Church Resources

Previous ] Home ] Up ] Next ]

      

What Has the Diocese of Pittsburgh
Done This Time?
Lionel E. Deimel
July 18, 2006
 

On June 28, 2006, just a week after the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, issued the following press release:

Standing Committee Requests
‘Alternative Primatial Oversight’;
Envisions Tenth Province Within Episcopal Church


Members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted this morning that Pittsburgh join with other dioceses in appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates of the Anglican Communion and the Panel of Reference for “immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care.” The Standing committee also published its intent (pending ratification by the diocesan convention this November 3-4) to “withdraw its consent, pursuant to Article VII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, to be included in the Third Province of the Episcopal Church” envisioning the drawing together of a new Windsor-compliant Tenth Province in the Episcopal Church. Finally, the standing committee committed itself to “work with and care for all the congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.”

“These decisions are simply in character with those made by our own convention year after year,” said Bishop Duncan. “We are and will remain the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. We are living within the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church. But as the presiding bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, herself so helpfully stated during the recently completed General Convention, there are really two bodies within our church, each with its own heart and mind. The decisions made today don’t change who we are in the least, but they do make clear here in Pittsburgh and to the rest of the communion with which body in the Episcopal Church we stand,” he added.

Making that clear is especially important in light of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ vision for the future of the Anglican Communion put forward in his teaching of June 27. In that vision, the Anglican Communion would be united around a covenant of agreed theological understandings and mutual submission. The covenant would allow those who agreed to it to continue in “constituent” membership in the Anglican Communion while those who were unable to agree to it would become “associate” members of the communion. The Archbishop also acknowledged that the fault lines between those who could agree and those who could not agree would not just run between provinces, but within them, and that there may well be a need within those provinces for an “ordered and mutually respectful” delineation.

“We understand that these decisions may be difficult for some Pittsburgh Episcopalians. As it has been in the past, our goal as a diocese is to help everyone stand as they need to stand in these difficult and divisive times. Further, in all we do, your bishops and other diocesan leadership join with the Standing Committee in pledging our commitment to work with and care for all the congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to prosper their local mission,” added Bishop Duncan.

The complete text of the resolution follows:

 WHEREAS, the 140th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh accepted the Windsor Report (2004), and its corollary documents, the Lambeth 1.10 text (1998) and the Dromantine Communiqué (2005), as the basis on which this Diocese, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and the Anglican Communion can go forward together; and

 WHEREAS, said Annual Convention called upon Pittsburgh’s deputies to the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to do everything in their power to help that Convention make a clear statement of submission to the teaching of, and a clear statement of intent to abide by the requirements of the said Windsor Report and its corollary documents; and

 WHEREAS, said Annual Convention declared that, should the 75th General Convention determine to continue its “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion, by its failure to accept unreservedly the Windsor Report and its corollary documents or to commit to a church life consonant with them, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will stand with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses, and Provinces that hold and maintain the “Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” whatever the costs or actions required to do so; and

 WHEREAS, the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recognize that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church has elected to walk apart from the Anglican Communion through its failure to submit to the call, the spirit or the requirements of the Windsor Report; and

 WHEREAS, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been and continues to be a member of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America as well as a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion in full and unimpaired communion with the See of Canterbury and those churches, dioceses, and provinces that uphold and propagate the historic Anglican Faith and Order; and

 WHEREAS, the Archbishop of Canterbury in light of the actions of General Convention 2006 has written about the future of the Anglican Communion as having both “constituent” and “associated” members, as well as about “ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements” within local Churches, consistent with the stated aim of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion as provided for in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America; and,

 WHEREAS, the Bishop and Standing Committee believe it is necessary for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to disassociate itself from those actions of the 75th General Convention which constitute a decision of the Episcopal Church to walk apart from the Anglican Communion.
 
 RESOLVED, that the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in good faith hereby join with the other dioceses of the Episcopal Church who are appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care so that a unifying solution might be found to preserve an authentic Anglican community of witness within the United States of America and provide pastoral and apostolic care to biblically orthodox Anglicans in this country regardless of geographical location; and

 RESOLVED FURTHER, that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, pending final ratification by its 141st Annual Convention, withdraws its consent, pursuant to Article VII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, to be included in the Third Province of the Episcopal Church, seeking emergence of a new Tenth Province of the Episcopal Church which is fully Windsor compliant, positioned with that part of the Episcopal Church determined to maintain constituent status in the Anglican Communion.
 
 RESOLVED FURTHER, that the Bishop and Standing Committee commit to work with and care for all the congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to prosper their local mission regardless of whether they remain in “constituent” status or might elect otherwise.

Final Adoption: Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pittsburgh was neither the first nor the last Episcopal diocese to ask for “alternative Primatial oversight.” Less attention has been paid to the diocese’s reputed removal of itself from its province. (A province is a regional grouping of Episcopal dioceses.) No other diocese made a similar move, so it seemed to be left to Pittsburgh Episcopalians to react to it.

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) took a few days to respond to both moves, issuing the following press release:

Contact:
Joan R. Gundersen, President
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
Telephone: +1 (412) 799-0440
E-mail: jrgunder@hotmail.com
 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Pittsburgh Action Called Divisive
 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — July 2, 2006 — Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has characterized the resolutions passed by the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh on June 28 and the standing committees of five other dioceses as a divisive media event. The resolutions request “alternative Primatial oversight” (APO) from the Anglican Communion. The Pittsburgh statement also claims to be withdrawing the diocese from Province III, one of nine groupings of dioceses provided for by the canon law of The Episcopal Church. The requests for APO, first from the Diocese of Fort Worth, which issued its statement before the close of The Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention (June 13–21), and then, nearly simultaneously this past week, from Pittsburgh, South Carolina, San Joaquin, Central Florida, and Springfield, suggest that the requests are part of a coordinated strategy planned long before the church’s meeting in Columbus.
 
Statements made before the General Convention of The Episcopal Church by Network Moderator, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, and other traditionalists set such a rigid standard that they ensured that The Episcopal Church would fail to satisfy the traditionalists. Whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference, an “advisory and consultative body,” can be asked by the Archbishop to “enquire into, consider and report” on situations involving “dioceses in dispute with their provincial authorities,” the dioceses requesting APO and other Network dioceses are in dispute with virtually the whole of The Episcopal Church, not simply with its primate. Although the Pittsburgh Standing Committee used a recent reflection by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams as support for its action, other Archbishops in the worldwide Anglican Communion have read the statement quite differently, with those of New Zealand even characterizing responses like Bishop Duncan’s as “a misrepresentation of his [Williams’] address.”

 
“This request is divisive, yet without substance,” said PEP President Joan R. Gundersen, “since our primate, the Presiding Bishop, has virtually no power and exercises no “oversight” over dioceses and their bishops. It is an irresponsible attempt to create a media event, without regard to the genuine harm this does to parishes in the diocese, to The Episcopal Church, and to the Anglican Communion.” It represents a premature judgment of our Presiding Bishop-elect, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, of Nevada. The move by the Standing Committee has brought distress to Episcopalians committed to The Episcopal Church, as parishioners fear the organizational estrangement being sought by their bishop. It stirs up division and anxiety in the many parishes that are divided in their response to the recent church controversies and to the course of action being pursued by Bishop Duncan.
 
The alleged withdrawal of the diocese from Province III is even more disingenuous. Not only does the diocese already have little involvement in provincial affairs, but the Bishop of Pittsburgh well knows that the creation of provinces and the assignment of dioceses to provinces can only be done by canon of the General Convention. It would not be unprecedented for a diocese to ignore its province, but neither the Standing Committee nor the Convention of the diocese can remove the diocese from Province III; only General Convention can do that, and not before 2009. Creating a tenth province, as suggested by the resolution, likewise, can only be accomplished by General Convention. “A province of Network dioceses would be a pastoral disaster,” Gundersen suggested. “At least 13 parishes in this diocese have declined to be part of the Network and declared a commitment to The Episcopal Church. Despite assurances from the Standing Committee, these parishes, and similar parishes in other dioceses, either will be abandoned or forced into a being part of the Network against their will.”
 
The system of provinces that is now part of the organization of The Episcopal Church is less than a century old. One reason such a feature was discussed for many decades without being implemented was the concern that creating provinces might encourage the development of churches within the church. “The Network has often talked about creating an ‘orthodox’ church within the church,” explained Gundersen, “but the nineteenth-century arguments against dividing the church still apply today. The requests for oversight and withdrawal to a separatist province fly in the face of traditional Anglican willingness to worship together while allowing a broad spectrum of interpretations of Scripture and belief. It is a radical betrayal of the central traditions on which the Anglican Communion is built.”
 
 
Contact:
Joan R. Gundersen, President
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
Telephone: +1 (412) 799-0440
E-mail: jrgunder@hotmail.com


On the Web:
This document
PEP
Action of diocesan Standing Committee
Panel of Reference
Archbishop Williams’ reflection
Statement from New Zealand
The Episcopal Church
Constitution and canons of General Convention (i.e., of The Episcopal Church)
Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes
 
 
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh is an organization of clergy and laypeople committed to the unity and diversity of The Episcopal Church, and of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is a member of the Via Media USA alliance.

# # #

On July 11, nine Pittsburgh parishes, led by the two parishes that sued Bishop Robert Duncan and other diocesan leaders two-and-a-half years ago, held a press conference and came very close to suggesting that the diocesan leadership had finally broken away from the Episcopal Church. Here is the press release from that group:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
CONTACTS:
The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis, Rector
Calvary Episcopal Church
412-661-0120, Ext. 18
412-661-6077 (fax)
HLewis@calvarypgh.org
www.calvarypgh.org
www.pittsburghepiscopal.org
 
The Rev. Diane Shepard, Rector
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
412-243-6100
412-243-6105 (fax)
ststephenswilk@verizon.net
 
 
NINE PARISHES CHALLENGE RECENT ACTIONS
OF THE BISHOP AND STANDING COMMITTEE
OF THE DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH;
DECLARE THEIR LOYALTY TO THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
 
Pittsburgh, PA, 11 July 2006.
 
Nine urban, suburban and rural congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh today challenged the recent actions of the Right Reverend Robert William Duncan and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. On 28 June 2006, the Bishop and Standing Committee announced their intention to withdraw from the duly recognized, geographically-determined Province III of The Episcopal Church, envisioning the emergence of a theologically-determined "Province X." The parishes believe that these steps, if left unchallenged, could effectively remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church. The congregations further believe that by requesting "alternative primatial oversight," the Bishop and Standing Committee seek to remove the Diocese from the oversight of the presiding bishopelect of The Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori. The parishes also believe that all of these actions constitute an effort to retain use of property which is properly within the jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church while withdrawing from The Episcopal Church.
 
History and Rationale
 
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is a founding member of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, and the Right Reverend Robert William Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh, serves as its moderator. The Network was formed following the election of the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Subsequent to this development, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, at its conventions of 2003 and 2004, passed an amendment to the Constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, declaring that the Diocese would not be bound by decisions of General Convention when such decisions ran counter to its own understanding of Faith and Order. In the Stipulation which ended the lawsuit filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas by Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, and St. Stephen's Church, Wilkinsburg against Bishop Duncan et al., all parties agreed that congregations in the Diocese desirous of disaffiliation from the Network could achieve that end by notifying the Bishop in writing. We believe that in their act of disaffiliation from the Network, those congregations expressed their loyalty to The Episcopal Church.
 
Representatives from eleven congregations that have opted out of the Network held a meeting on 29 June 2006. In subsequent meetings the following statement was drafted, and was subsequently accepted by representatives of the parishes indicated below. It is offered as a manifestation of our faithful understanding of Christ's love, and is predicated on a belief that the way to resolve differences is to seek reconciliation with those with whom we disagree, and not to withdraw from communion with them. It emerges, too, from our belief that The Episcopal Church is part of Christ's one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and is a church grounded in the Biblical principle of justice.
 
I. We believe that the action by the Right Reverend Robert William Duncan, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Standing Committee of the Diocese, announcing their decision to withdraw from Province III is tantamount to leaving The Episcopal Church. According to the Canons of The Episcopal Church, each diocese belongs to one of the nine recognized geographically constituted provinces. While there is a provision for leaving one (geographical) province and joining another, there is no provision for constituting a province based on ideological or theological grounds. We believe that the proposed formation of a Province X, therefore, is canonically and constitutionally irregular, and it is highly unlikely that the General Convention will approve such a province, either in advance of its purported formation, or ex post facto. We believe that since Province X does not exist and is unlikely to exist, leaving Province III constitutes leaving the organized structure of The Episcopal Church.
 
II. The creation of Province X, in our view, is a mechanism to isolate dioceses, parishes, and perhaps individuals from The Episcopal Church. The formation of the Province is seen by us as the most recent step in an attempt to create a church separate from The Episcopal Church. Since the Diocese is part of The Episcopal Church, and cannot exist apart from The Episcopal Church, we believe that the Bishop and Standing Committee cannot legally remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church for the purpose of planting it in some other province, or for any other purpose.
 
III. We believe the request made by the Bishop and Standing Committee for "alternative primatial oversight" is further indication of an intention to depart from The Episcopal Church. Although the Archbishop of Canterbury (at the request of the Primates) did set up a Panel of Reference which could hear appeals from dioceses in dispute with their own national church authorities and "to assist in the resolution of these difficulties" [Panel of Reference Mandate, 6 May 2005] the specific remedy requested is unprecedented and contrary to the basic understanding of the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of autonomous provinces. We believe the request for alternative primatial oversight constitutes a rejection of the duly elected leadership and governing structures of The Episcopal Church.
 
IV. The Bishop and Standing Committee have cited, in justification for their actions, comments made by the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his "Reflections" promulgated in the week following the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. But it must be pointed out that as the Archbishop himself has stated, the Archbishop's statement is not definitive, and nothing in that document is binding. Any final disposition on any restructuring of the Anglican Communion, after consultation with the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council and other bodies, will, according to the Archbishop, be a lengthy process, a process that will begin in earnest at the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Moreover, even if the Anglican Communion is restructured, that action, in and of itself, would have no effect on the structure of The Episcopal Church, or on the relations between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. We believe the actions of the Bishop and Standing Committee have interpreted the Archbishop's document to suit their own views. As Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has said in response to the Archbishop's statement, "It is misleading that some, in responding to the Archbishop's lengthy theological reflection, have focused their attention on speculations about a yet-to-be determined outcome."
 
V. We oppose any efforts on the part of the Bishop and Standing Committee to take the Diocese outside of the recognized structure of The Episcopal Church. The Bishop and Standing Committee have stated that they believe it necessary for the Diocese of Pittsburgh to "dissociate itself from the actions of General Convention." Since the General Convention is the supreme governing authority of The Episcopal Church, and all dioceses are bound by its actions, such dissociation as described by the Bishop and Standing Committee constitutes, in our opinion, withdrawal from The Episcopal Church. We believe that any resolutions or constitutional amendments passed at conventions of the Diocese of Pittsburgh which would purport to release the Diocese from compliance with decisions of the General Convention are canonically improper and invalid.
 
VI. According to canon law, property owned by a diocese is held in trust for The Episcopal Church. We believe that the repeated claims of the Bishop and Standing Committee to be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, while at the same time acting to separate the Diocese from the decisions of The Episcopal Church, therefore, constitute an attempt to retain legal possession of property held in trust for The Episcopal Church, while at the same time taking steps to remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church. In light of these actions, we believe that the Bishop and Standing Committee do not represent the interests of the duly recognized Diocese of Pittsburgh.
 
VII. The authority in The Episcopal Church of any bishop and standing committee of a diocese derives from the authority of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which are set by the General Convention. We believe, therefore, that any claim of the Bishop and Standing Committee that their authority derives from being "in full and unimpaired communion with the See of Canterbury and those churches, dioceses and provinces that uphold and propagate the historic Anglican Faith and Order" is based on specious reasoning.
 
VIII. In light of the foregoing statements, we further believe that we represent those in this Diocese who are loyal to The Episcopal Church. Accordingly, we extend an invitation to others who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church to join us in our efforts. We remain committed to the building up of the Body of Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
 
All Souls Church, North Versailles - 412-823-1440
Calvary Church, Shadyside - 412-661-0120
Church of the Holy Cross, Homewood - 412-242-3209
Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill - 412-422-7100
St. Brendan's Church, Franklin Park - 412-364-5974
St. Matthew's Church, Homestead - 412-461-5291
St. Stephen's Church, Wilkinsburg - 412-243-6100
St. Thomas, Church, Canonsburg - 724-745-2013
St. Thomas & St. Luke's Church, Patton - 814-674-5847

######

The Communications Director of the diocese attended the press conference, so it was unsurprising that Bishop Duncan had a rejoinder on the Web that same afternoon:

Diocese Responds to Calvary Press Conference


Bishop Robert Duncan responded to reports this afternoon of a meeting and press conference at Calvary Episcopal Church called by the leadership of nine congregations of the diocese.

“There continues to be confusion about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s status in the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Duncan, “I will say again what we have been saying for months now. We have no plans to be anything but faithful, orthodox, Anglican-Communion-bound Episcopalians, today, tomorrow and the day after that. We are the Episcopal Church in this place and we are going to continue being what we always have been.”

Bishop Duncan went on to note that the June 28 decisions of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Standing Committee did not bring the diocese outside of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in any way. Instead, they simply served to make clear the diocese’s firm intention, expressed by overwhelming margins at numerous diocesan conventions, to remain a “constituent” member of the Anglican Communion, even while much of the Episcopal Church continues choosing a path that is breaking that bond.

Responding to claims made at the press conference that the specific standing committee action to give notice of an intent to disaffiliate from Province III of ECUSA's internal provincial structure (providing the diocesan convention approves this November) signified an attempt to “leave” the Episcopal Church, Bishop Duncan stressed that it is nothing of the sort. In fact, the action is governed by the Episcopal Church’s constitution. “Article VII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church guarantees that no diocese will be included in a province of the Episcopal Church ‘without its own consent.’ The specific history of the application of this article includes a diocese (Missouri, 1964 – 1977) withdrawing its consent and being treated as extra-provincial during multiple meetings of General Convention before finally being re-included in a different province. The precedent and history unequivocally support the Standing Committee’s considered action,” said Bishop Duncan.

“The majority of this diocese knows very well what it feels like to be a minority in the affairs of our national church. I and everyone else involved in diocesan leadership here in Pittsburgh have committed to continue working with the minority here in every way we can, both in support of their local ministries and to facilitate decisions of conscience. I pray that all of us, majority and minority, will treat each other with grace and charity as we struggle to stand for the priorities we have embraced,” concluded Bishop Duncan.
- Posted July 11, 2006 -

Not to be outdone, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh issued, later that day, a 10-page white paper that I wrote. The paper, “An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s ‘Withdrawal’ of Consent to Inclusion in Province III,” challenges the validity of what was done by the Standing Committee and points out that canonical changes that can only be made by the General Convention would be necessary to create a tenth province, something it is highly unlikely to do. Most especially, the paper contradicts the bishop’s view that the “precedent and history unequivocally support the Standing Committee’s considered action.” The paper had been in the works since the Standing Committee passed its resolution, but it was gratifying to be able to release it when we did. The report, as a PDF file, can be downloaded below. The version here is dated 7/17/2006 and includes minor corrections from the original 7/11/2006 report.

 

Download

An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s “Withdrawal” of Consent to Inclusion in Province III  

Get Adobe Reader

 
NOTE: Additional developments are discussed in a later essay, “More Thoughts on Provinces in The Episcopal Church.”
 

Previous Home Up Next

 
Send mail to Lionel Deimel with questions or comments about Lionel Deimel’s Farrago.
Copyright © 2000-2017 by Lionel Deimel. All rights reserved.