Monday, April 07, 2008

Bp. Duncan Uses "Prophecy" to Justify Schism

You may recall that in January, the Title IV Review Committee certified that Bp. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh had abandoned the Episcopal Church. You can view the evidence that led to the Committee's determination here. It includes such items as the following:

On November 6, 2006 (but not revealed to the public until January 29, 2007), the June 26 and 28, 2006 adoption by the Bishop and Standing Committee of a Resolution calling for “immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care” as followed up through a more specific request to: Convene, when the time is right, an organizing (‘constitutional’) convention for the purpose of approving the infrastructure necessary to the permanent Anglican entity in the U.S. and to choose the domestic leader for, and Anglican Communion representative of that structure.” Exhibit 35.
Even though the evidence appears to be overwhelming, our Presiding Bishop did not receive consent from the three senior Bishops for a temporary inhibition.

Since an inhibition is similar to a restraining order, in that it would have temporarily suspended Bp. Duncan from acting as a Bishop until the House of Bishops gave consent for him to be deposed, the lack of such an inhibition does not cancel out the charges found valid by the Review Committee.

I had the opportunity to ask our Presiding Bishop about this in late January. Bp. Katharine affirmed that my reading of Title IV Canon 9 is the one that she is using. The inhibition, requiring the consent of the senior bishops, is not connected to the depostion. Bp. Duncan will face the charges of abandonment. The lack of inhibition does not nullify the charges certified by the Review Committee. The House of Bishops will be asked for their consent to depose Bp. Duncan at a meeting either in May or September.

In the meantime, Bishop Duncan is using a very unusual ploy to stoke the home fires. Here is his message to the Diocese that appeared in the February edition of the Diocesan publication; Trinity:

The Year of the Gate
Beloved in the Lord,
As the February TRINITY was going to press, a prophecy was sent to us by the Revd. Mark Stibbe, Rector of St. Andrew’s, Chorleywood, Diocese of St. Alban’s, England. Most of the clergy remember Fr. Stibbe as the keynote presenter for our fall clergy conference. The conference was a spiritual highlight of the year and extraordinary time of fellowship and ministry among our ordained leaders. Mark has often been to Pittsburgh and is a great friend of Bp. Joseph Garlington and of our brothers and sisters in Covenant Church.

The prophecy speaks for itself in the context of the momentous events that swirl around us. Our God loves us and loves His bride, the Church. I hope you will find as much encouragement in these words as the Leadership Team did.
So, what is this "prophecy" business? It is one of the "gifts of the Spirit" that is popular among Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians. I've only seen this gift manifested in the Episcopal Church a couple of times, but when I was part of a Pentecostal church, it was quite common.

What would usually happen is that during a time of prayer, someone would stand up and offer a message in tongues. Then, someone else would stand and offer an interpretation, which was usually some kind of prophecy. Normally it was fairly general, and so it was difficult to gauge its accuracy. The other way I've seen this spiritual gift used is for someone to declare they had been given a "Word from the Lord" regarding some specific situation. In Charismatic and Pentecostal circles, these unique forms of divine revelation are often given great weight.

So, here is part of the "prophecy" to which Bp. Duncan referred:

...2008 is the year of the open gate. Prepare to pass through the gate. There are new beginnings ahead for those who have been waiting patiently for their moment to come. Obstacles are being removed. The Father is breaking his children out of a sense of captivity to past restrictions. The anointing for new beginnings is on many in this year. The time of frustration and exile is coming to an end. This is the Lord’s time for his people to rise up and follow him through the gates of opportunity. New starts are looming. Many are on the point of experiencing the new life that convergence brings. And the true church – even though it will know many trials - is on the point of experiencing new life, a new season of vitality and creativity, a brand new Reformation. A highway is being built, stones are being removed, and a banner is being raised for the nations.
Translation...go ahead and leave TEC for another Province...thus saith the Lord.

I have some serious problems with such "prophecies." First of all, it is based on the premise that the future has already been fully determined. That simply cannot be, as I've previously discussed.

Second of all, I find it very odd that the same group who is constantly repeating; "The bible said it, I believe it, that ends it," would now give authority to this rather unusual form of additional divine revelation.

And finally, I find the use of such a "prophecy" by the Bishop to be a form of spiritual manipulation. If God has already given his blessing on the upcoming schism, then there's nothing to discuss, right? It is no longer a debatable point. It is God's will. Not only do we not have to talk about it, we don't even have to think about it anymore.

And, of course, anyone who speaks against this prophecy will have proven themselves to be against God's will. They will be identified as the enemy, and must not only be silenced, but must be cut from the community, so that they do not contaminate others with their apostacy.

This unusual tactic is more evidence that, in my opinion, it is past time to find some way to restrain Bp. Duncan, before he is allowed to do more harm to the Church.

Instead of seeking out prophets that will affirm his plans for schism, I'd suggest that Bp. Duncan's time might be better spent reviewing the vow he took when consecrated as Bishop; "I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church..." (BCP, p. 513).


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