Episcopal Commissary Duncan: Agent Provocateur

The game is afoot for sure now. The delegates to the Diocese of Pittsburgh convention voted the second time to drop all references to the Episcopal Church and determined to "join" the Province of the Southern Cone.

Deposed Bishop Duncan, now received in the Province of the Southern Cone, was present throughout the Convention and took center stage in the follow-up press conference. He was deposed while being the seventh bishop of Pittsburgh, is now appointed by the Primate of the Southern Cone as "Episcopal Commissary" to the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and hopes to be elected, as it is reported he stated, "the eighth bishop of Pittsburgh."

The game is, of course, a game. Bishop Duncan is not a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The actions of the Province of the Southern Cone are yet another clear sign that the Province of the Southern Cone has entirely and completely broken communion with the Episcopal Church. He is therefore a bishop of a Church that has sent him as an "commissary" not to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh at all, but rather as a recruiting agent for a church set to discredit the Episcopal Church and replace it with a so-called "orthodox" Province in North America. He is would be better titled an
agent provocateur.

The object of this exercise is to encourage the people and clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to leave the Episcopal Church. Bishop Duncan was right there, with applications to for clergy to join the Southern Cone.

Looking at the statistics of the voting today it would appear that about 24% of the clergy and 38% of the laity of the Diocesan delegates voted not to join him. Approximately 23 % of the parishes have indicated that they do not intend to join the Southern Cone. With a membership of about 22,000 persons, and using the percentages of the current vote somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of the diocese, or between 5.500 and 7,300 persons will not march on to the Southern Cone. Of course a lot will depend on which 16 churches determined not to go, and who else decides not to, as well as which clergy (retired or active). But one way or another there remains a remnant of the Diocese.

So recruit he must.

But more is going on. After taking the vote to leave, the Standing Committee is no longer acting as the Standing Committee of a Diocese of the Episcopal Church. It's decision to hold an election on November 7th of a new bishop would be impossible within the Episcopal Church. It's actions to accept Bishop Duncan as Bishop Commissary is foolishness if part of the Episcopal Church. No, the Standing Committee is the governing body of those who have left. Perhaps the Diocese of Those Who Have Left (DTWHL) will wish to do this or that, but they do not do it in concert with the canons of the Episcopal Church and they are not yet a Diocese established in the Province of the Southern Cone. It is an in between time, but it is not unclear.

It is clear that the Standing Committee, or at least those who met to make the decisions to hold the new election, now operates outside the Episcopal Church. Bishop Duncan said, "I am deeply grateful for the possibility of serving as both the seventh and eighth bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh." While DTWHL can do what it wants, it will not be electing the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, but the first bishop of DTWHL.

So the Standing Committee who met and voted is not the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Bishop is not a candidate to be eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and he is not the Episcopal Commissary from the Southern Cone to the EPDP. He is clearly leader of the pack, and pastor to a large group of people who have left the Episcopal Church. Let us wish him well.

I presume someone is going to suggest rather quickly that the checkbooks of the Standing Committee and the Diocese are not any longer to be controlled by the Standing Committee of whatever, or this group of those who have left. By the way, if a Standing Committee ceases to be the agent of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and there is no election by a convention to make it the Standing Committee of the "whatever" that they determine to have, is it a Standing Committee at all? But that is another question.

But Bishop Duncan has nothing to do with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. In relation to the members of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh he is an agent provocateur, set to recruit more members to join DTWHL. Those who have left will reorganize as a diocese in the Southern Cone for now and as a new diocese in a new entity - a GAFCON recognized "orthodox" province in North America.

Meanwhile, in all the smoke and mirrors of new titles and new elections we would do well to recall what is really going on. Some have been convinced to leave the Episcopal Church for better shores. That they were convinced to leave is not the issue. Those that did the convincing are provoking a radical break in North America between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada on the one hand and some new improved "orthodox" alternative. The convincing took the form of a determined propaganda effort to paint the Episcopal Church as heretical and apostate.

Bishop Duncan is now a member of a Province by its actions not in Communion with this Church. He has been deposed by this Church. So, regrettably he is Mr. Duncan. I can't bring myself to say that, so I guess I will have to refer to him by his Christian name. Robert is a good name, not as formal as Episcopal Commissary or as provocative as Agent Provocateur, but reasonable.


  1. All very sad, but hardly surprising. There are a series of problems now, of course. One is the status of the clergy who voted in favour of schism. They will need to be served (by whom?)with a notice from whom?) posthaste to declare their allegiance and accept the consequences flowing from that. They should all do the honourable thing and relinquish their orders immediately. This of course means that their participation in the Pension Plan and any other nationally organized clergy benefits must terminate immediately.

    You are correct that Mr Duncan is now Mr Duncan. I understand that this is personally painful to you given your track record with him in happier days. Comfortless though it is, I will point out that he has chosen his path and can no longer be recognized as a bishop in the Church of God under the rules of the Anglican Communion.

    May God bless those who have taken this precipitous action to separate themselves from the communion of the Church. And may God bless the leadership of the remnant as they soldier on.

  2. You certainly can call him Bishop without violating your conscience, Mark, because he has remained a Bishop as ever in the Anglican Church and in God's church. If you think you shouldn't call him Bishop for strategic reasons . . .relax . . it just isn't going to make much of a difference one way of the other.

    And, why attribute such bad motives to them e.g., putting out propganda, recruiting, etc., when I think you know that they are acting, truly, in what they take to be faith and obedience: what we see is what's there, as I see it.

    Best, or fairest, to say: there is a true realignment going on and the diocese voted--for surely it was the diocese who voted--to realign. Now, we have to see how the property issues work out. Why quibble, on either side of the argument, about semantics? There were many moving pleas for, and commitments to, a spirit of charity and togetherness even in the realignment. Why not join in?

    JOHN 2007

  3. Actually, Mark, wasn't he received as a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone immediately after his deposition? I think that's right. So, he's still Bishop Duncan - just not of TEC.

  4. Elizabeth...yes, that is why I kept calling him Bishop Duncan. But when it becomes clear that the Southern Cone is stone cold unwilling to acknowledge that he has been deposed, and further makes him an agent for their church to invade ours and recruit for a new alternative gang in North America, the deal is off. He is deposed, the fact that PSC takes him on is no business of mine. I wish he was not deposed, knew it had to happen and he is no longer bishop here (here being the USA/ Episcopal Church) so, the deal is off.

    At least that's what I think now.

    Anyway there it is.

  5. Mark,

    As I pointed out so many times--

    1. There is no canonical nor constitutional provision for the Province of the Southern Cone to receive, accept, or "host" a "foreign" diocese. (Check the C&C translated and available on line courtesy of the Diocese of Fort Worth).

    2. The Executive Council of the Province of the Southern Cone has voted to receive the bishop and clergy into their midst "for pastoral reasons"... NOT the institution of the Diocese, as even in the Southern Cone they realize they can't do it.

    (Note: A constitutional amendment needs to be approved by the Provincial Synod [I believe it requires 3/4 majority], then be submitted to the ACC for review, and then be approved by each one of the Dioceses. If one of the Dioceses does not approve the amendment, it fails.)

    So, whatever the brothers and sisters that decided to remove themselves out the Diocese of Pittsburgh may say, the Southern Cone has not, and cannot receive "a Diocese." Claiming otherwise is either disingenuous or a flat lie. So much so for the "100% Proof Biblical purity" with which they pretend to shroud themselves.

    And they, as well as the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, should be called to task on the issue.


  6. Is it odd, or is it just me, but the letter of deposition was to a bunch of folks including all the Anglican Provinces throughout the world. I am deeply disturbed that certain other provinces refuse to recognize a deposition when they receive these letters. Not only do they fail in service to the communion but they slight twice because they are unwilling to follow our Presiding Bishop's authority. Oh, she is just a woman.

  7. Actually, Mark, wasn't he received as a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone immediately after his deposition? I think that's right. So, he's still Bishop Duncan - just not of TEC.

    But surely that won't do - immediately after he was deposed was immediately AFTER he was deposed. Southern Cone accepted someone who had been deposed from the ministry into their House of Bishops. - it doesn't matter if it happened immediately after the deposition or a year and a day afterwards.

    The fact that Duncan would ignore his deposition effectively shows that he had, in fact, abandoned the discipline of this Church after all. If he was a loyal Episcopalian, he would have abided by the ruling of the Episcopal Church that he was not a bishop, even if that ruling were unjust. Martin Luther King went to jail when he broke the law, and bore witness to the fact that the law was unjust. He didn't skip out and evade the punishment.

    On the other hand, I call Methodist bishops "Bishop" without thinking acknowledging any apostolic function on their part, so calling Schofield and Duncan "Bishops" isn't a big problem for me.

  8. Some strange stuff here, esp the last post . ."If he was a loyal Episcopalian, he would have abided by the ruling of the Episcopal Church that he was not a bishop." Where to begin?
    Duncan did honor the ruling in not performing any functions that he used to perform as a bishop. From the beginning he admitted that he would reserve his rights to due process which, on any fair reading, were denied. In no way is it unreasonable to think that the wrong canon was used in the wrong way as many bishops explained. I sure don't see any law that Duncan broke. IMHO it's a fair question to see what kind of realignment can go on. He didn't openly renounce the church or disobey his ordination vows unless you stretch the canon, as was done, to mean no testing of the possibilities of eclessial organization is allowd. But, my goodness, look at the violations that have gone on, do go on, under the kind of ruling used to depose Duncan: open communion, communion without baptism, ignoring rubrics of the BCP and resolution of the GC . . .So please knock off the mud slinging. So what if another part of the communion has accepted and licensed him? If it is of God, maybe it will work out.
    John 2007

  9. Duncan did honor the ruling in not performing any functions that he used to perform as a bishop.

    Deposition is different from inhibition. Being deposed not only means not just celebrating Mass or performing ordinations - you're also not supposed to present yourself as a priest or bishop. Now, unless the Province of the Southern Cone is in the habit of seating laypeople in their House of Bishops, by accepting that seat Duncan continued to present himself as a bishop.

    Duncan didn't honor the deposition - he just acted as if he had been merely inhibited.

  10. Oh, yes - Duncan also made it abundantly clear that he was only refraining from episcopal acts until his diocese "leaves" ECUSA and recalls him.

  11. But, my goodness, look at the violations that have gone on, do go on, under the kind of ruling used to depose Duncan: open communion...

    Open Communion (NOT, mind you, Communion of the unbaptized) is a violation of what, exactly?

  12. What nonsensse! Not that it really matters, but Bp. Duncan was received into the Province of the Souther Cone after the vote to consent to his deposition but before the sentence of deposition was imposed by the PB. He was and still remains a bishop in the entire AC except in EXCUSA. It is as if the PB decided to depose clergy originally ordained in this "church" but who have transferred to another Province. No jurisdiction - no way - no how!

  13. Billyd
    Open communion means, among the priests who advocate it and practice it in this diocese, precisely communion of the unbaptized. Communion has been turned into the entrance rite that baptism is supposed to be.

    As for the other posts, about Duncan going to the Southern Cone, where is there true weight? I mean, he knew, based on other actions of the the HOB of TEC, that he would be deposed and he planned accordingly. Surely, apart from pushing for realignment, he has not done a single thing wrong and he claims that he has not violated his orders. If TEC had given him a trial under the appropriate canon(s) then we would have had the debate we need about whether a diocese can associate and disassociate from TEC, or realign, and whether that amounts to a violation that requires deposing.

    Imagine what good might have happened if we had leadership in the National Church who said 'Since realignment will happen, let's work on some arrangement on the Provincial or intra-provincial level for transferring parishes and dioceses even if we have to modify the canons, and craft some new ones to handle this difficult time in the church.' All sorts of creative possibilities might have been pursued and . . .and this is an important AND . . .Duncan himself asked repeatedly for mediated settlements from the National Church and absolutely not one inch of movement was shown. The National Church dug in, holds fast to its principle 'diocese can't leave", with the confidence that Dioceses don't generally have the deep pockets to test the things that would need to be tested in court to test this claim (and others related to it). And act against Duncan, and continue to depict him as a schismatic, having themselves never in good faith done one thing to come to a charitable and equitable solution. So that is why we are where we are.

    Anyone who knows the situation in PGH (except for Harold Lewis) knows Bishop Duncan deposition was a scandalous action by TEC.

    JOHN 2007

  14. Open communion means, among the priests who advocate it and practice it in this diocese, precisely communion of the unbaptized.

    Not only do I vote for sanctioning those who knowingly give Communion to the unbaptized, but I think they should be spanked for calling it "open communion," which name only muddies the waters. Open Communion rightly refers to the practice of giving Communion to Christians from other denominations, and not just members of one's own church.

  15. EXCUSA

    My, that is witty. Slightly more advanced than referring to the Presiding Bishop as "Mrs. Schori."

  16. Not that it really matters, but Bp. Duncan was received into the Province of the Souther Cone after the vote to consent to his deposition but before the sentence of deposition was imposed by the PB.

    Does that really lets Duncan or the Southern Cone off the hook? Unless I am greatly mistaken, a clergy transfer between Provinces isn't a unilateral action - you don't just up and jump from one Province of the Anglican Communion to another. Priests need letters dimissory, don't they? Isn't there a similar process for bishops seeking to transfer from one Province to another?

  17. billyd
    You just don't get it do you? There is no hook! There is no authority and there is no discipline in the AC. TEC relied on that "fact" in pursuing the course it chose. "We are an independent, autonomous church." Remember those words? Well so are the Southern Cone, Nigeria, Uganda, Southesat Asia, Rwanda, etc. There is no one to tell the Southern Cone it is "wrong" to provide pastoral protection to disaffected Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, SJ, Fort Worth, Quincy....... And if the coward in Cantrbury chimes in on the subject, we can pay him as much attention as you folks did - none.

  18. I can't find anything about giving letters dimissory to a bishop who wants to join another Province, but I did find this in the Constitution:

    Sec. 6. A Bishop may not resign jurisdiction without the consent of the House of Bishops.

    It doesn't appear that Duncan was free to decide that he would stop being a member of the ECUSA HoB and join hat of the Southern Cone. He couldn't just quit on his own; the only course open to him as "a loyal son of this Church" would have been to wait for his deposition, and abide by it. He did neither.

  19. Surely, apart from pushing for realignment, he has not done a single thing wrong

    Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

  20. Sadly this is another TEC/ACoC tirade against those who have left. The tone is anger and resentment. No one cares for the lost sheep nor why they chose to leave. These are no longer isolated parishioners and clergy but entire groups. There is so much energy in condemning and litigation that no one has questioned the reason for departure. I belong to one of those departed and love it, we get spies from the bishops office but in half a century of being an Anglican I never felt better and more secure with my God, the real one not the painted image Kate and Fred would have us believe in.


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.