Diocesan Convention, Saturday, 11-08-03|
Statements on Resolution #1
(Reads and moves the resolution) At a time when two mutually exclusive gospels are being promoted, one gospel by the national leadership of the Episcopal Church and the majority in the General Convention, and another gospel by a much larger majority in the rest of our Communion and in this diocese, it is essential for the sake of conscience, to protect ourselves from any attempt to be co-opted or coerced into compliance with teaching or practices which we believe are morally unacceptable or constitutionally illegal. This amendment to the constitution would simply give our diocese the freedom to disagree and to protect itself from decisions of the national church which fly in the face of Scripture, or which contradict the very constitution and canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America.
Harold Lewis, rector, Calvary:
Right Reverend Sir, I rise to voice strenuous opposition to the resolution before us. This resolution, which would bring about fundamental change in Article One of our Diocesan Constitution, is illegal on its face, and this 138th convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is a constituent part of the Episcopal Church and not an autonomous body, does not have the authority, the competence or the right to enact it. Moreover, like Resolution Six, passed at the Special Convention held on 27 September, this proposed resolution constitutes a declaration of separation from the national church. Those who supported both of these resolutions should do so with the full understanding that they are severing themselves from the national church and no longer represent the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which remains part of the Episcopal Church of the United States. At the very least sir, the people of this Diocese are entitled to hear the opinion of the chancellor as to the legality and appropriateness of this action.
May I add that this is but the most recent in a series of perplexing inconsistencies in our diocesan life. You have assured us that you are not leaving the Episcopal Church, yet you endorse resolutions which belie that promise. You have asserted that we are one church of miraculous expectation, yet you have publicly declared that we have become two churches preaching two irreconcilable gospels. You have purported that we are a church of missionary grace, yet the budget approved yesterday makes no provision to support our parent body, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. You have asked us to work together in areas that we can, yet having deemed many of us to be unorthodox, apostate or schismatic, you have rendered such collaboration an impossibility. The people of this diocese are entitled to pronouncements from our leadership which are neither mendacious nor misleading. With Samuel John Stone, we shout. . .(time has expired.)
(Harold’s truncated words: “. . .The cry goes up, ‘How long?’” We can only hope that “soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.” (“The Church’s One Foundation,” #525, 1982 Hymnal)
This is the essence of the opinion that I gave to Bishop Duncan. The proposed constitutional amendment falls into two clauses. I will address them separately. The first, as you have heard, is that in cases where the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh speak to the contrary, the local determination shall prevail. At the heart of this clause is the issue of delegation and reservation of powers. In the confederated system of church government which has been the hallmark of Anglicanism in the United States, powers have been delegated from the diocese to the national church. As it was originally organized, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America deliberately adopted a polity based on the consent of the governed. It was not until the first quarter of the 20th Century that one began to see a move toward centralization of management functions in the presiding bishop’s office. The most recent quarter century has seen further attempts at centralization at the national level. Nevertheless, the presiding bishop has acknowledged on a number of occasions that dioceses retain substantial autonomy. So, although some power has been delegated by the diocese to the national body, not all power has been conceded. I believe that the proposed amendment is within the powers reserved by the diocese and there is in fact precedent for amendments of this type.
The second clause of the proposed resolution is in part a refusal to submit to false teaching, and that aspect is not properly a matter upon which a legal opinion can be rendered. It is also in part a reaffirmation of diocesan identity. In the preamble to its constitution, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America defined itself in terms of upholding and propagating the historic faith and order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. This proposed amendment is entirely within that authority. You (Bishop Duncan) may anticipate an objection to this clause to the extent that it is seen as granting to the convention of the diocese the right to make the determination that an action of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America or its General Convention is contrary to the historic faith and order. Who then should make such a determination? In my opinion it is both typical and practical to turn to our bishop for guidance in matters of faith and order.
Geoff Chapman, rector St. Stephen’s, Sewickley:
One of the fundamental safeguards of organizational health is a system of checks and balances designed to protect the core values and mission of the institution. In the United States the framers of our Constitution set up a three-fold form of government with Congress, the courts and the Presidency all guided by the Constitution. Their interrelationship is carefully structured to provide checks and balances against the unfailing human tendency to consolidate power. Our constitutional authors had a thoroughly biblical view of human sin. ECUSA does not have such a well developed set of checks and balances. We are told by General Convention that the Bible doesn’t mean what it plainly says. We are told that General Convention is the final arbiter of faith in this church. We are told that the statements of our primates in the Lambeth Conference have no binding effect on ECUSA. We are told again and again that the provinces are autonomous. But. . . .we all know that councils may err, even in fundamental matters of faith. That has happened before. Most of us here believe it has now happened again. No one in this room believes in the infallibility of General Convention. Checks and balances to protect people from the unrestrained power of the erring General Convention are urgently needed. The constitutional amendment before us today is just such a check and balance. Our appeal to our primates is a check and balance. The commission initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury is another. We do not know for certain which, or indeed, if any of them, will be the most effective. We only know that we must resist this attack on the fundamental values of the Christian faith and that we must protect the faithful within our influence.
Geoff Hurd, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon:
Thank you Bishop Duncan for this opportunity. I’ll do my best to speak the truth in love. I direct the chancellor to the constitution of the national church. The ECUSA constitution requires an unqualified submission to its canons to be included in the constitution and canons of every new diocese. . . .The ECUSA constitution reserves to the General Convention the right to set up a court of appeal that will have final say on all matters of doctrine, faith or worship. The proposed amendment tries to take control of topics already reserved to the national church. Doing so is a declaration that the diocese is acting outside the constitution of this church. Passing this amendment would mean that the diocese no longer meets the qualifications to be a diocese. It is in fact a declaration that the Diocese has left ECUSA, which it cannot do. Passage of this amendment would thus provide strong grounds for finding that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is schismatic, and initiated a break with ECUSA. It would also declare that those who supported the amendment no longer legitimately represent the Diocese of Pittsburgh. For a bishop, or other cleric, to make or advocate or intend such a break could be construed to be a violation of his or her ordination vows.
Dallam Ferneyhough, rector St. Luke’s, Georgetown:
Traditional orthodox Christianity is founded on the God-centered world view. However, over the past 400 years, western civilization has been taken over by a new religion based on the human-centered world view. In this new religion, human beings have replaced God as the final arbiter of truth and falsehood, right and wrong. According to our catechism, the Episcopal Church believes that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God. Genesis Two establishes a committed faithful marriage covenant between one man and one woman as the only acceptable context for human sexual activity. All subsequent statements in scripture regarding human sexual activity of any kind outside this context are uniformly negative. By its actions the General Convention has set aside the clear meaning of Scripture in favor of a new position said to be based on knowledge not available in Biblical times. Since God certainly knows more about human sexuality than we do, this position shows clearly that those who agree with it believe the Bible to be only the word we speak, not the word of God. Thus the evidence shows that ECUSA has been taken over by followers of the new human-centered religion. Document C-3-1 on the PEP home page, in speaking of the suit recently initiated in this diocese says, “It may help to point out that a minority has standing in law to represent the interests of an organization. The theory behind the suit after all is that the Diocese has in a sense been hijacked. It matters not how many people were involved in that hijacking.” If this principle is indeed valid. . . (The deputy’s time has expired)
Sue Boulden, St. Thomas, Oakmont:
With respect, Bishop. The church considers conformance to the national church constitution and canons so important that it requires every person upon ordination as a deacon, as a priest and as a bishop, to solemnly state, I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. The constitution and canons are central to the discipline of the church. Thus, for a priest or a deacon to vote for this amendment is to violate his or her ordination promise. If you believe the church has gone astray, the available responses are either to work to change the national church decisions through General Convention, or to leave the church. Ignoring the law of the church is not an option. . . .I love many of you who are thinking about voting for this amendment, but I fear for your future.
(After 10 minutes, the floor is open for procedural votes)
Patrick Dominguez, assistant pastor, St. Stephen’s, Sewickley:
I move to suspend the rules of the convention as it relates to a roll call vote for both resolutions.
I’d like a ruling from the chair regarding this, because I think the rules of order that can be suspended legally are those adopted for this meeting. (General rules, such as for voting, would be inviolate).
If you look at the very beginning of the rules of order for the convention, you will see that the statement that is there points us to the possibility of suspension of any of those rules by a majority vote of the convention, so that would be my ruling on this matter. The matter of suspension of rules is not debatable. It’s been moved and seconded. The question is, all those in favor of suspending the rules relating to the possibility of roll-call votes, please say aye – opposed – standing vote. The ayes clearly have it.
Les Fairfield, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry:
Your Grace, Les Fairfield from Trinity School for Ministry. I’d like to commend to this gathering the proposition that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. In fact, I believe that the issue that’s threatening the Anglican Communion at this time is the gravest threat to the integrity of the Christian faith since the Arian struggles of the Fourth Century, because it deals with the very nature of God. As best I read the documents, the books and other works that have shaped the mind of the leadership of the Episcopal Church at the present time, the word God to them means an impersonal spirit who neither acts nor speaks, but to whom we may have access in moments of transformed consciousness, preeminently in sexual activity. This, I remind you, is not the faith once delivered to the saints, nor is this god the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As in the Fourth Century, when Athanasius stood against the world, against councils, against bishops and archbishops, I commend to you the proposition that we owe it to future generations of Episcopalians to stand firm at this time, not to succumb to weak resignation, but by the passage of this amendment to the constitution, to go on record as saying, with Athanasius, how shall I put it, Dang, that ain’t right.
Bruce Robison, rector, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park:
I don’t know that there’s going to be a whole lot of creativity or variety on this side of the microphone, but I just want to say that I am stunned to hear the chancellor’s report and his interpretation of the words, Article 5, Section 1, of the constitution of the Episcopal Church, those two words, unqualified accession. Unqualified accession. That is the foundation of the relationship of this body with the Episcopal Church. It is the foundation of this body’s life as a corporate entity. From my understanding, at the second reading of this amendment, assuming that it passes this time, this body will cease to be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. I think it’s a reality that every pathology believes that it is a special case. This is not a special case. This is exactly the case for which the constitution of the Episcopal Church was designed. I’m very saddened that this body would take such a step.
Bishop Duncan: (This diocese was not part of the accession.)
Joan Gundersen: (from the back of the hall – no mike)
Point of order. Historically, I have the document. Right here, from the national archives. At which, this Diocese, in 1865, as part of its admission to the Episcopal Church, acceded to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church. It gave the unqualified accession from its beginning.
I’ve discussed the section you talk about with other chancellors throughout the United States. I do not agree with your reading of it. It applies to joining the national church. It does not say that you cannot thereafter change your constitution or canons. It does not say that you are required to concede all rights to the national church, and in fact it runs counter to statements made by our own presiding bishop who has indicated in a number of different forums that dioceses have material autonomy.
Diane Shepard, rector St. Stephen’s, Wilkinsburg: (at the procedural mike)
I make the point of order that the proposed amendment to the diocesan constitution is out of order at this convention because it openly conflicts with the constitution and canons of the national Episcopal Church.
(Bishop Duncan rules it’s in order, per chancellor’s opinion.)
I appeal the ruling of the chair. This motion is out of order and will be null and void even if this convention adopts it because the motion violates the constitution and canons of the national church by which we are constituted. It is a fundamental principle of any parliamentary assembly that any motion that violates the bylaws or constitution of the organization is out of order. This proposed amendment (would) nullify the basic core of the first article of the diocesan convention by illegally placing the diocesan authority above that of the General Convention. The constitution and canons of the national Episcopal Church are clear that a diocese can only come to be with the consent of the General Convention and after adopting a local constitution that includes, quote, an unqualified accession to the constitution and canons of this church, unquote. This unqualified accession cannot be changed at the discretion of the diocese. To try to make such a change, as this proposed amendment does, is not a legal process of amendment but an illegal and unconstitutional act of secession. We have heard at this convention about the current controversy in the church and about our human failure to act with love and charity toward our fellow Christians. Let us start to heal our division by ruling this act of schism out of order and be done with it.
Doug McGlynn, chair, Standing Committee:
There are those who say the constitutional amendment is unconstitutional. It is the position of this convention in its special meetings several weeks ago that no, that is not the case, it is the General Convention which is unconstitutional. Now, suppose for a moment that the federal government of the United States put into its code of laws a phrase which simply said that all of the property of the state governments is held in beneficial interest of the federal government. If that happened, I guarantee that governors and legislatures all over this country would stand up and test it immediately to find out if it was constitutional or not. The problem we have is that it is very clear in the government of the United States how that test would be made. Because from the first decade of the 19th Century we have our federal judiciary, (which) has the right of judicial review. We don’t have in the Episcopal Church a permanent judiciary. We do not have a mechanism for giving this review. The only way that we will ever find out if this amendment is constitutional or not is to pass it and then allow the various agencies (that will rule on it) to determine whether it is or not. If we do not pass it, we will never know if it is constitutional or not. Therefore I suggest that we all vote to sustain the ruling of the chair.
(Voice vote sustains the chair)
Jay Geisler, rector St. Stephen’s, McKeesport:
At the special convention, I said that I believe we are moving into a second Protestant Reformation. I’m going to go a little further this time and say Semper Ecclesia Reformanda, which means the church must always be in reformation. We must always be reforming ourselves to sacred Scripture. This summer we had the unusual political alignment, the primates, the president and the Pope, all spoke against gay marriages. And yet in arrogance, the General Convention has passed this. What we are talking about is not schism. It is not apostasy. I believe that they are Christians in good faith. However, I believe it’s about heresy. The Greek word heresy means to pick and choose. What we have here is not exegesis, where we read the text. It’s isogesis where we read our values into the text. So we argue that we cannot change the constitution, yet at the same time the General Convention, if time permits, will change the Ten Commandments. This is what it’s about. This is about sexual morality. This is about God’s Word. We’re arguing you can’t change the constitution; yet at the same time the General Convention has changed Scripture; it has changed the interpretation. I would take one Athanasius, one church father over Spong or Borg. This is what this is about. The reason we’re protesting is because this is about heresy. As Pittsburghers we have a long history of protest. It’s time to continue the Protestant Reformation.
I rise as a member of the standing committee. I tried to construct a particular argument on this issue, but about the best I can come up with is that I feel it is just a bad idea. I’m afraid that the passage of this amendment is simply going to cause more uncertainty in the diocese that has a lot of uncertainty already. I don’t believe that the other diocese that passed a similar amendment has been subject to a testing of what that actually means. So I fear we are stepping into a place of even more uncertainty. Also, if we intend to continue to be one church of miraculous expectation and missionary grace within the Episcopal Church, perhaps this isn’t the time to pass this amendment. I don’t think we need to be operating in a world of trustees ad litem. For our own purposes I would rather see the councils of the Diocese continue to work for the future of our Diocese. So I would ask that if at this time if we intend to remain a part of the Episcopal Church, we not pass this amendment on first hearing.
Richard Spagnolli, St. Stephen’s, Wilkinsburg: (procedural mike)
I direct a point of order in three parts to the chair. Because I don’t believe the vice chancellor’s opinion addressed these issues. The first part of the point of order is: adoption of the proposed amendment to Article One, Section One, would establish a separate and distinct entity from the Pittsburgh Diocese which is currently subject to the national church by the Diocese’s own constitution, and thereby conflicts with the constitution of the national church. The second part: adoption would establish this new entity with absolute power through the person in charge of that entity and that entity’s own constitutional process to take any position it so desires, even if it conflicts with the national church and thereby conflicts with the constitution of the national church. Part three: adoption would be a rejection of the hierarchical form of governing and establish an entity in and of itself, separate and distinct from any other organization and not subject to any authority but its own, thereby conflicting with the constitution of the national church. I think those are three distinct points that the vice chancellor did not address. In short, adoption of this amendment would effectively separate the Diocese of Pittsburgh from the national church.
I think he (the chancellor) has to address each of the points. I presented it as one, but my summary is not the point of order.
Vice-Chancellor Devlin: I’m afraid it all sounds like the same point to me. You’re essentially saying that by doing this we’re becoming a separate entity.
Spagnolli: Absolutely not. There are three distinct points of order.
Devlin: Your first one I thought said that if we do this we will become a separate entity. Are we not a separate entity? We are not a federal part of the national church to the degree that we lose our own identity. Are you saying that we are?
Spagnolli: No, I’m saying that the constitution of the national church, which has been accepted by this diocese, establishes the hierarchy, and by rejecting that hierarchical form of government you are essentially separating this diocese from the national church. All I’m asking for is an opinion. Is that what this amendment does? Yes or No.
Spagnolli: Let’s go to the third one, because I think it goes to the comment you just made. Adoption of this amendment is a rejection of the hierarchical form of governing that has long been recognized by the national Episcopal Church.
Devlin: There is some dispute about this. If you read the history of the Episcopal Church from its beginning, it began as a confederation. Bishop White certainly wanted it to be a confederation, and there was some discussion about how it would ultimately end up. It is, in part, hierarchical. It is, in part, a confederacy. People on both sides of the issue say that on a regular basis. So I don’t think we are a hierarchical entity as the Catholic Church is a hierarchical entity. And I don’t think that doing this is going to change our structure. I think all we’re saying here, frankly, is a clarifying statement of where the Diocese of Pittsburgh stands on acts and amendments that the national church has taken that are contrary to our view of faith and order. I don’t think we’re changing anything. I think we’re clarifying something.
Spagnolli: But isn’t adoption of this amendment a rejection of the constitution of the national church? That’s a very simple question and it deserves an answer.
Bishop Duncan: The answer the chancellor has given is no. Our time has expired.
James Simons, rector St. Michael’s, Ligonier:
We’ve heard this morning the suggestion that those clergy present who vote in favor of this would be in violation of their ordination vows and subsequently subject to presentment. I would like to respectfully suggest that members of the array being present
consider refraining from voting or abstain from voting so that they do not have to recuse themselves in the event of a presentment.
Statements on Resolution #2
Tom Rampy, Trinity Cathedral, Board of Trustees:
I speak in favor of this change for two reasons – a matter of equity, and a matter of inclusion. At any given time, any diocese can have non-resident priests, vacant from the physical diocese, doing such things as teaching at seminary, as Father Klukas from this diocese is, furthering their education, serving as military chaplains, and a variety of other reasons. I’m not aware of any other diocese that prevents non-resident clergy from voting. Usually they come home for conventions, if they can, and they vote. That’s equity. The second reason – there are, as we’ve discussed at the special convention and here, some parishes, and some dioceses unfortunately, that are at odds in their spiritual beliefs with their bishops. If they should choose, some day in the future, to ask for the protection of this diocese, I think we’d want those priests, who were physically not inside the borders of this present diocese, to be able to vote. For those two reasons, I think this should pass.
Jean Chess, deacon St. Andrew’s, Highland Park:
It seems to me that at the pre-convention hearing it was explained that the purpose of this amendment was for people like my friend Arnie Klukas who do not reside in this diocese and had been unable to vote. It seems to me that this as written would also address two other categories, not only those priests of the diocese who have had ministries in Pittsburgh and for some reason are not actually resident. It would also seem to me to apply to parishes that would seek affiliation, both clergy and laity, with the diocese – at least the clergy part of that – and thirdly it would seem to me that it would speak to those clergy who have not ever had a historical ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh but would request to become canonically resident in the Diocese. My concern with this as it is written is that it doesn’t speak specifically enough to the many areas that are going to be uncovered in all those issues, and so my personal preference would be that more time and thought would be given to rewrite this before it is passed.
David Charonis, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park:
Can anyone here disagree that the purpose of the clergy is to support the laity? How can clergy intelligently vote concerning issues that ultimately affect the laity and the people within the geographical boundaries of the Diocese of Pittsburgh if they have neither significant physical connection or significant contact with those whom they support? Make no mistake – I maintain that chatting with the receptionist for the diocese while waiting for a telephone line to clear is in no way, shape or form significant. The ultimate effect of this proposal is to skew voting through use of priests without Pittsburgh ministry.
John Park, missionary priest of the diocese:
(Spent last 18 years in Honduras; moving to Peru; asks for the right to vote.)
Mabel Fanguy, rector St. Thomas, Canonsburg:
I want to speak particularly to the laity. I don’t believe that this resolution was done for the sake of our few missionaries and others like that. I dearly respect their right to vote; I’ve had wonderful relationships with many of those folks, but I believe that this resolution was written in preparation of additional churches adding on to our diocese, in which case we are overflowing with clergy votes, and I don’t see a similar passage of extra laity votes. So every one of your laity votes is being diluted down. And I want you to question if that’s what you really want to do at this time. I would like to see this motion suspended to another time.
David Wilson, rector St. Paul’s, Kittanning:
Following the General Convention, the Archbishop of Canterbury called together an emergency meeting of the primates who met in London less than two weeks ago to address the crisis in the Episcopal Church. The statement issued at the close of that meeting was unanimously adopted by the 37 primates gathered including our own presiding bishop Frank Griswold. One provision of that statement was to provide adequate Episcopal oversight to those parishes in dioceses in which they disagreed with their current bishop. Simply stated, this is not merely a pastoral visit by a bishop but actual and continual oversight including jurisdiction by another bishop. Already two parishes in the Diocese of New Hampshire have approached the Diocese of Albany for that oversight. And as has been stated here at these microphones already, distances and travel make geographic boundaries in some ways irrelevant. Paoli is just as close as Pitcairn; Westminster is just as close as the North Hills, and Rosemont is just as close as Robinson Township. As we know through our lives in this diocese, we are an inclusive diocese, and we welcome all sorts and conditions. And this proposed amendment will allow us to welcome into this diocese clergy and other parishes who are not geographically connected to this diocese but still desire the oversight and fellowship of a diocese. So I rise to support this amendment.
Cat Munz, rector St. Brendan’s, Franklin Park:
We’re really worried that those who voted no on the last resolution might have their votes recorded in the event that there would be a presentment.
(No way to do it now. Remember this was first reading; maybe a roll call for the vote next year.)
Mary Roehrich, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park:
First I want to make a comment. By short-circuiting a roll call, you have prevented people from getting up and voting their hearts, which I believe they have come here to do. And by not being able to record those votes, it’s hard to therefore not be recorded if there are procedural problems as Reverend Munz has just pointed out.
Everybody has alluded to the history of the church, the history of theology, the history of this diocese, the history of all of the events that have brought us to this, and it seems to me, if we can hark back to Athanasius, we can hark back to the fact that this diocese has done without this amendment for over a hundred years, and we haven’t really suffered terribly from that event. I therefore would counsel that there are things that we could do that suggest that people who are canonically resident but not physically resident at least have ministries that are connected intimately to the diocese. It doesn’t have to be an up or down; there are other ways to do this. And I suggest that since we are so divided on other issues that we try to find a way to make this acceptable to everyone.
(Suggests that a canon defining the issue could be enacted next year along with second reading of the resolution.)
Rev. Whis Hayes (Rock the World Youth Ministry):
There are two reasons I rise to speak in favor of this. One is that I find the wording of the current canon in this regard ambiguous, because I’m not sure that there is a definition offered anywhere of what actual residency means. For instance, this week I went to South Carolina to try to set up a youth ministry training center with the Diocese of South Carolina. Am I not actually resident because I geographically left the diocese for a few days? While I don’t know that this should be applied in that kind of pedantic manner, it seems to me that in the absence of a definition of actual residency, that this canon is so vague that it can be applied arbitrarily, unless we vote in favor of this rewriting of it.
Secondarily, there has been some comment made from the con microphone about clericalism inherent in this. I don’t necessarily see that because if we are in fact going to countenance the idea of an influx of new clergy seeking alternative oversight, presumably that will also include their parishes which will also include the people of those parishes. I think that’s a specious argument, and there’s no reason not to go ahead and pass this.
(Motion for abstention option in voting is approved; resolution adopted on voice vote.)