Bishop Duncan takes his stand, he can do no other.

Most readers of this blog are not at all surprised to read this letter, dated November 1, 2007, from Bishop Robert Duncan to the 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

Dear Katharine,

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,

+Bob Pittsburgh"

It is classic Duncan. Invoke Luther (so we know this is the second reformation); take a hit on a quote from Jude, who was against a wide range of perversions even if he was filled with folktales as examples; touch on Jesus' admonitions about caring for the sheep (most of which were directed to Peter); and top it off with a touch of Franciscan humility with the Latin goodby. Reformed, Pure, Catholic, humble. All in three sentences.

True to form it is "Dear Katharine" rather than "Dear Bishop Katharine," but "+Bob Pittsburgh" and not "Robert." On little protocol matters like this knife is turned.

Of course nothing in this affirmed or denied anything raised in the Presiding Bishop's letter. It is a nolo contendere response: he neither affirms that he is preparing to take himself and those "sheep" who follow out of the Episcopal Church nor does he deny that he will do so.

But the Presiding Bishop is clear that he doesn't have to respond with a blatant denial of unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. It is enough, said the Presiding Bishop, that 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."

The Bishop of Pittsburgh's nolo contendere response is as cleaver as the Constitutional and canonical changes enacted by the Diocesan convention today. They too do not directly deny the warrant of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, they prepare the way to doing so.

Of course the fat is in the fire and the Bishop is honest enough to note that: He said in his speach to the Convention,

"The first reading of a constitutional change announces an intention without actually making a change. In one sense, adopting Resolution One (or Resolution Two) at this Convention changes absolutely nothing. There is no actual effect unless a second vote goes the same way a year from now. Of course, in another sense, adoption signifies an intention, gives warning, opens a possibility, introduces a period of preparation for anticipated consequences.
If Resolution One passes, our work in the year ahead would likely include determination of the Province with which the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh might re-align, development of acceptable options available to minority congregations, and negotiation, both nationally and with plaintiffs locally, about a mediated alternative to continuing or escalating litigation."

The Bishop in his convention address also recognized that the Episcopal Church considers the amended first article of the Diocesan Constitution (2003-4) to be null and void. That article states,

"The Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, being a constituent part of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, accedes to, recognizes, and adopts the Constitution and Canons of that Church, and acknowledges its authority accordingly. In cases where the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh speak to the contrary, or where resolutions of the Convention of said Diocese have determined the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, or resolutions of its General Convention, to be contrary to the historic Faith and Order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the local determination shall prevail."

Still, without saying so he holds that the diocese and not the "national church" (aka the General Convention) is primary and that the Diocese of Pittsburgh intends to go right ahead and assume that he (the Bishop) and it (the diocese) need not pay attention to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in matters where there is disagreement between the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

Concerning the primacy of the diocese, in his sermon to the Convention Bishop Duncan had this to say:

"The matter finally comes down to an unavoidable choice between cultures. There is the culture of the wider Episcopal Church: theologically innovative, at the edge of mainstream Christianity, secularly attuned, declining, canonically fundamentalist, and ready to sue or depose to obtain its way. By contrast, there is the culture of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: Scripturally centered, critiquing the secular agenda, among the fastest (and few) growing dioceses of the Episcopal Church (relative to population decline), focused on congregational mission, allowing vast freedoms in the form and manner of ministry. Given that we must choose – and I do believe that national actions have now dictated that we must – which is the predominant culture we desire individually and corporately to embrace:
national Church or local diocese?"

The Bishop of Pittsburgh has not revealed just what parts of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church he has problems with (I suspect the canon on church property is one and the marriage canons another). We know he finds resolutions of General Convention unacceptable. So the matter at hand is primarily about the resolutions of General Convention.

Those, he believes, include resolutions "secularly attuned" and expressing "canonically fundamentalist" positions. He believes that somehow his diocese is less likely to be attuned to the secular world or less canonically fundamentalist, so that choosing the diocese rather than the national church is a real choice.

It is hard to know if he is strangely confused or just not too bright. We can hope many in his diocese retain their wits and some clarity.

The Bishop will one day wake up to find that his own clergy will defy diocesan canons every bit as much as national canons, diocesan resolutions very bit as much as General Convention resolutions and that he will occasionally appear a canonical fundamentalist.

The Bishop will not be surprised to discover that his people are secularly attuned every bit as much as the rest of the Anglican and Episcopal world around them. The thundering silence in the church regarding illegal war, rampant consumerism, and a wide variety of arrogant practices are part of every parish family's life. He will not be surprised because he understands sin to be in everyone's purview.

In previous posts, and on other more thoughtful blogs, it has been pointed out that the Archbishop of Canterbury, whatever else he might have hoped to say in his remarks about the locus of Anglican identity in the diocese rather than the national church, was doing the Communion no service by the remark.

It would appear that Bishop Duncan has picked up on the choice between diocese and national church in concert with the Archbishop's mutterings, or in hopes it will make his either / or distinction more enticing.
But his choice is no choice at all. The real choice is whether a bishop, some clergy and some people, determine to leave one synod (in this case the General Convention of the Episcopal Church) for some other synod (say the Province of the Southern Cone) or some new configuration (say the New Improved Anglican Province in North America.) Dioceses and their bishops do not stand alone, for if they do so any claim at all that they are catholic becomes a vapor. The real choice is between life in this synod or in another.

What the Bishop is really asking his people, but cannot seem to simply say is that the choice is between two cultures - the culture of the synod of the Episcopal Church or the culture of another synod.

When asked if he has abandoned the communion of this Church, meaning the Episcopal Church, he neither affirms or denies. When he asks people to choose he does not tell them the truth of the choice they really have to make: they will finally have to vote to obey the canons and constitution of the Episcopal Church or the canons and constitution of some other church, or make up a church of their own. How attractive a set of canons from say, Kenya or from the minds of dissenters will be I can not say. But I would say to the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, stay alert.


  1. You write:
    True to form it is "Dear Katharine" rather than "Dear Bishop Katharine," but "+Bob Pittsburgh" and not "Robert." On little protocol matters like this knife is turned.

    The Presiding Bishop's letter was addressed "Dear Bob," but signed "Katharine Jefferts Schori." Why do you find his salutation offensive but not hers? There seems to be a double standard at work.

  2. Well, Mark, Her letter to him started out 'Dear Bob.'
    Of course she is the PB whereas he only wishes he were one....

  3. While I have no sympathies with the Bishop of Pittsburgh, I think it's only fair to note that in writing "Dear Katherine" he is simply maintaining the tone of the Presiding Bishop's letter to him, which began "Dear Bob."

  4. Duncan is fooling no one - but perhaps himself. He is neither dim nor confused. He has immersed himself in an archetypical motif from which there is not escape - for him what will be, will be.

    But in the meantime, he has chosen to abandon the church and that scheme is in place and in full action. He is not testing the waters or making idle threats - he has fully entered into a course of action the intentions of which are clear - to leave TEC. All the legally finessing in the world will not protect him - he has hung himself by the totality of the circumstances as the PB makes plain.

  5. andrew, susan, 4may1535, the distance between Katharine and +Bob Pittsburgh and Bob and Katharine Jefferts Schori (and her position title under it.)

    The distance in the first is between a first name and the Bishop of Pittsburgh who in authoritative custom doesn't need to use his real name but his bishop name.

    I suppose the parallel would have been for KJS to sign herself, ++Katharine Primate or some such.

    She didn't. I grant you her signature was formal and her salutation not. I suppose that is because she starts with a concern and ends with possible requirements for action as she sees it necessary.

    Still, you all have a point...I may have pushed the wee concern too far.

    I have had considerable experience in the need to attend to matters of protocol and was raised in a family where we spoke to our parents using their first names but at the same time did not understand that to give us undue license (or at least we were taught otherwise quickly.) It takes a good while for me in private to use a bishop's first name without the title in front, as if it were also part of the name. I almost never do that in public. In overseas work I have tried to be sensitive to such matters and every once and a while have mis-spoken, sometimes at some cost to relationships. The careful dance of familiarity and formality is always in play a bit.

    Still I suspect my comment was of minimal value and maybe a wrong turn. That happens.

  6. I'm much more interested in Duncan's characterization of TEC as "secularly attuned" and DioPitt as "secularly critiquing."

    As you've pointed out, complacency in the face of evil war, as well as rampant consumerism, are well-known in both entities.

    Yet there are more voices heard and actions taken in TEC against these evils than in most other churches. That's one reason I'm an Episcopalian.

    I think of your own antiwar witness, the PB's statements, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, HOB statements, the recent peace vigil at all houses of Holy Cross Monastery, and many other similar events. This war, after all, is the Worst Thing Going.

    Thus Duncan's charge that TEC is "secularly attuned" is completely bogus.

    It's what we're attuned to and what we critique that's at issue. And that, as always, comes down to homosexuality.

    He drives relentlessly to separate from TEC (keeping the property), "witnessing to Christ" by oppressing Gay people.

    The rest of us ought not to let this shopworn meme go without challenge. Duncan can't create his "Church of Pittsburgh," denouncing war while also waging it. So it all comes down to God's alleged horror over same-sex love.

  7. Really, isn't the point the over-the-top SEE-ME-the-NOBLE-MARTYR the tone of Duncan's response. Sheesh, he's well on the way to declaring himself the 2nd Coming, or at the very least, the 2nd incarnation of Stephen Martyr.

  8. Mark, I take your point--+William Cockburn Russell Sheridan (RIP) was "Sherry" around the Anglican Communion, but I would have been embarrassed to speak to him without putting 'sir' at about the end of every other sentence. "+ Bob Pittsburgh" bothers me both because of the incongruity (imagine "+Tom Dunelm." or even "Betty R.") and because I think the custom of signing with one's diocese in place of one's surname comes, formally or informally, from the character of dioceses as peerages in the UK, a character which no American diocese possesses.

  9. Who will rid us of this meddlesome bishop?

  10. Oh, puhleeze, Alan...Citation, please? source? context? talk about changing truth (the witness of ++Katharine) to lie (yours).

    Plus: Stay with the thread if you can.

  11. Jefferts-Schori stated that there is a misguided minority in the Church who wants to cease baptizing gays and lesbians.

    "a bold-faced ruse", allen?

    With recent statements out of the Nigerian Church (expressing outrage at the CofE position, that lay-people may be in same-sex relationships w/o censure), what you quote ++KJS saying doesn't seem that far afield (i.e., if an adult in a same-sex relationship couldn't be baptized in Nigeria, isn't it reasonable to conclude that Anglican bodies seeking to copy Nigeria wouldn't permit such baptisms, either?)

  12. What Katherine says is absolutely right. That is true in large parts of the communion.

  13. (Dan)
    Post at SFiF and now at Jajke's is the following:

    Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our One and Only Saviour Jesus, the Christ.

    I write on the 490th anniversary of that moment in Church history when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg in which he asserted, among other things, that the truth of the gospel must always take precedence over the structures of the church. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are facing a similar situation today. While it has been my hope that we would be able to share these reflections face to face it seems unlikely that we will be called to meet together in the near future and so I offer these thoughts by letter.

    It has been repeatedly stated and most succinctly summarized in the report, 'Road to Lambeth' we face a two fold crisis in the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under the common foundation of faith. (See the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral)

    The Church of Nigeria is not interested in territorial expansion. The failure to resolve these dual crises has been at the heart of the decision by our Church and a number of other Global South Provinces to offer encouragement and oversight to a growing number of clergy and congregations in the USA. These pastoral initiatives are not and should not be seen as the cause of the crises.

    Although they have variously been described as “interventions” “boundary crossing” or “incursions” -- they are a direct and natural consequence of the decision by The Episcopal Church (TEC) to follow the path that it has now chosen.

    These pastoral initiatives undertaken to keep faithful Anglicans within our Anglican family has been at a considerable cost of crucial resources to our province. There is no moral equivalence between them and the actions taken by TEC. They are a heartfelt response to cries for help. We acted in accordance with the Gospel mandate. Had TEC, against all godly warnings, not taken actions that tore the fabric of our beloved Communion there would be no need for hundreds indeed, thousands of its members to seek pastoral, episcopal and now primatial care elsewhere.

    It has been suggested that our actions violate historic Anglican polity and early church tradition with particular reference made to the Council of Nicea. This assertion is both hollow and made in bad faith since those who make it are more than willing to ignore historic biblical teaching on the uniqueness of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures and the call to moral obedience. With regard to Nicea - while there was concern for proper order there was even greater commitment to maintaining right teaching. This can be seen by the provision of godly bishops and clergy in places where the incumbents were proponents of false teaching.

    The world needs to understand that the situation that we now confront is not primarily about structure or conferences but about irreconcilable truth claims. It is worth remembering that in the Biblical narratives religious structures have often been the enemy of revealed truth. When these structures become obstacles, YHWH, in his own way and at a time of his own choosing removed them and brought His people back to Himself. Of course there is value to preserving Anglican structures but we must never do so at the expense of the people for whom our Lord Jesus the Christ gave his life.

    Until the Communion summons the courage to tackle that issue headlong and resolve it we can do no other than provide for those who cry out to us. It is our earnest prayer that repentance and reconciliation will make this a temporary arrangement. One thing is clear we will not abandon our friends.

    When we met in Dar es Salaam, after a great deal of effort, we suggested a way forward that had the support of all those present – including the Presiding Bishop of TEC. The House of Bishops and Executive Committee of The Episcopal Church quickly rejected this proposal on the grounds that it apparently violated their canons. We now have a counter proposal from TEC and yet there is no indication that it will meet the needs of those for whom it is supposedly designed. This endless series of proposals and counter proposals continues with no apparent conclusion in sight. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the only acceptable end as far as TEC is concerned is the full capitulation of any who would stand in opposition to their biblically incompatible innovations- this we will never do. There is a way forward - we have written and spoken repeatedly about it – the time for action is now.

    I believe that we Primates must meet in the next few months to respond to the crisis that now confronts us. The situation in The Episcopal Church is deteriorating rapidly. Lawsuits are escalating and I have just heard that Bishop Bob Duncan is now threatened with ecclesiastical trial by the Presiding Bishop for his faithful attempts to find a way to protect his faithful members and diocese. Other godly bishops are under the same threat. Their only crime is a desire to continue their Christian pilgrimage as faithful Anglicans. This situation will affect all of us. We dare not let our love for the historic structures of our beloved Communion, important as they are, allow us to destroy its future. We are losing members. We are losing time. We are losing our integrity as an important part of the One, holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”. Joel 3:14

    +Peter Abuja,

    All Saints Day, 2007


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.