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Row over ‘unAnglican’ confirmation service: CEN 5.20.04 May 20, 2004

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Pittsburgh, Reformed Episcopal Church.

An American bishop is under fire for authorising a bishop of an Anglican Church not in Communion with Canterbury to take a confirmation service on his behalf.A liberal advocacy group, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), complained to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold on May 13 urging that he discipline the Bishop
of Pittsburgh, the Rt Rev Robert Duncan for the action.

Bishop Duncan licensed the Rt Rev Daniel G Cox, a retired bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), to celebrate the Eucharist and confirm 13 adults at a church in Pennsylvania on May 9.

Formed in 1873 after Evangelicals split in a dispute over ritual and theological disagreements with the High Church party, the 14,000-member Reformed Episcopal Church, like the Church of England in South Africa, is an “Anglican”
Church outside the Anglican Communion.

PEP President Lionel Deimel wrote to Bishop Duncan accusing him of breaching Church law. “We believe that your actions demonstrate a pattern of continuing indifference to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, and that your support of others showing similar disrespect for the order of the church are unworthy of a bishop or other minister.”

The Rt Rev Walter Righter, retired Bishop of Iowa and former assistant to Bishop Jack Spong of Newark, told The Church of England Newspaper, “It seems to me it does not matter what Bishop Duncan thinks about whether he is in communion with the REC Bishop or not. The church called ECUSA has not decided that. So is Bishop Duncan free to make that decision when the church which gave him his orders has not done so?”

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church’s ecumenical and interfaith officer, also objected telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “We are certainly not in full communion with the [REC] and so I do not believe it is appropriate for one of their bishops to confirm.”

The permission given to Bishop Cox to officiate by Bishop Duncan, who was in Jordan on the day in question, was “faithful to a decades-long effort by Episcopalians and members of the Reformed Episcopal Church to heal a 131-year old breach in the Anglican family.”

The two Churches, Bishop Duncan argued, “share the same foundations of Anglican Christianity – the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the succession of bishops from the apostles.”

“As to the constitutional and canonical questions that have been raised,” Bishop Duncan stated that he had acted with the guidance of the diocesan legal officers.

“No provisions of the constitution or the canons had been broken in the authorisation for a reformed Episcopal bishop to act.”

“Confirmation”, wrote Bishop Duncan, “is primarily a sign of an adult individual’s relationship with the whole Christian church, not just a particular portion of it.”

Episcopalians, he argued, “have acknowledged this for decades by not requiring individuals confirmed in other denominations to be reconfirmed when they enter
the Episcopal Church.”

Whether any charges will be proffered against Bishop Duncan lies with Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who, as of our going to press, has not responded to our queries on this matter.

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