November 9, 2007

Wave (Goodbye) of Support

The Church Times reports that four English bishops have come out in support of the movements of Bishop Duncan "in but not of" Pittsburgh.

The Bishops of Chester, Chichester, Exeter, and Rochester issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, after the warning letter sent to him by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori.

In a characteristically veddy English fashion, the bishops appear to be more concerned with the character of the language in Bishop Jefferts Schori's letter than its import. Not pastoral enough, don't you know. (Have these bishops ever seen an actual shepherd at work?) Bishop Forster at least is careful to note they don't necessarily agree with the actions taken in Pittsburgh. Of course, they don't necessarily disagree either.

However, about the same number of bishops in the US are also of a similar mind with Duncan, so it looks like there's a positive wave of support for allowing bishops and their dioceses to do as they please regardless of their ordination vows "to this Church" or canons "of it." Please note, when our canons speak of "this Church" they mean The Episcopal Church -- not the Church of All Outdoors these bishops fondly imagine themselves to represent -- or serve. Or disserve.

One problem is that the English Four have misunderstood the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to Bishop Howe in precisely the way I thought they might -- mistaking his reference to parishes within a diocese to apply to dioceses within a Church. They seem to think that dioceses have the freedom to disassociate from their respective provinces when and if they decide to do so. I'd like to see any of them try it in Merrie Olde England.

I must have missed the chapter in Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Anarchy.

Tobias Haller BSG

17 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

The chickens come home to roost, eventually. I knew that letter from the ABC to Bp. Howe would come back to bite him - thoroughly mixing my metaphors. I could even add what's good for the goose....

Tobias Haller said...

From my theater days I remember there is a very complicated pun in Shakespeare's Loves Labours Lost involving the "envoi" of a letter and the French word for goose "oie" -- the point being they both come at the end! (The other kind of goose, that is. It is a rather bawdy scene. There is another involving a pun on "excrement" and "remember thy courtesy." This was a particular hit, I recall, at the school matinee performances when loads of pre-teens were delighted to discover the Bard replete with goosing and flatulence jokes. Wish Lambeth could be half as fun. Perhaps whoopee cushions could be installed in the great choir...)

Seriously, though, this is very sad; and I don't think Rowan quite realizes how much the radical right is hanging on -- and twisting -- his every word.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Perhaps whoopee cushions could be installed in the great choir...)

Tobias!

It is quite sad that the Archbishop seems so thoroughly unaware of the possible effects of his words once they go forth. I've never been able to understand that about him.

Marshall said...

I think this is certainly sad, if not a great surprise. Certainly, +Rochester has expressed support for Episcopal separatists before.

What is perhaps most sad is Bishop Forster's attempt to limit the statement he signed to "personal support," and not "support for positions taken at the Pittsburgh diocesan convention." If there had been no actions in diocesan convention, there would have been no letter from Bishop Jefferts Schori.

I was also struck by his call for a "pastoral response," when Duncan has not only refused the pastoral oversight opportunities that have been offered, but has separated himself emotionally and physically from possible pastoral support of sibling bishops when the House meets. I've spent my career focusing on pastoral care. It's awfully hard to be pastoral to one who doesn't want your support, and shows it by separating.

WSJM said...

Thinking Anglicans is reporting a story by Ruth Gledhill which includes her statement, "According to well-informed insiders, Dr Rowan Williams, while opposed to separatist solutions to the Anglican crisis, has described the plan of Bishop Venables as a 'sensible way forward…'” Well, Ruth, bless her heart, has not always been reliable. I certainly hope this is not true, because if it is, +Rowan has just destroyed the Anglican Communion. Sometime this evening I will try to post further comments at The Liturgical Curmudgeon http://wsjm-curmudgeon.blogspot.com.
WSJM

Anonymous said...

John 2007 writes

+Duncan in no way has abandoned the communion of the church nor recanted his ordination vows. Councils, conventions, and dioceses can err and--as everything from Windsor to the Primates communique to the frayed relationships on the ground--it ought to be clear that the disunity caused by VGR's election is a cause to turn around . . .as I see it.

+Duncan is miles ahead and miles above his colleagues in the HOB

Tobias Haller said...

Well, John 2007, in terms of your vision, you obviously employ the same inverted telescope of Bishop Duncan. The ordination vows in the Episcopal Church require one to follow the discipline of "the Episcopal Church." That Duncan chooses to set his own private judgment against that of the Episcopal Church is the classical definition of disobedience. That he declares himself no longer to be in communion with The Episcopal Church is, well, abandonment of "the communion of this Church" -- which is what the Canons say. He can't really have it both ways. Either he is an obedient Episcopalian, who continues to disagree with the decisions of the Church but remains within its laws, or he is something else.

None of this is to suggest that the Episcopal Church may not be in error, as you suggest. Or that Duncan may not be a perfectly good Christian soul; but if he wanted to be really good, and his conscience pricked him, and he thought the Episcopal Church was wrong and he couldn't get it to change, he should and could simply resign. That would be the honorable course, and others have taken it.

Anonymous said...

John 2007
It's a bit rich to ask Duncan and others to do the honorable thing and resign when, surely, by any standards (and as +Rowan has remarked) it would have been honorable thing for the pro-gay movement in ECUSA to address head on the issue of SSB's and SSU's instead of just electing VGR and seeing what followed.

It would have been honorable for FTG to have lived up to what he signed with the Primates and the same for KJS recently rather than, as they both have done, come home and done exactly the opposite of what they signed.

It would have been honorable for those, like you, who cry 'catholicity, catholicity' to honor the concilar nature of the church, speaking non-technically, and listened to the Primates and all the warning about tearing the sacramental unity of the church.

And, in no way, do I buy the idea that Duncan has violated the canons but, rather, is working within the constitutional processes which seem to be afforded him. Please also note the use of a canon not intended, of course, for the use KJS is using it. He is, to be precise (and I do commend you on being a blogger whois often very good at offering a fuller description of things than is found elswhere) testing the limits of the canon.

You know, I hope, that a mean-spirited bishop could have in years past, following the logic here of KJS and Smith of CT, brought the same charges against any number of partnered gays by saying they were 'abandoning the communion of the church' because they were not following the canons and rubrics of the BCP (which can be the basis of presentments). That didn't happen (and I am not saying it should have).

Moreover, why should +Duncan resign and abandon the care of his flock? He is their Bishop. He was elected by them. Remember BTW all those who said 'We're not sure about elevating VGR to the episcopate but we will give consents b/c it's the call of people in NH'? (Peter Lee of VA was one of them. And there were many others) Well, Pgh has elected Duncan and they will follow him. In no way is it less of him, or some deadness to conscience, to do what he is doing. And, I repeat my initial assertion that those on your side could have done the honorable and decent thing by gaining unanimity among the church, not to mention the communion, before proceeeding.

If your reply to that last sentence is 'Well, social change doesn't happen so neatly' (which I do not think is acceptable, or at least persuasive to me, as a reply) then allow those of us who support Duncan the same response: 'realignment doesn't happen so neatly, either.'

Peace (believe it or not) eventually!

Tobias Haller said...

John 2007,

it may surprise you, but I do not entirely disagree with you, on a number of points. It would have been more logically consistent (I'm not sure it's a question of honor) to have addressed the issue of the moral position of SSB/Us prior to the consent to Gene Robinson's election. However, it might well be said that the General Convention 2003 resolution C-051 that declared same-sex blessings in local communities to be within the bounds of our common life to have been at least a sufficient recognition of this fact --- and to apply a point you later make, if New Hampshire is understood as the relevant local community, then their approbation of Gene Robinson as bishop was sufficient to indicate a grant of wider approval by those not directly under his oversight. I certainly see how one might think otherwise.

I do think you are mistaken about FTG and KJS in relation to the documents they signed --- these were communiqués, which is to say summaries, of the transactions of the meeting. They were not contracts or agreements or covenants. In particular the Dar es Salaam statement clearly indicates in a number of passages the level of disagreement among the primates, and KJS's signature indicates only that it was an accurate representation of that meeting.

I think you're mistaken concerning the conciliar nature of the church, at least as far as Anglicanism is concerned. The Lambeth conference has no authority to decree doctrine. It is not a "council" but a "conference." Lambeth resolution 1.10 was not unanimously accepted --- and when the article on the relationship of homosexuality and Scripture was voted on separately fully a third of those present opposed it. The sacramental unity of the Church has been torn by the global South --- not by TEC. It is they who have walked apart, literally. They have broken communion with TEC, not us with them. They may feel justified in having done so; but such declarations are contrary to Anglican tradition.

Whether Duncan has actually violated the canons or is working within the constitutional processes remains to be seen. It seems, at this point, this will only be settled in an ecclesiastical trial. It appears to me that the abandonment of communion canon is applicable in this case. As I pointed out in my previous note the canon refers to "the communion of this church" --- which throughout the canons means "the Episcopal Church." Duncan cannot claim to be in communion with this church if he is attempting to withdraw his diocese from it. There is no provision for the transfer of a diocese from one province of the Anglican Communion to another without the consent of both provinces. I am, in this, attempting to be very precise. Canon IV.9 begins, "If a bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church..." Duncan has been warned that an effort to separate his diocese from the Episcopal Church would constitute a renunciation of the "Discipline... of this Church." As I say, there is no provision for a diocese separating from the Episcopal Church without the approval of the General Convention, thus an attempt to do so is a renunciation of its Discipline. It is not simply breaking a rule, but saying that "the rules don't apply to me."

As to your point about other charges being brought against others, 10 mean-spirited bishops did indeed bring a charge against Bishop Walter Righter for having ordained a partnered gay person. The trial court settled the matter: that this was not a violation. (By the way, it is not abandonment of communion to violate prayerbook rubrics --- although such violation can indeed be the grounds for presentment. Abandonment of communion involves "renunciation" --- which is more than a simple violation, but rather a statement to the effect that one is no longer bound by the discipline of the Church. The removal of the required accession to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church is a clear renunciation of such accession; it is a renunciation, not a mere violation, of the Discipline of this Church.) In any case, the Righter court decision established that it was not a violation for a partnered gay person to be ordained.

Finally, reread my closing paragraph in the previous comment. I am not suggesting that Duncan should resign if he is capable of living within the boundaries of the discipline of this church. He should be responsible to his whole flock, not simply those who happen to agree with him. There are several parishes in his diocese that do not wish to be separated from the Episcopal Church. Those that do, stand in violation of the canonical and legal principles under which this church is constituted. My point is, and it has been made amply by others, that individuals can leave the Episcopal Church anytime they choose; parishes and dioceses cannot --- at least not without the permission of the appropriate authority; and given the constitutional description of the Episcopal Church as a geographical unity it is very unlikely that the General convention would approve having dioceses responsible to overseas provinces within its borders.

I believe that Bishop Duncan has overreacted --- along with Bishop Iker and Bishop Ackerman, and Bishop Schofield. The Presiding Bishop has tried to work within the canons to find an acceptable solution to their feeling that she is unacceptable to them, in spite of her having been duly elected. I can give some credit to the bishops who are opposed to the ordination of women at least for some kind of logical consistency in their request; but Bishop Duncan is suggesting rather clearly that a disagreement over a church policy should be enough for him to require alternative primatial oversight. If every individual had the option of choosing his or her own priest or bishop the church would utterly collapse into congregationalism --- and a major part of the oath of conformity is a willingness to live with people with whom one disagrees: it is an oath of conformity after all, not an oath of agreement. It is this oath which Bishop Duncan is in danger of violating, if he has not violated it already.

And, indeed, I hope for peace.

obadiahslope said...

moving beyond your ellipsis in your quote from the TEC canons it states. 1. If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an
open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this
Church, or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in
communion with the same, or (iii) by exercising episcopal acts in and
for a religious body other than this Church or another Church in
communion with this Church, so as to extend to such body Holy
Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such
religious body Confirmation without the express consent and
commission of the proper authority in this Church; it shall be the duty
of the Review Committee, by a majority vote of All the Members, to
certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send
a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment,
which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding
Bishop. The Presiding Bishop, with the consent of the three senior
Bishops having jurisdiction in this Church, shall then inhibit the said
Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the
matter and act thereon. During the period of Inhibition, the Bishop
shall not perform any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts, except
as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese
of which the Bishop holds jurisdiction or in which the Bishop is then
serving.
Inhibition of
Bishop.
is clear that admission into a religious body with which the TEc is in communion is not "abandoment of communion".
It would seem that the canon does not envision a situation where joining with a church with which TEC is in communion would constitute abandonment of cmmunion.
t is more than likely that this was inconcievable to the people who wrote this canon.

Tobias Haller said...

Obadiahslope,
You have missed the significance of the important word "or" in the separation of the three causes for which a person may be judged to have abandoned communion. Only one of these "causes" is required for the canon to take effect. My ellipsis was intended to indicate that no further reference to the canon is needed, as the issue is renunciation of the Discipline of this Church.

The question in Duncan's case is not his joining a church with which TEC considers itself still to be in communion (even if the church in question does not consider itself in communion -- a strange situation, no?) It is a question of attempting to remove his diocese from TEC without the consent of the GC. He has "rejected" TEC as apostate. That is as clear a "renunciation" of its discipline as I think we are likely to see.

Anonymous said...

John 2007 scores it
Obadiahslope 1
Haller O

Tho' the HOB will not read the canons honestly and will, if it comes to a presentment for Duncan, convict him in spite of the canons, not on the basis of them because he has not, nor will not, abandon the communion in the terms set out in the canon as I originally said.

Tobias Haller said...

John 2007.

Fortunately for all concerned, you are not the umpire in this particular discussion. Neither am I. But I remain confident that you and Obiadiahslope have misunderstood the canons as they stand, and the issues at play. I could point you to a famous ecclesiastical trial in TEC of some years back, in which the significance of the word "and" was the crucial determinant. The same would go for the word "or" in this case. One cannot be in communion with The Episcopal Church and not in communion with it at the same time. Where Duncan actually stands will be determined by the proper authorities in due time, regardless of what you or I think about it.

Anonymous said...

John 2007

I am confident that the canons were not intended, key word here, to be punitive toward someone who still affirms everything they affirmed when they were ordained, when they were consecrated, and when they reaffirmed their vows (as they do in Pgh every year)as is the case with Duncan. These particular canons, if deployed, will be used by KJS opportunistically.

I'll quit now on this thread, except to say, again, I am more convinced than ever that the breaking of the sacramental communion was the consecration of VGR.

Tobias Haller said...

Well, John 2007,
I'm glad you're quitting on this one as you've fallen into the typical "reassertion without evidence" mode so common among those who have nothing to offer but an opinion.

If you want to learn more about the history of this canon, and its origins, you can read about it in White and Dykman. The only reason Duncan is able to claim, with a straight face, that he has not abandoned (or plans to abandon) the communion of the Episcopal Church is that he imagines that he IS the Episcopal Church and the one governed by General Convention isn't. Whether this is mere folie de grandeur or not is up for grabs; but as the canons are for the Governance of The Episcopal Church through The General Convention and he is seeking to separate himself from it and its authority, I think the sane among us recognize that he is in the process of abandoning the communion of "this Church" by renouncing its discipline -- which is defined in the canons as being constituted in those canons.

Moreover, he has now recieved a Godly admonition from his ecclesiastical superior, and has rejected it, quoting Luther, who, I hope you will recognized, abandoned the communion of the Church of Rome in much the same manner: in denying it to be the true church.

Anonymous said...

"I'm glad you're quitting on this one as you've fallen into the typical "reassertion without evidence" mode so common among those who have nothing to offer but an opinion."

No, Tobias, I quit b/c I didn't want to spend more time on it. Nice ad hominem. Lots of charity. Way to go.

Tobias Haller said...

No, John 2007, that was not an ad hominem attack, but a comment concerning the lack of evidence in your argumentation. You simply state you are confident of your assertion without further reason. You have also (above) insulted the House of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop (and by extension any who agree with them) of dishonesty because your interpretation of the canon doesn't mesh with ours. If you were to produce some evidence to support your opinion, I might be persauded; but instead you are merely repeating your assertion.

I have, on the other hand, offered considerable evidence as to the correctness of my position. Are you aware, for example, that the Canon was first introduced to deal with a Bishop going to Rome. Clearly he did not think himself to be renouncing the communion of "the church" (in the sense of the church of God, which is how Duncan and Iker like to read, and often misquote, this canon) but the communion of The Episcopal Church.

Are you aware that in 1904 the canon was amended to change "Doctrine, Discipline and Worship" to "Doctrine, Discipline or worship..." This was an important change, as I alluded to above.

Nothing could be clearer from either the language of the canon itself, or the history behind it (including the original intent) that it addresses the issue of communion with The Episcopal Church -- from which Duncan departs if he renounces its Discipline; which, if he removes himself from its authority (the General Convention), he does. Thus Duncan has indicated he does not intend to "conform to... the Discipline... of this Church."

Sorry you feel my comment was uncharitable. I bear no ill will towards you or Bishop Duncan, and I wish he would take the PB's advice and foreswear his intentions. I did not intend my comment to be uncharitable; but it appears to me you have yet to offer any evidence in support of your claim. If you choose not to, that is fine -- which was my point. If you don't wish to spend any more time discussing the matter, that is fine too.