BB NOTE: When we are reminded that attempts at this type of political maneuvering are in play, it is clear that Bishop Duncan seriously isn’t kidding. Here is his opening statement from Friday’s press conference at All Souls Langham Place, London:
First, I am here to say thank you to those in the Church of England and the wider church who have been so supportive in recent days. The statements by senior bishop, no less than the Bishops of Rochester, Winchester, Exeter, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Blackburn, Birkenhead, Lewes. These public statements have been greatly appreciated and a great encouragement to folks back home. It is also the case that organisations in the Church of England who have made public statements from the time of my deposition: Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, Reform, Forward in Faith, has been both a personal support and also a wonderful encouragement to our people. I think the irony of the present situation is that I would be welcome and recognized in more places around the communion than my primate. That is a rather remarkable turn of events. So first I have come here to say thank you and have a number of private conversations with leaders, particularly with our friends in the epsicopate. That has been my first purpose in being here.
Second I have wanted to report on the situation and that is what I am doing in front of you and with those with whom I have met privately. We are in the curious place in the States of a bishop removed contrary to the plain dictates of the canons and constitution of the church. The primary motivating argument in the House of Bishops for my removal was that it was the best way to guarantee the Episcopal Church’s claims on the property of my diocese. Of course the efforts to remove me have had no bearing on the property of the diocese. Indeed two weeks after I was deposed unjustly and uncanonically, my diocese voted to leave The Episcopal Church and become the second of the American dioceses to leave. Two more dioceses are hard on our heels: the Diocese of Quincy will vote to leave The Episcopal Church on November 7th and on November 14th the Diocese of Fort Worth will vote to leave. At that point there will be four American Dioceses, San Joaquin in California, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Quincy in Illinois and Fort Worth in Texas, in some ways the four points of the compass on a US map.
The spirit in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is good. The standing committee is presently the ecclesiastical authority. I had said in the process of the Episcopal Church that I accept the discipline of the Episcopal Church because I was a Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The charge against me was abandonment of communion. That charge was rather remarkable under a canon that was meant to remove those who had become Roman Catholic or Presbyterians or had lost their faith but nonetheless I accepted the sentence. The standing committee became the ecclesiastical authority. When the Diocese of Pittsburgh left the Episcopal Church on October 4th, it was at that point – I had been immediately received into the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone – the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone Gregory Venables had appointed me his Episcopal commissary for affairs in Pittsburgh and the US, the standing committee asked me to return to my episcopal function from the time they left the Episcopal Church, and the standing committee has determined under the canons of the diocese that there will be a re-electing convention on November 7th, so I will be in the rather remarkable position of being both the seventh bishop of Pittsburgh and the eighth bishop of Pittsburgh and I did not die in between. Folks like me in the church’s past tended to be burnt at the stake, but that’s not something that the church does anymore and I have proved remarkably fire retardant. That’s the situation in Pittsburgh and three other dioceses that have or are stepping out.
The four of us have agreed to come under Southern Cone which becomes the first Anglican Province to stretch pole to pole, from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Ocean as Canada and its Anglican Network in Canada are part of our relationship of the four dioceses in the states, all under the Southern Cone. This is a temporary measure. It is quite clear that when the four of us bishops who are to come under Southern Cone met with the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone in August 2007, that the Southern Cone was simply making a temporary refuge for us until we could create a North American province together.
I would like to speak about the North American Province. Many of you are aware of the GAFCON statement this past summer and the readiness of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the group that met in Jerusalem to recognize a second province which would be both Canadian and US, we have worked together in a group called Common Cause Partnership. Right now that is eight jurisdictions, both US and Canadian. Those jurisdictions together represent 30 bishops, 800 clergy, 700 parishes, a worshipping community of about 100,000. That makes it larger than a third of the provinces of the Anglican Communion in that sheer number of people who worship on Sunday. We are committed to one another. The Common Cause Partners, while it has been a federation, is moving to a greater level of integration. I function at this point as the bishop who presides in that body as the moderator of that partnership. We have really grown together in substantial ways. The thing that would be most surprising to our English brothers and sisters is the extent to which we have been able to bridge the divide over the ordination of women. We actually are a body that has both those that ordain women and those that do not ordain women and there is a level of respect among us that is something that only the Lord could do. The strongest indication of that respect is that Forward in Faith and jurisdictions that do not ordain women have repeatedly chosen me who very clearly supports the ordination of women as their spokesman and leader. That might not happen in other parts of the Anglican Communion but hopefully it is part of our reality.
Thirdly, I do come to my dear friends here in the Church of England with a warning that what begins as a liberal initiative very quickly becomes illiberal. I think you saw signs of it in the Synod of the Church of England and how the issue of the ordination of women [to the episcopate] and whether structural provision would be made for those who are opposed. The synod chose to move in the direction which just makes pastoral arrangements.
For those who were covering Lambeth, you saw how the press was dealt with. It is amazing that things have to be controlled as tightly as they do in this progressive agenda. Certainly the situation back home where the leader among the conserving party, myself, is removed because that is the best way to deal with us – apparently silence us, and lay claim to property. While the laws are different and the history is different, I don’t think the progressive party here will deal differently with conservatives than the progressive party in the States when it comes down to having enough power to do it. That’s the warning that I want to give.