February 19, 2009

Pittsburgh Standing Committee Writes to Diocese

NOTE: I have often remarked that the fact that we have two entities in Pittsburgh calling themselves “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh” is a nightmare for journalists. In the post below, I encountered the same frustration professional journalists have. As originally posted, a number of people complained that they couldn’t keep the players straight. Fair enough. I have revised the post to be as clear as I can be. I hope this helps.

Below, the diocese acknowledged as being in The Episcopal Church by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is referred to as “EDoP/TEC.” The group led by Robert Duncan that claims to be a diocese in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone is referred to as “EDoP/SC.” For readability, I use less formal terms, but I use these abbreviations in parentheses to avoid any possible misunderstanding. I have made no changes to the material quoted directly from the letter that is the subject of this post.

Frankly, the letter is easier to read than to describe, and readers may want to skip my description of the letter entirely and just read the document itself.

I received a letter today from the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (EDoP/TEC). It was signed by the Standing Committee president and addressed to “Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC).” The scanned letter can be read here; there is not yet mention of it on the (EDoP/TEC) diocesan Web site.

The letter concerns the dispute with the group that left The Episcopal Church but is in control of most of the diocese’s assets (i.e., EDoP/SC). The letter is “an effort to communicate clearly and directly with our own leadership.” It reiterates a number of facts, but it also updates the (EDoP/TEC) diocese on heretofore unreported developments.

What is new here is that the group led by Robert Duncan (EDoP/SC) made a proposal to the diocese (EDoP/TEC) on February 5, 2009. According to the letter (from the EDoP/TEC Standing Committee) to the Episcopal Church diocese (EDoP/TEC):
[M]embers of the Standing Committee received a two page guide to determining a division of assets of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Included in this guide was a demand that claims to the official name of our diocese be relinquished.
The (EDoP/TEC) letter goes on to describe the response of the diocese (EDoP/TEC to EDoP/SC), which, among other things, suggested that everyone return to the diocese (EDoP/TEC) “so that no disputes over property would be necessary.” The response (EDoP/TEC to EDoP/SC) referred to the October 14, 2005, stipulation “signed in good faith by Bishop Duncan’s attorneys” which, of course, states that diocesan property should stay with The Episcopal Church. The response of the diocese (EDoP/TEC to EDoP/SC) also explained that “we [the people of the diocese, presumably] are stewards, not owners, of the assets entrusted to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh over many generations.”

The letter to (EDoP/TEC) diocesan leaders concludes as follows:
It seemed important to communicate this information to you directly in light of a cloud of misinformation we have observed over recent weeks produced by those wishing to leave The Episcopal Church. Please remind your parishioners that we are stewards not owners of assets entrusted to our responsibility and that, at least for assets of the Diocese, a stipulation was signed three years ago defining clearly the outcome of any dispute. We are hopeful that a determination will be reached quickly so that the mission and ministry of our Diocese may be freed from further distraction. [Underlining exactly reflects the letter.]

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