Comments: The Bishop of Pittsburgh

I assume the difference is that Duncan has not, as yet, actually moved his diocese to another province...which raises the question of what will happen when the next Pittsburgh diocesan convention meets to vote on its "dis-affiliation" motion.

Will the threat of inhibition keep Duncan from supporting the second vote?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 11:32am GMT

Bishop Bob says

“Few bishops have been more loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. I have not abandoned the Communion of this Church. I will continue to serve and minister as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.”

Ah, good. So it won't be necessary to be off consecrating episcopi vagranti, forming irregular canonic relationships with overseas provinces, rewriting the canons of TEC on the fly, advocating amendments to his diocesan constitution, pestering Holy Rowan (who must be feeling some sympathy for Pharaoh by now), seeking to create a new "Anglican" Church in America, and now the whole realignment thing - including GAFCON - was really just an elaborate practical joke? It will be good to have these little matters all cleared up. Everyone remembers how quick he was out of the blocks to condemn the actions of the Bishop of San Joaquin in the week before Christmas, and I'm sure the press release is out there somewhere in the virtual cosmos, just waiting to be recorded in an empathetic blog.

I, for one, look forward to seeing the clarification of the good Bishop of Pittsburgh. He's had the example of San Joaquin to see how NOT to do it if he's flying the coop - now he must speak plainly for the first time. He's definitely going to be having some pre-Lenten restraint in the cake shop.

Posted by kieran crichton at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 12:41pm GMT

Went to the cinema (movies) last night to see Golden Compass. Great fun. Bishop Jefferts Schori is portrayed as a young girl who battles against the Magisterium (Primates' Meeting) and the Gobblers (Global South).

The Gobblers capture young children and strip them of their souls so that they cannot challenge the control of the Magisterium. It's worth seeing.

Posted by Terence at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 1:17pm GMT

it would be more honorable if Bob admitted up front he was in fact abandoning the Communion of the church. Pittsburgh's amendments to their canons have clear meaning.

Posted by Weiwen at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 1:55pm GMT

This is a serious setback for the American PB.

It seems as if forces are conspiring against her.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 2:11pm GMT

“This is a serious setback for the American PB. It seems as if forces are conspiring against her.”—Martin Reynolds

Nonsense! I’m sure that Duncan will still be defrocked in 59 days and counting!

Posted by Kurt at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 3:01pm GMT

Martin Reynolds --
One suspects that this situation is a consequence of the group concerned being comprised solely on the basis of seniority -- but even so, one of them could not deny that Bishop Schofield had crossed a line that Bishop Duncan has yet to do -- it certainly clogs up the works & allows time for even more mischief! But at the process has been begun.

Terence --
I enjoyed the movie myself, but missed the allegory -- thank you.

"Bob Pittsburgh" seems to obey the discipline of an Episcopal Church that exists on some Platonic level rather visible only to himself than the real thing.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 3:12pm GMT

Martin, I don't quite see your point about "forces conspiring" against Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. Yes, at least one of the three senior bishops did not feel he could agree to an inhibition of Bishop Duncan at this time. However, your suggestion implies that this is a personal power struggle between the Presiding Bishop and the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

The canonical procedures have been followed. The critical designation, that a majority of the Review Committee feels Bishop Duncan has left the communion of the Episcopal Church, has been stated. The House of Bishops as a whole will in due time consider either this determination, or Bishop Duncan's response claiming he continues in, and subject to Constitution and Canons of, the Episcopal Church. Arguably, the latter would be preferable.

As has been noted, Bishop Duncan has not sought to carry his diocese out to the extent Bishop Schofield has. He has an opportunity to clarify where he stands on his own behalf. So, where's the conspiracy?

Posted by Marshall Scott at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 3:47pm GMT

Martin, it's more likely that Wimberly refused to go along with it, since his one-time friends on the right have been giving him the usual treatment for consenting to Schofield's inhibition.

Posted by JPM at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 3:52pm GMT

I don't see it as a serious setback since Bob is still on track for proceedings by the House of Bishops for ecclesiatical discipline. The abandonment of communion label does in all likelihood cast a legal shadow if he attempts to seize property - at least it is one more complication when courts get to judge the his status in the months and years to come

Posted by ettu at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 4:08pm GMT

Martin Reynolds sees this as "...a serious setback for the American PB."

JPM points out the likely Wimberly effect (frankly, I was surprised he approved the Schofield action, so perhaps Bishop Don can do the right thing when the facts are obvious to even the most dense, and in denial, individual).

And ettu notes the action as merely the starting point of a very deliberate process, where, I would suggest, that Duncan has merely been less of an arrogant fool than Schofield.

I would also add another dimension:

The PB knew that Wimberly would not go along.

She also knew that the Schofield action was a huge shot across the bow of Duncan and Iker and other schismatics.

She also knew that Duncan would realize the imminent risk, because of the findings of the Review Committee.

So, in addition to setting the multistep process in action, she knew that the combined effects of the Schofield inhibition and the Duncan determination by the Review Committee, would have to slow down Duncan's actions, make him less willing to further expose his neck, and just sit back and wait for Duncan arrogance to get the better of the Duncan intellect.

This is not a setback at all, but a carefully-built strategy, with brilliant tactical advantages for the health and integrity of TEC.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 4:42pm GMT

Why as you view of Church got be so narrow?
Bishop Robert Duncan has not abandoned the communion because the Church is far wider than "The Episcopal Church". He has and is still remaining faithful to the faith of the Apostles and for his witness I am truly grateful.
The Church in the Church Catholic, not the Episcopal Church of America!

Posted by Mark Wharton at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 5:05pm GMT

Can someone enlighten me on the nature of the proceedings here? It appears that an inhibition can be carried out (and the PB sought to carry this one out) without the prospective inhibitee being informed of the pendency of the proceedings and having an opportunity to respond, be represented, appeal the decision, etc. I.e., without normal due process.

On the other hand, perhaps I simply wasn't aware of the fact that this has been wending its way towards a decision for some time, Duncan was on notice of the pendency of proceedings, was given his opportunity for response, etc. Just looking at the reports, it appears that the inhibition was a star chamber ex parte proceeding that failed by a whisker to receive all the necessary consents and only then did PB tell Duncan and ask him to respond to the charges. Was she really trying to spring this on him?


Posted by Steven at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 6:04pm GMT

I only hope the one bishop that felt Duncan should not be inhibited will be around to see what happens this Nov/2008. AFter the next convention and the diocese turns into the mess that SJ is in (with priest being fired and peopel worshipping in houses) he'll be satisfied.

The Episcopal Church that Duncan refers to isn't the one we all belong to. If any of you remember he has often made the statement "I haven't left the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church has left me (or the diocese). We continue to be what we have always been in this place, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh."

That'll be his response, I'm almost certain.


Posted by BobinSwPA at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 6:40pm GMT

Duncan has abandoned the communion of the church, obviously. He's also abandoned reality, but that doesn't seem to count for much these days.

One could bet money that Don Wimberly was the bishop who didn't go along. He's been sitting on the fence and pandering to Duncan & Co. in order to avoid a revolt from his big money parishes in Houston. His diocesan council is next month, so by temporarily delaying Duncan's inhibition until March, he's bought himeself some breathing room with the radical right nut jobs in Texas.

Now THAT'S leadership (I jest)

Posted by pete at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 7:58pm GMT

Keep fighting the good fight, Bobby! Hear these words from Holy Writ...

"Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Yet in the same manner these persons, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you." But these people revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain..." -St. Jude

Posted by Joe at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 8:10pm GMT

Forces conspiring? Gee Golly Gosh this has been the case in the con evo realignment campaign for quite some time. Just read through how PB KJS gets regularly characterized on con evo realignment blogs by a huge number of realignment believer posters. Just read through the published realignment campaign plans disseminated so long ago among us. Rather so boldly, I think, as to seem to suggest that we were incapable of reading them and taking those plans seriously enough to be effective in doing anything about their inevitable success in narrowing and conforming all Anglican believers in their own self-interested ethical and theological favor.

The more relevant new point, I would prefer to suggest, is that now finally PB KJS (and others in key roles) are taking canonical actions, after quite a bit of delay and dithering about from all three bishops, i.e., from Iker, Duncan, and Schofield. The preachments from Iker and Duncan, even now, remind me of the ordinary street con artist who defrauds you of money or resources while either loudly proclaiming that he or she simply isn't doing so, or loudly proclaiming that he or she is just doing you a very real favor.

Organizationally, I would think a first diocesan vote in favor of amendments which begin to separate any diocese from the provincial church would be sufficient to trigger very close scrutiny in favor of the hypothesis that one is leaving, which is abandoning.

I do not see that Anglican con evo realignment believers have done much of anything in the real world and in real church life, except try to justify - if not outright require - various neighborly abandonments of most untraditional or competent women, LGBTQ folks, and a scattered variety of other target groups viewed very marginally in con evo realignment ethics and/or theologies.

It seems patently obvious that schismatic bishops do not themselves feel much bound by TEC disciplines, though they constantly preach that all the rest of us must strictly be strictly bound by every jot and tittle of their very dubious views, not to mention their very dubious readings of scripture.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 8:33pm GMT

Well done in picking the allegory Terence.

The Catholics have made an embarassment of themselves by getting in a hoopla about how it is an attack on them.

It's true, it is, but only those parts that misuse power and claim divine righteousness to justify their greedy collusion with oppression.

The same rebukes and allegories apply equally well in Anglicanism (as you've noted), as they did to the Pharisee Teachers of the Law in Jesus' time, and as they do to any religious caste in any time or place in history that condones and colludes with oppression.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 9:13pm GMT

Interesting comparison with Bishop Spong here.

Posted by MargaretG at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 9:32pm GMT

Martin Reynolds, could you say a little more please? I see I'm not the only one here who didn't fully understand your remarks. Thanks.

Posted by Charlotte at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 10:30pm GMT

"Why as you view of Church got be so narrow?
Bishop Robert Duncan has not abandoned the communion because the Church is far wider than "The Episcopal Church". He has and is still remaining faithful to the faith of the Apostles and for his witness I am truly grateful.
The Church in the Church Catholic, not the Episcopal Church of America!"

But the bishop's vows are not to the "church catholic" but to the canons and communion of the Episcopal Church.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 16 January 2008 at 11:59pm GMT

As a communicant of the Diocese of Texas, I must protest the attacks above on my bishop. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Bp. Wimberley voted against and that both Bp. Lee and Bp. Frade voted for. I would not be surprised if all three of them agreed that passing a constitutional change on first reading is not at all the same thing as announcing that you have left the Episcopal Church and are now a bishop in another province that has declared itself out of communion with TEC. That is certainly a distinction that I can see, and that I suspect most lawyers (even canon lawyers) would see as well.

The Bishop has shown very little evidence of being beholden to "right wing nut jobs," whether in Houston or elsewhere. He has shown a commitment to keeping both sides talking while dedicating themselves to mission, which has avoided mass desertions as have happened elsewhere

Posted by Dale Rye at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 12:26am GMT

The squid defense, Joe - when all else fails squirt out a dense, impenetrable cloud of ink and hope that no-one sees through it.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 12:30am GMT

Surely Bishop Duncan has been expecting this -- his conduct in participating in sacramental acts in ecclesial bodies not recognized by Canterbury & his steps to remove the diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church (which IS in Communion with Canterbury AND to which he vowed his obedience) were simply dares to the authorities finally to act. They have. He has sixty days. If he does not repent (& no one expects him to) then it is up to the House of Bishops. I think they are fed up with giving the benefit of the doubt to dishonest men.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 1:16am GMT

"It appears that an inhibition can be carried out (and the PB sought to carry this one out) without the prospective inhibitee being informed of the pendency of the proceedings and having an opportunity to respond, be represented, appeal the decision, etc. I.e., without normal due appears that the inhibition was a star chamber ex parte proceeding that failed by a whisker to receive all the necessary consents and only then did PB tell Duncan and ask him to respond to the charges. Was she really trying to spring this on him?"

Steve, this is not so at all. Maybe your lack of awareness of other events might make it appear that this is sudden and secret, but unlike the schismatics, TEC operates in a fairly open and impartial way when it comes to removing bishops from their sees.

Duncan did receive a letter before the last diocesan convention warning him that the amendment to the diocesan constitution he was seeking would lead to proceedings for an inhibition. On 31 Oct 2007 the PB wrote to Bishops Duncan and Iker, warning them both about the likely consequences of their actions in seeking to disaffiliate their dioceses from TEC. Both responded by effectively thumbing their noses at the PB and inviting her to do her worst.

The present action has been the result of complaints originating within the diocese of Pittsburgh, which includes some apparently senior members of the diocesan government, along with a good number of clergy and laity. There's 40 pages worth of documentation at the top of this thread; it's a fascinating read - especially the sections on property - but quite damning for the bishop.

I don't think any of this equates to *Star Chamber* processes.

Posted by kieran crichton at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 1:50am GMT

If that was mean't for me Thanks Joe. It's a bit bleak in this diocese (Pittsburgh). I'm only a 20 minute drive to the diocese of West Virginia. If worse comes to worse I could join the local Presby church. They're really inclusive and very supportive of and active in social justice issues. Of course I'd seriously miss the Anglican form of worship and communion each week. Haven't give up yet though.

Posted by Bob in SW PA at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 3:30am GMT

Many people are confused about what is happening because they are not familiar with TEC's Title IV Disciplinary Canons, which are based not only on church tradition but also on U.S. law.

Under U.S. law, a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. That does not prevent the District Attorney from convening a Grand Jury to determine whether or not there is cause to pursue legal action against a person suspected of a violation of law. The future defendant is usually not privy to Grand Jury proceedings.

The Title IV Review Committee, composed of bishops, priests/deacons and lay persons, functions in essence as a "Grand Jury". Once their decision has been made known to the PB, in the case of proceedings against a TEC bishop, three senior bishops with jurisdiction must all concur with the Review Committee's findings that the bishop has violated his ordination vows before the PB may inhibit (i.e., suspend) the bishop from all sacramental functions until the inhibited bishop repents of his/her ways within sixty days, or else the bishop will face action by the House of Bishops (his/her peers) at the next HoB meeting after the expiration of the 60 days grace period. The HoB may clear the inhibited bishop of all charges or remove him/her from the ministry of TEC.

In the case of +Bob Pittsburgh the three senior bishops are divided over the findings of the Review Committee. Therefore, +Bob has not been inhibited. However, it is up to the HoB to find him in violation of his ordination vows or find him not guilty of the charges.

There is due process. In the meantime, +Bob has 60 days to amend his ways and reaffirm his ordination vows to uphold not only the faith and worship of TEC but also its (constitutional and canonical) discipline.

Of course, +Bob is at liberty to resign, without prejudice, as Bishop of Pittsburgh and request the HoB's permission to affiliate with another Anglican province as long as he is willing to reside in that province. That would be the honorable way for him to act as a bishop of TEC.

Posted by John Henry at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 4:55am GMT

Ah, it’s a brave (or foolish) Welshman that comments on TEC’s vicissitudes!

Charlotte it appears there are those who comment here who have a clearer understanding of the American PB’s mind than I, and to be honest, since BO33 I don’t think I would take her call were she anxiously wishing to advise me of its present state.

I think circumstances conspire against her because I believe she would rather not inhibit or depose anyone, rather she would prefer to offer TEC to the Communion as a model of how Anglicans of different views can continue together even after some parts go off in a huff and stand in the corner with a new set of friends.

Briefly I think that any possibility of that has been systematically destroyed by Rowan Williams’ team as they try to create a strong centralised Communion power base by playing up the strength of the individual diocese while claiming the authority of the “national” Churches for their own "Instruments" – when Rowan’s letter to Florida was published here on TA my reaction then was to post that TEC now had no choice but to depose its trouble makers – and quickly.
Then came Williams’ Advent letter and the attempt (as I see it) to forestall the removal of these bishops by some last-minute peace initiative. This might be appealing to some senior American bishops who do not want to be seen as upsetting this Canterbury initiative. There are other events and forces that I feel have helped “conspire” to put TEC’s PB in a difficult place.

Very briefly (leaving much out) I think this a serious setback because it is clearly a sign of disunity in the remaining American bishops and at this time and on this particular subject this is very damaging. It gives Duncan a considerable platform and he is using it. It sets back the timetable and will require a “special” meeting of the HOB to depose him giving ever more time for mischief and misrepresentation from that quarter.

Others think this a carefully managed plan – it is possible they are still receiving bishop KJS for tea – in which case Charlotte they might be better informed and their view should prevail.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 11:58am GMT

Kieran & John Henry:

The procedure you outline does not, to my mind, meet the requirements of due process, nor is it equivalent to a grand jury proceeding. A grand jury does not hand out punishment, it merely charges the defendant. The defendant then has an opportunity to be represented and defend in an open trial prior to the imposition of punishment. Lord help us if the Nifongs of the world can go straight from grand jury to punishment.

The procedure you've described is closed to the defendant and yet still results in punishment being imposed. A warning letter in advance of such proceedings--or as we sometimes refer to it in the legal profession, "a nastygram"--is no substitute for open proceedings with the accused's participation and defense. I've sent out (and received) many a nastygram in my day. That doesn't mean I was entitled to get penalties imposed without the burden of taking the matter to trial.

Frankly, I'm shocked. At law there are occasions for emergency actions where the niceties of due process cannot be observed. I can't see how this is such a case. The best justification might be the fact that this is a matter analogous to an employment issue, but still . . . .


Posted by Steven at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 2:06pm GMT

Sorry LOL, wrong bob lol.

Posted by BobinSwPA at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 3:16pm GMT

"Others think this a carefully managed plan – it is possible they are still receiving bishop KJS for tea – in which case Charlotte they might be better informed and their view should prevail." - Martin Reynolds

No, Martin, neither we nor you "know" the mind of the PB of TEC. That's not the point at all.

You have now provided your analysis, fleshing out your previously brief comment at 2:11 PM GMT on the 16th.

I provided my own analysis, also in this thread, at 4:42 PM GMT on Wednesday the 16th.

After consideration of your analysis today, I remain confident of my own.

But neither you nor I really "know," and only time will tell.

Besides, I'd much rather have a drink with Bishop Katharine, than tea; if the PB's staff is monitoring, how about sherry at 4, or a beer at 5:30?

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 5:51pm GMT

Hi Martin Reynolds, and thanks. I do understand better now. I had thought you meant the setback for PB Jefferts-Schori was that she could not get her three senior bishops to agree to an immediate inhibition of +Duncan of Pittsburgh. (Very many commentators, including George Conger, have been reading it that way.) Actually, you meant the opposite.

But I am not sure she is quite so reluctant to inhibit and depose, and in this regard I find her a welcome change from her predecessors. The canons have not been enforced for a long time now in the Episcopal Church, which has allowed our disloyal opposition to flourish unchecked.

(For an example of such, check the Ft. Worth story at Father Jake's: and taken from a letter written to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold by Dr. Ann Tucker in 2003, describing an incident that occurred on August 10, 2003 at St. Michael Church, Richland Hills, Texas:

"...It was a day in that church and in my life I shall never forget. The events of that service trouble me greatly.

"The service was late in getting underway. Fr. Deuel Smith was at the back of the church. He strode down the center aisle and dramatically threw the staff and flag of the Episcopal Church down on the floor at the foot of the altar and then walked across it. Walking back and forth across the flag he announced a change in the lessons, psalms, music, etc.

"He announced that they would not come from the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer. The processional started and again all walked on the flag, even the child acolytes, who of course had no choice. At the reading of the Gospel, again a display was made of four persons walking back and forth across the flag. The sermon was extremely rancorous and dramatic about The Episcopal Church.

"He told us he had put black tape on the word Episcopal on the church signs, and a large black cover would be in place the next day on the large curb side sign He informed us we were no longer an Episcopal church and that he was no longer an Episcopal priest and the flag and the word Episcopal would be neither seen nor spoken in that church again. He encouraged all parishioners to wear black ribbons and to sign a statement of withdrawal from the Episcopal Church.[...]"

I have witnessed scenes that were not quite that bad, but were bad enough. Many of us are glad that our Presiding Bishop is at last reining in some of the worst offenders.

One more remark (and, no, I don't see into her mind, nor anyone else's, but --) the assumption on all blogs seems to have been that just one senior bishop refused permission to inhibit +Duncan, namely +Wimberley of Texas, who is the most conservative. I don't know that this is true. We have a long legal tradition in the US that makes deeds, but not words, actionable. It is much harder to bring a successful prosecution for libel under US law than under British, for example. A liberal bishop might also have been unwilling to inhibit, given that +Duncan's offenses consist of words only at this point. Even now, some are unwilling to subordinate the law to the advancement of their personal political positions.

Posted by Charlotte at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 7:58pm GMT

Charlotte, that is absolutely unbelievable! Does this person claim, I wonder, that his bishop is persecuting him if any disciplinary action is taken? Is this merely a bizarre abberation? I have often said I think the "persecution" of the poor faithful remnant to be nothing more than discipline they called upon themselves, but I honestly never considered this kind of behaviour. What a drama queen! I know absolute flamers who would consider this a bit much. Ya gotta wonder where this degree of anger comes from. It certainly can't be over a simple theological disagreement.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 19 January 2008 at 3:16pm GMT
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