Friday, February 02, 2007

The Breaking of Vows

     Two images come to mind in reading Pittsburgh’s bishop, Bob Duncan, explain his reasons for seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight for his diocese, even though he knows and his attornies know that such is illegal and completely against the polity of The Episcopal Church, which he has sworn to honor:

1.        St. Paul in Romans 9-11 goes to great pains to assert that when God makes a promise, that promise is unbreakable. Otherwise God would be untrustworthy. The same is true with our Lord's promises of faithfulness to his vocation -- the Cross is preferable to the slightest deviation from his promise. When we break our ordination or consecration vows, we undermine the credibility of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ we were ordained or consecrated to serve.
To do so, in two words, is to commit spiritual abuse.

2.        When dealing with a married couple when one of the couple wants out to begin or continue with a different partner, the advice of professional is almost always the same: deal first with the stresses and anguish within your marriage -- and divorce if you must. Only then and only after a period of time should you consider any new affiliation.

     My own conclusion is that Bishop Duncan should first deal with his ordination  and consecration vows of loyalty to The Episcopal Church and its doctrine and discipline. He should have done so without involving his clergy or the people of his diocese. The honorable thing to have done would have been to take a leave of absence to sort things out with peers or spiritual advisors, then announce his decision to leave The Episcopal Church's ordained ministry because he could no longer honor his vows (without which he would not have been ordained or
consecrated) or hold a private ceremony of recommitment to his ordination and consecration vows. Once separated from his vows, he would be free to seek out whatever succor or position he wanted in the church of God.

Encouragement of one's clergy to follow anything but this process is, I believe, conduct unbecoming. From my own experience of leadership in the civil rights movement and the Sanctuary movement, I know how beguiling power and the attraction of opposion is -- those of us who have been more or less successful in resisting the evil hold of those things are fortunate while those who succumb end up doing more damage than any good they could have envisioned.

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