In Pittsburgh Diocese Letter shows rift among Episcopal conservatives

In the first public sign of disagreement among theologically conservative clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh over the leadership of Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., 12 such rectors and priests told him this week they disapprove of his effort to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and will, instead, remain with the denomination.

The 12, including the president of the diocese’s clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese’s 66 churches saying that while they supported the “reformation of the Episcopal Church … we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of” it.

Three members of the group, including the Rev. Scott Quinn of the Church of the Nativity in Crafton and the Rev. Jay Geisler of St. Stephen’s in McKeesport, met Monday with Bishop Duncan at his Downtown office for about an hour to tell him they were going public.

The group does not support ordination of openly gay clergy or conducting same-sex blessings, the so-called “innovations” at the forefront of denominational disputes since 2003. However, members said they do not believe it is necessary to leave the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to make that point.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

15 comments on “In Pittsburgh Diocese Letter shows rift among Episcopal conservatives

  1. physician without health says:

    If a diocesan bishop is orthodox, then for the average person in the pew, and for the parish clergy, it probably makes little difference what is the hierarchical affiliation of the diocese. It seems to me though that the big issue though for the Bishop would be the financial contribution of the diocese to the national church; I could not in good conscience send 815 even a penny.

  2. Athanasius Returns says:

    “rift among Episcopal conservatives”

    A rift well-documented by a minutely fragmented diaspora, an alphabet soup of “network” type organizations, lost-in-the-fog episcopal leadership in dioceses across the country (with some notable exceptions)…

    Then, how in blue blazes can a house divided against itself have any hope whatsoever of standing??? Isn’t the time to stand together upon us right NOW? What a fine mess! Time for my blood pressure pills.

  3. Jeremy Bonner says:

    These are Pittsburgh’s communion conservatives. If one reads their statements over the years, one can be in little doubt about where most of them stand in relation to the national church. On the positive side, if they remain it will make it that much harder to turn the residual Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh into a solidly reappraiser entity.

  4. Brad Page says:

    It seems to me that these well-meaning clergy fail to see the reality of the situation: There is no future beyond themselves.

    As for the ability of any residual Diocese of Pittsburgh to avoid becoming “a solidly reappraiser entity” (Jeremy Bonner): Whatever remains will be assimilated in time (and it probably won’t take all that long).

    PS: The Episcopal Church will NOT reform. Hasn’t it made that clear? I know I got that memo 🙂

  5. Jeremy Bonner says:


    You may well be right about the process of assimilation, but neither you nor I KNOW that. I voted to begin the process of disassociation last November with extreme reluctance and I know where these clergy are coming from. It would have been so much easier for them to go quietly with the majority (among whom they have many friends).

    Ultimately, we’re all going to have to go where we feel we are called. Anything else would be a betrayal of Him whom we all claim to follow.

  6. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) says:

    Honestly, is anyone really surprised by this? I do not know of any dioceses that are monochrome theologically. According to the diocesan website, there are 74 parishes in the Diocese.

    In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, there is at least one parish that wishes to leave [b]now[/b]. There are several that are not theologically conservative that wish to have their bishop removed, fired, deposed or possibly even hurled by catapult.

    I just hope that Bishop Duncan and the assorted dissidents of every stripe have learned from what happened in San Joaquin and can find a way through this that best reflects God’s grace and mercy.

    As a way forward, I notice that there are at least two members of the Standing Committee who are likely not in favour of leaving the Episcopal Church, the Rev. James Simons and Vera Quinn. Assuming that is accurate, then the Diocese could take the second vote at it next annual convention.

    Again assuming it passes, the members of the Standing Committee who are against leaving could put their votes on record, withdraw to a separate location and reform a rump Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, holding a separate convention at their new location.

    In that way continuity would be preserved and no power vacuum could exist.

    I do not know if it would be practical, but I think it might be a starting point.

  7. Brad Page says:

    I hear ya, Jeremy, but one must be a realist about the situation. As far as what we “KNOW” I’d say that every indication from the Episcopal Church is that it will continue on the path of moral and theological innovation. They have become increasingly clear about that, and denials of the facts about this border on self-deception.

    I don’t doubt that these clergy (and you) have spent much time in prayer and in seeking God’s call in the midst of what are impossible choices. However, I think one must take a longer view of the situation. Over the last 40 years the orthodox clergy who thought about their “call” primarily in terms of their orthodox congregation, their orthodox bishop, and their orthodox diocese helped facilitate the current mess (I know I did).

    With the course these clergy have chosen they will buy some time (maybe their lifetime, but I doubt it). Eventually they will hand over their parish buildings and assets, and what remains of their congregation, to a revisionist Episcopal Church. And, in the meantime, they and their people are at risk.

  8. Cennydd says:

    When you play with snakes, you stand a very good chance of being bitten…….FATALLY! I hope these clergy and their people never have to learn that lesson.

  9. BabyBlue says:

    Jim Simons is a veteran of Episcopal politics. He’s one of the few that has managed to get into the tangle of General Convention and come out still standing.

    These conservative clergy have been much-protected from the gang wars of TEC by being in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. They could go out a fight the TEC gang wars and come home to a safe place. Were that the rest of us had known such protection. I am not sure they completely grasp what it’s really like outside the safe borders of Pittsburgh. I’d sure like to hear their personal stories of life outside their diocese and why they think they will remain safe where they are. The days of the safe harbour are ending. They are going out to sea – one way of the other. I hope they know that. And are ready.


  10. GillianC says:

    Amen, bb – I’m wondering how these parishes will fare under Bishop…Harold Lewis??? Think about it, folks. ::shudder::

  11. Don Armstrong says:

    I would agree with Baby Blue that life in the church might seem a little more tense for these clergy if they were not living under Bob Duncan’s protection.

    We have just filed a brief with the court about how we are unecessarily being worked over by TEC (

    Reading this gives folks an idea of what life is like having the opposite of Bob Duncan in place…

  12. Anonymous Layperson says:

    The parishes represented by these rectors comprise 16.8% of ASA of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, by 2005 hard numbers- the most recent year I have hard numbers for. I imagine the purpose of this letter is to encourage more conservative parishes to rethink the expected departure this fall. It would only take a few more parishes to have numbers large enough to keep effective control of the diocese out of the hands of the radical liberals…

  13. New Reformation Advocate says:

    For me, the encouraging thing here is the cordial, amicable spirit on display by both sides. These twelve conservative clergy (including the much respected Jim Simons, a founder and early leader of the AAC) aren’t attacking +Duncan personally, nor is he attacking them. It is really no big surprise that even in an orthodox stronghold like Pittsburgh there is no unanimity over the right solution to the great crisis we face. After all, this split between the so-called “FedCons” and “ComCons,” i.e., those who favor the “outside” versus the “inside” strategy, is plainly (and painfully) evident throughout the orthodox wing of TEC.

    It is always good to “count the cost” before taking radical actions. And it is always good to be above board and open about our decisions on crucial matters like this. I think +Bob Duncan “the Lion-Hearted” is more than equal to the task, and that he will handle this significant challenge with the same fortitude and grace under pressure that we’ve seen from him all along.

    The Diocese of Pittsburgh is indeed richly blessed with many fine leaders. God is in control, and I suspect that both the dissenting minority of conservatives and the large majority who favor leaving TEC have an important role to play in this protracted war for the soul of Anglicanism.

    David Handy+

  14. Ratramnus says:

    That these gentlemen are staying with TEC ensures that Harold Lewis will never be Bishop of Pittsburgh–not that he would have been likely to be elevated anyway. Even most liberals in Pittsburgh are not that liberal. It is more a matter of how much tolerance a parish has for a relatively small number of genuine heretics than general apostasy in the liberal churches.

    If these clergy preside over 16.8% of the ASA and we assume (perhaps questionably) the parishes will go the same way and add the ASA of the parishes everyone knew would stay with TEC, that means that the new Anglican diocese will be barely a majority of the existing diocese. That would be far different from San Joaquin if it happens.

    Some people here obviously want to shake the dust of TEC off their feet. I understand the feeling, but there have to be people who fight to the end and will not let TEC stumble off to hell if there is any way to save it. I admire these presbyters for taking their stand and I suspect that if the split occurs, the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh will be viable and faithful to a degree unlikely to occur elsewhere, and that it will continue to exert some gravitational pull toward the Gospel at the confluence of the three rivers.

  15. GillianC says:

    Ratramnus – while I applaud your optimism, 16.8% is nowhere near enough to stem the tide, especially when 815 is involved – and they will be. We have seen that for several years on the national church level – how effective were the “Windsor Bishops” and the “Camp Allen Bishops” at the New Orleans meeting? If these folks think that there is a chance of reform, more power to them, but I personally believe that they are fooling themselves. The national church plays a game of numbers, and they just don’t have enough to be a force. Even if the whole diocese stayed in the fold – what then?

    Yes, “Bishop Harold Lewis” is a stretch, but are the alternatives any better? A fence-sitting bishop would not “exert some gravitational pull toward the Gospel” here in “da ‘burg”, I believe it would be even worse – nodding and winking and dragging the faithful into the cesspool – and the national church pulling the levers of power. An orthodox bishop has no chance of being confirmed – and we all know it.