Saturday, January 19, 2008

Senior Bishops Speak of Inhibitions

On Thursday, The Lead brought us a brief statement from Bp. Wimberly of Texas regarding why he did not give consent to the inhibition of Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh. Here's part of it:

...We consented to Scofield because the Diocese of San Joaquin had recently voted to leave the Episcopal Church. We did not consent to the request for Bishop Duncan because the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not held their annual convention yet and therefore has not formalized any change to their membership within the Episcopal Church, as the Diocese of San Joaquin had. Even though waiting postpones the issue coming before the House of Bishops, I believe it is prudent to take every precaution and afford Bishop Duncan the opportunity to remain in the Episcopal Church.
Bp. Wimberly seems to think that it is only the actions of the Diocese that can provide evidence that the Bishop has abandoned this Church. I find that an unusual way of looking at the situation. It is not the Diocese who is charged here, but the individual Bishop. The evidence provided to the Review Committee, which resulted in their certification that the charges were valid, offered details of the actions of Bp. Duncan that prove that he has abandoned the Episcopal Church. If other members of the Diocese decide to leave with him or not seems to me to be an unrelated matter.

Today, The Lead offers us a statement from Bp. Frade of of Southeast Florida regarding why he did give consent for Bp. Duncan to be inhibited. Here's part of that statement:

...I must state that after carefully examining the decision of the Review Committee headed by the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which recommended the move to inhibit both bishops--of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and of San Joaquin--and after reviewing all the supporting documents that give evidence of their actions, I was astonished that we neglected to take action any sooner on their obvious violation and breach of their oath to engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

I firmly believe that any bishops whose words and actions are in violation of this oath, as stated by church canon, should be equally subject to the appropriate canonical discipline.

I also believe that it is my episcopal duty to assiduously safeguard both the membership and patrimony of our Church as a whole. The faithful of those dioceses that have been betrayed by their bishops need to know that they are not abandoned by their Church.

The Episcopate must not tolerate such actions as these bishops have taken; they have betrayed the trust that was given them when we, their brother and sister bishops, consented to their election. The seriousness of this betrayal is not mitigated by the fact that in one of the cases the goal of turning away from The Episcopal Church has not been fully achieved. As I have learned to say in America, "You can not just be a little pregnant."

It was with great sadness that I concluded I had no other choice but to vote to move to inhibit two of my brothers who have betrayed their trust to be faithful shepherds of their dioceses, which are integral parts of our Episcopal Church...
Bp. Frade focused on the actions of Bp. Duncan, specifically identifying him as having violated the oath he took when consecrated as a Bishop.

You can find the actual text of the oath all Bishops in The Episcopal Church make on page 513 of the Book of Common Prayer. Here's the relevant text:

...I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church...
I can only imagine how Bp. Duncan would respond to the accusation that he is an oath breaker. But, we do have the rather contorted justification for such a violation from another Bishop who is planning schism; Bp. Iker of Fort Worth. His rationale is revealed in this exchange of letters, in which a member of the Diocese shared his concern regarding a statement by Bp. Iker that when renewing his ordination vows, he replaced "The Episcopal Church" with "The Anglican Communion." Here is Bp. Iker's explanation:

Spare me your sarcasm. If you want additional information, just ask for it.

The Preamble of the Constitution of ECUSA states that our identity as a church "is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion... in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order..."

At ordination as a deacon and again as a priest, the ordinand is asked, "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them?" At the consecration of a bishop, the ordinand is asked, "Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?" That means the whole, catholic church, not just ECUSA...
The question regarding on what authority Bp. Iker can ignore the vow he took, and arbitrarily change the wording of that vow, is never addressed. Instead, we get this arrogant and dismissive response. It seems to me that the justification for breaking his vow is that he can do it because he is the Bishop, and pity the fool who tells him he can't. Such a fine example of pastoral care, eh? Unless we hear otherwise, one must assume that Bp. Duncan's explanation for breaking his vow would be quite similar.


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