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.