On Thursday, January 8, the Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh took steps to reclaim the property of the diocese. The diocesan press release is found here.
The group that left TEC has posted a response here.
Joan R. Gundersen, a Lay Deputy to the 2009 General Convention from Pittsburgh, wrote to the House of Bishops and Deputies listserve (reprinted here with permission):
Let me assure you all that The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the TEC is not “attempting” to join the Calvary law suit. Our Chancellor was recognized by Judge James (who is the Allegheny County Judge who has been riding herd on all the filings since a group including Calvary Episcopal Church first filed suit against Bishop Duncan and other diocesan leaders in 2003 in order to prevent removal of diocesan property from TEC) at a hearing held within days of the October 4, 2008 convention. Also we are definitely NOT a new diocese. This diocese has been around since 1865. We are in a start-up mode only because we do not have access to the files, mailing lists, insurance records, office supplies, etc. owned by the diocese since Bishop Duncan’s group has retained physical possession of them, and will not give us any access.
Calvary Episcopal’s 52 page Request to the Special Master was filed January 9. The first nine pages setting forth the diocese’s request for access to the funds are here. Also filed in the request are the judge’s previous comments on the matter.
If you have not followed the legal maneuvers in Pittsburgh, here is a very quick summary written by Dr. Gundersen:
1. Calvary Episcopal Church leaders and Bud Herman, a member of St. Stephen’s Parish, Sewickley, filed a suit in late October 2003 against diocesan leaders to prevent removal of assets from possession of TEC and to prevent the diocese from circumventing or nullifying the Dennis Canon. St. Stephen’s Parish Wilkinsburgh (note that this is not the parish Bud Herman
belongs to) joined in the suit in early 2004.
2. December 2003 Bishop Duncan’s lawyers succeed in getting the Episcopal Diocese named a party in the suit, thus shifting all legal expenses to the diocese.
3. Discovery in the lawsuit uncovers documents that show the plans of the leaders Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes to create a separate province in the Anglican Communion and attempts to have TEC thrown out of the communion. These documents are the featured exhibit in materials shared with the House of Bishops in 2006 as a part of a report of the special task force on church property.
4. November 2004 – Bishop Duncan announces at the diocesan annual convention that he is giving the required notice that the diocese may vote on throwing Calvary and St. Stephen’s Churches out of the diocese at the 2005 convention.
5. October 2005 – Shortly before the 2005 convention, Diocesan officials and the Calvary/St. Stephen’s parties agree to a signed stipulation approved by Judge James. The stipulation specifies that all diocesan property belongs to “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church U.S.A.” even if a majority of the parishes leave the TEC. The stipulation creates a procedure for negotiating over parish property, and guarantees parishes have
a right to specify that they do not want to be members of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The stipulation also gives Calvary the majority of the funds from their escrowed diocesan assessments to pay their legal fees.
6. December 2006 – Calvary returns to court asking that the stipulation be enforced to protect diocesan property from being removed from the TEC since the diocesan leadership has taken new steps towards separation. In June 2007 diocesan leadership announces that the November convention will take a first vote on amending the diocesan constitution to remove its accession
7. July 2008 the Calvary group requests appointment of a monitor to inventory diocesan funds and ensure that funds are used appropriately.
8. Sept. 2008 – Judge James appoints a special master to inventory diocesan funds and report on any possible use of funds contrary to the stipulation.
9. October 2008 – following the second vote at Pittsburgh’s convention on the amendment, Judge James releases to Calvary the diocesan assessments that it had been paying into escrow. At this hearing, the judge recognizes the new chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC).
10. January 2009 The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh asks for access to the funds specified in the stipulation of October 2005 as belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church U.S.A.