This update on Bishop Duncan and the House of Bishops meeting. 1.35 PM Saturday September 13.
(Things keep developing....)
The Living Church reported that Bishop Duncan wrote to all the bishops on August 24th indicating that he was not going to attend the HoB meeting. That letter is available here in PDF format.
On September 13th, today, Bishop Duncan wrote his clergy stating that he had received a letter from the Presiding Bishop the day before (September 12) written to all the bishops in which it was stated that , "...Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made it clear that there will be a vote this coming Thursday on whether to depose me from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. The charge is abandonment of the Communion of the Church, a charge initiated by five priests and sixteen laypeople of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Much of the "evidence" in the case is put forward by the House of Bishops Property Task Force, drawn directly from the Calvary litigation. We have long suspected that a principal purpose in the Calvary litigation was to have me removed, by whatever means, before the realignment vote. Whatever the purported evidence, I continue to maintain that the House of Bishops "vote" will be a gross violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. " His letter can be read, HERE.
Her letter, written yesterday is now out and can be found HERE. IThe clarity of the letter and the outline of how matters might be challenged and discussed is useful.
The letter in which Bishop Duncan announced his determination not to attend the HoB meeting was written some weeks ago. He anticipated the deposition matter being raised and decided not to come. The letter to his clergy and people paints the picture as starkly as possible, complete with charges that the House of Bishops vote "will be a gross violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."
On Thursday, according to Bishop Duncan, there will be an "...unprecedented trial without a trial." That read is dire indeed. He is clear in his conviction that this is a put up job, a sham and an injustice. He writes, "I want to share with you the text of a letter I wrote to the entire House of Bishops on August 24th. It addresses my situation as yet one more manifestation of the moral collapse of the Episcopal Church in recent years. Whatever is decided on Thursday, this is a tragic moment for the Episcopal Church."
His sense that he is being tragically dealt by a kangaroo court is overkill.
The Report from the Title IV Committee is a matter of record and has to be reported out to the House of Bishops in some form. The matter was taken up at the last meeting and brought forward to the next meeting. So the Bishops are under some obligation to do something with the Title IV declarations. It is not at all clear that they will decide to depose Bishop Duncan at this meeting, but it is clear that they have to make some decision as to what to do with the declaration by the Title IV Committee.
The charge that this is a "trial without a trial," is really about the argument that abandonment of communion can only be declared if the accused has indeed left the building and that otherwise there has to be an ecclesiastical trial. That is, if abandonment only works if the accused has already walked out.
This is contested by the Property Task Force, which on September 8th, indicated that, "... the Canons of The Episcopal Church (2006) defines abandonment as the “open
renunciation of the . . . Discipline of . . . this Church.” He has conclusively admitted
doing so in sworn statements quoted below. It is not necessary that he have formally
joined another Church, merely that he have renounced the discipline of this one to
constitute an abandonment within the meaning of the Canon.
Furthermore, even if he has joined a Church in communion with this Church, it alters not the least that he has abandoned the communion of “this Church,” and as his admissions indicate, the real crux of the matter is that he is encouraging and actively leading communicants of this Church to do so."
The contention that Bishop Duncan will leave the building is well founded. It question seems to be "when." When does "if" pass to "when?" We are not dealing with the possibility that Bishop Duncan will not leave the building. We are only dealing with when. In this sense the bishops are dealing with an extraordinary situation and it does Bishop Duncan's case no good for him to be absent and for him to declare the whole matter a put up job.
The Property Task Force concluded that the determination to abandon the union of the General Convention constitutes reason to declare him to have abandoned the discipline of this Church. The Task force concludes, "The dots are all connected. Bishop Duncan has very carefully planned and executed a strategy to remove the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, as well as its assets and the assets of its parishes sympathetic to his viewpoints, from TEC. At this point, there is no doubt that Bishop Duncan has left The Episcopal Church.
The one and only question before the House of Bishops at this point is whether or not we allow Bishop Duncan to do irreparable damage to the Body by ignoring the reality of the situation."
I buy that argument.
We might note that Bishop Duncan, from late August was already planning to do something else entirely during this period. He is attending a clergy conference in Pittsburgh. Perhaps he knew then it made no difference to come. Or perhaps he knew that as the one true witness to the firmness of his intent to leave his presence would be his own worse defense.
The bishops in meeting, Bishop Duncan in not meeting with them, the people and diocese of Pittsburgh, and all of us are in need of prayer.