Bishop reactions to Duncan issue, Saturday edition

Today in reactions to the HoB vote of Friday, we have several reports–not so much of reactions as explanations of “why I voted the way I did.” The reports indicate that the conversation was respectful and that there was an undercurrent of sadness throughout the proceeding.

Christopher Epting, bishop for ecumenical relations, voted yes, calling it a

“sad, but necessary decision”:

Contrary to what many may believe, and have stated, this was not about Bishop Duncan’s theological positions. Many loyal bishops, clergy and lay people of The Episcopal Church hold similar views and yet remain faithful members of our church. This was about our church’s polity and the consequences of violating that polity by one who has sworn to uphold it.

At first glance, it’s hard to see how this action serves the goal “that we all may be one.” However, accountability is critical to preserving community life. We have seen the consequences of a lack of accountability on the “left” as well as on the “right” in this church for many years. Perhaps we are finally achieving the kind of maturity which will allow us to hold one another accountable…for the sake of the community…and for the sake of the common witness to the Gospel we hope to make in The Episcopal Church.

George Packard, bishop for chaplaincies , indicates he’d much rather have had a “postpone the vote” option:

A postponed vote would have been wise, prudent, and plainly the right thing to do. To quote senior Bishop Peter Lee advising the House on such matters which is his duty by canon (when he is allowed to do it), “Despite numerous statements by Bob Duncan we found nothing actionable.” And there isn’t. True, we were provided with canvas shopping bags to hold all the incriminating paperwork of reports, newspaper and magazine articles, assessments, and scary confidential memorandum about Bob’s garrulous designs to pick up his diocese and leave but there was no fatal, last gasp. The dignity of church law would have allowed for that.

Bishop John Howe, in a letter to the diocese of Florida, compares the relationship between inhibition and deposition to that of ordination process and the progression from deacon to priest:

This afternoon I offered this argument: “I want to compare what Mr. Beers said last night to the argument that many have advanced in favor of ordaining persons directly to the priesthood – without the requirement that they become deacons first. Cogent arguments can be made for that position, but that is not what our canons stipulate. They say a person SHALL be a deacon first, and only afterward may they be ordained priest. You can wish it were otherwise, and you can speculate all you like about intent, but if you want to change things – change the canons.

“Similarly, our canons are clear – not at all ‘ambiguous’ – however much you might not like them. ‘A Bishop SHALL be inhibited, with the consent of the three senior Bishops,’ before deposition can be imposed. The way to change that is to change the canons. Bishop Bob Duncan has not been inhibited, and he cannot be deposed.”

+Howe continues:

The discussion and debate today lasted across both this morning’s and this afternoon’s sessions, for a total of approximately six hours. There was a good deal of sentiment expressed that any action by this House should not occur until after the Diocese of Pittsburgh has voted for a second time to remove its accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, a matter which is scheduled to be before its Convention within the next couple of weeks. A number of people argued that until/unless that decision becomes final “abandonment” has not actually occurred, either by the Bishop or by the Diocese as a whole.

Others, however, argued that in allowing and urging the Diocese to withdraw its accession, and thus to attempt to remove itself from The Episcopal Church, Bishop Duncan has long since violated and “abandoned” his loyalty to The Episcopal Church. Some of the Bishops who are also lawyers argued that the case law of Pennsylvania would make it more difficult for The Episcopal Church to press its case if we delayed our action until after Pittsburgh’s Diocesan Convention.

My sense of the discussion today is that it was respectful, painful, and deeply tinged with sadness. There was a good deal of recognition and concern that many, both within The Episcopal Church and across the Anglican Communion, will see today’s action as precipitous, pre-emptive, and vindictive. Some expressed the concern that this may well solidify the previously undecided in Pittsburgh to join in the support of Bishop Duncan, by making him, in effect, a “martyr.”

Bruce MacPherson, bishop of Western Louisiana, had the same reasons for his vote, and is concerned about what this means for the future, as he explains in a letter to his diocese:

The concern that I have is the fact that by this action, a dangerous precedent has been established as applied to the interpretation and execution of the Constitution and Canons of the Church. The danger in this is that it can, and unless terminated, will lead to the living out of a polity and governance in a manner that is not a part of our heritage nor the intent of the Canons as established by General Convention.

Past Posts