Thinking Anglicans

Pittsburgh: moves to claim assets

Updated again Monday evening

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has issued this press release: Diocese Asks Court For Access To Funds.

Request Made In Case Which Defined “Episcopal Diocese”

Pittsburgh, PA – Today, January 8, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh asked a court for control of church assets still held by former diocesan leaders who have left the Episcopal Church.

The request was made in the context of an existing court order which stipulated that local Episcopal property must stay in the control of a diocese that is part of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

“We’re not asking for anything the court has not already addressed, or for anything former leaders have not already agreed to,” said the Rev. Dr. James Simons, President of the diocesan Standing Committee, the group currently leading the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese.

The original court order was issued in October 2005 as a result of a lawsuit filed by Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty. The order prohibits any group that separates itself from the Episcopal Church from continuing to use or control Diocesan property. The order specifically defines the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as being part of “the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.” In negotiations leading to the 2005 Order, former Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and his attorneys agreed this stipulation would apply regardless of the circumstances surrounding any separation, even if every parish were to leave…

…Approximately 27 congregations, or about 40% of the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to the October separation, remain active in the life of the Episcopal Church.

The Southern Cone-affiliated body has also issued a press release: New Diocese Attempts to Join Lawsuit

In an expected, but disappointing decision, the newly forming Episcopal Church diocese in southwestern Pennsylvania announced today that it intends to move forward with legal action against The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) by attempting to claim all diocesan property.

“The document filed today in the Calvary litigation by Calvary and the new diocese created after the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh withdrew from The Episcopal Church is both procedurally and substantively improper. Moreover, it is regrettable that these groups have chosen to pursue more litigation rather than agree to equitable division of the assets.” said the Rev. Peter Frank, diocesan spokesman.

Initial press reports:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Claim filed to control local Episcopal Church assets

Associated Press Pa. Episcopal church sues parishes for $20 million

Friday press reports

Associated Press Diocese seeks $20M from breakaway Episcopalians

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Episcopal Diocese claims $20 million in schism fight by Paula Reed Ward

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Episcopal groups battle over assets by Craig Smith

Episcopal News Service PITTSBURGH: Diocesan leaders ask court for access to assets by Mary Frances Schjonberg

Monday update

There is an excellent summary by Joan R. Gundersen of recent events in Pittsburgh in this post: A Pittsburgh timeline.


  • Pat O'Neill says:

    “Equitable division of the assets”? Do the Southern Coners of Pittsburgh think this is a divorce?

  • Richard Warren says:

    I do hope the Pennsylvania courts will study the recent ruling by the California Supreme Court regarding the property taken unlawfully and apply the same sane thinking to the Pittsburgh situation. The suggestion that the property be divided up evenly is a non-starter, if they want to make a fair market value offer for it and pay the Pittsburgh Diocese they might have a place to start a dialogue.

  • John says:

    Enough already. When do thieves get to negotiate?

  • JCF says:

    “New diocese”???

    Nice try, Bob!

    It’s time that xDuncan & Co woke up and smelled the coff– California Supreme Court decision: TEC is going to win, they’re going to lose, and it’s time for either reconciliation (please?) or RELOCATION.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “The Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh is suing its breakaway parishes to recover $20 million in assets it believes were wrongfully taken when the conservative branch split form the liberal diocese in October.” – Associated Press Report –

    After the Califrnia Supreme Court’s recent decision about the lgal retention of diocesan resources by the original diocesan authorities, it should have been plain to the departing former TEC parishes that they would probably have to relinquish their hold over these resources. It’s just a shame that the Faithful Remnant should have to sue for their return. Any claim for a share in these resources should certainly be at the option of the remaining TEC Faithful.

  • Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    …”Approximately 27 congregations, or about 40% of the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to the October separation, remain active in the life of the Episcopal Church.”

    Will someone from the real and faithful Dio of Pgh clarify the statement above? Does that writer mean 40% of the parishes or 40% of the people?

  • bobinswpa says:


    There are 28 parishes in the continuing diocese out of 66. There were 4 how were added at the last convention (October) which would take the number to 70 (I may be off one or two with the 66 number). From the former make up the diocese the 2,3,4,7,9 and 10th largest parishes remained in TEC. I’ll try and give a breakdown of who left and who remained.
    St. Stephens SW 1700 (SC) Chapman’s Church
    Calvary 1600 (TEC)
    St. Paul’s 1250 (TEC)
    Christ Church NH 1200 (TEC)
    Fox Chapel 900 (SC)
    St. Phillips 800 (SC)
    St. Thomas Oak 700 (TEC)
    Ascension 600 (SC)
    St. Peter’s Pgh 500 (TEC)
    St. Andrews 400 (TEC).
    I want to say it’s 40% of the population.

    Hope that helps.
    As for splitting assets, Pennsylvania Law favors the hierarchical church. See St. James the Less, Philadephia for the court ruling.

  • Roger says:

    I think the best solution is to have Duncan and his followers actually move to the Southern Cone, down Argentine way. The real equitable alternative.

  • Andy Muhl says:


    The answer to your question is 27 parishes is about 40% of the 66 parishes claimed by the Southern Cone group. yes and yes, using round numbers. The number of people, determined using the average Sunday attendance figures for the parishes from the last published parochial reports, is actually a little higher than 40%.

  • Dallas Bob says:

    Justice is being served. Those who voluntarily left the Episcopal Church have no right to control its assets. I wonder how the average “go-along get-along” pew sitter will feel about going to the Southern Cone when there is no longer a pew in which to sit? The radicals who are starting these new churches try to placate their parishioners by saying “nothing has changed”. Now that they are losing their property, I wonder if there may be some backlash from those who followed former bishops Duncan, Iker, etc. over the cliff when they see what a steep price there is to pay?

  • Jim Naughton says:

    There is actually already a settlement in place in this case dating to 2005. To a lay person’s eyes, it certainly seems to favor the remaining Episcopalians.

    The key passage:

    Property, whether real or personal (hereinafter “Property”), held or administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (hereinafter “Diocese”) for the beneficial use of the parishes and institutions of the Diocese, shall continue to be so held or administered by the Diocese regardless of whether some or even a majority of the parishes in the Diocese might decide not to remain in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. For purposes of this paragraph, Property as to which title is legitimately held in the name of a parish of the Diocese shall not be deemed Property held or administered by the Diocese.

  • drdanfee says:

    The egregious spin doctoring still going on from the exiting/separating conservative realignment side is a markedly curious phenom. Or so I see it.

    If Duncan and company cannot deal with actually being inside their virtual Southern Cone entity, sans continuing TEC diocese property rights, one must simply wonder what their blind spot truly is.

    Any proper realigned separate Duncan zone then is also properly free of property, as well as the much feared queer folks making lifelong commitments in pairbonds and parenting. The WO issues, well, are still vexed and confused, so far as I can see looking through, say, a Sidney lens.

    Funny how slippery all this necon realigned believer stuff gets in connection with a variety of ploys to define or redefine reality presuppositionally. Duncan is not even a bishop any longer in TEC, so what possible claim can he or anybody representing him-allying with him have over TEC property?

    It is not Duncan divorcing the greatly feared queer folks and allies who still owe him some sort of living; but rather Duncan driving off in a huff, claiming that the house is, contrarily, driving away from him.

    Lewis Carroll or Jonathan Swift would have a field day, writing analogies of this Duncan narrative into their stories. Stay tuned. Those who seek to redefine new and very closed conservative church life realities will eventually be forced to live exclusively in them, without much help or recognition from the rest of us who have been unceremoniously and presuppositioinally kicked out/realigned outside Jesus’ feast of the kingdom. Duncan is proving himself possibly too similar to Wiley Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons.

  • BobinSWPA says:

    I love the Peter Frank’s response that it was expected but still Duncan and crew are disappointed.

    Isn’t theft still a crime?
    That would make Duncan a criminal.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    DallasBob raises a good point about the “pew sitters.”

    I suspect the bulk of the laity don’t really have a dog in this fight. If their parish purports to go to the Southern Cone, they will see themselves as going with it. If it remains faithful, they’ll go along with that as well.

    So, what happens if (when) the Real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recovers the property?

    Well, if they’re smart, the Real Episcopal Diocese will ensure that the Holy Sacrifice is offered in each one of those buildings on the following Sunday morning, according to the usual parish standard and at the usual time. I’d bet a nickel that there will be more than a few of the “pew sitters” who turn up and stick around as though nothing ever happened.

    Certainly some of the laity will stick with their priests in this cleric-led schism. But some portion of those who are purportedly joining moving to a metaphical Argentina are simply going along with what is happening around them.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    My brother-in-law was over this afternoon, so the TV was tuned to the National Football League playoffs. My brother-in-law likes sports, any and all. On my own, I’d never watch the NFL. Any football game with four downs and the fair catch rule should be played by small children, not grown men.

    In any event, the game was Pittsburgh v San Diego.

    And suddenly, I started to snicker.

    The NFL franchise is the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Bob Duncan and his crew are the Pittsburgh Stealers.

    Had to share.

  • choirboyfromhell says:

    Malcolm+: the Stealers can take the Cleveland Browns, please, somebody get us out of our misery.

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