the Episcopal Church was soon to be irrevocable.

Northern Indiana has been both a safe haven for him, and a place where he could exercise his superb leadership skills for the benefit of our beloved church. Among other things, he has served on our General Convention deputation, and as a member of the diocesan Standing Committee. Fr. Martins is a bridge-builder, a Christian of great integrity and absolute honesty, committed to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church. He is also a person of strong and outspoken convictions who maintains excellent relationships with people whose convictions differ significantly from his. He is universally respected in this diocese, admired by people across the theological spectrum that characterizes our church.

When the Diocese of Springfield sought nominees for bishop, I submitted Fr. Martins’ name with great joy. Indeed, my only hesitation was that his election would mean losing a superb priest from my own diocese. But I believe that Fr Martins has charisms of an episcopal nature, and that he will be a gift not only to the Diocese of Springfield, but to the whole church.

And so it was with great sadness that I read the letter from Bishop Lamb and the Standing Committee. I believe that they have misunderstood Fr. Martins’ role in San Joaquin as Bishop Schofield pursued a separatist policy. Reading the documents included with the letter, I see a leader who – gently and calmly, in a setting fraught with complexity and danger – attempted to halt this disastrous course of action, not least by arguing that communion with the historic See of Canterbury can only be maintained in this country through the Episcopal Church and not an alternative expression of Anglicanism. The letter also references Fr. Martins’ blog and his strong views concerning the process of restoring the Diocese of San Joaquin. It is certainly true that he had significant concerns; but it is equally true that leaders in our church need the freedom to express their convictions forcefully and to seek to influence the church’s course of action. That is a quality of our church that we cherish: the ability to hold strong views, and at the same time to affirm our indissoluble bond in Christ. Fr. Martins exemplifies this important quality.

I was especially surprised that the letter takes Fr. Martins to task because he “did not prepare [his] former congregation to remain in the Episcopal Church.” As a former rector in the Diocese of San Joaquin, I might be liable to the same charge. My parish -All Saints, Bakersfield, which I served for 14 years – decided to follow Bishop Schofield out of the Episcopal Church and into an alternative jurisdiction. Sometimes even the most strong-willed rector cannot affect the direction of their parishes; this is true in my own case, and in Fr. Martins’. I do not believe that he should be held accountable for actions that his former parish took following his departure.

It would, I believe, be tragic if Fr. Martins does not receive consent for his episcopal consecration. The church would lose a leader uniquely gifted for this ministry, and such a denial would send an unfortunate message to the conservative side of our church. And so I urge you to ponder, pray, and give your consent to his consecration. In so doing, we will be welcoming a good and godly man – a Christian of strong convictions, committed to the ministry of reconciliation – as a Bishop in the Church of God.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II

Bishop of Northern Indiana

Others supporting consent for bishop elect Dan Martins have written an open letter here

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