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Re: [HoB/D] News Conference Prepared Remarks of Bishop Robert Duncan
I personally believe that What Bishop Bennison and the Standing Committee
of the Diocese of Pennsylvania did was canonical, duly provoked, and
legal. I wish, however, that they had allowed Father Moyer trial, whether
or not he requested one. They (and I) might be wrong. If their evidence
convinced a court as it convinced them (and me), the court could have have
deposed Father Moyer, and Bishop Bennison and the Standing Committee could
have avoided the charges of being legalistic for using the canon on
'Abandonment' in ways many of us feel it was not intended. (See
I would grieve to see Father Moyer deposed at all. Like most,
I still hold out for reconciliation. His parish is thriving, and they
like him. As Bishop Duncan has noted, Father Moyer's views were the views
of most priests in ECUSA 30 years ago. I don't want to be a member of
a church that requires everyone to agree with me. I'd soon be kicked out
myself, because God keeps working on me to grow and change.
I don't know how the Episcopal Church can remain _episcopal_ if priests or
the rest of us become a law unto ourselves. Father Moyer took an oath to
obey his bishop -- not just bishops with whom he might agree. Father Moyer
insists that Bishop Bennison meet Father Moyer's criteria of belief.
Father Moyer has no ecclesiastical authority to make this requirement of
his bishop. He has gone even farther by stating that Bishop Bennison "has
removed himself from the Church through public pronouncements and
teachings that are apostate and heretical" (see
All of us have the moral authority, indeed the moral obligation, to decide
which orders we will obey, but we also have the moral obligation to pay the
price of our own convictions, not to require others to pay that price for
us. Henry David Thoreau and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did not complain
when they were thrown in jail for breaking what they felt to be unjust
laws; instead, they said jail is the right place for a righteous person to
be when the law is unjust.
At the press conference, I asked Bishop Duncan whether he is opposed to
all bishops having the power to depose, or just Bishop Bennison. He did
not answer me in those terms but basically said that he is not denying
bishops their power to depose but that he objects to Bishop Bennison's
action because he feels it denied Father Moyer a trial and the attendant
due process to which he believes all should be entitled.
Bishop Duncan stated, "By challenging the action of my brother bishop,
Charles Bennison of Philadelphia, I am hoping to bring these questions to
debate within the American House of Bishops." (See his full text at
I asked him whether he thinks his strategy will work. He did not say, but
obviously he hopes it will.
I don't see how his strategy can force on the House of Bishops a process
of review that is not theirs canonically. It might prompt some of them to
bring presentments against Bishop Duncan for acting beyond his authority,
as he most certainly has done. "I assess the inhibition and deposition of
the Rev. David L. Moyer by the Bishop of Pennsylvania to be utterly null
and void, both legally and morally, and to have no bearing on the decision
I have made," Duncan stated, in explaining why he has welcomed Father
Moyer as a priest in good standing in his diocese. I hope that Bishop
Duncan will show us the canons that give him the authority to reverse the
decision of another bishop to depose a priest. Did Bishop Duncan act
alone, or with the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh? Will
this decision still hold if Father Moyer decides at some point to disobey
According to Bishop Duncan and Father Moyer, the Archbishop of Canterbury
has also said that he does not recognize Bishop Bennison's action as valid
and that he, the Archbishop, considers Father Moyer still to be a priest.
I hope the Archbishop of Canterbury will publish his view publicly rather
than have us receive it second-hand. I hope he will also clarify how
he has jurisdiction over the Bishop of Pennsylvania. I know of no
constitution or canons that provide him that authority.
Even if Bishop Duncan and Archbishop Carey feel that Bishop Bennison
has behaved illegally, that does not justify them for behaving illegally
One of the most awkward parts of the entire process is the way that our
Presiding Bishop is forced to remain largely silent. (See his press
release on the day after Father Moyer was deposed, at
http://www.AmericanAnglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=443&c=21) Bishop Duncan
and Father Moyer both mentioned that they know that the Presiding Bishop
has written to Bishop Bennison expressing, they say, his disapproval of
Bishop Bennison's action. Neither Bishop Bennison nor the Presiding
Bishop has released the letter.
I can well understand the pastoral sensitivities that are at work here, as
well as the legal constraints, now that appeals have been made to civil
courts, and might be made to ecclesiastical ones, but it behooves the rest
of us to speak with moderation and mutual respect across our differences
all the more so when those who might normally lead us are
constrained to say very little.
At the last General Convention we freed up the Standing Committees from
their roles in trials so that they have no conflict of interest when they
serve the bishop as a Council of Advice. I hope we can find a way to
amend our canons to give the Presiding Bishop more freedom to be publicly
a pastor in times like these.
One friend wrote in response to my earlier note:
> Rightly or wrongly deposed, Mr. David Moyer is no longer a priest of the
> Episcopal Church, in my judgment.
That is not a judgment I am prepared to make. When I visit a Methodist or
Baptist church I receive Communion too, and I don't deny even a Mormon the
title of "Bishop" if that is what he expects. (Aren't all Mormons bishops,
or at least all male Mormons?)
It is God's invitation that counts. I respect David Moyer for his
commitment to his convictions. I respect Bishop Bennison for his
commitment to his.
I hope that I can be as faithful as each of these has been. I surely
would like to have them both in the same church with me.