Pittsburgh Chooses Path to Separation
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
- November 2, 2007 -
Declaring "As a diocese we have come to a fork in the road," Pittsburgh's Bishop Robert Duncan set the tone for the 142nd annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The bishop continued, "This is not a place we would wish to stay, even if we could." The convention majority agreed with the bishop, voting in favor of amendments to eliminate the diocese's accession to the constitution and canons of TEC and allowing it to designate by canon the Anglican province to which it will belong. The resolution also eliminated the requirement that parishes have similar accession clauses in their bylaws or articles of incorporation.
The vote, by secret ballot, favored passage by 118 to 59 lay votes, with one abstention, and 109 to 24 clergy votes. On the way to the final vote, the convention defeated an attempt to substitute an amendment that would have restored the accession clause to its pre-2004 condition.
Quoting Martin Luther in a brief reply to her recent letter, Bishop Duncan defiantly rejected Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's request that he urge the convention to reject the resolution he has hitherto strongly supported. Rather that heed the presiding bishop's advice, Duncan denied a request from a deputy to declare the resolution out of order by virtue of its being beyond the power of the diocese to enact. The bishop's actions and his continuing advocacy of "realignment" will likely make him subject to church disciplinary action.Bishop Duncan continued to assert his unique theory of diocesan independence, reversing the generally accepted understanding of Episcopal Church polity.
Once again, he asserted that those wishing to remain in The Episcopal Church would have to leave the diocese to do so, seemingly denying to that it is he and his supporters who want out of The Episcopal Church. The bishop then suggested that property currently held in common, including Trinity Cathedral and Calvary Camp, should, after a split, be administered for the benefit of all.
It became clear, in other words, that he expects both to leave TEC and remain in control of its assets, which he would then generously offer to share with those he had dispossessed.
During both the convention and a set of morning workshops preceding the formal opening of the business meeting of the convention, proponents of the anti-accession resolution described an Episcopal Church that had strayed from Christian "orthodoxy," citing, among other complaints, the failure of the church to discipline Bishops Pike and Spong. Episcopal Church supporters talked about the impropriety of the resolution, the fact that TEC has not changed its core beliefs, and the pain that necessarily will accompany any separation. The outcome, however, was never in doubt.
"The vote today was "tragic," said Joan Gundersen, president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh and a deputy to the convention. The step taken today by the Diocese of Pittsburgh will only lead to pain for all the people of the diocese, to increased litigation, and to charges being filed against Bishop Duncan under the disciplinary canons of the church. That pain was often evident in the voices of those speaking on both sides of the measure. The next year will be one of constant turmoil as the diocesan leadership furthers its separation plans in anticipation of a final ratification of constitutional changes next year.
P.S. One "do the math" blogger noted: The convention actually needed to pass Resolution 1 by a 2/3 majority, not a simple majority. So, in fact, the whole process passed by only one (lay) vote!