December 12, 2008

Diocese of Pittsburgh Special Convention About to Begin

The special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (i.e., the diocese actually in The Episcopal Church) begins this evening with Evening Prayer and a reception. Tomorrow promises a busy morning of business and a joyous Eucharist and Ordination in the afternoon. It all happens at my parish of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon.

I spent much of the past week preparing for the convention on behalf of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) and the reorganizing diocese. (I am an alternate deputy unlikely to be promoted to deputy status. I am, however, one of several lay candidates for a position on the Committee on Canons, which will perform a complete review of the constitution and canons of the diocese in 2009.)

On Tuesday, I helped make final revisions to one of the four resolutions that will come before the convention. Resolution IV has now been through four official versions. Its purpose is to declare that certain changes to the constitution and canons made over the last five years were beyond the power of the convention to enact and were therefore null and void. I had expected that taking care of this piece of bookkeeping—essentially, getting rid of the changes that Bishop Duncan and his supporters claimed allowed them to “realign”—would be straightforward, but there were disagreements about just what provisions were improper, as well as how the justification for consigning them to the trash bin should be explained. The resolution to be presented tomorrow will restore the accession clause of the diocesan constitution to what it was before the 2003 annual convention, and it will eliminate the recently passed canon that declares the diocese to be part of the Southern Cone. I hope that all parties with serious concerns about the resolution are now on board, and no real debate will be necessary tomorrow. The final version of the resolution can be found on the diocesan Web site.

My second convention-related task this week was getting out an issue of PEPtalk, the PEP newsletter. This December 2008 issue is short and designed mainly to show the flag at the convention. It reviews recent events—it has been a busy fall—and looks to the future. Interested readers can read the new edition on-line.

Finally, I worked on the preparation of materials for PEP’s table at the convention, and I spent time at church this afternoon arranging the table itself. What is exciting about this effort is that this convention is the first one at which PEP (and other organizations that were not “mission partners” of Bishop Duncan’s diocese) could participate in a convention in any authorized capacity. Among the groups represented at tables at this convention are PEP, the Calvary Church bookstore, Episcopal Women’s History Project, and Integrity. This is a new day in Pittsburgh.

PEP vice president Ken Stiles wrote a story for PEPtalk that could not fit in a four-page issue, but I decided that it, and an earlier story he wrote for the newsletter, would make good handouts for the convention. The stories concern the litigation between Philadelphia parish of St. James the Less and the Diocese of Pennsylvania. The parish tried to leave The Episcopal Church with its property, an action that ended badly. Ken’s stories are “The Saga of St. James the Less: A Cautionary Tale” and “St. James the Less Revisited.”

Over the past few days, a number of people have volunteered to me that they are looking forward to this weekend’s convention. That is surely a change from past years, when most of the Episcopalians I know anticipated diocesan conventions with fear and loathing. The diocese has encouraged observers to attend, and I hope that we can fill the house.

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