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Monday, September 15, 2008

'Spain it to me, Lucy

I'm not a lawyer or a canon lawyer (and I don't play one on TV), I'm just a white girl, a lover and follower of Jesus, who, like a whole whack of other people, is trying to make a difference in the world.

While it may be at least partly true in certain circumstances, I've never found myself accused of being simple-minded. Perhaps the charge might stick in this instance, but I confess that I don't understand the apoplexy around the anticipated deposition of Bishop Bob Duncan.

I didn't understand it when it happened for Bishop John-David Schofield's deposition. I'll likely not understand it when Jack Leo Iker or Keith Ackerman and, perhaps others (if they don't retire before actually, formally 'leaving') are, eventually, deposed.

Here's what I know about the actions of the Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh without looking at the report of the Task Force or the letter from the Presiding Bishop and without breaking a sweat:

1. He had a primary role in the widely-distributed and equally widely viewed film "Choose The Day" in which he said that TEC was apostate and followed a counterfeit Bible.

2. He has led his own diocese in changing their canons to disassociate from TEC, and is leading them to ratify these changes in their convention next month.

3. He has led and organized other disgruntled congregations and religious congregations who have left TEC or are considering leaving TEC who identify themselves as "Anglican" but are not in formal communion with Canterbury.

4. As "moderator", he has taken a leadership position in this network of "continuing Anglican" churches which places him the role of leading the charge to actively promote schism in TEC.

5. He actively promotes the punishment and banishment of TEC for legally electing and duly consecrating an honestly gay man as the bishop of NH.

If I'm wrong or have misstated any of these things, I earnestly desire to stand corrected.

A question: If Bishop Duncan were accused of boundary crossings, would he be rightly convicted?

I dare say that if someone in Duncan's own organization did these things, his actions would be swift and punitive and would leave little doubt as to where he and his organization stand theologically, philosophically and legally.

And yet, the charge is made by him and other "orthodox evangelicals" that the process of his deposition is "unfair" and "punitive" and "illegal" and the Presiding Bishop as "mean spirited", "incompetent" as well as a "coward and a wretch". Those are just the charges I can reproduce in a 'family' listserv like this.

George Conger's article which describes how "legal doubt" concerning the process is being raised is yet another thinly veiled attack on what is - and, it is as clear as the Iberian nose in the middle of my face - what Bishop Duncan obviously and earnestly desires: to no longer be part of this apostate, impure church with its counterfeit Bible, inaccurate understanding of Jesus and insufficient spirituality.

If Bishop Duncan really wants to leave and take the diocese with him, what would have prevented the diocese from petitioning the General Convention to mutually dissolve the union between the diocese and the General Convention? You're right - it probably would not have passed with sufficient votes, but at least it would be using the appropriate channels of canon law in an honorable fashion.

The process would then be to salvage your losses, take what you can, resign your post, reorganize your base, put down your roots and bloom where God has planted you. If this truly is a "breaking anointing" as someone prophesied the year 2008 would be for Bishop Duncan, then the gate will be opened. If you believe the first part, is it too simple minded to think that one would believe the second part?

So, is all of this really, only, about the property? Is THAT it?

After all the high-flung language about Jesus and scripture, all the outrage at the "immoral and deficient theological drift" of TEC, it's finally, ultimately, all about the property? Are things 'of this world' more important than working to bring about the Realm of God as you understand it?

Really? I don't get it. Someone 'spain it to me, Lucy.


Hiram said...

A parallel - a couple are engaged to be married. As one watches their actions, it is clear that they are planning to be married - invitations, choosing menus for the reception, taking pre-marital counseling, looking for an apartment, and so on.

When are they married? When they send out the invitations? No. When they get the marriage license? No. When they rehearse the ceremony? No. When the bride comes down the aisle? No. They are not married until they have exchanged vows and have been declared husband and wife. Then they are indeed married - but NOT before.

Yes, Bp Duncan has done much to prepare the Diocese of Pittsburgh out of the organization known as the Episcopal Church. But it has not yet happened. Perhaps he will change his mind, or the diocese will change theirs. If Bp Schori had any hope of bringing reconciliation, she would not be taking preemptive action - if she were expressing concern, meeting to negotiate, or any number of other things.

But the Presiding Bishop says that the Episcopal Church will continue on its present course. More than that, she is saying that the law means what it says she it means. There is no hope given that the conservatives will ever be more than barely tolerated. There is not much hope that Bp Duncan will change his mind - but there is always the possibility. Until Bp Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh actually do vote to change their affiliation, they have only talked about it - they have not done it. And talking about abandoning the Episcopal Church is not the same as abandoning it. The Canon cannot legitimately come into play until the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Bp Duncan actually pass the enabling legislation.

The only good thing about what Bp Schori is doing is that it is becoming increasingly clear that the Episcopal Church is an organization that runs by personal fiat, not by its own internal governing principles and laws.

Jim said...

It is actually about a bit more than the property.

These men received their orders from the (various nasty attributes inserted here) Episcopal Church. They attained their offices in it.
They believed until the Spirit led some to places they wont go, that where two or three are gathered together in his name (even in New Hampshire!) Jesus is there. In fact, Jesus might be at the HoB meeting gathered in his name, when Bp. Duncan becomes Mr. Duncan.

So, as much as they protest to the contrary, there is a tiny bit of them that cannot take the church's action in recognizing their abandonment of it. Because it might suggest, just maybe, that they are wrong. And worse yet, if it is so illegitimate a body, what does that say about their status as clergy? Status is after all, for many of them, a lot more important than anything else.

And so, as does Hiram here, they simply ignore the evil acts already done, the participation in irregular ordinations (that was Bp. Duncan in Kenya this year!) the assault on the church in the infamous Chapman strategy and "Choose This Day" (I will name it) blasphemy, and all the rest.

So, the cling to legal fictions suggesting the HoB cannot do business unless all the retirees are there. I wonder if Jack Spong showed up and voted how that would sit with them? By the illogic they offered trying to claim new lows of duality for the former bishop of SJ, he could and should.

Oh it is property and money surely. But it is also legitimacy. When we start calling him Mr. Duncan, they loose some standing and they cannot stand that. The anger with which they proclaim we do not matter, over and over and over again, tells the story – they protest too much.


Malcolm+ said...

It would be an interesting exercise to compare the complicated process for discipline and deposition of bishops and others in the Episcopal Church with the relatively straightforward manner of such things in Nigeria, Uganda and cetera.

In those provinces it apprars deposition is accomplished by primatial fiat with no process due or otherwise.

Just one more example of faux-orthodox hypocrisy.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

What Jim said.

This reminds me of two dear friends of mine, who got their college education up to the Master's degree thanks to various parts of the public dole (federal grants/loans/state of Mo. scholarships) and one of them was raised by two public schoolteachers...yet now suddenly they are libertarians who don't believe in "educational welfare" from the state or feds.

Yeah, they stopped believing it right after "I got mine."...

Yet these clergy who are so unhappy, and drive the "unhappy bus" with their congregations, I don't see them renouncing the vows that gave them the power to do all this dissenting.

I can handle differences of opinion. I can handle schism if that is what it takes. What I cannot handle is doing it with the power of "I got mine" and wanting to take the property and the stuff along with it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hello hiram.

Well, my dear, if it talks like a duck who is leaving TEC and walks like a duck who is leaving TEC, then, it's a duck who is abandoning communion. C'mon!

The argument that says, "he just might change his mind" makes +Duncan look foolish and weak. Now, Bob Duncan is a lot of things, and history may prove him to be foolish, but weak, he ain't.

It's just richly ironic that those who choose to twist and turn the canons of TEC, which were clearly not designed for this particular eventuality, to cast doubt on the legal process as well as the integrity of our PB and her administration, are moving to a place where deposition can be achieved not be "due process" but by primatial fiat.

I just wish we'd get something - a whisper of something - from 815 or someone else in the know which gives us some sense about the nature of the legal urgency of this process in the HOB.

Mark Harris said...

great minds think alike (or is it that we are more closely related than previously supposed? Yesterday I wrote much the same as your comment re Bp Duncan and petitioning the GC. "If he wanted to leave and take the diocese with him, what would have prevented the diocese from petitioning the General Convention to mutually dissolve the union between the diocese and the General Convention. I know....he probably would have lost that vote as well, or it would perhaps have been considered out of order (although Puerto Rico did it). Still, it would have put the issue before the whole Convention. Speeding off the highway and into the supposed bright new day, or perhaps the unlit side streets, is a lot of things, but it ain't mutual."

It is indeed a good question.

Hiram said...

"Well, my dear, if it talks like a duck who is leaving TEC and walks like a duck who is leaving TEC, then, it's a duck who is abandoning communion."

He is not out the door until he is out the door. This is supposed to be a legal process, and legal processes deal with defined terms and situations, not with tendencies.

Bp Duncan will leave. I would be astonished and dismayed if he and the diocese did not - but he will not have left until he has left. And until he leaves, there is a chance, however minuscule, that he will not.

The canon on abandonment of communion was written to deal with bishops and other clergy who left for Rome, the Presbyterians or some other body not at all in communion with the Episcopal Church or within other Churches in the Anglican Communion. Since ECUSA does not recognize the declaration of broken communion by several Anglican Churches in Africa, when Bp Duncan participated in consecrations in Africa, he was not participating in an act contrary to the canon on abandonment of communion.

Jim said, "Status is after all, for many of them, a lot more important than anything else."

And how do you know that? I find that it is not easy to know the full motivation of even people I have known for years. I doubt that you understand the real motives of conservatives -- in fact, I doubt that you even know what conservatives actually believe.

Malcolm, what is your source for that claim? I have spent a little time in Uganda; they do have canons, and they do follow them, even if they are different from ECUSA canons.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Mark, I'm flattered, but it just ain't so. My head isn't big enough to fit the amount of intellect you have in yours. Thanks, dear heart. You know, if I were straight and you were gay. Wait a minute. We'd be in the same situation we are now. See what I mean?

Jim said...

Rev Elizabeth wrote:

"I just wish we'd get something - a whisper of something - from 815 or someone else in the know which gives us some sense about the nature of the legal urgency of this process in the HOB."

I suspect these things take on a life of their own. Contrary to the hateful commentary by Rev. Conger and the bullies, the PBp seems to think the canons matter. The language of the relevant canon clearly contemplates her duty to bring this matter before the next HoB meeting after the 60 day window has closed. ;;shrug;;

Not that the HoB cares, but I think it is a mistake. Bp. Duncan should have been charged with conduct unbecoming a bishop, tried and after (inevitably because it is true) being convicted, deposed. That way, the trial, the record, the judgment would all be crystal clear. But, they are not listening to old Rom activists in Chicago.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hiram, I have this image of the stereotype of a man, standing at the altar with his bride, looking for "the right one" before he says his "final" I Do.

Duncan knows what's going to happen. He knows he deserves it. That's why he's not even coming to the HOB meeting.

Really, Hiram, whenever you suggest that +Duncan may change his mind at the last minute . . . well, let's just say that you do not cast him in a good light as a leader.

The twists and turns in your logic are painful to watch, hiram. You are stretching things to cover +Duncan's shameful behavior in the past. Problem is, you've stretched it so far, it's become see-through.

JimB, I, hate to admit it, but there is a very wicked part of my soul that says it's a far better idea to put +Duncan through the humiliation of an ecclesiastical court trial and "strip" him, publicly of his purple shirt than to have the HOB depose him for Abandonment of Communion.

Well, it's a moot point anyway. By the time they started the presentment, the second vote will already have been taken and it will be a done deal.

The way I understand it, however, is that this is on the agenda of the HOB meeting for DISCUSSION. Whether or not "a jury of his peers" will decide to act on the information they receive is still not a done deal.

At least, that's how I understand it. OCICBW.

Jim said...

Rev. Elizabeth,

I hear you but that is not what I had in mind.

First, I think he would see it as the great opportunity to have a forum to tell us apostates what evil people we are. (I actually admit it, look at the company I keep!)

Second, his supporters (cf. Hiram) would have to come up with a new explanation as "denied a hearing" would not work. ;-)

Third and actually what matters to me, is the record would be made. Any fair trial laying out what he has done would end with conviction and deposition. But the record would be laid and no one could claim as the haters now do that the poor bishop is being persecuted by the bad presiding bishop. Oh, they would lie about it, but the record would be there.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

jimB - you make a compelling case, my friend. There is something to be said for having things "on the record." Perhaps the HOB will decide precisely that.

Hiram said...

Elizabeth, I do not think that there is any doubt in Bp Duncan's mind as to the course he will take. But (as I am saying for the third time) he will not have left the Episcopal Church until he leaves it. The canon does not say that people can be deposed for talking about leaving or for planning to leave - just for leaving.

There are any number of things that could happen between now and the Pittsburgh convention. They are of very low probability, but until the vote is taken, the convention and Bp Duncan will not have voted to separate from ECUSA. Bp Schori might have a change of heart and mind, and become an evangelical or a charismatic (or both). Bp Duncan might die (he and his wife get death threats, or he might have a heart attack or accident). The House of Bishops might decide that it would be wise and good to allow dioceses and parishes to decide whether they want to continue as members of ECUSA, and set up a procedure for such decisions, so that what is now ECUSA can divide amicably.

There are things other than Bp Duncan equivocating that could lead to Pittsburgh not going through with what is planned. As I said, they are low probability, but not impossible. I know a man whose bride was killed in an accident as the limousine was on its way to the church.

Fr Harris, the scenario of petitioning GC for an amicable separation is the ideal. The very fact that such a request (apart from a Red Sea miracle) would be greeted with howls of outrage means that another course is to be taken. If you are a GC delegate, why don't you propose a measure for the peaceful separation of dioceses or parishes?

Right now, however, the only doctrine that the "progressives" seem to believe in with any strength is ecclesiology. Christology, the doctrine of sin, theological anthropology, the atonement, the Trinity are all "in play;" one may believe as one pleases. But the church and its canons (as interpreted by the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor) are supreme and cannot be controverted.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi again, Hiram. You know, you could pick up a bad reputation if some of your buds know you are hanging around this place so much.

Let me ask you this: If it's so improbable, why do you keep offering it as a possibility?

It's not going to happen. Let it go.

Besides, that's not the reason NOT to take action. I think there are legal implications all over this and ++KJS and our chancellor are simply following legal protocol.

I don't know what the HOB will decide to do. I think ++KJS did what she had to do - no matter how unpopular that makes her. That's the mark of a real leader.

I trust the Holy Spirit to guide the HOB in their discernment and decision-making.

I agree with Mark - if Pittsburgh had requested separation three years ago, we'd be looking at the potential for a peaceful separation in 2009. This schism, however, is of +Duncan's own doing. He has no one to blame but himself.

As for laws verses doctrine - so, what else is new, Hiram. Think for a minute about what you wrote.

Laws are laws and must be followed - they are also amended and changed over time as new information is gained.

Doctrine are not law. They are a set of beliefs. The Episcopal Church, as part of the WWAC has always prided itself on being, in the words of evangelical C.S.Lewis, "the roomiest room in all of Western Christendom."

So, Hiram, what's old is new and what's new is old.

Thanks for stopping by. While you're here, check out the 2.30sec video of the 1,000th baptism at St. Paul's. It's all pretty orthodox.

JCF said...

When are they married? When they send out the invitations? No. When they get the marriage license? No. When they rehearse the ceremony? No. When the bride comes down the aisle? No. They are not married until they have exchanged vows and have been declared husband and wife. Then they are indeed married - but NOT before.

The problem w/ this analogy, Hiram, is that it assumes that TEC is either the "State of" or, well, "The Church".

Let's try a wrinkle on your parallel: assume ALL the same details---wedding invitations, rehearsal, etc, etc---and I'm one of members of this couple's pre-existent spouse.

Am I waiting for the "I do" to file for divorce? (Even if---to stretch the analogy farther---adding the charge of bigamy will strengthen my legal case in the recovery of my assets?)

Nope. By the time I know of my spouse's Significant Other---that my spouse intends to stay with, live with, and covenant with that Significant Other, ignoring my spouse's covenant to ME---has come the time of "No Deal."

I'm kicking the Rat B*stard OUT!

Hope that helps, Hiram. Peace be with you!

Cany said...

I think you well expressed what I am feeling.

I don't get it.

I don't get it.

I don't get it.


One for the Father, one for the Holy Spirit, and one for Christ. And I still don't get it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

OCICBW, but we may have spun this one right to the very last thread, so I just want to give a shout out to hiram. It takes a brave man to wander over here to TS. You, sir, are a brave man. And you have behaved like a gentleman.

I appreciate that. For my part, I find that there is a place in my stomach that clutches whenever one of the SFiF crowd ventures over here, and I can be snarky. I don't want to be and I have to work hard to keep it under wraps. I apologize to you if I came across at any time as snarky.

I could be in a church with you. We'd both passionately disagree and we might, from time to time, get so pissed off at each other that we'd have to be separated by rows and rows of pews in order to be civil to each other from time to time, but we both love Jesus and His sacred Body, the church, and that's enough for me.

If you have left TEC, I hope you can find your way back. If you are thinking about leaving TEC, I hope you reconsider. If you have never been a member of TEC, I hope you'll consider joining us.

Thanks, hiram. Good talking with you.

Hiram said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I think that you are wrong on a number of major points, but that does not mean I do not respect you, nor those who are your allies. We are all created in God's image, and we are all sinners in need of mercy.

I am still in ECUSA, but for how much longer I do not know. To me, the Episcopal Church seems hopelessly compromised, mistaking license for liberty, and ignoring or even repudiating central doctrines. But for now, I am still here. We shall see what the future brings...

Jim said...

Let me echo you Rev. Elizabeth. I post from time to time on SF and it is a tough road. There is a small difference, some of the posters over there (not Hiram who is a good guy) equate conversation with surrender and attack not only ideas but persons. ;;sigh;;

None-the-less, it does take a particularly brave sort to venture here.