Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gott hilfe mir...

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from the Episcopal News Service announcing that Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh has moved forward in their diocesan convention to approve constitutional changes which would basically remove the whole diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori sent +Bob a letter urging him to seek reconciliation and not lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Duncan refused and sent a curt three sentence response saying:
Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.
Pax et bonum in Christ Jesus our Lord,
+Bob Pittsburgh
When I was ordained, I had to take a vow to "conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church." +Bob had to take that very same vow when he was made deacon, priest and bishop (see pages 513, 526, and 538 of the Book of Common Prayer). Three times he took this vow and now he feels his interpretation of "the Faith" trumps his prior vows made before God and the community.

I know that Bishop Duncan and I would not see eye to eye on many issues; however, it does not help the Church to take polarized, intransigent positions which serve to break communion rather than foster it. I am not a better Christian when those who disagree with me on something walk away - I am poorer for it. Likewise, Bishop Duncan and those who support leaving the Episcopal Church will be poorer for the severing of relationship.

Bishop Duncan's first two sentences are a direct quote from Martin Luther's closing testimony at the Diet of Worms where he is supposed to have said, "Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders!" (there is some dispute as to whether he uttered this line or not ... but that's another post). Yet, Luther concluded with one final sentence: Gott helfe mir, Amen! ... God help me, Amen!

I, for one, am waiting for Bishop Bob to complete the quote.


Wayne Stratz said...

A friend told me about Pittsburgh this past Sunday. It too makes me sad that these splits happen. May God help all of us.

Virtual Vicar said...

It grieves me too. I have my own "theology of conflict." I feel that conflict is where the Holy Spirit is most active among us. The Church has always had conflict (just read Paul's letters ... I & II Corinthians especially). The key is, the Church is called to model conflict differently from the world. We are called to disagree without being disagreeable.

We can have passionate disagreements, but the unique charism of Anglicanism has always been the ability to disagree and still come to the table for Holy Communion together. Having diverse views at the table is not easy, is sometimes painful, but always better than polarizing and surrounding oneself with like-minded folks who become a self-referential group (rather than a God-referential group).

I truly hope this doesn't end bitterly, but I fear it will. Gott hilfen uns.