July 28, 2013

An Anglican Milestone

The latest electronic newsletter from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh contains this notice:

The 148th Diocesan Convention
The 148th Diocesan Convention will be held on November 1-2 at St. Stephen’s Church in Sewickley, PA. The pre-convention hearings will be held on Thursday, October 3rd at 7 pm in the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s in Sewickley, and on Sunday, October 6th at 3:30 pm at Christ’s Church in Greensburg.

As a rule, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the diocese carved out of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh by Bob Duncan and his minions and justified by the extralegal votes at the 2007 and 2008 diocesan conventions. It is, however, laughable—not to say irritating—that the Pittsburgh schismatics claim to be approaching their 148th annual convention.

Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh logo
Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh logo
Following the October 2008 vote to leave The Episcopal Church, both the winners and losers claimed to be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Even those of us who weren’t confused by this had a hard time writing clear accounts of developments that kept the players straight. Sometime early in 2009, the Web site of Duncan’s diocese exchanged “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh” for “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican)” as its banner. In October, after Judge Joseph James had ruled that diocesan property rightfully belonged to the diocese in The Episcopal Church, the Duncan diocese announced that it would appeal the decision but would also change its name to “The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.”

It has never been adjudicated in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else, to date) whether a diocese can remove itself from The Episcopal Church. Diocesan property was awarded to the Episcopal Church-affiliated group on the basis of the stipulation agreed to by then Bishop Duncan that grew out of the Calvary lawsuit. That stipulation, signed in October 2005, read, in part:
Property, whether real or personal (hereinafter “Property”), held or administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (hereinafter “Diocese”) for the beneficial use of the parishes and institutions of the Diocese, shall continue to be so held or administered by the Diocese regardless of whether some or even a majority of the parishes in the Diocese might decide not to remain in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. For purposes of this paragraph, Property as to which title is legitimately held in the name of a parish of the Diocese shall not be deemed Property held or administered by the Diocese.
Consideration of the stipulation, no doubt, was responsible for the initial decision to retain the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh name. It was never clear, however, how Duncan and company could claim to have left the Episcopal Church while still being “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America,” particularly after the Presiding Bishop immediately recognized the loyal Episcopalians as representing the Pittsburgh diocese. It certainly wasn’t clear to Judge James.

Duncan claimed that the removal of the diocese from The Episcopal Church was proper and that the Episcopal group recognized by the Presiding Bishop was a new diocese. Not only did Katharine Jefferts Schori not treat the Episcopalians as having formed a new diocese; neither did the General Convention. The situation was even clearer. By the time of the October 2008 convention, Duncan had been deposed, so the Standing Committee was the ecclesiastical authority. The Rev. Jim Simons was a member of the Standing Committee, and he stayed with The Episcopal Church. Thus, there was conspicuous continuity in diocesan leadership among the Episcopalians.

In a sense, however, such considerations are moot. The first annual convention held by Duncan’s group was held under the name of The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Its 2009 convention was, by any reasonable measure, its first annual convention.

All of which is to say that Archbishop Robert Duncan and his Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Anglican Church in North American are to be congratulated on their upcoming 5th annual convention. This is surely an important milestone in the short history of the diocese and the unaffiliated Anglican Church in North America.


  1. That logo looks like paper napkins at a reception where you have rotated a glass on the pile of them.

  2. Perhaps something like the question of whether the Church of England should count the succession of Canterbury from Augustine in 597 or Cranmer in 1533. Our Roman cousins might insist on the latter, noting a view that the see became vacant (with the exceptional interlude with Archbishop Pole during Mary's brief reign)--while the traditional Anglican practice is to use the former.

    However the number is calculated, however, I appreciate your generous congratulatory word for our brothers and sisters across the narrow stream of our unhappy division, and I would add my prayers for the fruitfulness of their ministry in witness to our one Lord and Savior.

    Bruce Robison

    1. Bruce,

      You certainly make an interesting point. The situations are somewhat different, however, as the English Reformation was not so much a split as a takeover. There is no longer a see of Canterbury in the Roman Catholic Church. Justin Welby can conscientiously claim to be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury of the English church, though not of the Church of England.


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