Religious Intelligence has published an essay on the legal tangles around the move to recognize that Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church.
What a strange mixture of strained readings and false statements.
This is not a trial, nor even a hearing. It is a proceeding to determine if the certification of the Review Committee is to be sustained in light of Bishop Duncan's response to same. Bishop Duncan did receive timely notice of the January certification of the Review Committee, and issued his response in March. His shock that he's only received five days notice (for a meeting he says he plans not to attend anyway) sounds as believable as that of Captain Renault on finding gambling at Rick's.
His written response, taken in conjunction with his much more important statements and actions towards "realignment" have made it very clear that he does not deny there is -- in his mind -- a two-church situation at play, and that he is making his choice not to be in communion with The Episcopal Church (the one with General Convention), regardless of any actions taken by his diocese -- which he has urged to follow the course of realignment. I have long maintained that this urging in itself is actionable -- it is a form of incitement or conspiracy -- and that the action of the diocese is not determinative of the guilt of the bishop.
For Duncan has urged "realignment" publicly and unapologetically. He no longer wishes to be part of The Episcopal Church whose House of Bishops will soon be meeting, though he recognizes it has the authority to discipline him. He has played the word game that he and those who believe what he believes represent the "real" Episcopal Church -- on his tendentious reading of the Preamble to the Constitution of TEC (though his hopes that TEC would lose its status of being in communion with Canterbury fell flat; he has rather painted himself into a corner in this regard.) Duncan had a chance to back down from his course of throwing in his lot with Common Cause against and opposed to the "course" of The Episcopal Church, and he refused to take it. He is for realignment -- which in this case is just another word for abandonment of communion with one Church in order to join another, in this case assembled from the fragments of several dozen churchlets also not in communion with The Episcopal Church. To suggest this is not schismatic involves a distorted view of the nature of schism.
Back to the Intelligence article: There is no need for this consideration to be "on the agenda" of the House of Bishops' meeting, as the Canons say the PB is to place the matter before the next regular or special meeting of the House after the two-month period for response or retraction. (The red herring of the sessions at Lambeth is typical obfuscation -- those were not meetings of the House of Bishops, but provincial gatherings of those bishops who happened to be present at Lambeth.)
Duncan's choice to stay away from what his coterie characterize as a "trial" would simply be contumacy if it really were a trial. If he wants to assure the House of his bona fide he should show up and recant his program of realignment. In this case it is Duncan who is "steeped in so far" that turning back is difficult. But it is still a lively option.
Further, citing Robert's Rules is in vain as the Canons and the Rules of Order of the HB cover this situation without any need to appeal to the stopgap of Robert's. (RRoO is only called upon to address matters not dealt with.)
Moreover it takes a two-thirds majority (not a simple majority as the article states) to overrule the chair's decision on a point of order on appeal, according to rule XV of the House of Bishops.
For those who want to judge for themselves if Duncan's response to the certification of abandonment was adequate, I copy it out below. This was posted originally in mid-March. While he acknowledges himself to be "subject" to the discipline of this Church, he in no way indicates any sympathy with it, but rather his opposition to it. Which would be fine if he stopped short of realignment -- about which his "response" says nothing. His actions speak much louder than his words in this regard. If this was intended as a good faith retraction, it fails miserably.
Tobias Haller BSG
In response to the request set forth in your letter of January 15th (which enclosed the certification of the Title IV Review Committee), I state that I consider myself "fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church."
1. I have striven to follow the Lord Jesus with all my heart and mind and soul and strength, all the while relying on God's grace to accomplish what my sinfulness and brokenness otherwise prevent.
2. I have kept my ordination vows – all of them – to the best of my ability, including the vow I made on 28 October 1972 to "banish and drive away all strange and erroneous doctrines contrary to God's Word."
3. I have preached and taught nothing but what faithful Anglicans and mainstream Christians have always preached and taught, with the exception only that I have supported and encouraged the ministry of women in Holy Orders.
4. I have been present to all but two meetings of the House of Bishops (out of twenty-four) during the last 12 years. In those meetings I have clearly and openly opposed the theological and moral drift of the Episcopal Church, often in the face of great hostility and sadly, at times, derision.
5. I have made no submission to any other authority or jurisdiction.
6. I have gathered Anglican fragments together from one hundred and thirty-five years of Episcopal Church division, vastly increasing understanding and cooperation, though preserving the jurisdictional independence of all.
7. I have, with the clergy, people and para-church organizations of my diocese, built missionary relationships all over the world, fielding both missionaries and resources on five continents.
8. I have faithfully served and shepherded the clergy and people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh through what has, by God's grace, been one of its greatest periods of extension and blessing. My intention is to continue in this call for what remains of my active ministry.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan