Last Thursday, the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church called for the deposition of The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan from the ordained ministry. It was a sad, but necessary decision, in my opinion because of the following facts.
In Dec. 2007 the Title IV Review Committee of our church certified that Bishop Duncan had “abandoned the communion of this church.” The Canon Law of The Episcopal Church define abandonment as “an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church.” In this case, what Bishop Duncan had renounced was the church’s discipline.
He has actively worked to remove the Diocese of Pittsburgh from the authority of The Episcopal Church in clear violation of Canon Law. He sought affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone also in violation of his ordination vow to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.” He used assets of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to accomplish these goals.
Contrary to what many may believe, and have stated, this was not about Bishop Duncan’s theological positions. Many loyal bishops, clergy and lay people of The Episcopal Church hold similar views and yet remain faithful members of our church. This was about our church’s polity and the consequences of violating that polity by one who has sworn to uphold it.
At first glance, it’s hard to see how this action serves the goal “that we all may be one.” However, accountability is critical to preserving community life. We have seen the consequences of a lack of accountability on the “left” as well as on the “right” in this church for many years. Perhaps we are finally achieving the kind of maturity which will allow us to hold one another accountable…for the sake of the community…and for the sake of the common witness to the Gospel we hope to make in The Episcopal Church.