Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pittsburgh's Duncan, Progressive Episcopalians react to Review Committee's certification

(I for one understand why Bp Duncan would want to leave TEC -- see my several major essays on its Doctrinal and Liturgical and Moral innovations and heresies at -- However, I can also understand why TEC leadership does not sit calmly by and allow rebellious dioceses to depart into the embraces of critical foreign provinces.

After all the Constitution of the militant and conservative Church of Nigera has these words at the beginning:
“The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) hereinafter called ‘the Church of Nigeria’ shall remain one, united, and indissoluble Church under God.” I suspect that if a Nigerian diocese decided to secede to go to South Africa, then there would be militant action to prevent! Liberals and conservatives all guard their turf and at this stage of the conflict it is difficult to discern grace. --P.T.)

Pittsburgh's Duncan, Progressive Episcopalians react to Review Committee's certification

By Mary Frances Schjonberg, January 16, 2008

[Episcopal News Service] After receiving word January 15 that the Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee had certified he has abandoned the communion of the church, Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan denied the allegation.

Duncan offered a brief response to the news late on January15, saying, "Few bishops have been more loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. I have not abandoned the Communion of this Church. I will continue to serve and minister as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh."

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), whose members are committed to remaining in the Episcopal Church, said January 16 that it "sees reason for hope" in the Review Committee's certification.

"PEP believes that the canonical procedures set in motion by this decision will clarify issues of polity that have become confused in this diocese," the release said.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informed Duncan on January 15 of the certification and sent him a copy.

Her letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.

"Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter," the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

"I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church," Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan.

Pittsburgh's diocesan convention November 2 gave the first of two approvals needed to enact constitutional changes to remove language in the diocesan constitution stating that the diocese accedes to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons as the church's constitution requires.
The Presiding Bishop sent Duncan a letter prior to the convention, asking him to retreat from his advocacy of the changes.

"The action of the Review Committee gives all of us in Pittsburgh serious cause to reflect," said Joan Gundersen, PEP president, in the group's January 16 release. "This can be an opportunity for all of us to consider how we can change course and restore relations with one another and with The Episcopal Church."

PEP "understand[s] that Bishop Duncan must follow his conscience regarding the kind of church he believes is faithful to the Gospel," the Rev. Diane Shepard, first vice president of PEP, said in the release. "Whether he can resume his role in The Episcopal Church or must relinquish it, we pray that he finds a way to serve Christ's Church in peace and good conscience."

PEP said in its release that it is "committed to a diocese that finds its strength in diverse understandings of Christian faith and, as our Baptismal Covenant requires, respects the dignity of every human being, ideas that exemplify The Episcopal Church at its best."

Gundersen added: "Especially now, in this time of crisis, PEP encourages all Episcopalians in the diocese to engage in dialogue about how we can move forward together. Some people may choose to leave The Episcopal Church. We hope their number will be few."

Also on January 16, Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker issued a statement supporting Duncan, saying he finds it "tragic and deeply disturbing that the Presiding Bishop would seek to take canonical action against the Bishop of Pittsburgh prior to any final decision by his diocesan convention concerning separation from The Episcopal Church."

He said that "the fact that Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh are still a part of The Episcopal Church was clearly affirmed by the refusal of the three senior diocesan bishops to consent to his being inhibited for this alleged offense."

Iker said the Episcopal Church is "continually" giving "lip service to the need for ongoing conversation and dialogue to heal our divisions while at the same time closing off any possibility of continuing conversations by aggressive, punitive actions such as this."

The House of Bishops' three senior bishops with jurisdiction -- Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas -- did give their permission on January 11 for Jefferts Schori to inhibit Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield in another case where the Title IV Review Committee certified an abandonment of the communion of the church. The House will consider the case matter involving Schofield in March. The certification of the committee's action is available here.

The time limit to which Jefferts Schori referred is a two-month period afforded to bishops subject to such a certification to retract their acts, demonstrate that the facts alleged in certification are false, or renounce their orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7.

The Title IV Review Committee told Jefferts Schori on December 17 that a majority of its nine members agreed that Duncan had abandoned the communion of the church "by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church."

The Review Committee's certification from Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, said that the committee received submissions alleging Duncan's abandonment of communion from "counsel representing individuals who are either clergy or communicants in the Diocese of Pittsburgh" and from the Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Beers, and his colleague, Mary E. Kostel. They asked the Review Committee for a determination.

Some 40 pages of material submitted by Pittsburgh counsel, which allegedly "trace the course of Bishop Duncan's actions from the meeting of the General Convention in 2003 through the most recent Annual Convention of the Diocese" in early November, is included in the committee's certification and is available here.

The first section of Title IV, Canon 9 says that a bishop abandons the communion of the Episcopal Church if he or she takes one of the following actions:
• "open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of the Church;"
• "formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the
same;" or
• "exercising episcopal acts [which include primarily Holy Orders and Confirmation] in and for a religious body other than the Episcopal Church or another Church in communion with the Church so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church."

If a majority of the House concurs with the Review Committee's certification, the Presiding Bishop must depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the diocese vacant. There is no appeal and no right of formal trial outside of a hearing before the House of Bishops.

Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary. An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.

In addition to Henderson, the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee consists of Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop James Waggoner of Spokane, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia, and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio.

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