Jeff Walton: Reorganized Pittsburgh Diocese Debuts at Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly

Declaring that it was time to be a “normal diocese,” leaders of the reorganized Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church welcomed a liberal church caucus group to the city for its annual assembly. Meeting February 23-26 in Pittsburgh, the Episcopal Urban Caucus (EUC) adopted the assembly theme “Building Bridges ”“ Healing Connections in a Broken World: May the Beauty We Love Be What We Do.” The need for building bridges amidst brokenness was evident to leaders in a diocese that had lost its former bishop and most of its parishes to the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Disputes arising from that split remain unresolved. The two dioceses are locked in litigation following the reorganized Episcopal Diocese’s efforts to assume control of parish properties.

“In the diocese of yesteryear, we were big players in the issues that concern the Episcopal Urban Caucus,” said the Very Rev. George Werner, past president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies and Dean Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh.

Werner was joined by Pittsburgh Provisional Bishop Kenneth Price and several members of the diocese’s standing committee in welcoming the EUC on the opening night of its annual assembly.

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6 comments on “Jeff Walton: Reorganized Pittsburgh Diocese Debuts at Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly

  1. David Wilson says:

    A very interesting slant on the history of the Diocese from Bishop Price especially the part about the Standing Committee. Who granted Jim Simons the authority to appoint Standing Committee members? Makes you want to go hmmmmm.

  2. Dan Crawford says:

    How fitting that the reorganized organization hosts a meeting with the theme Building Bridges. Given its reputation and success in building bridges, how appropriate.

  3. Bruce says:

    Hi Dave and Dan,

    Just on the two points. The diocesan canons give any remaining Standing Committee members the authority to fill vacancies that occur. Such as those that might occur when members of the Committee are no longer eligible to serve because they have left the Episcopal Church. If all eight members had left the Episcopal Church we would have had no Standing Committee and our remaining members of Diocesan Council would have needed to use their authority as “Convention in recess” to call for an immediate special convention to elect a new committee. But since there was a remaining member, we were able to maintain ecclesiastical authority as defined by the national canons and so didn’t need to over rush the special convention–which we held, as you’ll remember, in December–to fill by election the remaining vacancies.

    I believe the members of the Standing Committee of the Realigned Diocese made use of the same canon to fill the vacancy that occured by appointing Mike Wurschmidt when Jim indicated that he didn’t accept the transfer of his canonical residence to the Province of the Southern Cone . . . .
    And just as a matter of record, the Episcopal Diocese didn’t initiatie the invitation to the EUC. They announced on their own over a year ago that they had chosen Pittsburgh as the site of their annual meeting, and Bishop Price and the Standing Committee of course decided that it would be appropriate hospitality to welcome them. Some folks were happier about their coming to Pittsburgh than others, as I’m sure you can imagine. There’s a lot about the agenda of the various groups within the EUC that I disagree with, for example, and in fact I didn’t end up attending any of their events. But there are also some very good and important things they bring to the table. I was delighted, for one, that Bill Strickland was featured as a keynoter. He is a great man and one of the real key assets of our region. My wife Susy, in her role as director of Volunteers and Community Outreach for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund of Allegheny County, attended one of the EUC workshops and thought it was very well done.

    I think both sides of our current divide probably deserve a better “reputation” for the burning of bridges than the building of the same. But perhaps the last chapter of the story hasn’t been written yet. While I think it might have been better for you all to have dropped the Monroeville statement to us in the mail rather than just assume that we’d read it in the blogs, I personally would thank you all for reaching out in a spirit of openness. While it is yet day, we might roll up our sleeves and see what good we can do.

    Bruce Robison

  4. Sarah says:

    I think that the Episcopal Urban Caucus was quite an appropriate organization to debut the Pittsburgh “Diocese.”

    The two organizations match up quite well.

    And what a charming little hymn the Pittsburgh “Diocese” leaders sang to themselves too!

  5. Jeff Walton says:

    Bruce, according to Bishop Price, Werner encouraged the invitation. I was there at the 2010 Chicago Assembly when they announced the Pittsburgh site for 2011, and Bishop Rabb (the EUC President) said that Werner had made the invitation. I suppose this can be viewed as “The EUC sent out feelers, and then the diocese issued a formal invitation” but the Werner-issued invitation was how it was relayed.

    I should note that the EUC did receive a strong welcome from the diocese — there were 17 registrations alone from Pittsburgh, plus several more volunteers. For an organization as small as the EUC (about 130 members) that’s solid local support — at almost $300, an EUC Assembly registration doesn’t come without significant personal expense.

  6. Bruce says:

    Jeff, I’m sure you are correct in terms of the invitation. I think my description was a little off. The first inquiries about the location of the conference came from EUC, but the diocesan response was indeed to “extend the invitation,” as you describe. And yes, a number of folks from Pittsburgh did attend. Our parish was glad to support the registration and participation of one of our members who is very actively involved in urban housing issues. I would have gone myself to hear Bill Strickland if I had been able to shuffle my schedule.

    Bruce Robison