Bob Duncan played fast and loose with church boundaries, and, if our new bishop proves similarly permissive, for whatever reason, it will provoke bad memories. I believe this matter should be handled promptly and openly.If Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh Dorsey McConnell has acted to correct this anomaly, I am unaware of it. (The Rev. Mr. Hays no doubt needs time to consider his options.) In any case, I am aware of an equally outrageous situation involving Episcopal priest Paul Martin Johnston.
During the period when Trinity Cathedral claimed to be the cathedral of both the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh—a situation that was itself an anomaly—Johnston served at the downtown Pittsburgh landmark. (I wrote posts about Trinity’s well-meaning but vain attempt to have it both ways at the beginning and end of this period.) After the cathedral chapter chose to return to the Episcopal diocese, Johnston left the cathedral.
|The Rev. Paul Martin Johnston|
Incarnation seems like a very exciting Christian experiment. It exists in a commercial area and is quite deliberate about connecting to its neighborhood. (It uses a Strip District cycle of prayer that includes all manner of commercial enterprises, and it solicits local businesses for people to pray for.) But its most distinctive feature is its emphasis on the arts. Its home page contains this slogan: “Passionately living the good news of Jesus Christ through the Anglican tradition of worship and beauty.” The same page explains its name this way:
God is creative. So, God is incarnational—that is, God makes spiritual mysteries tangible for us. To Christians, the coming of Jesus—God’s radiance and creative Word made personal—is the Incarnation writ large. The same Spirit who animates Creation and the Incarnation inspires us to do beautiful things. Make art. Appreciate beauty. Worship liturgically. Ask profound questions. Take care of the environment. Cook. Do beautiful acts for others.Music seems especially important at Incarnation, and not the mindless drivel characteristic of so many church starts.The official launch of the church on April 14, 2013, included by “a low-brass quartet of euphoniums.” How neat is that!
Some of our favorite saints were creatives: St. Cecilia (picture), who legend has it sang at her martyrdom; St. Gregory, for whom Gregorian chant is named; St. Dunstan, an Archbishop of Canterbury who was an artist, calligrapher, and bell maker; and St. Hildegard, scholar-composer-poet-spiritual advisor-scientist-administrator–dramatist-multitasker.
Of course, the problem with Paul Johnston’s involvement with the Anglican Church of the Incarnation is its association with the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The church is not an ecumenical enterprise. On a page titled “Our Identity,” Incarnation proclaims:
- We are Christians.
- We are members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
- We are members of the Anglican Church in North America.
- We are members of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site has a helpful but undated story about Incarnation. According to “Music, Prayer, & Art: Planting a Church in the Strip District,” Incarnation began as a house church and started meeting regularly for worship in February 2012. Its domain name, incarnationchurchpgh.org, was registered four months later and, as noted above, the launch of its current worship site took place in April of this year.
The Anglican Church of the Incarnation seems like a wonderful enterprise, and I am personally tempted to go there and see it for myself. Paul Johnston’s association with Incarnation is prohibited by Episcopal Church canons and suggests endorsement by The Episcopal Church and perhaps even a legitimate claim to be part of the Anglican Communion. This is unacceptable.
Like Whis Hays, Paul Johnston should be made to decide what church he is in. Is he in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, or is he in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh? Of course, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is in a church not in communion with The Episcopal Church. Moreover, our dioceses are still involved in litigation, with the prospect of additional litigation being initiated in the future. This is not a time to blur distinctions.
Paul Johnston cannot have it both ways.