July 2, 2013

Trouble in the Anglican World: A Pittsburgh Perspective

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) was less than a year old when I was part of a program PEP sponsored at St. Stephen’s, Wilkinsburg, in February 2004. PEP was concerned about the direction Bishop Robert Duncan was taking the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and we were trying to alert others to the danger we were seeing. I gave a talk titled “Trouble in the Anglican World: A Pittsburgh Perspective.” What I had to say had evolved from an essay I had begun writing two months earlier. It would be more that four years before the diocesan convention would vote to leave The Episcopal Church, but PEP had a pretty good idea where things were going. My full talk can be read here. Below are a few excerpts.

By now, most Episcopalians know that their church, and, in fact, the whole Anglican Communion, is in something of an uproar. What many in the Diocese of Pittsburgh do no realize is that their diocese is at the center of the turmoil. This fact will continue to be for us a source of discomfort and stress, but it puts us in a unique position to observe events and even to have some influence over them.

The view from Pittsburgh has, for a long time, not been characteristic of the Episcopal Church as a whole. The conservative culture of this diocese is typical of about a dozen dioceses. The rest—nearly 100 of them—are diverse and, on the whole, moderately liberal. They are going about business as usual. The people in those dioceses who follow the news of the church are watching with interest, but not always with great concern, the “crazy” bishops in Pittsburgh, Forth Worth, Quincy, Jan Joaquin, South Carolina, and a few other dioceses. They should be more concerned.

In October, Canon David Anderson, AAC President stated quite clearly that the AAC, which, at first, looked to create a second Anglican province in the U.S., had decided that it must instead replace the Episcopal Church, lest his church be in communion with the wrong-headed Episcopalians who had voted with the majority at General Convention. In December, a letter from the Rev. Geoff Chapman, Rector of St. Stephen’s, Sewickley, and an operative for the new Network, was leaked to The Washington Post. In that letter, intended for churches inquiring about joining the Network, Chapman made it quite clear that the purpose of the Network was to be the ultimate replacement for the Episcopal Church, whose canons would, at some time in the future, need to be violated with impunity. He also made it clear that the Network expected not only to usurp the status of the Episcopal Church as the Anglican province in the U.S., but also to be the ultimate owner of its property as well. Although Bishop Duncan has tried to distance the Network from the Chapman letter, the fact that Chapman has long been an insider among the conservative dissidents belies the bishop’s denials.

If you love the liturgy of our church, but you long for the moral clarity and biblical literalism of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bishops Duncan, Iker, Ackerman, Salmon, and the rest, are your heroes. According to our bishop, you are already a member of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. Write approving letters to Bishop Duncan, sit back, and wait for him to complete his coup d’état against the Episcopal Church. If, on the other hand, you value not only the liturgy, but the notion of Anglicanism as the middle way, the via media, which looks not only to Scripture, but also to tradition and reason for guidance, then you want to oppose the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, along with its prescriptive theological statement.

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