March 17, 2008

Duncan Responds

The Diocese of Pittsburgh today released a letter from Bishop Robert Duncan to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori dated March 14, 2008, disputing the facts concerning the certification by the Title IV Review Committee that Duncan has abandoned the communion of this church. You can read the letter here. I may analyze the letter in a later post; for now, all I can say is that I am unimpressed.

The date of the letter is interesting. By Canon IV.9.2, Duncan had two months, from January 15, to make a “declaration by a Verified written statement to the Presiding Bishop, that the facts alleged in the certificate [from the Review Committee] are false ….” It seems that the Bishop of Pittsburgh just made it under the deadline.

It is not surprising that Duncan would offer a defense. First, there are indications that the House of Bishops might meet before Lambeth to take up his case and other matters. Moreover, unlike Bishops Cox and Schofield, Bishop Duncan remains in place in The Episcopal Church actively subverting it. Writing a letter to the Presiding Bishop is cheap, and this letter really does not address any of the specific charges considered by the Review Committee.

I do not believe that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be convinced that the Duncan letter is either an adequate defense or a recantation. It hardly seems, in the words of the canon, to be “(i) a good faith retraction of the declarations or acts relied upon in the certification to the Presiding Bishop or (ii) a good faith denial that the Bishop made the declarations or committed the acts relied upon in the certificate [of the Review Committee] ….” Should the Presiding Bishop want to give Bishop Duncan the benefit of the doubt, she should insist that he demonstrate the fact by ceasing his actions against the church and undoing his many actions that have harmed it. He will not, of course, do that.

It remains to be seen whether Duncan’s letter will have an influence on other bishops. It should not.

UPDATE 1. In my haste, I neglected to notice that a letter has also been sent on Duncan’s behalf to David Beers, the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor. The letter can be read here. One of its main points is that the House of Bishops cannot take up the matter of deposing Duncan because he has not been inhibited. However, the recent deposition of Bishop Cox, who also had not been inhibited, provides a precedent. I do not know if there are others. The letter from Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP, also asserts Duncan’s right to further dispute the findings of the Review Committee.

UPDATE 2: I have now written an analysis of Bishop Duncan’s letter. You can read “Duncan’s Defense” here.

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