(in two parts): Part I
A number of liberal bloggers, among them the Rev. Canon Mark Harris at Preludium and the Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton at Telling Secrets, seem to be unable to understand what all the fuss and bother is over the tactics currently being employed to ensure that the House of Bishop deposes the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan before the Pittsburgh diocesan convention on October 4. To them, Bishop Duncan has been shown to be guilty of "abandonment of Communion" without a trial, and there is no need to be disturbed about whether he is deposed now or later. (UPDATE 09/15/2008: The Rev. Tobias Haller now adds his two cents, and makes it a trio.) But rather than speak for them, let me quote their own words. First, Canon Harris (whose typos I reproduce as is, with the appropriate notation "[sic]", lest I be accused of misquoting him [or the Property Task Force]):
The charge that this is a "trial without a trial," is really about the argument that abandonment of communion can only be declared if the accused has indeed left the building and that otherwise there has to be an ecclesiastical trial. That is, if [sic] abandonment only works if the accused has already walked out.
This is contested by the Property Task Force, which on September 8th, indicated that, "... the Canons of The Episcopal Church (2006) defines [sic] abandonment as the “open renunciation of the . . . Discipline of . . . this Church.” He has conclusively admitted doing so in sworn statements quoted below. It is not necessary that he have formally joined another Church, merely that he have renounced the discipline of this one to constitute an abandonment within the meaning of the Canon.
Furthermore, even if he has joined a Church in communion with this Church, it alters not the least [sic] that he has abandoned the communion of “this Church,” and as his admissions indicate, the real crux of the matter is that he is encouraging and actively leading communicants of this Church to do so."
The contention that Bishop Duncan will leave the building is well founded. It [sic] question seems to be "when." When does "if" pass to "when?" We are not dealing with the possibility that Bishop Duncan will not leave the building. We are only dealing with when. In this sense the bishops are dealing with an extraordinary situation and it does Bishop Duncan's case no good for him to be absent and for him to declare the whole matter a put up job.The Rev. Canon Kaeton buys that argument, too, and in commenting over at BabyBlue's blog, she cannot understand what those of us who are strongly protesting the canonical violations are so upset about:
The Property Task Force concluded that the determination to abandon the union of the General Convention constitutes reason to declare him to have abandoned the discipline of this Church. The Task force concludes, "The dots are all connected. Bishop Duncan has very carefully planned and executed a strategy to remove the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, as well as its assets and the assets of its parishes sympathetic to his viewpoints, from TEC. At this point, there is no doubt that Bishop Duncan has left The Episcopal Church.
The one and only question before the House of Bishops at this point is whether or not we allow Bishop Duncan to do irreparable damage to the Body by ignoring the reality of the situation."
I buy that argument.
Baby Blue - I don't get it.
I don't get the apoplexy over Bishop Duncan's inevitable deposition. If not in September then, surely, after his diocese votes the second time to leave TEC in October. There is already abundant evidence, amply provided by Bishop Duncan himself, that this is what will, in fact happen. It's just a matter of time.
And, if he leads his diocese in this vote, it will mean his deposition. It has to. Surely, as someone who follows "the letter of the law" of scripture, you understand the "letter of the law" of the church.
So, help me understand, please, as your sister in Christ, why the wailing and gnashing of teeth and renting [sic!] of garments?
I'm really trying to understand.
Bloggers in response took up Canon Kaeton's challenge, and told her about "due process" and the fate of tyrants who abuse the law, but she was having none of it. Before she came over to BabyBlue's, she had posted this on her own site:
Stoopidity 101. . .
Question #1: Why is it that people who have professed to have "left TEC X# of years ago" are still hooked into Episcopal/Anglican blogs?
Question #2: If you've "left" TEC, why do you still care? Except, of course, that you still do. (Note to self: You left Rome more than 40 years ago and you still read National Catholic Reporter.) New question: Can you ever leave the church you once loved?
Question #3: Memo to self: Why do you bother to read so-called "orthodox blogs" or send people to read them?
Question #4: Why do people gawk at accidents, train wrecks and watch reality shows?
Queston #5: Isn't the deposition of Bob Duncan and Jack Leo Iker as much a fait a compli [sic] as the deposition of John-David Schofield?
Question #6: So, why is this news?
Question #7 (last one, I promise) Why do I care?
With apologies and prayers for the Church.
One may perhaps be forgiven for wondering whether the Rev. Canon Kaeton, in light of her disdainful title and her rhetorical questions, is really interested in understanding what all the fuss is about. On the assumption, however, that both she and the Rev. Canon Harris are rational, intelligent persons who care deeply about the Church to which they have committed themselves, I am going to presume that I can explain it to them. Who knows---perhaps I can learn something in the process.
And that should be the beginning of all rational dialogue. People who are intelligent, and committed to their beliefs, can agree to come together on the common ground of reason to see whether they can understand the basis for each other's beliefs. So, Mr. Harris and Ms. Kaeton, are you ready? Because here we go . . . .
Let us start, if we may, with a text. As ministers who are trained in the principles of exegesis, I should think this would be familiar ground for you. In looking at the following text, I would respectfully request that you suspend for the moment everything you think you may know about the particular case of the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan. I would like first to develop the exegesis of this text without regard to its application to any given case. The text is, of course, that of Canon IV.9 of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, entitled "Of the Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop." You may, if you wish, consult the text at any time in this discussion by clicking on this link, but it is not necessary that you do so immediately, for I wish to focus first on the Canon's title.
This Canon, according to its official title, addresses the topic of when a Bishop of this Church abandons "the Communion of This Church." So we obviously would like to inquire into just what is meant by "the Communion of This Church", i.e., of The Episcopal Church. Think about that for a minute---would it most likely refer to "the Communion" in the sense of "the service of Holy Eucharist as authorized by The Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer"? Or does it more probably refer to a more abstract concept, such as "the Communion" that The Episcopal Church shares with others, as in the phrase "the Anglican Communion"?
Reason and common sense should tell us that it does not refer to Communion in the narrower sense of "the Holy Eucharist." What would it mean to charge a Bishop of this Church with "abandonment" of the Holy Eucharist---that he had left the service during the Prayer of Consecration because of a pressing need elsewhere? Since the punishment for violation of this Canon is deposition from episcopal office, such an interpretation would be, I hope you would agree, on purely rational grounds, out of proportion to the offense.
All right, then, it would appear that the Canon must be referring to "Communion" in the wider and more abstract sense of the word. Before we delve into its specifics to see whether our first intuition is borne out, perhaps we could invoke an additional and very traditional line of exegetical inquiry, and ask: "What was the occasion of this Canon being written, i.e., adopted in the first place as a Canon of the Church?
You will find the answer to that question at this post. It was adopted for the first time in 1853, and was occasioned by the abdication of his see by the Rt. Rev. Levi Silliman Ives of the Diocese of North Carolina in order to join the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church. So this confirms our intuition. Bishop Ives did not just abandon the service of Holy Eucharist, but he abandoned this Church, or rather its predecessor, to go elsewhere in Christendom.
But where in Christendom? The Roman Catholic Church. Was "this Church" in "Communion" with the Roman Catholic Church? Not at any time since the Elizabethan Settlement. So now we begin to get a glimmer of what this Canon must be about. Let us now turn to the Canon's definition of just what constitutes "abandonment of the Communion of this Church." As originally enacted in 1853, it read:
In all cases where a Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon of this Church . . . has abandoned her Communion or shall hereafter abandon it, either by an open renunciation of the Doctrines, Discipline and Worship of this Church, or by a formal admission into any religious body not in Communion with the same: such Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon shall be held, ipso facto, as deposed to all intents and purposes . . . .
This is pretty clear, is it not? Starting with its adoption in 1853, "abandonment of the Communion of this Church" was defined as "an open renunciation of the Doctrines, Discipline and Worship of this Church, or by a formal admission into any religious body not in Communion with the same . . ." (italics added).
So we come to our first exegetical conclusion: since Bishop Ives was charged with "abandonment" under this version of the Canon, for joining the Roman Catholic Church, and since the latter Church was not "in Communion" with the predecessor of The Episcopal Church at the time, the sense of the word "Communion" as used in the Canon when it was first adopted must have to do with the relationship of The Episcopal Church with those churches with whom it did consider itself "in Communion" at the time.
And notice, please, how the two parts of the 1853 definition of "abandonment" were complementary. For to join a church that was not "in Communion" with this Church was to become subject to some other church's "Doctrine, Discipline and Worship", and so was at the same time a renunciation of the "Doctrine, Discipline and Worship" of this Church.
You can, if you think it essential to reviewing the basis for your viewpoints that were quoted at the outset of this post, trace the entire subsequent history of the evolution of Canon IV.9 by reading the post I have already linked, or by going to any other source you may wish to consult on the history of the canonical language, such as Messrs. White & Dykman. But for present purposes, since the charges against Bishop Duncan are focused, as Canon Harris reports, on his "open renunciation of the . . . Discipline . . . of this Church" (italics added), I submit that such a complete review of the Canon's legislative history is not necessary. Because unless something occurred to require a change in the original definition of "abandonment" in this regard---that is, abandonment as consisting of "an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of this Church" by submitting to the "Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of a Church not in Communion with this Church", then what was intended by that language in 1853 should still have reference to something similar in 2008.
Well, let us now bring Bishop Duncan into the picture, and consider just what he has done that constitutes, in your view, "abandonment . . . of the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church":
1. Has he joined, or announced his intention to join, the Roman Catholic Church? No.
2. Has he become an avowed follower of some pagan group, such as the Wiccans, or the Druids? No.
3. Has he joined any Church that is not in Communion with this Church? No, he is still celebrating Episcopal Holy Eucharist with his congregations in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
But apparently, in your view, his declared intention to support his Diocese's decision to affiliate with a different group within the Anglican Communion constitutes all the proof that is necessary to convict him of "abandonment of the Communion of this Church."
The Episcopal Church has not, to my knowledge, either through a resolution of the Executive Council (of which you, Canon Harris, are a member), or through a resolution adopted at General Convention, declared itself "out of Communion" with the Province of the Southern Cone. So where, pray tell, do you derive your assumption that to affiliate with the Province of the Southern Cone is to "abandon the Communion of this Church"? Such a reading of Canon IV.9 has never before in its history, prior to its much disputed applications to the cases of Bishops Cox and Schofield (which are currently in the courts), been applied to a Bishop who was transferring his jurisdiction to another province within the Anglican Communion.
Accordingly, that Bishop Duncan has advocated his Diocese's affiliation with a different province of the Anglican Communion may be a possible criticism of his conduct, viewed in isolation as a Bishop of this Episcopal Church (if one disregards the doctrinal differences that led to his acts), but it is a non-starter in terms of charging a violation of Canon IV.9.
Now can you begin to comprehend the outrage that those of us who adhere to the Canons feel when you say that Bishop Duncan is already guilty, without having done anything to depart for a Church not in Communion with this Church, of violating Canon IV.9? If you freely admit that you cannot, then I urge you to clear (empty) your mind and to back up, and to start reading this post over from the beginning with an honest conscience and an open mind. Because I submit that as a professedly rational person, you cannot rationally hold the view, after honestly engaging in the foregoing straightforward exegesis, that Bishop Duncan can still be charged with violation of the Canon as it was adopted and originally intended. Nor, given the facts of the case, can you charge him with "abandonment of the Communion of this Church" as the language of the Canon has come down to us, without substantive change, to today.
(Part II of this Response may be read here.)