How is TEC like Hotel California?

kinnon —  November 3, 2007 — 11 Comments

"You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."

Presiding Bish Katharine Jefferts Schori has threatened Pittsburgh Bish Bob Duncan – "if you threaten to leave we’ll get rid of you." It begins to sound rather like, "you can’t quit, I fire you – but you still report to me." Yikes. And, "oh sure, we’re not supposed to sue each other but if you attempt to keep your buildings and property I’ll see you in court." Part of what she actually said,


If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church — by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased — and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action. [from here via Ruth Gledhill]

The standard (and appropriate) response is who abandoned whom? Jefferts Schori, with vast experience as a church leader (she became a priest in ’94, was an associate rector before her 2001 appointment as Bish of Nevada – one of the truly large dioceses for TEC – 32 churches in total), is going to use whatever means necessary to protect TEC’s hegemony. But, she’s not trying to intimidate, according to Rev. George Werner (a former top TEC official), ""Her heart is filled with Jesus." Which Jesus, one might reasonably ask. Perhaps it’s "our mother Jesus (who) gives birth to a new creation"?

This past week the Diocese of Pittsburgh passed a motion to begin the process of leaving TEC. My good friend, Jonathan Millard, introduced the motion to the Convention this past week. Jonathan, Rector of Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh’s University district, Oakland, is quoted in the Pittsburgh Gazette this morning,


"At the end of the day, the issues before us aren’t about canons and conventions and procedures and lawsuits. They are about the centrality of the cross of Christ."

At the end of the day, this is a battle over the supposed Boomer values of the ’60’s and the eternal values of the Kingdom. The ’60’s kids are in power now and they’re "sticking it to the Man" …in ways that seem awfully familiar. Oh. That’s right. In ways that these kids protested against in the sixties. It’s almost ironic.

UPDATE: Four English Bishops have come out in support of Bob Duncan (but not necessarily the decisions made at the diocesan convention.)

The English bishops’ statement, which was instigated by the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, read: “We deeply regret the increase in the atmosphere of litigiousness revealed by the Presiding Bishop’s letter to Bishop Duncan. At this time, we stand with him and with all who respond positively to the Primates’ Dar es Salaam requests. We hope the Archbishop’s response to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida will also apply to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh.”

The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, said on Tuesday that the statement gave personal support to Bishop Duncan. He described the Presiding Bishop’s letter as “aggressive, inappropriate, and unfortunate”. “They are acting as if it is the OK Corral. This is the North American culture: it is a managerial rather than a pastoral approach.”

Dr Forster emphasised that issuing the statement did not imply support for decisions taken at the Pittsburgh diocesan convention.

When asked whether the Presiding Bishop was within her rights to act as she had done, Dr Forster said that if a whole diocese voted to realign with another province, that needed to be addressed on its own terms. “I’m not sure simply saying ‘It’s illegal’ is the best way to produce some healing. What’s needed is a pastoral, healing approach, which attempts to find a way forward.”

Bishop Duncan is “holding out the prospect of those who wish to stay doing so, and promises to be fair and generous in his dealings with them. I think I’m asking for a similar fairness and generosity from the Episcopal Church towards those parishes who do want to leave,” said Dr Forster.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

11 responses to How is TEC like Hotel California?

  1. Jonathan Millard November 3, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Bill, you used to tell me: “We live in interesting times.” Well, we sure do. I think the months and years ahead will prove pivotal for the Anglican Church and for many Christians throughout the world as the present “Reformation” unfolds.

    On Friday morning, over the breakfast table, before I left for Convention, Juliet (11) was reading the Post Gazette front page article that reported the Presiding Bishop’s threats against Bishop Duncan. Juliet was, to put it in British understatement, “A bit cross” that someone would move against her beloved bishop. After a brief discussion about this, Jack (13) says to me: “So, could they come after you too, Dad?” “Yes, they could” I replied. “So, why are you doing this?” he asks. “Because its right. And there are times in our lives when we have to make a stand and do the right thing no matter what the consequences…”

    I shared that little breakfast time chat with Convention when I moved the Resolution.

    When bishop Duncan shared with us that afternoon his reply to the “warning letter” he’d received from the Presiding bishop, he received huge applause and a standing ovation. This is what he had written:

    “Dear Katharine,

    Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.

    Pax et bonum in Christ Jesus our Lord,

    +Bob Pittsburgh”

    May God have mercy on His church.


  2. A Florida Bishop handled the want to leave crowd a bit differently.

    link to

  3. bill, i have enjoyed a lot of what you have written & posted

    this post strikes me as extremely uncharitable

    both the right AND the left ends of the Episcopal spectrums act like boommers – the right just takes its cues from IRD & Fox News

  4. Bob,
    I don’t buy the language of right and left in this situation. Perhaps it’s because I have friends directly in the middle of it and know them as people rather than positions. I’ve also spend way too much of the last fifteen years in Pittsburgh.

    Regarding the leaders ship of TEC, I do believe that the election of Jefferts Shori had much more to do with politics than polity. Her inexperience in ministry hardly qualifies her for the position she holds – not that I had anything to do with the decision for or against. And that lack of experience is abundantly in evidence.

    As a boomer, I stand by my convictions that those in power in TEC are boomers acting out of their sixties and seventies sensibilities – and the church be damned. They would rather see the church be destroyed than give up their cherished hobby horses. And they would rather ignore the tradition of the church and the foundation it was built on to build something new – whilst attempting to convince the rest of us that they are remaining true and faithful to the Anglican Church. They are not.

    I don’t know what IRD is but the Fox News comment is a cheap shot, Bob.

  5. Jonathan,
    May God have mercy indeed.

  6. Bill, I have friend throughout both “sides” – growing up in Dallas, serving in ministries that reached out to Pittsburgh, California & NY. The tragedies that are buffeting TEC are not the domain of one side or the other – the Gingrich-like boomers are fighting the Clinton-like boomers, just like culture.

    Pseronalizing this moment – either to Schori or Duncan or Robinson or Williams – seems awfully petty, Bill.

    It is striking to hear your anger in this post and in your comment. I have not found this in emerging conversations, both inside TEC & outside of it.

    P.S. – IRD is link to

  7. Bob,
    First, I’m not an emerging emergent though I count many friends amongst those who would self-identify as such. I would more likely call myself a mere Christian who has good days and bad days – someone in desperate need of a Saviour and thankful that he has One.

    I’m sorry you’ve chosen to read what I write as anger.

    And, you are the one who threw the cat in the punch bowl with your comment that “the right just takes its cues from IRD & Fox News.” In fairness, would you also say the left take its cues from the Daily Kos. Or is this part of the conversation simply and completely unhelpful. Please note that you are the one who made this a right and left conversation. I attributed much of the problem to the “Me generation” – proponents who are alive and well in all parts of the political spectrum.

  8. Bill, the left takes its cues from Daily Kos, from Soros, from special interest lobbies like ACLU, NOW and the unions.

    Your post framed the “Me generation” as only an issue for the TEC leadership. Given the battles of the last 30 years – from women’s ordination to prayer books to GLBT – this culture war among Boomers has too often looked more like Michael Moore tangling with Rush Limbaugh, rather than the type of generosity & hospitality Christ beckons us to. The leadership of the “orthodox” players in this current drama are every bit as Boomer-centric, taking cues from the political playbook and legal posturing.

    In terms of “cats in the punch bowl”, yu can not honestly suggest the sarcasm you use to describe the current Presiding Bishop was un-intended ? Questioning her commitment to Jesus – wow, that just seems out of bounds for a person I suspect you have never met. While I do not know her, I was impressed by several “orthodox” bishops who stayed for all of the New Orleans mtg & came away thankful for her leadership – Stanton is a good example here.

  9. Bob –

    The difference is between those who stand on the foundations of 2,000 years of Christian understanding and those who would denigrate the authority of the Bible and require that others acquiesce to their “new theology” because as one inside TEC, I can tell you that’s what it is. I don’t agree with political labels of “left” and “right” – they don’t apply here. I recommend the labels used by Kendall Harmon: “reappraisers” – those who want to rethink traditional Christianity, and “reasserters” – those who follow the traditional understanding of Scripture and tradition.

    TEC can no longer call itself part of the “church catholic” on a number of issues, the sexual issue being just the last in a long list starting about 40 years ago. And while the Boomers are continuing it on, don’t forget that much of this new theology comes from those a generation earlier, like Bishop Pike and others that led the way for the ’60s Boomers.

    As far as Bill questioning the presiding bishop’s commitment to Jesus, she has on record said that she regards Jesus as “a way” to the divine, not “the way.” So I would question her commitment as well, acknowledging that I might well be wrong but very troubled by her public statements.

  10. folks like staci & andrew give me a lot more hope:
    link to

  11. Branford,

    The farce of Kendall Harmon’s folksonomy is that Christianity has been an ongoing effort of re-thinking – from table fellowship to circumsion to the canon all the way to our current time.

    The questions is not whether to adapt – it is who gets to decide and who is excluded. Divorce was easy because those folks are our friend (or even us) – scapegoating gay people is so much easier.


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