UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Trinity Episcopal Dean Suspended by Bishop - UPDATED

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Fri Jul 16 20:50:28 EDT 2010


UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Trinity Episcopal Dean Suspended by Bishop

By CAROLYN CLICK 
http://www.thestate.com/ 
July 15, 2010

The Very Rev. Philip C. Linder, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, was suspended today by the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, apparently over a leadership dispute between Linder and the vestry of the downtown Columbia church.

Bishop W. Andrew Waldo issued the suspension after Linder violated ground rules for the mediation process, according to a statement circulated to lay leaders of the church.

The news sent shock waves through the close-knit Episcopal church, which is in the midst of a $7 million restoration of the Gothic cathedral.

"To govern conduct during the mediation process, the Bishop established certain ground rules, called pastoral directives," the statement said. "Dean Linder violated those directives. Please be assured that these matters do not involve any breaches of moral standards."

In his absence, Bishop Waldo appointed Canon Charles Davis to serve as acting dean.

Linder has been leader of the cathedral since 1999.

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Tumult at Trinity Cathedral 
Dean's suspension creates stir at Columbia church

By CAROLYN CLICK 
http://www.thestate.com/2010/07/16/1378355/trinity-episcopal-bishop-suspended.html 
July 16, 2010

The Very Rev. Philip C. Linder, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, was suspended Thursday by the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, apparently over a leadership dispute between Linder and the governing body of the historic downtown Columbia church.

Bishop W. Andrew Waldo issued the suspension after Linder violated certain ground rules, or "pastoral directives," issued for the mediation process, according to a four-paragraph statement from the bishop circulated to lay leaders of the church. The statement did not elaborate except to say Linder did not violate any "breaches of moral standards," and church officials reached Thursday also declined to discuss specifics of the issue.

Richard J. Briebart, a lawyer and Trinity member who is representing Linder without payment, disputed the allegations.

"I will state respectfully that there is a factual dispute over whether the dean violated any pastoral directive," said Briebart, a Lexington lawyer. He said he and Linder regretted that the matter became public.

The matter is expected to be mediated in an ecclesiastical court.

The news of Linder's suspension sent shock waves through the close-knit Episcopal church, which is home to some of Columbia's most prominent founding families.

Linder, who has led the Sumter Street congregation since 1999, is widely credited with expanding the mission outreach of the 4,000-member church and shepherding a $7 million restoration of the Gothic cathedral.

In Linder's absence, Waldo appointed the Rev. Charles M. Davis Jr., a Trinity priest, as acting dean.

Like most of Trinity's parish staff, Davis learned of the suspension Wednesday night, and Thursday was trying to cope with emails and telephone calls pouring into the office.

"The letter that we have received is something that is painful for all of us as a parish," said Davis, a member of Trinity's staff for nine years. "I want to do everything I can to make sure it continues to be a solid, healthy parish."

Waldo's office declined to issue a statement, saying through his spokeswoman Peggy Hill that it was a personnel matter.

"The bishop was called in as a mediator," Hill said. "It was an internal conflict within the cathedral."

As part of the suspension, Linder is prohibited from speaking to Trinity's staff or membership.

Mary Rainey Belser, senior warden of the vestry, or governing body, declined to comment on the dispute.

Last year, Linder was one of six candidates vying to become bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, but the process was a rocky one for him.

He bowed out of the initial nomination process in October, then at the urging of petitioners, resubmitted his name. He was a favorite of the diocese clergy, but Waldo, who was consecrated May 22, emerged as the winner after three ballots.

A moderate like Waldo, Linder has been able to stake out a middle ground on the issue of ordination of gay clergy and blessing of same sex unions, an issue that has rocked the Episcopal Church.

In a letter to the parish during that turbulent period, Linder made it clear it would be difficult to leave Trinity to become bishop.

"We are at a critical moment in the history of our beloved Trinity," he wrote, noting the multimillion-dollar renovation of the historic sanctuary. "Today, the staff, vestry and laity of Trinity are worshipping, working and serving Christ at a level that I have never before witnessed," he said.

In reconsidering his decision, Linder told the congregation that much prayer and a lengthy discernment process "has led me full circle back to Trinity Cathedral, where I believe God, and I pray all of you, desire for me to continue to serve as your priest and dean."

The bishop's office did not say how long the suspension would last or whether Linder would be paid during the period.

Full statement on suspension

On July 14, 2010, Bishop Waldo suspended Philip Linder as Dean of Trinity Cathedral. Bishop Waldo has asked Canon Charles Davis to serve as acting Dean pending appointment of an interim dean for the parish.

The suspension arose out of attempts by the Bishop to mediate a dispute between the vestry and the Dean concerning leadership matters.

To govern conduct during the mediation process, the Bishop established certain ground rules, called pastoral directives. Dean Linder violated those directives. Please be assured that these matters do not involve any breaches of moral standards.

Bishop Waldo and Canon Davis acknowledge the anguish that these events will generate in the Cathedral parish, and the understandable desire among parishioners to know and understand more fully all the circumstances that have led to this action. However, at the present time, it would be best not to discuss the details of the matter more fully.

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