Update on Bishop Duncan's absence, with additions

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.


  1. I wish that you had found a way to link to the PB's memo other than having to go through StandFirm. I couldn't help scrolling past her signature to read what the dear Christians there had to say about it. The PB is eeeeeeevil, you see, another Jezebel.

    I look forward to the day when Church partisans (on all sides) aren't such drama queens. After recently having read something about the English ritualist trials of the 19th century, though, I don't have much hope. This seems to be the way that Church politics has ever played out.

  2. Having read all the documents to which you linked, I'll say you did a great job in giving people the jest of the information.

    The Rt. Rev'd. Mr. Duncan is almost as good a drama queen as Mr. Schofield.

    I love the "it's not legal if I say it ain't" bit. Ah, if I could only use that argument and get away with it!

  3. 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.

    OK. I'll bite. How will deposing Bishop Duncan prevent "irreparable damage to the Body"? It certainly won't prevent the Diocese of Pittsburgh from their present course of action; they're well-prepared for this. Is that really the intention, preventing "irreparable damage to the Body"? Is the protection and health of the Body best addressed by a "Property Task Force"?

  4. rb - that's my question exactly. I think I can guess at the answer and I'd probably be damn close, but I don't think that's good enough in this situation.

    I mean, how much more 'damage' can this man do than has already been done? Does this give him a 'legal' advantage of some sort? If that's true, then what, exactly, might it be?

    Mark, if you've got time, I'd love to hear why you bought the argument without hearing more of the evidence.

    I do try to avoid the comment section of SFiF but sometimes it's like gawking at the scene of an accident or, more accurately, watching a drunken brawl erupt in a local tavern.

    These boys and girls get absolutely high on hate. They almost can't help themselves, poor dears.

    It always amazes me the number of people who identify themselves as being "so glad that I left TEC -# of years ago."

    Sometimes I find myself saying right out loud to my laptop, "Oh, my friend, no you haven't really left. Not if you've still got this much venom left in you."

    As Jack Spong used to say, "These are squirrely times."

  5. It's good, once in a while, to see how those who pop up here from time to time, accusing us of ungodly, vicious sniping and lack of Christian charity, comport themselves on home turf, BillyD.

  6. Remember the old song (or perhaps you're too young), "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?" I'd like to ask Bp. Duncan, "Is you is, or is you ain't a bishop in TEC? Speak it, brother."

  7. Just out of curiosity:

    Is it not possible that he could have a change of heart prior to October 4? If so, why cut off any possibility for it by deposing him for something he has not yet done?

  8. No matter what happens to Bishop Duncan, there is still the underlying causes in that diocese that led to thousands being disaffected with this Province. Don't insult them by portraying them as easily led, reactionary, and poor at deliberations, or just plain dupes. That would reveal reappraisers as being haughty, arrogant, and elitist. Lots of energy, education, and deliberation there in that diocese. Even without Bishop Duncan, the majority are coming to the same conclusions...leave this Province. When will the HOB meet to discuss their appropriate blame and responsibility about THAT?

  9. Mother Kaeton,

    You noted Bishop Spong to say, "These are squirrely times."

    Did he observe this before or after his utter failure of leadership that led to the statistically obvious demise of your diocese?

  10. Bye Bye to the grandiose seeker of "pie in the sky"...such a pleasure to not have to see those little turned down mouth corners yammering/whimpering about the "moral collapse" of The Episcopal Church...I think we're starting to recover from the puritan/dominionist plague.

    Hasta la vista

  11. Elizabeth, so many of the so-called "orthodox," remind me, when it comes to TEC, of the guy who claims that he's over his ex-girlfriend and glad she's out of his life but talks about her all the time, drives by her house day and night, calls her number when she's not home to listen to the answering machine message, etc.

    There's something really creepy and stalkerish about it.

  12. Speaking as a parishioner in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.... Do you fully realize the choice our people are being given: Either accept the teachings and authority of church leaders who have no clue who we are (nor do they care), or else lose the churches our steel-worker and coal-miner parents and grandparents built with their own hands? Do you grasp that TEC and its lawyers are attempting to rob the working class -- the very people it claims to want to help -- of everything they've worked for over the past 100 years? If someone tried to force you to believe in something you didn't, what price tag would you put on your beliefs?

  13. Oh, Allen, the Diocese of Newark positively flourished under Jack Spong. Flourished. I was here. I can testify to it.

    If you track our membership numbers with the rest of TEC in particular or Western Christian Churches in general, we're actually ahead of the curve. So, don't blame everything on Jack Spong.

    We had a difficult, prolonged interim administration which did not help us, but we have new leadership now who is working very hard to turn the ship around. Give him some time. In this financial environment, it's not an easy thing to reverse financial directions while staying on theological course.

    Did you read what the Pope told the RC's in Paris, which is declining faster than an airplane that's running out of fuel?

    Be not afraid. I would give that same message to you, my brother.

  14. If someone tried to force you to believe in something you didn't, what price tag would you put on your beliefs?

    What exactly are the awful people at 815 trying to force you to believe, Peg?

  15. Pegg, I am also a parishioner in the diocese in question, and I rather think you've got it backwards.

  16. Said above:

    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 problem with this idea is that this is not what the canon says.

    CANON IV.9: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop Sec. 1. If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church, or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same, or

    Your point might be valid if you were talking about a trial of a bishop, but it is not valid when as it applies to the summary procedure which Ms Schori is undertaken.


  17. Peg, Peg, you have been lied to by your standing committee and bishop. No one, from PBp. Katherine to the House of Bishops, to the House of Deputies to the various leaders of the church to its least influential liberals (moi) demands you change your beliefs. If you do not accept the ordination of gays like the former bishop of San Joaquin, that is your prerogative. If you choose not to accept the ministry of any particular deacon, priest, bishop or layperson, that is your right.

    If you want to run for deputy and argue loud and long that your position on blessing lesbian / gay unions (whatever it may be) is more correct than mine or Fr. Mark's or anyone else's have at it. If you and Bp. Duncan wanted to stay and 'fight the good fight' you are welcome.

    What you are not welcome to do is lie about the opposition which Bp. Duncan does regularly, which CANA and the makers of "Choose This Day" have raised to an art form.

    Consider please that the argument for the deposition of Bp. Duncan is not that he should leave but that he has. What the HoB is being asked to do is recognize what we all know. When you think your being the "moderator" of some extra canonical organization makes you the equivalent of a primate, when you routinely condemn the church that gave you your orders, when you refuse to meet or commune with your episcopal peers; claiming to be an Episcopal Church bishop is a fantasy. When you do all that, and the soon to be former bishop of Pittsburgh has, you have indeed, "left the building."

    If the church and its house of bishops has done anything wrong, it is an exercise in patience that defies understanding. The error is not that he will be deposed now, it is that he was not deposed years ago.

    But no one wants to rob you. Stay! Become a warden if your parish wishes. Attend the next legitimate diocesan convention and raise hell about our alleged errors. Consider that if the 'apostate side' is "wining" it is precisely because we did not leave. The Spirit blows where he wishes -- you might be surprised when you win some votes!


  18. Mother Kaeton,

    Since Bishop Spong did such a great job at changing the diocese to become totally revisionist in its outlook, policy, and mission, what is holding progress back? Churches closed, so there's lots of money. Are people attracted to your diocese or not? There's not much opposition to Bishop Spong's groundwork. What's stopping the numbers from climbing back up to pre-Spongian days?

    And the fruits are...?

  19. You say it is not clear whether there will be a deposition of Bp. Duncan.
    Well, at least one bishop, the Bishop of Eastern Michigan telegraphed his vote last April.

    In the Diocesan Standing Committee minutes there was Bishop Ousley telling the committe that "Bishop Duncan will be deposed..."

    You can read the section of the minutes here:


    After the embarrassing admission was published the minutes were quickly taken down off the diocese's website so the link for the entire minutes from T19 no longer works.

    But "verdict first, trial later," comes to mind. Alice in Wonderland is close at hand.

    Bob of Fremont

  20. If Jack Spong didn't exist then Stand Firm would have to invent him.

    I have to second the comments of those above who remark that so many people declaring themselves to be so grateful that they left the Episcopal Church remain so obsessed with it.
    It seems to me that it's time to move on with Rome or The Assemblies of God or where ever that new life leads and to leave the past behind.

    In most other organizations, Bishop Duncan would have been fired a long time ago.

  21. Allen,

    I've recently learned that, in order for a large ship to make a turn, it has to go several hundred miles out of its way before it can actually make the turn.

    The turn is necessitated by several complicated things. Read "Bowling Alone" for one answer. Look at the economy for another. Don't miss the Chapman memo for one that's even closer to home.

    It's going to take a few more years for us - in the Diocese of Newark and TEC in general - to make that turn.

    As for me an my house, I can't wait for the schism that now is to be over so we - on both sides of the aisle - can get on with the mission and ministry of Christ Jesus.

  22. Mother Kaeton,

    I accept your answer. However TEC doesn't have many more years to dawddle about. Aging membership. Shrinking numbers. No influx of members. Closing churches. The public stain will continue to hurt us as the media notes how TEC is a litigious organization. Dioceses such as your own reveal the fragility that exists in significant pockets. You and I, I guess, have come to the conclusion that you are OK with TEC becoming a micro-Church on the outside of mainstream Christianity. I am not OK with that, and there are many who believe that the true thefts in this Church are occurring through the casual dismissals of thousands to make all of this dream come true for a vocal minority. We are now 800,000 ASA of the involved and interested and shrinking. By the end of next year, with the micro-Church agenda, we will be down to appx. 780,000 involved and interested. We're on track, I guess.

  23. Another thought,

    Jesus didn't have to have a strategic plan or many years to gain a following. His economy was more oppressive that NJ's. Jesus' emperor was more bloodthirsty (watch the Bush hyperbole). Plenty of poor, oppressed, beat down people in those days. I'm not sure why you need a grand economy to attract people. The early Church didn't need it either. The message changed lives and followers were added to the faithful. If the revisionist message is truly changing lives, we should not have to wait for YEARS to see the "turnaround".
    (The charismatic group that bought our defunct/vacated cathedral in Western Michigan started with a family less than 20years ago. Now they number a couple of thousand, hence the need to occupy our failure).
    Since convention, old leaven, old wineskines, etc. are shed by both the charismatic and revisionist TEC movements, why are the charismatics attractive and yet the revisionist TEC dioceses aren't?

  24. There's something really creepy and stalkerish about it.

    I've been struggling for a good analogy for what creeps me out about the "I've left, but not really left, TEC" folks and NLNH just nails it!

    Hey SFiF! Stop the drunk dialing. Stop driving slowly by our place day & night. We're so over you ;)


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.