Connecticut Bishop Cuts-Off Conservative Priest

One of six Episcopal priests who had opposed the Connecticut Anglican bishop’s support for the ordination of a gay bishop was temporary banned from his church Wednesday. The Bishop who took this first step toward defrocking blamed an unauthorized sabbatical for the move; the six priests blamed the Bishop.

Bishop Andrew D. Smith “inhibited” the Rev. Mark Hansen – rector of St. John’s Church since 1990 – from his duties for the next six months. Hansen had been on sabbatical since April 10 – a move the bishop said was detrimental to the church.

In Hansen’s place, the bishop installed the Rev. Susan McCone, a Vassar College Episcopal Chaplain, to oversee the church’s 200 members. During the time Hansen took his sabbatical, a retired priest from western Massachusetts had been leading Sunday services.

Wednesday’s confrontation marked the first time the bishop, who had threatened several times in the past to defrock the six priests, actually removed any of the priests.

In 2003, Smith voted with the majority to support the ordination of the church’s first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The priests, also known as the Connecticut Six, had since stopped giving money to the diocese and requested the diocese provide supervision from a different bishop.

On March 29, Bishop Smith threatened to defrock the priests if they did not pay their dues to the diocese and follow his leadership. The bishop and the priests had several meetings to talk over ways to reconcile, but the meetings were fruitless.

Following Smith’s decision to remove Hansen, the remaining five priests released a statement criticizing the “unconscionable” move.

“Bishop Smith’s inhibition of Father Hansen is unconscionable and represents a personal attack devoid of pastoral concern for the Hansen family or the parishioners of St. John's,” the priests wrote.

According to the priests, the Bishop ignored the elected leadership of St. John’s by seizing the church property.

Furthermore, the priests said Smith’s intention is to “systematically destroy, one by one, the six parishes that have requested adequate Episcopal oversight.”

Smith has the authority to decide whether to defrock a priest at the end of every six months. The bishop said he has not decided yet about Hansen or the other five.