Note from P.T.: This correspondence (read letters below) reveals various things, but only on one do I wish to focus here. The relation of the “Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.” to give it its original and constitutional name to the dioceses of which it is made up.
Obviously the dioceses (or the colonial churches of the 1780s) existed before the PECUSA and it was their coming together that made it possible to create the PECUSA, which then self-consciously called itself “a denomination.”
During the Civil Way southern dioceses withdrew for a while and then after the War they returned to PECUSA.
Certainly over the centuries since the 1780s more and more authority and power have been given to the center so that it is now more than the agreed mind of the participating dioceses; that is the center (called “the National Church”!!!!!) has a life of its own seemingly virtually apart from the consensus of the dioceses. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the creation of the large office of the Presiding Bishop (who over the last fifty years has been without a diocese and thus freed to go here and there and do this and that not formerly possible for a PB—thus be a kind of CEO).
Even as it was the voluntary coming together of the colonial churches that made possible the origin of PECUSA, so it ought to be the case that a diocese of PECUSA can by orderly means withdraw from PECUSA to be independent or choose a new allegiance. What the lady presiding bishop seems to be saying is that there is no longer a way for a diocese to withdraw in an orderly manner from the PECUSA because the rights of the center now are such as to not allow rights to an individual diocese to be able withdraw. That is, withdrawal can only be by expulsion from the center or the center in advance giving permission to withdraw.
Whether it is good for Pittsburgh to leave is debatable; that it ought in an orderly manner to have the solid right to leave seems to be a right that in the USA should be universally accepted (especially by a Church which lays so much store by “rights”.) Liberal progressive religion of the type favored by the lady presiding bishop often carries within its apparent emphasis on human dignity and rights a kind of totalitarianism for it so intensely believes in its principles that it feels obliged to enforce them where possible.
We need a carefully presented account from a competent historian of the PECUSA of the relative authority and powers of the dioceses in relation to the center and vice versa.]
Bishop Duncan Responds to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Bishop Robert Duncan responded today to a letter from the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop.
1st November, A.D. 2007
The Feast of All Saints
The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori
Episcopal Church Center
New York, New York
Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.
Pax et bonum in Christ Jesus our Lord,
- Posted November 2, 2007 -
Letter from the Presiding Bishop to Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan
The Rt. Rev. Robert DuncanEpiscopal Diocese of PittsburghPittsburgh, PA
There have been numerous public references in recent weeks regarding resolutions to be introduced at your forthcoming diocesan convention. Those resolutions, if adopted, would amend several of your diocesan canons and begin the process of amending one or more provisions of your diocesan Constitution. I have reviewed a number of these proposed resolutions, and it is evident to me that they would violate the Constitutional requirement that the Diocese conform to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.
It is apparent from your pre-convention report that you endorse these proposed changes. I am also aware of other of your statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead your diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. Our Constitution explicitly provides that a diocese must accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.
I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.
If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.
It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop.
I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain
Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007