September 14, 2008

The Fog of Pittsburgh

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

Duncan's Response:

Dear Katharine,

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."

In particular:

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


Anonymous said...

"Those were not meetings of the House of Bishops, but provincial gatherings of those bishops who happened to be present at Lambeth" --indeed, the whole argument for excluding the Bishop of New Hampshire from these meetings was precisely that they were not meetings of the House. They can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

John 2007 writes

It is very hard to believe that +Duncan should not be granted a full church trial. I concur with those who think this is the wrong canon to use for, despite tortuous logic used by Duncan's opponents, one cannot depose surely for INTENT and one cannot depose, according to the canons, one who has openly confessed that he considers himself to be in compliance. Read, and do not twist, the canons. AND, even if it is not by this canon given an absolute right to a trial, she ought, morally, to let him present, with counsel, an argument for the same (nothing in the canons prevents this) and a chance to argue his defense.
Most troubling, still, is her interpretation of 'all members entitled to vote' as 'all members present.' She first claims there is ambiguity in the statute, which there is not, and then says it should be rendered in favor of 'effectiveness.' The only ambiguity lies in the church's practice--namely, it has disregarded at times, and only a ltd number of times, the clear meaning (see Anglican Curmudgeon's blog on this)of the statute. This does not take away the rule imposed by the canon.

Last, if ECUSA had say an arch-conservative group in the HOB majority, by Schori's way of doing things, think how many bishops could have been deposed--again, by this logic--over the last few decades for actions they took in the name of 'prophetic action'

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

John 2007,
To describe Duncan's actions as "inten" seems much too mild. He has urged his diocese to separate itself from the Episcopal Church -- with which he is no longer in communion, as he considers it an apostate body.

The PB did not invent the interpretation of the canon now in use -- the precedent shows that two depositions under this canon took place prior to her election. If there is to be a determination of the meaning of the canon it has to happen at the House session, through the parliamentary procedures provided. It is not for you or me to decide, though we are, of course, entitled to our opinions.

Unknown said...

First, let me say that I have no great love for Bp. Duncan and will shed no tears when he is finally deposed. However, I'm still a little uncomfortable about some things.

For example, why is the abandonment of communion canon a better alternative to presentment, other than expediency, that is?

Does presentment carry the same pre-trial inhibition that abandonment of communion does?

Also, could you explain the situations that led up to the depositions of other bishops besides Schofield?


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Kevin,
Thanks for the note. I'm afraid I don't have the time to answer each question in great detail at this point, as I am just back from a week away and the in-box is very, very full!

However, I'll try to do so in brief, with a little cutting and pasting from other notes I've posted to the House of Bishops list and elsewhere in response to similar questions.

The abandonment canon is being used not for expediency, but because that is what has happened. I agree that Duncan is clearly guilty of other actionable causes, but the abandonment canon addresses what lies at the heart of his offenses: his public profession of schism, of the desire no longer to be a part of what he regards as an apostate body. Some suggest that the "communion" referred to in the canon is "the Anglican Communion" -- though in that case it could not have been applied against +Schofield. But even were I to accept that reading of the canon as a reference to "the Anglican Communion" rather than the communion of "this Church" -- important since it is possible to be in communion with TEC and yet not part of the Anglican Communion (v. the ELCA), and the same goes for Porvoo with the C of E -- still, the problem for Duncan is that he is now affiliated with a group of churches that are not part either of the Anglican Communion, nor in communion with TEC. He notes this affiliation with some pride in his "retraction" statement. If this were a mere outreach, akin to being on the board of a local Council of Churches, that would be one thing; the fact is Duncan is part of an alternative body -- alternative to "this Church" and if it proceeds according to plan alternative to the real live Anglican Communion (centered on Canterbury) and he has said as much. This is why he is not in communion with TEC.

The inhibition of a bishop does not appear to be required under any of the canons, including IV.9 (though the language is admittedly corrupt -- the whole "three senior bishops" step should have been removed with the introduction of the Council of Advice in an earlier amendment, performing a function now carried out by the Review Committee). The other canons on inhibition, even in the case of a criminal act for which a bishop is found guilty in a secular court, still only says "the PB may issue an Inhibition" (IV.1.6)

The former case that springs to mind is that of Donald Davies, who is the originator of the "two churches" rhetoric that Duncan uses. He was part of the Episcopal Synod, which later became (unless I'm mistaken) part of AMiA.

Normally this canon does not need to be employed for the purpose for which it came to be: i.e., bishops "poping" it. Generally they have the decency and common sense to Renounce their orders, so the abandonment procedure is not needed. It is only with the "have your cake and eat it too" sort of quasi-Anglicans that this becomes problematical.

Other have raised the due process question. I simply point out it would be very simple for Duncan to state, "I remain in full communion with the Episcopal Church, its Presiding Bishop and other Bishops." As a man of conscience, he cannot bring himself to make this affirmation.

Davis said...

I appreciate he bishops words being in purple ink - but is that episcopal purple or purple prose?

Yet another hopeless situation, I fear when we all claim to be the "real" church. Why doesn't +Duncan have the courage to step down and move on like bishop Steenson did?

Anonymous said...

"Why doesn't +Duncan have the courage to step down and move on like bishop Steenson did?"
Because, by not doing so, the PB and the HOB will be induced to act in a way that can be exploited by the GS and reasseters. By deposing Bp. Duncan without a trial and prior to the vote for realignment, he will be seen as the victim of a morally bankrupt, apostate church. It is dangerous to create martyrs and TEC is hell bent on making one of Bp Duncan.

Brother David said...

I also believe that this is the issue that presented itself.

As I understand it, charges of abandoment were presented against Duncan to the +PB from a small number of clergy and a bit larger number of laity from the Dio of Pittsburg.

This is the process that results from that presentment.

There are undoubtedly those who would argue that someone at 815 or the Hob put these folks up to it. We have no information about how they made their choice. They may have sought advice on what to do, but I am inclined to believe that this is the route which they chose while acting on their conscience.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference, Anonymous, from being made a martyr (See re +Gene Robinson), and playing "martyr" (e.g., {x}Duncan).

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

If I hear one more time that "I am not guilty because you are not following/interpreting the canons correctly" and/or "you do not have a REAL quorum" I think I am going to throw up! If you read +Duncan's statement he clearly says he is doing what his conscience tells him to do and he is going to continue to do that until he is removed/dies. The clever wording only serves to confuse those who +Duncan would have look like a fool for him.

+Duncan has abandoned the doctrine and discipline of TEC and he says that. As old what's her name on the game show says, "Bishop Duncan, you are the weakest link. Goodbye!"

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

An anonymous someone just attempted to leave the following comment, twice. Of the simple courtesies I ask of commenters, this anonymous troll disregarded two of the three things I ask. I have little respect for people who throw bricks through windows without the courage to identify themselves. This, more than anything else, reveals to me the error of those who think they are on the right path, while figuratively throwing stones at others: The lack of the courage to stand by what they say. For the most part, a fearful lot, plagued with anger and envy, and unable to distinguish birth pangs from death throes -- or the other way around. The attempt by Duncan to revivify the pile of corpses constituting the "Common Cause" or the "Continuum" doesn't appear to be any more likely of success in that group than of each of them independently. A moribund lot, they show little sign of growth apart from accumulating further dissidents. For TEC, the present crisis is tragic, but the body of The Episcopal Church will be healthier once this fever of schism is past. In any case, here is the anonymous comment:

"I hope the PB proceeds exactly as outlined. I [sic] will bring further scorn on TEC and will foster the realignment of the AC. Expediency at the expense of fairness and due process. A fitting epitaph for an institution in its death throes."

I just paid one of my rare visits to Stand Firm, and the level of invective is further proof that these folks have really abandoned any sense of decency. The PB in particular is labeled a caitiff, a hag, and a few other choice epithets -- all but a few by anonymous or pseudonymous name-callers. What waterless clouds, driven by the wind of their own anger. But clouds pass, and so will these.

James said...

Your post was great but the reply to Kevin is a masterpiece! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Tobias, I am not at all displeased with the "deposition." You can offer up all the strained arguments about ambiguity where there isn't any, but if there is ambiguity in the canons, justice (which I had thought was near and dear to the liberal's heart) demands that ambiguity should be decided in favor of the accused. (See the discussion of the violation of the proper method to deal with "ambiguity" in the canons here.)

But one has to wonder what in the world the gang at 815 were thinking. Schori/Beers/Sauls take on the appearance of heavy handed thugs to those in Pittsburgh who might have been sitting on the fence. The Star Chamber justice will only make the vote more lopsided. That Mr Lionel Demel or any others are gloating, to me, is unfathomable.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I did not say the canon was ambiguous. That was John's challenge. I do not think the canon is ambiguous, but it is clearly corrupt -- that is, errors in the amendment process have introduced element foreign to good order, such as the whole issue of the three senior bishops. I have laid that out elsewhere.

I have also said that I disagree with the interpretation of the PB / Beers / etc. concerning the number of votes needed -- I did this in the case of San Joaquin and it applies here as well. However, I also note that my opinion means nothing -- it is the House of Bishops itself that must determine how it implements laws, and if an objection can be sustained, so be it.

At the same time, however, I do not see what I regard as a procedural anomaly to be a miscarriage of justice. Duncan has abandoned the communion of TEC -- and has been deposed. The first action was his: and even if the process of recognizing his action for what it is was flawed, it was not in error, nor was justice misapplied. Injustice does not consist in misreading the law, but in reaching findings at odds with reality. Duncan has been justly deposed even if the law was not observed in its letter; the spirit was entirely correctly applied, for the purpose for which the law was framed -- to remove from office those who have abandoned the communion of this church. As I've noted, this is the fourth time this law has been so applied in the last few decades. I do not think Duncan's deposition will resound any more years from now than Don Davies' or J D Schofield's. The departed from their ordination vows, abandoned the church that ordained them, and the church has recognized that fact.