Daily Archives: November 3, 2007
Representatives from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve constitutional amendments that are the first step in leaving the national church in a widening rift over homosexuality and interpretation of Scripture.
Representatives of Pittsburgh’s Episcopal Diocese ignored a warning to their bishop from the church’s national leader on Friday and took a step toward a possible affiliation with an Anglican church outside the United States.
Lay representatives voted 118-58, with one abstention, in favor of a resolution to leave the New York-based Episcopal Church, said Peter Frank, a diocesan spokesman. Representatives of the clergy at their 142nd Diocesan Convention at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center in Johnstown voted 109-24 in favor.
Another measure must pass the next convention in November 2008 to make the action binding, Frank said.
In yet another ecclesiastical earthquake to rock the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has voted to leave that denomination and realign with a theologically conservative Anglican province in another, yet to be chosen, nation.
At their annual convention in Johnstown, laity voted, 118-58, and clergy voted, 109-24, to join another Anglican province, and to allow like-minded parishes outside the 11-county territory to become part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The vote came two days after Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church warned that such action could cause the denomination to remove Bishop Robert Duncan from office as bishop of Pittsburgh.
“We have a tough road ahead. We will be faithful and charitable and do everything we can to help those congregations who are uneasy about this, or who may be very opposed to this, to be part of our fellowship,” Bishop Duncan said after the vote. During his speech prior to the vote, he proposed finding ways for two local Anglican dioceses, one of which would be the minority still aligned with the Episcopal Church, to share important assets such as Trinity Cathedral and Sheldon Calvary Camp.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The Presiding Bishop
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
I have read with great sadness your letter to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. And, since you have chosen to make your letter to him public, I will make this one public, as well.
I have stood shoulder to shoulder with Bob in the efforts of the Network to reverse the course of The Episcopal Church with regard to recent decisions regarding human sexuality. I part company with him in his decision to abandon the commitment we made when we formed the Network, to work “within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.”
But, Katharine, I cannot support your thinly veiled threat to resort to litigation if the Diocese of Pittsburgh rescinds its accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.
Dioceses voluntarily join (accede to) The Episcopal Church. And they can voluntarily determine to separate from (withdraw their accession from) The Episcopal Church.
During the Civil War, the Dioceses within the Confederate States withdrew from The Episcopal Church without penalty. They were reunited when that terrible war ended. Perhaps there will be a reunion of presently seceding Dioceses at some point in our future, as well.
But just now, to threaten litigation, especially in the face of the unanimous exhortation from the Primates in Dar es Salaam (an exhortation you agreed to) to end such litigation, is deeply troubling.
I beg you to stand down.
This can only harm our relationships as fellow members of the Body of Christ and our witness to the outside world.
Warmest regards in our Lord,
The Right Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida
1017 East Robinson St.
Orlando, FL 32801
After passionate appeals from both sides of the debate, clergy members and lay people voted 227 to 82 to “realign” the conservative diocese.
If Friday’s vote is approved again in a year, the diocese will begin steps to remove itself from the American church and join with another province in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
After the vote, Bishop Robert W. Duncan of Pittsburgh, who is also moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, an alliance of conservative dioceses and parishes, defended the decision.
“What we’re trying to do is state clearly in the United States for the authority of Scripture,” Bishop Duncan said after the vote, taken during the diocese’s annual convention in this city about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The leader of the Episcopal Church of the United States said Friday that church dissidents unhappy with the ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire should refocus their energy on more pressing world problems.
“Obviously a handful of our church leaders are still upset and would like to see the church never ordain and never baptize a gay or lesbian person,” said Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in Burlington to attend the annual convention of the state’s 175-year-old Episcopal diocese.
“We need to refocus on more life-and-death issues like starvation, education, medical care.”
As a diocese we have come to a fork in the road. Some will take one course forward. Others will elect the other course. All of us will choose the road we do because of our Faith, because of how we understand the Gospel. But our understandings are quite different. Indeed, it has become clear that our understandings are not only different, but mutually exclusive, even destructive to one another. .
This is not a place we would wish to stay, even if we could. Forces beyond our control have been inching us toward ”“ sometimes hurtling us toward — this fork for a very long time. The Episcopal Church [at least the majorities of the bodies that claim to speak for it] has declared itself “separate and independent” [B032, 75th General Convention], has refused on constitutional and canonical grounds to provide sufficient differentiation to our diocese under our request for Alternative Primatial Oversight and the Communion’s plan for a Primatial Vicar, has declared the “firewall” erected by our 2003/2004 amendment to Article I of our diocesan constitution to be “null and void.” and has made it clear in the consent process for former Pittsburgh priest Mark Lawrence that conservative dioceses like Pittsburgh will never again be allowed to simply elect a bishop of their own choosing. [While unofficial reports this week indicate consent has finally been obtained for Fr. Mark ”“ one year and two first-ballot elections later ”“ the point I am making is more than proved by what has been demanded and required.] This is why we are at the fork in the road, and why a choice by all of us can no longer be avoided. These realities are the context in which this 142nd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh assembles. This is the context of this address. So rather than the accustomed “year-in-review/year-in-prospect” address I believe it best to focus on the defining decisions before us, leaving the budget, the videos, the mission minutes and the numerous printed and spoken reports to summarize the richness and the commitments of our wider life as a diocese.
THE TIME HAS COME
Divided in Essentials (without prospect of short-term resolution)
Since the General Convention’s decision to confirm the election of a same-sex partnered bishop for the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, we in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have discussed, debated and attempted to convince each other about whether this action, and the Scriptural re-imaging behind it, was church-rending or not. We have faced into these issues in six successive Special and Annual Conventions, and in many other settings. What is more, majority leadership in the diocese has sought to involve the global Anglican Communion in forcing a retreat by the national Episcopal Church, just as minority leadership in the diocese has resorted to civil litigation to attempt to coerce the diocesan majority into submitting to the Faith and Order innovations of the wider Episcopal Church. The formation of the Anglican Communion Network, the overwhelming vote for Alternative Primatial Oversight and for ending participation in Province Three were met by vestry resolutions of disassociation from the Network, loyalty oaths to the new Presiding Bishop, and unofficial representatives at Province Three. Four years into this, we are more polarized, not less, and there is no prospect of resolution, only of a mediated separation as an alternative to the public scandal of ever-spiraling litigation or canonical proceedings.
Against this backdrop, this year’s pre-Convention hearings, numerous parish and district meetings, gatherings of clergy and lay leaders in both camps, staggering legal expenses, private attempts to open channels to a mediated parting ”“ all reveal a growing acceptance in the diocese that our differences are presently irreconcilable, and that for most realignment of the diocese with another Province of the Communion (and even the acknowledged possibility of failure in the attempt) would be preferable to carrying on the fruitless effort at continued federation with the Episcopal Church. It is clear to most on both sides, that continuing efforts to convince, at best, and coerce, at worst, will only deepen the failure of all. A charitable and gracious provision for the minority to stay within the realigned fellowship of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh or to be given freedom to separate from us and align more directly with the wider Episcopal Church has also emerged as a course for which there is, I believe, a strengthening consensus.