By Randy Sly
Bishop Robert Duncan has fought for orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church for years. The battle has cost him a lot. This Thursday it may cost him his episcopate in the Episcopal Church.
WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - Last November Catholic Online reported that charges had been brought against The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, by members of his diocese. This Thursday, September 18, the House of Bishops may vote to depose the bishop based on those charges... without a trial.
The charges of abandonment were certified by a Board of Review, which forwarded a report to the Presiding Bishop, Mrs. Katherine Jefforts Schori.The timing of the vote and the lack of trial may, in part, be due to a vote being taken by the diocese on October 4 to secede from The Episcopal Church USA (TEC). By removing Bishop Duncan, the momentum for such a move may be significantly lost.
The entire diocese, however, is not in one accord about leaving TEC. Opponents of the bishop have vowed to maintain a loyalty to the American church, with assurances that the diocese will continue. Obviously, the assets of the diocese are a major focal point for the dispute.
In a pastoral letter to the diocese, Bishop Duncan wrote:
"TO THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE OF THE DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH:
"Beloved in the Lord, In a letter to the House of Bishops yesterday, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made it clear that there will be a vote this coming Thursday on whether to depose me from the ministry of the Episcopal Church.The charge is abandonment of the Communion of the Church, a charge initiated by five priests and sixteen laypeople of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Much of the 'evidence' in the case is put forward by the House of Bishops Property Task Force, drawn directly from the Calvary litigation.
"We have long suspected that a principal purpose in the Calvary litigation was to have me removed, by whatever means, before the realignment vote. Whatever the purported evidence, I continue to maintain that the House of Bishops 'vote' will be a gross violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.There are two things I would say, and one thing I would ask.
"First, whatever happens on Thursday as to my status, the Diocese will carry forward under rules long-ago established. If I am 'removed,' the Standing Committee will be the Ecclesiastical Authority.Together with all the leadership presently in place, both appointed and elected, the Standing Committee will carry us through to our October 4th Annual Convention and beyond. We as a Diocese will not be intimidated or turned from our over-riding commitment, which is faithfulness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ within the mainstream of Anglicanism.
"Second, I want to share with you the text of a letter I wrote to the entire House of Bishops on August 24th. It addresses my situation as yet one more manifestation of the moral collapse of the Episcopal Church in recent years. Whatever is decided on Thursday, this is a tragic moment for the Episcopal Church.
"Third, I ask you to pray, to pray for me, for Nara, for all our leaders, for our Diocese and, above all, for whatever will best serve our Lord's purposes. Today is the eleventh anniversary of my 'seating' as diocesan bishop. No one could have imagined that we (or I) would be facing this unprecedented trial without a trial. But at the beginning I asked you all to pray. You said you would. As a result, God has done remarkable things with and through us all.
"So fear not. It is confidence in our faithful God that will carry us all through to a better day, to the other side of the vote on September 18th and the other side of votes on October 4th. I expect that God will still grant me many years of service to the people and the place I have come to love so much. "[Because of the storm] they were frightened. But Jesus said to them: 'It is I; do not be afraid.' [John 6:19b-20]"
Mr. John H. Lewis, Jr. Bishop Duncan's attorney told David Virtue, of Virtue Online, pointing out that the Presiding Bishop and her chancellor are violating the canons of The Episcopal Church in order to "remove" Bishop Duncan prior to the diocesan convention in October. The move is clearly political in intent and nature.
According to Virtue, Lewis called the action "improper" because Duncan's actions are only "intentions." He cited the failed attempt to depose San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, as a case in point. He further argued that both The Episcopal Church and the Province of the Southern Cone (under whose authority Duncan would come under) are members of the same "communion"- the Anglican Communion.
Lewis noted that the real intent of using this particular canon was to use the Task Force on Property disputes - not the Review Committee - for the purpose of seizing property. The Canons state that the case of an "inhibited" bishop must be referred to the HOB for action. Bishop Duncan has not been inhibited, let alone deposed. Jefferts Schori tried once before to inhibit him, but failed to get the consent of three senior bishops so had to drop it, albeit temporarily.
"If the presiding bishop really believes that Bishop Duncan's statements and 'intentions' violate the canons, then she should follow the honorable course prescribed by the canons, announce a presentment and give him a trial," Lewis stated.