The Bishop Duncan Received Text: Everything is broken.

Matt Kennedy's efforts to take down Bishop Duncan's remarks at the Mere Anglicanism Conference are all the record we have of Bishop Robert Duncan's lecture. These are not "approved" text but rather reporter's notes. He has traveled around a lot, computer in hand, doing the slogging work of reporting. This last week he had one of those terrifying in-flight moments and thanks be to God he is alright.

I am sorry Bishop Duncan did not provide an approved text, but the one we have received is fascinating. In the BDRT (Bishop Duncan Received Text) we have an unofficial snapshot of the Moderator's sense that the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church as currently put together are disintegrating. It reads like a long list of betrayals, confusions and political compromise. It is the wreckage in the fast lane long I have long predicted.

The BDRT wraps this wreckage before and behind - with a statement of faith at the beginning, drawing on Dame Julian Norwich: "You remember in the revelations of Dame Julian, she asks "what is the meaning" and she was shown not just a vision but what his meaning in the vision and his meaning was love and we remember the great conclusion of her work, that all be well and all manner of things be well." At the end the BDRT has words of encouragement, "I was in a hotel room on the 12th of December which was election day in Kenya. Dr. Samuels said that what it is that must emerge before Anglicanism can go on and progress is what will be the equivalent of the Elizabethan settlement, a Post Colonial Settlement. I heard his words and they came form that brown southern and traditional part of Anglicanism. I said within my spirit aha, now I understand.

The Elizabethan settlement has served us well but no longer are we white western or British, a new settlement must emerge with systems and structures that will sustain and protect Anglicanism."

Julian's statement of faith is of course on target, but only in the state of spiritual bliss is it an affirmation of the core reality of God's love. Otherwise it becomes the brave whistling of the frightened in the graveyard. The conclusion of the BDRT, concerning a "new settlement" is mostly an effort to claim that the wreckage in Anglican Land and elsewhere in Christendom is serving some new end. The BDRT oddly becomes a justification for the wreckage on the basis of a great love. It proposes that perhaps the wreckage, and the part played in it by the dissenter organizations in the Episcopal Church, is serving a greater end, a settlement in which all will be well again. In an odd way the BDRT promotes an Anglican version of something heard in the Viet Nam war: In order to save the village called Anglican Land it was necessary to destroy it.

Be that as it may, it is of some interest to read the wreckage list as provided by the BDRT (notes on the received text are in parentheses):

(concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury's betrayal)

Let me rehearse that you will recall after GC 2006, The Living Church said that in the two week period of GC it seemed that there were not daily but hourly developments. The most significant is that one man decided that Sept 30th was no development at all. Though five years of process had gone before, the one man who managed the system decided that process did not have a deadline.

(concerning the Joint Standing Committee's betrayal)

In that brief period before the end of Sept, the HOB met and the JSC of the Primates and ACC met with them and the JSC came away saying that the HOB Response was adequate, that they had complied. ++Anis disagreed and many of us thought that what the HOB had done was inadequate.

(concerning the Windsor Bishops betrayal)

In that last few days of September the Windsor Bishops, that expanded coalition, probably had the nadir of its existence. In August we Windsor Bishops agreed there would be a minority report, that was our strategy going into the HOB. But no minority report emerged. And of course some of us had already gone but the others knew in advance we would not be there and the strategy had remained the same.

(Concerning signs of hope in Common Cause and the second election of Bishop Lawrence)

Then there was the meeting of the college of common cause bishops and that gave hope that fragmented Anglicanism was being drawn together. In October it came to appear that SC would have a bishop. The vote was 67 SCs and 63 bishops. Not encouraging majorities but majorities.

(perhaps sadness, betrayal?)

Also in October we saw +Steenson go to Rome.

(confusion and disintegration)

We saw Rwanda change its name going back to the word "Anglican". After the slaughter in Rwanda in the 90's they found the name "Anglican" reprehensible and dropped it. After what the Episcopal church has done, they've found the name "Episcopal" reprehensible and changed back to Anglican. They also put the AMiA in their canons as a permanent missionary outreach.

(confusion in Diocese of Quincy)

Also in October there was troubling news from Quincy. They had decided to take one vote to leave. They decided to take two votes. It was difficult to understand exactly what was going on there.


In October there was a threat to three bishops, Bishop Iker, Bishop Schofield, and myself, that we would all be inhibited and deposed.

(Signs of hope? – depends on your viewpoint.)

Early in November the dioceses of Pittsburgh and the diocese of Fort Worth met and voted, for the first time, there will need to be another vote, to remove from the Episcopal Church


Also in November in CFL, it came to pass that the Network parishes would separate from the diocese.

These events marked an ongoing "disintegration" that was spreading and progressing.

The BDRT then moves to more current problems:

(legal struggles in Pittsburgh - disintegration)

It also became clear in November that those who were pursuing me in civil court decided to move from there to ecclesial courts. They attempted to remove me in that venue as it would be more conducive.

Also in November the Via Media made its requests of Bishop Iker.

(confusion and / or disintegration)

It was also in November that +Lipscomb revealed that he was going to Rome. Of all the non-Network Windsor bishops, his voice was the most effective.


December: This nefarious plan called Gafcon was hatched and announced ... And the CCP council met the first time and organized itself as a distinct and structured entity.

(separation and disintegration)

January was the Lambeth kickoff, 70 percent of the bishops of the communion registered. The Lambeth Palace full court press worked to get as many as possible to agree to come. It was then that many of the evangelical and catholic bishops decided to go to Lambeth. Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya (one other I could not hear) also made it very clear that their bishops would not be at Lambeth.


It was during January that disagreements among the orthodox primates bore out publicly regarding Lambeth attendance.


Schofield was inhibited. Pittsburgh was broken into three.

(in sum)

Anglicanism, it seems, is coming apart. It is ceasing to be, it is disintegrating, and this is not rocket science. It's not hard for us to see that things are disintegrating. There is a lot of denial, pretending that this is not happening, bargaining with God, "Lets get about our business…." This is denial.

The BDRT list boils down to this:

The Archbishop betrayed,the Windsor Bishops buckled, the Joint Standing Committee winced and having winced moved on,Bishops Steenson and Lipscomb left entirely,Quincy became befuddled, Schofield has been inhibited, Iker and Duncan are next,Pittsburgh is broken three ways (I assume into those with the Common Cause Partnership, those conservative but committed to life in the Episcopal Church, and Progressives in Pittsburgh.)

Internationally the press is on for bishops to go to Lambeth, and for them GAFCON (The Global Anglican Future Conference) will be second rather than first priority in terms of time and funding. The Common Cause Partnership and possible efforts to pull out by the three dioceses in the Network contemplating full disengagement with The Episcopal Church have been the signs of hope but even they will be accompanied by internal divisions in the dioceses, witness San Joaquin and Pittsburgh in particular.

The BDRT sees destruction and then a new settlement. I see the year of the Rat and the destruction will be on their heads. From my "Prognostications 2008",

"whatever else this year is about we all know that rats will figure predominately. Rats will desert sinking ships, and all icons in Anglican-land are in themselves sinking ships. They have value only to those who already possess the heart for the values to which the icon refers. The Anglican Covenant is only finally useful for those whose hearts are set on solidarity in experience and reason; the Bible is useful for those whose hearts are set on solidarity in the Word found in the words; the delivered faith is useful only for those whose hearts are set on solidarity in the inherited witness. By themselves, these icons will not serve. Only the lithe will survive. Only those who can continue to live with Scripture, Reason and Tradition will make it in the future of Anglican land. Only those who know that justice is not an icon but a demand will last.

It is also the year of much less subtle rats: There will be a scurry of rats in the Church Yard, and the serpent will eat well. (see my "Snakes in the Churchyard" poem on this.) There will be signs of the oroborus all around, various Anglican conclaves and organizations consuming themselves, consumed by the fact that they exist only in opposition to what they hate. It will not be a pretty sight."

I believe the Received Text is a document of the times. It tells us a great deal about the valley of death and wreckage in the fast lane. But it is important to remember it is a document concerning perception – the perception that all is in disarray and all will be well. I believe all is not in disarray and this side of the great getting up morning "all manner of thing" is not well.

The wreckage and disarray is considerably less for the large majority of the worlds Anglicans and of Episcopalians than the Received Text would have us think. A whole lot of things are going on pretty well.

Honest Christian people in Anglican land are saying their prayers, reciting the creed, living into baptism and being fed at the table of the Lord. They complain and bicker about all sorts of things – who put that awful frontal on the altar? Why doesn't the vestry understand that we want a better coffee pot in the kitchen? Who in the world picked that hymn? Can't we do more to support the poor in our area without getting into politics? Is there any way to do more than pray and send money for work in other parts of the Communion? And yes, they wonder about the young heterosexual couple that have been coming to church, have the same address but aren't married, and the two men who certainly seem a couple, and whether or not to elect a woman rector, and on and on. But week by week they go to church and say their prayers and sing and give and work for the vision of the reign of God. For them the BDRT is a sad commentary on the edge of a church they love.

At the same time we know things are not well…not now. The disarray is real, brought on by the unbalanced and skewed twisting of Anglican sensibilities in order to form a more perfect union in which heresy will be weeded out and an international Church will arise from the ashes of an international fellowship of churches. There are those muttering that all good bishops should disregard or avoid involvement in venerable Anglican institutions – the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference. There are other voices that talk of a new reformation but mean a return to unity through strength – meaning of course righteous strength. All is not well and we need to stay alert.

Someone commenting on an earlier blog entry asked, "So what do you propose to do about GAFCON?" Let it go. But don't let the surge of propaganda as to why it is such an important thing for the future of Anglicanism, etc, get the upper hand. We need to be clear: This thing is not about the future of the Anglican Communion, not about the future of Anglicanism, but about the beginning of a new thing. It is not an answer to our various forms of dis-ease. GAFCON assumes the Anglican Communion and the Anglicanism they have received is sick to death. GAFCON's leadership team is wrong. Well, let them pursue a new thing, fine. Off they go then, on a fine new horse. But they don't get to shoot the horse they rode in on.


  1. From the BDRT: "This nefarious plan called Gafcon was hatched and announced"

    Am I correct that the Bishop of Pittsburgh thinks that the whole GaffeProne schmozzle has undermined the "conservative" movement?

    Or was it sarcasm?

  2. If, as the soon to be former bishop of Pittsburgh says, the "Elizabethan Settlement" no longer works, what is to replace it among the wrong wing? Some of them among the "continuum" and the prayer book society folks are rather more 'catholic' than Rome, others cf. Sydney, are more Calvinist than Geneva. (OK, it stretches the metaphor, but I think it works.)

    It is always easier to be against something than for something, at least as far as 'unity' is concerned. When they are all finally out of TEC, ACCanada, and I presume the Anglican Communion, they will have no one left to fight but each other. Then, instead of glaring at us, they will have to look at each other.

    I hope they are not hurt too badly by what they find. The promised land wont be all the good stuff that the leaders (as power hungry a bunch as I can ever recall) are trying to tell them about.


  3. I was in a hotel room on the 12th of December which was election day in Kenya. Dr. Samuels said that what it is that must emerge before Anglicanism can go on and progress...

    Considering the DISASTROUS consequences of the election for Kenya, I am amazed that Duncan can cite that day/place in an encouraging way! :-0

    [Mark, along w/ Malcolm, I wonder whether Duncan's description of GAFCON as "nefarious" was sarcastic? Can you tell from the larger context of the "BDRT"?]

    And of course some of us had already gone but the others knew in advance we would not be there and the strategy had remained the same.

    So it's the fault of the ("Windsor") bishops who STAYED at the HofB, as compared to those bishops who bailed?

    What nerve, sir. Really!

  4. Two wings without a center is an interesting concept (although the Evangelical Wing seems many times larger than the Anglo-Catholic Wing -- can it possibly fly?)!


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.