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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Once again within a few months the landscape of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has changed—as if Gafcon and Lambeth were not enough. What does this deposition mean? Frankly, it is still unfolding, but I offer the following reflections:
• The House of Bishops whether intentionally or not has enhanced the power of the Presiding Bishop. With consequences far beyond the deposition of The Rt. Reverend Robert Duncan, this vote by interpretation and application of Title IV.9, has established invasive reach for the PB. It is now possible for a sitting bishop of TEC to be deposed without prior inhibition or trial, rendering superfluous the role of the three Senior Bishops of the House. Beyond this is the quizzical ruling that it takes more votes from the House to receive the resignation of a retiring bishop then to depose a sitting one! Then there is the curious fact that it takes a two-thirds vote of the house to overturn a ruling of the chair, thus when combined with rendering moot the role of the senior bishops and the plain reference to a needed “majority of the whole house entitled to vote” in Title IV.9—there is enhanced power to the PB regardless of who may hold the chair, now or in the future. A development mercurial indeed, when one considers the PB and House of Bishops have repeatedly declined the authority to speak on behalf of The Episcopal Church when queried for commitments by the Communion’s Instruments of Unity; deferring instead to the authority of General Convention.
• I fear that however reasoned or temperately the members of the House of Bishops or the Presiding Bishop’s Office explains this deposition it will further trouble the waters of discord. There are several reasons for this: While Title IV.9 mentions a bishop abandoning the communion by open renunciation of the Discipline of this church, (which is ostensibly the clearest rationale for why the presentment was brought against Bishop Duncan), it is also clear from the same canon that prior to mentioning renunciation of the Discipline of the Church there is the reference to the Doctrine of the Church. Many from within TEC itself, as well as those in the various provinces of the Anglican Communion, are not unaware that there have been more then a few bishops of this Church who have in public settings and in published writings, renounced or at least denied the Doctrine of TEC. Others have allowed rites of worship, which if not having actually crossed the authorized boundaries in their approval of pastoral liturgies for same-sex blessings, have all but done so—doing pirouettes on a knife’s edge. Doesn’t the House of Bishops look as if it is being selective in holding its theological “conservative” bishops and dioceses accountable in matters of the Church’s discipline (i.e. the Constitution & Canons), while having no will to hold “liberal” bishops, retired and active, accountable on matters of doctrine and worship? And even in this matter of the Church’s discipline we may look selective: For instance what does the Presiding Bishop and the HOB’s intend to do with those bishops who contrary to the canons allow or even invite open communion of the unbaptized?
• As you may already know Bishop Duncan has been received as a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone. Rather then helping to mend the fabric of the Communion torn by TEC in 2003 by actions contrary to Lambeth 1.10, this recent action of the House of Bishops further tears the fabric of the communion. Even as I write this account voices of support for Bishop Duncan are being raised in various provinces of the Anglican Communion.
• I fear that while repeatedly asking other Provinces of the Communion to understand the uniqueness of our Church’s polity, and requesting a gracious patience towards the complexities of our local or provincial needs, we now appear to have limited capacity in offering this to one another within The Episcopal Church.
• There will be louder, more urgent, and convincing calls (indeed they have already been heard in several quarters) for another Anglican Province in North America.
All of this leads me to believe that the challenges that lie before a predominately conservative diocese like South Carolina have now been enormously increased if only because of the perception of our parishioners and clergy—but, more pertinently from what I fear is a failure of the present House of Bishops to realize just how far from historic Christianity our church has drifted....
Read it carefully and read it alll.
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