PROGRESSIVE EPISCOPALIANS OF PITTSBURGH
6393 Penn Avenue, PMB 207
Pittsburgh, PA 15206-4010
 

Contact:
Joan R. Gundersen, President
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
Telephone: +1 (412) 799-0440
E-mail: jrgunder@hotmail.com
 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Pittsburgh Convention Concludes: Deputies Duck Accountability, Other Matters
 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — November 5, 2007 — The second day of the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh concluded with an early afternoon Holy Eucharist at which the previous night’s banquet speaker, deposed Virginia priest and now Ugandan bishop, John Guernsey, was the preacher. It was a fitting end to a convention that began the day before with declarations of commitment, whatever the cost, to an “orthodox” vision of the Gospel, while, in practice, the assembled deputies sought to avoid accountability for their own votes at conventions.
 
  Saturday was dominated by long discussion of more than two dozen changes to the diocese’s canons and a non-controversial amendment to its constitution. The changes combined a general updating with purging of any direct mention of The Episcopal Church (TEC), its leaders, or its governance from the canons. A number of changes proposed were sent back to committee for redrafting. The most contentious debate was over a rule of order designed to avoid roll-call votes in convention.
 
In past conventions, roll-call votes could be forced by petition of ten clergy and ten lay deputies. Robert’s Rules of Order observes that the purpose of a roll-call vote is “to force the majority to go on record,” and this mechanism had been used in recent conventions by TEC faithful to identify supporters of “realignment.” Among the many changes to the constitution, canons, and rules of order proposed by committee was a rule change to require majority acquiescence to requiring a roll-call vote. Debate on this proposal was lengthy and heated, and an attempt to amend it was defeated. Dramatically, Bishop Duncan temporarily relinquished the chair in order to speak against the measure, but the bishop’s supporters rejected his advice. After emotional pleas that declaring one’s vote publically might result in exposure to church discipline or to lawsuits—Calvary Church’s lawsuit figured prominently in the arguments—the change was approved.
 
Because the Friday balloting for General Convention deputies had succeeded in electing only one of four clergy deputies and three of four lay deputies, the convention continued balloting for the remaining spots throughout the Saturday morning session. A fourth lay deputy was elected on the first ballot Saturday, but it took three additional ballots to complete the clergy deputation. The convention concluded before counting of ballots was completed to determine the four clergy alternates. Judging by the printed candidate statements and by candidate participation in floor debates, those elected are not likely to be members of TEC in 2009. The Rev. James Simons, a long-time deputy who has been a vigorous critic of TEC but who opposed the accession changes to the constitution, lost a two-way vote for the last deputy slot, but he was elected as an alternate. He and Gladys Hunt Mason, a lay alternate, are the only two members of the entire deputation likely still to be members of The Episcopal Church in 2009.
 
One report presented to convention was of more than casual interest. Mrs. Nancy Bolden, chair of the Commission on Racism, presented statistics suggesting that many parish leaders have avoided anti-racism training. One third of the parishes have sent no one to training in the last several years. Boulden commended the parishes that led in number of participants, namely, St. Stephen’s, McKeesport, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, Church of the Redeemer (her own parish), and Holy Cross, the only traditionally African-American parish in the diocese. None of the four is among the largest parishes in the diocese. All are likely to remain in The Episcopal Church Bolden also acknowledged Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry’s participation. Notably absent from the list were the parishes most strongly advocating a split from TEC, despite strong support for the Commission’s programs by the bishops of the diocese.
 
Overall, the convention held few surprises, although the Presiding Bishop’s letter to Bishop Duncan provided additional opportunities for criticizing TEC. As expected, Bishop Duncan was neither timid in expressing his views nor apologetic for them. This was in notable contrast to the attitude of many deputies who, despite similar rhetoric, seemed unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions. Bishop Duncan has worked hard to encourage his supporters, however, by putting forth novel theories of why the diocese can pursue its schismatic path, emphasizing that nothing is changed by the first vote on accession, and arguing, incredibly, we think, that parishes need do nothing to depart TEC, whereas loyal Episcopal parishes will have to petition to “leave” the diocese to return to their church.
 
Informal discussions with diocesan leaders since convention have elicited revealing speculation about how events might play out in the diocese. For example, the possibility of having a single diocese with some parishes affiliated with TEC and others associated with a different province has been suggested. It has also been suggested that, should Bishop Duncan be inhibited or deposed, he could affiliate with a foreign Anglican Communion province and be hired by the Pittsburgh Standing Committee to provide episcopal services to the diocese. These bizarre scenarios can now be added to one Bishop Duncan offered on Friday. Apparently concerned that he will not be able to claim all the diocesan property free and clear, he suggested that certain assets might be shared among those of his flock and those wishing to remain in TEC. “Such claims on the property by those separating from The Episcopal Church are contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church, contrary to the agreement signed in 2005 by Bishop Duncan as part of the settlement of the lawsuit brought against diocesan leaders by Calvary Episcopal Church, and contrary to the rulings on Episcopal Church property by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” observed attorney and PEP vice president Kenneth Stiles.

 
 
Contact:
Joan R. Gundersen, President
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
Telephone: +1 (412) 799-0440
E-mail: jrgunder@hotmail.com
 
 
On the Web:
This document:
http://progressiveepiscopalians.org/html/2007-11-05duck.html
 

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh:
http://progressiveepiscopalians.org
 
The Episcopal Church:
http://episcopalchurch.org
 
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh:
http://www.pgh.anglican.org
 
 
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh is an organization of clergy and laypeople committed to the unity and diversity of The Episcopal Church, and of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is a member of the Via Media USA alliance.
 

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