Thinking Anglicans

Pittsburgh acts on APO

The Diocese of Pittsburgh passed a somewhat modified resolution on APO. Here is the full text of the official announcement:

Clergy and lay deputies voted overwhelmingly to approve Resolution I on November 3 at the City Center Marriott in Pittsburgh. The final vote was 97 aye, 14 nay, and 3 abstentions in the clergy order and 117 aye, 40 nay, and 7 abstentions in the lay order. In debate, the original resolution was replaced with a substitute. The resolution, as passed is below. The text of the original resolution is available here.

The approved resolution reads as follows:

RESOLVED, the 141st Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh confirms the actions of the Standing Committee taken on June 28, 2006, specifically (1) the withdrawal of consent for inclusion in the Third Province of the Episcopal Church (under Article VII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church); and (2) the appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care.

Steve Levin in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that City Episcopal Diocese votes to leave province.

The Associated Press headline was Pittsburgh Episcopalians vote to withdraw from national church.

More detail below the fold.
Update: link added to Pittsburgh Chancellor’s opinion

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh said in a press release:

…The divide between the powerful, self-styled “orthodox” of the diocese and those committed to the more progressive Episcopal Church was evidenced by the remarks of the first speaker to rise in opposition to the resolution. The Very Reverend George Werner, retired Dean of Trinity Cathedral and past president of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, observed that, “Moses brought everyone into the promised land, not just the commandos.” The strategy pursued by the Pittsburgh Diocese, he said, has made him an “outsider.”

The tension between parties in the diocese could be seen early in the meeting. Bishop Duncan, echoing the conference theme of “Embracing Fruitfulness,” spoke in his annual address of the need for pruning to encourage fruitfulness, which did not comfort those who oppose the bishop’s priorities. The budget approved at the meeting reduces diocesan commitment to hospital ministry, the Commission on Racism, and most existing urban ministries. The diocese will continue its practice of providing no support for The Episcopal Church, and it will now redirect its Province III dues to the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes (otherwise known as the Anglican Communion Network, or ACN).

The majority turned aside all efforts to accommodate parishes that support The Episcopal Church. One of these would have allowed parishes that have declined to be part of the ACN to avoid supporting it through the diocese, a principle seemingly granted in a signed legal settlement between the diocese and parishes committed to remaining in The Episcopal Church. In another move, the convention defeated an amendment that would have created a separate district in the diocese for parishes wanting to maintain a connection to Province III.

“Today’s actions are clearly illegal under the canon law of our church,” observed Dr. Joan R. Gundersen, president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), the group that led opposition to the resolution.” The constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church allow for only one Presiding Bishop, one House of Bishops, and require the General Convention to approve any change in provincial assignments. This diocese is asking individuals outside The Episcopal Church to intervene where they have no authority,” said Dr. Gundersen.

Despite an opinion rendered by diocesan chancellor Robert Devlin to the contrary, Dr. Lionel Deimel, a PEP board member who wrote an extended analysis disputing that the diocese could withdraw from its province, insisted that, “If the diocese withdraws unilaterally from Province III, it has violated the canons, since Canon I.9.1 says that the diocese is in Province III. The diocese claims to have amended its own constitution such that it supersedes that of the church, however, and this may have been an instance of using the power it has granted itself…”

Bishop Robert Duncan’s address to the convention can be read in full here. It includes this passage:

This Convention faces another in its series of defining decisions. It is the Standing Committee’s judgment that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting at Columbus in June did not adequately respond to the requests of the Anglican Communion in the Windsor Report. Moreover, it is the Standing Committee’s judgment, in light of her teachings on the nature and work of the Second Person of the Trinity and her teaching on and authorization of same-sex blessings, that the election and confirmation of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori to be Presiding Bishop is an aspect of the decision of the majority of the Episcopal Church to “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion. This “walking apart” is something the 140th Convention of this Diocese said, by resolution last year, it would not do. This “walking apart” is also something the Constitution of the Episcopal Church expressly rejects, committing us as “constituent members of the Anglican Communion, within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, propagating the historic Faith and Order.” Consequently, in Resolution One, this Convention is asked to confirm the action of our Standing Committee to appeal to the archbishops of the Communion for “alternative primatial oversight.” The Convention is also asked to confirm the Standing Committee’s action in withdrawing consent, under Article VII of the federal Constitution, for membership in our internal domestic province, the Third Province, the Province of Washington. The Chancellor, Mr. Robert Devlin, has rendered opinions about the propriety of confirming both actions.

Withdrawing consent to inclusion in the Third Province speaks to our continuing commitment to function under the Constitution of the Episcopal Church while at the same time opening the door for those dioceses to band together who hold that the Episcopal Church in its majority is in contravention of its own constitutional requirement to be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, at least until the time the Anglican Communion shall decide the matter.

The appeal for another primate to fulfill the duties of our Presiding Bishop, under our Constitution, until such time as the status of the majority of the Episcopal Church and the status of our new Presiding Bishop shall finally be determined by the Communion, is admittedly a novel way forward. The Episcopal Church has no Supreme Court. Its supreme court is the Holy Scriptures. The election, confirmation and consecration of a bishop in a same-sex partnered relationship, like the election of a Presiding Bishop who supports this and other innovations in Faith and Order, are greater novelties still. That the Archbishop of Canterbury, with whom our Constitution says we are to be in Communion, has intervened to see if there is a way the disputants in the American Church might agree to alternative primatial oversight, and that half of the Primates of the Communion have already agreed to provide it, should give us some guidance that the novelty we have asked for seems, at least at the outset, reasonable to the leadership of the wider Anglican Communion. I trust that this Convention will confirm the Standing Committee’s actions.

What, precisely, will alternative primatial oversight as a temporary measure look like? That will be the decision of the primates themselves, in consultation with us and the other dioceses making the request. The copy of the Appeal of July 20, made available on our diocesan website, was a joint proposal by seven U.S. bishops and dioceses to the Archbishop of Canterbury, made within a month of General Convention, as a result of Canterbury’s request for “a proposal about what ‘the nuts and bolts’ might look like.” That was more than three months ago. It is clear that what was proposed in July was just a beginning point. What is before this convention is confirmation of the action of the Standing Committee in asking for alternative primatial oversight, whatever form may finally be negotiated is not yet available for us to debate, and quite frankly not in our hands. The Standing Committee with the Bishop will be responsible for carrying forward, on our behalf, the process by which the details of alternative primatial oversight can be put in place, God and the Communion willing. What this Convention is doing is confirming the propriety of an appeal, not specific details, since those details are necessarily in the Communion’s decision to offer or not.

Two days ago the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori became 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Our prayers are with her. She inherits a broken church. May God give her the grace to deal honestly, charitably, fairly and directly with that part of the Body represented in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and in the Anglican Communion Network, with that part of the Episcopal Church that believes, generally speaking, what has always been believed. I will do my part as your bishop and as Moderator of the Network to work with Bishop Jefferts Schori to come to some mediated disengagement that will allow all of us to get on with the mission as we understand it.

As I have said on many occasions recently, there are two churches here, each claiming to be the Episcopal Church. Both have substantial and rightful claims to that identity. I pray and hope and work for a mediated settlement between these two parties. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is the Episcopal Church in this place. We stand, nearly all of us in this diocese, where the Episcopal Church has always stood. What is more important still, we stand where the Anglican Communion and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church have always stood. One of the confirmations of our decision to ask for alternative primatial oversight is that the Russian Orthodox Church has just last week reiterated its decision to reopen ecumenical relations with all those dioceses of the Episcopal Church who have requested alternative primatial oversight. All ecumenical dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and the Episcopal Church was suspended at the time of the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire. The Russians now see in us the Episcopal Church with which ecumenical conversations can be continued. The Russian initiative is with the full understanding that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is among those dioceses that embrace the ordination of women.

The formal opinion of the diocesan chancellor on all this can be read in a PDF file here. The weakness of the legal argument in favour of APO is clearly exposed by this opinion. Sadly text extraction from this file is not possible.

Another blogger’s first hand account of the meeting yesterday is here.

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17 years ago

One would think that such an important piece of legislation would require a more substantive majority than 1/5 of the clergy/laity. Nonetheless, that means that TEC will have a diocesan seed of 4000 remaining members in the Docese of Pittsburgh. Combined with the property and other holdings, and the revenue from the proposed 10th Province’s purchase of the properties that they now rent from TEC, Pittsburgh is about to have more resources for mission and ministry than they have had in decades. Thank you, +Duncan and ACC!

17 years ago

While they practice this apartheid can they offer authentic ministry or meaningful mission ?

Steve Lusk
Steve Lusk
17 years ago

“The majority turned aside all efforts to accommodate parishes that support The Episcopal Church.” So they have denied to dissenters within the diocese the very rights they claim for themselves with respect to the majority of the Episcopal Church . . . didn’t Jesus have something to say about “do unto others”?

Marshall Scott
17 years ago

I found the Chancellor’s opinion interesting. I’m not an attorney, but I do have my own opinion. First, I don’t know that I’m going to be all that upset about a decision of Pittsburgh not to participate in Province III. I live in Province VII, and two dioceses here have not participated for some time. Now, an official declaration is another step; but for the moment it’s less than symbolic. Since establishing another province within the Episcopal Church (the Province X idea) can only be done by General Convention, this “symbolic” victory is probably actually Pyrrhic. On the other hand,… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
17 years ago

“It is the Standing Committee’s judgment that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting at Columbus in June did not adequately respond to the requests of the Anglican Communion in the Windsor Report.” Everything after this (amazingly audacious) statement is irrelevant: a diocese’s standing committee simply IS NOT AUTHORIZED to pass this kind of judgment. Individuals have the “right of final judgment” they’ve ALWAYS had: if one’s conscience cannot abide TEC (as constituted by the GC) one can depart from it—this is true for one individual, or every individual in, say, the Greater Pittsburgh area. *Episcopal dioceses*, on… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
17 years ago

Yes, there is something deeply disappointing in the legalistic rationale for this move. As others say the argument does appear to contradict itself, but more significantly by making such a legal argument the basis for this decision it opens the whole matter to challenge by the lawyers. The position of parishes/diocese that separate from the existing structures is obviously a matter of keen interest to all, reading the diocese of Europe’s statement from the 14th October on the parish of All Saints, Almancil is interesting. This statement – apart from sounding the death knell for this small community –… Read more »

Tobias Haller BSG
17 years ago

I’ve posted my thoughts on the issue of withdrawal from Province III at The Chancellor’s position relies, in my opinion, on a kind of “popular” reading of the Constitution, rather than a legal one. He ignores both the historical and legal context in order to intepret the Article in a way that would allow unilateral withdrawal. Most importantly, he tries to present “consent” as a kind of ongoing condition rather than, in the legal sense, an act of commitment to an obligation, which once undertaken cannot simply be undone because one is no longer happy with it. As I… Read more »

Robert L
Robert L
17 years ago

On being grouped into a province, the chancellor rightly [to my mind] puts forth that Canon 1.9.4 is to be interpreted in light of Article VII of the constitution, as the constitution trumps canon. Yet when discussing the position in the wider Anglican Communion, the only document referenced is ‘The Windsor Report’, a report of a committee that is advisory to the AC. Where are the references to the founding documents, which should easily trump a mere report from a committee? Don’t give me any bollocks about ‘the Primates’ having approved it. The Windsor report itself acknowledges that any ‘covenant’… Read more »

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