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Presiding Bishop in move to “sack” Duncan: 9.19.08 p 6. September 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Bishops, Pittsburgh.

The Bishop of Pittsburgh will be brought before the US House of Bishops this week to face charges that he has “abandoned the Communion” of the Episcopal Church for teaching that it is permissible for a diocese to withdraw from the Episcopal Church.

The move to depose Bishop Robert Duncan ends the “season of gracious restraint” proclaimed by last month’s Lambeth Conference, and comes as a personal blow to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr. Rowan Williams had urged the warring factions of the church to hold together in dialogue, but the legal moves against Bishop Duncan have repudiated his authority. While deposing Bishop Duncan may provide a short term tactical advantage in the Episcopal Church’s lawsuits against traditionalists, it will likely end any rapprochement between it and the wider Anglican Communion.

On Sept 12, Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori distributed a memorandum announcing that on Sept 18 she would attempt to depose the conservative leader. “I shall present to the House the matter of the certification to me by the Title IV Review Committee that Bishop Robert W. Duncan has abandoned the Communion of this Church within the meaning of Canon IV.9,” she wrote.

However, the Presiding Bishop may face legal challenges to her planned purge, as the last minute addition of the Duncan affair to the bishop’s agenda violates canon law. The rules of the House of Bishops forbid modifying the agenda of a special session after the meeting has been announced. On Aug 20 Bishop Schori wrote to the bishops stating “as discussed in our spring meeting and confirmed in our time at Lambeth, we will hold a special meeting of the House of Bishops 17-19 September in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

“The main purpose of this meeting,” Bishop Schori wrote, “will be to reflect and deliberate together following the Lambeth Conference.”

In the schedule appended to the letter, two sessions are labeled “Lambeth de-brief”, two “Business meeting”, and one “Theological Education.” No mention is made of Bishop Duncan or any disciplinary action in the formal letter calling the special session.

Under Robert’s Rules of Order, which govern the conduct of the House of Bishops’ meetings, “only business mentioned in the call of a special meeting can be transacted at such a meeting.” Supporters of the Presiding Bishop have argued that the rubric “business meeting” could be construed to include the Duncan hearing.

However, 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.”

While Bishop Schori conceded that Bishop Duncan’s diocese had not yet voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church, it was her contention that his statements that such a move was possible offended canon law. She also stated she would reject readings of church law that did not conform to her own, adding that “any ambiguity in the canon” should be resolved in her favor.

On Sept 13 Bishop Duncan stated the move to depose him from office this week was a bid by the Presiding Bishop to squelch the planned October vote by the diocesan synod to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and move under the protection of the Province of the Southern Cone.

He added the “House of Bishops ‘vote’ will be a gross violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church” and he asked the diocese “not be intimidated or turned from our over-riding commitment.”

Bishop Duncan will not be present, as will a number of other conservative bishops, to challenge the Presiding Bishop. For the vote to be blocked, a point of order must be raised and seconded. Bishop Schori will be asked to rule whether her actions constitute a breach of order. If she rules against the protesting bishops, an appeal may be taken which requires a two thirds vote to sustain her ruling.

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