October 16, 2013

Having It Both Ways

The Rev. Whis Hays
The Rev. Whis Hays
A priest canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is a candidate for a seat on the Committee on Canons of Bob Duncan’s Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Rev. Whis Hays is husband of the Rev. Canon Mary Maggard Hays, Duncan’s Canon to the Ordinary. He is best known as the founder and now Executive Director of the youth ministry organization Rock the World, headquartered in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

After the 2008 schism of the Pittsburgh diocese that led to the creation of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, it was widely assumed that Whis Hays would be among the clerical defectors. A year later, when the Standing Committee of the Episcopal diocese asked priests if they were in or out of The Episcopal Church—see “Diocese Completes Non-Disciplinary Release of Clergy”—Hays indicated that he remained an Episcopalian. He has attended some clergy events of the diocese and remains a priest of The Episcopal Church.

Until August 2010, Hays was Executive Director of Rock the World, an independent organization with close ties to the Anglican diocese. (See “Announcing Rock the World’s New Executive Director.”) Matt Sweet, who assumed the Executive Director position, resigned less than a year later, and Hays resumed his old post on an interim basis. Although the Rock the World Web site suggests that this would only continue only through part of 2012, the report to the 2013 diocesan convention from Rock the World is signed by Hays as Executive Director. (See Documentation section below.)

  It seemed likely that Hays maintained his Episcopal Church ties less out of theological conviction than out of a desire to claim certain benefits from the Church Pension Group that accrue to retired clergy remaining in the church. If that is so, one wonders why he would endanger his status by seeking a position of responsibility in the Anglican diocese.

I assume that Bishop McConnell will eventually have a talk with Hays about the odd path he seemingly has chosen. It is difficult to see how Hays can maintain his status in our church while serving in a church with which we are not in communion. There are pitfalls here. 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.


Rather than interrupt the above narrative with background material, I offer documentation of Hays’s involvement with the Anglican diocese here.

Lamentably, like the Episcopal diocese, the Anglican diocese has offered its 2013 pre-convention journal only as a collection of files, rather than as a single file. (See “Convention Journals” regarding the situation in my own diocese.) Those files are available here. The report of the Nominating Committee that has put forward Hays for a position on the Committee on Canons is on page D14 of Section D. (The single page, with the relevant line highlighted, is here.)

The Committee on Canons of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is provided for in Canon XI of the diocese. That canon reads as follows:

Canon XI
Of the Committee on Canons

Section 1. The Committee on Canons shall consist of three Clergy and three Lay persons and shall be elected by ballot at Diocesan Convention.

Section 2. The terms of office of members of the Committee on Canons shall be three years on a staggered basis. No member who has served for two consecutive three-year terms shall be eligible for re-election as committee member until the expiration of one year.

Section 3. The Committee on Canons shall elect a chairman from among its membership.
The canon be found on the Anglican diocese Web site along with other canons and the diocese’s constitution. (For convenience, the relevant page can be found here.) Notice that
  1. The canon specifies only “three Clergy and three Lay persons,” the implication being that such persons are canonically resident in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh or are members of a parish of the diocese.
  2. The canon makes no provision for members who are not so connected to the diocese.
That the Nominating Committee recommended Hays as a candidate for a position on the Committee on Canons indicates that he is being treated as a member of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Under the circumstances, I believe that a case can be made for a disciplinary action against the Rev. Whis Hays. Episcopal Church canon Canon IV.16.3, for example, reads as follows (emphasis added):
If it is reported to the Standing Committee of the Diocese in which a Priest or Deacon is canonically resident that the Priest or Deacon, without using the provisions of Canon III.7.8-10 or III. 9.8-11, has abandoned The Episcopal Church, then the Standing Committee shall ascertain and consider the facts, and if it shall determine by a vote of three-fourths of all the members that the Priest or Deacon has abandoned The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or worship of the Church, or by the formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the Church, or in any other way, it shall be the duty of the Standing Committee of the Diocese to transmit in writing to the Bishop Diocesan, or if there be no such Bishop, to the Bishop Diocesan of an adjacent Diocese, its determination, together with a statement setting out in a reasonable detail the acts or declarations relied upon in making its determination. If the Bishop Diocesan affirms the determination, the Bishop Diocesan shall place a restriction on the exercise of ministry by that Priest or Deacon for sixty days and shall send to the Priest or Deacon a copy of the determination and statement, together with a notice that the Priest or Deacon has the rights specified in Section 2 of this Canon and at the end of the sixty day period the Bishop Diocesan will consider deposing the Priest or Deacon in accordance with the provisions of Section 4.
One may quibble about the phrase “formal admission,” both in terms of what it means and what facts might be relevant but to which I have no access. Certainly Hays is being treated by the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh as if he has been admitted into that diocese, even though he is supposed to be an Episcopal priest canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Episcopal Church canons also enumerate standards of conduct for members of the clergy in Canon IV.1, where we find the following: “[In exercising his or her ministry, a Member of the Clergy
shall: (h) refrain from:] (6) conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” I don’t think I need to explain the relevance of this provision.

The current constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church can be found here.

Finally, I noted above that Rock the World is an independent organization, but one closely allied with the Anglican diocese. In the first line of the report in the pre-convention journal, which I mentioned above, Hays writes: “Rock the World Youth Mission Alliance is pleased to have our headquarters in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Rock the World may not be in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, but it is certainly in bed with it. (The report can be found on page E20 of Section E of the pre-convention journal.)


  1. A friend told me that I was the topic of your blog, so I took a look. There are numerous responses I'd like to make, but most of them belong somewhere other than here. Do permit me to correct an error of omission and make one other point.
    Rock the World's pre-convention journal report was submitted to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh not by me but by Sarah Schneider, recently a Rock the World employee in charge of our local ministry to disadvantaged kids. She is also sponsored for Holy Orders by an Episcopal parish.
    This is actually fairly typical of Rock the World's posture towards involvement with the Episcopal church. The only ordained Board member is an Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Tennessee. We are currently in discussion with an Episcopal Diocese about offering one of our basic Youth Ministry seminars under their sponsorship. There are many other examples of this sort of thing, often involving me.
    So if continuing to want to see God work in young people's lives both in the Episcopal Church and other churches is controversial, so be it. I continue to regard Anglicanism as more inclusive than that.

    1. My concern is not with Rock the World. And the report was submitted to the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, not the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

      The issue is whether you are running for a leadership in an ACNA diocese. As an Episcopal priest, you cannot do that.

      That said, I appreciate your commenting on my post.

  2. Lionel

    Whis' name was not on the ballot to be elected as a member of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Committee on Canons. It was withdrawn and the Rev Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog was elected unanamously by voice vote. Whis was not in attendance at our diocesan convention either Friday or today.


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