8 May 2017
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the Risen Christ!
On Friday, 5 May 2017, at the Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees of Howe Military Academy (HMA), I resigned as Chairperson and disassociated the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana from any ongoing relationship with the academy. This action comes as a result of extensive conversations with both of my predecessors, Bishop Little and Bishop Gray, members of the Standing Committee and Diocesan Council and the Chancellor, Mr. Daniel Pfeifer. (My letter is attached to this communication.)
The Episcopal Church and Howe Military Academy have been woven together since the academy was founded in 1884. For most of those years, the Bishop served as President of the Board and exercised a much greater role in the day to day operation of the school, which included the appointment of a priest to serve as Chaplain. As you can appreciate, the landscape of Military Schools has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. Howe, like many other schools, has faced challenges of recruitment as well as those of aging facilities and a smaller pool of benefactors to support this manner of formation and education. During the latter years of Bishop Little’s ministry, the Howe Bylaws were changed to make the Bishop Chairman of the Board, responsible for chairing Board meetings with voice but without vote except when there is a tie. At the same time, these Bylaws added the roles of President and Vice-President, elected from among the Board members. Bishop Little devoted an enormous amount of his time annually in support of the academy, and most importantly, in the pastoral care of the cadets.
During the last 3 – 4 years, the academy has struggled financially, to the point of facing the possibility of closing. One of the many consequences of the school’s financial peril was the Alumni Association establishing itself as a separate 501.3c in order to continue to operate in the case of the academy’s closure. A state of mistrust, suspicion and enmity manifested itself among some members of the Board, officers of the Alumni Association and the Administration at Howe. Adding to the complexity, the Board of Trustees began a Search Process for the Head of School. Bishop Little and members of the Standing Committee expressed specific concerns, in writing, regarding one of the candidates. These concerns were ignored.
I arrived on 16 May 2016, and within a few days, I began dealing with various concerns at Howe. I did so, in consultation with Bishop Little, with then Head of School, Colonel Douglass and with members of the Executive Committee. While not yet ordained and consecrated, I participated at the commencement on 4 June 2016 because of our longstanding relationship with the academy. In June and through August, I began working to find a chaplain. This involved working with the new Head of School, Colonel Osenbaugh.
My first Board of Trustees meeting in late August, included the election of a new President as well as a Parliamentarian. My second Board meeting was in mid-October. At that meeting, a conversation was convened among the Board Liaisons from the Alumni Association, the Head of School, the President and myself to see if there were a way forward toward reconciliation. Members of the Alumni Association reached out to me and asked for my help in convening a future conversation. During the week of 16 – 22 October, I spent a significant amount of time working toward reconciliation. On Saturday, I was asked to chair the HMA Alumni Association’s Board Meeting, which included for the first time in some time, the Head of School and President. As with most experiences of reconciliation, it was clear that it was going to take time for trust to be rebuilt but at the end of the teleconference, we had come to agreement on next steps forward for the Alumni Association and Administration.
In late November, an email was sent to the school from the Alumni Association indicating their desire to work collaboratively, as had been agreed to in October, with the Administration in planning the 2017 Alumni Weekend. In early December, the Development Officer, with the support of the Head of School, replied to the Alumni Association representative that the Administration would be taking control of all the planning for Alumni Weekend. I called to speak with Colonel Osenbaugh about these developments, and as our conversation unfolded, it became clear to me that the depth of mistrust and enmity between his administration and the Alumni Association was such that any hope of reconciliation was gone.
There were several other incidents at the school, that, as Chairperson of the Board, I should have known about which resulted in me calling the Head of School for clarity or update. Dates were set for the Board Meetings before I began serving as Bishop and Chairperson. Out of my desire to serve the academy and most importantly, the cadets, I asked if the January and March Board meeting dates could be rescheduled so that I could attend as Chairperson. My request was not even referred to the Executive Committee for consideration.
It became clear to me that the Head of School and some members of the Board of Trustees no longer desired or valued the longstanding relationship with the Episcopal Church in Northern Indiana. Therefore, I decided, after prayerful consultation and discernment, and with some sadness, to resign as Chairperson and disassociate the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana and my successors from any relationship with Howe Military Academy.
I honor the long history we have had with Howe. I am profoundly aware of the affection its alumni, especially its Episcopal alumni, have for our diocese and the ministry of so many bishops and priests and lay persons from our diocese who have served there.
As some of you know, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church has used the Chapel of St. James as its place of worship for many years. The way forward for St. Mark’s will need to be discerned in conversation with Howe, its Board and Administration. Please uphold in your prayer all those engaged in these conversations…pray for the gift of a generosity of spirit.
Pray for all those whose lives are woven together at Howe, especially for the cadets and their families who entrust their sons and daughters to the care of the Howe Administration, Faculty and Staff.
5 May 2017 Disassociation Letter