"They suffer least who suffer what they chose." David Ackles said and sang that, although I can’t find the reference.
I have not commented yet on the fact of the deposition of The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh. On the matter of the advisability of deposition I have made several comments. But today a friend wrote to know my views on the matter and Ruth Gledhill, writer for the London Times, wrote a column in which she suggested that Bishop Duncan was going to be viewed as a martyr.
She writes, “It has crossed my mind recently that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is secretly one of the "orthodox". That can surely be the only reason that she has created a martyr who is now being venerated by evangelicals worldwide, and who is poised to become the sanctified leader of an orthodox movement that is demanding, and might well get, its own province.
Have we come so far from our Catholic tradition that we have forgotten the power of martyrdom, on which the Western church is built? Does no-one in TEC understand any more the meaning of sacrifice?
Because a martyr is what Bob Duncan now is. The Episcopal Church should not need a heretically catholic Anglican such as me to tell it that the next step up from martyrdom is sainthood.”
On a fairly impersonal note, let me begin by observing that Bishop Duncan is many things, some quite commendable, but he not yet a martyr and I hope and pray he never is. As to his being a saint, who knows?
I am writing from the Dominican Republic, where just yesterday I read an article about a local martyr, an Episcopal Priest. The article said, “In 1936, the Rev. Charles Barnes arrived in the Dominican Republic to serve the people of Epiphany Church, Santo Domingo. In 1937 the armed forces of the dictator Rafael Trujillo were killing hundreds of Haitians along the border. Fr. Barnes was sending information back to the United States in an attempt to end the killings. Some of his messages were intercepted by the Dominican government. On the night of July 26, 1938 agents took Fr. Barnes to the dictator Trujillo where he was beaten to death and his body deposited in the rectory of the church. A church employee was arrested for he crime and later found hung in his cell. However there was proof that Fr. Barnes was probably killed by Trujillo agents.
Fr. Barnes suffered for his faith and apparently was killed for it. What he was doing carried a cost, not one taken up deliberately but one thrust upon him. He did not suffer what he chose.
Bishop Duncan suffered what he chose. He chose his path and was clearly set on it and provided a variety of support mechanisms in case the cost was deposition. He does not consider himself incapacitated in any way to be a bishop elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, and spoke openly of making the choice to move as he has moved.
He has accepted without further contest that he is no longer licensed as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, but does not recognize that as removing him from abilities to act as bishop elsewhere. There are many in the Anglican Communion who have decided to continue to recognize him as a bishop. These are the same people who have recognized the deposed bishop of Recife, Brazil. These are the same people who have licensed clergy previously deposed by bishops elsewhere in the communion. In every case it is claimed they were hounded from their ministries by bishops of ill will and evil intentions. Well, these archbishops and bishops will have their reward and it will all come out in the wash.
Meanwhile, Bishop Duncan was immediately accepted into the Province of the Southern Cone. The actions of that Primate and the actions of other Primates who immediately recognized his new status as a bishop in the Southern Cone, are further confirmation that the Anglican Communion is not holding together. The Presiding Bishop is required to notify all Provincial Primates of these actions so that Bishop Duncan would be understood widely in the Communion to no longer have license to speak as Bishop of Pittsburgh or on the behalf of the diocese. The assumption among churches in full communion is that they would not give him license either, at least until there was full agreement with the Province of origin that such license was in order. Bishop Duncan has joined a church not in communion with this church.
He is not martyred: he is alienated. There is a considerable difference.
On a more personal note:
I have know Bishop Duncan for many years and have considered him a friend. I tried never to fail to refer to him as Bishop Duncan or more often by his now past title as Bishop of Pittsburgh or Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership or the Network. I have a great deal of respect for him and his perseverance.
At the same time I have been highly critical of his actions and the path he is taking and consider him destructive of the Anglican Communion as I understand it.
In his constant returning to the phrase, “the faith once delivered,” and his touting the actions he is engaged in as part of a “new reformation” I find his reasoning shallow and his projections of a new Anglicanism either false or simply depressing.
Bishop Duncan may be the future of something, but unlike Trinity School for Ministry's Magazine banner proclamation from last year (on the left), he is not the new face of Anglicanism.
His deposition would be at some point necessary and the matter was only timing. It has been proposed that the timing was off and that the bishops should have waited until the vote to separate from the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Pittsburgh was taken. It is argued by Ruth Gledhill and others that this feeds the martyr identity. If it does, shame on those in the Communion taken in. But no matter, whenever it happens it is still food for the martyr identification. Deposition now takes him at his word and takes him seriously.
So I believe Bishop Duncan is a bishop, but one without license, and were he bound by his vows that would settle the matter. He would consider himself restrained. He continues, however, on to the Southern Cone, but strangely still here.
I continue to wish him well. But I believe the bishops were right to depose him.
On a most personal note, I regret more than I can say that we have not been able to be friends. I have doubts we ever will be again. Trust has left the building long before either he did. The ecclesial difference between bishop and priest makes friendship hard, for it cannot easily bear the weight of the difference in responsibilities and outlook. But with all that has happened I doubt that our differences, now not only those pertaining to station but those pertaining to loyalties can be bridged.
At the same time the last thread of love for someone I no longer trust is still there. I wish things had never come to this.
It was time to call it to a close. That is neither martyrdom nor suicide. It is what happens when the road diverges.