November 22, 2013

Still Ticking

Over the past few days, those who follow me on Facebook have noticed graphics like the one above on my Facebook page. Of course, these images refer to the promised decisions by Bishop Dorsey McConnell, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Will Bishop McConnell allow the blessing of same-sex unions in the diocese? Will the diocese eschew disqualifying candidates for holy orders because they are in a committed, same-sex relationships? Pittsburgh Episcopalians have waited for more than a year for answers to these questions. They are still waiting.

ClockEven before becoming bishop, McConnell delayed his decisions pending the completion of an unspecified dialogue on sexuality among his flock, the results of which were somehow to “inform” the bishop’s decisions. The plan, unrealistic as it turned out, was to complete the dialogue and announce decisions by Pentecost 2013. Devising a plan for the dialogue took longer than expected and was hopelessly optimistic in its expectations of participation, particularly by self-identified conservatives.

Pentecost came and went. People expected decisions by mid-summer, then by September, then by October, and certainly before the November diocesan convention. In October, the bishop informed the clergy, but not the laypeople, that he was “aiming for the 15th of November” as an announcement date. (See “Kicking the Can Down the Road.”) At the convention on November 2, he said
I have been in extensive consultation with many of you, and I believe I will be able to issue a pastoral letter on the subject in the middle of this month, on or about the 15th, though it may actually be several days later given the particular demands of my schedule and the fact that the 15th falls on a Friday, not a particularly good day to issue a pastoral letter.
It has now been a week since the 15th, and no decisions have been announced. Moreover, today is another Friday, not a particularly good day to issue a pastoral letter. ( God only knows why!) Will we get a decision next week, or the week after, or the week after that? How long is McConnell going to postpone acting like a real bishop who takes his obligations seriously?

I cannot speak for everyone in the diocese, but I do know that many people are experiencing mounting anxiety about what Bishop McConnell will do. Increasingly, they are experiencing anger over the repeated postponement of the announcement of decisions they suspect were actually made a year and a half ago.

Under Bishop Robert Duncan, two important characteristics were lacking in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: transparency and trustworthiness. Budgets were obscure, and the intentions of the bishop were unclear. People had reason to suspect ulterior motives in many actions taken by the Bishop of Pittsburgh. Moreover, the people were lied to by their bishop, who, we were repeatedly told that he had no intention of leaving The Episcopal Church. Until, of course, he did.

Pittsburgh Episcopalians had hoped that a new episcopate would return transparency and trustworthiness back to the diocese. Instead, many feel manipulated by a process whose purpose was vague and whose ultimate consequences—if indeed the process had any influence at all on what the bishop might finally pronounce—have repeatedly been scheduled for revelation without that revelation occurring.

Do we really know what Bishop McConnell is about? Can we trust that he will do what he says when he says he will do it?

The clock is till ticking.


  1. Lionel,

    I'm guessing that you're satisfied with the recent announcement.

    Apparently +Dorsey kept everyone guessing to the very end.

    1. Yes, I am pleased and will say more about the announcement later today.

    2. I don't think too many were surprised by this. Dorsey had ordained people in same sex relationships, and cooperated with parishes calling them as rectors. It is true that some who had all the evidence before them were still shocked when it happened, but 'the wish is father to the thought'.

      I don't think Lionel could have been surprised; his blog post was annoyance that it was taking so long rather than wondering what the outcome would be, and he spoke for liberals and conservatives alike in that. The sad thing is that we took all this time and spent a ton of someone's money parachuting in specialist facilitators, and will be just as divided as if he'd announced it the day he arrived.


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