Pittsburgh Update

Pittsburgh Update publishes weekly summaries of recent developments in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion that affect or could affect Pittsburgh Episcopalians. Emphasis is on reporting, not interpretation. This is a service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. This site is in no way affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice          

A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Monday, October 27, 2008

News for Week Ending 10/27/2008

Pressure for same-sex blessings increases in Canadian church

Anglican Journal reported that Bishop of Ottawa John Chapman will ask the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada for permission to bless same-sex unions when the bishops meet October 27–31. Chapman has made it clear that a definitive church decision on the matter cannot be made at this time. “In order to further the discernment process, we must ‘experience’ the issue as church before clarity of heart and mind might be attained,” he said. The Ottawa synod voted to ask the bishop to allow same-sex blessings. Similar resolutions have passed in the dioceses of Montreal, Niagara, Huron, and the assembly of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI).

Executive Council renews support for Pittsburgh, other diocese

Meeting in Helena, Montana, The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council pledged financial and pastoral support for dioceses, such as Pittsburgh, whose leaders have voted to leave The Episcopal Church. The Council also passed a resolution to seek reconciliation with the Common Cause Partnership “without precondition on our part.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, “It is profoundly unchristian and unhopeful to say that differences can be irreconcilable.” The Presiding Bishop also advised against trying to deal with an Anglican covenant draft at the July General Convention if, as is expected, a new draft is issued in the spring. Episcopal News Service reported on the Executive Council Meeting here and here.

Bishop Bennison prevails in Moyer suit

The Rev. David Moyer, who was deposed for abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church in 2002 by Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles Bennison, has lost his fraud case against his former bishop. Moyer, who was deposed for not allowing the bishop to visit his parish, Good Shepherd, Rosemont, claimed that he had been improperly deposed. A jury quickly found otherwise. The story was reported by Episcopal News Service here.

The Moyer affair has a special interest for Pittsburgh Episcopalians, as Bishop Duncan accepted Moyer as a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Pittsburgh soon after his deposition. After several months, Moyer, still in his Rosemont church, became a priest in a diocese of Central Africa. (See ENS stories here, here, and here.)

Rochester diocese wins property case

New York’s highest court ruled October 23, 2008, that the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester owns the property of All Saints Anglican Church, Irondequoit. After an extended dispute with the diocese, All Saints’ Episcopal Church was dissolved by the diocesan convention in 2005. The rector of the parish claimed the property and asserted that he served under Archbishop Henry Orombi, of Uganda. The unanimous court opinion upheld the validity of The Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon, even though it was adopted after the formation of All Saints’. The story was reported by Episcopal News Service here.

California appeals court sides with San Diego diocese in property case

As reported by Episcopal News Service on October 22, 2008, a California appeals court has reversed the finding of the trial court in the case of a dispute between the Diocese of San Diego and St. John’s Church, Fallbrook. The vestry of St. John’s, unhappy with decisions of The Episcopal Church, voted to change its bylaws and articles of incorporation, and to leave the Diocese of San Diego for a diocese in Uganda. Bishop Jim Mathes of San Diego immediately helped the remaining Episcopalians reorganize. The trial court judge ruled that the Ugandan group had legitmately changed the articles of incorporation, but the Diocese of San Diego, supported by The Episcopal Church, appealed, claiming that members had forfeited their position on the vestry by attempting to amend the parish articles of incorporation and by-laws. The appeals court argued that the Dennis Canon should be considered when applying neutral principles of law. The decision has the effect of awarding parish property to those staying in The Episcopal Church.

It is not clear whether the decision will be appealed to the California Supreme Court, which is already deliberating over the case of four parishes that have claimed to have left the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The ENS story includes a link to the opinion of the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

Virginia bishop to advise Pittsburgh diocese

The Diocese of Pittsburgh announced October 23, 2008, that the Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones, the bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, will consult with the diocese until the diocese makes actual provision for episcopal services. Bishop Jones, who will retain his residence and position in Virginia, will visit Pittsburgh as necessary to provide “practical advice on the details of diocesan administration, clergy deployment, and support for congregations remaining in the Episcopal Church.”

Calvary awarded escrow funds

On October 3, 2008, Calvary Church petitioned Judge Joseph James to be allowed to disburse the funds in the escrow account into which it has been paying its diocesan assessment. Calvary argued that its counsel has been working largely without compensation and deserved to paid from the escrowed funds. The defendants (Bishop Duncan, et al.) opposed this move. After another filing by Calvary, Judge James ordered October 23 that Calvary could terminate the escrow account and disburse the funds as it sees fit.

Other documents related to the Calvary lawsuit can be found here.

Presiding Bishop to participate in ‘informal discussion’

As noted last week, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preach and celebrate at the 11 AM Eucharist at Calvary Church on Sunday, November 2. It has since been announced that Jefferts Schori will, after a brief reception, return to the church for “informal discussion” at approximately 1:15 PM. The discussion session will allow Pittsburgh Episcopalians to celebrate All Saints’ Day in their own parishes and still see the Presiding Bishop. The session is announced in Calvary’s newsletter here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

News for Week Ending 10/20/2008

Duncan warns English traditionalists

After conferring with like-minded members of the Church of England, deposed Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan held a press conference October 17, 2008, at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. Duncan thanked members of the Anglican Communion for their support and warned members of the English church that what happened to him could happen to traditionalist members of the Church of England. Saying that he was deposed “unjustly and uncanonically,” Duncan described church liberals as having “a kind of totalitarian political agenda: that is to say you will do it our way or you will at best be silent or at worst we will banish you.”

Episcopal News Service posted this story on the press conference. Anglican Mainstream has posted a transcript of Duncan’s statement and his responses to questions on its Web site.

Muslim Episcopal priest inhibited

The Episcopal priest who declared herself also to be a Muslim has been inhibited by Bishop of Rhode Island Geralyn Wolf. It seems likely that the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding will, after the six-month prohibition from exercising her her priestly gifts, be deposed. Until recently, Redding was director of faith formation and renewal at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral. Critics of The Episcopal Church had used this case as an example of the ways the church has supposedly strayed from Christianity.

Episcopal News Service reported on the inhibition here. The Seattle Times has a story here.

Fort Worth scheme fails

Attempts to accommodate parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth wishing to remain in The Episcopal Church after an anticipated vote for “realignment” at the diocese’s annual convention on November 14–15 have come to naught. Some in the dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas were investigating schemes to transfer loyal Episcopal parishes to the Diocese of Dallas. Proponents of such a plan have concluded that it is canonically unworkable. The story was reported by Episcopal News Service on October 14, 2008.

Virginia vows to fight on

Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia has vowed to “vigorously appeal every court decision that denies any Episcopalians their rightful church homes.” The pledge was made in a posting on the diocese’s Web site October 16, 2008, in response to another unfavorable ruling by Virginia Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows in the property dispute with congregations that have left The Episcopal Church. Pittsburgh Update’s most recent story on the long-running legal battle that continues in court this week can be found here.

San Joaquin accuses clergy of abandonment

Nearly a year after the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church diocese has charged 52 members of the clergy with abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church. An October 17, 2008, press release from the diocese lists 16 deacons and 36 priests who face inhibition and deposition.

Pennsylvania bishops support Pittsburgh Episcopalians

The bishops of the other Episcopal Church dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—Northwest Pennsylvania, Central Pennsylvania, Bethlehem, and Pennsylvania—have written to the Diocese of Pittsburgh “to let you know of our admiration, love, and concern for you in this challenging and hope-filled time.” In their letter, the text of which is on the diocesan Web site, the bishops promise “to do anything and everything in our power to assist you in your reorganization and in your moving ahead in mission.”

Pittsburgh ECW reorganizing

The schism in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh resulting from the “realignment” vote of October 4, 2008—see story here—is affecting not only the diocese, but organizations within it. According to the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site, the local Episcopal Church Women group is reorganizing, as many members of its board “belong to parishes that now see themselves aligned with the Province of the Southern Cone.” ECW members in The Episcopal Church are being requested to contact Linda Getts. More information is available from the link given above.

Presiding Bishop to preach at Calvary

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, who, under the now-departed diocesan leadership, was not welcome in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, will preach and celebrate the Eucharist at Calvary Church on November 2, 2008. As announced on Calvary’s Web site, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will officiate at the 11 AM service on the Sunday following All Saints’ Day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

News for Week ending 10/13/2008

Women bishops still controversial in CoE

In July, the General Synod of the Church of England agreed to move ahead with providing for women bishops without creating institutional structures to accommodate opponents of women bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Dissenters from this decision, particularly Anglo-Catholics, have been angry. According to the Telegraph, Bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst, chairman of the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith, used strong language in addressing that organization’s annual meeting. Broadhurst called the Anglican Communion “finished” and compared the Lambeth Conference to Stalinist Russia. Describing the General Synod decision, Broadhurst said, “This is not a vote we’ve lost, this is sin. This is human beings presuming to tell God in Jesus Christ he got it wrong, presuming to tell the majority of Christians we know better.”

Pittsburgh Update reported on earlier statements by Broadhurst concerning women bishops here.

Va. parish joins Episcopal property dispute

Christ Church, Alexandria, has joined the property litigation involving Episcopal congregations that have left The Episcopal Church to become part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). (See Pittsburgh Update story on the Virginia property litigation here.) The parties return to court on October 14, 2008, to to argue specifically about property.

The 235-year-old Christ Church will be represented by the Diocese of Virginia, but the diocese needed permission of the parish to argue in court that some of the property of one of the CANA congregations, the Falls Church, is actually owned by Christ Church, Alexandria.

The story was reported October 8, 2008, by the The Washington Times.

Pittsburgh diocese moves forward amid confusing claims

As reported here in an extra edition of Pittsburgh Update, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of The Episcopal Church is now led by a three-member Standing Committee that has been recognized as the legitimate ecclesiastical authority by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. According to the new Web site of the nearly century-and-a-half-old diocese, 19 churches have declared themselves to be remaining in The Episcopal Church. The churches, listed here, are expected to be joined by others as clergy, vestries, and congregation choose a path forward in the wake of the diocesan schism.

The new leadership of the diocese is presenting an informational meeting titled “Moving Forward with Grace” at Trinity Cathedral on Thursday, October 16. A special convention to complete the reorganization of the diocese is scheduled for December 13. Those who have left The Episcopal Church have announced a special convention and conference, “Moving Forward in Mission,” Scheduled for November 7–8, the dates originally set for the diocese’s 2008 annual convention. It is anticipated that Robert Duncan will be elected bishop for the breakaway group.

On October 7, Robert Devlin, former chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh wrote to churches that have declared their intention to remain in The Episcopal Church, informing them that they will have to negotiate their way out of the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh,” a name claimed both by the Episcopal Church diocese and the breakaway group. The letter, which can be read here, also asserts that insurance previously obtained through the diocese, will no longer be available to Episcopal Church parishes. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried a story about the letter October 11.

Note that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of The Episcopal Church can be reached by e-mail to info@episcopalpgh.org. Its telephone number is (412) 721-0853. You may also send mail to 989 Morgan Street, Brackenridge, PA 15014.

Historian to talk about Pittsburgh diocese

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Highland Park will host historian Dr. Jeremy Bonner at the annual St. Andrew’s leture at 8 PM on Friday, October 17. Dr. Bonner, who has just completed a history of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, will present a talk titled “Episcopal Dawn, Anglican Sunset: A Scholar’s Reflections on Pittsburgh’s Episcopal Experience.” Additional details can be found here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Presiding Bishop recognizes non-realigning Pittsburgh Episcopalians

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has acknowledged the Standing Committee headed by the the Rev. James Simons, the only member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh remaining in The Episcopal Church, as the legitimate ecclesiastical authority in the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The move followed requests by Simons that the other people who had been on the diocese’s Standing Committee clarify their intentions with respect to Episcopal Church membership in the aftermath of the “realignment” vote taken at the October 4 diocesan convention.

So Simons explains in a post on the former Across the Aisle site, which has been re-branded as the Web home of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of The Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Simons was called Wednesday afternoon by the Rev. David Wilson, former president of the Standing Committee. Wilson informed him that the other seven former members of the Standing Committee were about to vote to remove Simons from the committee. The explanation for the action was that Simons had not accepted his Southern Cone credentials and because his parish, St. Michael’s of the Valley, Ligonier, had declared that it would stay in The Episcopal Church.

Once Simons confirmed that he was the sole member of the Standing Committee, he appointed, as is authorized by diocesan canon, two additional members to the committee. The new Standing Committee members are Ms. Mary Roehrich, of St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, and the Rev. Jeff Murph, of St. Thomas’, Oakmont.

These events were communicated to the Presiding Bishop’s office, and today, October 9, the Presiding Bishop recognized the three-person Standing Committee as the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese. Additional information is available in the aforementioned post. The letter sent to Wilson and similar to the letters sent to other former Standing Committee members can be found here.

A press release by the diocese can be read here. According to the Press release, the diocese will hold an informational meeting at Trinity Cathedral on October 16 and will hold a special convention on December 13.

The new diocesan Web site can be accessed at http://episcopalpgh.org.

Monday, October 6, 2008

News for Week Ending 10/6/2008

Pittsburgh diocese votes to ‘realign’

As was widely expected, the convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to “realign” at its October 4, 2008, convention at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Monroeville, Pa. The constitutional and canonical changes approved by wide margins by convention deputies were intended to remove the Diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church and to move it, in toto, into the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

News coverage of the convention vote and its significance has been extensive, and it would be redundant to review all of it here. As usual, “Thinking Anglicans” has done a fine job of collecting links to relevant news coverage, and readers are directed to these posts on that site to access the many available stories:

press reports on Pittsburgh secession
Pittsburgh votes today

As is often the case, many stories from respectable news outlets got details wrong, both because Episcopal Church polity is complex and because the strategies being carried out by the various players are complex. Ann Rodgers’ story “Episcopal diocese chooses to secede” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is particularly notable for its fairness and accuracy.

We will try to describe the situation in the aftermath of the convention votes. The Standing Committee that was the ecclesiastical authority in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has effectively split into two Standing Committees: one, consisting of seven members (apparently) claiming to be the ecclesiastical authority of the same diocese that entered the convention, which is now claiming to be a diocese of the Southern Cone, although the Southern Cone constitution does not permit any diocese outside the bounds of five South American countries; another, consisting of a single person, the Rev. Jim Simons, claiming the same authority over the same diocese in The Episcopal Church. This situation reflects the understanding of one side that the diocese and its leaders were prevented from making the proposed changes by the canon law of the church and diocese, as well as vows taken by the clergy, whereas the other side does not acknowledge the effectiveness of such constraints.

For now, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (S)—referring to those who claim to have seceded from The Episcopal Church—largely controls diocesan assets and maintains the Web site at http://pitanglican.org. Though technically run by the seven-member Standing Committee, the deposed Bishop Robert Duncan is employed by this diocese as a “consultant.” He has also been designated as a “Commissary” by the Southern Cone, with the authority to make episcopal visits to congregations. Bishop Henry Scriven is also working as a “consultant,” but he will be leaving Pittsburgh in December (see Pittsburgh Update story here).

Informally, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC) is represented by Across the Aisle, whose steering committee is led by the same Jim Simons who is the only loyal Episcopalian left on the former Standing Committee. It is expected that The Episcopal Church will soon recognize Simons as the one-person Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC).

Each Diocese of Pittsburgh intends to elect a bishop soon. The “realigned” diocese will do so at a convention in November, and the Episcopal Church diocese will do so somewhat later, perhaps in early December. The realigned diocese expects to elect Bishop Duncan as its bishop, whereas the Episcopal Church diocese will likely elect some sort of temporary bishop whose identity has yet to be determined.

Each side is offering advice to parishes. The “realigned” diocese distributed a glossy brochure at the end of the convention titled “Realignment Realities: What You Need to Know.” It can be seen here. Across the Aisle, on the other hand, has offered “FAQs for Parishes” on its Web site here.

Bennison deposition recommended

Episcopal News Service reported October 3, 2008, that the ecclesiastical court that earlier found Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles E. Bennison guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy has now recommended his deposition. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Bennison’s attorneys have indicated that both the sentence and the conviction will be appealed.

Church apologizies for slavery, segregation, discrimination

Both Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson were present for a two-day “Day of Repentance” event in Philadelphia October 3–4. The Presiding Bishop made a public apology for the role the church played in the slave trade, segregation, and discrimination.

The event was held at St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, the church founded in 1792 by the Rev. Absalom Jones, a former slave. Seventeen bishops participated in the event, including the recently consecrated Bishop of Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, the first African-American bishop of that diocese.

The Episcopal News Service story of the event can be read here.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note on Our Point of View

On March 30, 2008, Pittsburgh Update set forth its editorial policy, pledging objectivity, but acknowledging the inherent subjectivity in that notion. (That initial Pittsburgh Update post can be read here.) Circumstances now require a clarification of that editorial policy.

On Saturday, October 4, 2008, at it annual convention, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to “realign,” to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. This dramatic action complicates reporting on events in Pittsburgh in a number of ways. We are now presented with two mutually exclusive views of what has happened and what may happen.

For a start, the leaders of “realignment” claim to represent “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh,” but those who opposed “realignment” also claim to represent “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Reporting was simpler when a similar split occurred in San Joaquin; we now have an Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and an Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

In fact, Pittsburgh is likely to have two “dioceses” making quite different claims about legal and canonical “facts,” and it is not at all clear how best to report them. Pittsburgh Update has always been opposed to schism and therefore identifies with The Episcopal Church. It was a product of Across the Aisle before Across the Aisle had a name. In this sense, nothing has changed.

We will continue to attempt to be objective, but we will maintain a stronger commitment to truth, as best as we can identify it. In any case, we want to clarify that our perspective reflects the continuing presence of The Episcopal Church in Southwestern Pennsylvania.