December 19, 2011

Dioceses React to Trinity Cathedral Decision

Both the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh have now posted responses to the vote last week by the Chapter of Trinity Cathedral to return the parish to being exclusively an Episcopal cathedral. (See “Trinity Cathedral Casts Its Lot with TEC.”)

The Chapter vote was taken Thursday night, December 15, 2011. The Episcopal diocese posted the story “Trinity Cathedral Reaffirms Tie to Episcopal Church” on Saturday. The story includes this explanation suggesting why it is now appropriate to end the unorthodox arrangement of being a cathedral in two different (and, in many ways, antagonistic) churches:
“Trinity's effort to serve two dioceses was well-intentioned in its time, which was a period of uncertainty,” said Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese. “With much of that uncertainly behind us, the Episcopal Diocese stands ready to help the Cathedral grow in its mission as a church open to all and serving all in the name of Jesus Christ in the heart of the city,” said the bishop.
Today, December 19, a story has finally been posted on the Web site of the Anglican diocese. It is worth quoting “Trinity Cathedral Withdraws from Anglican Diocese” in full:
Governing body reverses position by nullifying special resolution
On December 15, 2011, the governing body of Trinity Cathedral voted (11-7) to withdraw from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and affiliate exclusively with the Episcopal Church (TEC).

The motion, introduced by Mr. Andrew Thiros, was intended to nullify a special resolution passed overwhelmingly by members of Trinity Cathedral in 2008 to serve both the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese. The vote was conducted when three members of the Anglican diocese were absent and without prior notification to members of the governing body. The special resolution under which Trinity Cathedral had been operating required a two-thirds majority of both the Cathedral governing body and a two-thirds majority of all members of the Cathedral to be altered or overturned, neither of which was satisfied by the December 15 motion. Nonetheless, the governing body, under the leadership Bishop Ken Price (TEC), contends that the motion to affirm the charter of Trinity Cathedral effectively invalidates the special resolution.

The December 15 motion was an about-face for the governing body of Trinity Cathedral, which had previously affirmed “their intention neither to withdraw from The Episcopal Church nor to withdraw from a realigned Diocese of Pittsburgh, and affirm[ed] that they do not wish to be associated with one exclusive of the other.” It is also a reversal of the position of the Episcopal diocese which had previously been supportive of sharing the space at Trinity Cathedral.

Trinity Cathedral had served as a point of unity for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. It was used for Anglican ordinations and services for high holy days, such as Easter and Christmas.
“We are saddened to learn that Trinity Cathedral has decided to end their relationship with us. We have invested in their best interests over many years. They have chosen to embrace exclusivity, rather than inclusivity,” said Archbishop Robert Duncan.
The story from Archbishop Duncan’s diocese suggests that the vote was unfair. After all, three Chapter members from his diocese, it is claimed, were not present. Of course, if they had been present and voting, the vote would still have been 11–10 in favor of returning to the status quo ante. I have been told that “Special Resolution” appeared on the meeting agenda for Thursday night, and it would not have taken much of a leap of imagination to recognize that a motion such as the one actually passed could possibly be presented.

My reading of the Special Resolution does support the claim that two-thirds of the Chapter and two-thirds of the congregation were needed to retract the provisions of the Special Resolution. In any case, the Cathedral’s charter, which was never changed, requires that all members of the Chapter be members of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Many—perhaps all—the provisions of the Special Resolution were improper from day one. Moreover, since only members of The Episcopal Church could properly vote, it is reasonable to expect that any valid vote on returning exclusively to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh would have been unanimous.

In reality, Trinity had not “served as a point of unity for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Each diocese held events at Trinity, but the events were more or less exclusively attended by parishioners from whatever was the sponsoring diocese. Episcopalians and “Anglicans” came together at Chapter meetings and in regular worship services. The two-church arrangement was more a source of conflict than reconciliation and did not seem to have the potential to become otherwise.

It is disingenuous for Duncan to suggest that Trinity Cathedral has embraced “exclusivity, rather than inclusivity.” He has not made any of “his” parishes especially welcoming to Episcopalians! Trinity Cathedral is no more choosing exclusivity than would be a Lutheran church that did not also host Methodist services. The archbishop is simply bitter, as another property he tried to remove from The Episcopal Church has apparently slipped through his fingers.


  1. Lionel: A nice rebuttal to the propaganda that colors every sentence of the Anglican news release. I completely agree with your analysis. However, I cannot allow the irony contained in Mr Duncan's last sentence to stand without comment. The primary excuse used by Mr Duncan for his power grab was the ordination of a gay bishop. Duncan's argument is that the acceptance of openly gay clergy in committed relationships led to the 'broken Communion'. Duncan, the great proponent of the exclusion of gay people, now complains that his group is being excluded from property in which they have no interest. "...For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
    Hoist with his own petar; and 't shall go hard..." from Hamlet.

  2. Lionel:

    Your point on the legality issue basically mirrors my own words the the post Jeremy put up for me in your other thread. (I was having trouble signing up). If the Resolution was improper from day one, and the membership of the Chapter has been made up of people elected according to its provisions as opposed to the charter and bylaws for the last three years, I'm curious as to how you would interpret ALL of its votes, not just the last one.

    The Chapter agenda has contained the entry "Special Resolution" for MONTHS now, since it has been a subject for discussion. You can't claim everyone should have suspected a vote might have been imminent based on that.

    Not to puff up my own sense of self-importance, but I was a chapter member for six years, and a tenacious defender of the Special Resolution's principles. My term ended at the end of November, and a new person started his term in December. Your 11-10 majority would not have worked out only a month ago. It is because of the clear effort to expedite this vote immediately upon the end of my term that a lot of people at Trinity, including Episcopalians like myself, are really upset.

    -John Campbell

  3. Nice try on the spin Lionel. It just doesn't stand up to the facts. When loyal Episcopalians like John Campbell speak up, ACNA types like me don't need to say even one word.

    In any case, Merry Christmas

  4. John, I don’t doubt that the timing of the vote was deliberate. You can’t tell me that the other side doesn’t plan its moves!

    The complaint reminds me of the lines from the Flanders and Swann song “A Song of Patriotic Prejudice” (sometimes known as “The English”):

    And all the world over, each nation’s the same—
    They’ve simply no notion of playing the game;
    They argue with umpires; they cheer when they’ve won;
    And they practice beforehand, which ruins the fun.

  5. Merry Christmas, David. And Merry Christmas to all (albeit just a tiny bit early).

  6. One more comment I'll add with regard to the balance of power. For months, Chapter had been working through a "white paper" that bas basically a list of risks and benefits of the three options in front of it: Choose the Special Resolution, choose TEC, or choose ACNA. Chapter members were asked to invited to submit content according to their support for these three options. I found it really interesting that for months, there were NO submissions in favor of choosing ACNA. (I think a few on the list at my final chapter meeting that had been submitted in an attempt to balance the document). Anyway, I find it somewhat telling that in a Chapter that was about evenly divided along ACNA/TEC lines, the choice was coming down to either the Special Resolution or TEC. There was almost no interest in an all-ACNA cathedral. The inference is that the ACNA members were more interested in the virtue of sharing the cathedral, while the TEC members were more interested in taking the cathedral back for TEC. Just telling it how I see it. Merry Chrismas, all.

  7. Never having been on the Cathedral Chapter or, for that matter, been a Trinity Cathedral parishioner, I don’t know what arguments were put forth or what the affinities of the congregation have been. Associating exclusively with ACNA would almost assuredly have brought on a lawsuit, which, in itself, is a strong argument for not choosing that path. A lawsuit could have been a disaster for the congregation.

    Interestingly—I don’t know what conclusion to draw from this observation—Bob Duncan gave parishes two years to decide their affiliation, but he did not, after three years, press Trinity Cathedral to make a decision.

  8. The Special Resolution always seemed to be a violation of the Cathedral's Charter, and those who voted in favor of the resolution violated their fiduciary responsibilities to the Cathedral and its Charter. The Special Resolution may have been a temporary compromise during a time of uncertainty but the supervening authority of the Charter needed to be restored. The former Episcopalians, who had already tried to steal other property, have had no more right to share in the Cathedral's use, than they would have to share in the use of the Catholic Cathedral in the Oakland area of the city. The loss of the Cathedral is simply another consequence of the choice that the departing group has made. The complaints about parliamentary maneuvering are meaningless when a group is advocating a result that violates the organization's constitution or charter. Where were all of the concerns about inclusivity, during the years when it was obvious to many of us that Duncan was stacking every position of responsibility and leadership with his loyalists, and building teams from the top down who would then mislead and influence parish members to regretfully take leave of their long-time church. Duncan's group is merely conniving again to cling to a property interest despite lacking any colorable right to such interest. As the Duncan press release reminds us again, accuracy does not stand in the way of his propaganda, as where he falsely asserts that a two-thirds majority was needed to effectively revoke the Special Resolution. The contretemps over the the Cathedral vote is another example that the Episcopal Diocese will be better off when the divorce is concluded once and for all, and Duncan is deprived of any more opportunities to criticize the Episcopal Church on his long journey away from this Diocese. Speaking only for myself, the departed people from the pews are missed, but not Duncan and his divisiveness. The day may yet come when we celebrate a holiday to be known as "Goodbye Bob" unity day.

  9. ...or, perhaps, "Good Riddance, Bob" unity day.

  10. Gary,if the Special Resolution was passed with the majority implied in some posts, then the Episcopalians voted for it too, right? That includes the two-thirds majority part etc. Did they plan to ignore it the instant there weren't enough Anglicans to outvote them? Why not kick out the Anglican charter members before? As for fiduciary responsibilities, others imply the cathedral is going to have a rough time financially without the Anglicans. Do I assume then that money was the real reason this fake resolution has been allowed to go on all this time and there was no friendship/sharing between the groups at all? Makes the Epicopalians look as greedy and untrustworthy as Duncan. Watching from a distance I had naively hoped there was some cooperation going on. How sad.

  11. Chris, you have to remember that the Resolution was passed BEFORE there ever were any "Anglicans". It was passed in ANTICIPATION of the split, not after. Therefore everyone who voted for it was an Episcopalian, regardless of what opinion you held about the Bishop.
    Brief history of the Resolution:
    The first mention of an idea that the cathedral might be shared was the Bishop's. As the impending split drew closer, Canon Brall met with the Bishop to discuss the future. At a subsequent Chapter meeting, Canon Brall gave a speech in favor of enacting some instrument that would structurally facilitate sharing the Cathedral. Upon discussion, two of the Chapter's most outspoken members--one conservative and one liberal--were tasked with composing it. When their draft was complete, the Chapter as a whole spent several months on final editing/wordsmithing. When all agreed it was in its final form, my recollection, (and I apologize if I do not have this exactly right), is that it was passed unanimously by the chapter and almost unanimously by the parish. I think in the parish vote there may have been one abstention, with no one voting against it.
    This is one of the reasons I believe an injustice has been done. Even legal technicalities aside, support was virtually unanimous. Even if this concept of sharing the cathedral was a mere principle, and was never written down on paper as a Special Resolution, the people who overwhelmingly voted to support it were told they would also have a vote to retract it. Again, even if they would have been told this VERBALLY by cathedral leadership, their promised opportunity to continue or retract it has been usurped by a 4-vote margin of the current Cathedral Chapter, with not all members present and voting.


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