Category : TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh
Building on two recent amicable agreements that settled parish property disputes, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has invited all other local congregations leaving the Episcopal Church to begin conversations aimed at reaching similar negotiated settlements.
In a February 17th letter mailed to the rector, wardens, and vestry of each congregation, Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese offered a Pastoral Direction for resolving property issues, including an 8-point overview of what would be involved in those conversations.
The documents were sent to 41 parishes that have not participated in the Episcopal Diocese since October 2008. Copies were sent as a courtesy to the many parishes that have remained active in the Diocese. The bishop’s letter also pointed to consequences required by church law for parishes that keep themselves removed from the Diocese for a prolonged time.
Attached is a letter describing an agreement made by Somerset Anglican Fellowship with the TEC Diocese. Some of you have already read about this in the newspaper or received an email; many of you have communicated with me your concerns that there might be many “secret deals” being made which will leave many congregations “on their own.” Here is some information about the agreement, and our current situation, that we thought it would be helpful for you to know.
1) Somerset Anglican Fellowship negotiated this settlement without the input or approval of the Diocese. In fact, we have reason to believe that the lawyer representing SAF advised them not to inform the Anglican diocese. We are very concerned that a congregation thought itself to be so in jeopardy as to necessitate secret legal action.
2) St. Stephen’s, Sewickley and Church of the Savior, Ambridge have consulted legal counsel with regard to individual settlements with the TEC Diocese. Both parishes informed the Anglican Diocese at the time and both parishes have decided not to participate in any settlement without the involvement of the Diocese.
3) To the best of our knowledge, there are no other parishes which are unilaterally attempting to make a settlement with the TEC diocese.
4) The Anglican Diocese remains committed to finding the best solution for each of its parishes in light of the recent legal decisions. We also continue to hope for and look for some kind of settlement that would benefit all of our congregations.
5) Please do not hesitate to email or call Canon Mary, Geoff Chapman (Chair of the Standing Committee) or Jonathan Millard (Standing Committee member) or me if you have further questions or concerns.
In light of these very serious developments, I feel compelled to issue a godly directive to all of the clergy of the diocese not to engage in, conduct, or conclude negotiations without first discussing such actions with me, or with Canon Mary, and with our chancellor.
The Most Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan
The Somerset Anglican Fellowship resolved a three-year dispute with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Monday.
Property and legal disagreements arose in 2008 after members of St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church decided to break apart from the diocese because of theological differences. St. Francis is located in Somerset.
Under the supervision of the Rev. Mark Zimmerman, the Somerset Anglican Fellowship formed and began holding services in a suite at Georgian Place.
The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh announced Friday that its leaders will ask a state appeals court for another hearing to reconsider its ruling that $20 million in endowment assets will stay with the Episcopal diocese from which it split.
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh agreed to drop legal action against a Moon church that split from the national organization over issues such as abortion and gay clergy.
Part of the agreement allowing St. Philip’s church to keep its building and property stipulates it must cut ties with the newly formed Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh for at least five years.
The St. Philip’s congregation voted Tuesday night on the settlement.
“It is heartbreaking that even if they agree to pay a substantial settlement fee to keep their buildings, members of St. Philip’s are also being forced to separate from their Anglican family as a condition of the property settlement. Freedom of religion is at the heart of this matter and no congregation should have to stipulate that it will separate from its current body as part of a monetary property settlement,” said the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop of Pittsburgh.
“Sadly, the separation mandate seems to be specifically designed to hurt both the local diocese and the North American province. If the settlement is approved by St. Philip’s, we urge the Court to strike any provisions of the settlement that abridge First Amendment rights.
Members of St. Philip’s Church in Moon will vote tonight on a proposed settlement with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that would allow them to keep their property but would also require them to cut ties with the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh for at least five years.
The Rev. Eric Taylor, rector of St. Philip’s, said the proposal was the best option for his parish. Since the 2008 split in the original Episcopal diocese, the property of dozens of parishes that voted to leave the denomination and follow Archbishop Robert Duncan into the new Anglican Church in North America has been tied up in legal disputes. The settlement would leave St. Philip’s independent.
The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh expects its convention in Sewickley this weekend to be a remarkably unremarkable.
In 2008, at what was then an Episcopal diocesan convention, delegates voted to split from the Episcopal Church. Last year the Anglican diocese was regrouping and fighting property litigation that is still on appeal.
“God willing, this will be a tame convention,” said Archbishop Robert Duncan, the bishop and leader of the Anglican Church in North America, to which the diocese now belongs. The convention began Friday night at St. Stephen Church, Sewickley, and continues today.
The new denomination — which is seeking recognition from the global Anglican Communion — has unusual geographical dynamics. The Diocese of Pittsburgh has taken in congregations from far outside the original 11 counties. Christ Church in Plano, Texas, which draws more than 2,000 worshipers weekly, has asked to join the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, as have parishes from Illinois and Wisconsin.
Frank Kirkpatrick, professor of religion at Trinity College, wrote in a survey article in 2008 that “there were, as of December , 55 [Episcopal Church] property disputes in one state or another of resolution around the country.” (You may find a listing of those lawsuits in this post from August 2008, and see also the latest report from the American Anglican Council.) Of those fifty-five lawsuits, I estimate that ECUSA itself was a party to about half of them. Thus from the five lawsuits to which it was a party as Bishop Griswold ended his term in November 2006 (the Pawley’s Island case in South Carolina, the three Los Angeles lawsuits, and a case involving St. James Church in Elmhurst, in the Diocese of Long Island), the number increased by five times in the first full year of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s term.
Under Bishop Jefferts Schori, ECUSA did not just passively stand by as the property disputes emerged, and allow the diocese involved to carry the laboring oar. It aggressively prosecuted the cases in both California and Virginia, joined in filings in Connecticut, Georgia and New York (where it intervened as the DFMS against St. Andrew’s, in Syracuse, and filed an amicus brief in this case in New York’s highest court), became enmeshed in additional litigation in San Diego and Colorado, and threatened litigation against the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Quincy if they dared to withdraw from the Church. (The latter two threats were issued by the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor on his own initiative, as discussed in this earlier post.)
There are no records in the minutes of the Executive Council during this period to show that it was ever consulted before any of these multiple filings in the name of the Church took place; as quoted in the previous post, the Presiding Bishop held the view that only she personally, and neither the Council, nor even General Convention, had any authority over litigation. Thus she simply gave her Chancellor free rein — and ECUSA’s legal bills began to mount exponentially.
We see in this set of facts, as early as 2004, a recurring pattern. While professing to honor diversity — and indeed, to seek “unity in diversity” — the groups allied with Via Media have always taken root only in those dioceses led by orthodox clergy who stoutly resisted the ordination to the episcopacy of individuals in a noncelibate relationship outside of Holy Matrimony as defined (and still defined) by the Book of Common Prayer. For thus upholding the rubrics of the BCP, they have been accused of fomenting schism within ECUSA, sued, deposed and hounded from the Church.
…one can know this: the charges to ECUSA for getting its counsel specially admitted, and then drafting, filing and arguing this bogus motion were on the order of thousands and thousands of dollars. If the three ECUSA counsel were on the telephone together, the “argument” alone was costing ECUSA at least over $1000 per hour. (And what would be the point of being admitted pro hac vice just in time to file the motion to quash, if one were not also going to take part in the argument of the motion?)
The point here is not that New York and Pennsylvania attorneys are expensive; we all know that. The point instead is that no one is minding the store, or overseeing what legal work is being done for ECUSA and in its name, on an impartial basis. (Mary Kostel used to work under David Booth Beers at Goodwin Procter — so how much objective oversight on legal strategies and expenses could she provide? If she is even performing some of that function, she would be overseeing someone who used to be her boss — and who still, as the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, has quite a lot of unchecked authority.)
In their response to the query made by the bishops to the Executive Council, two members of that Council (who are both attorneys) claimed that “We give you our professional opinion that the church is receiving extraordinary value for the funds it does spend.” That claim is very much open to dispute, as this little incident in Pittsburgh demonstrates.
Parish endowments that were frozen in litigation between the rival Episcopal and Anglican dioceses of Pittsburgh have thawed, and the Episcopal diocese has sent checks totaling $360,000 in back interest to parishes in both dioceses.
“We were concerned that money that could have been used for ministry in these local churches had been tied up and so we’re happy to have it available again so that all of our work in mission and ministry can go forward,” said Bishop Kenneth L. Price Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
His diocese was awarded about $20 million in centrally held diocesan assets in a 2009 decision by Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Joseph James. Parish property is to be negotiated separately. However, the Episcopal diocese also held $2.5 million in endowment funds belonging to parishes that had pooled their money to get higher interest. The court decree indicated that parishes had the right to that money.
Leaders from all 55 parishes in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh met with diocesan leaders to worship and discuss the current status of the litigation with The Episcopal Church. Archbishop Duncan read a prepared statement, which addressed financial concerns, timelines, and the way forward in mission. Bob Devlin, chancellor for the diocese, and members of the standing committee responded to questions and concerns from parish leaders. Parish leaders were also given various resources to guide them in moving forward with their mission.
To view Archbishop Duncan’s statement, click here.
To view a Frequently Asked Questions sheet from this meeting, click here.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James has issued an order detailing which assets are among the centrally held properties that he earlier awarded to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which broke from the Episcopal Church in 2008.
The order, issued Friday, doesn’t apply to parish property, which is to be negotiated later. Leaders of the Anglican diocese had earlier said that they would appeal the October decision. The Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary of the Anglican diocese, said the appeal can be filed now that this order has been issued.
The original diocese split when a majority of clergy and laity at its 2008 convention voted to leave the Episcopal Church over theological differences. Prior to the split, some parishes now in the 28-parish Episcopal diocese sued for the property of the 57-parish Anglican diocese. The funds have been frozen by financial institutions until the litigation is resolved.
The Rt. Rev Kenneth L. Price, Jr.
Dear Bishop Price,
We were gratified to read, in your letter of January 20, that you were writing in a conciliatory spirit. As you know, a number of us in the Diocese have been working diligently with those in your fold to find helpful ways of moving forward in this difficult season. As the Standing Committee of the Diocese, we heartily endorse your desire for conversation with us, especially if it leads to concrete ways in which we might work through our mutual misunderstandings and divisions. For our part, we in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh continue to be eager to welcome back those parishes and clergy who have left our diocese. As you know, we continue to recognize the orders of those clergy who have left the diocese and make no claim on the property of parishes who are in your fold, making any transition back to us a simple transaction.
To this end, we would be grateful if a few of us, clergy and lay leaders in the diocese, could meet with you at your earliest convenience to see how we might together forge a better way forward, particularly concerning the litigation that is currently before the courts.
It would be most helpful to all if we could discuss our mutual hopes, desires and concerns for the future in a way that created space for reconciliation in the truth of the Gospel and mission in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The Standing Committee, The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rev. Karen Stevenson, President
Mrs. Gladys Hunt-Mason
The Rev. Geoffrey Chapman
Mr. Kenneth Herbst
The Rev. Jonathan Millard
Mr. William Roemer
The Rev. Daniel Crawford
Mr. Stuart Simpson
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s new bishop, Kenneth L. Price, is seeking face-to-face meetings with area congregations that left the Episcopal Church over issues ranging from abortion to the consecration of a non-celibate gay bishop.
The Rev. David Moyer, the outspoken former Episcopal priest who unsuccessfully sued his bishop in 2008 for sacking him, has filed a malpractice lawsuit against the lawyer who represented him – often free – for many years in his battles with the diocese.
The suit, filed in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, alleges that prominent Philadelphia litigator John Lewis and the firm of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads failed to adequately represent Moyer in the unusual trial against Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. and then failed to file an appeal when the jury rejected their claim.
Moyer and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont – where he serves as rector despite his ouster by the diocese in 2002 – are seeking millions of dollars in compensation for the legal costs of the trial and what they say is damage to Moyer’s and the parish’s reputations.
The lawsuit has sharply divided the Main Line parish, however, and angered some of Moyer’s conservative supporters around the diocese who supported his public challenges to liberal trends in the Episcopal Church.
For the most part, the new member churches were attracted to the diocese because of its more conservative theological views than the national Episcopal Church, said Bishop Robert Duncan.
“There has been a secular drift in the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and in the Anglican Church of Canada. It has caused the church to stray from core theology,” Duncan said yesterday at his diocese’s first convention since the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh split in two last year.
“There is a whole sense of freedom and joy here. We are not spending time debating differences,” said Peter Frank, a deacon at Grace Church in Mt. Washington.
For the Church of the Transfiguration of Cleveland, the realignment is an attempt to keep the church alive. The parish initially became interested in the Pittsburgh-based diocese when the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio said it planned to close the urban church.
Due to at least a temporary loss of endowment, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has slashed its budget, but still plans to launch 70 new churches over five years.
It received five mission congregations at its convention yesterday in Sewickley. It also received four parishes from outside its original boundaries. All nine were already counted among its 58 churches.
The Anglican diocese is appealing a Common Pleas Court decision awarding its endowment to the 28-parish Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The two split last year when a majority at the diocesan convention voted to secede from the Episcopal Church, which they believed had failed to uphold biblical doctrine on matters from salvation to sexuality. The Anglican diocese billed this as its 144th convention, and there were references to the Episcopalians as “the rogue diocese.”
But others can’t be blamed for any past failure of missionary initiative, said the Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary, as she urged the diocese to start 70 new churches.
Back in October, I was struck by the presence of Don Green of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania (the local ecumenical association) at the TEC diocesan convention and yet today here he was again, with the timely reminder that the past year had not been an easy journey for us or “our sisters and brothers” in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. He commended the fact that the Archbishop continued to attend ecumenical gatherings and contribute to the work of finding ways to give public witness to a common faith. He noted the pending admission of the Church in God in Christ and the Mennonites to Christian Associates next year and the work of the Allegheny Jail Ministry, which had cut recidivism rates from 65% to 16%.
Three resolutions now stood before convention and in the first I took direct personal interest. Entitled “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh ”“ Who We are in Christ,” it affirmed the Jerusalem Declaration as a summary of the essentials of our faith and pledged submission to the leadership of the GAFCON membership “as we look to our future as an orthodox and missionary movement in world Anglicanism.” On seeing the text, I was struck by the omission of any reference to the Anglican Covenant and so drafted an amendment that read as follows:
And be it further resolved that, in harmony with the resolution of the ACNA Provincial Council of June 22, 2009, we express our continued willingness to subscribe to the un-amended Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Covenant.
In retrospect, it may be that I overestimated the potential for opposition (especially as the sponsor Geoff Chapman afterwards told me that he would have accepted it as a friendly amendment), but so much of what I have read of late has been phrased as if the Jamaica debacle ended any meaningful possibility of change, so I pitched my advocacy in terms of catholic responsibility and the possibility that the Archbishop who is ultimately responsible for implementing the Covenant may not be the present incumbent. Archbishop Duncan then stated that he had been responsible for the provincial council resolution and that ”“ since the amendment referred to the original Ridley Cambridge Draft (with its disciplinary language) – he would “enthusiastically” support it. In response to a request from the floor for the context of the draft, he gave a very polished account of how events since 2003 had led to the Covenant, noting further that it had originally been conceived among the proposals in “To Mend the Net.” The resolution passed unanimously.
The new Anglican diocese and its 58 parishes are affiliated with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America and the new Anglican Church in North America. Before the split, some of the 28 parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh sued the Anglican diocese, saying that church law requires property of departing parishes to remain with the denomination. Last month’s court decision dealt only with assets of the central diocese, such as endowment funds, not with parish buildings.
Last night the convention seemed to be taking the litigation in stride. The Rev. Mary Hays drew peals of laughter from the 335 clergy and laity when she preached on a passage from Isaiah that says, “He who has no money, come buy and eat.”
“Hey, you who have no money, do you think Isaiah knew that our funds would be frozen?” she asked.
We should point out that you were deposed from ministry of the Episcopal Church by the presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, after you threatened to have your diocese in Pittsburgh secede.
That was a year ago, but what’s interesting is that virtually no one in the Anglican world accepted that sentence. Within two weeks of being deposed, I was received at Lambeth Palace in London by the archbishop of Canterbury, who continues to consider me a bishop.
Bishop Schori heads the Episcopal Church in this country, and you opposed her election in 2006?
She was the least qualified, the least experienced, of the candidates, but I hoped that what she would bring if she were elected was the kind of grace that women often bring. She turned out to be far harder, far less willing to bend or compromise, than any of the men.
(Press Release) The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, formerly known as the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, will gather for its 144th Diocesan Convention at St. Stephen’s Church in Sewickley, PA on Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7. Two-hundred and ninety deputies and additional observers will represent the fifty-five congregations of the diocese gathered to celebrate their ministry, to pray and engage in hope-filled work for the year ahead.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the Friday evening portion of the celebration and banquet, featuring Archbishop Robert Duncan’s address, will be broadcast live on www.anglicantv.org. The Saturday business portion of the meeting, beginning with prayer at 8 a.m., will feature discussion and voting on the full admission of 4 new parishes: Harvest Anglican Church in Homer City, PA, Church of the Transfiguration in Cleveland, OH, Saint James Church in San Jose, CA and Holy Trinity Church in Raleigh, NC. The Convention deputies will also vote on ratifying the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh’s status as a founding member of the Anglican Church in North America constituted this past summer as an emerging Province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
While Anglican leaders say they appreciate the gracious tone of the offer, they believe it is a suspect use of a canon written for clergy who want to renounce their ordination. Few responded to the first offer that the Episcopal diocese made last month.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this situation, but it is asking us to renounce our vows, which we cannot do,” said the Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary for the Anglican diocese.
“They’re interpreting the canon in a way that it’s not been interpreted before. We’re all in a tough place, but our clergy have not abandoned their ordination vows.”