Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh has sent a pastoral letter out in response to talk of a vote over action regarding the matter of the Title IV Review Committee certification that Bishop Robert W. Duncan has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. In it, he avers that he believes any vote on the matter would itself violate the canons of the church.
You’ll recall that when the evidence on the matter was originally presented late last year, three senior bishops were asked to vote on whether Duncan should be inhibited until such point as the House of Bishops could take action. That point is coming later this week, when the House of Bishops meets in Salt Lake City on Sept. 18 and can take action on whether to depose Duncan. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, in a memo, has noted that the House of Bishops has three options:
- They can consent to the deposition.
- They can withhold that consent.
- They can defer the vote for another meeting.
Jefferts Schori continues that that some have expressed a preferend for the last option specifically because they want to see what happens at Pittsburgh’s October convention. There is also some debate over whether this vote can take place without the three senior bishops consenting to the inhibition, which is probably why Duncan has taken the position he has. From her memo:
It is the position of my Chancellor, after reviewing the apparent intent of the canon and consulting several other chancellors and former chancellors, as well as the opinion of the Parliamentarian of the House, that the General Convention in enacting this canon did not intend to give the three senior bishops a “veto” over the House’s right to determine whether or not a bishop who has been certified by the Review Committee as having abandoned the Communion of this Church should be deposed. Rather, that decision was intended to be made by the House. The consent of the three senior bishops, they opine, was intended to be sought only on the matter of whether or not the bishop in question should be inhibited pending the proceeding before the House, and that any ambiguity in the language of the canon should be resolved in favor of the ability of the House itself to vote on this matter. In their view, and in the language of the canon, it is my “duty … to present the matter to the House of Bishops” regardless of whether the bishop in question has been inhibited.
Duncan’s pastoral letter is here.
The memo from Jefferts Schori is here (PDF Link)
The presentment and evidence against him continues after the “Read More” tag.
To: House of Bishops
From: Task Force on Property Disputes
Re: Evidence of Abandonment by Bishop Duncan
Enclosed please find a comprehensive memorandum from the House of Bishops Task Force on Property Disputes offering evidence conclusively establishing the abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church (TEC) by Bishop Robert Duncan as that action is defined in Canon IV.9. In his letter to the House of Bishops dated August 24, 2008, Bishop Duncan characterizes his actions as innocuous: “to speak and write in support of an action not yet taken, is not the same as taking the action.” Aside from the fact that an Episcopal Bishop advocating leaving TEC and taking property of TEC out of the Church is, in fact, an action constituting a renunciation of the Discipline of TEC, the truth is that Bishop Duncan has gone much, much further than simply advocating certain actions not yet taken. In truth, he is actively engaged in doing what he advocates, in that he has
– actively participated in drafting resolutions for that purpose,
– actively advocated amending diocesan canons for that purpose,
– actively sought reception for the Diocese from the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, and
– actively laid plans to continue to claim to the Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh even after the Diocese of Pittsburgh has voted to separate from TEC. The attached memorandum contains all those sworn statements.
That the Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not yet voted to follow where Bishop Duncan has led the way is in no way relevant. We hope, even now, and despite Bishop Duncan’s leadership and predictions, that they will not renounce us. Bishop Duncan, however, has already done so.
The Task Force offers the following recommendations to our colleagues:
The matter of Bishop Duncan’s abandonment must be dealt with at our September meeting both as a matter of canonical process and as a matter of our duty to protect the Church and its assets. A motion to table would fail to fulfill our duty to protect the Church from Bishops who wish it harm and its assets from Bishops who disregard their fiduciary duties.
It having been plainly established that Bishop Duncan has renounced the discipline of The Episcopal Church by his actions, it necessarily follows that he has met the definition for abandoning the communion of TEC.
(Attached memorandum follows)
The Task Force on Property Disputes1 first reported to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in a Memorandum entitled “Connecting the Dots” and dated April 9, 2007. In that Memorandum, the Task Force documented a “well thought-out, well-organized, and well-funded strategy designed to enable and justify the removal of assets from use for the Church’s mission and ministry in the world.”
The strategy has continued to unfold since the 2007 Memorandum. In addition to what was presented then, an extensive review of additional documents reveals that Bishop Robert Duncan has consistently led the Diocese of Pittsburgh toward executing the strategy reported in the 2007 Memorandum.2 On the basis of these actions, and extensive documentary evidence, the Title IV Review Committee certified to the Presiding Bishop on December 15, 2007 that Bishop Duncan had “abandoned the communion of this church by an open renunciation of its Doctrine, Discipline or Worship.” The Presiding Bishop notified Bishop Duncan of the certification on January 15, 2008.
Bishop Duncan has Actively Crossed the Line of Leaving The Episcopal Church
During July and August of 2008, Bishop Duncan has conclusively completed his own separation from TEC, and has so admitted in documents submitted on his behalf in the case of Calvary Episcopal Church v. Duncan, Case No. GD-03-020941 (Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania).3 Canon IV. 9 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (2006) defines abandonment as the “open renunciation of the . . . Discipline of . . . this Church.” He has conclusively admitted doing so in sworn statements quoted below. It is not necessary that he have formally joined another Church, merely that he have renounced the discipline of this one to constitute an abandonment within the meaning of the Canon. Furthermore, even if he has joined a Church in communion with this Church, it alters not the least that he has abandoned the communion of “this Church,” and as his admissions indicate, the real crux of the matter is that he is encouraging and actively leading communicants of this Church to do so.
All of the following statements have been sworn by Bishop Duncan to be true (see Appendix F4):
“Bishop Duncan has proposed that the Diocese amend its Canons to align with the Southern Cone Province.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 2)
“Bishop Duncan has created a new Pennsylvania corporation called ‘The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.’” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 8)5
“If the 2008 Annual Convention of the Diocese votes in favor of realignment, Bishop Duncan intends to claim he heads the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh even if he and his followers are not part of TEC.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 12)6
“The goal of creating an organization operating separately from The Episcopal Church was reflected in [in the deletion of accession to the Constitution of TEC from the Constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh].” (Paragraph 14 of Answer and New Matter to Plaintiffs’ Supplement to December 19, 2006 Petition) 7
“Bishop Duncan encouraged the November 2007 Annual Convention of the Diocese to vote to formally separate the Diocese from TEC at the 2008 Annual Diocesan Convention.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 13)
“Under the leadership of Bishop Duncan, the November 2007 Annual Convention . . . passed a resolution (“Resolution One”) to eliminate the Diocese’s ties to TEC.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 18) [It was, in fact, Bishop Duncan’s duty to rule the resolution out of order, an action he refused to take.]
“Passage of Resolution One [deleting the accession clause] by the 2007 Diocesan Convention was supported by Bishop Duncan.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 20)
“Bishop Duncan supported passage, by the 2007 Annual Diocesan Convention, of the following amendments to the Diocesan Canons (hereinafter the ‘Canon Amendments’): [so as to allow the Diocese of Pittsburgh to affiliate with any Province of the Anglican Communion, to allow any parish in any part of the country or world to be a part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and to allow such parishes to be admitted to the Diocese of Pittsburgh without recognizing the authority of TEC].” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 24)
“Since November 2007, Bishop Duncan has, in fact, been engaged in ‘working through the details of what would be involved in realigning the diocese with another province of the Anglican Communion.’” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 42)
“Bishop Duncan has used Diocesan funds to plan and/or make arrangements for attempted Realignment of the Diocese with another province of the Anglican Communion.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 43)
“Bishop Duncan agrees with the statement that the Diocese of Pittsburgh has no choice but to leave TEC.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 49)
“During the Diocesan Council Meeting of March 4, 2008, Bishop Duncan distributed or caused the distribution of materials about provinces of the Anglican Church with which, in his view, the Diocese may choose to affiliate or ‘align’ upon separation from TEC.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 50)8
“Bishop Duncan has communicated with the Archbishop of the Province of the Southern Cone to seek to have the Diocese become a member of that Province if the 2008 Diocesan Annual Convention votes in favor of Realignment.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 54)
“Bishop Duncan participated in drafting the Realignment Resolutions.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 56) [The Realignment Resolutions are included as Appendix F.]
“Bishop Duncan supports passage of the Realignment Resolutions . . . by the 2008 Diocesan Annual Convention.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 65)
“Bishop Duncan’s plans for Realignment contemplate that after Realignment ‘every parish of the Diocese will no longer be a part of The Episcopal Church.’” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 70)
“Bishop Duncan has used Diocesan funds and resources . . . to elicit support from parishes in the Diocese for attempted Realignment of the Diocese.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 95)
“Bishop Duncan has used Diocesan funds and resources . . . to elicit support from others outside the Diocese for attempted Realignment of the Diocese.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 99)
“Bishop Duncan has used Diocesan funds and resources . . . to elicit support from others outside TEC for attempted Realignment of the Diocese.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 103)
“Bishop Duncan has used Diocesan funds and resources . . . to elicit support from representatives of foreign provinces of the Anglican Communion for attempted Realignment of the Diocese.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 107)
“On or about May 18-19, 2008, Bishop Duncan narrated and distributed at the Diocesan Leadership retreat for the leaders of the Diocese the Power Point presentation [supporting Realignment].” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 119)9
“On or about May 18-19, 2008, at the Diocesan Leadership retreat for leaders of the Diocese, Bishop Duncan used and made available for distribution on a CD the document entitled ‘Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment.’” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 120)10
“During the 2008 Diocesan Annual convention on or about October 4, 2008, Bishop Duncan intends to support passage upon second reading the Amendment of the Accession Clause and passage of the Realignment Resolutions.” (REQUEST FOR ADMISSION No. 121)
“The . . . separation of the Diocese is highly likely to occur at the Diocesan Annual Convention on October 4, 2008, where the second reading of the Amendment of the Accession Clause and the passage of Resolutions One, Two and Three of 2008 . . . [the Realignment Resolutions] are expected to occur.” (Paragraph 13 of Answer and New Matter to Plaintiffs’ Supplement to December 19, 2006 Petition11)
The dots are all connected. Bishop Duncan has very carefully planned and executed a strategy to remove the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, as well as its assets and the assets of its parishes sympathetic to his viewpoints, from TEC. At this point, there is no doubt that Bishop Duncan has left The Episcopal Church.
The one and only question before the House of Bishops at this point is whether or not we allow Bishop Duncan to do irreparable damage to the Body by ignoring the reality of the situation. The Task Force believes the duty of the House of Bishops is to the Body and that it has been presented with every reason to protect the Body by voting affirmatively in support of the Review Committee’s certification of abandonment at the earliest opportunity.