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DEPOSITION

I can’t get my head around the strategy adopted by the PB and her advisers, now granted an imprimatur by about half of our diocesan bishops. As I mentioned before today, when I was bishing, the more TEC bishops sought to lambaste those who were on the edge of leaving, the more they left. One of the larger APA congregations is in Atlanta. It shares a block with an Episcopal church, merely because the congregation bought a former Presbyterian church building which adjoined St Patrick’s.

Nothing did the tiny APA parish more good than when the then Bishop of Atlanta wrote an article denying the authenticity of our congregation on the grounds that it belonged to a group which could not be Anglican because it was not in communion with the See of Canterbury. Of course he was technically right. But he sounded as if he was saying that the members of the extra mural Anglican parish were frauds or fakes or con men. That article gained the new congregation some substantial members!

I have long written that the word “deposed” is an unfortunate and theologically erroneous term to describe the withdrawal of a license to practice within a specific jurisdiction. If a cleric is found guilty by due process of some frightful crime, then that cleric in most “catholic” bodies is “degraded” or “unfrocked” and prohibited from exercising whatever ministry was bestowed locally by a jurisdiction acting for the Holy Catholic Church. To employ a term to embrace everything from a frightful crime to merely deciding not to function as a cleric or to join some other church or denomination, let alone to transfer to another part of the same Communion, albeit under rather odd circumstances only leads people to assume that a deposition is draconian. Merely adding a clause assuring the world that “Mr. Duncan” hasn’t run off with the organist of either sex, still may be parsed as his having done something which deprived him of ecclesiastical title and status.

Now if a jurisdiction claims that in baptism, the Eucharist, Ordination etc it merely acts for the Holy Catholic Church, and to removes from a deposed cleric who joins the Duck River Free Will Baptist Church his style and title, unless he (or she) abjures such status calls into question the intent and theology of such a jurisdiction. IF ordination is as indelible as baptism, one may no more deprive a cleric of ordination than one can baptism. It the crime is heinous perhaps such a person may be excommunicated, deprived of even the rights bestowed in baptism. But one does not suggest that if Fr Bloggs is odd enough to become Coptic Orthodox, he becomes Mr. Bloggs. One may not want others to follow his example, may even want to find ways to win him back and prevent an exodus, or thwack the offending cleric to discourage others following him, but one cannot in so doing deny that which one teaches about ordination.

Thus we not only have a canonical problem on our hands, we have a theological problem. If +Bob Duncan, exasperating as he may be, perhaps worthy of severe censure by his peers, is now “Mr. Duncan” then all the chatter about TEC having a “catholic” doctrine of Holy Orders is nonsense. Its leaders believe that just as a lawyer may be disbarred so a cleric may be de-sacramentalized. So why is it that if +Bob decides to repent and believe TEC to be right, he may be restored to his status through the mail?

2 Responses

  1. I suspect you may be correct that the “deposition” of Bob Duncan was a tactical error by the Episcopal Church.

    That said, the technical language in efffect, as I understand it, does not speak of deposition at all. Rather, the House determined that Bob Duncan, qd Bishop of Pittsburgh, had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church, and as such had abandoned any claim to exercise any ministry or authority as part of that Church.

    In essence, the Episcopal Church makes no formal claim of having deposed Bob Duncan. He left, andd the Episcopal Church acknowledges his departure.

    In some ways, this is hair splitting. But it is not insignificant hair splitting – in the same sense that the distinctions made about the dissolution of Henry Tudor’s first marriage (divorce or annulment) were significant.

    While all sides casually use the term “deposition,” it really does not apply.

  2. Tony,

    A review of the documents in question confirms that, indeed, they do use the term “deposition.” Personally, I think the term “deprivation” would be more appropriate, but there you are.

    In any event, the documents take or assert no position as to whether or not Bob Duncan is or is not a bishop. They certainly do not assert that he isn’t. They merely deprive him of the authority to function as such.

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