"A major obligation of leadership is to recognize changed circumstances and to respond imaginatively and realistically to those circumstances. All of us recognize that we live at a time of economic recession. That reality is reflected in the significant number of congregations in our diocese that have reduced their pledge to what we do together in the diocesan budget. As diocesan bishop, it is my responsibility to face those changed circumstances and to respond accordingly. The position I hold is a significant part of our budget. I have decided, therefore, to resign as Diocesan Bishop effective October 1, 2009. That means that my absence for the last quarter of this calendar year will provide a 25% reduction in the cost of the position of diocesan bishop and will bring some relief to the stress on our budget. My resignation will occur several months earlier than I had originally anticipated but I believe it is an appropriate and necessary response to the realities we face. I am exploring the possibility of ministry in some other form after I leave Virginia as I begin my transition towards retirement."The full address is here. Press release here:
Bishop Lee was installed as the 12th bishop of Virginia on May 27, 1985. He was ordained to the diaconate in June 1967 and to the priesthood in May 1968. From 1968‑1971, he served as the assistant minister at St. John's Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. In 1971, Bishop Lee became rector of the Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill, N.C., and continued as rector there until he was elected bishop of the Diocese of Virginia in 1984.
The Washington Post has now published an article here:
The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, who has been bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia for 24 years, announced today that he will step down Oct. 1 to make way for a successor who was named in 2007.
The diocese, which covers northern and eastern Virginia and includes 80,000 members, is one of the largest in the Episcopal Church, the U.S.-based branch of the global Anglican Communion.
Starting this fall the diocese will be overseen by the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, 50, an Alabama native who has worked in dioceses in the South and is known for his work in prison, music and HIV/AIDS ministries.
Under the laws of the Episcopal Church, a bishop must retire either by age 72 or no more than three years after a successor is consecrated.
"I think the church is more focused beyond ourselves as Americans than when I first came," Lee said today at the diocese's annual council meeting, where he announced he would be stepping down.
Johnston will inherit one of the largest and costliest legal disputes in the history of the Episcopal Church, a land fight with a cluster of Virginia congregations whose members voted to leave the national church over what they see as its liberal distortions of Scripture -- and sought to keep their church properties, worth tens of millions of dollars. The breakaway conservative movement recently won a decision in district court, but the diocese and the national church are appealing.
Lee, 70, is widely respected, and initially it seemed his status as a moderate would allow him to keep his churches together. However, discussions stalled in late 2006 and conservatives blamed him for offering to negotiate and then filing a lawsuit later over the properties. At that point, however, the conservatives had already filed a separate action in court that many saw as provocative.
Today Lee said the churches' departure was "a major disappointment of my time in office," but he added that in hindsight he feels he could not have kept everyone together. "I think some of these churches were heading in that direction even 25 years ago."
Lee said he would like to return to working in a church, probably outside of Virginia, and expects to eventually retire to Chapel Hill, N.C.
Here's the Diocese's video of the announcement with authoritative voice-over by former Vice President of the Executive Board, Brother John Ogle.