September 29, 2008

Gundersen Offers Pittsburgh Update

In the past few weeks, there has been a good deal of discussion about the situation in the Diocese of Pittsburgh on the House of Bishops and Deptuies e-mail list (HoB/D). At the end of the week, the diocese will vote in convention on “realignment,” on removing the diocese from The Episcopal Church (TEC) and moving it to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

This morning, in response to a nascent discussion of what TEC should do in Pittsburgh, Dr. Joan Gundersen offered list readers an update on the situation in the diocese,. (She had to ask someone to send her observations to the list, to which only bishops and General Convention deputies may post.) Joan is president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh and a member of the steering committee of Across the Aisle, the diverse coalition opposing “realignment” and planning the reorganization of the diocese that will be required if the vote for “realignment” passes.

I had been thinking an essay such as Joan’s was needed, and, as soon as I read her’s, I thought of making it more widely available, since the HoB/D has no public archive. When I offered to post Joan’s remarks, she readily agreed. It appears below with minor edits, mostly needed because the HoB/D is distributed in plain-text format.
I’m afraid that those of us in Pittsburgh have been focused on the planning we need to do to get through convention, and have not been keeping people informed about the status of things in Pittsburgh. Your response about what the TEC should do prodded me to give an update. You are welcome to share this with the whole HoB/D list.
  1. Since his deposition, Bishop Duncan has been acting as a paid “consultant” to the current standing committee and has been received into the Southern Cone as a bishop; Bishop Henry Scriven also has a consulting contract, since his status as Assistant Bishop ended with Bishop Duncan’s deposition. Bishop Scriven leaves for a new position with SAMS at the end of the year. There will need be no negotiation with Bishop Duncan about leaving. He has already left, and should the realignment vote pass, is expecting to be invited back by the realigned group as bishop.

  2. While most of the standing committee favors realignment, we are sure that at least one member is voting against it. We also have members of diocesan council and the board of trustees who are staying. This means that we will have an unbroken chain of governance to go forward as a diocese within TEC should the realignment vote pass. It will take a short time to confirm with each member of the various governing bodies whether they have realigned or remain Episcopalians, and then our remaining member(s) of standing committee will begin appointing people to essential vacant spots. We will be able to run our own reorganizing convention. Thanks to planning by the Across the Aisle group which has brought together everyone we can find who is staying (liberal, conservative, or in-between), plans for a continuing presence of TEC are well in hand. We will need to negotiate with the realigned group over access to office information and issues such as insurance. We are putting plans in place for everything from office space and web site to lay-reader training and the care and tending of parishes who are without clergy. It won’t be easy, and we are sure to be short of funds at first. However, passage of realignment is not a sure thing. There is a strong core of congregations and individuals committed to staying.

  3. Should the realignment vote fail, we will have a bishopless diocese that is internally divided and in need of healing. We will also experience a rolling set of resignations as certain leaders and congregations individually withdraw. Should the vote pass, we will have an externally divided diocese and a number of deeply wounded parishes. Either way, we will need everyone’s prayers.

  4. Those of us opposed to realignment have at every convention tried to have the chair rule that the amendments concerning the accession clause are out of order, and have at every convention reminded people of their fiduciary duties. We are prepared to do so again.

  5. Because of the lawsuit filed in 2003 by Calvary Episcopal Church (and others), a signed stipulation on property resulted in 2005. The return to court by Calvary in 2006 resulted this fall in an appointment by the court of a special master who is inventorying diocesan property and reporting to the judge supervising the case. Thus, the status of property issues in Pittsburgh is very different from San Joaquin or Fort Worth. The 2005 stipulation signed by Bishop Duncan states that all diocesan (not parish) property belongs to the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.” We believe that the meaning of this is clear and have every confidence that the judge will enforce this agreement. On the other hand, institutions such as Sheldon Calvary Camp will not turn away a child from a realigned group, and so the camp will, in that sense (but not in a governing sense), remain available to all in the region. The stipulation also includes a process for negotiating property settlements with parishes leaving TEC.

  6. Our Cathedral parish has announced a plan where they would be neutral, serve the entire region, and participate in both the realigned and continuing dioceses. It is not clear whether this will be workable, but they are certainly going to give it a good try.
The best thing TEC can do for Pittsburgh should the realignment measures pass at convention is to recognize and support those who are going to ensure a continuing presence of TEC in this part of Pennsylvania.
I feel compelled to add two comments of my own for which Joan is not responsible and with which she might disagree. Item 2 in the stipulation reached in the Calvary lawsuit sets out a procedure for negotiating property issues whenever a parish “shall elect to disaffiliate with the Diocese.” It is not clear how this procedure might work in practice. Moreover, since TEC is not a formal party to the stipulation, it is unclear whether it might not find it necessary to intervene in the process described therein.

Second, I am very skeptical of Trinity Cathedral’s a-blessing-on-both-your-houses response to “realignment.” How can The Episcopal Church, which has always objected strenuously to diocesan-border crossing by bishops, possibly countenance a parish that claims to be in two dioceses in two provinces subject to two mutually antagonistic bishops?

September 22, 2008


Across the Aisle has issued a press release announcing that Bishop Duncan has been formally deposed by the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. The AtA site also includes a personal letter to Bishop Duncan from the Presiding Bishop and the formal deposition.

Mea culpa: My remark about spelling on my original post was the product of making a quick posting and misreading an address. Well, there are days like that.

On Pride and Priests

Regular readers of my blog know that I typically offer my own opinions, rather than directing readers to consider the essays of others. When I arrived at church yesterday, however, several friends asked me if I had seen the op-ed piece on The Episcopal Church in the “Forum” section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I hadn’t, but reading it was the first thing I did when I got home. It was worth waiting for. The essay is called “On pride and priests.” The author is Calvary Church parishioner Conroy D. Guyer. (“On pride and priests” can be read on the Web site of the Post-Gazette here, but I have also reproduced it below.)

I was struck by two aspects of the Guyer piece. First, all the talk about how tragic was the September 18 vote to depose Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, was becoming tiresome. Yes, it was unfortunate that such an action was necessary, but removing this particular rogue bishop should have been done years ago, and the real tragedy is that it was not. Alas, even now, we cannot say, “My fellow Episcopalians, our long ecclesiastical nightmare is over.” Duncan has fled jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church for that of the Southern Cone, is still collecting a salary, is expecting to be returned as a bishop of Pittsburgh after the convention vote on “realignment,” and has even created a blog where angry Anglican leaders can express what a falsly maligned saint he is! Guyer, who clearly has a different view of Bob Duncan, has the courage and good sense to spare us the crocodile tears.

Second, Guyer articulates the moral case against the Duncan program. Usually, it has been Duncan’s allies—the American Anglican Councils and the Global South Primates of the Anglican world—who have claimed the moral high ground, arguing that their agenda is God’s agenda, and therefore not subject to the usual restraints on ethical behavior. Guyer suggests that the “realignment” movement is a product of spiritual pride and a quest for power and money. Guyer calls on the upcoming convention to reject such a program.

I do not expect “On pride and priests” to stop the “realignment” juggernaut, but it is high time that someone attacked “realignment” on its home turf. Read the essay. You likely will not agree with everything Guyer says, but he surely offers substantial food for thought.

On pride and priests

Pittsburgh Episcopalians who vote to secede from the national church will likely regret it, argues communicant CONROY D. GUYER

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will vote Oct. 4 on whether to secede from the Episcopal Church—the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion—and realign with a more theologically conservative Anglican province in South America. Robert Duncan, the bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese until he was removed Thursday by the Episcopal House of Bishops, has led this movement, both in Pittsburgh and nationally.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that the desire for power is the central motivation of the human personality. Later this month, the T.S. Eliot play, “Murder in the Cathedral,” will be performed at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Downtown Pittsburgh.

It should be a cautionary tale for the laity and the clergy who will soon vote about whether the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh should remain in the Episcopal Church.

“Murder in the Cathedral” is a play about a 12th century archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, who has his own agenda. Becket’s quest for power takes the form of spiritual pride, which becomes his tragic flaw. This tragic flaw is objectified in Becket’s fantasies of martyrdom, with its concomitant desire for power. When the Tempter comes to Becket, the Tempter speaks Becket’s own thoughts to him

… But think, Thomas … of glory after death

… Think of pilgrims, standing in line

Before the glittering jeweled shrine …

And think of your enemies in another place

Power in the form of moral purity does not exist anywhere in this world. There are always the subtexts, the unarticulated desires, the tacit motivations.

While the hidden agenda may remain unclear, one does have an understanding about how an administrator should exercise his power in office. Should an administrator exercise his power in the best interests of his institution, or undermine it? If an administrator feels that an institution no longer reflects his values, should he not resign from it? Does an administrator in the office of a bishop have the right to take a diocese out of its parent organization and give its assets of $43 million to another diocese—maybe one of his own devising or perhaps one on another continent?

(No wonder Mr. Duncan calls ours a diocese of miraculous expectation! Where is the missionary grace? A slogan can cover a vacuum.)

When power is misused, it taints the hopes of those who are no longer with us and who have given money so that the structures and the doctrines of the Episcopal church will be here for future generations. The purpose for which these people have given money is thwarted and their trust is broken. Is this not a genuine ethical problem? Furthermore, are not the higher ethical values of religion sadly compromised in schism? Who has ever read a book about a church schism and concluded that this was the shining hour of faith?

Then too one does question bishops and priests who try to gain power among their flocks like demagogues by promulgating simple, single-issue concepts like their objection to the ordination of women or their disapproval of homosexual practices. What gender can give more compassion to ministry than womankind? Do homosexual desires disappear when they are confronted by the screeds of a preacher or a bishop in a medieval hat? Do these same clergy preach so ardently against the turpitudes of heterosexuals?

An intelligent church needs clergy who display the same understanding of the human mind—its desires and its mechanisms—as a psychotherapist. Science has done more than religion to liberate moderns from the superstitions of the past. Science has given us understanding through description. Intelligent religion can give additional meaning to that description.

Additionally, Jesus himself never spoke about the subject of homosexuality as far as we know. Many clergy have said more about homosexuality in Jesus’ name than Jesus himself ever did.

A third point that needs remembering is that the new diocese will not be a utopia—a place of absolute moral purity. It will be administered by people who, like Archbishop Becket, “follow too much the devices and the desires of their own hearts.” Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “The tragedy of man is that he can conceive self-perfection, but he cannot achieve it.”

Sadly, many lunatic acts have been committed by religious people in history—acts that many sincere people lived to regret. Do we learn from history? How quickly the reign of Oliver Cromwell in England lost its purity, and some in New England who supported the witch trials later came to regret their participation in them.

An antidote to mad acts is clarity of thought. One might find a way toward lucid thought if one applies the formula of the English poet, William Wordsworth, to his decision-making process. Wordsworth felt that the genesis of a good poem began in an intense emotional experience, which Wordsworth described as “the spontaneous overflow of emotions.” If that intense emotional experience is to find expression in the well-ordered world of art, the poet then must engage in quiet reflection. Wordsworth called this part of the artistic process, “… the recollection in tranquility.”

The clergy and the laity of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh are going to make a momentous decision soon that will affect all of us in a good or a bad way for decades to come. Power will be exercised in the process, with its far-reaching effects. The desire for power for some is a subtext in this drama. Some players in this drama will be looking for rewards more palpable than spiritual.

The body of Christ will be torn. The promise of purity will be corrupted by time, as it casts its shadows. Decisions made in the heat of emotions devoid of reason will lead to madness, and madness leads to regret.

My hope is that the laity and the clergy of the Pittsburgh Diocese of the Episcopal Church will exercise their faculty of “reflection in tranquility” in the days to come.

Conroy D. Guyer is retired from the English faculty at Fox Chapel Area High School and is a communicant of Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty. He lives in Greensburg.

September 20, 2008

Across the Aisle Web Site

Across the Aisle, the group of clergy and laypeople in the Diocese of Pittsburgh opposed to “realignment,” has, for many months, been flying under the radar. Its existence has only become widely known through the public event it sponsored last Saturday. (See “Across the Aisle Sponsors Unity Event.”)

“A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternate Solution” required that a few documents be posted on the Web, and the growing collection of pages was increasingly looking like a Web site, albeit a rudimentary one. Today, I decided to add a little navigation to tie everything together.

It may now be said that there is an actual Across the Aisle Web site. The material on the site is mostly about “A Hopeful Future,” but it includes a contact address and may eventually broaden its scope. In all likelihood, there will be no need for Across the Aisle or its Web site after October 4, when much of the Diocese of Pittsburgh departs for the Southern Cone, leaving the continuing Episcopalians to pick up the pieces and carry on the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church. (Of course, this is not how Bishop Duncan describes “realignment,” but my description is based on an understanding of this universe.)

Across the Aisle Web can now be found on the Web at Be sure to see the photos from last week. There really were more than 300 people in St. Paul’s undercroft! The site also includes links to news stories that mention Across the Aisle.

Across the Aisle logo

September 19, 2008

Reflections on the Deposition Vote

Yesterday was a busy day. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) issued two press releases, and I had a part both in writing and distributing them. In conjunction with that work, I was updating three Web sites, including this one.

Of course, what made the day a particularly tense one was the wait for news from the House of Bishops, which was meeting in Salt Lake City. The bishops were to take up the question of whether they would consent to the deposition of my diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan. The Title IV Review Committee had certified last December that Bishop Duncan had abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church, and the Salt Lake City meeting was the first opportunity for the bishops to take up whether to authorize the Presiding Bishop to pronounce deposition.

Conversations with people in the Presiding Bishop’s office and with certain bishops had led PEP to conclude that a vote to depose was not especially likely, although some bishops seemed to be working behind the scenes to bring about that result. PEP had prepared three press releases for each of the likely outcomes: deposition (a sad but necessary step), a “no” vote on deposition (a problem remains unsolved), and delay (the bishop gets one more final chance to step back from the brink). All three press releases had been uploaded to our Web site. When I got the news of what action the House of Bishops had taken—this assumes that it was not “none of the above”—all I needed to do was to rename one of the files, delete the other two, and send out the appropriate text to those on our e-mail distribution list.

I had just returned from a dinner run to KFC when I got the news that the House of Bishops had voted to consent to Bishop Duncan’s deposition. I quickly did the required operations—the action of the House was straightforward—and began making some phone calls to discuss the unexpected outcome. Among others, I called a local radio station that had asked to be notified when I learned something.

Within PEP, there was, I think, a good deal of relief and satisfaction. Some of us had signed the accusations against the bishop and most of us had long ago concluded that he needed to be removed from any position of responsibility within The Episcopal Church. Many of our conservative brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh who expect to remain Episcopalians would have preferred that deposition be postponed until after diocesan convention, however.

I lost track of the number of telephone conversations I had last night, and I had the satisfaction of breaking the news about deposition to a few people. We all knew, however, that relief needed to be tempered by realism. A chapter in the history of the diocese was coming to a close, but an even more trying chapter was beginning.

Reading the comments available on the Web today is an interesting exercise. Duncan’s opponents are saying what a sad occasion this is and that we should be praying for Duncan and his family. No one seems willing to say “good riddance,” partly out of good manners, partly out of a desire not to be seen as dancing on Duncan’s grave, and, perhaps, mostly, because even deposition will not achieve the much-desired riddance. We are told that, although the bishop will not contest his deposition, he has (1) been accepted as a bishop of the Southern Cone (no doubt about his abandonment now!), (2) he is still collecting a salary from the diocese as a “consultant,” (3) he is fully expecting to be tapped as the bishop of the “realigned” diocese after October 4, and (4) the diocese has now set up a blog to collect tributes from around the world to the fallen, yet oddly resurrected, hero (see In Support of Bishop Duncan). One doubts that Duncan came into the office today to clean out his desk, which is what the church has a right to expect.

Duncan supporters who have not been searching their thesauri for words of praise for their deposed (or soon-to-be-deposed) hero, are busily trashing The Episcopal Church for a variety of imaginary sins mostly having to do with failure to “obey the canons” and to observe “due process.”

The good news is that Duncan’s deposition is assured. Some of us feared that, had the bishops deferred a vote, they might have chosen not to approve deposition should the October 4 “realignment” vote fail. On the other hand, deposition now is likely to create enough sympathy for Duncan to sway the votes of some undecided lay deputies to his side. (A few may be swayed the other way by the clear action of the House of Bishops, but no one seems to think that this effect will be the dominate factor as far as convention goes.) “Realignment” is expected to pass easily among the clergy.

There are, of course, two more weeks before diocesan convention. Apparently, Duncan’s employment by the Diocese of Pittsburgh will continue during that period. Why, one might ask, would an Episcopal diocese employ as a consultant a bishop who has been thrown out of The Episcopal Church? Duncan, of course, is an expert in subversion of the church, and it is clear that subverting the church is exactly the program of 7 of the 8 members of the Standing Committee.

It will be interesting to see if Duncan makes the episcopal visits scheduled for these next two weekends. Assuming that he is deposed presently—I am told that we should not consider him to be deposed until the Presiding Bishop pronounces deposition—then it will be even more interesting to see if Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven makes episcopal visits. Canon III.12.6(e) says:
No person may serve as an Assistant Bishop beyond the termination of the jurisdiction of the appointing Bishop or after attaining the age of seventy-two years.
I read this to mean that, when Duncan is deposed, Scriven is toast. Perhaps he will make the visits in a consultant role as well? (Do we have a liturgy for deposition, by the way? I thought +Katharine just waved her magic wand or something.)

Anyway, it appears that the Standing Committee will be responsible for running the upcoming convention. In all liklihood, the “realignment” votes will carry, and, sometime later, we will determine that all but one member of the Standing Committee will be claiming to be in the Southern Cone. This will mean that they are not in The Episcopal Church, and the ecclesiastical authority of the real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be the lone non-realigned member of the Standing Committee, who, one would imagine, the Presiding Bishop would have to recognize as running the diocese. (There is no reason for the Presiding Bishop to make such a finding, in the abstract, but the church needs to figure out to whom it should send diocesan mail.) Meanwhile, the other members of the former Standing Committee will likely hire Duncan as some kind of bishop under somebody's rules. Calvary Church and, perhaps, The Episcopal Church, will go to court to straighten it all out.

The real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church eventually will call a special convention to put its house in order, and plans for that will no doubt go forward in parallel with the legal battles. After a brief moment of unexpected euphoria yesterday, I don’t think I want to think about that today.

September 18, 2008

Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?

On September 6, 2008, a paper by Mark McCall was posted on the Web site of the Anglican Communion Institute with the improbable title of “Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchicial?” The paper was introduced in an essay by Philip Turner, Christopher Seitz, and Ephraim Radner titled “Constitution and Canons: What Do They Tell Us About TEC?’

McCall, offering legal and historical arguments, concludes that The Episcopal Church is not hierarchical in the sense of other churches (such as the Roman Catholic Church, for example). Although I am neither an historian nor a canon lawyer, even I could spot certain flaws in McCall’s arguments. (He mistakenly believes, for example, that giving consent for the consecration of bishops has always been the primary responsibility of dioceses, whereas the original church constitution assigned that responsibility to the General Convention.)

What I lack in legal and historical qualifications is perhaps partly compensated for by my command of logic, and I have brought what expertise I do have to the analysis of Episcopal Church polity, arguing elsewhere that dioceses are inextricably bound to The Episcopal Church and subject to the General Convention. (See “Unqualified Accession.”) Certainly, this is what Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has long argued in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

After reading McCall’s essay, I happened upon a paper copy of Dr. Joan Gundersen’s essay “History Revisited: Historical Background of the Proposed Amendment to Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Joan wrote this in 2004 in response to an opinion by the chancellor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh asserting that diocesan convention was free to modify the accession clause of the diocese’s constitution. From historical facts, Joan argued otherwise. (Her paper is available here.)

Rereading Joan’s paper convinced me that I should write a post about the problems I found in McCall’s arguments. I intended to direct readers to “History Revisited” in my essay. Discussing the matter with Joan, however, I discovered that she was eager to write a direct rebuttal to McCall’s arguments herself, and I was quick to encourage the project.

In fact, Joan produced a brilliant reply to McCall that, I think, blows his arguments out of the water. Moreover, she did this in very short order—I was particularly impressed with her efficiency—seemingly producing the 8-page essay “A Response to Mark McCall’s ‘Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?’” in no time. I think we spent more time editing and formatting the piece than she spent actually writing it. (Well, maybe not.)

Here is an excerpt from “A Response to Mark McCall’s ‘Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?’” This paragraph addresses the troublesome word “accede,” about which I also wrote:
To begin with, anachronistic assumptions permeate McCall's essay. If we are to understand what the eighteenth-century organizers of The Episcopal Church had in mind, we must be sure we are not reading later understandings into their documents. For example, McCall uses a U.S. Court of Appeals decision to define “accession” as becoming party to a treaty and refers to it as an “unusual” term in the law of contracts. That may be, but a simple consultation of the Oxford English Dictionary reveals a number of eighteenth-century examples of the use of the word “accede” to mean agreeing to a plan or opinion. Current dictionaries often use “submit” as a synonym. The founders thus used a word in a common context that people then would understand easily.
More typical (and more engaging) is the rich historical detail that Joan brings to her narrative. Here is a sample:
On March 29, 1784, a small group of clergy and laity from three congregations met to discuss forming an organization in Pennsylvania. However, they “were of the opinion, that a subject of such importance ought to be taken up, if possible, with the general concurrence of the episcopalians in the United States.” Two days later, at another gathering of the group, they called a meeting for May 24 for clergy and lay representatives from every Pennsylvania parish. When that convention met, it appointed a standing committee to “confer with representatives from the episcopal church in other states, or any of them; and assist in framing an ecclesiastical government.” This convention then outlined a list of principles for forming such a government and called for a meeting of the larger church in New York in October 1784. One of the principles was “That no powers be delegated to a general ecclesiastical government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the clergy and laity in their respective congregations.” McCall reads this as reserving power to the state conventions (dioceses). However, that is not what it says. State conventions are not even mentioned, since Episcopalians in many states, including Pennsylvania, had no such convention. Pennsylvania numbers its state conventions beginning with that of 1785, rather than with the 1784 meeting.
(I spare you the footnotes in the above passages.)

It is hardly worthwhile for me to discuss “A Response to Mark McCall” in detail here. Instead, I invite you simply to read Joan’s essay and marvel at its effortless scholarship. You can find it here.

Of course, my interest in Episcopal Church polity is intensified by the upcoming vote for “realignment” (i.e., removing the Diocese of Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church and making it a part of the Anglican province of the Southern Cone). The McCall essay seems designed to offer a credible argument for the propriety of such a move.

Because the Anglican Communion Institute has not encouraged schism in The Episcopal Church—senior fellow Ephraim Radner famously resigned from the Anglican Communion Network upon concluding that it was schismatic—I was surprised to find McCall’s essay offered under its sponsorship. McCall apparently offered the essay to the ACI unsolicited, and the ACI folks seem to have been taken in by McCall’s argument, even if they had qualms about its implications. I suspect that McCall is a proponent of “realignment,” but the ACI is not, though its principals seem willing to consider ecclesiastical arrangements within the Anglican Communion that I would consider destructive. I hope they will re-evaluate their embrace of Mark McCall’s arguments after they have read Joan Gundersen’s rebuttal.

September 13, 2008

A Hopeful Event

Across the Aisle’s presentation “A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternative Solution” concluded a couple of hours ago. (See “Across the Aisle Sponsors Unity Event.”) It was, I think, a wonderful gathering. Held in the undercroft of my own parish, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, it attracted over 300 Episcopalians, three TV crews, and several print journalists. What was most impressive to me was the number of people involved in the planning, presentation, setup, publicity, and hospitality and how well everything came together. The professionalism of the event was much enhanced by the involvement of three St. Paul’s parishioners. Andy Muhl and Rich Creehan worked on publicity and setup, which included putting together a well-appointed stage and designing signage, lighting, and sound. (They were assisted by Director of Parish Operations Dick Ritchie. I’m not completely sure about who did what.) Jon Delano, who, among other things, is a local political analyst for a Pittsburgh TV station, was an excellent MC and timekeeper. That timings had been carefully attached to presentations meant that the program moved along at a brisk pace, leaving adequate time for a Q&A session at the end.

The program for today can be seen here.

The event began and ended with brief worship services, each of which included singing a hymn. (Someone remarked to me, “Episcopalians surely can sing!”) The presentations were uniformly excellent, although I particularly appreciated the addresses by the Rev. Jeff Murph, the Rev. Jim Simons, and Mary Roehrich. Murph and the Rev. Leslie Reimer spoke on “Why is staying with the Episcopal Church the right thing to do?” Murph spoke from a conservative viewpoint, and Reimer spoke from a more progressive perspective. Simons then talked about the good things happening in The Episcopal Church, a topic he has lately been writing about on his blog. Roehrich next offered a vision for a reorganized diocese of diverse views united in worship and mission.

Bishop Robert Duncan, who has promoted “realignment,” which is to say, schism, has, in his decade-long tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh, emphasized our divisions, trashed The Episcopal Church and its leaders, and promoted animosity and alienation, rather than love and fellowship. Diocesan gatherings have become few and bitter affairs. Today’s event, however, was a wonderful, affirming opportunity for fellowship, and many attendees greeted old friends from other congregations whom they had not seen in years. It felt like being a part of a real diocese again.

The presentations concluded with a panel on “practicalities,” the nuts and bolts of what is going to happen if “realignment” is approved by the diocesan convention. The panelists were two attorneys, Tom Moore and Charlie Jarrett, and a priest, the Rev. Bruce Robison. This was perhaps the least successful part of the program, since the legal, canonical, and pastoral issues are complex and the time allotted for discussing them was necessarily limited. The overall message—the overall message of the entire afternoon, in fact—was that, in spite of the anticipated vote to “realign,” the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of The Episcopal Church will be alive and well in Pittsburgh after October 4 and that, even if our common life will have us facing new challenges, we have a future we can anticipate with genuine hope.

Not much was said about our future should the October 4 convention derail Bishop Duncan’s plans. Some of us worry that successfully defeating “realignment” could lead to an even more acromonious future should many of the parishes that want to leave The Episcopal Church not actually do so. I suspect that most people involved with Across the Aisle do not really think that the diocese will step back from schism at this late date, however.

The Q&A session did not want for questions, though I think we might have provided better answers. Many of the questions were very practical ones about repaying loans from the diocese, what to do at the convention after the critical votes, and how the celebration of 250 years of Anglican presence in Southwestern Pennsylvania would proceed if we find ourselves in two competing dioceses. There were some uncomfortable moments involving property and casting one’s lot with one diocese or another, and these reflected genuine ambivalence within Across the Aisle itself. Several times I wanted to get up from my front-row seat and say something like, “How can you ask us for an ‘equitable distribution of property’ when you won’t honor your ordination vows to The Episcopal Church?” Of course, I didn’t do that.

Various handouts were available, including an essay by Simons, PEP’s “Realignment Reconsidered,” and the latest issue of PEP’s newsletter.

I went home physically tired, but emotionally energized. I hope that most attendees went home energized as well.

September 10, 2008

Kill that picture!

Although my usual bedtime ritual is to read before falling asleep, recently, I have been listening to old radio dramas on CDs or watching recorded TV programs. For making a smooth transition from wakefulness to sleep, there is much to be said for the CDs; one can lie down, turn off the light, fully absorb the program material, and, imperceptibly, fall asleep. Both reading and watching TV sometimes result in my waking up in the wee hours of the morning propped up uncomfortably in my bed with the lights on.

Months ago, I decided to rewatch Babylon 5, the sci-fi series from J. Michael Straczynski, which I own recorded on videotape. Because the series has more than 100 hour-long episodes, I’ve had some opportunities to consider the transition to sleep when watching Babylon 5 at bedtime.

I find that I can stay awake watching the television longer than I can reading a book. At some point, I need to acknowledge that it’s time to get to sleep, however, even if I can stay awake and watch more Babylon 5. I have taken to laying my pillows flat on the bed, turning out the light, hitting the Sleep button on the remote control, and lying down to drift off. If all goes well, I will be asleep before the television turns itself off, but, in any event, I reset the tape counter before lying down, so I can rewatch what I can’t see lying in bed with my eyes closed.

The only thing wrong with my falling-asleep-to-the-TV routine is the brightness of the screen. Not only does it light up an otherwise dark room, but it often makes the room darker or lighter suddenly, a behavior not conducive to drifting gently off to sleep. Of course, I could adjust the brightness and contrast controls to minimize the light given off by the television, but this would mean readjusting them when I want to return to normal viewing—not an attractive option.

There is a Mute button on the remote control that turns off the sound. Why isn’t there a corresponding button to turn off the screen? Why not indeed! Such a control would be useful when you want to fall asleep with the TV on, but it might also be useful on other occasinons: when something is being shown that you don’t want to see or don’t want your children to see, for example.

Having thought up a new control for my remote, I began to consider what to call it. I immediately thought of labeling the button “Blind.” I realized, however, that this was not a good choice. “Mute,” which I take to be a verb, rather than an adjective, means to diminish (or extinguish) the sound from. “Blind,” as a verb, can have any of several meanings, but the one that comes to mind most readily is to make sightless. The television does not have sight, however; it emits light, rather than receives and interprets it. I began to consider other words meaning to prevent light from getting through: mask, veil, shroud, cloak, hide, shield, eclipse, obscure, conceal, or, ironically, screen. Other candidates include words that indicate reducing the light intensity: dim, bedim, darken, befog, or obfuscate. For labels on remote controls, short and obvious is always better than long and obscure. How about a Mask button or a Cloak button? Or, if the screen does not go completely to black, a Dim or Darken button? My personal favorite is the Mask button. This would make a fine addition to any TV remote.

So, is anybody going to add this control to their televisions?

September 4, 2008

Designing a Logo

I am on the committee of Across the Aisle that is responsible for the event we are calling “A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternative Solution.” (See my post “Across the Aisle Sponsors Unity Event.”) The publicity for this event represents Across the Aisle’s first use of a logo. In fact, it also represents the first “official” publicity that AtA even exists. (I have written about AtA, as has Harold Lewis on the Calvary Church Web site and Jim Simons on his new blog Three Rivers Episcopal, but AtA has hitherto issued no public statements of any kind.)

For a time, AtA had every reason to want to fly below the radar, as moderates and liberals who had long fought against an increasingly intolerant diocese began tentative discussions with conservatives who had come late to the campaign. Moreover, it was clear that some players in AtA are deeply suspicious of the media. One cannot hold an event intended to attract people from multiple counties without telling them about it, however. Publicity was essential for the September 13 event.

No one in AtA actually asked for a logo, and the group even seemed to get its name rather by default. Those in the predecessor group resolutely declined to take on an official name, much less a logo. This was rather an inconvenience when it decided to sponsor “A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice” and tried to explain that it wasn’t really Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, even though few participants were not PEP members. “Across the aisle” was first used as an informal designation for the initial contacts between the original group and the 12 mostly conservative priests who announced their intention to stay in The Episcopal Church in a letter last January. As discussion expanded, the larger group began to look more like an actual organization, and it came rather naturally to be called “Across the Aisle.” I don’t know that there was ever any explicit agreement to call it that, but no one seemed to want to negotiate a replacement name. I rather liked “United Episcopalians of Pittsburgh” as a name, but my proposal for a name change did not get any traction.

One day recently, I had an inspiration. The cross of the Episcopal Shield could be linked to the horizontal bars of two capital As to form “AtA,” with the shield sitting in the middle. In just a few minutes, I had created a basic logo:

Basic Across the Aisle logo
This was a perfectly adequate design, but it could hardly stand alone, so I began thinking about adding lettering to it. The outcome of this process was either wonderfully fortuitous or too clever by half. I identified a promising font in which to render “ACROSS THE AISLE” and discovered that it could be sized and placed to sit nicely over the sans-serif As. The first A of the legend creates a point atop the otherwise flat-topped left A, and the final E sits comfortably atop the right A. The text reinforced the spanning-the-divide motif of the horizontal bar through the center of the shield. This is the result:

Across the Aisle logo with name
That the eye tends to associate the large red A at the left with the A of “ACROSS” has the effect of making “CROSS” stand out as though it were a separate word. This emphasizes the fact that there actually is a cross in the Episcopal shield. Interestingly, when I first sent out the logo for comment, some people indicated that they liked it, even though I learned later that they did not recognize the cross as acting as the T in “AtA.” (The failure to see the T in this logo is even more remarkable than the failure, by most people, to see the arrow in the Federal Express logo. See “Deconstructing an Icon.”) Anyway, this logo is the one we used for most of the publicity for “A Hopeful Future,” but the original logo was used for posters, on which we paired “Across the Aisle” to the right of the logo with a tagline.

Here are two other rejected designs:

Across the Aisle logo with embedded name

Across the Aisle logo with name and diocese name
The first design simply did not work at all unless the logo was big. The addition of “DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH,” which I thought brought a certain balance to the design and provided more context for the group that it was to represent proved controversial. Some argued that the words suggested that AtA was an official initiative of the diocese or that they implied that we would soon be the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I argued that we were merely saying that AtA was within the diocese. A suggested solution was to delete “DIOCESE OF,” but I thought this was offensive to the many people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who do not actually live in the city of Pittsburgh. In the end, we dropped the legend at the bottom completely, perhaps for the best.

I am rather fond of the logo, but it may have a very short shelf life. If convention votes to “realign,” the people of AtA will be actively involved in reorganizing the diocese. That diocese should be one that includes all Episcopalians without prejudice, and there will be no need for AtA as an organization. What the future of AtA will be if the vote goes the other way, however, is unclear. Perhaps it will have an orgoing role.

September 3, 2008

Across the Aisle Sponsors Unity Event

Across the Aisle, a group of lay and clergy Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, has announced an event at my church on September 13. The two-hour presentation, including a Q&A period, is called “A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternative Solution.”

I described the origin of Across the Aisle in my post “Whither Pittsburgh?” The group has steadily gained participants since early this year and has been working on how the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (i.e., the real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that is part of The Episcopal Church) will respond to the vote to “realign.” The (improper) vote to leave The Episcopal Church and to attach the diocese to the Anglican province of the Southern Cone is expected to pass, although passage is by no means certain. Whereas the Pittsburgh clergy will surely vote in large numbers for the measure, the lay vote is harder to predict. The September 13 event has two main purposes: (1) to encourage deputies to vote against “realignment” and (2) to explain how the diocese will be reorganized if the vote succeeds.

“A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternative Solution” will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon. It is scheduled for 1 to 3 PM. Refreshments will be served.

The press release about the event can be found here. A poster about the event is available here.

Across the Aisle logo

September 1, 2008

Good Grief!

In my August 11 post “Mistaken Primate,” I reproached Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for speaking of the “Anglican Church”:
In his second paragraph, Williams uses a phrase about which I constantly chide reporters, “Anglican Church.” What does the archbishop mean by this? Because he wants the Anglican Communion—a fellowship—to be a real, unified, worldwide church, he speaks as though it is. Well, it isn’t.
Williams’ use of “Anglican Church” was dismaying, but not surprising, as the archbishop seems to have it in his head that greater centralization within Anglicanism is the key to moderating conflict.

It is more distressing and damaging when “Anglican Church” appears in publications from The Episcopal Church, as it does in the essay by layperson Nelson Smith “Get off the sidelines: With teamwork if not affection, the Anglican Church can be a force for peace and justice” that recently appeared on Episcopal Life Online. In addition to its use in the subtitle, “Anglican Church” occurs three times in the body of the piece.

“Get off the sidelines” is a plea to Anglicans to do the work of the Christ’s Church even in the face of internal conflicts. We should be addressing poverty, injustice, and stewardship of the environment now, the author asserts. In particular,
Let the bonds of common mission and necessity carry the day for now over the “bonds of affection.” I have faith that God will be present throughout the process and may even help with the affection part. The sideline is no place for the Anglican Church—it must be “in the arena.”
This is, I think, a fine and timely message, except, of course, for the “Anglican Church” part.

Clearly, Smith is referring to the churches—note the use of the plural here—of the Anglican Communion. He is neither asserting the existence nor advocating the establishment of a monolithic “Anglican Church,” and he is likely unaware that Episcopalians as passionate as himself might be anguished by his use of the term. The editors of Episcopal Life Online should have required Smith to drop “Anglican Church” in favor of “Anglican churches,” “churches of the Anglican Communion,” or something similar.

I am not advocating censorship; “Anglican Church” is simply an erroneous designation that could mislead some, while giving aid and comfort to those insurgents in The Episcopal Church who, unable to get their way through the normal deliberative processes of the church, are conspiring to do so by converting the “Instruments of Communion” into instruments of coercion. In fact, I would not object to Episcopal Life Online carrying an essay advocating centralization of authority within the Communion. I do object, however, to the failure to edit material so as to avoid undermining the church gratuitously.