Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bp. Duncan Hopes to be Rid of Troublesome Parishes

The mention in the comments here at Jake's place regarding a curious statement made by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh at a recent Diocesan Council meeting has now been confirmed by Lionel Deimel:

...Duncan apparently plans to rid himself of these troublesome parishes. At a Diocesan Council meeting on February 6, he explained that, should his diocese be granted some status independent of The Episcopal Church, “those choosing to remain in Province III will no longer be in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.” (This quotation is taken from the notes of a member of the Council. Recall that the Pittsburgh convention voted to leave Province III of The Episcopal Church last November, although I have argued elsewhere that this action was improper.) Loyal Episcopal parishes in the diocese have repudiated Network membership and sent funds to The Episcopal Church, something the diocese no longer does. In light of the recent diocesan action distancing itself from Province III, some of these parishes have reaffirmed their membership in Province III, as well as in The Episcopal Church. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh even sponsored a meeting in Pittsburgh for parish leaders and leaders of Province III. Seemingly, Province III affinity will mark a parish as in or out of the diocese, however. (It was mistakenly reported two days ago that the bishop planned to expel such parishes. Essentially, he has said that they will have removed themselves from his diocese.) My own parish, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, recently wrote the bishop reiterating our membership in The Episcopal Church and in Province III. If we are declared not to be a part of the diocese, where are we? The diocese might argue that the property of parishes such as mine, property that, after all, is held in trust by the diocese, should revert to the diocese. This is surely the worst fear of Calvary Church and its attorneys.

If Bishop Duncan is offered status as head of some entity independent of The Episcopal Church, it is not clear that the loyal Episcopal parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh can save themselves. The Episcopal Church must come to the rescue. It should, in such an eventuality, be obvious that Bishop Robert Duncan will have indeed abandoned the communion of the church in which he took his vows. This will be a major test for the church; its disciplinary mechanism is of no avail if its leaders are unwilling to use it even in response to egregious rebellion...
Why Bp. Duncan, who clearly no longer considers himself an Episcopalian, is allowed to continue as the Bishop of Pittsburgh is beyond me.

I would hope that he understands that, regardless of who claims otherwise, individuals can leave the Church, but a Diocese cannot. Nothing that happens in Tanzania next week is going to change that.

One would hope that the leadership of TEC notes this threat, and prepares to respond. It is past time for us to take our heads out of the sand, as Jim Naughton recently noted:

...My point is that our Church has numerous opponents, and some of them don’t regard us as friends from whom they must regrettably estrange themselves, but as enemies who, in the words of one pugnacious right winger must be “taken down.”

In this context, to behave as though all will be well if we just keep our mouths shut and embrace the dream of a moderate covenant is simply poor stewardship. We need to be discussing our response to the various scenarios that might unfold in and after Tanzania. We need to be talking with the people in our pews about the choices that may lie before us. We need to be cultivating allies whom we can work with whether we are in the Communion or outside it.

But if any of these conversations are happening, it is news to me. Indeed, I think it is more likely that they are being suppressed...
We cannot abandon those faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Alert those you know in leadership positions within TEC of this development. We need a ready response.


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