Thinking Anglicans

Pittsburgh lawsuit: the diocese responds

A page of “Frequently Asked Questions” has been posted on the website of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the lawsuit against 18 clergy and lay leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

The FAQ confirms that Bishop Duncan and his Standing Committee are serious about the threat of expulsion of two parishes from his diocese:

7. Are the Bishop and Standing Committee serious about invoking Canon XV, Section 6 dissolution?

Yes. The notice was recommended reluctantly and the strong preference of the Bishop and the Standing Committee is that it will not be necessary to pursue dissolution. Diocesan leaders intend to do their part to achieve reconciliation. Nevertheless, the Standing Committee would not have recommended this course if the diocesan leadership was not prepared to follow through if necessary.

The whole idea that a diocese can simply expel a parish with whom it is in dispute is extremely difficult to understand.

The FAQ is also interesting for the interpretation it puts on the Dennis Canon, described as “controversial”:

3. What is the Dennis Canon?

The essence of the “Dennis Canon” (Title 1, Canon 7, Section 4 of ECUSA’s canons) is this statement: “All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located.”

Those that brought this lawsuit claim that by virtue of this canon, controversial since its adoption in 1979, ECUSA has a trust interest (constructive or express) in all parish real estate and assets irrespective of how the title is held or the source of the funds used to acquire the property.

This is the same Canon which is discussed in some detail in this email exchange (pdf file) between Robert Devlin, and Michael Woodruff in the documents filed earlier.

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19 years ago

The Dennis Canon merely codifies a legal position that the Episcopal Church has taken in lawsuits dating as far back as the schism over ceremonial issues which resulted in the Reformed Episcopal Church in the mid 19th C. As such, it’s not a new legal argument.

David Huff
David Huff
19 years ago

Ruidh is, of course, correct – but what +Duncan is trying with that comment isn’t a legal argument. He’s practicing one of the more successful propaganda techniques, which is that if you tell a lie for the purpose of propaganda, tell a *big* one. The bigger the lie is, the more people are apt to believe it, because they can’t believe you would dare say such a thing if it were not the truth.

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