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.