Push back in Pittsburgh

A number of Pittsburgh area parishes that have no interest in the “alternative primatial oversight” their bishop and standing committee are seeking have begun to organize themselves. Visit their Web site, or click below to read their statement.

I. We believe that the action by the Right Reverend Robert William Duncan, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Standing Committee of the Diocese, announcing their decision to withdraw from Province III is tantamount to leaving The Episcopal Church. According to the Canons of The Episcopal Church, each diocese belongs to one of the nine recognized geographically constituted provinces. While there is a provision for leaving one (geographical) province and joining another, there is no provision for constituting a province based on ideological or theological grounds. We believe that the proposed formation of a Province X, therefore, is canonically and constitutionally irregular, and it is highly unlikely that the General Convention will approve such a province, either in advance of its purported formation, or ex post facto. We believe that since Province X does not exist and is unlikely to exist, leaving Province III constitutes leaving the organized structure of The Episcopal Church.

II. The creation of Province X, in our view, is a mechanism to isolate dioceses, parishes, and perhaps individuals from The Episcopal Church. The formation of the Province is seen by us as the most recent step in an attempt to create a church separate from The Episcopal Church. Since the Diocese is part of The Episcopal Church, and cannot exist apart from The Episcopal Church, we believe that the Bishop and Standing Committee cannot legally remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church for the purpose of planting it in some other province, or for any other purpose.

III. We believe the request made by the Bishop and Standing Committee for “alternative primatial oversight” is further indication of an intention to depart from The Episcopal Church. Although the Archbishop of Canterbury (at the request of the Primates) did set up a Panel of Reference which could hear appeals from dioceses in dispute with their own national church authorities and “to assist in the resolution of these difficulties” [Panel of Reference Mandate, 6 May 2005] the specific remedy requested is unprecedented and contrary to the basic understanding of the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of autonomous provinces. We believe the request for alternative primatial oversight constitutes a rejection of the duly elected leadership and governing structures of The Episcopal Church.

IV. The Bishop and Standing Committee have cited, in justification for their actions, comments made by the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his “Reflections” promulgated in the week following the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. But it must be pointed out that as the Archbishop himself has stated, the Archbishop’s statement is not definitive, and nothing in that document is binding. Any final disposition on any restructuring of the Anglican Communion, after consultation with the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council and other bodies, will, according to the Archbishop, be a lengthy process, a process that will begin in earnest at the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Moreover, even if the Anglican Communion is restructured, that action, in and of itself, would have no effect on the structure of The Episcopal Church, or on the relations between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. We believe the actions of the Bishop and Standing Committee have interpreted the Archbishop’s document to suit their own views. As Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has said in response to the Archbishop’s statement, “It is misleading that some, in responding to the Archbishop’s lengthy theological reflection, have focused their attention on speculations about a yet-to-be determined outcome.”

V. We oppose any efforts on the part of the Bishop and Standing Committee to take the Diocese outside of the recognized structure of The Episcopal Church. The Bishop and Standing Committee have stated that they believe it necessary for the Diocese of Pittsburgh to “dissociate itself from the actions of General Convention.” Since the General Convention is the supreme governing authority of The Episcopal Church, and all dioceses are bound by its actions, such dissociation as described by the Bishop and Standing Committee constitutes, in our opinion, withdrawal from The Episcopal Church. We believe that any resolutions or constitutional amendments passed at conventions of the Diocese of Pittsburgh which would purport to release the Diocese from compliance with decisions of the General Convention are canonically improper and invalid.

VI. According to canon law, property owned by a diocese is held in trust for The Episcopal Church. We believe that the repeated claims of the Bishop and Standing Committee to be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, while at the same time acting to separate the Diocese from the decisions of The Episcopal Church, therefore, constitute an attempt to retain legal possession of property held in trust for The Episcopal Church, while at the same time taking steps to remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church. In light of these actions, we believe that the Bishop and Standing Committee do not represent the interests of the duly recognized Diocese of Pittsburgh.

VII. The authority in The Episcopal Church of any bishop and standing committee of a diocese derives from the authority of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which are set by the General Convention. We believe, therefore, that any claim of the Bishop and Standing Committee that their authority derives from being “in full and unimpaired communion with the See of Canterbury and those churches, dioceses and provinces that uphold and propagate the historic Anglican Faith and Order” is based on specious reasoning.

VIII. In light of the foregoing statements, we further believe that we represent those in this Diocese who are loyal to The Episcopal Church. Accordingly, we extend an invitation to others who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church to join us in our efforts. We remain committed to the building up of the Body of Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

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