Thinking Anglicans

Pittsburgh: 9 parishes react against diocese

Updated Wednesday

Nine parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have today issued a press release. You can read the whole thing here. It starts like this:

Nine urban, suburban and rural congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh today challenged the recent actions of the Right Reverend Robert William Duncan and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. On 28 June 2006, the Bishop and Standing Committee announced their intention to withdraw from the duly recognized, geographically-determined Province III of The Episcopal Church, envisioning the emergence of a theologically-determined “Province X.” The parishes believe that these steps, if left unchallenged, could effectively remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church. The congregations further believe that by requesting “alternative primatial oversight,” the Bishop and Standing Committee seek to remove the Diocese from the oversight of the presiding bishopelect of The Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori. The parishes also believe that all of these actions constitute an effort to retain use of property which is properly within the jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church while withdrawing from The Episcopal Church.

The diocese has responded with its own press release. It says in part:

…“There continues to be confusion about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s status in the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Duncan, “I will say again what we have been saying for months now. We have no plans to be anything but faithful, orthodox, Anglican-Communion-bound Episcopalians, today, tomorrow and the day after that. We are the Episcopal Church in this place and we are going to continue being what we always have been.”

Bishop Duncan went on to note that the June 28 decisions of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Standing Committee did not bring the diocese outside of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in any way. Instead, they simply served to make clear the diocese’s firm intention, expressed by overwhelming margins at numerous diocesan conventions, to remain a “constituent” member of the Anglican Communion, even while much of the Episcopal Church continues choosing a path that is breaking that bond…

Press coverage of this:
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steve Levin Nine Episcopal parishes don’t want new province
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Craig Smith 9 parishes may go to court (This headline directly contradicts what was said at the press conference according to Levin in the P-G; the diocesan statistics are quoted differently too)

Response to claim by diocese concerning Missouri precedent:
Lionel Deimel of PEP has responded to a part of the diocesan press release as follows:

Claim: That the experience of Missouri provides a precedent for withdrawing from a province of the Episcopal Church.
Fact: Article VII of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church does require that a diocese agree to its placement in a particular province. Pittsburgh did agree to being in Province III. The canons of The Episcopal Church specify the assignment of each diocese to a province. There is no provision for withdrawing from a province, only for transferring to another existing province. Missouri was originally in Province VII, which includes most of the Southwest. In the 1960s, Missouri decided that it had little in common with dioceses in that geographical area and would fit better in a more Midwestern region. It stopped participating but did not try to withdraw formally from Province VII. This situation helped encourage General Convention to pass a canonical change specifying a means by which a diocese could transfer to another province. Missouri then followed the specified procedure to transfer to Province V, which includes much of the Midwest.

A much lengthier discussion of all this by Lionel Deimel can be found in An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s “Withdrawal” of Consent to Inclusion in Province III (PDF format).

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