Anglican division deepens
An American bishop, Robert Duncan Bishop of Pittsburgh, has been deposed from the Anglican ministry for attempting to lead his diocese along evangelical lines. The diocese had been expected to vote to join the Province of the Southern Cone, headed by Bishop Gregory Venables, in protest at falling standards of morality within the US Episcopalian Church.
However, bishops of the Episcopal Church pre-empted the secession and voted by 88 to 35 at a meeting in Salt Lake City to remove Bishop Duncan from all ordained ministry after concluding that he had breached canon law by ‘abandonment of the communion of the church’.
Responding to the move, the Primates’ Council of GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) released a statement in support of the deposed bishop. It stated:
‘The fact, timing and manner of the action taken by the American House of Bishops toward Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh has filled us with dismay. He is a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion, and is guilty only of guarding his people from false teaching and corrupt behaviour as he promised to do. Once more the upholders of the orthodox faith are made to suffer at the hands of those who have introduced new teachings.
‘However, the action has also had the effect of clarifying matters even further. It is now impossible to believe that the exhortations of the Lambeth Conference and the Windsor Continuation Group will be heeded. No pastoral forum has been established.
‘We remain convinced that the faithful Anglicans of North America need to have their own province recognised by the Communion as a whole. We are determined to stand with Bishop Duncan and those who, like him, have protested in the name of God against the unscriptural innovations which have caused such divisions amongst us.
‘In the absence of other substantive provision from the historic structures of the Communion, the Primates’ Council gives its full support to Archbishop Greg Venables in receiving Bishop Duncan as a bishop in good standing in the Province of the Southern Cone’.
In the event, the diocese of Pittsburgh voted to leave the Episcopal Church and align itself with the Province of the Southern Cone under the authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables. Pittsburgh is now the second episcopal diocese to depart the Church, following the diocese of San Joaquin. A simple resolution was passed, stating: ‘The diocese of Pittsburgh shall be a member of that Province of the Anglican Communion known as the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone’.
More than 240 of the delegates voted to leave. 102 voted to stay. Among the 160 clergy ballots cast, 121 said they wanted to leave, 33 wanted to stay. Of the laity, 119 said they wanted to go and 69 said they wanted to stay.
Two other dioceses, Fort Worth and Quincy, are expected to leave the Episcopal Church and realign with the Province of the Southern Cone in the next few months. Bishop Duncan said he expects the announcement concerning the formation of a new North American Anglican province for ‘faithful Episcopalians and Anglicans’ to be made shortly.
The combined numbers of Episcopalians who have left or are leaving the Episcopal Church from these four dioceses totals approximately 51,000 Episcopalians and 200 parishes.