A while back, we speculated on the mysterious behavior of Bishop James Justman, who in October took a previously unannounced "sabbatical," and resigned a little later. While, as we pointed out, there are perfectly reasonable and non-scandalous reasons for an ELCA bishop to resign, there are also embarrassing and scandalous ones, usually involving sex or booze.
Since then, we have heard virtually nothing. We suppose it speaks well for our readers that either they choose not to pursue gossip or that, having pursued it, they choose not to share. Still, we're getting desperate. Come on, Midwesterners, throw poor Fr. A. a bone!
More to the point, we imagine that the people of the East-Central Wisconsin Synod must be curious. And unlike Father Anonymous, they have a genuine right to know what is going on. By electing him as their bishop (twice!) they engaged Justman in a relationship of mutual trust, just as a congregation does when it calls a pastor. Simply by dimitting -- regardless of his reasons -- Justman has brought that trust into question. Moreover, the official silence of his synod council and officers, although surely intended charitably as a means of preserving Justman's dignity, further jeopardizes the ability of church members to trustt their leaders.
Failure of trust is, as we hope we need not say, a corrosive acid which eats away at any institution, especially one in which association is voluntary.
We have heard that there is pressure building on the synod to display a little transparency here, and that if it does, we will discover that Justman has done things he ought not have, without (for example) having committed a crime. While embarrassing to him and possibly to other people, this is almost certainly less harmful to the church than a silence that breeds suspicion.