HOB Will Hold Hearings to Remove Bishop Duncan: TLC 9.15.08 September 16, 2008Posted by geoconger in House of Bishops, Living Church, Pittsburgh.
First published in The Living Church magazine.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has proposed a sweeping change to the previously announced agenda for the special House of Bishops’ meeting scheduled Sept. 17-19 in Salt Lake City.
In a memorandum to bishops, Bishop Jefferts Schori proposed two days of hearings to remove Bishop Robert W. Duncan of Pittsburgh permanently from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church for teaching that it is lawful for a diocese to withdraw from The Episcopal Church.
The revised scheduled calls for the Presiding Bishop’s council of advice to hold an “informal evening meeting to investigate the matter” on Sept. 17, with further discussion leading to a vote during the business meeting the following day.
“At that time, the house may, by majority vote of those present, grant or withhold its consent or decline to vote until a later time,” Bishop Jefferts Schori wrote. “In that regard, some have suggested that a vote not be taken until a later meeting of the house after the forthcoming convention of the diocese in early October, when Bishop Duncan’s intentions and actions can perhaps be viewed more clearly.”
Delegates to the convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh will not consider a final vote to realign with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone until Oct. 4. Bishop Jefferts Schori wrote that Bishop Duncan, by “encouraging the diocese to choose to leave” The Episcopal Church, had “abandoned the communion of this church by ‘an open renunciation of the… discipline… of this church’ within the meaning of Title IV, Canon 9, Section 1(i),” Bishop Jefferts Schori said.
Bishop Jefferts Schori defended the canonical process she outlines based on precedent and expediency. She also repeatedly reminds the bishops that any member may request a ruling, and that the chair may be overruled by a two-thirds vote under the House of Bishops’ bylaws.
“I concur with my chancellor and parliamentarian that any ambiguity in the canon should be resolved in favor of making this important provision work effectively, and that the discipline of the church should not be stymied because a majority of nearly a majority of voting bishops are no longer in active episcopal positions in the church and their attendance at meetings is hampered by age, health, economics, or interest in other legitimate pursuits,” she said.
Bishop Jefferts Schori may face a challenge on the legality of introducing new business so close to the start of what she has characterized as a “special meeting” of the House of Bishops. On Aug. 20, the agenda, dates and location for the Salt Lake City meeting were given to the bishops, with no mention of a hearing into the charges brought against Bishop Duncan. The first formal declaration by the Presiding Bishop that the bishops would decide whether or not to depose the Pittsburgh bishop came on Sept 12.
Whether the vote will take place is unclear, however, as the canons specifically forbid the Presiding Bishop from amending the agenda once she issues her call for a special session to review the Lambeth Conference.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order, which are cited as the authoritative source for conducting business under the House of Bishops’ rules of order, “only business mentioned in the call of a special meeting can be transacted at such a meeting.” As the Presiding Bishop did not include the hearing on Bishop Duncan in her agenda and her “call” of the special meeting, the rules of the House of Bishops would seem to forbid her from adding it to the agenda five days before the start of the meeting.
The House of Bishops’ rules also require 30 days notice. Rule XIX states, “except by a two-thirds vote of those present and voting, no member of the house may introduce a resolution at a special meeting unless the resolution has been circulated 30 days in advance to the members.”
Bishop Duncan said previously he will not be present for a hearing. For the deposition hearing and vote to be blocked, a point of order must be raised and seconded. Bishop Schori would then be asked to rule on whether her actions constitute a breach of order. If she rules against the appeal, it would require a two-thirds vote of the house to overrule her.