The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh held its 146th annual convention Friday and Saturday, November 4–5, 2011. Ironically, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh claimed to be doing the same thing this weekend. That diocese is only three years old, but it still claims to be conducting its 146th convention. Early Christians emphasized their continuity with ancient Judaism, however, which bolstered their credibility as a religion in the Roman world, so the Anglicans are following longstanding tradition. I hope this works for them.
The Episcopal convention was held at Christ Church, North Hills. The facilities, the planning, and the support services provided by that church were first rate. The convention ran very smoothly and provided few surprises. This, of course, is a good thing.
Unlike so many conventions in the years before the diocese split, there were no controversial (and usually gratuitous) resolutions. No one thought it useful to offer a resolution on the Anglican Covenant, for example, an important matter to be taken up by next year’s General Convention. The 2012 budget, as well as various constitutional and canonical changes passed without dissent or discussion. Proposed new rules of order for the election of a bishop did lead to some confusing discussion. In the end, the rules were amended to assure more open dialogue concerning episcopal candidates at the session to be held the day before the April election.
Bishop Ken Price acknowledged a number of people for their work. Perhaps most notable among these were the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, rector of Calvary Church, and his senior warden and chancellor for pursuing the lawsuit that resulted in diocesan assets being awarded by the courts to the Episcopal, rather than the Anglican, diocese. When it was filed, the Calvary lawsuit was roundly criticized by liberals and conservatives alike, but Bishop Price’s presentation triggered an enthusiastic (and seemingly universal) standing ovation.
Also notable were the briefings given by chancellor Andy Roman on negotiations over parish property. The chancellor gave a report in plenary session and held a workshop, along with Board of Trustees president Russ Ayres, on the same topic.
Although much of what was said was familiar, the chancellor did offer new information about the negotiation process itself. A number of agreements have been reached with the Episcopal diocese through direct negotiations with departed congregations. Two developments had halted negotiations, however. In conjunction with the return of the All Saints, Rosedale, property, the Anglican diocese had released information—not all true, apparently—about confidential discussions. Our side found this very distressing. (See “Pittsburgh Property Update.”) Additionally, although Bob Duncan, now Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America and Anglican Bishop of Pittsburgh, had no role to play in property negotiations by virtue of the stipulation he signed in 2005, he was determined to insert himself into the process. Last February, he issued a godly directive to his clergy “not to engage in, conduct, or conclude negotiations without first
discussing such actions with me, or with Canon Mary, and with our
To allow negotiations to proceed, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh entered into an agreement which, apparently, neither will disclose. (In his workshop, the chancellor waved what looked like a two-page document purporting to be that agreement.) According to the agreement, nothing about negotiations over property is to be revealed publicly except that negotiations are taking place. In a private conversation, I expressed concern that an agreement with the Anglican diocese might be seen as conceding that parishes had validly left the Episcopal diocese. Andy assured me that the agreement explicitly states that it does not prejudice the claims of either side.
As has been the tradition, a dinner was held in conjunction with the convention on Friday night. In the years before the departure of the “Anglicans,” many deputies skipped this event, as then Bishop Duncan selected conservative speakers critical of The Episcopal Church to provide the program for the banquet. This year’s dinner was quite different. Approximately 160 reservations were made for it, and the program was a humorous one. Kimberly Richards, aka Sister, dressed in a nun’s habit, discussed the history of Anglicanism. The satire was very clever and generally too complex for me to try to reproduce here. I very much appreciated how she characterized the Episcopalians who left the diocese and church in 2008, however—she called them the Angricans.
Update: After I wrote the above post, I remembered one other topic covered at the convention that deserves mention. The Nominating Committee, which is responsible for developing a slate of candidates for our next bishop, reported that about 500 Pittsburgh Episcopalians completed its survey intended to inform its decisions. One hundred twenty-three names of possible candidates were submitted to the committee. After these potential candidates were contacted, more than 60 remained in the process. The committee is now conducting telephone interviews. The committee is intending to present the diocese with four or five candidates by January 15, 2012.
Postscript: The Rev. David Wilson, although in the Anglican diocese, continues to be obsessed with the Episcopal diocese and with his conservative colleagues who chose not to leave The Episcopal Church as he did. You can read his latest thoughts here.