Pittsburgh calls assisting bishop

Lay delegates from 27 congregations and 42 clergy gathered Saturday to reorganize the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Hodges Johnson, the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, has accepted the diocese’s call to serve as Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

This is the second time since his retirement in 2004 that Bishop Johnson has stepped in to lead another diocese. In early 2006, Johnson served as Interim Bishop to help settle a period of upheaval in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. He won praise during that time for his experienced leadership and “non-anxious” presence.

Bishop Johnson was elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina in 1989 and became the Diocese Bishop at the start of 1990. Read the entire news release here.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports,

“Prior to the October 4 secession vote the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh had 74 churches. Twenty-seven, including one splinter from a Greensburg parish that is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican), had delegates at today’s convention. Both dioceses have the same name, but only the diocese meeting today is recognized by the Episcopal Church.”

In his address to the convention The Rev. Dr. James B. Simons, president of the diocesan Standing Committee said:

As we seek to rebuild the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, we are not starting with a clean slate. As we move forward we carry the burden and scars of our recent past history. In short, we have developed a culture over the past several years that has not been one of grace and charity. We bring with us patterns of behavior which sought to categorize and judge others by what were in many cases arbitrary measures. We have not thought the best of each other and we have assigned motives for others’ actions, often without speaking to that person or seeking to obtain accurate information. It was a culture of fear and control, and many in this room, including myself, cooperated in the creation of that culture. It was a culture of throwing stones, and I stand before you now to say, “Today that culture ends.”

The Diocese also repealed canons passed by previous conventions that set the stage for many in the diocese to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and form a new denomination with its own diocese covering Western Pennsylvania. A revised version of Resolution IV “Affirming Accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church” was passed. It can be found here.

Elections were held to fill 23 diocesan-wide positions to Episcopal boards and commissions, as well as various district officers. They also passed a budget for FY2009.

The closing Eucharist Saturday afternoon featured the ordination of the Rev. Kristian Opat to the priesthood.

“I could not be happier to be ordained in the Diocese of Pittsburgh of The Episcopal Church,” Opat said before the Convention. “The recent decisions made by Convention in October deeply sadden and frustrate me. That is why this ordination, at this time, and in this place, is to me a sign of hope as we look forward to a future of unity, collaboration, and mutual joy pressing on together for the sake of the gospel.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a special message to Pittsburgh Episcopalians:

I want you to know that Episcopalians all over this church are praying for you and continue to pray for you. People from the western Pacific to South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Churches in Europe, and all over the United States. We are concerned about your well-being. We want to assure you that the wider church is there to support you, and we are fully confident of your ability to reorganize at this time. We are providing assistance as asked and we will continue to do so.

Remember that, in this season of Advent, we look for light and I leave that with you as a challenge. Find light in the midst of what looks like darkness.

You are a blessing to this church and you will continue to be an even larger blessing in this part of Pennsylvania.

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