jump to navigation

Outcry as US Bishop deposed: CEN 9.26.08 p 1. September 26, 2008

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

By Toby Cohen and George Conger

THE US House of Bishops has voted to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh for “abandoning the Communion” of the Episcopal Church. At a special session of the House of Bishops called by US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to discuss the Lambeth Conference, the bishops voted 87 to 35, with four abstentions to defrock the Rt Rev Robert W Duncan, removing him from the ordained ministry for propounding the view that a diocese may withdraw from the Episcopal Church.

It is unclear, however, whether the Sept 18 trial in absentia will achieve the end sought by Bishop Schori. The deposition has made a martyr of the Pittsburgh bishop, and a growing list of primates and bishops – including six from the Church of England — have announced they will not honour the American decision.

Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone welcomed Bishop Duncan into the House of Bishops of that church following the vote, and it is likely the diocese will follow their bishop when they vote on Oct 4 to quit the Episcopal Church.

The deposition hearing was denounced by conservatives as an “ecclesiastical lynching,” however, Bishop Schori stated the bishops had worked “carefully and prayerfully” in deciding that his “actions over recent months and years constitute ‘abandonment of ‘the communion of this church” and that he should be deposed.”

Over the course of two business sessions, questions of the legality of the proceedings were juxtaposed with Bishop Duncan’s crimes. Led by the Bishop of South Carolina, conservatives argued the proceedings violated canon law, lacked a quorum and proper notice and violated the principles of due process. However, Bishop Schori rejected these arguments and a majority of bishops backed her interpretation of the canons.

Of the 287 members of the House of Bishops entitled to vote, only 127 were present. If the votes of diocesan bishops only had been counted, the total tally would have been 50 to convict, 30 to convict and three abstentions–indicating that there has been less movement to the left within the House of Bishops than had been supposed. The 2003 vote by the diocesan bishops to affirm the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire was 62 to 43 to two.

Peals of protest rang out around the world following the deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt Rev Robert Duncan, in a breach of canon law. The traditionalist bishop had scheduled a referendum for his diocese on October 4 over whether to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Latin American Diocese of the Southern Cone.

Bishop Duncan will not appeal against the ruling. He said: “I’m very sad, sad for the Episcopal Church. In 15 days the diocese will determine whether it too wants to be part of the Southern Cone and figure out whether it wants me back as bishop. That is up to the diocese, although I have a sneaking suspicion they will want me back.”

“This is of course a very painful moment for Pittsburgh Episcopalians,” the president of the diocesan standing committee the Rev David Wilson said. “The leadership of the Episcopal Church has inserted itself in a most violent manner into the affairs and governance of our diocese.”

The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, said: “The unfolding tragedy of the Episcopal Church starkly reveals the folly of the original decision to break with the Bible and centuries of historic Christianity on the issue of human sexuality.”

The Archbishop of Egypt, the Most Rev Mouneer Anis, said: “I don’t know what to call it, a tragedy or comedy, for the faithful to be disciplined by those who tear the fabric of our Anglican Communion.” The struggle has been brought to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The Hon Assistant Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Colin F Bazley (a former Primate of the Southern Cone), has written an open letter asking Dr Williams to “take immediate action in suspending the Episcopal Church from any further participation in activities of the Anglican Communion and in calling a meeting of the Primates to give formal recognition to a new Province in North America.”

From England six bishops, the Rt Revs Nicholas Reade (Blackburn), Dr Peter Forster (Chester), John Hind (Chichester), Michael Langrish (Exeter), Dr Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester) and Michael Scott-Joynt (Winchester) issued a statement saying they were “deeply saddened and shocked by the proposed deposition,” adding they “continue to believe that Bishop Bob is a bishop in the Church of God and a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion.”

Dr Williams has not yet responded. He hoped to avoid such a mess when he presided over a conciliatory Lambeth Conference and called for moratoria on same-sex blessings and cross-provincial interventions.

Bishop Duncan had stubbornly acted in disregard to that plea, but the dubious actions of the Episcopal Church have now directed international sympathy to the renegade bishop. As recriminations on either side are threatened, and bishops nauseated from biting their tongues all summer begin to speak out, Dr Williams’ fragile peace appears doomed.


1. Rosalind Weeks - October 1, 2008

What Jefferts Schori fails to see is that the church through the ages has thrived under opposition. This is an unstoppable tide. It could soon be a mighty flood. When you alter the core message of the Gospel so deeply as to change it beyond all recognition, a “correction” usually occurs, though not without pain.

Sorry comments are closed for this entry

%d bloggers like this: