Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pittsburgh's Bizarre Scenarios

We have previously discussed the recent actions of the Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

...To join another Province, according to the new Section 2, Article I of the Constitution, would no longer require a constitutional change (and two Conventions), but a simple canonical change (which, according to the current Canons, does not require the approval of two Conventions). At the same time, as long as the new proposed Canon that identifies the Province as TEC is in place, it is probably assumed that they will be protected from charges of abandoning the Church.

Which means at next year's Convention, they can vote on the constitutional changes for the second time, and then also vote to remove TEC from the new canon and insert the name of the Province of their choice. They will make the jump in one day; protected from ecclesiastical discipline the day before, and be able to claim TEC has no jurisdiction over them the day after...
What we did not discuss was some of the more bizarre assumptions being made by the leadership of Pittsburgh.

Joan R. Gundersen, President of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, helps us identify some of these strange ideas. In a report regarding a Diocesan Council meeting in Pittsburgh held prior to Convention, Joan notes the following:

...When asked what would happen, should these constitutional amendments be passed in 2007 and 2008, to those parishes that wish to maintain a relationship with The Episcopal Church, the bishop informed us that there is a process for parishes to leave the diocese spelled out in the settlement of the Calvary lawsuit. In other words, he continues to insist that those of us who are staying in The Episcopal Church are the ones who are leaving, and the ones leaving the church get to take everything with them. The bishop is claiming that he gets to claim the property of the loyal parishes, and he expects us to have to negotiate with him to keep our property! This misreads the settlement, which specifies that property remains with “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America”...
You can find more details about Calvary's litigation here.

After Convention, Joan made the following observation regarding statements made by Bp. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh:

...Bishop Duncan continued to assert his unique theory of diocesan independence, reversing the generally accepted understanding of Episcopal Church polity. Once again, he asserted that those wishing to remain in TEC would have to leave the diocese to do so, seemingly denying that it is he and his supporters who want out of TEC. The bishop then suggested that property currently held in common, including Trinity Cathedral and Calvary Camp, should, after a split, be administered for the benefit of all. It became clear, in other words, that he expects both to leave TEC and remain in control of its assets, which he would then generously offer to share with those he had dispossessed...
In conversations following Convention, Joan heard the most unusual theories being espoused as to how this would all work out:

...Informal discussions with diocesan leaders since convention have elicited revealing speculation about how events might play out in the diocese. For example, the possibility of having a single diocese with some parishes affiliated with TEC and others associated with a different province has been suggested. It has also been suggested that, should Bishop Duncan be inhibited or deposed, he could affiliate with a foreign Anglican Communion province and be hired by the Pittsburgh Standing Committee to provide episcopal services to the diocese. These bizarre scenarios can now be added to one Bishop Duncan offered on Friday. Apparently concerned that he will not be able to claim all the diocesan property free and clear, he suggested that certain assets might be shared among those of his flock and those wishing to remain in TEC. “Such claims on the property by those separating from The Episcopal Church are contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church, contrary to the agreement signed in 2005 by Bishop Duncan as part of the settlement of the lawsuit brought against diocesan leaders by Calvary Episcopal Church, and contrary to the rulings on Episcopal Church property by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” observed attorney and PEP vice president Kenneth Stiles...
It appears that someone needs to inform the leadership of Pittsburgh of exactly what will happen when they leave the Episcopal Church. It is no big secret. We discussed the canonical response by the leadership of TEC just last week. But, in case some in Pittsburgh missed it, here is a summary of the real scenario, as described in Episcopal Life:

...If the Presiding Bishop were to present materials to the Review Committee regarding potential abandonment by the bishops in question, and if the Committee were to agree that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant their positions. If they failed to do so, the matter would go to the full House of Bishops.

If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop would depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary.

An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property...

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