The Rt. Rev'd Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Churches in Europe, has sent a pastoral letter to his flock. It is a wonderful statement of the events. The letter is dated 21 Sepetember.
As you read this account of the events, please note the deep concern for Mr. Duncan; take special note of the words and actions of the Presiding Bishop. If you read only one bit of this pastoral letter, make sure you read the penultimate paragraph. My estimation of Bisop Whalon went up after reading that bit.
Dear people of the Convocation,
As I return today from the Salt Lake City House of Bishops meeting, I wish to make some comments on the meeting and in particular, the vote to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan.
As I have said before, I will soon issue a formal Pastoral Letter for all our congregations.
Our first day was spent "de-briefing" about our experiences of the Lambeth Conference. It was immediately clear that all of us were deeply affected by meditations on the theological content of the Archbishop of Canterbury's presentations as well as others like Rabbi Jonathan Sachs. For all of us, we feel new closeness to other bishops working in vastly different contexts, and we will continue to pursue developing these relationships personally and corporately.
One way that many encouraged us to use these new relationships is to write directly to people and explain the vote to depose Bishop Duncan.
There is a huge amount of disinformation and misinformation about this move. Bishop Robert Duncan was deposed for abandonment of the communion of this Church, under Canon IV.9. This followed a process begun by some clergy and laypeople of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. While he himself demanded a church trial in an open letter to the bishops, the only canonical basis for action by the Presiding Bishop and House of Bishops is the presentment itself.
The House of Bishops, in other words, could act only on what the complainants from
It is easy to derail the Canon IV.9 process by denying that one has indeed left the Episcopal Church. Bishop Duncan did not do so. Nor did he attend the meeting. Less than five minutes after the vote to depose him, the Diocese website announced that he had been received into the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the
My own understanding of the canons that I followed with a priest of the Convocation who claimed to be received in another province--while continuing to want to minister in Europe for that province and against us--is that one can only be legally transferred to another province of the Communion by moving there. As Bishop Duncan wished not only to join the Southern Cone province but also took active steps to remove the diocese with him, he clearly had done what the presenters charged.
The House upheld the rulings of the Presiding Bishop, her Chancellor, and the House Parliamentarian, that the canons were appropriately and correctly applied.
The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, did a flawless job of chairing the meeting. She warned us not to indulge in vindictiveness. As she has done before, she also admonished us not to abandon those bishops who have been deposed. They are still connected to us in a real way, by baptism to begin with. Bishop Katharine also saw to it that when two retiring bishops were feted later that evening, that time was given for people to remember Bishop Duncan in positive ways.
As for me, I discovered with great joy the Episcopal Church and the
Over the years, I have watched the once-great diocese become a shadow of its former self under Bishop Duncan's leadership. His clear schismatical intent to break up our church, as well as what I perceived as egocentric ambition to become its savior, also generated in me a great deal of anger toward the man. I took his actions even more personally, perhaps, because of my deep commitment to the diocese as the people who brought me out of a spiritual desert into a way of being Christian in which I have been able to follow Jesus. As I considered how to vote on his deposition, I realized that for the good of my own soul, I should abstain. It seemed clear that he would be deposed, and I fully concur with that decision. Had my vote been a tie-breaker, I would have changed it to a yes. However, in my heart I felt the temptation to use my vote as a way of getting even with the man. Abstaining seemed the healthier way.
This may seem precious to some. Perhaps they are right. But it is how I saw the matter at the time.
Yours in Christ,
Tomorrow, I will be commenting on one portion of this letter. I do not comment now because I prefer +Whalon's analysis and personal feelings to stand on their own.