The deposed Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh has warned that the “illiberal takeover” of the U.S. Episcopal Church could also happen to the Church of England.
Speaking at a press conference in London on Friday, Bishop Robert Duncan accused The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion – of pursuing a “totalitarian political agenda” in which opposition is either silenced or banished after he was deposed without trial.
Duncan was ousted by The Episcopal Church on the grounds of “abandonment of communion” after leading his diocese in severing ties with the national church and realigning with the Province of the Southern Cone in South America.
“Don’t think it won’t happen here. It masquerades as liberality but it is illiberal in the extreme,” he said.
“What has happened in the States - an illiberal takeover of the church - can happen here.”
He said that there had already been signs of such developments in recent gatherings, including the July General Synod and the global Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of Anglican bishops held over the summer in Canterbury.
The Episcopal Church had left behind the catholic faith and catholic order, as well as traditional understandings of Scripture, the person of Jesus, and Christian morality, Duncan said.
“The catholic church is all of those who are one with the apostles’ teaching. The Episcopal Church is not at one with the apostles’ teaching.”
Asked what traditionalists in the Church of England should do, he answered, “The most important thing that traditionalists can do is to do mission and to preach the Gospel because we know that the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church and when the church is church it has the Lord’s blessing on it.”
Duncan also spoke of his opposition to plans for a pastoral forum, agreed by bishops at Lambeth, that would act as a "holding bay" for disaffected dioceses and congregations.
The proposal was, he said, “a bridge too far and something that none of the people were any longer open to.”
Addressing plans for the breakaway diocese in Pittsburgh, he said he expected around 20 congregations to choose to remain with The Episcopal Church. Duncan also confirmed plans to retain “Episcopal” in the title of the breakaway diocese, despite the potential for confusion with The Episcopal Church's diocese, which will also include “Episcopal” in the title.
“TEC has no lockup on the name Episcopal," said Duncan.
He added that TEC’s breach with historic faith and order had been so significant that senior bishops in the Church of England, as well as primates of major provinces, were unprepared to recognize TEC’s discipline in deposing Duncan. They include the Bishops of Rochester and Winchester and primates who took part in the June meeting of orthodox Anglicans in Jerusalem, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).
Duncan expressed his support for a second Anglican province in North America to replace the current pattern of “interprovincial” interventions taking place there. The Anglican Consultative Council of lay and clergy representatives was working on a proposal for the second province, he said, adding that GAFCON primates plan to meet again before the end of 2008.