From:

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact:

Lionel Deimel, President

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh

Voice: (412) 343-5337

Fax: (412) 343-6816

E-mail: lionel@deimel.org

Web: http://progressiveepiscopalians.org

 

Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese Pursues Divisive Course

 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- November 5, 2004 -- The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, at its annual convention in suburban Pittsburgh, today passed an amendment that reputedly repeals the "unconditional accession" to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church that is required by Article XIII of the national church constitution. The convention easily defeated attempts to rule the amendment out of order and to postpone action on the second and final reading of the amendment, despite an appeal for unity while the process recommended by the Windsor Report moves forward. The amendment was approved by approximately a 3-1 margin.

 

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), a clergy-lay group working for the unity of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, was not surprised by the vote, since lines have been clearly drawn in the diocese for over a year. Whereas the proposed amendment was vigorously debated at the 2003 convention, there seemed to be a general impatience to clear the second reading of the measure from the agenda as quickly as possible. 

 

The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, has portrayed the amendment as being the only way to implement the resolutions passed at a special convention in September 2003.  These resolutions disassociated the diocese from the actions of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, most notably the approval of the election of homosexual cleric V. Gene Robinson to be Bishop of New Hampshire and the decision to allow local experimentation with liturgies for the blessing of same-sex unions.  PEP believes that the amendment borders on the schismatic in its usurpation of authority belonging to the General Convention of the national church. The amendment is, in any case, badly drawn.

 

Diocesan Chancellor Robert Devlin has argued both that, "unconditional accession" does not mean what the words seem to mean and that there is no bar to repealing the declaration of accession made by Pittsburgh on becoming a diocese. Devlin offered a five-page opinion on the matter that appealed to a particular reading of church history. Church historian and PEP vice president Dr. Joan R. Gundersen wrote a scholarly four-page rebuttal that was sent to all convention deputies.  Gundersen argued that the national church constitution designates General Convention as the sole authority on faith and order in the Episcopal Church and that dioceses are bound by decisions of the General Convention even if they do not participate in those decisions.

 

Lost in the debate was the fact that the constitutional amendment was hurriedly drawn last year after General Convention and is, arguably, defective in a number of respects, even were there no legal bar to its passage. Pittsburgh added a nullification sentence to an existing sentence expressing loyalty to the Episcopal Church. This results in what lawyers call "mutually repugnant" provisions, putting the overall meaning of Article I, Section 1 in question. The amendment also conflicts with provisions of Article XIII, which requires parishes to recognize the authority of both the diocese and national church, creating a potential dilemma if the diocese nullifies national church actions.

 

Most disappointing of all is that the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not heeded the call from the special commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year in response to the alleged crisis in the Communion.  The commission recently issued the "Windsor Report" calling for all sides to express regret for actions that threaten the fellowship of the Anglican Communion and calling for a moratorium on provocative actions until the communion can develop ways of working out theological disputes.  Rather than heed that call, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has charged ahead on a divisive course.

 

Contact:

Lionel Deimel, President

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh

Voice: (412) 343-5337

Fax: (412) 343-6816

E-mail: lionel@deimel.org

Web: http://progressiveepiscopalians.org

 

Additional Web references:

 

The Episcopal Church: http://episcopalchurch.org

Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: http://www.pgh.anglican.org

Windsor Report: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/windsor2004/[1]

 

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh is an organization of clergy and laypeople committed to unity and diversity of the Episcopal Church, USA, and of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

 

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[1] URL was http://windsor2004.anglicancommunion.org in original press release. URL shown is correct as of 8/3/2006.

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