In Pittsburgh there are preparations for a storm.

The focus for the storm are out there on three fronts.

The GAFCON front:

The Common Cause Partnership has petitioned the GAFCON bishops council for recognition as a new Province related to like minded Provinces of the Anglican Communion and as the true blue real and only so called "orthodox" Anglican presence in North America. The Primates meet in August and who knows what happens there? If they determine that the Bishop of Pittsburgh should be the primatial equivalent as moderator of CCP, what then?

The House of Bishops front:

The House of Bishops meets in September and will consider the matter of deposition regarding the Bishop of Pittsburgh. No one knows how that will go. Lionel Deimel believes the bishops ought to just get it over with. He says, "A September deposition of Bishop Duncan, it has been said, will anger his supporters and assure a vote favoring realignment. So be it. This bishop has been telling us since 2003 that a split of the diocese is inevitable. By now, practically everyone believes him, and most simply want to get the matter over with, so we can move forward. When everything is considered, there is every reason to depose Duncan in September and no legitimate reason not to do so. Let’s get it over with." He also writes, "The smart money, I am told, is betting that the House of Bishops is most likely going to postpone a vote on deposing Bishop Duncan at its September meeting, as the bishops would prefer the clarity of agreeing that he has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church after he has actually declared that he has left it."

There is of course another option: That the HoB might vote to preempt the Bishop's actions at the Pittsburgh convention in October and determine that while the Bishop of Pittsburgh has not abandoned the communion at the time of their meeting, they have determined that IF the
Diocese votes to leave the Episcopal Church and he is clearly understood to agree with the plan and is leaving with them, he has on the face of it abandoned communion. That being the case the Presiding Bishop is authorised by the HoB to immediately declare that he has abandoned the communion.

There are some clouds in this front, notably that the Bishop of Pittsburgh has denied abandonment, he has through his lawyer reserved the right to examine the charges in the certificate but has denied that he needs to do so since he has not been suspended, and has made no mention of a trial. So the matter of deposition sits there as a storm front. If it comes to it I am sure the Bishop will argue that the certificate failed to achieve status and that if it is ruled that it did he will demand a trial in order to examine the charges in public. On the other hand if the HoB as a whole body, the senior members included, determine that the charges will indeed be true (that he has abandoned the Communion) then they can vote to authorize the Presiding Bishop to immediate deposition of the bishop. But the storm is there.

Of course if the first storm - the GAFCON one - were to blow in first, the whole deal is off. A really good case can be made that if the Bishop of Pittsburgh became the equivalent of the primate of a new North American province overlapping the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church he will already have proven abandonment.

The Diocesan Convention front:

The Diocese of Pittsburgh convention is to be held October 4 and there the delegates will be asked to vote a second time on constitutional changes allowing Pittsburgh to leave the Episcopal Church and join another province. If that happens, the storm will be a big one.

There are several groups in Pittsburgh concerned for the Diocese after the vote. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh is working away at the various "what if" possibilities. Lionel Deimel's web log gives commentary on the possibilities. Jim Simons and other conservative clergy who mean to stay part of the Episcopal Church are writing from that standpoint. I am particularly impressed with Jim Simon's blog and hope readers will visit it.

So there are in place voices of those who are willing to step in if the Bishop, many clergy and people intend to leave.

In preparation for the property and financial fights that are sure to follow, it appears the Bishop of Pittsburgh and members of his staff are assured of consultancy by contract, which supposedly would have to be honored by whoever holds the purse. The establishment of a holding company for property is in play and lord only knows what that will mean.

Perhaps yesterday's fortuitous announcement that Bishop Henry Scriven is going back to England is part of the preparations as well. His presence here is as assistant bishop to the Diocesan. If the office of bishop diocesan is vacant, Bishop Scriven has no clear accountability and no future. If he were to go to the Southern Cone with the Bishop, what then? No, it is useful for him to be elsewhere.

If for some reason the Diocese does not pass these changes, what then? I have been told, but cannot substantiate, that the Bishop would then resign. There is, after all a job down the road for him elsewhere. If the changes fail to pass it will be difficult to stay. One way or another it would appear that the Bishop of Pittsburgh is making a leap into an ecclesial storm.

The possibilities of a perfect storm are there: GAFCON makes its decision based on the Bishop of Pittsburgh's leaving the Episcopal Church, the Bishops vote to depose conditional on the diocesan vote and the bishop's intentions as expressed at the Convention, and the vote at Convention being to leave. Then immediately upon the vote and statement of the Bishop of Pittsburgh he would be deposed, a new ecclesiastical authority announced in Pittsburgh, and he would become the Primate- designate (or something like that) of the Province of North America, with his episcopacy affirmed by churches not in communion with The Episcopal Church.

There is also the possibility of a movement weakened by failure - a storm that did not materialize: The CCP request of the Primates Group isn't accepted at present, the HoB does not consent to deposition, the Diocese does not vote yes, and the Bishop is left with little wind in his sails.

All of this in a mere two months. Hold on to your hats, the season is not over.


  1. And the month after Pittsburgh brings Bp. Jack and the Fort Worth Circus.

  2. Good post. Helps to look at these three areas.

    Gafcon: Well, I would have a hard time believing that CCP won't be taken in at the moment, with the Dunc at the helm... meaning, he is a Bishop in two churches... Wouldn't that then immediately qualify him to be deposed? Just how many churches can he be a Bishop in:)

    The HOB: 1) Well, if CCP is accepted in by GAFCON, I would think the HOB would be able to act in September, assuming Duncan as head, no? Isn't that what you are saying? 2)regarding a preemptive move, this is the only thing that bothers me: "... he is clearly understood to agree with the plan (meaning the plan to leave that is voted on in October if in the affirmative)..." [my inclusion] Wouldn't it take him actually SAYING he is leaving and not just the October vote? I mean, we all know, for practical purposes, that he has been planning this for ages and is really only waiting for the October meeting (in lieu of Gafcon), but still, don't they really have to wait to October (if GAFCON doesn't act first) to be certain or am I not understanding this correctly?

    Diocesan Convention: I am less clear on this. In regards to this statement, "consultancy by contract", doesn't this fall by the wayside (because this set up does not take into consideration actually having left, but assumes only "might leave") in the face of likely formal litigation based on an affirmative vote to leave in October?

    You are right... Storm Warning. This immediately came to mind: http://vtap.com/video/Storm+Warning/CL0023304831_797c7bce0_U08zNTIxNjI

  3. This is taken from the April minutes of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan:

    "C.)Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh

    In response to a question from the Standing Committee, Bishop Ousley stated that the sixty days of notification has expired and the House of Bishops can vote to depose Bishop Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh at any time. The House of Bishops has been polled regarding Bishop Duncan’s deposition and Bishop Ousley noted that he responded with no preference as to whether the House of Bishops holds a special meeting or takes up the deposition at the next regular meeting. Bishop Duncan will be deposed but it appears that the House of Bishops will wait until their next regular meeting which is scheduled to take place after the Lambeth Conference."

    The operable part, of course, is :

    "Bishop Duncan will be deposed..."

    "Verdict first, trial later"

    I guess this is what passes for polity and due process in the new TEC. Sounds like Bp. Duncan should ask for a change of venue.....

  4. The smart money, I am told, is betting that the House of Bishops is most likely going to postpone a vote on deposing Bishop Duncan at its September meeting

    So the slow bleed continues? Giving ?Duncan yet more time to plot and scheme.


  5. Two things of note. First of all the conservative clergy who are staying and the liberals and moderates who have long said they are staying in Pittsburgh have been in conversation and have been working together for almost six months.

    Secondly, under the abandonment canons THERE IS NO TRIAL. Bishop Duncan does not have any right to demand a trial. He has been certified as abandoned and all that happens at the House of Bishops is that they vote whether to confirm that finding. Bishop Duncan's ONLY opportunity to offer evidence that controverted the material in the documents submitted ended in March when his 60 days expired. The bishops have all had available to them the material used by the Title IV committee to determine abandonment for months, thus it is quite possible that bishops have already made up their mind how they will vote.


  6. Two years ago, then recently retired bishop Griswald said at the Diocese of Chicago convention, "The bishop of Pittsburgh clearly in on a path. I cannot see what would deflect him from it." I think I got that correctly noted. I was there. If my notes were in error, they were very close.

    With apologies to Bp. Frank if I made any transcription errors, I think I got the sense down. It is clear that Bp. Duncan has chosen a course. Nothing other than direct intervention by the Spirit will deflect him. TEC should move on but not this way.

    The 'abandonment canon' should not become shorthand for "will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" and even Caiaphas thought there should be a trial.

    Trials make things clear. They also offer a chance for the bishop to make his case. At this moment I doubt he can and I suspect he wont try, but that should be his choice. Then let the court act as it will.



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.