The 209th annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland concluded yesterday with a spirited warning from U.S. Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning about the danger of frenetic clergy lifestyles leading to alcohol, drug or sex abuse.
Bishop Browning, the New York-based national head of the Episcopal Church, has been serving as chaplain to the three-day convention at Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn near Cockeysville.
His comments yesterday afternoon were in response to a report by a committee on the ordained ministry.
"Clergy sexual abuse is on many of our minds right now," he said. "So is alcohol and drug abuse. It has touched some of the brightest and
the best of our clergy. It could touch you, and it could touch me."
Becoming "addicted" to heavy pastoral and administrative responsibilities is a constant danger, Bishop Browning cautioned. "It can make us strangers in our own homes so that the people closest to us will make their lives without us."
An overworked or overzealous minister can become estranged not only from family members but from the congregation, he warned.
"We may injure beyond repair the very people we have been called on to serve," the bishop said. "Don't let this happen. God did not call you to your ministry so that you will be angry or sick or dead inside.
"Sorrow comes into every life -- we can't avoid that. But dear friends, members of the clergy, every day belongs to you. Every day is a gift from a gracious God. Reclaim the sweetness of your days from the blur of responsibilities and work."
Earlier, Maryland Bishop A. Theodore Eastman had referred to the burdensome problem of sexual abuse by the clergy as he reviewed successes and failures of his nearly 11 years in the Maryland diocese. He plans to retire in January.
"For me," Bishop Eastman told the clergy and lay delegates at the convention, "the most enervating events along the way have been the eight or 10 cases of sexual misconduct that we have had to deal with, involving either clergy or lay employees of the church.
"Each instance has been extremely painful, each has been quite different in nature. I, along with many others in the church, have learned hard lessons in how to respond to what are now called, euphemistically, 'boundary violations.' "
Bishop Eastman assured the Episcopalians of the Maryland Diocese that "procedures are being developed nationally and locally, and are being put in place, to safeguard our people from sexual abuse by those who serve the church as leaders."
The delegates elected eight diocesan representatives -- four from the clergy and four from the laity -- to the General Convention of the denomination to be held Aug. 18-28, 1994 in Indianapolis.
The clergy were the Rev. Canon John E. Kitagawa, executive officer of the Maryland Diocese, and three rectors, the Rev. Eddie M. Blue, of Holy Trinity Parish, Baltimore; the Rev. Phebe L. Coe, of Epiphany Parish, Odenton, and the Rev. William P. Baxter Jr., of St. Thomas' Parish, Garrison Forest.
Elected lay delegates were Dale Balfour of St. Thomas', Garrison Forest; Peter Dahl, of Trinity Church in Towson; Russell R. Reno, diocesan chancellor and a member of Baltimore's Church of the Redeemer, and Jean Nye, of St. John's in Hagerstown.
Also elected were three new members of the Standing Committee, the highest advisory board in the diocese.
They were the Rev. C. Allen Spicer, rector of Holy Trinity Church in Cedarcroft, and two lay people, John Frye of Frederick and Inez Haynie Dodson of Baltimore.
Preaching the sermon at the convention's Eucharistic service yesterday, Bishop Browning told the congregation in the hotel that sin is not confined to cruelty between human beings but includes misuse of natural beauty and the environment.
"Our substitution of ourselves for God has led us to subjugate the creation we love so much to our own sin," he said. "Just as sin corrupts the relationships between people which God provided for our joy, so it corrupts our relationship with the earth."
When this happens, Bishop Browning said, "we have forgotten that we are brothers and sisters of one another, and we have forgotten that we are brothers and sisters of the earth."
On the use of guns and the widespread bloodshed at home and abroad, he said, "We expect failure. We expect it everywhere -- in Bosnia, in Israel, in Ireland, in Africa, in our cities. When we
expect failure, we are in a state of despair. And we are also in a state of sin, for despair -- like violence -- is sin. Both of them ignore the dominion of Christ."