Robert Duncan (bishop)

Robert Duncan (bishop)

infobox bishopbiog
name = The Right Reverend
Robert Wm. Duncan, Jr.

religion = Anglican
See = Pittsburgh, PA
Title = Bishop of Pittsburgh
Period = Sept. 13, 1997 — Sept. 20, 2008 (deposed)
Predecessor = Bishop Alden Hathaway
Successor = see currently vacant
date of birth = Birth date and age|1948|7|5|mf=y
place of birth = Bordentown, New Jersey|

Robert William Duncan, Jr. (born July 5, 1948) is an Anglican Bishop, formerly of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). He was Bishop of Pittsburgh from September 13, 1997 to September 20, 2008, when he was deposed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, following the House of Bishops of the ECUSA voting in favour of Duncan being deposed. By that time Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of America had already declared him a 'bishop at large' of that province, and a member of the Southern Cone House of Bishops. He has been described as "probably the top conservative Episcopal bishop in America" [ ] . He serves as Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and holds honorary doctorates from General Theological Seminary (1996) and Nashotah House (2006).


Duncan was born in Bordentown, New Jersey in 1948.His mother suffered from mental illness and he found refuge from the tumult of his family life in prayer and meditation at Christ Episcopal Church in Bordentown. He attended Bordentown Military Institute where he graduated valedictorian. He then entered Trinity College (A.B. "cum laude") in Hartford, Connecticut. After graduating from Trinity in1970 he enrolled at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (MDiv., DD "Honorus Causa") in New York. During his time at seminary, Duncan also studied Scottish history at Edinburgh University.

After being ordained as a deacon on April 22, 1972, he wasordained a priest on October 28, 1973, the feast of Ss. Simon and Jude. His first assignments were at the Chapel of the Intercession in New York City, at Grace Church in Merchantsville, New Jersey, and a short period at Christ Church in Edinburgh. From 1974 to 1978, he served as Assistant Dean at the General Seminary. He spent the next 16 years in campus ministries in The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Duncan then spent ten years as rector of St. Thomas's parish in Newark, Delaware.Bishop Duncan served on the Programme Committee of the Network for Anglicans in Mission and Evangelism, an agency created at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. He is best known beyond Pittsburgh for his role as Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network since its inception in 2003, and as Chairman of the Common Cause Partnership (gathering ten conservative Anglican bodies in the United States and Canada) since its creation in 2004.Immediately prior to becoming bishop of Pittsburgh, he served as Canon to the Ordinary and Bishop Coadjutor of the Pittsburgh diocese.

Election as bishop

Duncan was a finalist for Bishop of Colorado in 1990. In 1992, Alden M. Hathaway then Bishop of Pittsburgh and a noted theological conservative, named Duncan his Canon to the Ordinary.

Duncan was not nominated by the committee that picked candidates for Bishop Hathaway’s successor. He was nominated from the floor of the convention, however, and was eventually elected. On September 13, 1997, Duncan was consecrated Bishop of Pittsburgh. The Diocese of Pittsburgh is considered by many in the Episcopal Church to be one of the most traditionalist and evangelical leaning dioceses in the ECUSA.

Conservative leadership

Bishop Robert Duncan quickly became a leader of a group of Episcopal leaders hoping to maintain conservatism in the denomination. When openly homosexual priest V. Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, Duncan voiced strong opposition to the election. After Robinson's election was confirmed by the denomination's General Convention on August 5, 2003, Duncan acted as spokesman for a group of conservative bishops and lay leaders at a press conference in which they expressed disappointment at Robinson's election. Duncan denounced the election claiming that the ECUSA had, "departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ." Fact|date=September 2008Both Duncan and Robinson were members of the same GTS class, both having taken their M.Div. degrees in 1973.

In January 2004, Bishop Duncan became the leader of the newly formed Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, a conservative action group whose stated mission is to allow "Episcopalians to remain in communion with the vast majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion who have declared either impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church USA." Fact|date=September 2008

At the March 17, 2005 meeting of the ECUSA's House of Bishops, Bishop Duncan read a speech in which he admitted that the rift between the two sides may be "irreconcilable" [] . In a possible sign of schism, St. Brendan's, a liberal parish in Franklin Park, Pennsylvania, announced in February 2005 that it no longer wished to be under Duncan's oversight [] .

In July 2007, Bishop Duncan made remarks criticizing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for inadequately supporting "orthodox" breakaways from the ECUSA, declaring, "The cost is his office...To lose that historic office is a cost of such magnitude that God must be doing a new thing." The statement critical of the Anglican Communion's worldwide leader led the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner to resign from the Anglican Communion Network, which he had assisted in founding, out of the concern that "Bishop Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church." [Jan Nunley, " [ Network delegates seek end to property litigation] ," Episcopal News Service, August 1, 2007.] Radner explained, "Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition - to be 'lost'." [E. Radner, " [ Resignation from ACN] ."]


On January 15, 2008, the Title IV Review Committee of the Episcopal Church certified that, in its opinion, Duncan had "abandoned the Communion of this Church." [ Presiding Bishop's letter to Bishop Duncan ] Pending completion of this process, the three most senior Bishops in the Episcopal Church had the option to inhibit Duncan from ministry but chose not to. In her letter to Bishop Duncan, the Presiding Bishop stated that she "would welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church". [ Presiding Bishop's letter to Bishop Duncan ] Bishop Duncan replied by means of a letter on March 14, 2008. [ Bishop Duncan's reply to the Presiding Bishop, pdf ] . In his respone he denied all charges levelled against him.

On September 18, 2008, the House of Bishops voted that Bishop Duncan be deposed from ordained ministry on charges of 'abandoning the communion of the Episcopal Church'. Immediately following the vote, Bishop Duncan was named a bishop-at-large of The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. [cite web |url= |title=House of Bishops deposes Bishop Robert Duncan |accessmonthday=September 18 |accessyear=2008 |date=2008-09-18 |work=The Living Church News Service] .

Following the vote in the ECUSA House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori formally deposed Bishop Duncan. In the sentence Jefferts Schori declares that "from and after 12:01 a.m., Saturday, 20 September, 2008, Bishop Duncan shall be deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God's word and sacraments conferred at ordination in this Church and further declare [s] that all ecclesiastical and related secular offices held by Bishop Duncan shall be terminated and vacated at that time." [] .

The legal validity of the decree of deposition is questioned by Bishop Duncan's attorney [ Letter of Duncan's Attorney Says Presiding Bishop Violates Canons to "Remove" Duncan ] . The validity of the decree has also been challenged by other bishops in the Anglican Communion.

Reactions to bishop Duncan's deposition from within the Anglican Communion

The sentence of deposition was condemned by the province of South-East Asia [] , and by the Church of England diocesan bishops of Blackburn, Chester, Chichester, Exeter, Rochester, and Win­chester. With the exception of the Bishop of Blackburn, all signatories are Lords Spiritual of the United Kingdom.In their joint statement they declare that: "the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh remains “a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion." [] . Further support for Bishop Duncan was given by Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem,and the Diocese of Sydney. [] .

Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Gregory James Venables of the Southern Cone, Drexel Gomez of the West Indies and Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya gave out a common declaration in which they condemned the deposition, declaring the deposition 'to be invalid', furthermore they state that: "Without reservation, we continue in full sacramental communion with him as an Anglican bishop. We thank God that by the vote of the Provincial Synod he has been given membership in the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone. Our fellowship and shared ministry with him is not disrupted." [] .

On 1 October 2008, the Primate's Council of GAFCON gave out a declaration in which they state to: "are determined to stand with Bishop Duncan and those who, like him, have protested in the name of God against the unscriptural innovations which have caused such divisions amongst us." and "gives its full support to Archbishop Greg Venables in receiving Bishop Duncan as a Bishop in good standing in the Province of the Southern Cone." [ Statement by the Primates' Council of GAFCON on the alleged deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh,, accessed 2.10.2008 ]

Other functions

Bishop Duncan holds a number of ecclesiastical and civic duties. He is a board member of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa. [ ] a notable conservative Episcopalian seminaries in the United States. [ ] . He is the president of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund [] , a charity which reported funding projects worth $724,279 in 2007. [] At the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, Duncan attended the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Bishop Duncan has hosted and coordinated many national and international conferences, including the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem. Bishop Duncan also serves as president of the south-west Pennsylvanian Christian Associates group, an ecumenical organization that binds together Christians of all denominations.


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