PEP President Sees Signs of Hope

January 25, 2007. The news last week brought signs of hope to Episcopalians around the country in four separate places. Widespread release of two letters—one by Bishop Paul Marshall of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem (Pa.) and the other a letter by Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention—brought renewed hope that the leaders of our church are stepping forward in new ways to deal with the controversy created by an alliance of a small minority of radical conservatives within The Episcopal Church and leaders of some of the churches in the Anglican Communion. In his letter, Bishop Marshall articulates the frustration felt by many in the church with the refusal of the Archbishop of Canterbury to engage directly with the Bishops and leaders of The Episcopal Church. Andersons letter’s provides a clear statement of Episcopal polity and highlights the unreasonableness of the recommendations in a recent report from the Panel of Reference (an advisory group appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury). The recommendations are at odds with the governing processes of The Episcopal Church and contrary to canon law. PEP thanks both Bonnie Anderson and Bishop Marshall for their clear statements.

In Virginia, Bishop Peter Lee has made a
strong statement supportive of the faithful Episcopalians who are beginning the difficult process of rebuilding congregations after many members have withdrawn to be part of a new denomination tied to Nigerian churches. Bishop Lee has followed the statement with firm action against the clergy who withdrew and has taken initial steps in court to secure church property. We pray that the Episcopal congregations shall soon be able to worship in the buildings constructed by faithful Episcopalians for that purpose and to again have access to the hymnals and prayer books bought by their parishes for such worship. PEP wishes to express our support and prayers for Bishop Lee, the Diocese of Virginia, and the faithful Episcopalians of the eleven affected parishes.
In Pittsburgh, Calvary Church has returned to court, claiming breach of a legal agreement reached with the diocese in 2005. The court has agreed that there may be reason to believe that the Episcopal diocesan leadership has separated from the church and thus placed the property of diocese at risk of alienation. To allow this determination to be made promptly, the judge
ordered the diocese to turn over certain documents to Calvary’s attorney. The short deadline (January 31, 2007) provides some encouragement that all members of the diocese may soon have more clarity about the intentions and actions of Bishop Duncan. PEP will keep in our prayers those courageous members of the diocese who have pursued this legal action.
Joan R. Gundersen
President, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh