BRISTOL, Conn. Several parishioners at St. John’s Church in Bristol reacted with resigned acceptance to the dismissal of their priest in a conflict over the elevation of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.
Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith on Jan. 14 removed Mark H. Hansen from his position following a six-month “inhibition,” or suspension. Hansen resigned last September.
Senior warden David C. Desmarais said following church services that the situation is out of the hands of St. John’s Church.
“It’s not our matter anymore,” he said. “This is between the bishop and Mark Hansen.”
Diocesan officials said last year that Hansen was suspended because he took an unauthorized sabbatical and St. John’s had stopped making payments on a loan for its building. Hansen maintained he notified Smith about his plans.
The conflict stems from Smith’s support for the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church’s first openly gay bishop. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 has divided the U.S. Episcopal Church and expanded the rift over gay issues among churches in the global Anglican Communion.
Hansen and five other priests sought last May to be supervised by another bishop because of their dispute with Smith over Robinson.
Art Paulette Jr., a parishioner since 1984 and the church’s newly elected junior warden, backed Smith. Paulette headed the search committee that brought Hansen to the church in 1990, he said.
“From my personal perspective the bishop did what the bishop was responsible for doing,” he said. “This has nothing to do with the gay bishop issue. It has to do with abandoning the communion of St. John’s and taking an unauthorized sabbatical.”
Hansen does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment Saturday. The New Haven Register reported Sunday that he e-mailed a message in which he issued a “flat-out, good-faith denial…that I have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.”
Smith said it was his duty to remove Hansen because the priest failed to meet conditions including recanting his behavior or statements that led to the inhibition. Hansen also could have denied the basis on which the inhibition was imposed and the bishop would have decided if the denial was in good faith, Smith said.
Hansen refused to meet with Smith, the bishop said.
Parishoner Janice Lee, of Avon, said the priest was popular. “The whole situation is unfortunate,” she said. “From what I’ve been told, Mark Hansen was not without his good points and some people were attached to him.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 20, 2006.