What did Bishop Duncan say? The Received Text

On Friday Matt Kennedy over at Stand Firm typed away at his computer,and got down what he could of an address by Bishop Duncan, Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership, the Network, and Bishop of Pittsburgh. Bishop Duncan was speaking to the Mere Anglicanism conference in South Carolina.

Matt Kennedy, who works hard to get things down verbatim, made it clear that this was done on the fly and might not be complete. Here is his comment, "This is my live-blog of Bishop Duncan's very important address. Read it carefully. He said that he did not have a text, so this is it. Remember it is live-not memorex."

So, let us grant that this is indeed not a tape of the talk. None the less Matt has a fine mind, a good ear and types like crazy. So I am prone to trust what he got, knowing he may not have gotten it all.

In the middle of the talk Bishop Duncan said this about not having a text:

"I’ve found that everything I write is used in a way it should not. So there is no text."

Meaning I gather that without a written text Matt's efforts to get a verbatim is, if necessary, deniable.

Actually that is too bad. The received text has Bishop Duncan saying some interesting things. BabyBlue has offered an opinion on some of what the Bishop might have said and I would suppose she shares my sense that Matt was getting it down pretty well.

So with two such fine realignment and or dissenter folk producing and then commenting on the received word, I suppose it is in order to make some observations as well.

Bishop Duncan in the Received Text (BDRT) recites a fascinating account of what he calls the disintegration of the Anglicanism that was the result of the Elizabethan Settlement. It's worth the read. I think he has got it wrong, but more on that later. First a rather odd snippet from the BDRT:

"The Elizabethan Settlement produced two great streams that are engaged in mortal combat. The first stream is white, western, and progressive, used to the system. The settlement created the modern world, in fact, and it is white, it is western, and it believes in progress. It actually also produced the Global South: Brown, southern, and traditional. Most of us would identify with that second stream today. That is new."

Bishop Duncan may identify with the second stream, but - he's not brown, he's not southern, and he's not traditional. He is white, he is from points north, and he is in his own interesting way radical. He may well be a companion to people in the second stream, but he is not of that stream and never can be.

Now the BDRT admits that all this business about the Elizabethan Settlement is a bit vague. BDRT reads, "these two realities, these two parts of Anglicanism, western progressive and southern traditional, again vast oversimplifications, these two worlds, are no longer coexisting under the settlement. For Mere Anglicanism to survive a new settlement is required."

Hear the BDRT gets the conclusion right: the two worlds - the progressive and the traditional "are no longer coexisting" under the same roof. I think we need to read that conclusion as a useful thing. I don't think he gets the precondition, the "settlement" right.

The BDRT makes assumptions about Anglicanism as it has existed in the framework of a community of churches larger than the Church of England that simply have never been true.
The CofE may have been able to go forward on the basis of the Elizabethan Settlement, but it did not hold for very long. By the time new Anglican Provinces developed that Settlement had been broken in England and never engaged completely elsewhere. Furthermore, the BDRT layout of the elements of that Settlement are questionable. I leave it to the reader to find out where.

But, to the BDRT credit, there is reference at the last to an interesting comment purportedly made by Dr. V. Samuels. "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."

The Anglican Communion that we currently have (AC I) will go on. Lambeth will take place, seven hundred out of 850 (more or less) bishops have indicated they will be there. This is a world wide fellowship of churches. It will continue to work on ways to make common cause for the mission of the church.

It appears that a new form of Anglican world-wide entity is emerging, call it AC II or the Global Anglican Communion - a world wide church - is in the making. This new AC may or may not emerge... there are lots of broken fragments and it is hard to see how they will be gathered.

The BDRT seems to consider all this part of disintegration, with a further end down the road that gathers the fragments up again in a "Post Colonial Settlement."

My sense is the post-Colonial Settlement is so unlike the Elizabethan Settlement as to be simply a different sort of thing. The post-Colonial Settlement will have to do with coming to grips with the way in which the various peoples of Christ have committed cultural and spiritual genocide, often by the accident of being carriers of culture as well as faith, and have used one another to great effect in the acquisition of positions of power and influence in Anglican Land and in the world. In this sort of settlement there are none of us clean, and no manner of identification with those we think are the good, the underdog, the persecuted or unloved will give us any wiggle-room.

My sense is the BDRT's hope for a post-Colonial settlement in Anglicanism is to be held as a major piece in the life of all of us in Anglican Land.

GAFCON, Anglican Communion II, AKA The Global Anglican Communion, and a renewed rigor in weeding out heresy and tightening the head bands against progressive thinking, etc, is no step towards that end. Those are steps backwards.


  1. Stephen Toulmin in Return to Reason has an interesting discussion about the Pact of Westphalia that is germane to this analysis of Duncan: it too has reached a terminus. And the consequence is a sort of nationalist anarchy. Toulmin's account is important and offers detail.

    It amazes me how Duncan ignores the vestiges of the western heritage he breathes and drinks in the south that he so reveres.

  2. It seems to me that if as you say these points are in this report, it sounds as though he doesnt believe in the Angican Communion (I) - what he says we have failed in, is exactly what real orthodox Anglicanism is all about, as in the Elizabethian Settlement meeting at the table and holding ones own opinion.

    One has to wonder if we are ready to move on to where he says we should be going, if we cannot bring forward those issues and views of the world upon which our communion is built.

    I know the AC(I) isnt perfect but you dont throw it away and go back to the zero point because you think it isnt working.

  3. "I’ve found that everything I write is used in a way it should not. So there is no text."

    I'm wondering if Matt Kennedy made known to +Duncan that he was blogging verbatim the speech.

    Don't you have to let people know you're doing that?

  4. The "Elizabethan Settlement" was a mid-16th century political compromise, not a settlement. From its inception it satisfied virtually no-one, from the Queen down (it took Lord Burleigh until the early 1590's to pry the jeweled crucifix from the Queen's altar and replace it with a Bible - the candlesticks stayed!) and the unsettled situation that it failed to control led to the English Civil Wars, the Restoration, the "Glorious" Revolution and the Hanoverian Succession. Some Settlement!

    It also led to Massachussets, Rhode island, Delaware and Pennsylvania. I'll stop short there, without dipping my toes into the controversies of the 19th century. But definitely no Settlement.

    Why is Duncan rabbiting on about something which has so little connection to the present situation? Elizabeth would have dealt with him in short order, judging by her order to Bishop Cox of Ely: "Proud Prelate, you know what you were before I made you what you are ; if you do not immediately comply with my request, by God, I will unfrock you!"

  5. When I lived in Australia I was interested in Peter Jensen's (Abp of Syndey) argument that the Elizabethan Settlement prevented the full Reformation of teh C of E. That the work of "orthodox" Anglicans is to complete the Reformation, i. e., the triumph of Sydney Evangelicalism.

  6. "This new AC may or may not emerge... there are lots of broken fragments and it is hard to see how they will be gathered."

    The whole thing seems to be about enforcing whatever bits can actually be agreed upon - above and beyond what is already agreed upon amongst Anglicans, of course, by virtue of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. "Gay people should not really exist, not really," would be one apparent area of agreement. The rest requires a leap of faith and an acceptance of diversity, something that has proven so challenging for so many to date.

    Some, for example, will want to enforce a ban on women's ordination as a crystal-clear matter of biblical authority and Tradition; some will go along with that, and others presumably won't. Most will still pursue their dream of a gay-free church. But for some, this will mean actually trying to turn gay people into heterosexual people ("conversion therapy"), while others will be content to enforce closetedness and celibacy or - at the very least - lip-service commitment to celibacy.

    In all of this, the diversity amongst those discontented with the Anglican Communion as it is now will - ironically - require a willingness to live in communion with those who differ in thought and practice on whatever is considered non-essential for fellowship. Apparently no easy task.


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.