February 24, 2015

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Celebrates 150 Years

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has revamped its Web site. Its new incarnation is less cluttered, but I haven’t attempted to inventory everything that’s there and that isn’t. I found particularly interesting the pastoral letter from Bishop Bob Duncan. (The letter is also available here as a PDF file.)

Duncan begins by asserting that the diocese is celebrating its sesquicentennial, i.e., its 150th anniversary this year. He concludes his remarks about this milestone with this somewhat garbled sentence: “The sesquicentennial adaptation of our logo—used for the first time in this letter’s letterhead—will also serve us as a reminder of the great foundation on which we continue to build.” Is the logo one to be used during this year only or, is it going to be used beyond 2015, possibly with a different number in the center? I don’t know. Here is the logo to which he refers:
Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh logo
Everything in black is new. The rest of the graphic has been in use since before the 2008 schism in the diocese. After the news about the sesquicentennial, Duncan discusses other diocesan issues, about which I will make no further comment.

Several things need to be said about this logo. First, there is some honesty in the legend “REALIGNED A.D. 2008.” The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, like breakaway groups elsewhere in The Episcopal Church, have tried to maintain the fiction that it is the same diocese that existed before conservative conspirators broke with The Episcopal Church and walked off with the property. Likewise, the Episcopalians left behind were said to have organized a “new” Episcopal Church diocese. This view was always a hard sell in Pittsburgh, in part, because one member of the Standing Committee was not part of the conspiracy and represented continuity in leadership. In any case, the Anglican diocese has continued to number its conventions from the first Episcopal convention, rather than starting over after 2008. At least the 150th anniversary logo acknowledges that something significant happened in 2008.

Then, there is the curious legend “‘FAMOUS FOR GOD.’” Syntactically, this is a classic misuse of quotation marks. Quotation marks are most commonly used in three contexts: (1) to set off quoted material, such as speech; (2) to name certain things, such as chapter titles; and (3) to indicate that something is not quite what the word or words suggest. In the logo in question, neither case (1) nor case (2) applies. This suggests—though it is surely not intended—that the diocese thinks it’s famous for God, but really isn’t.

I suspect that “Famous for God” is a reference to the work of the Rev. Sam Shoemaker, who spoke of Pittsburgh at some time in the future being as famous for God as for steel. (In a certain sense, that has been achieved, but not how Shoemaker intended.) It is ironic that Shoemaker was rector of Calvary Church, whose lawsuit against Duncan and his colleagues many years later is largely responsible for keeping most of the assets of the diocese in the hands of Episcopalians and keeping the question of whether a diocese can secede from The Episcopal Church out of the courts. In any case, Shoemaker was speaking of Pittsburgh, not the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and surely not the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

I think that the Anglican diocese is famous for Duncan and for conservative subversion of The Episcopal Church. Make of that what you will. I am reminded of my many visits to Episcopal churches outside the area before the diocesan schism. I would introduce myself as a visitor to the rector after the service, and the rector would ask where I was from. His or her face immediately turned noncommittal when I answered, “Pittsburgh.” After giving assurance that I was a loyal Episcopalian, I was invariably offered sympathy. Our diocese was famous, but not for God. Of course, those who left The Episcopal Church for what has become the Anglican Church in North America may have a different view,

The founding year of the Anglican diocese of Pittsburgh is really 2008, but I will grant that the organization shares a history before then. Just as the Christian Church found it useful to claim continuity with the ancient Jewish religion, which provided more respect in the eyes of Romans, the Anglican diocese finds it useful to claim it is older than it actually is. All things considered, a more honest logo might be the following:
An Episcopalian’s take on the logo


  1. FAMOUS FOR SCHISM (and don't forget Duncan Pitts insists on his ¨own place to stand¨..guard them doors, there may be some light peek´n through)!

  2. Greetings from Durham, Lionel.

    For what it's worth, I never really liked the logo and I agree with you that if you're going to use quotation marks one should use the entire Shoemaker quote.

    I think though - unsurprisingly - that in your desire to emphasize the discontinuity of the Anglican Diocese from the Episcopal past you're missing something. Without getting into the business of what Shoemaker might or might not have hoped to come to pass, his ministry at Calvary and his work for the Pittsburgh Experiment both contributed to the development of Pittsburgh's postwar evangelical subculture of which the Anglican Diocese is unquestionably a part (Peter Moore was one of his curates, after all). The notion that the Anglican "secessionists" (correct use of quotation marks here) emerged - like Athena - fully formed sometime in the early 1990s is unsustainable; you have to go back to the late 1950s and give Austin Pardue his due (he, after all, encouraged people like Nancy Chalfant to begin healing ministries in the Diocese of Pittsburgh).

    Existentially, it's not possible to draw a neat line that cuts off the Anglican Diocese from its roots (any more than it is for the Episcopal Diocese). Rather like the confluence of waterways that gives Pittsburgh its distinctive character, the Anglican and Episcopal Dioceses are diverging streams each carrying with them elements of a common ecclesiastical DNA.

    The debate has long raged about whether schism is worse than heresy, and is unlikely to be resolved in human history. Might I therefore suggest that schism "doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare's call it" schism. Given the relative size of the two dioceses, Pittsburgh presents the perfect test case for comparison of the success of two very different styes of mission and ministry.

    1. Jeremy,

      I have no problem with your history lesson. Bishop Duncan did not introduce an unknown strain of theology into the Pittsburgh diocese, though he may well be credited with introducing a militancy that was new.

      It is fair to trace the history of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh back through its Episcopal Church years. Before 2008, however, there was no Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, so it is disingenuous to say that it is 150 years old. This is like dating the beginning of the United States to the time of Alfred the Great, rather than to 1776. What the Anglican Diocese is doing is pure puffery.

  3. Here is another piece of the celebration—an open house at the Duncans’ (see invitation here).


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