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Editor: The Rev. Diane Shepard



A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice

Never have questions of church governance seemed so important in the life of The Episcopal Church. How the church is organized and the details of the church’s constitution and canons, as well as the constitution and canons of individual dioceses, have never seemed so important to the future life of the church. The documents below touch on issues of church polity and what they mean in the context of the current conflicts within the church.

Note: Recently added items are marked “New.” Use “Next” and “Previous” links to move easily between entries. To view a document, click on “View.”

TITLE A Response to Mark McCall’s “Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?”
AUTHOR Joan Gundersen
DATE 9/18/2008
ADDED 9/18/2008
TYPE Essay
DESCRIPTION Gundersen analyzes a paper by Mark McCall, published by the Anglican Communion Institute, that asserts that dioceses are free to leave The Episcopal Church.
COMMENT McCall’s “Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?” comes to the surprising conclusion that, in a real sense, the church is not hierarchical. Gundersen, in another scholarly effort, shows that McCall’s essay “simply will not stand scrutiny.” Gundersen is clearly in greater command of relevant facts than McCall.


TITLE Realignment: The Unvarnished Truth
AUTHOR The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis
DATE 5/18/2008
ADDED 5/19/2008
TYPE Essay
DESCRIPTION Like the document below, this essay is a response to what the diocese has published regarding realignment.
COMMENT This essay appeared in the rector’s regular column in the Calvary Church (Pittsburgh) newsletter. The approach is much like that in “Realignment Reconsidered” below. Dr. Lewis does not address all the questions from the diocese, but he is outspoken about those he does answer.
TITLE Realignment Reconsidered
AUTHOR Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
DATE 5/18/2008
ADDED 5/19/2008
TYPE Q&A document
DESCRIPTION In this document, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh offers its own answers to those provided to 30 questions by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment.”
COMMENT On April 22, in support of its plan to remove the Diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church, the diocese released an 8-page document of questions and answers about the upcoming realignment vote. “Realignment Reconsidered” reproduces this document, with PEP’s own very different answers juxtaposed to those of the diocese. The contrast between sides of the realignment issue could not be more sharply drawn.


TITLE Presiding Bishop reaches out to bishops attempting to withdraw dioceses
AUTHOR The Rev. Jan Nunley (Episcopal News Service)
DATE 10/31/2007
ADDED 11/1/2007
TYPE News story
FORMAT Web page
DESCRIPTION A rather long story on canonical and legal issues. For Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, what is most interesting is a letter from the Presiding Bishop to Bishop Duncan warning of the consequences of moving forward with the changes proposed for the convention that begins 11/2/2007.
COMMENT This story can only be described as dramatic. The “reaching out” in the headline refers to the Presiding Bishop’s reiterating her offer of an Episcopal Visitor for Pittsburgh and similarly situated dioceses. Coming as it did just two days before Pittsburgh’s annual convention convenes, however, the not-very-subtle message from Bishop Katharine is that Bishop Duncan should drop his planned constitutional changes or face disciplinary action by The Episcopal Church. The 142nd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh just got more interesting.
TITLE Clarification of Constitutional & Canonical Changes
AUTHOR Lionel Deimel (for Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh)
DATE 10/18/2007
ADDED 10/19/2007
TYPE Briefing paper
DESCRIPTION Listing of changes proposed by Committee and Chancellor, showing exactly what is retained, changed, or deleted
COMMENT The reports by the Committee and Chancellor 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. The PEP document, using red type, underlining, strikeouts, and change bars, clarifies, without comment, exactly what is being proposed. Minor revisions have been made to this document since it was first posted. The latest revision is dated 10/27/2007.

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.

TITLE Addenda to the Report of the Committee on Constitutions [sic] and Canons As Recommended by the Chancellor for Adoption at the 142nd Annual Convention
AUTHOR Robert Devlin
DATE n.d.
ADDED 10/19/2007
TYPE Proposed changes to diocesan canons and rules of order
DESCRIPTION Changes, in addition to those proposed by the Committee here, to canons and rules of order of the Diocese of Pittsburgh convention
COMMENT The general thrust of these additional proposals is to eliminate references to The Episcopal Church. Bishop Duncan has announced that, where the Committee and Chancellor have proposed changing the same rules, only the Chancellor’s proposal will be considered.
TITLE Bishop Robert Duncan’s pre-convention report
AUTHOR Bishop Robert Duncan
DATE 9/11/2007
ADDED 9/21/2007
TYPE Letter
FORMAT PDF (Web page version available here)
DESCRIPTION Letter addressed to the “clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese of Pittsburgh”
COMMENT This letter treats a number of topics, including the upcoming “250th anniversary of Anglican presence” in Pittsburgh and the mounting costs to the diocese of defending diocesan leaders in the Calvary lawsuit. The bishop also advocates for constitutional amendments (see below) that “would begin the process to exercise our right to end the accession of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church.”
TITLE Proposed Constitutional Amendments
AUTHOR Anonymous
DATE 9/11/2007
ADDED 9/21/2007
TYPE Proposed amendments to diocesan constitution
DESCRIPTION Constitutional amendments to diocesan constitution advocated by Bishop Duncan
COMMENT The set of five constitutional amendments and one canonical addition was proposed by Bishop Duncan at the 9/11/2007 Diocesan Council meeting. The admitted intent of the proposals (see Bishop Duncan's pre-convention report) is to allow the entire diocese to be removed from The Episcopal Church. It is doubtful that any objective observer would call the proposed changes permissible.

For purposes of the diocesan convention, this is now being called Resolution One.
TITLE Resolution to Restore Article I Section I of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons to its Historic Form
AUTHOR Mary Roehrich, et al.
DATE 9/11/2007
ADDED 9/21/2007
TYPE Proposed amendment to diocesan constitution
DESCRIPTION Amendment to restore accession clause to Diocese of Pittsburgh constitution
COMMENT At the same Diocesan Council meeting at which Bishop Duncan revealed his audacious plan to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church, this amendment was introduced by Episcopal Church supporters who would have the diocese pursue the option that diocesan leaders no longer talk about. This option was originally characterized as “submitting to The Episcopal Church.” The amendment would return the diocesan constitution to its pre-2004 condition.

For purposes of the diocesan convention, this is now being called Resolution Two.
TITLE Changes to Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as recommended by the Committee on Constitution and Canons
AUTHOR Committee on Constitution and Canons
DATE Undated, but presented to Diocesan Council on 9/11/2007
ADDED 9/21/2007
TYPE Proposed changes to constitution and canons of the diocese
DESCRIPTION Proposed changes based on a committee review of the entire constitution and body of canons of the diocese
COMMENT Although many of the proposed changes are innocuous, others tend to make the diocese less democratic. Certain changes anticipate a diocese tied less closely (if at all) to The Episcopal Church.
TITLE Executive Council puts disaffected dioceses on notice about constitutional changes
AUTHOR The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg (Episcopal News Service)
DATE 6/14/2007
ADDED 8/28/2007
TYPE News story
FORMAT Web page
DESCRIPTION Report from meeting of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council meeting, describing Resolution NAC023, which warns that changes made to several diocesan constitutions (including Pittsburgh’s) are improper. (The story also treats other matters.)
COMMENT The Diocese of Fort Worth changed its constitution a number of years ago, in an attempt to put the constitution of the diocese above that of The Episcopal Church. Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, and Quincy have made similar changes. The changes have been widely regarded as unlawful (and, therefore, of no effect) by most neutral observers, but no action has been taken against the dioceses or their leaders. Apparently, the wording, which named specific dioceses, was the subject of much discussion. As one member of the Council is quoted in the story, however, “General Convention had agreed about how to ‘order our common life’ through its Constitution and Canons, and that the specific dioceses’ actions have been ‘injurious to our common life.’”


TITLE Unqualified Accession
AUTHOR Lionel Deimel
DATE 11/25/2006
ADDED 8/24/2007
TYPE Blog post
FORMAT Web page
DESCRIPTION Deimel argues that changes made to their constitutions by dioceses such as Pittsburgh are unlawful, and therefore null and void.
COMMENT The church’s Executive Council apparently came to much the same conclusion as Deimel. (See ENS story above.)
TITLE An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s “Withdrawal” of Consent to Inclusion in Province III
AUTHOR Lionel Deimel
DATE 7/17/2006
ADDED 8/24/2007
TYPE Report
DESCRIPTION This report, written shortly after the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced its intent to withdraw from Province III, analyzes the legitimacy of taking such an action. Deimel explains the context in which this document was released in a posting on his Web site called “What Has the Diocese of Pittsburgh Done This Time?” which is available here. After the annual convention endorsed the call to withdraw from Province III, Deimel wrote “More Thoughts on Provinces in The Episcopal Church,” which can be found here.
COMMENT The report argues that the proposed action is neither lawful nor supported by the precedent cited by the diocese.


TITLE History Revisited: Historical Background of the Proposed Amendment to Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
AUTHOR Joan Gundersen
DATE 10/13/2004
ADDED 8/24/2007
TYPE Essay
DESCRIPTION Gundersen argues that The Episcopal Church is not a federation of dioceses and that the accession of dioceses to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church is absolute.
COMMENT This heavily annotated essay was in response to an opinion by diocesan chancellor Robert Devlin (available here) that the Diocese of Pittsburgh could change its accession clause in its constitution.

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