TEC Affiliated Pittsburgh Committee Statement Regarding Bishop Henry Scriven

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An article that appeared on Episcopal Life Online on January 23, 2009 reported that Bishop Henry Scriven, the former Assistant Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, had renounced his orders and that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had accepted that renunciation. Although the article may suggest otherwise, the Standing Committee understands that this action was not in any sense a disciplinary action or an action taken because of Bishop Scriven’s support for the attempt to realign the Diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE BishopsCono Sur [formerly Southern Cone]Episcopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

Posted January 28, 2009 at 9:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Marie Blocher wrote:

Yeah. right. sure it wasn’t.

January 28, 10:51 am | [comment link]
2. Eugene wrote:

This is good to see.  I am happy that the continuing Diocese in Pittsburgh shows no ill will to one of their former Bishops.  It is incredible how any action by the PB of TEC is looked at in its most negative way by many of those who have already left TEC behind. (but maybe they really have not left it behind!)

January 28, 11:05 am | [comment link]
3. BMR+ wrote:

My friends on the Standing Committee have accepted the statement of the Presiding Bishop’s representatives that this action was not intended as “punitive,” but was instead simply a routine administrative matter to clarify Bishop Henry’s status, accomodating his own request.  While I’m sure this is what they were told, I simply don’t buy it.

The canonical background in Title III suggests that when a cleric of TEC intends ministerial service in a church not in Full Communion with TEC, then the appropriate canonical action is that the cleric voluntarily renounce his ordained status in this church.  If he declines to do so, then the procedures for determining his “abandonment of the communion of this church” are then specified. 

(I would add that I personally believe there may be a legitimate extension or interpretation of these canons that would permit their use in cases where clergy have left TEC to serve “missionary initiatives” or extra-geographical extensions of Anglican Communion provinces, as per the Southern Cone realignment, when those initiatives are in violation of the constitution of those provinces related to geographic boundaries of jurisdiction.  But that has nothing to do with the situation with Bishop Scriven.)

Bishop Scriven arrived in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2002, a bishop of the Church of England, and was received into the Episcopal Church and made a full and voting member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, #980 in the American succession.  When he departed from Pittsburgh in December, 2008, he was still a bishop in good standing in TEC, and in fact had continued to maintain that identity even following the deposition of Bishop Duncan and the “realignment” vote of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in October.  During the interval between October 4 and his departure for England Bishop Scriven continued pastoral and episcopal ministry, preaching, celebrating, confirming, and administering the Rite of Reception in parishes (such as my own St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, and St. Stephen’s, McKeesport) continuing in the TEC-Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Title III canons do not require either the renunciation of ordained ministry or the finding of abandonment of communion when clergy in good standing undertake service within the constitutionally defined jurisdictions of churches in Full Communion with the Episcopal Church—the ELCA, for example, or any Anglican Communion church.  There is no specific provision for “transfer,” but a form is given in Title III, for example, to confirm good standing, with the note that such assurances are not transfers, but “temporary,” and needing to be reaffirmed annually (though without limit).  The assumption, then, is that within the community of Full Communion churches, TEC canons tacitly approve “dual citizenship.”  We see this in the Red Book each year, as we might turn to the list of non-parochial clergy listed in various dioceses, some in secular employment, some retired, and some with notations like “England,” or “Uganda.”  This of course applies equally in all orders of ministry.  At the present moment Bishop Mark MacDonald, resigned Alaska, is seated in the House of Bishops of TEC, serves as Bishop in Navaholand, and at the same time is a bishop in good standing serving with jurisdiction in the Anglican Church of Canada.  No “renunciation” or finding of “abandonment” was required for this dual appointment to be recognized by both bodies.

My reading is that when Bishop Henry notified the PB that he had accepted appointment as Director of SAMS-UK and would be serving as assisting bishop in the Church of England Diocese of Oxford, the most appropriate thing for the PB to have done would have been to send +Henry and Catherine a Bon Voyage card, and indicating that as for all other TEC bishops who have resigned from active service,  he would continue on the clergy roster of the TEC-Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and that a chair with #980 would always be available for him at meetings of the HoB, should he ever wish to join them.

The fact that the PB “partnered” her announcement about Bishop Scriven with her announcement about Bishop Wantland shows, I think, that she approached this matter with an essential misreading of the canons.  I believe that for a bishop to indicate that he intends to continue an active ministry in a jurisdiction (here the “realigned” and other extra-mural entities) not constitutional expressions of a church in Full Communion relationship with the Episcopal Church, as I believe Bishop Wantland has done, probably does set the stage for abandonment/renunciation actions.  But this is simply not the state of the facts for Bishop Scriven.

My experience is that in the current environment it is essentially impossible for parties on either side of the rumble to say something like, “I was wrong.”  So I don’t expect retraction from the PB.  And of course, as Bishop Scriven does in fact continue as a Bishop in Good Standing within the Church of England, his ministry will continue essentially unchanged—though I’m sure this mark “on his record” is one that he’d rather not have.

What is suggested, though, is that in the heat of the conflict, good order and common sense and simple graciousness is pretty much out the window.  I agree with the Standing Committee of my diocese that “this is what the PB’s representatives told us they thought they were doing.”  And I agree with them as well, with strong affirmation, that when Bishop Henry as a Bishop of the Church of England, and Catherine and their family may return for a visit, they will be warmly welcomed by their friends here in Pittsburgh on both and all sides of our sad division.  But I think a little more of a push back should have been expressed.  The PB just plain did a wrong thing here, and somebody should say so.

Bruce Robison

January 28, 11:15 am | [comment link]
4. stevejax wrote:

It seems to me that the comments expressed in #2 are indicative of the illness within TEC —that those who shine the light on the real and substantive problems of TEC are said to be the actual problem.

January 28, 11:17 am | [comment link]
5. Albany+ wrote:

She’s an abusive mother who keeps trying to justify her behavior. There’s not logical connection between what she does and what’s she is responding to. She just WANTS control. Pitiful.

January 28, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
6. Phil wrote:

#4, re: “though I’m sure this mark ‘on his record’ is one that he’d rather not have.”

To the contrary, I’m sure he takes it as either a source of amusement, or possibly even a badge of honor, if he cares what Schori does at all.  And I further think the Standing Committee of the Schori-affiliated organization new full well what she intended.  Probably, some of those who knew Bishop Scriven and had acquiesced in this treachery were shocked at the crassness of how it went down, and felt the need to backpedal - consider the analogy one where a person is slagging someone behind his back, only to look up and realize that person is in the room.  “Umm, gee, John, what I really meant was, some other people say that stuff, but I think you’re a great guy ... umm ...”  Hence this lame, embarrassing statement.  For some consolation, we can say the side they chose appears to be the best fit for them.

January 28, 12:15 pm | [comment link]
7. Jeremy Bonner wrote:


As you have been in the habit of expressing appreciation for some of my comments, so I now return the favor. In light of our recent conversations, your remarks are especially appreciated. I hope those - especially outside the region - who are predisposed to view the present state of Pittsburgh in purely Manichean terms will take note.

January 28, 12:27 pm | [comment link]
8. driver8 wrote:

Strikes me as a slightly panicky explanation for what seems like a bit of an embarrassing cock up.

January 28, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:

3, says:

(I would add that I personally believe there may be a legitimate extension or interpretation of these canons that would permit their use in cases where clergy have left TEC to serve “missionary initiatives” or extra-geographical extensions of Anglican Communion provinces, as per the Southern Cone realignment, when those initiatives are in violation of the constitution of those provinces related to geographic boundaries of jurisdiction.  But that has nothing to do with the situation with Bishop Scriven.)

You can if words no longer have any meaning.

January 28, 1:04 pm | [comment link]
10. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

How can this not be interpreted as anything but punitive? If an attempt at cutting off a man from his profession and livelihood against his wishes is simply a clarifying, administrative matter, I’d hate to see what they would actually define as a punitive, disciplinary act.

January 28, 1:23 pm | [comment link]
11. Ross wrote:

If the summary of the case in #3 is correct, then I have to reluctantly agree that ++KJS did the wrong thing here.  And for that matter, her free interpretation of what constitutes “voluntary renunciation of orders” in other recent cases is, let us say, not helpful either.

It would, I think, be better if she and the HOB were clearer in their decrees about the distinction between (a) episcopal orders, which are indelible, (b) being a member and under the authority of TEC’s House of Bishops, and (c) having license and permission to exercise episcopal ministry within the ecclesial structure of TEC.  According to this “clarification,” in the case of +Scriven, ++KJS intended only to revoke (b); (c) would presumably remain possible with the permission of the diocesan if +Scriven should return for a visit, as with any other CofE bishop.

In the case of bishops who have departed for the Southern Cone, ++KJS and the HOB apparently intend to revoke (b) and, in strongly worded blanket terms, (c) as well.

Now, I would submit that for the now-Southern-Cone bishops, (b) should be uncontroversial.  After all, that was the whole point of them leaving TEC.  And it seems to me that they ought to concede that TEC has the right to deny (c) if they want to.  It’s the apparent assertion by ++KJS that she is revoking (a) that appears to be generating most of the heat.

Maintaining good will between the two factions is pretty much a lost cause by now, but I think that with some changes in the wording of these announcements ++KJS and the HOB could achieve exactly the same substantive effect without stirring up quite so much ire.

January 28, 1:36 pm | [comment link]
12. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

And yet, Ross, the problem for a long while now is that many members of TEC act as if (a) were also in effect - references to “Mr. Duncan,” for example. I observed on Mark Harris’s blog that much of the present bitterness might have been avoided if there had been greater willingness to make the distinction that you do. Furthermore, there remains the problem with (c) about what constitutes “within the ecclesial structure of TEC.”

Catholic and Reformed

January 28, 1:46 pm | [comment link]
13. Ralph wrote:

A poorly-wrought spin job. A feeble attempt at damage control.

The PB simply needs to admit her error, apologize, revoke the renunciation letter, and ask forgiveness. Anything else only makes the whole situation worse.

Of course, that time-honored approach to sin might be passé in her new theological paradigm.

January 28, 1:59 pm | [comment link]
14. Bill Cavanaugh wrote:

“He was planning to return to England and serve as Assistant to the Bishop of Oxford. In order to permit that, the Canons required that he be released from his orders in the Episcopal Church for reasons not affecting his moral character, which is what occurred. This is a routine way of permitting Bishop Scriven to continue his ministry.”

No, it is not a “routine way”.  Before the current regime, the ‘routine’ way to deal with people transferring provinces was by Letters Dimissory, not by renunciations of orders.  No matter how Jim Simons spins it, it is a spiteful move by the PB.

January 28, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
15. GillianC wrote:

[14] Bill - Jim Simons might very well disagree, but “spiteful” seems to characterize his own mindset these days… just take a gander at his recurring “lemmings” cartoon theme, no doubt aimed at folks who have or will re-align.  Here
He is also a champion of swallowing and spitting back out the 815 spin, using catch-words and phrases straight from New York.
and Here…

Observe words and phrases like “former Bishop Duncan”, “who now regard themselves”, and “the Southern Cone group”.  Snide, snarky legalese all around.

January 28, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
16. young joe from old oc wrote:

Bill Cavanaugh, The_Archer_of_the_Forest and stevejax:

You have hit the nail on the head.  This reminds me very much of the Bishop MacBurney matter where the fundamental principle being applied was “show no mercy to any opposition” to keep the rest of the orthodox tentative, hesitant.  While I appreciate some of the canonical analysis from others on this thread, I find it completely unnecessary.  In this case, dealing with a bishop who is of another provincial church, anyone who had any sense of respect for the office or for the traditional practices of the Church (never mind the man himself), or who possessed a modicum of basic Christian decency, would have acted much differently. 

I think we should also observe that the tone of the press release is completely divorced from reality.  This is clearly a nasty conflict, and yet the Committee is essentially telling us “all is well”.  They have either drunk the kool-aid or have chosen to be willing accomplices.  Either way, those of us who remain in TEC must observe with eyes wide open that the ethos of the denomination will ultimately weaken our Faith unless we determine, by God’s grace, to be thoroughly, continually and publicly stalwart against the spiritual disease that is the new progressive religion.  We must do much more than tilting at canonical windmills.

January 28, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
17. Eugene wrote:

I have a question for those folk in Pittsburgh:  When was Bishop Duncan installed as the 8th Bishop of Pittsburgh?  It seems to me there has been no service (he was elected) and I do not understand how he is a Bishop yet.  Did AB Venables come up to Pittsburgh? 


January 28, 3:37 pm | [comment link]
18. Dan Crawford wrote:

I am grateful for Fr. Robison’s comment. I too hoped the institutional loyalists would have expressed a bit more “push back”, but their statement is consistent with everything they have done and collaborated in since before the October convention.

January 28, 3:38 pm | [comment link]
19. Phil wrote:

I have a question for Eugene: When did Katharine Jefferts Schori receive metropolitical power over COE clergy?  Last I checked, her authority was confined to being the senior manager of ECUSA.  Did AB Williams fly over to NYC to cede his authority to her?


January 28, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
20. driver8 wrote:

Look it’s clearly a gigantic and hugely embarrassing error. She’s messed up and has to pretend all is well.

TEC clergy move to the COE all of the time. On guesses that deposing them and informing them that they have renounced their orders is actually not the normal procedure.

January 28, 5:20 pm | [comment link]
21. Eugene wrote:

Sorry Phil I am not sure why you answered my question that way.. Bishop Duncan accepted his deposition. That is well known.  I want to know if he is a Bishop or not and if so when was he “made’ a Bishop Simple question.  Sorry for your confusion.  No sarcasm implied.

January 28, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
22. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

The answer is surely contained in Ross’s reply (#11). Bishop Duncan accepted his deposition by TEC as an ecclesiastical agent of that body not as Bishop in the Church Catholic. Surely one doesn’t reconsecrate a bishop any more than one re-baptizes? He only changed jurisdiction not standing.

January 28, 5:39 pm | [comment link]
23. BMR+ wrote:

per the question about Bishop Duncan, my understanding is that he was inducted into the House of Bishops of the Province of the Southern Cone immediately following the vote in the HoB which authorized the Presiding Bishop to pronounce a sentence of deposition—but belforethe actual pronouncement.  In those interim days Bishop Duncan was a bishop in both provinces.  When the PB pronounced the deposition, that removed him from his status as an ordained minister in TEC, but his status in the Province of the Southern Cone was unaffected.  During the interval between his deposition in TEC and the October 4 Convention, Bishop Duncan refrained from any formal act as an ordained person within TEC, though if he had gone to, say, Lima, he would have been able to function as a bishop “within his province.”  Immediately following the vote on October 4 Bishop Duncan was appointed by Bishop Venables as “Bishop Commissary” for the diocesan entity now asserting affiliation with the Southern Cone, and I understand that at the Special Convention on the first weekend of November that entity in a process that met the requirements of the Province of the Southern Cone.  I thought that I read that he had been seated immediately, but I don’t actually know when the institution took place, or what the rules are within the Province of the Southern Cone for that to take place.  In TEC when an already-ordained bishop is elected to a new diocese, the actual institution is an administrative act, though I believe it is almost always celebrated liturgically.  (Similarly, on July 15, 1994, I “actually” became rector of St. Andrew’s Church, though that reality wasn’t (what with Bishop Hathaway’s vacation schedule) observed ceremonially for a couple of months.)

Bruce Robison

January 28, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
24. BMR+ wrote:

and I understand that at the Special Convention on the first weekend of November that entity in a process that met the requirements of the Province of the Southern Cone.

Sorry: ” . . . and I understand that at the Special convention on the first weekend of November he was elected bishop of that diocesan entity in a process that met the requirements of the Province of the Southern Cone.”  Then, etc.


January 28, 6:43 pm | [comment link]
25. Vicar of York wrote:

Fr. Simons seems to have become quite the apologist for TEC.  One wonders if someone should remind him that who enters the conclave as pope emerges as a cardinal

January 28, 8:14 pm | [comment link]
26. Mike Watson wrote:

The ACI has now issued a supplemental statement referring to the Pittsburgh committee’s statement and challenging the idea that the PB’s action was somehow “routine.”  See http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/?p=361.

January 29, 7:04 pm | [comment link]
27. BMR+ wrote:

The only question I have for the ACI mavens on this is why they think Bishop Scriven’s place in the HoB is affected by Bishop Duncan’s deposition.  Clearly Bishop Scriven per the referenced canon ceased to be Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh at that point.  But I believe he, having been received into TEC, admitted to the HoB, and assigned place #980, would have continued as a bishop in good standing, but without appointment. 

Bruce Robison

January 29, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
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