October 4, 2008

Realignment Blues

I returned home from the convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh a couple of hours ago. I have been busy updating the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh Web site and sending out a PEP press release.

As readers are likely to know by now, the diocese voted today to “realign” to the Southern Cone from The Episcopal Church. This process involves several canonical impossibilities, not to mention theft—there is no other proper word for it—of Episcopal Church property. I have written about the impropriety of “realignment,” however, and I don’t much want to revisit the subject now.

Many things happened today that deserve comment, but I want to restrict myself to only one at this time. I may write about other matters later.

At the end of the convention, the diocese distributed a new brochure, “Realignment Realities: What You Need to Know.” The brochure is an attractive, full-color, tri-fold, enameled paper affair. (You can see it here. I apologize for the fact that the dark colors of the brochure make it hard to scan well. If you have trouble reading the text, enlarge the image. It is sharper than it may at first appear.) Here are some assertions of the brochure (my comments are in italics):
  1. The diocese is now in the Southern Cone “temporarily while a new Anglican Province for North America is being organized."
    These people have big dreams.
  2. The diocese is no longer a part of “‘The Episcopal Church’” (quotes in the original).
  3. The Episcopal Church cannot remove clergy and lay leaders from their positions.
    They don’t have to. The leaders have removed themselves from The Episcopal Church.
  4. By acting together, the realigners will be in the best position to defend themselves from lawsuits. “[O]ur diocesan legal team is highly experienced in cases like ours and fully committed to protecting the resources of the diocese.”
    What, exactly, are “cases like ours”? Only San Joaquin has tried to do what Pittsburgh has done, and that litigation won’t go to trial for nearly a year.
  5. Parishes need do nothing now; they have two years to adjust their bylaws.
    Parishes realigning risk being sued by The Episcopal Church and, likely, the reorganized diocese. Paying assessments to those currently in control of diocesan assets can certainly be taken as an indication that the parish intends to abscond with its property.
  6. “In any case, we will make a strong case that we are the true Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
    I can make a strong case that I am Napoleon, but that doesn’t make it true.
  7. The brochure announces a conference on the regular convention dates, November 7–8, but, in fact, this will essentially be a convention to re-elect the deposed Bishop Duncan. (See diocesan announcement here.)
All in all, this was something of a depressing day. Pittsburgh Episcopalians have much work and, alas, litigation ahead of them. The good news is that each side—they were called “realigners” and “reorganizers” today, rather than, say, “saints” and “apostates”—will, at some future time, feel unencumbered by the other.

I cannot say what will become of Robert Duncan’s dreams of glory. If they are realized, however, the Anglican Communion will, in essence, be destroyed.

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