Closed Doors at Episcopal Church

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Just last month, the director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, Maureen Shea, called on President Bush to open an “interests section” — essentially, a pared down embassy — in Tehran, Iran.

“For too long, the U.S. policy of non-engagement with Iran has brought us inflammatory words and provocative actions and has failed to reduce tensions or move toward a just and peaceful relationship,” Ms. Shea wrote in the letter, which she also addressed to the presidential candidates. Ms. Shea’s counterparts from the Quakers and the Mennonites also signed the letter.

It’s amusing to watch the left-wing leadership of a religious group take President Bush to task for his administration’s policy of non-engagement, because the leaders of the very same Episcopal Church last week voted to depose one its bishops for refusing to go along with the church’s radical leftist agenda. And there was no debate or dialogue allowed.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, apparently has no use for a similar policy of engagement when it comes to a bishop of her church, Robert Duncan, whose only fault is that he follows the authority of scripture — and not Ms. Schori’s trendy politics. Last Friday, Ms. Schori signed a formal sentence deposing Bishop Duncan from the ordained ministry and removed him as bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Fortunately, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of southern South America immediately instated Bishop Duncan into its governing body. The idea here is that Bishop Duncan and the Episcopalians of greater Pittsburgh will be able to continue to worship the way they always have, but under new leadership, even if the diocese they are now a part of is non-geographical; i.e., far away in South America.

Bishop Duncan’s attorney, John Lewis, said in a statement on Monday that he thinks Ms. Schori “believes that his ‘deposition’ will assist her in her desire to seize the property of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.” It seems this mess all comes down to who can get his — or her — hands on valuable real estate.

For most Episcopalians, though, this tragic event speaks to more than just pricey real estate. The cornerstones of their beliefs, such as the apostolic succession, remain sacred and an integral part of their spiritual lives. Bishop Duncan was defrocked because he refused to go along with anything otherwise. His story is one of steadfastness and faith.

On the other hand, Ms. Schori’s actions leading up to the bogus deposition of Bishop Duncan were ruthless. She did what many bishops of the Episcopal Church have been doing for the last three decades: Re-jiggering some canon law and boldly trampling over the rest of it in order to push what is essentially a new socialist religion on an entire church body.

A good example of her cavalier actions: In order to move toward deposing a clergyman, canon law requires that the bishop must first be “inhibited” — that is to say, restricted — in his church duties. Ms. Schori disregarded this canon and instead signed the sentence of deposition.

Concurrent with this sad episode is the Episcopal Church’s inexplicable call for dialogue with the tyrannical Iranian president, who happens to be in New York City this week. In fact, this evening he attends a dinner in Midtown hosted by two church groups that have long partnered with the Episcopal Church and its radical socialist agenda: the Quakers and Mennonites, the same two groups who co-signed last month’s open letter calling for diplomatic relations with Iran.

The folks over at the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued this statement yesterday: “To appease someone like Ahmadinejad is sickening, but for it to be done in the name of Christianity is enough to induce vomiting.”

Indeed, we agree with our Roman Catholic friends that it’s not too difficult to get a bit queasy watching those who preach a mean game about engagement then have trouble putting any of it into practice themselves.

Mr. Akasie, an Episcopalian, is a contributor to The New York Sun.

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