HARTFORD, July 13 - In the first step toward defrocking, one of the six Episcopal priests who has opposed the Connecticut bishop's support for the ordination of gay bishops was temporarily removed from his duties as rector of a church in Bristol on Wednesday because he had taken an unauthorized sabbatical.Picking up the story in the Republican-American:
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Late last spring, Bishop Smith received a copy of a letter that the priest had given to the members of St. John's telling them that starting April 10, he was taking a sabbatical. Bishop Smith said the sabbatical was unauthorized for several reasons, including the priest's failure to seek permission. In addition, although it has been a year since St. John's repaid the $77,000 balance on a loan it received from the diocese, Bishop Smith said, Mr. Hansen, like the five other priests, had not paid dues to the diocese.
In a joint statement released Wednesday evening by rectors of the other five churches, they said the inhibition of Hansen is "unconscionable and represents a personal attack devoid of pastoral concern for the Hansen family or the parishioners of St. John's." They said Hansen was a committed priest who is "experiencing outrageous abuse" at the hands of Smith.Hmmm. There are two different stories being told here. Where does the truth lie?
According to Karin Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Connecticut, Smith recently learned Hansen had sent a letter to the parish indicating he was leaving the church and would help the congregation find another priest.
Hansen's situation is different because he did not notify Smith of his plans to take a sabbatical, Hamilton said.
"The bishop doesn't really know where Mark is," Hamilton said.
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"The parish has rallied here at the rectory," said Ceil Hansen, the rector's wife. She said the diocese already has changed the locks at the church and other parish buildings, effectively barring the parishioners.
In his own statement released Wednesday night, Mark Hansen said he was "personally devastated" by Smith's actions, and the bishop had misrepresented facts and caused stress on his family and the parish. He said Smith was "fully aware" of family circumstances regarding specialized support services for his son that necessitated a sabbatical leave.
"In inhibiting me, the bishop has knowingly and willfully endangered my family's well-being and security," Mark Hansen said. He also said contrary to Smith's claims, St. John's has not been without support clergy for weekday coverage and Sunday services.