August 27, 2011

A Closer Look at Pittsburgh’s Diocesan Profile

Diocesan sealYesterday, over a leisurely breakfast, I read carefully the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Diocesan Profile, red pen in hand. (See “Diocesan Profile Posted.”) I have also talked to a few people who were involved in its production. I can now offer a more considered opinion of the Pittsburgh product.

I should preface my remarks by acknowledging that producing by committee a document as ambitious as this is a daunting task, one the reorganized diocese has never before attempted. No doubt, much attention was paid to content and much less attention was focused on the writing process. For whatever reason (or reasons), the schedule slipped, and the final editing and design became a frantic marathon.

So, how good is the profile? The short answer is that it’s good enough to attract episcopal candidates, which, after all, is its raison d’être. It’s not as good as it could be, and it’s not as good as it should be.

In what follows, I will offer a detailed evaluation of the document. Many of my observations will seem trivial, though some are decidedly not. In the end, I hope to point to how such a project might be better carried off next time around.

This is not so much a follow-on to my last post on the profile as it is a fresh and comprehensive look at the document.


The structure of the document seems to have been set late in the production process, so many design decisions had to be made late. Overall, the document is attractive, though I personally like to see pages more sharply defined by headers and footers. As it is, page numbers are often uncomfortably close to the document text. Pages do not feel cramped, however, even though the design was tightened to avoid creating an even longer document.

I do wish the PDF file had been made compatible with versions of Adobe Acrobat earlier than 9. The error message I received when I loaded the file into Acrobat 8 was worrisome, and I was not sure just what to make of it. (No incompatibilities were noticeable.)

The decision to bleed the cover picture and heading underlines is curious. Few people are going to read a nearly 30-page document on the screen, and few episcopal candidates are likely to have printers that can print edge-to-edge.

There is inconsistency in the headings. For example, on pages 11 and 12, second-level headings do not match the structure seen in the table of contents. Also, some headings are underlined, whereas similarly situated headings are not. Some bodies that are named in headings are preceded with “The”; others are not. Colons end headings on page 3 and nowhere else. No doubt, problems such as these would have been fixed had more time been available for the final production phase.

Generally, the typography is fine. The one exception is the prayer from Bishop Ashton Oxenden on page 3. It is unclear why a distinctive font is needed here, but it is quite clear that the choice of font was a colossal error. The text is hard to read and is out of character in the context of the rest of the document. Did the person who found this prayer insist on using this rather precious font?

The use of hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes is inconsistent. The proper glyph is not always used, and spaces appear around dashes as often as not. Almost certainly, the inconsistency is exacerbated by multiple authorship. The use of two hyphens before the identification of a quotation source is odd; I would expect an em-dash in such places. In at least one instance, two hyphens are used in lieu of em-dashes in the running text.

In the table of contents, there is another inconsistency. Some section headings are followed by a space and some are not. Most readers less obsessive than I will not notice this.

The many pictures add interest to the profile. My first impulse was to complain about the lack of captions. Captions would have lengthened the document, however, and probably wouldn’t have meant much to anyone outside the diocese. I would have liked to have seen more pictures of young adults, but their absence is more a problem with the diocese than with the profile. I particularly appreciated some of the historical illustrations, though I must say that the second picture on page 25 that seems to be illustrating our industrial past is totally inscrutable.


The multiple authorship of the document is more apparent than it should be. No doubt, editing diminished inconsistencies, but it certainly did not eliminate them.

I was encouraged after reading the Welcome! section (page 1). I made not a single red mark on the page for spelling, grammar, phrasing, or word choice. Alas, my optimism was quickly dispelled. I identified more than 35 missing commas and 7 missing hyphens in the remainder of the profile.

Whereas nearly all of the text is written from a diocesan perspective—the appropriate viewpoint, I think—there are occasional lapses. The discussion of the Up 4 Reading program and Shepherd Wellness Community talk about “our local elementary school” and “Our mission” [emphasis added], respectively.

Word choice is generally acceptable, although I found a few words to quibble with and references that will certainly wrinkle brows of readers outside the diocese. I did a serious double take when I encountered the phrase “without extensive withdrawals from our corpus.” “Corpus” is a financial term unfamiliar to most people (like potential episcopal candidates and bloggers like me) and “withdrawals from our corpus” seems too close to “take it out of our hide.” A less technical term would have been a better choice.


Given that potential candidates are certain to be aware of at least the broad outlines of the recent unpleasantness in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a longish profile enumerating all our “vibrant Episcopal communities” is not inappropriate. Moreover, “Pittsburgh” still conjures the mental image of “hell with the lid off” in many minds, so even the inclusion of the historical and geographical material at the end of the profile is easy to justify.

On the other hand, the text suggests a certain ambivalence about admitting what the diocese has been through. It is important to note that we are emerging from the dark spiritual forest in which Bob Duncan had confined us, but it is equally important for potential candidates to recognize the deep hurt experienced, particularly by the clergy of our diocese, during our spiritual exile from the wider church. I believe that, curiously, the more moderate elements of the diocese that recognized what Bob Duncan was up to early and actively resisted his machinations emerged more hopeful and less cynical than the conservatives who were slow to do so but quick to criticize the Duncan opponents.

In any case, although the name of our deposed bishop does occur several times in the profile, too little is said about him to fully inform potential candidates as to his activities and influence. I get the feeling that some of the authors of the profile think of Bob Duncan as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), which emerged from the ad-hoc group Those Opposed to Resolution One (TORO), which organized in late summer 2002, began attending Province III meetings in 2004. (Under Duncan, Pittsburgh sent no representatives to these meetings and made it impossible for clergy to attend by scheduling clergy conferences at the same time the provincial synod met.) In November 2006, PEP invited Province III representatives to one of its meetings, and PEP organized the meetings in Maryland with Provincial president Bishop Bob Ihloff about six months later. It was PEP that sent out feelers to the twelve conservative clergy who had told Duncan that they would not leave The Episcopal Church with him. It was out of these contacts that Across the Aisle, which is mentioned in the profile, developed.

PEP, however, is not mentioned. I have been told that PEP figured in earlier drafts, but the references to PEP were expurgated at some point in the editing process. As a major player in PEP, I find this offensive, and I am concerned that it is a subtle attempt by conservatives of the diocese to downplay the role of more liberal Episcopalians and perhaps even to discourage liberal candidates from applying. It may also reflect the guilt that some conservatives feel for coming so late to the party.

In fact, the historical narrative in the profile refers to the improper October 2008 vote to separate the diocese from The Episcopal Church only indirectly, yet that is the most momentous event in the recent history of our diocese. The most important legal action in our history was the filing of the Calvary lawsuit in 2003, which is referred to in the profile not at all, yet it is most responsible for our diocese being more healthy (and wealthy) than the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, or Quincy. Again, conservatives’ guilt may be reluctant to admit that the lawsuit, which was heavily criticized both within the diocese and without, and not by conservatives only, was, in fact, a brilliant move by Calvary rector Harold Lewis and attorney Walter DeForest.

There are other omissions that are less serious. It would have been helpful had the discussion of the forums conduction by the Nomination Committee (inexplicably called the “Search/Nominating Committee” on page 8 and elsewhere) included a reference to the actual questions the committee posed to parishioners. (Not everyone was impressed with the topics covered by those questions, by the way.)

In a similar vein, the presentation of the operating budget on page 22 may raise more questions than it answers. What is the category “Other,” which accounts for more than 60% of diocesan income in the 2011 budget? Also, is not some comment in order about the category of “Legal Expenses,” which accounts for more than a quarter of the budget’s expenses?

Other statistics are not to be found in the profile at all that might be of interest to candidates. In the Worship section on page 12, for example, various service options are enumerated. But how many people are attending Rite I versus Rite II services? How many people are attending Morning Prayer more often than Holy Eucharist? Such statistics would be more enlightening than simply saying that “Our liturgies are as diverse as our membership.” A candidate might want to know a breakdown of the seminaries attended by Pittsburgh clergy and perhaps how many were originally recruited from outside the diocese. We are, one might argue, too inbred and have too many clergy from Trinity School for Ministry. Clergy diversity is a challenge for our next bishop.

In fact, Trinity School for Ministry is itself a challenge and rather a problem for the diocese, something the profile tries hard to ignore. Trinity has been a primary engine for undermining The Episcopal Church in general and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in particular. Likewise, the existence of a cathedral that claims to be a cathedral for both the Episcopal and the Anglican dioceses is a problem, one glossed over in the profile. Arguably such challenges should have been listed under Our Search—headings are not always the most obvious ones—on page 8.

Pages 9 and 10 of the profile, in various ways, attempt to define what the diocese is looking for in a new bishop. Largely, the text addresses matters the Nominating Committee avoided asking ordinary parishioners about. The sections here are a mixed bag. What do we value about being Episcopalian? is probably the best constructed section here. It reflects a very conscious affinity to the general church growing out of our past isolation from it. I would quibble about our valuing being part of the Anglican Communion, but, as Episcopal Church convenor for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, I can at least assert that this value is not uniformly held in our diocese.

I find What hopes and dreams do we have for a future with the new bishop called to serve our diocese? problematic. “Reconciliation with each other and with those who have left” seems to require qualification. I believe that reconciliation with those who left will not result in reunification in our lifetimes and is not even a reasonable aspiration before all property issues have been settled. Finally, I take exception to “Biblically focused,” which seem like code words for cutting two legs off the Anglican stool. I have no problem with “We believe Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation,” however.

The section How can the new bishop help the diocese move forward? is mostly fluff that should have been—actually, is—incorporated in the section about who we are looking for. “Be a bishop of the people” is redundant, romantic poppycock.

The section Who is God calling to lead us into that future? seems mostly reasonable. To say that we want someone with a “Biblical base,” however, worries me. What does that mean? I would prefer something more like “well versed in the Bible and biblical scholarship,” which, one might argue, sends a different message. Some other characteristics that I would like to see listed:
  • An unshakable commitment to The Episcopal Church that takes priority over any commitment to the Anglican Communion
  • Someone who has been a deputy to the General Convention
  • A competent extrovert with proven administrative and communications skills
  • Someone with no substantial disagreement with the general direction of The Episcopal Church over the past three decades
The profile mentions a number of entities without ever identifying them. This is not a serious problem, but it does tend to perplex the reader. Among the entities not properly identified is Old St. Luke’s and Christian Associates, which is actually Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania.

Finally, I am sorry that there is no concluding section in the diocesan profile. We have a Welcome! section but no Farewell! section. A short, concluding section inviting nominees would have offered a more elegant end to the document than does the sterile nomination submission form.


As I suggested earlier, the profile clearly suffers from having been produced by a committee. It had to be produced by a committee, of course, it did not have to be developed as it was. Although individual sections may have gone through multiple drafts, the assembled document seems not to have done so. Multiple drafts were what was needed, however. I do not know if the schedule was too compressed or was sabotaged by delays. I suspect both.

How could the process have been improved? First, I think a writer should have been hired to develop the text. Hiring someone would have assured that sufficient time was being spent on writing and that the writing would display substantial consistency. This does not mean that only the designated writer could produce text but that all text would at least be filtered through the stylistic sensibilities of a single person.

There should have been an editorial committee of stakeholders with demonstrable editing skills. Drafts of the profile should have been released through the editorial committee. Others could then offer criticisms feeding into the next draft. Three complete drafts should have been enough.

The person responsible for for document design should have been attached to the editorial committee, so the design could be developed in parallel with the text.

All of the above assumes the availability of certain resources, of course, including time. Since I don’t know how approvals of the text were solicited, I don’t know just how various diocesan groups in the diocese had to fit into the development process. I do know that the Standing Committee, which is a very important body of the diocese, was given very little time to bless the final document.

Final Remarks

For better or worse, the job is done, and the profile has been thrown over the diocesan transom. May the Holy Spirit guide the right candidates to our door and send others in a different direction. Too bad the Holy Spirit was not given a little more help.

August 26, 2011

Diocesan Profile Posted

Profile coverThe Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh posted its Diocesan Profile as part of the search for the eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh late yesterday. The profile and other materials related to the bishop search can be found on the diocesan Web site here.

The profile is a 29-page color PDF file with lots of pictures. I have never before read a diocesan profile, and I have only had a chance to scan this one, so I really cannot say how our document stacks up against other such documents. It’s pretty, and it’s fun searching for friends in the many photographs.

I was a bit annoyed when I tried to view the file on my computer with Adobe Acrobat 8. I received a warning message, since the PDF generated is designed for Acrobat (or Reader) 9 or later. Presumably, some features are unavailable to me on this computer, but I don’t know what they might be. The document looks pretty much the same on my other computer, on which Adobe Reader 10 is installed.

A quick read suggests that the profile freely admits certain problems of the diocese while at the same time portraying certain issues through rose-colored glasses. It is difficult to discern the fault lines of the diocese. How conservative or liberal is the diocese? One cannot tell from the profile, though some candidates might have reservations about the presence of Trinity School for Ministry in the diocese or the assertion that the diocese should be “Biblically focused.” Likewise, I question our desire for “[r]econciliation with each other and with those who have left.” (Peaceful coexistence might be a more realistic goal.)

The presentation of the recent history of the diocese has several errors and significant omissions. I fear that these lapses may reflect a conservative bias, blindness, or guilt. What is described as “the recent division” is dated in the profile from 2003, but it was the so-called Resolution One in 2002 that first alarmed the moderate and liberal elements of the diocese and suggested that Bob Duncan was up to no good. That concern led to the establishment of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) early in 2003, without which there likely would not have been discussions with the president of Province III in Maryland and the establishment of Across the Aisle.

Likewise, the discussion of “property consequences” makes no mention of the Calvary lawsuit, without which our diocese would be in the same legal limbo and dire financial straits as the other dioceses that have experienced schism in recent years. It is significant that 815 discouraged filing of the lawsuit by Calvary Church, but that suit probably save the church and the diocese millions of dollars.

Why do PEP and the Calvary lawsuit get no mention in the profile, even though they were responsible, in a very real sense, for saving the diocese? Enquiring minds want to know.

It is 1:35 AM as I am writing this, and my reactions should be considered very preliminary. I may have more to say about the profile after I have had more time to reflect on it. In the end, I don’t know whether the profile is all that important, but I do think that potential candidates should have a more complete view of how Pittsburgh got to it present situation.

In any case, anyone wishing to nominate someone to become Bishop of Pittsburgh can use the form of page 27 of the profile. Alternatively, he or she can suggest a nominee on the diocesan Web site here.

August 24, 2011

The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism Is Nasty and Wrong

On July 27, 2011, The Daily Show ran a segment called “GOP—Special Victims Unit.” Among other things, this funny but disturbing piece showed clips of conservatives complaining about how they are being attacked by liberals, in the process smearing liberals with horrible epithets. In the final clip, we hear, “So vicious, it’s so mean, it’s so cruel, and I don’t hear this coming from conservatives about liberals.” To this, Jon Stewart responded,“You don’t?” He then whispered, “You should watch this show tonight.”

What brought this segment to mind was an August 19, 2011, commentary by David Virtue on his Web site VirtueOnline: The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism.

Virtue begins by calling Episcopal Church clergy “inept” and charging that “the church has turned its back on its historical traditions.” He calls two bishops “extreme revisionist traitors” and describes “liberalism and revisionism” as becoming “disloyal and and [sic] damaging … to the Christian faith.” He speaks of “the deep hatred that Episcopal liberals and revisionists now have for orthodox.”

Virtue then unleashes a completely unnecessary personal attack on my own bishop, referring to Ken Price as “the allegedly meek and mild milquetoast pudgy rump provisional Bishop of Pittsburgh.”

Of course, the ironically named David Virtue does not assert that the “orthodox Anglicans” to which he gives voice are mild-mannered, righteous, and godly people, but, like the mean-spirited political conservatives exposed on The Daily Show, he deserves to be characterized, in Jon Stewart’s words, as disingenuous and un-self-aware.

Having established that Episcopalians are bad people, Virtue gets down to what I assume is the point of the essay, namely, criticizing the way the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is negotiating with congregations that left the diocese and took parish property with them. What he says is riddled with errors.

Virtue asserts, “To date, one parish has settled and one has walked away.” In fact, two congregations have settled, and the one that “walked away” effectively settled in so doing. He then goes on to say, “A judge has ordered the Pittsburgh ACNA and the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh to deal directly with each other and work something out.” This is completely false. Judge Joseph James has upheld the stipulation agreed to by the Bishop Bob Duncan. The ACNA diocese has no standing in the negotiations over parish property, which is between representatives of the individual congregations and the Episcopal diocese headed by Bishop Price. Archbishop Duncan might wish to insert himself into these negotiations, but he has no basis on which to do so. Accusing Bishop Price of implementing a “divide and conquer approach” is so much sour grapes.

What Virtue is most upset about, it would seem, is the prospect of agreements that allow a congregation to retain—which probably means buy, rent, or lease—its property only if it disaffiliates from ACNA. Thus far, only St. Philip’s, Moon Township, has negotiated such an agreement, and it apparently did so without undue psychological distress. Because negotiations have been very secretive, I do not know if the diocese intends to link property retention with disaffiliation across-the-board. I would assume, however, that this is a decision the Episcopal negotiators will address on a case-by-case basis. There would seem to be no reason to link retention and disaffiliation in a case where, for example, the building is in poor shape or is badly located. (Arguably, many churches of the formerly united diocese are badly located.)

Although I have every reason to believe that the presiding bishop is not dictating the diocese’s negotiating strategy—Virtue believes that she is— Katharine Jefferts Schori made a strong case for linkage when she answered questions from the floor at Trinity Cathedral on April 19, 2011. She spoke of the need to be good stewards of church assets and observed, “We can’t sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business.” I believe that statement is actually a bit stronger than the official position of the diocese, but perhaps not by much.

I spoke the other day to one of the conservative priests who stayed with The Episcopal Church. The priest indicated that not all of the conservative priests of the diocese are in quite the same place regarding property negotiation, but that there is little sympathy for simply giving away property, whether literally or virtually. What those in the ACNA diocese seem not to understand, I was told, is that theology is a matter apart from the property issue. Conservatives in the Episcopal diocese are not in favor of giving away property simply because they agree theologically with many former colleagues in the Anglican diocese.

Virtue concludes his essay by calling Bishop Price “Hardball Harry” and saying, “You gotta figure that the telephone wires between 815 2nd avenue (TEC’s HQ) and downtown Pittsburgh have been running hot all week. Can one see the sticky fingers of Katharine Jefferts Schori all over this one?” In fact, the diocesan offices are no longer in downtown Pittsburgh, and no, you can’t.

August 22, 2011

But Is It Oatmeal?

I had breakfast at Chick-fil-A this morning. I didn’t feel like cooking, and I was tired of McDonald’s and other fast-food alternatives. When I sat down and looked at my tray, I discovered a red card announcing that Chick-fil-A now offers “Multigrain Oatmeal.”

“Multigrain,” of course, is a hot advertising term, one which says “healthful” to the average consumer. But isn’t oatmeal necessarily made from oats?

On my way out of the restaurant, I asked the woman who had taken my order what made Chick-fil-A’s oatmeal “multigrain”? She didn’t know the answer, but she went into the kitchen to find out. When she returned, she gave me an answer very close to what is said on the company’s Web site:

Ingredients: Oatmeal (water, steel cut oats, rolled oats, brown sugar, contains 2% or less of flaxseed, buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, salt), dried fruit blend (cranberries [cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil], golden raisins [contains sulfur dioxide as a preservative], wild blueberries [wild blueberries, sugar, malic acid, canola oil, natural flavor], cherries [red tart cherries, sugar, sunflower oil]), roasted nut blend (glazed walnuts [walnuts, sugar, natural flavor, canola oil], roasted almonds, glazed pecans [pecans, sugar, natural flavor, canola oil]), cinnamon brown sugar (brown sugar, cinnamon).

Apparently, what makes the Chick-fil-A oatmeal “multigrain” is the presence of small amounts of flaxseed, buckwheat flour, and whole wheat flour. One has to wonder why these ingredients are included. In a check of my local supermarket, I found no boxes of oatmeal that contained any grain other than oats. I can think of only four reasons for including the other grains:
  1. Flavor (Is there really enough of grains other than oats to make much of a difference in flavor?)
  2. Texture (One could ask a similar question here.)
  3. Cost (Perhaps flaxseed, buckwheat flour, and whole wheat flour are cheaper than steel-cut or rolled oats. Almost certainly, whole wheat flour is.)
  4. Advertising (“Multigrain” may simply be an advertising gimick.)
Perhaps there is more than one reason for including the other grains. If oatmeal contains grains other than oats, however, is it really oatmeal?

A Morning of Worship in Northern Cambria

Last Sunday, August 14, 2011, I attended morning worship at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania. The church is newly resurrected in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and it has an interesting history.

The church was founded in 1894, the same year that coal mining became the dominant industry of the area. The local coal company was Barnes and Tucker Coal, and the town in which St. Thomas was located was called Barnesboro, after Thomas Barnes. Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, and the adjacent Spangler, Pennsylvania, merged to form Northern Cambria in 2000. (The name was adopted from the local school district.)

The present building that houses the church was built in 1920. By 2004, both St. Thomas and the nearby St. Luke Episcopal Church in Patton, Pennsylvania, were in decline. The Northern Cambria building was shuttered and the congregations were combined as Sts. Thomas and Luke, Patton, since the physical plant in Patton was, overall, a better facility. When the diocese split in 2008, the Patton congregation chose to follow Bob Duncan, leaving the area without an Episcopal Church.

This summer, the decision was made to reopen St. Thomas. (See the story from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh here.) Episcopal services resumed there last month. Making the building that had been closed for seven years habitable required a herculean effort, that, is ongoing. Volunteers from St. Mark’s, Johnstown, provided much of the necessary labor.

The ministry team that is making St. Thomas work consists of Deacon Ann Staples and deacon candidate Chris Baumann. According to the diocesan story referred to above,

The Rev. Staples has been a driving force in re-establishing St. Thomas as an active Episcopal parish. She was a leader in both the original parish and in Patton, and has maintained an Episcopal ministry in Northern Cambria as director of the Coal Country Hang-out Youth Center, which provides programs and services otherwise unavailable to nearly 6,000 youth in a three-county area. She will be the liturgist for the new congregation.

Chris Baumann will serve as parish administrator and preacher. He is currently in the process of becoming a deacon in the Episcopal Church.

Baumann had sought ordination unsuccessfully under Bishop Duncan. Now that Bishop Price is leading the diocese, his eventual ordination seems assured.

Lacking a priest, last Sunday’s Rite II Eucharist made use of pre-consecrated elements, which made the service a bit shorter than it might have been otherwise. We had an organist, however, and about 15 worshipers, including three children, a hopeful sign. There was, however, no bulletin.

The service was followed by a “non-coffee hour.” The closest thing to a parish hall is the church basement, which cannot be reached from inside the first-floor church. The basement is still a work in progress, so after-church fellowship was held outdoors. Cold drinks were provided in a cooler and donuts of various kinds were available. The discussion was friendly and was largely about increasing membership and accounting for parishioners who were absent. (Rain was threatened, and so older folks apparently stayed home because of it.)

Northern Cambria residents that had been attending the Patton church are mostly returning to St. Thomas. The reopening of St. Thomas and the migration back to it make the name of the ACNA church in Patton, Sts. Thomas and Luke, seem somewhat inappropriate. This is a matter for the “Anglicans” to deal with, however.

I took advantage of the fellowship time to discuss St. Thomas with Ann and Chris, as well to take a few photographs (see below). Besides learning about how things were going, I was looking for a contribution that Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh might make to St. Thomas. (PEP is donating a copy of the two-volume accompaniment version of the hymnal to make life a bit easier for the organist.)

St. Thomas seems to have a promising future. Its congregation is growing, and the area around it, which had been depressed because of the decline of coal mining, is anticipating a boom driven by gas drilling.

I should say a word about Ann Staples. I have known Ann for a while and mostly thought of her as the woman who fought fiercely for funds for the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center. She was also someone trying to find a way to put Chris Baumann on the road to ordination. Officially, Ann is retired, but that is hard to believe from observing her. Before last Sunday, I had not seen what she had done in coal country and imagined that her ministry was a small one in a needy corner of the world. After the service at St. Thomas, Ann gave me a brief tour of what had been a Roman Catholic church. It now has a play area in front, an impressive daycare center on the first floor, and a large area for youth activities on the second floor and balcony. I was very impressed by what she has cobbled together, by how she has attracted funding, and by the programs that have been held in the former church building.


Below are photos I took on my visit to Northern Cambria. Click on any photo for a larger image.

St. Thomas Episcopal ChurchSt. Thomas Episcopal Church viewed from the street. The new banner boldly declares it presence, something that the old sign (barely visible at right) fails to do.

Founding dateThe date of the church’s founding can be found on the front of the church.

Building date on stone on lawnThe building date is found on a stone set on the lawn.

Church interiorThis view of the church was taken after the service. All the windows are glazed with stained glass.

Altar and east windowsAltar and east windows. St. Thomas is represented in the center panel.

Window on south wallWindow on South Wall. The glass at St. Thomas is of very high quality.

Window detailWindow detail.

Window dedicationWindow dedication.

Church basementChurch basement. The basement cannot be reached from the church proper. It is entered through a door at the front of the building.

Coal Country buildingCoal Country Hangout and daycare center. The building is a former Roman Catholic church located a few blocks from St. Thomas.

August 21, 2011

The Logic of the (Self-)Right(eous)

A few days ago, the militant and misleadingly named American Anglican Council published a long essay by the Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll titled “Sea Change in the Anglican Communion: Thoughts on the Standing Committee Minutes.” In it, Professor Noll quotes extensively from the published minutes of the Standing Committee to support his thesis that, because the concerns of the Global South are being ignored, those “younger churches of the Communion” should create a new Anglican Communion in their own image.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that, on most issues, Professor Noll and I usually disagree. I do agree with him, however, that the Anglican Communion Office and the Archbishop of Canterbury have too much influence over Anglican Communion meetings. I—we—believe that the meeting participants should control the agenda and the outcome. We disagree as to the significance of the outcome. The Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee, and similar bodies should be free to discuss anything their members want, but those meetings have—properly, in my opinion—no actual authority over member churches of the Anglican Communion. That the Anglican Covenant seeks to establish centralized authority within the Communion is the strongest argument against its adoption.

A thorough analysis of the Noll essay would be burdensome for me and tedious for my readers, so I will not attempt to write one. But I do want to remark on one aspect of “Sea Change” that is so egregious that I cannot fail to take note of it. I preface my remarks by saying that the thinking of mainstream Anglicans and that of the militant traditionalist Anglicans is so different that it is not surprising that they cannot come to a meeting of the minds.

Noll spends a good deal of effort documenting the actions of the traditionalist leaders—Orombi, Anis, etc.—who have excused themselves from participating in Standing Committee meetings, lest they be forced to “sit at table with representatives of TEC.” He observes, “What is noteworthy is that the only way these Primates found they could be faithful to their calling as bishops in the Communion was to depart from its central committee.” One can understand this attitude, although it must be admitted that it is a very un-Anglican one. Archbishop Tutu was quite correct in suggesting that the glue that holds the Communion together is embodied in the fact that “we meet.”

It is the logic that Noll invokes after describing how his heroes have walked apart—a phrase I choose with malice aforethought—that is astounding:
For all the talk of inclusiveness and dialogue, it is the innovators who are left at the table, dialoguing among themselves. This ploy of excluding traditionalists while mouthing faux inclusivism is old hat to those of us from TEC, but it has now been carried out on the international stage.
This is blame-the-victim rhetoric! If only “innovators” are left at the table—alas, a wild exaggeration—it is hardly because the traditionalists have been hypocritically excluded. The “inclusivism” of the less radical elements of the Communion is not at all “faux.” The primates who have absented themselves from Standing Committee meetings are experiencing the consequences of their own self-righteous and self-indulgent symbolic deeds.

Noll’s analysis reminds me of the story of the kid who murdered his parents and pleaded for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. You can’t have it both ways.

August 19, 2011

Let’s You and Him Fight

The Rev. David Wilson has written a post in response to, among other things, my post of August 2, 2011, “David Wilson Complains, Warns.” His August 11 commentary is titled “Cognitive Dissonance: Follow up to ‘Something Has Changed Along the Way? part 2’.”

Originally, I planned only to call attention to the latest contribution by the Senior Pastor of St. David’s Anglican Church on the subject of the diocese he left, but I have decided that I need to do more than that.

The meaning of Wilson’s title is explained in these words:
Some of the buzz being generated among the TEC-Pgh conservatives could be the result of a term used in psychology, Cognitive Dissonance, which is defined as “A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions, such as opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat”. … For example, in this case, believing it is right to remain in the Episcopal Church and also not opposing its draconian policies.
The “draconian policies” referred to are, on one had, the insistence by The Episcopal Church that parishioners cannot simply walk off with church property—Wilson calls this a “‘scorched earth’ or winner-take-all strategy”—and what he sees as an authoritarian streak in the church’s leadership. (Its all about The Episcopal Church’s not doing what the militant conservatives want it to do.)

Boxing glovesThe theme of Wilson’s post, in the same spirit as his earlier one, is best characterized as “let’s you and him fight.” That is, he is trying to drive a wedge between conservatives and non-conservatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Some of the “gang of twelve” are giving in to the evil policies of The Episcopal Church or, at the very least, not opposing the direction of the church, Wilson complains. Of course, the “gang” was never the homogeneously conservative party that Wilson is making it out to be, so the cognitive dissonance being experienced by its members is likely quite diverse. The effect of his comments could easily be to drive a wedge between conservatives and conservatives within the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

It is interesting to see what Wilson chooses to mention. He observes, for example, “The election of the Rev. Leslie Riemer [sic], the progressive candidate and the defeat of the Rev. Jim Shoucair, the conservative candidate, for the Standing Committee clergy slot in last year’s diocesan election should give the TEC-Pgh conservatives pause.” To be sure, Reimer is more liberal than Shoucair, but she could as easily have been characterized as the woman candidate and Shoucair the man candidate. She comes from a larger church than her opponent, etc., etc. In short, it is not necessary to see Reimer’s election through a lens of conservative impotence.

Rather more disturbing is this:
The real test, of course, will be the election of the next TEC bishop in Pittsburgh. That is why many of the progressives in TEC-Pgh will support the election of a candidate from outside their diocese. They want to make sure that a conservative who is gracious, largely respected, personally affable, and well spoken (and formerly supportive or even tolerable of former bishop, Bob Duncan) and from within the diocese has no chance being elected.
Wilson seems to have someone in particular in mind, about whom I will not speculate. Insisting on selecting a bishop from outside the diocese, however, is not simply a liberal-versus-conservative issue, however, and Pittsburgh Episcopalians of every stripe have reasons to want an outsider who is untainted by the partisan strife that had, until recently, tainted our diocese. Conservatives might even want to find a bishop elsewhere to avoid selecting a liberal candidate from within the diocese. (Did Wilson think of that?)

In any case, Wilson has perhaps made clear that the more progressive elements of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh should not let down their guard. We are not yet one, happy, tolerant, and inclusive family. Wilson notes, “Two of the conservative clergy of the TEC emailed me off-blog [in response to his earlier post] and expressed private opinions and another clergyman requested we have lunch together—which we did.” Whether there were conspiratorial conversations between Anglican diocese and Episcopal diocese clergy, I do not know, but I do wonder what was said.

A comment on Wilson’s earlier post from the Rev. Philip Wainwright, the recently retired Episcopal priest now working part-time at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, is worrisome. Wainwright chairs the Committee on Constitution and Canons, of which I am vice chair, and I must say that we have experienced no conflict of substance in our work together. His comment is worth reprinting in full, however:
Could we separate the two threads in this conversation? David’s original post implied that the conservatives who had stayed in the Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh were becoming tolerant of the loose moral standards that characterise current Episcopal leadership, and concluded that because of this they cannot be expected to ‘ally themselves with us or support our position… They will not defend us’, presumably in regard to the property issue. What we can or should do in regard to the moral/doctrinal issues and what we can or should do in regard to the property issue are two different things. The conservatives are not of one mind about how to deal with the property issue, despite their common approach to the moral issue, and it would help discussion if that could be kept in mind.

But the most important point regarding either issue is that conservatives are a minority in the Episcopal diocese, and on every one of its committees. At the moment we simply do not have the votes to stop the revision of standards in the diocese or to change the policies applied to property negotiations. Until that changes, there will be no change in diocesan policy in either area. David, you being recently (and reasonably) likened to Boss Tweed, I know you understand that those who don’t have the votes can’t stop those who do!

The question is, therefore, what can be done to reform the church under these circumstances. The only thing I’d say about that today is this: the one thing that is absolutely certain is that to go on doing what conservatives have done in the Episcopal Church for the last forty years will not do it. Every conceivable rebuke has been hurled at the revisionists, and it has changed nothing. Every conceivable political stratagem has been used at diocesan and general conventions, and it has changed nothing. Anyone who continues to hope for reform of the Episcopal Church (as I do) must agree that it is time to try something else.

Those of you who have commented about not being aware of any opposition to the new standards by the conservatives who have stayed may be looking for more of the sort of thing that was done in the past: fights on the floor of convention, refusing to let the bishop come and confirm, letters to the newspapers. You won’t see any of those things, but it’s because they haven’t worked, not because we are less committed to biblical moral standards. I do know that adherence to these standards has been urged on the Pittsburgh diocesan leadership, but not in a spirit of confrontation.

As far as I know, we have no consensus about what should be tried instead, although David’s post might be stimulating progress towards that. The opinion I hear most, and share myself, is that the most effective thing is simply to go on preaching the pure word of God in our parishes, in the belief that God’s word does not return to Him empty, but prospers in the purpose for which He sent it. It’s true that such a policy won’t change things overnight, or even in my lifetime, but that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan. I know that the Bible was preached by many of those who pursued the policies that failed, but perhaps God wanted us to rely on His word and nothing else.
I am disturbed to learn that my committee chair apparently considers me a “revisionist” and is seeking a new stratagem to change the direction of the diocese and general church. I do hope that our diocese is not seeking a new bishop too early.

August 15, 2011

Horseshoe Curve

A friend and I visited Horseshoe Curve, near Altoona, Saturday. I have long wanted to visit this famous railroad landmark, but, before now, although I had traveled over the Curve, I had never gone there for train watching. It turns out that late Saturday afternoon is not the best time for seeing trains, but several did pass by, including the westbound Pennsylvanian.

Standing near the tracks in the area provided for viewing trains is a very special experience. You can see a train that nearly wraps around you—the same train in front of you, but also to your right and left. It is a weird and awesome encounter.

Somewhat surprisingly, most of the visitors to Horseshoe Curve Saturday afternoon were Amish (or Mennonite or some such—I was too polite to ask what group these people belonged to and too ignorant to discern their affinity from their dress). I mention this only because my best photograph of the day included several of these visitors.

Having seen a number of freight trains and pairs of helper locomotives running light over the Curve earlier in the day, I was excited to see an Amtrak passenger train approaching. When I pointed my camera at the tracks to take a photo of it, I took no notice of the three little barefoot girls waving to the engineer and the person standing a bit apart from them who likely was their father. It was these people, however, who made my picture special. The nearly identically dressed little girls had been reading one of the interpretive tablets found along the fence separating spectators from the Norfolk Southern right-of-way when the Pennsylvanian came by. (Click on the photo below for a larger view.)

Amtrak train #43 at Horseshoe Curve

August 10, 2011

A Wonderful Day at St. James

On Sunday, August 7, 2011, I again attended the service at St. James, Penn Hills. (Note: The Church seems to use “James” without an apostrophe, so I will do so here.) There were at least two reasons for visiting. First, even though St. James has been restored to being an Episcopal church for only a month, Bishop Ken Price was to visit and perform a number of baptisms, receptions, and confirmations. Second, in support of the resurrected Episcopal outpost, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) was giving the church a new Episcopal Church flag. The departing “Anglicans” had left an Episcopal flag on a shelf. The flag was wrinkled and faded. A bright new flag seemed to have great symbolic value.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Sunday’s service was the size of the congregation. I counted, albeit rather informally, more than 60 people. There were a Bishop Price delivering sermonfew visiting clergy and some laypeople from other churches. I counted at least seven PEP members. Remarkably, however, most members of the congregation apparently were thinking of themselves as members of the reconstituted St. James, Penn Hills.

The service began, improbably, with several blasts from a shofar, but that was about the only unorthodox aspect to the service. Bishop Price preached on the Beatitudes (see photo at left; click on this photo and others for a larger view), and found ways to apply the Gospel reading to developments at St. James.

The solemnity of baptisms in Episcopal church depends greatly on architecture and the nature of the congregation. They are rather formal affairs at my own church, where the font is in the chancel and the priest performing the baptism is separated from the congregation by a low screen and a communion rail.

Some clever rearranging of pews had been done at St. James to provide an open area at one side of the church to accommodate a rug and a recently donated marble font. The crowd gathered around the font made it difficult for many worshipers to see just what was going on and made picture-taking tricky. In any case, there were three or four baptisms, all of young children. (I was trying to take pictures and was not at as attentive to details as I might have been.) Baptisms were followed by a slightly larger number of receptions an confirmations performed in the same area.

Baptism beginsBishop Price begins baptism.

The Rev. Vicente Santiago performs a baptism.

Bishop Price performs confirmationBishop Price Performs Confirmation.

For the blessing of the new flag, the bishop called me to come forward. He also asked Joan Gundersen, PEP president who, performing her job with the diocese, had had much to do with seeing that the physical needs of St. James were taken care of. This little ceremony was mercifully brief.

Blessing of Episcopal flagFlag blessing: (L to R) The Rev. Vicente Santiago, Priest-Developer;
The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., Bishop Provisional of Pittsburgh;
Lionel Deimel, PEP Vice President; Joan Gundersen, PEP President.

Although offerings collected at a bishop’s visit are usually designated for the bishop’s discretionary fund or some other special ministry of the bishop, Bishop Price asked worshipers to be generous, as the collection would go directly to St. James.

The Eucharist was performed with a loaf of whole grain bread, rather than with wafers. I like this practice, though it does make intinction somewhat problematic.

The service ended all too soon, and people retired to the parish hall, where a substantial lunch was being set out. A celebratory meal seemed appropriate, though the nine o’clock service put lunch rather early in the day. (I over-ate anyway.) St. James has a long tradition of having such an early service, and, although I’m not sure why that is the case, the tradition has been continued.

Overall, the morning spent in Penn Hills was very uplifting and extremely encouraging. I am told that Penn Hills is one of the most diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and St. James is beginning to reflect that diversity. It was not so much diversity as sheer numbers that were most impressive, however. I was also struck by how smoothly the service ran; people did not seem to be struggling to figure out what goes on in an Episcopal service. I suspect this was because many of the new parishioners were refugees from the Roman Catholic Church, seeking all the liturgy and less of the guilt.

I predict that St. James, Penn Hills, is facing a bright future.



Cake at receptionCake at Reception

August 9, 2011


The London riots of the past few days have received a lot of attention on radio and television. I was taken aback today, however, when I heard some speak of the thieving that was taking place. I have never before encountered this word used as a noun, and I suspect such usage is rare, though it may be more common in certain dialects. Technically, I suppose, thieving is actually a gerund, related to the verb to thieve, which is itself unusual. (He thieved the television sounds very odd.)

It is curious that we generally speak of thieves stealing, not thieving. It is also curious that stealer is rare. In principle, though not in practice, one can imagine this sentence: The stealer thieved the television.


August 5, 2011

Phrases That Don’t Bear Thinking About

Why do things vanish into thin air but never into thick air?

Why do some things happen in broad daylight but not in narrow daylight or broad nighttime?

Why do remarks sometimes offer cold comfort, but no remarks offer warm comfort?

Why do we speak of salad days but not salad nights?

Why do we speak of the mind’s eye but not the mind’s ear, the mind’s nose, or the mind’s tongue? (We can surely imagine a sound, odor, or taste, as easily as we can imagine a picture.)

Why do we sometimes go whole hog but never go half hog (or partial hog)? Similarly, why do we sometimes go full-bore but never half-bore?

August 4, 2011

Thought for August 4, 2011

All Things Considered began its broadcast today with the search for an explanation for today’s big drop in the stock market.

Perhaps the explanation for the market reversal is the realization, in light of the recent fight over the debt ceiling, that we are governed by idiots.

Update, 8/5/2011: Apparently Standard and Poor’s agrees with me.

August 2, 2011

David Wilson Complains, Warns

The Rev. David Wilson, one of the most aggressively partisan Duncanite priests before the schism in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and now a priest in Duncan’s Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, cannot seem to stop himself from throwing brickbats at his former colleagues.

Wilson’s latest diatribe, “Has Something Changed Along the Way ? – Part 2,” appears on his blog, Anglican Yinzer.

After citing his post of July 12, 2010, complaining about the Rev. Jim Simons, the only current Episcopal priest mentioned by name in his “Part 2” post of July 31, 2011, Wilson has this to say:
Recently I was told that: “There are three openly partnered gay or lesbian priests licensed and functioning in the TEC Diocese, there is a priest licensed and functioning who has been divorced at least twice perhaps three times and married three times perhaps even four times and a heterosexual priest living with a woman to whom he is not married also licensed and functioning.”
His real complaint, apparently, is that the twelve priests who announced in a January 28, 2008, letter that they were staying in The Episcopal Church are not doing a good job of effecting its “renewal and reformation,” as they implied they would be doing.

Frankly, I cannot confirm the facts asserted by Wilson and, in any case, would not be as upset about them as he is. I suspect that at least some of his alleged “immorality“ was going on before the split of the diocese, so I wonder in what directions Wilson should be casting aspersions.

In any case, Wilson further notes
In addition, “the group does not support ordination of openly gay clergy or conducting same-sex blessings, the so-called ‘innovations’ at the forefront of denominational disputes since 2003. However, members said they do not believe it is necessary to leave the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to make that point.”
He is not quoting the 2008 letter here but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story about the letter. Opposition to openly gay clergy or same-sex blessings is not asserted in the letter, and reporter Steve Levin did not quote anyone directly about these issues. I have no idea if all 12 priests were or are of one mind on these issues. (That said, I am curious.)

Wilson concludes
Why do I write this? I write because I don’t want those of us in the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh to be naive. If we think our former mates over in TEC will somehow ally themselves with us or support our position and stand up on principle to the powers within the TEC diocese or the national church based on past affections or past convictions, we are sorely mistaken. Reconciliation and/or settlement with TEC has always meant capitulation to their position—nothing more and nothing less.
His advice is not unreasonable, though the comment about capitulation is a little harsh. By the same token, Episcopalian clergy should not expect that their former colleagues are likely to rejoin The Episcopal Church, either, though at least one has already done so.

Thought for August 2, 2011

Crazy personAnalysis of the debt ceiling resolution—not quite a done deal as I write this—is dominating public affairs programming on public radio today. This has made me think about our recent madness rather more than I am comfortable with. Ruminating on what has happened inspired me to add another observation on my page of aphorisms on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago:
Negotiating with crazy people leads to crazy agreements.
You can find this and other gems of wisdom (or insanity) here.

August 1, 2011

Thought for August 1, 2011

Reflecting on the debt ceiling sellout:

Why bother to elect a Democratic president if he’s going to implement Republican policies?

Bad elephant