Over the next few weeks, I plan to offer specific observations about the nominees to be the next Bishop of Pittsburgh. Do not expect my posts on this subject to be systematic, comprehensive, or definitive. I will try to be helpful, however, and I invite comments from other Pittsburgh Episcopalians.
|The Rev. Canon|
Scott T. Quinn
Nevertheless, after the Nominating Committee announced its nominees to become the next Bishop of Pittsburgh, I was dismayed to learn that Quinn was being nominated by petition. There were several reasons for this:
- Although the nomination-by-petition process was different from and less prone to unfair manipulation than the surprise nomination from the floor that ultimately allowed Bob Duncan to become bishop, the nomination of Quinn felt distressingly familiar.
- Nomination by petition was designed to provide a safety net should the Nominating Committee do a poor job of identifying nominees. That had not happened.
- In particular, the Nominating Committee had identified four exceptionally well-qualified candidates. If people were willing to nominate Quinn by petition, his name had surely been submitted earlier; the Nominating Committee apparently found other candidates to be more qualified. There was reason to respect this judgment.
- It was widely believed that a bishop were best chosen from outside the diocese. No one I spoke to—admittedly a small, unscientific sample—named Quinn among priests of the diocese who might reasonably be considered were one to put aside the prejudice against internal candidates.
The answer is not obvious. Quinn’s higher education, for example, is unremarkable (Pitt and Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry) and was obtained only within the Pittsburgh area. The group of candidates identified by the Nominating Committee, on the other hand, includes a lawyer, a Fulbright Scholar, a priest with a master’s degree in social work from Columbia, and a priest with a newly minted doctoral degree. Quinn has no professional experience beyond a single diocese, a limitation shared by only one other candidate. In contrast to the variety of positions held by other nominees, Quinn has held a single job his entire professional life.
Last week’s walkabouts suggested the main reason Quinn (and perhaps his backers) believes that he should be our next bishop. More than once, he went out of his way to explain that he believes he is the person who can best stand up to Bob Duncan. This is not to say that this is Quinn’s only argument for his candidacy, but it seems to be the one that distinguishes this candidate from the others. (Quinn’s experience with small parishes is seen as a strong selling point, but is not unique among the five people standing for election next month.)
I was taken aback by the thought that “standing up to Bob Duncan” was such a concern to a potential bishop, and my astonishment is shared by many others. Primarily, I was dumbfounded that anyone thought that the principal task of the next bishop would be dealing with the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North American and Anglican Bishop of Pittsburgh. To think that is to be obsessed with the battles of the past, rather than looking to the future. I found this concern rather depressing, whereas I viewed the suggestion by Ruth Woodliff-Stanley that Pittsburgh was poised to be on the cutting edge of The Episcopal Church exciting.
Largely, we are done with our deposed Bishop Duncan. The next bishop will not have to fight Duncan over Trinity Cathedral, and the difficult property disputes largely will be in the hands of attorneys. The next Bishop of Pittsburgh might choose to fight for a seat on the board of Trinity School for Ministry, but Quinn, a graduate of the seminary, has indicated that he is now persona non grata there, hardly a good place from which to advocate for a place at the table. Our next bishop may run into Duncan at ecumenical gatherings, but I think that someone without a history of animosity toward Duncan might have an easier time maintaining equanimity in situations where conflict is best avoided.
Even if one sees significant and ongoing conflict between the Episcopal and Anglican bishops of Pittsburgh, it is unclear why Quinn is particularly well-equipped for the role. The Nominating Committee rightly put a high value on experience with conflict resolution; suspicions and animosities remain in our diocese, and there may be future disputes between Episcopal and Anglican churches. One looks in vain, however, for such experience in Quinn’s résumé.
Quinn seems to have had personal issues with then Bishop Duncan and, in any case, was certainly not among Duncan’s inner circle of co-conspirators. I know of no instance, however, when he personally took a significant public position against Duncan and his schismatic machinations. Late in Duncan’s episcopate, Quinn was meeting with conservative priests who finally declared that they would stay in The Episcopal Church. In fact, he was one of three priests who presented the letter to that effect to Duncan. No doubt, this took a certain amount of courage, but he was, in fact, only doing what was required by his ordination vows in declaring that he would remain in The Episcopal Church. I am unaware of Quinn’s ever having taken a riskier and more public stand as did, for example, Cynthia Bronson-Sweigert in response to the passage of Resolution One in 2002. (See ENS story here.)
Although Quinn did not embarrass himself in the walkabouts, his answers to questions seemed briefer, more superficial, and less responsive to the nuances of questions than those of the other candidates. Moreover, there was evidence of the baggage carried by any candidate from the diocese. Quinn was challenged by at least one priest and some laypeople. Because he is well-known in the diocese and because people are aware of what he did and did not do over the years, Quinn will have supporters and detractors holding strong opinions should he become bishop. People are worried that this will make it harder to bring the people of the diocese together into the respectful unity that has long been absent in Pittsburgh.
I am concerned that Quinn, and even more his supporters, are fearful of the future, fearful of being more directly exposed to trends in The Episcopal Church, fearful of ideas that have not come from and do not honor the traditions of Southwestern Pennsylvania. I would hope that people vote their hopes and dreams when selecting our next bishop, not their fears and their prejudices.
Finally, there is the matter of Quinn’s admitted learning disability. This is an especially sensitive issue in Pittsburgh. Alden Hathaway was elected with the knowledge that he had certain learning disabilities and would not be able to be as effective an administrator as other bishops because of them. His deficiencies did indeed prove troublesome and ultimately required the diocese to hire Bob Duncan as Canon to the Ordinary in an attempt to compensate for them. The point, of course, is not that the election of Hathaway led to the election of Duncan, but that Hathaway’s known limitations caused the diocese problems and cost it money. We should not make such a mistake again, particularly with such talented alternative candidates to pick from.