Monday, November 05, 2007

The Diocese of Pittsburgh votes to say "Adios"

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has decided to take the first step in severing relations with the Episcopal Church. Voting in convention last weekend, lay and clergy delegates of the Diocese voted overwhelmingly to pass Resolution One which basically states that:

"The Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. "

Notice that there's no mention of the phrase "Episcopal Church(TEC) " in that sentence. You won't see the words Episcopal Church anywhere in that document until you get to the very bottom. Because Diocesan Convention voted to strike any mention of TEC from its Constitution and Canons. By doing this, the Convention has stated a clear intent to separate from the Bonds of the Episcopal Church and either align with another theologically conservative Province of the Anglican Communion or join with other like-minded dioceses and creating an alternative Anglican Province in the US and having the Anglican Communion recognize them as the legitimate Anglican presence in the United States. The Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is voting to establish itself as an autonomous entity separate from the Episcopal Church, which cannot be legally done because the Article 5 Sec.1 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church states:

Sec. 1. A new Diocese may be formed, with the consent of the General
Convention and under such conditions as the General Convention shall
prescribe by General Canon or Canons, (1) by the division of an existing
Diocese; (2) by the junction of two or more Dioceses or of parts of two or
more Dioceses; or (3) by the erection into a Diocese of an unorganized
area evangelized as provided in Article VI. The proceedings shall originate
in a Convocation of the Clergy and Laity of the unorganized area called by
the Bishop for that purpose; or, with the approval of the Bishop, in the
Convention of the Diocese to be divided; or (when it is proposed to form
a new Diocese by the junction of two or more existing Dioceses or of parts
of two or more Dioceses) by mutual agreement of the Conventions of the
Dioceses concerned, with the approval of the Bishop of each Diocese. In
case the Episcopate of a Diocese be vacant, no proceedings toward its
division shall be taken until the vacancy is filled. After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of
the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution
and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the
General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this
Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General

A diocese can only exist as an act of General Convention. Dioceses are NOT autonomous entities that can vote to move themselves from one Province to another, vote themselves into or out of existence, or merge themselves with another diocese. By continuing on this path, Bishop Duncan is setting himself up for a potential presentment and inhibition which basically means that he can be brought up on charges in an ecclesiastical court of abandoning the Communion. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bp. Katharine Jefferts Schori, recently wrote a letter to Bishop Duncan prior to convention, of the consequences of continuing in this action. The letter states:

Letter from the Presiding Bishop to Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA

Dear Bob,

There have been numerous public references in recent weeks regarding resolutions to be introduced at your forthcoming diocesan convention. Those resolutions, if adopted, would amend several of your diocesan canons and begin the process of amending one or more provisions of your diocesan Constitution. I have reviewed a number of these proposed resolutions, and it is evident to me that they would violate the Constitutional requirement that the Diocese conform to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. It is apparent from your pre-convention report that you endorse these proposed changes. I am also aware of other of your statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead your diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. Our Constitution explicitly provides that a diocese must accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.

I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Now she said it a way that may not have been strong enough to satisfy the extreme progressives in the Church, but it's clear that she has stated that there will be consequences for these actions. Bishop Duncan's response:

"Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them."

He basically just told the Presiding Bishop "come and get me."

Now, because the resolution in question covers the changing of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese, it has to be passed in a second vote at next year's convention, which barring a miracle and considering the overwhelming support the Bishop has in this diocese, is almost as political pundit John McLaughlin would say: "A metaphysical certitude". But in Bp. Schori's letter to Bp. Duncan, there is no mention of waiting until the second vote on Resolution One to assess her options. She could come down on him anytime between now and next year. But I think Bp. Duncan wants to be presented. He would use it to make himself into a martyr and show his supporters how much TEC is persecuting those orthodox who no longer accept TEC's teachings. And Bp. Schori as the chief pastor of the Church responsible for seeing that the canons of the church are being adhered to would have no choice but to bring him up on charges.

The one question that I and many TEC loyal folks in this diocese want answered is: what about those in this diocese who don't want to go along with the Bishop into this uncertain future. There are about a dozen parishes and any number of individuals in Network parishes who do not agree with the direction Bp. Duncan is taking the Diocese, liberals and conservatives alike. What about them? Will they have to be dragged along kicking and screaming into whatever Province the Diocese lands in, pariahs surrounded on all sides by people who don't really want them there because they don't step to the Bishop's tune? How accommodating will the Bishop be to those who disagree with him, now that he no longer has to answer to the Episcopal Church? Or will the Diocese basically tell them: "OK we're leaving without you, you're on your own. "

If that's the case, those who are remaining will have to have the PB assign them a interim bishop that both liberals and conservatives can get along with until they can reconstitute a proper Episcopal Diocese and elect a diocesan bishop in a convention. Either way, there's a lot of pain frustration, and hurt on both sides of the aisle. And both sides have also acted in a most unchristian manner in blogs and message boards on the Internet, accusing each other of heresy, hypocrisy, and not being "true Christians," whatever that means. I think God's kind of pissed at all of us now, and we'll hear an earful when we see Him.

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