The Living Church

Year Article Type Limit by Author

The Living ChurchMay 12, 1996'Betrayal of Trust' Leads to Leave of Absence in Maine 212(19) p. 10

The Rt. Rev. Edward C. Chalfant, Bishop of Maine, will take a voluntary one-year leave of absence effective immediately, following the disclosure that he was involved in an extra-marital affair.

Members of the diocese learned of the affair April 16 at a regularly scheduled gathering of clergy. Maine's standing committee released a statement which also was mailed as an open letter to all members of the diocese. The six-member standing committee said, "the leave of absence is entirely oriented toward the possibility of reconciling the bishop and the Diocese of Maine after what must be characterized as a significant betrayal of trust."

The statement said Bishop Chalfant will relinquish all ecclesiastical authority during the year and will pursue a program of therapy and activities devoted to spiritual and emotional healing, with the advice of the Presiding Bishop's office. He will continue to be financially supported by the diocese.

At the conclusion of the leave, Bishop Chalfant and the standing committee, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and members of the diocese, will decide whether Bishop Chalfant will return to his duties.

Bishop Chalfant also released a statement. "I have made grievous errors in judgment and behavior," he said. "I recognize that my behavior constitutes a betrayal of the trust placed in me by the church, the diocese, and my family, and I deeply regret this betrayal."

He said the errors "caused great pain and heartbreak to my wife, placed the church in embarrassment and risk, and involved another human being in a painful situation."

The standing committee and the bishop identified the other person involved in the affair as "an unmarried adult lay woman" not employed by the church. Bishop Chalfant wrote that "the relationship ended a few years ago, but the matter has recently been brought to the attention of the Presiding Bishop.

"I would very much like to find a means to be reconciled with the church and with all who have been harmed by this," he wrote. "I count on the institutional church to be a place where repentance, transformation and reconciliation can take place in the wideness of God's mercy."

The Most Rev. Edmond L. Browning, Presiding Bishop, met with Bishop Chalfant and the standing committee and called the matter "a serious issue of betrayal of trust."

Bishop Chalfant, 58, has been Bishop of Maine since 1986, following two years as bishop coadjutor. He is married and is the father of two children.