The Comeback Bishop
Bob Duncan, the once and future bishop of Pittsburgh, has been at the forefront of evangelical efforts to turn the Episcopal Church away from so-called revisionist theology. Christianity Today deputy managing editor Tim Morgan spoke with Bishop Duncan, who was removed from office by his fellow bishops in early September just before the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted by strong margins to pull out of the Episcopal Church. In a few weeks, the diocese is expected to meet again and officially reinstall Duncan as its top leader with the oversight of Anglican Archbishop Gregory Venables from Argentina.
What was the mood like at the recent diocesan convention in Pittsburgh during the final vote to pull out of the Episcopal Church?
The mood was somber. It was expectant, graceful, if you can be all those things at once. People together were realizing how serious it was, and yet there was a determination that we needed to do this as kindly and gracefully as we could as a witness to the world.
Will the left-leaning Pittsburgh congregations that stay with the Episcopal Church be treated fairly in keeping their church property?
We ought to deal with congregations fairly and equitably. The principal stewards and the principal benefactors of most of our congregations are the people in those congregations themselves. In some cases, the diocese has had no investment in the congregation. In other cases, we have had a substantial investment. For a congregation where we have had a substantial investment, we need to work out together what share of our investment needs to be returned to us.
What's your advice to the remnant of evangelicals still in the Episcopal Church about giving up church property?
Their property isn't worth their souls' health. While our property is precious and important, if it becomes an overwhelming aim, it's probably good to let go of it. But having said that, the principal thing I would say is that we're very hopeful that the spirit that we've been blessed with here in Pittsburgh will produce a settlement that will [make] a better way forward across the country. We're also hopeful that the Episcopal Church, in losing battle after battle, will finally just decide that these property battles aren't worth fighting.
So three things: First, I hope that the way we go through this will provide a precedent both moral and legal for the way other situations might be settled across the country. Second, I hope that the continued failure of the Episcopal Church in its litigation might help it wake up and cease the litigation. And third, in any place where the property has become an overwhelming issue, it might be better for evangelicals to let go of it. Trust the Lord that he's got the cattle on 10,000 hills. He's able to restore to us what we lost.
Do you have any second thoughts about creation of this new province for conservative Anglicans?
No second thoughts about it. I would have hoped that the Anglican Communion might simply recognize us as the legitimate bearers of the Anglican franchise here. But that's not likely to happen in the short run. The significance of the Episcopal Church deposing me is much greater than what most people would assume in this battle for a province. For the worldwide Anglican Communion to see me deposed has been absolutely sobering, and even moderates are shocked and stunned by it.