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Jefferts Schori Removes Pittsburgh Bishop from Office

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    Jefferts Schori removes Pittsburgh bishop from office Duncan led effort to take diocese out of Episcopal Church By Mary Frances Schjonberg September 22, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 23, 2008
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      Jefferts Schori removes Pittsburgh bishop from office
      Duncan led effort to take diocese out of Episcopal Church

      By Mary Frances Schjonberg

      September 22, 2008 [Episcopal News Service] Robert Duncan has been
      given a formal sentence of deposition from the ordained ministry of
      the Episcopal Church and has been removed as the bishop of the Diocese
      of Pittsburgh.

      Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori signed Duncan's sentence on
      September 19, the day after the House of Bishops agreed by a vote of
      88-35 to authorize the action. Bishop Richard S.O. Chang, vice
      president of the house, and Bishop Kenneth Price, the secretary, also
      signed as witnesses to the sentence.

      The sentence and an accompanying letter from Jefferts Schori to Duncan
      were sent to Pittsburgh diocesan offices on September 22 and later
      released to the public.

      The Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told
      ENS that the Presiding Bishop signed the deposition before leaving for
      meetings with the Church of Sweden directly from the House of Bishops,
      "but she chose not to release it out of consideration for Duncan until
      he had been notified, which was done via his office [September 22]."

      In the sentence Jefferts Schori declares that "from and after 12:01
      a.m., Saturday, 20 September, 2008, Bishop Duncan shall be deprived of
      the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God's word
      and sacraments conferred at ordination in this Church and further
      declare[s] that all ecclesiastical and related secular offices held by
      Bishop Duncan shall be terminated and vacated at that time."

      Robertson said that diocesan staff were contacted September 22 and
      told that the sentence of deposition was on its way to their offices.
      Robertson said he did not know if Duncan was aware of the effective
      date of the deposition before he received the sentence.

      The diocesan Standing Committee, now the ecclesiastical authority in
      the diocese, will meet September 23 in a regularly scheduled
      gathering, the Rev. David Wilson, committee president, told ENS.
      Wilson said that Standing Committee members would discuss the details
      of the diocesan convention, scheduled for October 4, at which the
      deputies will be asked to approve resolutions (see resolutions one,
      two and three here) re-aligning the diocese with the Anglican Province
      of the Southern Cone of southern South America.

      A September 18 news release posted on the diocese's website said that
      "Bishop Duncan's own continuing status as a bishop in The Anglican
      Communion has been secured by the Province of the Southern Cone" and
      quoted Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables as saying that
      "effectively immediately" Duncan was a member of that House of Bishops.

      "Neither the Presiding Bishop nor the House of Bishops of the
      Episcopal Church has any further jurisdiction over his ministry,"
      Venables claimed.

      In a September 18 statement issued after the House of Bishops vote,
      the Pittsburgh Standing Committee said that Duncan would "continue to
      support the work of our diocese under the terms of his administrative
      employment agreement and within the bounds of his deposition,
      providing many of the services that he previously performed for the
      diocese."

      Meanwhile, a group called "Across the Aisle" issued a statement
      September 22 saying that Jefferts Schori's office had informed the
      group of the sentence of deposition via a phone call that afternoon.
      "The direct communication is further evidence of the Presiding
      Bishop's recognition that Across the Aisle is the primary group
      working to maintain a diocese in Pittsburgh that is part of the
      Episcopal Church, even if the existing diocese votes at its upcoming
      convention to realign with an Anglican province in South America," the
      statement said in part.

      The Presiding Bishop had singled out the group during her September 19
      remarks to reporters after the end of the House of Bishops meeting,
      calling it "a remarkable example of cooperation across a variety of
      differences of opinion."

      Jefferts Schori said during the news conference that the Episcopal
      Church would support efforts to reorganize the diocese should
      delegates vote for re-alignment.

      "The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will not go away, even if their
      convention makes a canonically inappropriate vote to secede" from The
      Episcopal Church (TEC), she said during the news conference.

      Robertson told ENS September 22 that "the Presiding Bishop's office is
      communicating regularly with a group of leaders in the Diocese of
      Pittsburgh who, despite holding diverse opinions and positions, are
      committed to remaining in the Episcopal Church."

      In the letter to Duncan which accompanied the sentence, Jefferts
      Schori noted "the prayerful and thoughtful atmosphere of the
      discussions" leading up to the bishops' authorization of the deposition.

      "In their deliberations at the special session last week, the House of
      Bishops was clear that this action is based on Robert Duncan's actions
      and statements to facilitate the departure of congregations out of the
      Episcopal Church," Robertson told ENS. "This was not based on Robert
      Duncan's theological position." Duncan has taken a conservative stance
      on such issues as church attitudes toward homosexuality.

      The Title IV Review Committee had certified in December that Duncan
      had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church under the terms of
      Canon IV.9.1 "by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or
      Worship of this Church."

      The Presiding Bishop moved to inhibit Duncan (restrict his episcopal
      acts) during the time between the certification and the time she
      brought the matter to a meeting of the house. However, the House's
      three senior bishops could not agree unanimously with Jefferts
      Schori's request. The canon on abandonment does not call for a formal
      trial, as do the disciplinary canons.

      John H. Lewis, Duncan's attorney, said in a September 18 statement
      that was posted on the diocese's website September 22, that Duncan
      "was denied his fundamental right -- the right to a church trial …
      because the Presiding Bishop believes that his 'deposition' will
      assist her in her desire to seize the property of the Diocese of
      Pittsburgh."

      -- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is Episcopal Life Media
      correspondent for Episcopal Church governance, structure, and trends,
      as well as news of the dioceses of Province II. She is based in
      Neptune, New Jersey, and New York City.
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