September 10, 2007

Pittsburgh Mystery

In a diocese whose bishop brazenly declares his intention to remove it from the Episcopal Church (see “Agreeing to Agree”), it is not surprising that changes to the diocesan constitution and canons might be in the works. Members of the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Pittsburgh just received a packet of materials for their meeting Tuesday night, September 11. Included for their consideration was a list of 26 proposed changes in the way the diocese is governed. Most changes seem unremarkable, though, taken together, they do seem to represent a power shift away from parishes and to the bishop and to other diocesan leaders, such as those on the Standing Committee. The proposed changes, at most, only hint at the anticipated schism. Diocesan Council, of course, does not enact the changes suggested by the Committee on Constitution and Canons—this is the task of the diocesan convention, which meets in November—but it can influence what is put before the convention.

The most interesting item in the material provided to Council members was the following note on a separate page:
ADVICE TO COUNCIL

In addition to the regular constitutional and canonical proposals contained in this mailing, the Council will be asked to consider texts of constitutional and canonical changes relating to the accession clause in Article 1 of the Constitution. In order that those texts not be in the public domain prior to the meeting, the texts will be available for distribution and consideration at the time of Tuesday’s Diocesan Council meeting.

Robert Devlin
Chancellor
Pittsburgh has already modified the accession clause in its constitution (see “Unqualified Accession”), and has been informed by everyone from Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh to The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council that its having done so is null and void, since a diocese has no right to make such a change. It now appears, however, that the illegal action completed at the 2004 annual convention was not sufficiently illegal for the purposes of Bishop Duncan and his schismatic minions. Additional changes are needed to create fig leaves for supporters and smokescreens for detractors.

I have quite limited capacity to make myself upset over the prospect of yet more illegal canonical changes in Pittsburgh. My interest is certainly piqued by Chancellor Devlin’s cloak-and-dagger approach to discussing changes to the diocese’s statutes, however. Would putting these texts—as the chancellor puts it—“in the public domain” on Saturday have consequences that making them public on Tuesday would not? Perhaps what is being unveiled Tuesday night is so momentous that it needs to be carefully orchestrated for maximum impact on the Anglican world.

Is the diocese planning something dramatic to be revealed on Tuesday evening, or has Chancellor Devlin been reading too many spy novels?

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