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Robert Duncan (bishop)

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Robert Duncan (bishop)

The Most Reverend
Robert Duncan
Bishop of Pittsburgh (ACNA)
Former Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America
Church Anglican
See Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
In office Sept. 13, 1997 — Sept. 20, 2008 (ECUSA, deposed); Nov. 8, 2008 (elected by Anglican diocese) — ;June 25, 2009 (ACNA) — June 28, 2014
Predecessor Bishop Alden Moinet Hathaway (ECUSA); None (ADOP); None (ACNA)
Successor Bishop Robert Johnson (ECUSA); Incumbent (Anglican); Archbishop Foley Beach (ACNA)
Personal details
Born (1948-07-05) July 5, 1948
Bordentown, New Jersey
Previous post Bishop of Pittsburgh (ECUSA),

Robert William Duncan (born July 5, 1948) is an American bishop. He was the first archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) from June 2009 to June 2014.[1] In 1997, he was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 2008, a majority of the diocesan convention voted to withdraw the diocese from the Episcopal Church and, in October 2009, the diocese renamed itself the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Duncan continues to serve as bishop for this diocese.

Duncan served as moderator of the Anglican Communion Network from 2003 to 2009 and chairman of the Common Cause Partnership from 2004 until the creation of the Anglican Church in North America. He has honorary doctorates from General Theological Seminary (1996) and Nashotah House (2006). Until Duncan's departure from the Episcopal Church, he was considered to be "probably the top conservative Episcopal bishop in America".[2]


  • Early life and ministry 1
  • Election as bishop 2
  • Conservative leadership 3
  • Deposition 4
  • Archbishop of ACNA 5
  • Other functions 6
  • Notes 7

Early life and ministry

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.

Duncan attended Bordentown Military Institute where he graduated valedictorian. He then entered Trinity College (A.B. cum laude) in Hartford, Connecticut. After graduating from Trinity in 1970, he enrolled at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (MDiv., DD honoris causa) in New York. During his time at seminary, he also studied Scottish history at Edinburgh University.

Duncan was ordained as a deacon on April 22, 1972, and as a priest on October 28, 1973, the feast of Saints Simon and Jude. His first assignments were at the Chapel of the Intercession in New York City; at Grace Church in Merchantville, 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 four years in campus ministries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving as assistant rector for campus ministries at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In 1982, he was called to be rector of St. Thomas' parish in Newark, Delaware, where he served for 10 years.

Election as bishop

Duncan was a candidate 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. He also served as bishop coadjutor of the diocese.

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, he was consecrated Bishop of Pittsburgh. The Diocese of Pittsburgh was at that time considered by many in the Episcopal Church to be one of the most conservative and evangelical dioceses in the Episcopal Church. Duncan served on the program committee of the Network for Anglicans in Mission and Evangelism, an agency created at the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Conservative leadership

Duncan quickly became the head of a group of Episcopal leaders hoping to maintain conservatism within the denomination. When openly gay priest Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, Duncan voiced strong opposition to the election. After Robinson's election was confirmed by the church's general convention on August 5, 2003, Duncan acted as spokesman for a group of conservative bishops and lay leaders at a press conference expressing disappointment at Robinson's election. Duncan denounced the election claiming that the Episcopal Church had "departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ".[3] Duncan and Robinson were members of the same GTS class, both having taken their MDiv degrees in 1973.

In January 2004, Duncan became the leader of the newly formed Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, a conservative action group whose stated mission was 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."[4][5]

At the March 17, 2005, meeting of Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, Duncan read a speech in which he admitted that the rift between the two sides may be "irreconcilable".[6] 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.[7]

In July 2007, Duncan made remarks criticizing Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for inadequately supporting "orthodox" breakaways from 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."[8] 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."[9] 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'."[10] At the request of Rowan Williams, Duncan attended the 2007 Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


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".[11] 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 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."[11] Duncan replied by letter on March 14, 2008.[12] In his response he denied all charges levelled against him.

On September 18, 2008, the House of Bishops voted that Duncan be deposed from ordained ministry on charges of "abandoning the communion of the Episcopal Church". Immediately following the vote, Duncan was named a bishop-at-large of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.[13]

Following the vote in ECUSA's House of Bishops the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, formally deposed Duncan. In the sentence Jefferts Schori declared 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."[14] The legal validity of the decree of deposition was questioned by Duncan's attorney.[15]

Duncan was elected the bishop of the now Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh 50 days after his deposition by the Episcopal Church.

Archbishop of ACNA

On June 21, 2009, the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America elected Duncan as the first archbishop and primate of North America. He was installed on June 25, 2009, at Christ Church in Plano, Texas. At the ceremony, conservative Anglicans in the developing world were represented by the Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, the archbishop of the African Anglican Province of Kenya. Kenya was one of nine provinces of the Anglican Communion that sent representatives to the ACNA conference. Duncan stated that his role as archbishop was to "reunite a significant portion of our Anglican Church family here in North America" and indicated that he intended to serve for five years before stepping down.[16]

In October 2009, Duncan reacted to the Roman Catholic Church's proposed creation of personal ordinariates for disaffected traditionalist Anglicans by saying that although he felt that this provision would probably not be utilized by the great majority of ACNA's affiliated laity and clergy, he would happily bless those who were drawn to participate in this historic offer.[17]

At the Provincial Council of the ACNA, held at Long Beach, California, on 21 June 2011, Duncan made a positive balance of the first two years of the church: "According to the data submitted in the Annual Parochial Reports there were, in the year 2010, 987 baptisms of adults over thirty, 424 baptisms of young people aged sixteen to thirty, and 1647 baptisms of children in the ACNA dioceses, not including the congregations of our Ministry Partners. What is so stunning about this data is that the number of baptisms of those 16 and older is almost equal to the number of children baptized. What this says is that we are reaching adolescents and adults who have never known Christ, never been part of a church. This is to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, one sign among many that something quite extraordinary is unfolding."[18]

Duncan was one of the signatories of the statement of the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, an organization representing 26 denominations, on April 13, 2012, expressly supporting the Roman Catholic Church in its opposition to the HHS mandate that would force Roman Catholic hospitals in the United States to pay for birth control methods not in accordance with the doctrine of the church.[19] Also among the signatories was Bishop Kenneth L. Price, his successor at the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.[20]

With Bishop Ray Sutton, Duncan attended a public audience in the Vatican at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI, on 28 November 2012, whom they met and greeted afterwards on behalf of the Anglican Church in North America and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.[21]

He had a meeting of four hours and a half with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in May 2013, at Welby's invitation.[22] He was also one of the attendants of the GAFCON II, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21 to 26 October 2013.[23]

Other functions

Duncan holds a number of ecclesiastical and civic duties.

  • Board member of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania,[24] a notable conservative Episcopalian seminary in the United States.[25]
  • Board member of Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin,[26] an Anglo-catholic Episcopalian seminary in the United States [27]
  • President of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund,[28] a charity that reported funding projects worth $724,279 in 2007.[29]
  • He has hosted and coordinated many national and international conferences, including the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem.
  • He serves as president of the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, an ecumenical organization that binds together Christians of various denominations.


  1. ^ Anglican Church in North America biography of Robert Duncan. Accessed April 15, 2010.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Gay Bishop Says Confirmation Shouldn't Split Church". Fox News. 6 August 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "What is the Anglican Communion Network". Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  5. ^ "A Bishop and a Break-Away Group". NPR (National Public Radio). 9 Dec 2004. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ Nunley, Jan (1 August 2007). "Network delegates seek end to property litigation". Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Jan Nunley, , August 1, 2007Episcopal News Service"Network delegates seek end to property litigation",
  10. ^ E. Radner, "Resignation from ACN."
  11. ^ a b Presiding Bishop's letter to Bishop Duncan
  12. ^ Bishop Duncan's reply to the Presiding Bishop, pdf
  13. ^ "House of Bishops deposes Bishop Robert Duncan".  
  14. ^
  15. ^ Letter of Duncan's Attorney Says Presiding Bishop Violates Canons to "Remove" Duncan
  16. ^ [4]
  17. ^ Anglican Church in North America responds to Vatican offer
  18. ^ Archbishop Robert Duncan State of the Church Address, Provincial Council, 21 June 2011
  19. ^ Statement of the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania on the HHS mandate, 13 April 2012
  20. ^ Organization representing 1 million Pennsylvania Christians supports Catholics on HHS mandate, 20 April 2012
  21. ^ Archbishop Duncan attends Papal Audience in Rome, ACNA official website.
  22. ^ Archbishop Duncan Addresses the 5th Provincial Council of the Anglican Church in North America, ACNA official website
  23. ^ GAFCON Home/Primates Gather for Worship, ACNA official website
  24. ^
  25. ^ MacDonald, G. Jeffrey (May 17, 2008). "Episcopal Seminaries Struggle With Costs". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Johnson, Annysa (May 1, 2014). "Top Episcopal Church leader promotes unity at Nashotah House". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  28. ^
  29. ^
Religious titles
New title Primate of the Anglican Church in North America
2009 – 2014
Succeeded by
Foley Beach
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