February 13, 2009

Episcopal Church Asks to Join Calvary Lawsuit

An objection that the defendants have raised more than once in the lawsuit filed by Calvary Church against now-deposed bishop Robert Duncan and other (now former) leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is that Calvary had no right to sue without The Episcopal Church’s being a party to the suit. Well, Archbishop-in-Waiting Duncan seems about to get his wish. Papers were filed today in the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Bishop John C. Buchanan, Retired Bishop of West Missouri and parliamentarian of the House of Bishops. In a “petition to intervene,” Buchanan, representing The Episcopal Church, asks the court to become a plaintiff in the case.

In support of the request, the petition sketches the polity of the church and the history of the schism that has taken place in Pittsburgh. Paragraph 11 of that discussion asserts the following:
Once formed, a diocese of the Church is a subordinate unit of the Church, bound by the provisions of the Church’s Constitution and canons, which govern both temporal and ecclesiastical matters, and by The Book of Common Prayer of the Church.
which is perhaps the central assertion of the petition. The problem, as the church sees it, is set forth in paragraph 28:
The Episcopal Church is informed and believes that defendant former Bishop Duncan, as well as the other individual defendants described in Paragraph 24 who were formerly part of the leadership of the Diocese, control an entity of unknown form that uses the name “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh” and hold that entity out as the Diocese; have asserted authority over Episcopal parishes, congregations, and other organizations in the Diocese; and have exclusive possession and control of substantially all of the real and personal property of the Diocese.
The emphasis is mine. (I have repeatedly asserted that whatever Duncan leads is neither a diocese nor properly in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.)

The petition makes it clear that the proper Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is neither new nor led by Duncan. The final paragraph (32) says:
The issues raised by defendants in their motions for this Court to decide thus directly impact the substantial legally enforceable interests of The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church has an interest in ensuring that any determination by this Court regarding the ability of the Diocese to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church or the identity of the persons now comprising the leadership of the Diocese, including in connection with an interpretation or application of Paragraph 1 of the October 14, 2005 Stipulation and Order, does not contravene The Episcopal Church’s Constitution, canons, or polity, including the requirement that all Church property may only be used for the mission of the Church subject to the Constitution and canons of the Church, guaranteed to the Church under the First Amendment.
Along with the petition, attorneys for The Episcopal Church, including the recently appointed Mary Kostel, submitted a “complaint-in-intervention” as exhibit 1. This complaint repeats and expands upon the information presented in the petition.

The filing can be read here. The Standing Committee of the diocese has issued a statement supporting the action of The Episcopal Church, which can be read on the diocesan Web site here.

UPDATE: See my 2/15/2009 post “Further Analysis” for more information and thoughts on the Episcopal Church filing.

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