Pittsburgh and Quincy reorganize

Lionel Deimel shares a personal account of the special convention in Pittsburgh last weekend and The Diocese of Quincy has formed a steering committee to plan for their future and are planning a special synod (convention) for February.

Deimel writes:

For me, the highlight of the (Pittsburgh) convention was Simons’ State of the Diocese address. This turned out to be something different from what the title suggested. I expected facts, such as how many parishes were in the diocese and how many may soon join. Instead, Simons essentially said that it is time to stop fighting and time to start building. What was surprising was that he accepted some personal responsibility for the creation of what he called “a culture of fear and control” under Bishop Duncan. (The deposed bishop was not mentioned by name.) As one who has fought against that culture for the past five years, it was gratifying to hear a repudiation of it from someone who enabled its development.

Over in Quincy, eighty five persons assembled Saturday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral to examine alternatives and discuss the course ahead for those who are not prepared to be “realigned” to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Eighty five persons assembled today at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral to examine alternatives and discuss the course ahead for those who are not prepared to be “realigned” to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The meeting began with a reading of Isaiah chapter 11 and short meditation on the importance of God’s word heard here for the Advent Season and for the outcome of the meeting. The group agreed that it would not define itself in terms of what others are, or may not be but, instead would be clear that, “We believe that you do not need to leave The Episcopal Church to remain faithful to Jesus Christ.”

The meeting called for formal status as “Committee to Reorganize The Diocese of Quincy” in a motion which was passed by unanimous voice vote….

Canon Brodie, Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of Springfield reviewed the canonical impact of the actions taken by delegates at the recent Synod of the Diocese of Quincy. Canon Brodie made it clear that cannon law of The Episcopal Church does not allow a diocese to withdraw from the church. Parishes, missions, and all members remain in The Episcopal Church regardless of the vote by the Synod.

Brodie reported that Churches can not be required to vote to remain in The Episcopal Church because they have not left the church. Of course, those who have elected to “realign” do not agree with this understanding. It is likely that it will take many months to clarify this matter. Persons, including clergy, may elect to leave The Episcopal Church. Parishioners should continue to pray and worship in the church they are part of regardless of the ambivalence caused by the Synod’s actions….

An Executive Committee was elected to carry out the business of the Steering Committee, particularly to organize a Special Synod of the Diocese of Quincy to elect a Standing Committee and other officials of the Diocese. The Synod will likely be held in February.

Those elected are: The Very Reverend Bob Dedmon – Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and a former Member of the Standing Committee; The Very Rev. Dr. Canon Laurence Larson – retired Rector, Trinity Church, Rock Island; The Rev Canon John Blossom – priest in charge of Bread of Life, a recent church plant in the diocese; Tom Ewing Esq – St. James, Lewistown, attorney; Kathy Leson – Bread of Life, former Cathedral Chapter member and Synod delegate; Michael Renner – St. Paul’s Cathedral Chapter Member and former Treasurer of The Diocese of Quincy; Tobyn Leigh – St. George’s Church, Macomb, vestry member.

Among the comments on the Diocese of Quincy website was this from Pittsburgh Episcopalian Joan Gundersen:

It sounds as if you are off to a good start with your Saturday meeting. The size of the turnout must have been heartening. While you were having your first meeting, Pittsburgh held its special convention and elected people to all the vacant leadership spots. We also made it a celebration with time to be together. We were joined at the convention by the bishops of Central PA, NW PA, the Diocese of Bethlehem in PA and the suffragan bishop of Virginia (who has been acting as a consultant to our standing committee). The Lutheran bishop also put in an appearance as did the executive director of the local Christians Associates. May your synod turn out to be as energizing and joyful as our convention was.

Lionel Deimel reflected on his experience:

Simons had an interesting take on “diversity,” a term about which he clearly has some ambivalence. Nonetheless, he declared that “diversity needs to be a hallmark of our common life together.” Using the analogy of stream ecology, he argued that diversity is not so much the result of direct action aimed at its enhancement as it is the result of building a healthy community. “But the church is broader than we have allowed it to be here and we need to work at creating a healthy environment that fosters appropriate diversity,” he said. “We must be in conversation, seeking to understand each other and when possible to rejoice and embrace the diversity God has blessed us with.”

Openness and coöperation were evident in both obvious and subtle ways at the convention. Individual parishes were assigned the task of providing refreshments at various points in the program, and attendees were fed well. Six parishes provided singers for the combined choir of about 50 that sang at the closing Eucharist. In the past, only official “mission partners” of the diocese could have displays. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, for example, has never been able to have a sanctioned role in a diocesan convention. But displays from PEP, Integrity Pittsburgh, the Calvary Church Bookstore, and a Ugandan orphanage were all in evidence at the special convention. PEP distributed perhaps 100 of its “The Episcopal Church Welcomes All” buttons.

That the diocese is getting better at staying in conversation was obvious from the discussion of the four resolutions proposed to facilitate the diocese’s reorganization. All of these were passed with virtually no discussion and no dissenting votes, a far cry from the acrimonious debate of recent conventions. Of course, the resolutions had been distributed in advance of the convention, and people had opportunities to express concerns about them. In the past, those favoring or opposing any particular resolution would consult in advance of the convention with allies, strategizing how to strengthen or weaken a resolution and planning how to carry on a floor fight. The draft of Resolution IV for the special convention did raise some concerns. It was intended to declare constitutional and canonical changes made under Bishop Duncan null and void, but there were disagreements over how wide-ranging the resolution should be and how the intended actions should be justified. The underlying problem, of course, was that some of the people who needed to declare past changes improper had supported them enthusiastically. The resolution went through three official rewrites, and the version presented to the convention was the product of a process that sought to listen to and address the concerns of everyone. No one voted against Resolution IV; it attracted a single abstention.

Many people remarked to me how different and friendly the atmosphere seemed. The tenseness of recent conventions was not in evidence. When things when wrong—some errors were made in tabulating votes for Board of Trustees positions, for example—everyone seemed to take it in stride. In past years, the closing Eucharist has been notable for the number of people who left the convention before it began. It seemed that many fewer people made an early getaway this time. The service was crowded. Because St. Paul’s curate, Kris Opat, was being ordained, some worshippers came especially for that service, of course. In any case, the service and the reception that followed were very happy affairs.

Jim Simons’ address was, of course, a challenge. There will be disagreements among the people of the diocese in the future, and it remains to be seen whether we can change what had become a dysfunctional culture. There is surely hard work ahead of us, but I think we’re off to a good start.

Background information can be found about the Pittsburgh convention can be found here, here and here.

The web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is here.

The web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy and an account of the Saturday meeting is here.

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