3/17/2008

The Bishop of Pittsburgh writes the Presiding Bishop (slightly revised)

The Bishop of Pittsburgh responded to the Presiding Bishop's letter of January 15, 2008 regarding the findings of the Title IV Review Committee concerning the charge that Bishop Duncan had abandoned the communion of this church. The Presiding Bishp said she would "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."

As far as I know his letter is bang on correct but unfortunately entirely irrelevant to the issue of abandonment. You can read the letter HERE.

There are some untidy phrases in the request for a response and some untidy responses, but on the whole he was asked, and he answered.

Under the heading of untidy, what in the world does "fully subject" mean, and where does it come from. It does not come from Title IV, 9, the section of the canons related to abandonment of communion. The overall charge of the Review Committee is that "
Duncan had abandoned the communion of the church 'by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.'" So the Presiding Bishop's question concerned an assurance that he embraced the Doctrine, etc.

Title IV, 9 of the canons spells out the response needed as follows:

"Unless the inhibited Bishop, within two months, makes declaration by a Verified written statement to the Presiding Bishop, that the facts alleged in the certificate are false or utilizes the provisions of Canon IV.8 or Canon III.12.7, as applicable, the Bishop will be liable to Deposition. If the Presiding Bishop is reasonably satisfied that the statement constitutes (i) a good faith retraction of the declarations or acts relied upon in the certification to the Presiding Bishop or (ii) a good faith denial that the Bishop made the declarations or committed the acts relied upon in the certificate, the Presiding Bishop, with the advice and consent of a majority of the three senior Bishops consenting to Inhibition, terminate the Inhibition."

Bishop Duncan categorically affirms that he considers himself "fully subject." The list of particulars includes that wonderful vow we made back before the 1979 Prayer Book. It is a sign of our respective ages that those familiar words still connect so well.

Several of the items he holds up as evidence are not particularly clear.

In item 3 it might be useful to say he has "preached and taught nothing but what
some faithful Anglicans...."

In item 4 he states he has been present at all but two meetings of the House of Bishops. I find from the Journal that he is not recorded as present at three, and now four if you count this March meeting. But suppose he was present at al meetingsl. It has been argued that he was not present for complete meetings and was known to have absented himself from sharing Eucharist with the primate and others. Be that as it may, attendance at HoB meeting is hardly a test one way or another of being fully subject to the doctrine, etc. This is a path into darkness. I confess my own failing in raising questions on this matter in an earlier blog.

The Moderator did go to some lengths to tell the the Network that he was only going to the meeting of the Bishops with the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to support the Windsor Bishops, but would not take part otherwise. As I recall he left early, prior to the completion of the HoB response.

Item 5 seems to be a response to the "sign off" letter in which Network and other Bishops met with the Global South Steering Committee (or at least some of its members) and committed themselves to GSSC guidance. I have no idea if that is or is not "submission to any other authority or jurisdiction."

Number 6 may stand out historically as an interesting development in that gathering the fragments, even if some of us are not gathered in, is still an important task. It is unfortunatley not germaine to the question.

It may be that in the long light of Anglican community development that the current troubles in the communion will give rise to a greater sense of Anglican engagement. It certainly has been part of Bishop Duncan's path.

All in all a fine letter, but it is not a defense of anything, and certainly not a response to the canon.

The problem is that (i) in my read, (but what do I know) The Presiding Bishop cannot require his response to the Review Committee, since the three senior bishops would not recommend inhibition. The letter has to do with the reasons for inhibition and the lifting of that inhibition seems dependent on satisfacory response; (ii) Bishop Duncan responded to the Presiding Bishop's request for evidence that "you once more consider yourself fully subject..." He might better have replied, "I do not once more consider myself fully subject..." He did not. Instead he simply said, 'O state that I consider myself "fully subject..." The point here is that the canon is concerned with the findings of the Review Committee, not the level of his loyalty, and the question as to whether or not "he once more..." is kind of like being asked if one no longer beats his wife. The only right answer is, "No." It is still in the field as to whether he is fully subject, etc. without the reference to once more; (iii) If I am wrong (and I often am) regarding the connection between being inhibited and the request for a clarification from the person inhibitied, then Bishop Duncan simply failed to do what the canon requires. If I am right (that inhibition is the immediate reason for asking for clarificatin from the bishop so inhibited) then Bishop Duncan did not have to reply at all. Either way, a good letter, but not a relevant one.

So my sense is this: The Presiding Bishop asked Bishop Duncan to put the matter to rest by responding in a satisfactory way, indicating that he is "fully subject to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church." Such a letter would go a long way toward either confirming the Review Committess' findings or would give support to the members of the House who might find him more or less irritating but by no means subject to deposition.

Bishop Duncan wrote a very positive self assessment, approprately tweeked, and so far as the two letters go, that's that. She asked, he answered.

The exchange of letters did not address the content of the finding of the Review Committee.

Lionel Deimel gives an analysis of the letter HERE. His conclusion? It's not a very good defense.

What the exchagne does do is raise the questions concerning the intent of the deposition canon - is inhibition required prior to deposition or not? And if not can the House itself (and not the three senior members) take into consideration the materials and vote deposition without the bishop having been inhibited first? Somebody out there will tell us, I am sure.

The fact that Bishop Duncan responded at all is quite interesting. Having done so he can use his statement in defense or not as needed. Had he not done so, and should the House consider the findings, there would be the appearance of disinterest. So it made sense to respond.

The fact that the letter does not particulary respond to the findings is also important. The real issues are being fought over on another level - seen in the letter from Bishop Duncan's lawyer to the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop.

That letter deserves a separate investigation. But this one need not concern us further. It is a witness to Bishop Duncan's perception of his own ministry, not a defense against the charges that are serious, complex, and by no means settled.

2 comments:

  1. Jim of Lapeer18/3/08 9:42 AM

    "Verdict first, trial later."
    TEC is truly ventured into Alice's Wonderland.
    The idea (Lionel's) that we can fix what happened last week by changing the canons at GC2009 is truly astounding.
    What a great way to celebrate Holy Week with all the legalizers on both sides debating the fates of two bishops, who apparently couldn't care less.
    God so loved the world he didn't send a bunch of lawyers to save it.

    Jim of Lapeer

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am struck by these two points in Bishop Duncan's letter:

    5. I have made no submission to any other authority or jurisdiction.
    6. I have gathered Anglican fragments together from one hundred and thirty-five years of Episcopal Church division, vastly increasing understanding and cooperation, though preserving the
    jurisdictional independence of all.


    I wonder how this squares with his participation in the Common Cause Partnership, especially as a signatory of the CCP Theological Statement. That statements reception "the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief" (emphasis mine) would seem counter to the usage of the Articles in the tradition of the Episcopal Church. Moreover, the intent in the CCP Articles to "Support planting congregations by Partners" seems counter to "the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church," inasmuch as many of those he has "gathered" exist only to stand in separation from and contradiction to the Episcopal Church. If he supports the "intent to plant" churches that are not Episcopal, that have indeed only gathered to stand as an alternative of the Episcopal Church, how does that not constitute "submission?" Unless he thinks perhaps that because he has "gathered" them, they have submitted to him....

    ReplyDelete

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