"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.