Michael Hull, Ex-Pat

Now is it official. There is no need for more speculation about the whereabouts of Michael Hull, the disappearing pastor of Manhattan’s Guardian Angel parish and director of the Sheen Center.

Charles II (Charles the Bad) Preaching to Clerics (14th C.). Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.
Charles II (Charles the Bad) Preaching to Clerics (14th C.). Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has announced the appointment of Dr. Hull as its Director of Studies. He is currently living out his baptismal call by Skype at the Mercer School of Theology on Long Island. The former monsignor conducts classes through the ether from his conjugal home in northern Italy. Now an Episcopalian, he will assume his post in Scotland this January, after semester end at Mercer. This appears on the Church’s website:

The Rev Anne Tomlinson, Principal of SEI said “Dr Hull’s scholarship, experience, pedagogic skills and humanity will bring much to the SEI staff team as together we seek to form people as competent and confident authorized public ministers for the Church of God. I look forward enormously to welcoming him into the SEI community, to working with him and learning from him.

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The Rt Rev Kevin Pearson, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles and Convener of the Institute Council said “This is an exciting time in the development of the Scottish Episcopal Institute. Dr Hull brings a remarkable range of skills to the staff team and to the Scottish Episcopal Church.”

Dr Hull says “I am delighted for the opportunity to serve as the Director of Studies! The optimism of the Scottish Episcopal Church in its missional orientation is palpable. The chance to participate in the formation of women and men for authorised ministry in the Scottish Episcopal Institute and to share in the Church’s mission is thrilling.
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It is with great joy that I look forward to praying, working and growing with everyone in the SEC and SEI as we strive together to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

We know what Rev. Tomlinson means by the word humanity.

The Scottish Episcopal Church, a proud celebrant of diversity, seems tailor-made for this new member of the Anglican communion. It describes itself as a denomination that “delights in its non-established status.” And its liturgies were made in heaven for an ex-priest who not long ago described himself as a card-carrying member of MoMA:

Its patterns of worship are full of drama and colour which link together the experimental and the intellectual.

In the end, Michael Hull has his Sheen Center. (The irony of it! The Center, rumored to have cost at least $20 million, no longer has him.) The only thing left to wonder about is whether Hull came to his new position with a recommendation from the New York Archdiocese. Could any of our episcopate have been that cynical or cavalier? Let us hope not.

No one begrudges Hull his ability to make a living or to continue teaching. But Director of Studies in yet another seminary? An authority intimately involved in the “formation of women and men for authorised ministry”?

Priestly formation takes place within a context of great moral seriousness. It is not the place for a man who brings to the job a middle-aged susceptibility to much younger women. And a taste for lavish digs. (It is still not known where funds came from for the high-end renovation of the Guardian Angel rectory which Hull abandoned shortly after completion.) Both inclinations are askance of the pastoral requirements incumbent on candidates for the ministerial priesthood. So is the chutzpah of a man who apparently feels no need to keep his head down after embarrassing the Church he was committed to serving.

What ever happened to the Scots’ reputation for canniness?