Friday, 29 April 2005

Bishop Duncan: We're the Anglicans here

The Living Church carries a long interview with Robert Duncan. The full text is here.

An extract to give the flavour:

TLC: So, as a body within the Episcopal Church, what’s your “lifespan”?

Bishop Duncan: Well, of course we claim to be, constitutionally, the Episcopal Church. And there’s every evidence, both from what the Windsor Report says and what the primates said in accepting it, in their communiqué in Northern Ireland, that we are the Anglicans. If the Episcopal Church’s constitution says that we’ll be constituent members of the Anglican Communion, and the Anglican Communion now says, Episcopal Church, you’re in time out. In fact, you’re not only in time out, but it appears you’re making a decision to walk apart. If in General Convention 2006 the Episcopal Church determines to walk apart, then the question we ask is, who is the Episcopal Church? And our legal basis will be to say, we are, of course, because they have broken the constitution.

TLC: Do you think General Convention will be the turning point?

Bishop Duncan: Oh, yeah. The Presiding Bishop has made it clear, and he made it clear in Northern Ireland, that this church has thought about this, prayed about this, and is committed to this course, and there’ll be no turning back. And I think he reads the situation right. We also believe there’ll be no turning back. We intend, one of the issues for us going into General Convention, and we will be in General Convention, is to attempt to force this Church to make a very clear decision, unmistakably clear as to whether they’re going to walk with the Communion and repent from these actions, return to standard Anglican practice, or really going to move forward. They call it moving forward; we call it walking apart.

If they determine to move out, well, then they’ve determined to move out. We’re the Anglicans here. We’ll also stand in a way that says, we’re the Episcopal Church where we are. You know, there’ll be infinite court battles, but it’ll be very interesting, since the Communion will have said the Episcopal Church walked apart, and the Episcopal Church’s Constitution says that you’ve got to be constituent members, and we’re the only ones they recognize as constituent members, so who’s the Episcopal Church, legally? It’ll be very interesting time. I mean, we don’t want to go to court, but it’s quite clear the Episcopal Church is always ready to go to court, and this time I think they might not be so willing to go to court, because we think there’s every reason they’ll lose.

Some further analysis and quite a lot of comments on this can be found at The Questioning Christian in two posts: The Revolutionaries (Finally?) Hoist Their Flag and Bishop Duncan Needs Better Lawyers. Additionally, Fr Jake has comments here. For comments from conservatives, read titusonenine.

More critique
Mark Harris has now weighed in with Emerging Corporate Megalomania

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 12:55pm BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: ECUSA
Comments

Well, this could be seen coming at Lambeth in 1998. But I don't think anyone then would have imagined that Rowan would end up on the Ahmansons' side. I wonder if there will be anything at all left by the time the lawyers have finished.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 1:49pm BST

Well, I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised at the seemingly vague term "walking apart" in the AAC's Windsor Action Covenant. It's clear from what Duncan says above that they'd come up with their own definition before the Covenant was released. A convoluted definition that aims right at a property grab, of course...

Mark Harris' essay on this Covenant was right on the money. It's time for the mainline church to stop being "nice" about this, as these are not nice times and we aren't dealing with nice people.

Posted by: David Huff on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 2:43pm BST

David Huff wrote: " "walking apart".... a convoluted definition that aims right at a property grab, of course... these are not nice times and we aren't dealing with nice people"".

WOW!! David, do you mean that if ECUSA GC decides to walk apart from Anglican Christianity, NACDAP gets to all the Episcopal church buildings and resources throughout the US ?!!

I thought NACDAP were just hoping to avoid "nice" ECUSA leaders trying to throw them out of the ones that they currently use. But it is a good point; why should ex-ECUSA keep Anglican buildings and resources if they remain set on a centrifugal trajectory - steadily diverging from the faith once revealed.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 4:52pm BST

Dave, could it be because those churches' own congregations are committed to remaining within ECUSA?

But seriously, folks -- I have often wondered whether the Network's real agenda wasn't to seize control of all ECUSA assets. I told myself that it savoured too much of conspiracy theory to think so, but unfortunately +Duncan now confirms that this is exactly what the Network's real agenda has been. Trollope, thou should'st be living at this hour!

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 6:57pm BST

Surely the property issues are separate from the issue of membership in the Anglican Communion? The parishes of the Episcopal Church hold their property in trust for the diocese. And the Episcopal Church has no legal tie that I know of to the Anglican Communion. Therefore, surely, it is irrelevant whom the Communion recognizes. the Anglican Communion can call the reactionaries the Episcopal Church or a top hat, but they are still not the duly elected government of the Episcopal Church. I can't imagine they can legally touch the status of the property.

Posted by: Paul on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 8:17pm BST

"Mark Harris' essay on this Covenant was right on the money. It's time for the mainline church to stop being 'nice' about this, as these are not nice times and we aren't dealing with nice people."

Exactly.

Duncans casual and matter-of-fact remarks about the upcoming "takeover" of the Episcopal Church from the "inside" are amazingly righteous, arrogant, smug and assuming. He apparently has no love or even concern for the majority of the "membership" of OUR church...the "church" he plans to continue to tear apart and dismember/reorganize in order to help him achieve his infamous yet *orthodox* and safe "place to stand."

Posted by: Len on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 8:26pm BST

"WOW!! David, do you mean that if ECUSA GC decides to walk apart from Anglican Christianity, NACDAP gets to all the Episcopal church buildings and resources throughout the US ?!!"

Well, I suspect that there are enough leaders in the "Network" who are deluded enough to think this will be possible. It certainly is a way to stoke the fires under the "faithful." Keeps them excited and riled up so that their leadership can continue to elicit support from them. It also gives lie to this repetitive bit of conservative spin that "only liberals are concerned about property."

But if I were a betting man, I wouldn't put my money down on Duncan and his ilk, except perhaps in places with very strange church property laws, like California.

Posted by: Simeon on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 9:00pm BST

Paul,
Unfortunately, property and power are very much a part of the dispute. If they weren't, the conservatives in ECUSA and NewWest would have just walked apart, as a good many conservatives did after the ordination of women.

But perhaps realizing that their brethren who walked away in the 70s and early 80s for the most part withered away (the small and fractured disfunctional family of "continuing" churches), Duncan and his colleagues have decided to stay and fight and try to force the liberals to walk away (or push them away if they won't go voluntarily). So it is about who remains as "ECUSA", or as the "ACC", and who goes off as some new entity, when the big split comes.

I don't mean to cast aspersions solely on Duncan and the conservatives. Ingham and others on that side are equally at fault with the power politics.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 2:28am BST

Bishop Duncan: "We intend, one of the issues for us going into General Convention, and we will be in General Convention, is to attempt to force this Church . . ."

Slightly different literary reference, Charlotte: you're thinking Trollope, I'm thinking Laurie Anderson!

"And when justice is gone, there's always FORCE"

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 3:44am BST

"WOW!! David, do you mean that if ECUSA GC decides to walk apart from Anglican Christianity, NACDAP gets to all the Episcopal church buildings and resources throughout the US ?!!"

Well, I was being cynical. This stuff about NACDAP trying to get ex-ECUSA assets is a case of the persecutors claiming to be persecuted. As the Nazis said when they invaded Poland: "Today the German army started to return fire across the Polish border"

If you look at what the NACDAP and AAC are actually saying and doing, their focus on property etc is on avoiding property grabs by "liberal" Bishops and diocesan authorities. For instance, here are some quotes from TODAYs AAC newsletter:

"Every day clergy are phoning in to speak with someone on our staff about issues close to them: what happens to their pension and insurance if they are inhibited and deposed?"

"Senior wardens and parish attorneys phone in to ask about property issues, incorporation issues, how to handle their bishop's demands, how to deal with an impending vacancy,etc."

and

"We are in a time not yet as grim as the Roman persecutions; careers, not lives, are at risk."

This is defensive, not offensive advise!

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 8:46am BST

"... NACDAP gets to all the Episcopal church buildings and resources throughout the US ?!!"

That's clearly their fantasy, and it goes back even before Lambeth 1998.

Google "PECUSA, Inc."

Posted by: Rachel on Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 2:52pm BST

Dave wrote:
"As the Nazis said when they invaded Poland..."

(sigh) you always know when the last chance at discussion has ended when the other side whips out the Nazi comparisons... (a.k.a. "dropping the N-Bomb")

Posted by: David Huff on Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 9:51pm BST

David Huff wrote: "(sigh) you always know when the last chance at discussion has ended when the other side whips out the Nazi comparisons..."

Hi David, No, you're wrong, I'm quite happy to discuss this further. As we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War 2 in less than two weeks time, I thought it was rather topical.

Anyway, the serious point I'm making is that all this speculation about NACDAP/AAC trying to get hold of ex-ECUSA buildings etc seems to me to be just a displaced fear fantasy. Where are all these conservative bishops taking over liberal church buildings ?

It is not actually happening, but "liberal" bishops ARE taking serious actions:- throwing out conservative priests and trying to take away conservative churches' buildings.

Isn't this fear really a displaced reaction to the growing realisation that ECUSA is likely to be cut off from the Communion soon ? Left to try to validate itself, I think that ex-ECUSA would rapidly spin away from Christianity on some centrifugal trajectory, into universalist religious humanism. What do you think ?

Posted by: Dave on Sunday, 1 May 2005 at 12:42am BST

"Where are all these conservative bishops taking over liberal church buildings ?" Actually, the conservatives have already tried this. In 1995-1996 a group of conservatives launched an effort to incorporate as PECUSA, Inc. (Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.) in each state of the union. Their goal was to claim the assets of the Episcopal Church (including its pension fund). Their justification was that the Episcopal church was going to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion, and the group wanted to protect the church assets for the "orthodox." The Episcopal Church has operated as an unincorporated voluntary association since 1789. Its incorporated wing is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in the state of New York. Bishop Wantland (now retired) led the efforts and was assisted legally by Robert Devlin (who now is the chancellor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and thus giving Bishop Duncan advice on church law). Bishop Howe of Florida (one of the "Network" bishops) was also an officer. The scheme came to naught when the Diocese of Newark sued this crew and the conservatives signed a consent agreement. Secondly, conservatives want to keep the assets from the places they control (for example, the assets of the Diocese of Pittsburgh) which is why two liberal churches have sued the leadership of that diocese to prevent any alienation of assets from the Episcopal Church.

Posted by: Joan Gundersen on Monday, 2 May 2005 at 6:32am BST

Once again, Dave: it's called the *Episcopal* (i.e. *Bishops*) Church. The only priest or congregation who is in the *slightest* danger of losing property or pay is if they *formally, officially break the VOWS they have made to their bishop*. (Whereas if they just want to be *ornery* w/ him or her, in ECUSA that's business as usual!)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Monday, 2 May 2005 at 7:55am BST

Joan Gundersen wrote: "In 1995-1996 a group of conservatives launched an effort to incorporate as PECUSA, Inc. (Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.) in each state of the union. Their goal was to claim the assets of the Episcopal Church (including its pension fund). Their justification was that the Episcopal church was going to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion, and the group wanted to protect the church assets for the "orthodox."

"Secondly, conservatives want to keep the assets from the places they control (for example, the assets of the Diocese of Pittsburgh) which is why two liberal churches have sued the leadership of that diocese to prevent any alienation of assets from the Episcopal Church."

Thanks Joan, that clarifies things well.

It seems the two perceptions are:

1. ECUSA is abandoning Anglican christianity, and it's own constitution, and alienating dioceses, parishes, Bishops, Clergy and Members who do not wish to abandon Anglican christianity. Therefore the diocese, parishes, Bishops, Clergy and Members who wish to remain Anglican should be free to keep their property, jobs, pensions etc. Or maybe even take over all the assets of ECUSA as it betraying it's own constitution.

2. ECUSA is a self-governing voluntary organisation. If Members, Clergy, Bishops, Parishes or Diocese do not agree with what it is and does they are free to leave. However they should leave all assets with ECUSA. It makes no difference who paid for the assets, how they will get on in old age without the pension, or why they wish to leave ECUSA.

Personally I wish a reasonable way of carving up the assets could be agreed, but Americans seem incapable of compromise. (eg Carve up assets according to membership of each "half" of the split, or by the vote in each vestry or diocesan synod) But, I suppose, as always in the USA, everything will be fought out is solved with lawyers, mostly in the courts. "I WIN, YOU LOOSE"... Lots of fun for the medi, and not much Christian charity (love) !

Posted by: Dave on Monday, 2 May 2005 at 5:47pm BST

JC Fisher wrote:
"But perhaps realizing that their brethren who walked away in the 70s and early 80s for the most part withered away (the small and fractured disfunctional family of "continuing" churches),"

The "continuing" phenomenon is a bit of a mystery to us on this side of the pond. While not entirely unknown in England, it accounts for a very tiny proportion of "leavers". Overwhelmingly, the Roman Catholic Church was the destination of choice for those who went, from a retired Bishop of London to humble curates. Any ideas why "continuing" is more popular in america? (I could make an educated guess, but would rather hear from Americans.)

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Tuesday, 3 May 2005 at 12:59pm BST
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