Serial:

AC06-R01-01

PEP Argument Briefing Paper

Title:

Action Regarding Province III Improper

 

 

Applicable to:

Resolution Confirming the Actions of Bishop and Standing Committee

 

 

Author:

Lionel E. Deimel

 

 

Date:

10/26/2006

Summary

The convention is being asked to adopt a resolution passed by the bishop and standing committee on June 28, 2006, in response to the 75th General Convention (see Supporting Information). This resolution purports to remove the diocese from Province III of The Episcopal Church. The action called for is improper and relies on a perverse interpretation of the church’s constitution and canons. The relevant resolve is more rhetorical grenade throwing than legislation. In principle, a traditionalist province of the sort suggested in the resolution could be created, but this is unlikely ever to happen.

Background

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is currently part of Province III, a regional grouping of dioceses with defined roles outlined in the canons of The Episcopal Church. Under our current bishop, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has participated minimally in Province III.

Provinces are free to define their own agendas within the bounds of the canons, but they also have certain rights and responsibilities. In certain circumstances, they can become involved in disciplinary procedures, in the election of bishops, and (according to the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) procedures of the House of Bishops) the appointment of a bishop to provide parochial pastoral care.

PEP has prepared a report on this issue, “An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s ‘Withdrawal’ of Consent to Inclusion in Province III,” which the reader is encouraged to consult (see Supporting Information).

Argument

·    The desirability of withdrawing the diocese from Province III does not follow from the “whereas” sections of the resolution. The whereas sections do not address provincial membership or provincial actions at all.

·    This action is a further move to isolate Network dioceses from the “despised” organization that is The Episcopal Church. Its effect would be less to isolate our diocese from the “national church” as to isolate it from nearby dioceses, however. Significantly, no other diocese in Province III (see Supporting Information) is a Network diocese.

·    This action is another public relations move. By repeatedly asking for unreasonable dispensations, traditionalists get to claim that their needs are not being met by The Episcopal Church. Such claims tend to elicit sympathy from the many people who are not paying close attention to the deceptive tactics being used.

·    A diocese simply does not have the power to remove itself from a province. In 1901 the constitution of the Episcopal Church was amended by the addition of Article VII (see Supporting Information) to allow the creation of provinces. This power was used in 1913, when what is now Canon I.9 was adopted, implementing the current system of provinces. The provision for diocesan consent in Article VII assured that dioceses would be satisfied with their initial placement in a province—“included,” as used there, simply means “placed in,” not “be a part of.” Since provinces were first implemented, no domestic diocese has ever been extra-provincial (not assigned to a province), as the resolution purports to make ours.

·    Dioceses are assigned to provinces in Canon I.9.1. Nowhere in the canons is there a provision allowing a diocese to withdraw from its province. Since 1976, however, there has been a provision (Canon I.9.2(b)) that allows a diocese to transfer between provinces. Doing so requires action by the synods of both affected provinces, as well as a change to the canons by the General Convention.

·    Hypothetically, were a diocese to remove itself unilaterally from its province, its status would immediately violate Canon I.9.1 and open those responsible for the action to presentment. Thus, the argument that Article VII overrides Canon I.9 relies on a dubious interpretation of Article VII, while ignoring a more straightforward, non-conflicting theory of the article’s intent.

·    In light of the foregoing, of course, it may be argued that any attempt to use Article VII to remove a diocese from its province is simply null and void.

·    The diocese has argued that the Diocese of Missouri withdrew unilaterally from Province VII in 1963 and, years later, joined Province V. This is incorrect. Missouri chose not to participate in or provide funds for Province VII, but it remained part of Province VII by canon. (Pittsburgh could legitimately take similar action.) After the passage of Canon I.9.2(b), Missouri used the procedure specified therein, including a canonical change by the General Convention, to effect a transfer to Province V.

·    The creation of a Province X—there are now nine provinces—would increase Network power. Provinces do have privileges, particularly automatic representation on certain bodies, such as the Executive Council. This would give traditionalist bishops more influence within The Episcopal Church than they have now, though, perhaps, not much more influence.

·    Moving the diocese to a new Province X would facilitate its (illegal) recognition by certain elements of the Anglican Communion. Removing dioceses from their current provinces makes it more likely that they can unite in some other organizational structure—Province X, or whatever—that will provide cover for the regressive elements of the Anglican Communion to extend their own “recognition” to the Network, thus fostering a break up of the Anglican Communion. The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, which seemed to have a similar objective, has not achieved this goal.

·    The diocese is not “a member of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America” (fifth whereas); it is a part, an administrative arm, as it were, of The Episcopal Church and has no independent existence. The Diocese of Pittsburgh is in the Anglican Communion because it is part of The Episcopal Church, which is a member of the Communion. Creating, even by legitimate means, the desired Province X would not change these facts, but it would facilitate efforts by certain sympathetic primates to treat “traditionalists” as if they were in their own separate church.

·    Formation of a province based on ideology raises new issues for parishes and individuals who wish to remain united and in communion with The Episcopal Church. Will they be subject to persecution? What would happen to a diocese in a new Province X whose theological center changed to a more moderate position over time? Would it be stuck in its traditionalist ghetto?

·    Withdrawal from Province III would leave the diocese in limbo. Who would handle disciplinary appeals or appeals for DEPO that now go to the province?

·    Provinces in The Episcopal Church have always been regional, and the fear that they might become theologically distinctive nearly prevented their being implemented at all. Creating a province defined by doctrine would be a radical departure for the church and would make a mockery of the notion of unity in diversity—perhaps of unity of any sort.

Supporting Information

Article VII of the constitution of the General Convention (see http://www.churchpublishing.org/general_convention/index.cfm?fuseaction=candc):

Dioceses may be united into Provinces in such manner, under such conditions, and with such powers, as shall be provided by Canon of the General Convention; Provided, however, that no Diocese shall be included in a Province without its own consent.

For information on Province III, which includes Bethlehem, Central Pennsylvania, Delaware, Easton, Maryland, Northwestern Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Southern Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia, can be found on its Web site (http://province3.org).

The PEP white paper on the resolution passed by the standing committee, “An Appraisal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s ‘Withdrawal’ of Consent to Inclusion in Province III,” can be found at http://progressiveepiscopalians.org/html/provinces.pdf.

From pages C2–C3 of the materials provided to deputies to the 2006 Annual Convention:

RESOLUTION CONFIRMING THE ACTIONS OF BISHOP AND STANDING

COMMITTEE IN RESPONSE TO THE 7TH [sic] GENERAL CONVENTION

 

Resolved, the 141st Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh accepts the resolution adopted by the Bishop and Standing Committee on June 28, 2006, as its own resolution and orders that resolution spread upon the minutes of this Convention.

 

STANDING COMMITTEE RESOLTUION

June 28, 2006

 

WHEREAS, the 140th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh accepted the Windsor Report (2004), and its corollary documents, the Lambeth 1.10 text (1998) and the Dromantine Communiqué (2005), as the basis on which this Diocese, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and the Anglican Communion can go forward together; and

 

WHEREAS, said Annual Convention called upon Pittsburgh’s deputies to the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to do everything in their power to help that Convention make a clear statement of submission to the teaching of, and a clear statement of intent to abide by the requirements of the said Windsor Report and its corollary documents; and

 

WHEREAS, said Annual Convention declared that, should the 75th General Convention determine to continue its “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion, by its failure to accept unreservedly the Windsor Report and its corollary documents or to commit to a church life consonant with them, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will stand with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses, and Provinces that hold and maintain the “Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” whatever the costs or actions required to do so; and

 

WHEREAS, the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recognize that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church has elected to walk apart from the Anglican Communion through its failure to submit to the call, the spirit or the requirements of the Windsor Report; and

 

WHEREAS, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been and continues to be a member of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America as well as a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion in full and unimpaired communion with the See of Canterbury and those churches, dioceses, and provinces that uphold and propagate the historic Anglican Faith and Order; and

 

WHEREAS, the Archbishop of Canterbury in light of the actions of General Convention 2006 has written about the future of the Anglican Communion as having both “constituent” and “associated” members, as well as about “ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements” within local Churches, consistent with the stated aim of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion as provided for in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America; and,

 

WHEREAS, the Bishop and Standing Committee believe it is necessary for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to disassociate itself from those actions of the 75th General Convention which constitute a decision of the Episcopal Church to walk apart from the Anglican Communion.

 

RESOLVED, that the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in good faith hereby join with the other dioceses of the Episcopal Church who are appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care so that a unifying solution might be found to preserve an authentic Anglican community of witness within the United States of America and provide pastoral and apostolic care to biblically orthodox Anglicans in this country regardless of geographical location; and

 

RESOLVED FURTHER, that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, pending final ratification by its 141st Annual Convention, withdraws its consent, pursuant to Article VII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, to be included in the Third Province of the Episcopal Church, seeking emergence of a new Tenth Province of the Episcopal Church which is fully Windsor compliant, positioned with that part of the Episcopal Church determined to maintain constituent status in the Anglican Communion.

 

RESOLVED FURTHER, that the Bishop and Standing Committee commit to work with and care for all the congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to prosper their local mission regardless of whether they remain in “constituent” status or might elect otherwise.

 

Final Adoption: Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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