From the June
2007 PEPtalk. Leaders of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
experienced an extraordinary retreat May 20–21 at Antiochian Village.
Equally extraordinary was the frank news release, “Sober
Leadership Retreat Considers Future of Diocese” posted the next day
on the diocesan Web site.
The retreat left the future direction
of the diocese uncertain. Options will next be discussed at district
meetings to be held in June and to which all parishioners are invited.
The diocese will begin implementing whatever plan is chosen at the
November annual convention.
At the retreat, Bishop Robert Duncan
expressed his disappointment at the failure to achieve alternative
oversight for the diocese, and he described his shock at the outcome of
the March House of Bishops meeting, which advised the Executive Council
to reject the “pastoral scheme” urged on the church by the primates in
February. (See “Church reaches turning point” on page 1 of
Participants discussed four
alternatives that the diocese might pursue. These included: (1)
Continuing on the present course, “remaining on the periphery of The
Episcopal Church,” (2) “submitting” to the will of The Episcopal Church,
(3) attempting to leave The Episcopal Church as a diocese, and (4)
“Dissolving” the diocese—negotiating the departure of parishes intent
upon leaving the church, after which the diocesan leadership would
Bishop Duncan indicated that he could
not remain bishop under either of the first two options, and he would
leave eventually under the fourth. Option three would remove the
diocese—and, presumably our current bishop—from The Episcopal Church.
Little support was expressed for
options one or two; participants favored option three by a small margin
over option four.
Each of the options was seen as
having pluses and minuses, and none resembled the victory sought by the
bishop. “We thought we would prevail,” Bishop Duncan admitted ruefully.
Litigation and loss of property seemed likely prospects. Moreover, the
possible destination of anyone leaving The Episcopal Church was unclear,
although an attempt will be made in the fall to unite the Common Cause
Partners—newer groups such as the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses
and Parishes, as well as older “continuing Anglican” groups such as the
Reformed Episcopal Church—into something more closely resembling an
Progressive Episcopalians of
Pittsburgh, The Episcopal Church, and the church’s constitution all
agree that, although individuals can leave the church, neither parishes
nor dioceses can. This makes the third and fourth options presented at
the retreat problematic, although the church has not objected to
departing parishes’ negotiating to buy their property at something like
fair market value.
PEP intends to argue vigorously that
the “big tent” of The Episcopal Church can comfortably accommodate most
of the “orthodox,” as well as moderates, liberals, and