[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Southern Virginia announced Jan. 17 that it would change the location of its Feb. 1 consecration of Bishop-elect Susan Haynes from a Roman Catholic church in Williamsburg in response to backlash from some Roman Catholics who said they were disturbed by the ordination of a woman bishop.
St. Bede Roman Catholic Church originally was chosen as the location because the Diocese of Southern Virginia doesn’t have a church large enough to host the 800 to 1,000 people expected to attend the consecration, said Ann Turner, the diocese’s communications officer. The consecration is now scheduled to take place Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. at the Williamsburg Community Chapel. The consecration service will be live-streamed on the diocesan website.
“The decision to change the location from St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg arose out of concern and respect for the ministries and leadership of both the Catholic parish and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. Learning that its intended use of the building was causing dismay and distress, the Episcopal Diocese withdrew from its contract with St. Bede,” read the diocese’s press release announcing the change in venue.
In addition to online posts and emails expressing dismay, 3,207 people signed a petition addressed to Diocese of Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout, protesting the consecration, an event that “would result” in “desecration of one of his own parishes.”
“This is highly disturbing given the fact that Ven. Pope Leo XIII solemnly declared Anglican ordinations to be ‘absolutely null and utterly void,’ and the Church has repeatedly reaffirmed the fact that women cannot receive the sacrament of ordination. Simulation of a sacrament is an excommunicable offense under canon law. Additionally, Canon 1210 asserts that only activities which ‘serve to exercise or promote worship, piety, and religion’ are permitted in sacred spaces,” read the petition posted on Change.org.
Upon receiving a letter from Haynes notifying him of the change in venue, Knestout issued his own statement explaining his decision to permit the ordination and reaffirming his commitment to ecumenical dialogue.
“In granting permission for this ordination to be held at St. Bede, we were welcoming, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council encouraged, those who have in common with us ‘the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit’ (Decree on Ecumenism, 3). We were following the example of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis who enthusiastically engaged in ecumenical outreach and hospitality,” wrote Knestout.
The Diocese of Southern Virginia elected Haynes its 11th bishop in September 2019. She is the first woman elected to lead the diocese.