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 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.