The Archbishop of Uganda and Bishop Cox Mucking About

The Living Church on line reported that Bishop Cox, retired of Oklahoma ordained two priests and a deacon and presided at confirmation at a Church in Overland Park, Kansas, this past month. Well, no great news, since this church is no longer part of the Diocese of Kansas or the Episcopal Church. But Bishop Cox is, and now that I think about it he and the Primate of Uganda are both bishops in the Anglican Communion. So it is news... that's why the Living Church reported it.

So let me get this straight: Bishop Cox does these acts on behalf of Archbishop Orombi of Uganda. They are done in a church now under the jurisdiction of Uganda at the request of the Primate of Uganda. On the one hand, no problem. After all, as Bishop Cox suggests, bishops are often asked to act for other bishops.

On the other hand, both Bishop Cox and the Archbishop have bent the spirit of such ecclesiastical niceties as territorial jurisdictions of bishops. For this to work out the Archbishop and the Bishop have had to decide that (i) whatever rules, admonitions, hopes and agreements having to do with not acting in the jurisdiction of other Anglican bishops without their consent do not apply, since the Episcopal Church is not a "real:" Province of the Anglican Communion, and (ii) anything is possible in dioceses with whom Provinces are not in communion because no breach of collegiality has been caused - it was already a given, and that (iii) it wasn't in the Diocese of Kansas anyway, just in Kansas..

From the Living Church article: “We in the Church of Uganda have pledged ourselves to continue to respond to such cries for help until a branch of the Anglican Communion with whom we are in communion is established in North America,” wrote the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of Uganda, in a June 22 letter asking Bishop Cox to perform the ordinations and confirmations on behalf of the Church of Uganda. “This is completely consonant with the 2005 primates’ communique in which we pledged to neither ‘encourage nor initiate’ such relationships.”

Got it! What he is saying is he can call on Bishop Cox, or any other ecclesiastical official to act in this way until such time as there is a new "branch of the Anglican Communion with whom we are in communion."

I believe the Archbishop is mistaken in thinking that he is not acting contrary to the spirit of the Windsor Report. But he can do so if he wishes. That's the way it is in a Communion where Provinces set much of their own pace. But I thought there was an agreement not to do this.

But my question concerns Bishop Cox: Are not retired Bishops of this church under some constraints in jurisdictions of this Church, even including acting in episcopal functions within the jurisdiction but in other churches? And more so in this particular situation where the church in which he was ministering is itself a church in the Anglican Communion? I have a strong sense we are limited in what we can require of the Archbishop, but don't we have some questions to raise here?

Bishop Cox is quoted in the Living Church article as saying,: "The Archbishop of Uganda asked me to do this on his behalf. I did not know the Episcopal Church had become so narrow.” Perhaps there is a matter of "narrow" interpretation here, but I think it is a matter of clarity. Bishops of the Episcopal Church are accountable to the rules governing actions within jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church, and that being so, I think that means we have a right to ask why Bishop Cox thinks this was appropriate.


  1. Bishop Cox is retired from active ministry, but he still has a vote in the House of Bishops--am I correct about that? Do we need some kind of measure that prevents people who are working so actively and obviously to undermine ECUSA's admittedly broad discipline, from taking part in the governance of the church they seek to destroy?

    And what of the Wrong Reverend Robert Duncan? I get a rash just thinking that someone actively "serving" as a bishop is using that position to destroy the church to which he has vowed loyalty.

  2. What's the big problem? The parish and the Bishop were able to work out an amical split. Money has, from my reading of the story, and will continue to change hands. There is no "border-crossing" as the parish in question is no longer part of ECUSA. And Wendy's comment can be applied to any number of those on the side who ignored the Anglican communion plea/request that ECUSA not go forward.


  3. I think that this:

    it wasn't in the Diocese of Kansas anyway, just in Kansas

    is the only relevant point.

    Since this parish is no longer a part of the Diocese of Kansas, could there really be any sort of expectation that they shouldn't get episcopal ministry from anyone other than that diocese's bishop? What is being suggested?

    Now if the HOB wanted to make it a presentable offense for any ECUSA bishop to act on behalf of the bishop of any other Anglican province on land physically in the US I suppose they could try to enact that, but I don't think they'd succeed.

  4. Even though the parish is no longer in the Episcopal Church, it is still within the boundaries of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. The parish is no longer bound by the Constitution and Canons. Bishop Cox is. I say, let it go. Giving the schismatics attention only gives them power. A satisfactory solution to this conflict would involve a less territorial, more affiliational polity. We don't have that yet and might never have it. Bishop Cox's actions are in clear violation of the discipline of the Episcopal Church.

  5. If we're to "let it go", Bill, then it should be with a warning (to Bishop Cox, and any active/retired Episcopal bishop who may think of doing likewise).

    There is NO "Terra Incognita" within the United States! EVERY place in it, is under the purview of some Episcopal bishop (though exactly which bishop may change over time, as new dioceses are created from old ones---perhaps even boundaries shift from pre-existent dioceses from time to time). The idea that a place---a church congregation (formerly Episcopalian, no less)---can suddenly be "diocese unknown" is ludicrous (and Cox, and Christ Church bloody well knew it---which is why they kept the ordinations/confirmations hush-hush, until well after the fact)

    I said the same on EVN: I'm getting sick and tired of this feigned confusion (or ignorance) from disgruntled Episcopalians who think they can re-write a couple of thousand years of Catholic ecclesiology to fit their whims (and then call it, as per Mark's bit re CT, a "theological" dispute)

    If the disgruntled want to start up their own churches, fine! But they can't do so w/ the cover of ECUSA bishops . . . not if those bishops want to remain ECUSA bishops!

    (I believe Judge Judy still has the gist here: "Don't pee on my leg, and tell me it's raining!")

  6. A question all of this raises for me is the following:

    Has any moderate-to-liberal parish, which is under the jurisdiction of a conservative bishop, asked for delegated or alternative episcopal oversight? Has the request been taken seriously by the conservative Bishop? Has any Bishop offered to provide such oversight (or actually provided it) to a moderate/conservative parish, and how has it been handled? Has any moderate/liberal parish attempted to disassociate itself from a conservative diocese?

    If the answers to these questions are "no", it speaks volumes about who wants to hold ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion more generally, together, and who wishes to see it broken apart and "realigned".

  7. Wendy:

    Yes, a parish in Pittsburgh was granted alternative oversight by Bishop Duncan. I'm surprised you did not hear the howling from the conservative side about that when Bishop Smith inhibited one of the CT6 a couple weeks ago.


  8. No, thanks, I missed that. Where can I find out more about who is providing the oversight, and how the arrangements were agreed upon?

  9. No, thanks, I missed that. Where can I find out more about who is providing the oversight, and how the arrangements were agreed upon?

  10. Wendy:

    I just did a google search really quickly. This might be a good starting point:



  11. Thank you, JB. It does not look like this was conducted in a particularly rancorous or undignified way. It does not look as if St. Brendan's is attempting to do anything without the full knowledge of the Bishop, or to renege on any financial or property arrangements with the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    All to the good. It looks quite different from the actions of the Bristol, CT parish in question.

  12. Wendy,

    If that's Wendy from Seabury days, hello. My take is that Bishop Duncan has in some ways bent over backwards to offer DEPO, so he won't be accused of hypocrisy. It's not because he really values the consciences of dissenters. Look at what his organization is after and, if that doesn't convince you, ask any member of PEP.


    If you recall, I was all for deposing the Ohio 6 at the time. You are perfectly right about how the canons read and about the tradition of the Church. I think that territorial jurisdiction only leads to power games. Dioceses should be smaller and free to make or break communion with other dioceses. I also think that there would be very little in it for the diocese of Kansas to try to go after this guy. Ecclesiastical discipline will have to be restored, but I don't think it can be until we get to the other side of the global Anglican freak out.



  13. Hi Bill, yes it's Wendy from Seabury 1993-95.

  14. Bill, yes, I do understand that +Duncan has no interest in the consciences of those who disagree with him. I've been reading the Via Media stuff, been in contact with their facilitator (who is in the diocese of Pittsburgh), and had some inquiries from other members of that association.

    Duncan has not only arranged for one parish to be placed under DEPO, but has apparently encouraged at least one other to take that route--not as a way to reconcile parish and bishop (as the spirit of the arrangement seems to intend), but as a first strike in removing troublesome dissenters from the diocese.

    I guess what I object to is +Duncan's apparent aim of realignment of the Communion, and breakdown of the Episcopal Church. I don't like clergy treating their position as a sort of "day job" that permits them the scope to get on with another agenda. Most organizations would remove someone on the inside who is obviously working for their destruction. The Church does not, apparently. That seems to me both honorable and foolish.

  15. My hope is that by steadfast refusal to yield to the authoritarian impulses of the far right, those who refuse to embrace any other model of mission and ministry will leave with the minimum amount of damage. (Authentically Anglican conservatives, who understand the pastoral and consultative paradigms of authority in normative Anglicanism will continue to find a home within our broad tent.) This is not to deny the considerable damage the far right has already done. It's to insist that you can't fight evil with evil, but must overcome evil with good. As Letty Russell once said (quoting someone else), "You can't build a household of freedom using the master's tools." The disciplinary canons are notoriously difficult to apply, especially in the case of bishops. The key here is developping a form of intervention that works in a highly dysfunctional system. After the mess is over or perhaps during the endgame, ecclesiastical discipline will have to be reestablished. Democratic procedure and protection of liberty of conscience are non-negotiable. Both should be extended, rather than abandoned, as the Windsor Report counsels. The far right's fears of an authoritarian liberal junta are exagerrated and involve a large amount of projection, but there are liberals like that in the Church. (For the record, even if he may have overreached a bit with regard to the specific canon he invoked, the Bishop of Connecticut is not one of them.) No one is going to force anyone to violate his or her conscience. At the limit, however, there are some visions for the Christian Church that are inconsistent with normative Anglicanism. Respecting the process by which the visible Church governs its common life is part of that. Apparently, we don't even agree about that, though the WR's contention that it is merely formalizing what we have all assumed is utterly untenable.

  16. Who are the "Ohio Six"? (more of the disgruntled, in the Buckeye State?)

    "Dioceses should be smaller and free to make or break communion with other dioceses."

    I really don't get this, Bill.

    Where, then, is the "Provincial Church", ala ECUSA? How would you have a democratic structure of dioceses? Might it not then be like the Southern Baptist Convention (whoever shows up with theology we approve of, No Preacher-Women, and No Fags?).

    Could you clarify?

  17. JCF--

    I'm not naive enough to think that the ideal that I set out is achievable, at least in the short run. I do think that we could stand to learn a lesson or two from the free church tradition. Bishops and councils are a subapostolic development after all. (Acts 15 is hardly an ecumenical council.) The Southern Baptists are not what I had in mind. More like Mennonites and Disciples. After the fundamentalist takeover, the SBC has largely ceased to be free church in anything but name. I am more concerned with the direction of change, than with constructing a utopia. More local autonomy and democracy, not less. Bishops, of course, will continue to play an important role (they are a subaposotolic development and yet a normative development, subject to the criteria laid out in the Gospel for Christian leadership, which includes accountability), not as princes of the Church but as servants and sacramental signs of the primitive testimony to the resurrection, which is what a decent theory of apostolic succession would have them be.

  18. Btw, the Ohio Six were six bishops who performed confirmations in Ohio without the permission of the diocesan bishop.


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.