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Editor: The Rev. Diane Shepard

 

 

A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice
 


Featured Documents

The home page of A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice highlights a “featured document,” usually a newly posted document of special interest. Below are listed all the documents that have been so featured, beginning with the latest
 


As the diocese approaches a vote on “realignment,” the Anglican Communion Institute has published a surprising paper by Mark McCall titled “Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?” Attorney McCall makes legal and historical arguments that support the organizational theory of The Episcopal Church promoted by Bishop Robert Duncan, namely that the church is a confederation of independent dioceses that are free to leave the church at any time.

Historian Joan Gundersen has written previously about the early history of The Episcopal Church in her 2004 essay “History Revisited: Historical Background of the Proposed Amendment to Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” (That document is available here.) Gundersen’s latest contribution is “A Response to Mark McCall’s ‘Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?’” In this essay, she points out provisions in the governing documents of the church that McCall missed or misinterpreted, as well as documentation of the meetings that established The Episcopal Church that McCall also missed. She concludes that the church is surely hierarchical and that dioceses are inextricably bound to the larger church.

A Response to Mark McCall’s ‘Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?’” can be found in the Polity category here. The PDF version of Gundersen’s essay can be found here.


Much of the argument against what Bishop Duncan and his supporters call realignment has come from the liberal side of the aisle. A prominent conservative Episcopal priest and member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has now offered the conservative case for voting to stay in The Episcopal Church. The Rev. Dr. Jim Simons, rector of St. Michael’s in the Valley, Ligonier, posted “The Case for Staying in the Episcopal Church” on his new blog, Three Rivers Episcopal, on June 28, 2008

Conservatives considering supporting Bishop Duncan’s plan are really the target audience of the piece, and Simons makes a strong case from a conservative point of view. Much of what he says is hard to argue with from any perspective, and the author offers some considerations that have not been articulated by others.

The Case for Staying in the Episcopal Church” can be found in the Unity category here. The essay on Simons’ Web site can be read here. For the convenience of those who might want to duplicate and distribute the essay (or those who just want a more attractive version for their own reading), a PDF version is available here.


On April 22, 2008, the Diocese of Pittsburgh posted “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment” on its Parish Toolbox Web site. The 8-page document offers answers to 30 questions related to the vote to amend the diocesan constitution at the fall diocesan convention. Bishop Duncan claims that a yes vote will allow the diocese to renounce its membership in The Episcopal Church and “realign” with another Anglican province, presumably, the province of the Southern Code, a small, conservative province is South America.

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has taken the diocesan document and added its own answers. This 16-page document is called “Realignment Reconsidered.” PEP’s answers are dramatically different from those of the diocese. According to PEP, not only is realignment improper, but it will isolate realigners from the Anglican Communion, endanger the integrity of the Anglican Communion, and threaten parishes with the loss of their churches and other property. Non-realigners, according to PEP, will remain in The Episcopal Church and will, eventually, elect a new bishop for Pittsburgh in the usual manner.

Realignment Reconsidered” can be found in the Polity category here. Click here to go directly to the PEP document.


Episcopal churches in the East End of Pittsburgh have, for many years, sponsored a series of suppers and Eucharists during Lent. Each events is held at an East End church, with the sermon given by the rector of one of the other East End churches. In 2008, the pattern was changed, and a number of rectors from other churches in the diocese were invited to preach. One of these was the Rev. Philip Wainwright, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Brentwood.

At the March 4, 2008, service held at Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, Wainwright preached on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He titled his sermon “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” and argued that Paul did not advise separation when disagreements arise in a church. Instead, we should be gentle with one another and try to return the mistaken to the true path.

This sermon can now be found in the Unity category here. You may go directly to the sermon here.


This summer, bishops of the Anglican Communion will meet in England at the first Lambeth Conference since the crisis in the Communion that followed the consent by General Convention to the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, a crisis arguably enabled by the 1998 Lambeth Conference’s resolution on homosexuality. In his essay, “Unity and Diversity in the Lambeth Conference,” the Rev. Christopher L. Webber briefly reviews the history of the Lambeth Conference. Although this is not a definitive history of the conference, it is a useful summary for anyone following events in the Anglican Communion and anticipating the 2008 conference.

The essay presented here has been reformatted and corrected from a series of four recent posts on The Episcopal Majority Web site. Its format is more convenient for reading, although the pictures from the original posts have been omitted.

Unity and Diversity in the Lambeth Conference” can be found in the Anglican Communion Relations category here. You may go directly to the essay here.


Jerry Bowyer, a well-known financial journalist, is on the vestry of St. Stephen’s, McKeesport. Last November, he wrote an essay opposing efforts to remove the Diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church. That essay, in a slightly different form, appeared later at Episcopal Life Online as “Be faithful, be patient, and pray for all in authority.” On February 8, 2008, another Bowyer essay was posted at Episcopal Life Online. “In defense of remaining Episcopalian, Jerry Bowyer answers critics.” This essay addresses eight specific criticisms of his earlier piece in favor of keeping the diocese in The Episcopal Church. (Apparently, the first essay elicited a lot of mail.) The two essays are particularly important, coming, as they do, from someone who plainly states that “I am not a liberal.” Bowyer’s arguments are well-reasoned, appealing to facts, rather than to emotion.

Both of Boyer’s essays can now be found in the Episcopal Church category here. His original on-line essay is here, and the response to his critics is here.

The Bowyer essays could have been classified  in the Unity category, which illustrates the difficulty in using categories at all. Visitors are invited to browse all categories; they may find something interesting and unexpected.


The Rev. Leslie Reimer, Associate Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, wrote to the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh on November 16, 2007, reflecting on the direction the diocese has taken and the decisions made at the November 2–3 convention. She writes:

Rather than being a church unified by common prayer and faith, we are asked to enter into a schismatic realignment based on what we disagree with and what people we refuse to accept. Rather than being a church where individual reason is valued and questioning is welcome, we are asked to enter into a system guided by a hierarchy of Primates and Bishops and a more closely defined covenant or doctrine. Rather than being offered a choice of remaining a minority voice within the Episcopal Church or leaving it in a clear, decisive way, we are asked to commit to a diocesan strategy which still leaves many questions unanswered. We are being led into unnecessary uncertainty and conflict.

In “A Letter to the Diocese from the Rev. Leslie Reimer,” the Calvary priest asks the people of the diocese to step back from the edge of schism and uncertainty, where they presently find themselves, and she offers excerpts from a statement by Episcopal clergy of the Diocese of Georgia by way of inspiration.

The letter can be found in the Unity category here. You go directly to the letter here.


The Episcopal News Service story of October 31, 2007, “Presiding Bishop reaches out to bishops attempting to withdraw diocese,” carries a strangely benign headline. In fact, this story, released just two days before Pittsburgh begins deliberations at its 142nd Annual Diocesan Convention, is most notable for its revealing a letter sent by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to Bishop Robert Duncan. The Presiding Bishop reiterates her offer to appoint an Episcopal Visitor for the Diocese, but she also makes it clear that, should the bishop not drop his support for constitutional changes aimed at separating the diocese from The Episcopal Church, the Bishop of Pittsburgh will be subject to disciplinary action by the church. The effect this letter will have on the convention cannot be predicted, but it surely will have an effect.

The ENS story is described under Polity here. The story may be accessed directly here.


In addition to changes proposed to the constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh relating to accession to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church, a committee has proposed a long list of other changes, a list that has been extended by proposals from the Chancellor. (Everything relating to the November 2–3 convention is collected under “Polity” here.) The Committee and Chancellor, in their materials, show, for each proposed change, the current wording, followed by the proposed wording. In many cases, the change proposed involves only one or two words, and this format makes it difficult to see that. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has produced a briefing paper,  “Clarification of Constitutional & Canonical Changes,” that makes the effect of the proposed changes clear using red type, underlining, strikeouts, and change bars. The document contains no commentary on the proposals. The briefing paper can also be found under “Polity” here. The document itself is on the PEP Web site here.

Since 2003, PEP has prepared a series of briefing papers relating to the business at each diocesan convention. This is the first of several to appear relating to the 2007 annual convention. PEP briefing papers, along with diocesan documents, can be found on the PEP Web site here.
 


Two years after Calvary Church sued Bishop Duncan and other diocesan leaders on behalf of the diocese (i.e., Calvary Church claimed to be acting in the interest of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh), this settlement (“Stipulation by Counsel”) was reached and presented to the court. The lawsuit was initiated because of concern that diocesan leaders would not protect property it held in trust for The Episcopal Church. Among other things, this agreement appears to acknowledge the trust exercised by “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.” It also outlines a procedure intended to prevent congregations leaving The Episcopal Church from being given a “sweetheart” deals on parish property from a sympathetic diocese. The procedure becomes especially interesting now, in that Bishop Duncan has been suggesting that the diocese can separate itself from The Episcopal Church and require parishes to follow the agreed-upon procedure in order to remain in The Episcopal Church. It is difficult, however, to understand how the bishop could claim to have left The Episcopal Church yet still claim jurisdiction, administrative or otherwise, over “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.”

The stipulation can be found under “Property” here. The PDF document available here can also be found elsewhere, although this version is searchable, though, perhaps, only imperfectly.
 


Influenced in part by Bishop Duncan’s plan to remove the Diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church, the vestry of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, has written a letter to parishioners assuring them that its members are committed to keeping the parish within The Episcopal Church. The letter “Where St. Paul’s Vestry Stands,” can be found here under “Episcopal Church” or on St. Paul’s Web site here.

St. Paul’s is one of the largest parishes in the diocese, and, although its sympathies have not been much in question, some had doubted its commitment to the parent church. Likely, the low profile of St. Paul’s has resulted, in part, from its being involved in a now-concluded rector search. The vestry’s letter declares that “[t]he Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is an integral part of The Episcopal Church, not an independent entity that can be removed from it by the actions of any body, person, or persons other than the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.” It express the hope that reconciliation can take place between the diocese and church, and it concludes with the following paragraph:

It is our intention that St. Paul’s remain a faithful and loving community in which we worship together and discuss our beliefs and concerns without rancor. We pray that such an example will remind others of the reconciling power of Jesus Christ and will help our entire diocese through the difficult times that lie ahead.

At the September 11 Diocesan Council meeting, Bishop Duncan presented his pre-convention report, revealing a bold plan to allow the Diocese of Pittsburgh to dissociate from The Episcopal Church and realign with another, as yet unspecified, Anglican province. (The letter can be found here, under “Polity.” Click here to go directly to the letter.) The bishop proposed to enable such a change through constitutional amendments that were also presented at the September meeting. Those amendments are available here, also under “Polity.” (Click here to go directly to the amendments.)


Back in June, the public radio program Interfaith Voices interviewed Bishops Martyn Minns and Katharine Jefferts Schori on a program titled “A Definitive Portrait of the Struggle in the Episcopal Church.” Minns is the former Episcopal rector of Virginia’s Truro Church. He was consecrated by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and is now bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans of North America. Katharine Jefferts Schori, of course, is Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. (The program also includes—one suspects, for comic relief—a segment about a creation science museum in Alberta.) The Minns and Jefferts Schori interviews are not responses to one another. Each provides its own insight into current church controversies. The title of the program, however, is a bit pretentious. Listen on-line or download an MP3 file. The radio program can be found under “Episcopal Church” here. Click here to go directly to the program on the Interfaith Voices Web site.


From the earliest days of the Church, the followers of Jesus have had disagreements with one another. In his “Reader’s Viewpoint”  essay in The Living Church, “United in Mission,” the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting reminds us that the mission of the Church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” Bishop Epting, who is Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for The Episcopal Church, calls us all to focus on that mission, not on the disputes that currently divide us. His essay can be found here, under “Unity.” Click here to go directly to Bishop Epting’s essay.


“Connecting the Dots,” the so-called “Sauls Report” to the House of Bishops argues that “TEC is dealing with a well-thought-out, well-organized, and well-funded strategy designed to enable and justify the removal of assets from use for the Church’s mission and ministry in the world.” The report is available here, with all its appendices, in a single PDF. You can find it under “Property” here, or you can click here to go to the document directly.

 

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