Episcopal Head Warns Bishops Withdrawing from the National Church

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, has urged a conservative bishop not to lead congregations out of the denomination.

In a recent letter, the Episcopal leader warned Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan that if his course to withdraw the entire diocese from The Episcopal Church does not change, disciplinary action may be taken.

"I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes," wrote the Episcopal head.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh voted last year to withdraw from the national church and seek alternative oversight, rejecting the authority of Jefferts Schori. Two years before she became The Episcopal Church's first female head, Jefferts Schori had voted to confirm openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration caused uproar in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church leader also supports ordaining openly gay bishops and allowing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Duncan believes The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, has departed from traditional Anglicanism and from scriptural teaching and has little hope the church will get back in line with the wider Anglican family.

The Pittsburgh bishop heads the Anglican Communion Network – a conservative Anglican group – and is currently fortifying partnerships with other orthodox and breakaway Anglicans to form an ecclesiastical structure in North America separate from The Episcopal Church. The new structure would allow those discontent in the American church to stay faithful to the wider communion and to orthodox Christianity.

In her letter, Jefferts Schori said if Duncan's course out of the national church does not change, "I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church ... and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action."

The Episcopal head made the letter public both as a warning but also as a way of "reaching out" to those bishops contemplating realignments for their dioceses, according to the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Parishes within the Diocese of Central Florida have entered a process of conversation on whether to cut ties with The Episcopal Church as well as negotiation.

"This is a very painful time for many of us," said Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe.

This weekend, the Diocese of Pittsburgh opens its annual convention wheere they are expected to decide on their future in The Episcopal Church.