PEP Argument Briefing Paper


Alternative Primatial Oversight is Unnecessary and Unconstitutional



Applicable to:

Resolution Confirming the Actions of Bishop and Standing Committee




Joan R. Gundersen, Christopher Wilkins, and Lionel Deimel






The convention is being asked to confirm a resolution passed by the bishop and Standing Committee on June 28, 2006, in response to The Episcopal Church’s 75th General Convention. The resolution purports to request that the Panel of Reference and the Archbishop of Canterbury provide all “biblically orthodox” members of The Episcopal Church (no matter where located) oversight from another primate. The action called for is improper. It relies on a misreading of the preamble of the church’s constitution and asks the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Panel of Reference to assume powers they do not have. As such, it is a direct threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion and to the integrity of The Episcopal Church.


Through its bishop and Standing Committee, the Diocese of Pittsburgh was one of seven dioceses that, during or shortly after the 75th General Convention, appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Panel of Reference. The appeals used slightly different terminology, in response to which the Archbishop of Canterbury requested that they be consolidated. The five-page combined appeal was written by the seven bishops and included nine pages of supporting information, including a two-page listing of all the Presiding Bishop’s duties that they wished to see assigned to someone else, a two-page theological statement, and five pages of “concerns” about the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, supported by documented excerpts from her public statements. An eighth diocese (Quincy) joined the appeal in September 2006. Bishop Stanton quietly withdrew Dallas from the appeal in July, and, in October 2006, the Dallas convention did not address foreign oversight in any form. The combined appeal from the bishops asked not for “alternative primatial oversight, “but for a “Communion Commissary,” a bishop (preferably) appointed by Canterbury who would take on the duties of the Presiding Bishop for the petitioning dioceses.


·    The resolution is now at odds with the combined appeal eventually submitted. The resolution calls “for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and pastoral care,” but the final consolidated appeal requested “a Canterbury appointed Commissary” who need not even be a bishop, much less a primate. A Commissary that is not a bishop would be unable to assume the roles listed in the appeal. Thus, what is it that we are requesting?

·    A Presiding Bishop must be a respecter of diversity and complexity within the church, irrespective of his or her own theological convictions. There is nothing to suggest that Bishop Jefferts Schori is not capable of acting in this fashion. Her actions to date, and her commitment to reconciliation and to the church’s unity and integrity, are evidence that she will fulfill her role well.

·    The list of duties of the Presiding Bishop and Primate that the combined appeal wishes to have assigned to someone else includes presiding over the meetings of the House of Bishops and recommending legislation to the General Convention, as well as all duties concerning interim appointments of bishops and disciplinary action against bishops. Thus, the request to Canterbury envisages a separate House of Bishops and governance not provided for by our church’s constitution and canons, and it would require a bishop not of The Episcopal Church to be directly involved in the implementation of canonical procedures. The request falsely asserts that there are two Episcopal churches, and even refers to the “minority ECUSA church.” It is an act of separation from The Episcopal Church.

·     The request prejudges Bishop Jefferts Schori before she has taken a single action as Presiding Bishop. It claims she is hostile to the interests of the appealing dioceses without offering any “proof” except a statement that she would hold Bishops accountable to follow the Constitution and Canons of the Church. There is no reason to claim that Bishop Jefferts Schori will act without sensitivity to the theological positions of the Anglican Communion Network, such as assigning a male bishop as chief consecrator should one of the three dioceses that do not ordain women elect a bishop.

·    The combined appeal distorts the theology of the Presiding Bishop-elect using selective snippets, and it claims, falsely, that she rejects the Windsor Report and the process it envisages. As proof of this, it offers statements she has made that are completely compatible with pronouncements of the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the Windsor Report itself.

·    The request is incompatible with the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church which provide one method for selecting a spokesperson for the Church, and allow for only one House of Bishops and one presiding officer.

Supporting Documents

The combined appeal (“An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury”) is available from Below is a brief discussion of some of the “concerns” about the Presiding Bishop-elect raised in that document:


1.      “She has been sharply critical of members of the Primates’ Meeting”

Supporting this complaint, the appeal offers this statement from the Presiding Bishop-elect about Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter Akinola, who has supported new laws outlawing not only homosexual acts, but even meetings or speech supporting gays and lesbians:

“I will ask him what encourages him to see some of God’s children as less than human and less worthy of the dignity that our liturgy believes is the right of all human beings.”


2.      “She does not share a clear commitment to the Archbishop’s vision of a Covenant”

The appeal offers this as “proof”:

“[The Archbishop of Canterbury is] very clear that we’re not going to see an instant solution. He’s also very clear about his role: it is to call people to conversation, not to intervene in diocesan or provincial life—which some people have been asking for.”

3.      “We are concerned that the Presiding Bishop-elect has indicated a hostile attitude toward the minority’s faith and witness:

·         She attributes their opposition to the prevailing direction as of ‘the Evil One’

·         She has indicated a confrontational stance with respect to these bishops”

The “proof” for these charges are the following quotes:

“I think it is the Evil One who is at work here, distracting us from our central focus, which ought to be on feeding the hungry, relieving the needs of the poor, healing the sick. This obsession is keeping us from doing that. To focus on issues of sexuality when people are dying is a distraction from our mission.”

“I think they need to be challenged, more so than they have been. I see signs of hope in the House of Bishops, an unwillingness to continue to put up with bad behavior. We haven’t seen any action yet, but I think it is coming.”

When asked if that would be a ‘verbal rebuke’
“It won’t be enough in some cases, I am sure. But I have the sense that there is some desire to hold each other accountable for actions that are not canonical, for actions that have the appearance of being downright schismatic.”

4.      “We are concerned that the Presiding Bishop-elect holds theological views that are at variance with the historic tradition [insofar as she has a] confused message on the place of Jesus in the Church”

The appeal cited Bishop Jefferts Schori’s use of “Mother Jesus” in her convention sermon, quoting her explanation of her use of the phrase:

“It was very deliberate and conscious. I was wrestling with the image of blood on the cross, the image of labour. It’s medieval imagery, actually, Julian of Norwich.”

The appeal then comments, “She did not cite the reference of any sort to this phrase in her sermon.” as if failure to footnote a sermon is a theological crime.


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



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.