Saturday, August 16, 2008

Narrative Regarding the Signing of the January 29th Statement by 12 Clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In January of this year a group of twelve clergy (mostly rectors) in the Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a statement declaring that they would not join in the realignment of the diocese, should the diocese vote to do so. I believe that there is a widespread impression that this statement was issued in a way which surprised the Diocesan leadership. However, this is not the case and I think it's important that the story be told to alleviate any misimpressions that are out there.

Bishop Duncan returned from the House of Bishop's meeting in March of 2007 with a great sense of disappointment. On Tuesday of Holy Week (March 20th) he spoke to the assembled clergy after renewal of vows and my impression was that he was emotionally drained. In his 2007 convention address he described his experience at the House of Bishops as "personally devastating" and links the idea of realignment to this event (2007 Post- convention journal page 111).

On May 4th The Bishop called a private meeting at the Duquesne Club to which he invited a dozen or so key rectors to lay out his idea for realignment. I was not invited to that meeting as the proposal was discussed at the April 21st Standing Committee Meeting (I am not detailing any of those conversations as I am not sure which ones were held in Executive Session and therefore not to be made public). Several who were present (including those who now wish to realign as well as those who will not do so) described what happened at that meeting as the plan being "presented" to them.

In May (22-23) the annual leadership overnight of the diocese was held and a long process, facilitated by a consultant, was entered into. At the end of that meeting it was clear that there was considerable momentum for the idea of realignment. After that meeting, I was clear with the Bishop (and I may have told him this prior to that meeting) that I would not be a part of the realignment. In the ensuing weeks several other key rectors had similar conversations with him.

During the summer of 2007 a series of three meetings were held to which the clergy of the diocese, who had previously voted for Alternative Primatial Oversight, were invited. These meeting were organized by a steering committee on which I sat. The leadership team of the diocese was not invited to the first two but did attend the third. These meetings provided the opportunity for some very thoughtful conversation and the presentation of various points of view regarding the realignment. However, it was clear to those of us who did not wish to realign, that momentum was gathering for the constitutional change.

In September a group of clergy met for lunch. The only criteria for attending was, that at that moment, those who came were not in favor of realignment. We talked about how we should approach the situation and how to support each other through what was obviously going to be a very difficult time. We agreed to meet again in October. At that meeting we concluded we were going to continue to meet regularly and that transparency with the Bishop was important. Consequently, three of us made an appointment to see the Bishop on October 15 to openly discuss where we stood. I was among those who were present. During that time we told the Bishop of our meetings, we told him who was in the group, what we believed it represented in Average Sunday Attendance and assessment giving. It was a significant group. Including those who were more progressive and had made their opposition previously known, it represented nearly a third of the diocesan membership. We had a frank and honest conversation. This was three weeks before the vote of the Diocesan Convention.

The Bishop asked us to do two things: first, not to speak out against the resolution and secondly, to vote for it even if we didn't want to realign. His reasoning was that a strong majority vote would provide an impetus for the Presiding Bishop's office to negotiate with him, especially over issues of property.

Even though the group was prepared to issue a statement before the vote, stating our opposition to it, when the Bishop's request was taken back to the group we decided to honor the request. None of us spoke out against the resolution to realign, either before or during convention, and I assume that some in the group voted for it as well.

On November 19th (two weeks after the vote) I met at the diocesan office with two other rectors (both in favor of the realignment) and the leadership team of the diocese to discuss how we might move forward in a diocese that was clearly divided. During that discussion, I mentioned that those conservative rectors who did not want to realign would eventually have to issue a public statement to that fact. The Bishop said he understood this and asked if we could wait until March 1st in order to provide time for him to negotiate with the Presiding Bishop's office. I took that request to the group but they were unwilling to commit to a hard date preferring to wait and see what future developments transpired.

On January 15th 2008, the Bishop was informed by the Presiding Bishop that he had been charged with abandonment of the communion. Up until this point no negotiations had happened between the diocese and the Presiding Bishop's office. The group of rectors who would not realign met on January 18th (a meeting scheduled long before the charges were announced). Since the reason for delaying the statement was to enable negotiations and it was clear that those negotiations were not forthcoming, we decided to write a brief statement about our decision, and pray for the next week about issuing it. At the end of that week we agreed to issue the statement with the twelve signatures. Three members of the group met with the Bishop on January 28th to inform him of the statement after which it was mailed out to every parish on the 29th. Unfortunately, a member of the group sent the statement to the press without consulting the other eleven and so it was in the Pittsburgh papers the day after being sent.

It is not our desire to be disloyal to the diocesan leadership but rather to prayerfully follow where we believe the Lord is leading. Over the past several months Bishop Duncan has made it a priority to visit many parishes of the diocese and to present to the congregation (and often separately to the vestry) his reasons for advocating realignment. As far as I know, every rector who has signed the statement has welcomed the Bishop to make his presentation.

These are difficult times for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and it has been painful for many of us to be divided from colleagues with whom we have deep and abiding friendships. The group that signed the letter has attempted to be as forthright and transparent with the Diocesan leadership about where we are and what we are doing, and we hope to continue to do so in the future. Please keep all of us in prayer.

The Statement may be found here -

The Post-Gazettes' piece from January 2008 can be found here -

Anglican unity in 'grave peril' if gay bans not enforced, Williams says

The Christian Century weighs in with an article about Lambeth and the proposed moratoria.

"The spiritual leader of the communion said it will be in "grave peril" if North American churches ignore temporary bans on the ordination of gay bishops and the consecration of same-sex unions. "If the North American churches don't accept moratoria" on gay bishops and blessings, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told reporters August 3, "as a communion we are going to continue to be in grave peril." The archbishop also said conservative archbishops from the global South must stop transgressing traditional geographic boundaries and seeking to adopt like-minded parishes in the U.S. and Canada."

Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth ‘is not moving to Rome’

It should be noted that of the three dioceses (out of 105) considering realignment, that Pittsburgh is the only one that will ordain women. In fact, the diocese is the only member of "The Common Cause" group that will do so.

"In a statement released on Aug 12, the Rt Rev Jack Iker stated “there is no proposal under consideration, either publicly or privately, for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to become part of the Roman Catholic Church.” Speculation that Fort Worth, one of two American dioceses that does not ordain women, was Rome-ward bound arose after a memorandum detailing the meeting of four senior Fort Worth clergy and the Roman Catholic bishop of Fort Worth was released over the weekend."

Letter of support for Rowan Williams

Last week I posted a London Times piece about Bishops who had written a letter of support regarding The Archbishop of Canterbury. The issue is that Rowan's personal views on sexuality are more more liberal than the majority of the communion and he had been criticized as hypocritical for not imposing those views on the wider church. Fortunately, the Archbishop understands the importance of Christian unity and is willing to lay his personal opinions aside for the sake of such.

Here's the actual letter which is signed by bishops, many of whom are known conservatives.

The Church Times has an article here -

Bishop Scriven resigns

What follows is the official press release from the Diocese of Pittsburgh regarding Bishop Scriven's resignation. We'll miss Henry he's been a good bishop and friend to many of us. We wish him God's speed and success in his new ministry. That might be Catherine and him in the wagon. I'm not sure.

"Bishop Henry Scriven is moving to the United Kingdom to take up a key mission post for South America. The new position will begin January 1, 2009. Bishop Scriven will continue in his work as the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh's assistant bishop until mid-December. The Church Mission Society (CMS) and South American Missionary Society (SAMS) are planning to join together progressively from January 2009, subject to final negotiations and decisions by their respective governing bodies. Bishop Scriven will initially work in a leadership role within SAMS but it is planned that he will ultimately become the Mission Director for South America for the new joint entity that SAMS and CMS will set up together. In a letter announcing Bishop Scriven's decision to accept the position and move on from Pittsburgh at the end of the year, Bishop Robert Duncan said, "We will miss Henry's grace and humour, his international insights, his leadership of our diocesan networks, and his pastoral caring." In his own letter to the diocese, Bishop Scriven expressed his deep appreciation for the six years he and his wife, Catherine, have spent in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. "We have enjoyed living and working here more than any of the other 12 places we have lived in the last 33 years of marriage. We have incredibly gifted clergy and lay leaders and I know realignment will bring fresh incentive for mission, both local and worldwide," he said. Beyond the excitement of a new position, moving to Oxford will also bring them much nearer to family, who live in England. Bishop Scriven, a British citizen, has a long history of involvement in mission work, including serving with SAMS in Argentina, serving as the chaplain of the British Embassy Church in Madrid, Spain and as Suffragan Bishop in Europe for the Church of England."

Friday, August 15, 2008

A great trip with much to be thankful for

A group from St. Michael's returned this afternoon from a weeklong short-term mission trip to eastern Kentucky with Christian Appalachian Project. Our group of 15 worked on three projects. One was the exterior renovation of Wanda's house in Salyersville. This included new windows, soffit, fascia and lots of other stuff. The second was work on a "Respite Center". This is a new facility which allows those who are caring for elderly parents to have a place for them to be in order for the caregiver to get a "respite" for a week or ten days. It’s a beautiful facility that they are dedicating later this month and there's already a waiting list - the service is free. The third group put a new roof on Miss Trumble's house in Paintsville. (That's me looking like I know what I'm doing). The roof had been leaking for over a year. When we pulled the fascia board off I found pots and pans that had been put in the attic crawl space to catch the dripping water. I pulled some out and Miss Trumble thanked me saying that she couldn't have a turkey last Thanksgiving because the roasting pan was up there. It’s a good feeling to know that she doesn't have to worry now every time it rains. Isn't this what the church should be doing?