An appeals court of the Episcopal Church has restored Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. as head of the five-county Diocese of Pennsylvania, reversing a lower church court's order that he be removed and defrocked.

In a judgment released Wednesday night, the court concluded that although Bennison had badly mishandled his brother's sexual abuse of a minor in his parish 35 years ago, the church's statute of limititations on such matters had long since expired.

"For that reason alone, we are compelled to order... that the the judgment of the Trial Court is reversed," the eight-member panel of bishops wrote.

Bennison said in a teleconference call from Michigan, where he is vacationing, that he will return to his duties as bishop on August 16.

"I hope I am a changed person," he said, and that he had no immediate goals other than to listen to the men and women who have led the diocese since he was suspended in October, 2007.

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.