November 18, 2013

The Clock Is Ticking

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.
That quotation is from Bishop Dorsey McConnell’s address to the annual diocesan convention on November 2. The “subject,” of course, is the bishop’s decision on whether priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be able to bless same-sex unions and whether the diocese will ordain persons in committed same-sex relationships. Put another way, the bishop will announce whether the church in Southwestern Pennsylvania will move forward in its inclusiveness with both the rest of The Episcopal Church and the country at large, or whether a minority of conservatives in the diocese will succeed in confirming the diocese as a reactionary backwater.

The clock is ticking. Will we finally get a decision from our bishop this week?

By speaking of a pastoral letter, I assume that the bishop intends to issue a letter to be read in churches on Sunday. Of so, why is Friday a bad day to issue such a missive? Friday seems ideal. It is unlikely to get immediate press coverage, yet clergy will have time to digest the message and consider how to represent it to their parishioners. (One hopes that they have been thinking about this for a long time.) Moreover, laypeople, most of whom would not have received information from the diocese either on the Web or by e-mail, would very quickly be able to speak to local clergy about the letter.

If Bishop McConnell thinks Friday is not a good day, I would think that he would view Monday as a very good day. Perhaps we will hear from him today. Or perhaps he will find yet another excuse to avoid declaring his decisions.

Addendum. On October 4, Bishop McConnell wrote to the clergy (but not to laypeople of the diocese) that he was “aiming” for a November 15 announcement, a target he missed. If you have not already done so, you can read his rationale for what we can only hope was his penultimate postponement in my October 15 post, “Kicking the Can down the Road.”

1 comment:

  1. I hope that the bishop can settle this before Advent. As I've commented before, I find it exceptionally unlikely that he doesn't already know what his decision will be, and I see no reason to prolong this anymore. Given his statement that he doesn't expect that anyone will be fully satisfied, why keep waiting? Rip off the Band-Aid and be done with it.

    The interesting part to me is that his ordination decision seems to be de facto progressive, given that as you noted previously, two churches have called openly gay priests, and at least one of the candidates for ordination is also gay (though perhaps we're playing the not-in-a-relationship-so-it's-okay game). To me (both personally and theologically) the bigger issue is the blessing of same-sex unions, since that has potential to directly impact many more people than ordination, and I wonder if he's going to go progressive on ordination and not-so-progressive on blessings. But, that's just me wondering. I sincerely hope that he announces his decision soon, so that the diocese can put this issue behind us.

    Jacob Gordon


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