Thursday, September 18, 2008

This in from The Lead on the Duncan Deposition

Duncan deposed
The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops has deposed Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh for abandonment of communion. Eighty-eight bishops voted in favor of deposing Duncan, 35 voted against and four abstained according to several sources in the House of Bishops.

Two statements from the Diocese, which was clearly expecting this outcome, are here and here. Note that Geoff Chapman, author of the Chapman Memo is a member of the Standing Committee. The statement is not unanimous. The Rev. James Simons, who opposes secession, did not sign. Geoff Chapman, as you may recall was the author of the "Chapman Memo" which put forth a plan by which a group of conservative Episcopalians intended to gain control of the assets of the Episcopal Church.

As Ann Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out in a story written before the vote:

The step comes as the Diocese of Pittsburgh nears an Oct. 4 vote on whether to secede from the Episcopal Church -- the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion -- and realign with the more theologically conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America.
Here is some additional background from Episcopal Cafe.

The group "Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh" (PEP) has released a statement and published it here.

Paul Marshall, Bishop of Bethlehem, writes, in a preliminary letter to the Dioceses:
The House of Bishops voted at about 3:15 today to authorize the Presiding Bishop to carry out the deposition.
I will have a good deal more to say about this at our clergy retreat and diocesan convention. Like many bishops, I came here willing to have the matter postponed, but information revealed last night, along with other factors discussed in this morning's session, led to all four Pennsylvania bishops voting yes at the roll-call vote, which I am sure someone will publish.

It is a matter for some rejoicing that a house that described itself as "dysfunctional" in 1991 carried itself through this deeply-felt matter w/o any acrimony or even raised voices. Strong positions were taken on both sides, but with respect, charity, and restraint.

The four PA bishops also met this morning to determine ways we can support the remaining Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, and I will keep you posted on those developments as well.


Reports are also appearing online that the bishops were motivated to take this step in advance of the vote by Diocese of Pittsburgh, October 4th, to avoid another situation similar to the one in the Diocese of San Joaquin. Two entities are making claims to the assets of that Episcopal Diocese. This concern was enough to motivate a number of bishops who came to the meeting prepared to defer a vote to change their minds and vote to depose Bishop Duncan at today's meeting.

epiScope has the Episcopal Church press release here including this statement from Bishop Lillibridge of West Texas:
“As difficult as this decision is for me and many others in our Church, it is important to realize that the decision in the House today was not based on the theological convictions of Bishop Duncan, but rather on the evidence presented regarding statements and actions concerning moves to take the Diocese of Pittsburgh out of the Episcopal Church.”
Statement of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the actions of the House of Bishops, Thursday, September 18, 2008
The House of Bishops worked carefully and prayerfully to consider the weighty matter of Bishop Duncan. The conversation was holy, acknowledging the pain of our deliberations as well as the gratitude many have felt over the years for their relationships with, and the ministry of, Robert Duncan. The House concluded, however, that his actions over recent months and years constitute “abandonment of the communion of this church” and that he should be deposed. Concern was expressed for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the face of leadership which has sought to remove itself from The Episcopal Church. In the days and months ahead, this Church will work to ensure appropriate pastoral care and provision for the members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, so that mission and ministry in that part of Pennsylvania may continue in the name of Jesus Christ and in the tradition of the Episcopal Church.
Following are some other statements from bishops:

A statement from the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, September 18, 2008
The Bishops of Los Angeles are in full agreement with the clear reasons why the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan is to be deposed as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Title IV Review Committee certified in 2007 that Bishop Duncan has abandoned communion of the Episcopal Church, defined by the canons as "an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church ..." (Title IV, Canon 10, Section 1).

Bishop Duncan has persisted in his attempts to lead large numbers of people out of his diocese and into affiliation with the overseas Anglican Province of the Southern Cone -- even after our Presiding Bishop, and also the Archbishop of Canterbury, most recently this summer at the Lambeth Conference, called for an end to such actions.

The House of Bishops' vote calling on the Presiding Bishop to depose Bishop Duncan is a direct result of Bishop Duncan's actions, and not a referendum on his beliefs. People may leave the Episcopal Church as they choose, but dioceses, constituted by the General Convention, do not leave. Rather, the property of dioceses and congregations, given by past parishioners, is held in trust for the Episcopal Church's mission at present and for the future.

The people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh especially need our prayers at this time, and the faithful Episcopalians there need our reassurance that their congregations continue as part of the Episcopal Church. We also pray that Pittsburgh's diocesan convention, meeting on October 4, will choose a course of continuing and vital mission within the Episcopal Church.

A statement from Paul Marshall, Bishop of Bethlehem, correcting some misinformation in the blogosphere:
There is already a huge amount of misinformation and, sadly, disinformation on the web, so I will make a few points about today and leave you in peace as I go to dinner with my colleagues at the new church center in SLC.
Bishop Duncan's deposition was not approved because of what he _might_ do in October, but on account of what he has done heretofore. That was the only basis on which the PB, the Review Committee, or the House had any business proceeding.

The House of Bishops did not have the choice to say, oh, well, he should have a full-blown trial (which is actually more damaging to the defendant). Priests and lay people in Pittsburgh filed the complaint that his actions came under the meaning of the canon by abandoning the discipline of the church. We could act only on what the complainants in Pittsburgh laid before us.

Bishop Duncan was invited to come, with any witnesses and other evidence he might wish to produce, to the hearing last night and the sessions today. He could have easily purged himself of his abandonment of communion, but chose not to. I believe this attests to his basic integrity, by the way.

The House upheld the rulings of the Chancellor, Parliamentarian, and the PB, that the canons were being appropriately applied. It was deeply uncomfortable for me to observe people who have over the last decade or so personally behaved with a somewhat remarkable flexibility about the rules of the church's life suddenly emerge as strict constructionists of certain canons. I wanted to rise to the mic and discuss the Commerce Clause with them, but did not feel it would add anything to an essentially ecclesial matter. That day may come, however.

As to the canon in question (IV-9), it describes several sets of ways one may be judged to have abandoned "the doctrine, discipline OR worship of this church." None of those ways require joining another church (which Robert Duncan claims to have done as of this morning). In a later section of the canon, we learn Abandonment can consist of as small an act as performing episcopal acts for churches not in communion with TEC. Had the complainants addressed that issue, of course, the case would have been even stronger.

The House, I think, has eight lawyer-bishops in it, and certainly contains many very sharp people in terms of our history and theology, so it would be very unfair to allege, as one colleague has publicly done this evening, that the proceedings of the last 24 hours were shallow or misinformed. While I heard things I disagreed with or thought ill-founded, I find that the bishops here are all people of considerable depth, and many of them have great breadth of learning as well.

The PB's leadership was, consistent with her entire public ministry since her election, flawless. She allowed no space for anything vindictive or self-pitying, and kept us focussed on our task. I was deeply impressed by how she handled herself at Lambeth, and am even more grateful for how she conducted herself during these days.

I really will stop now. I will see many of you next week and we can discuss things further in a more dialogical way.


A statement from Dean Wolfe, Bishop of Kansas:
The House of Bishops made a decisive determination today that Bishop Robert Duncan has abandoned the Communion of The Episcopal Church. The evidence presented to the House of Bishops was meticulously assembled and irrefutable to me and to a wide majority of the House. It is never a happy task to render such a judgment, but as bishops it is our solemn responsibility to protect the Unity, Doctrine and Discipline of our church, and we have done so. I ask that you keep the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Duncan family in your prayers.

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