January 16, 2016

The Rev. Diane Shepard on the Action of the Anglican Primates

Today, my friend and fellow PEP (Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh) member Diane Shepard sent the message below to the PEP e-mail list. Episcopalians in this diocese have fought valiantly for The Episcopal Church and what it stands for. We are ready to do so again.
January 16, 2016


Word that the Anglican Communion primates have voted to impose sanctions on The Episcopal Church opens again the wounds from more than a decade ago when many of the primates were enraged by the consecration of a man in a gay partnership, Gene Robinson, as bishop. This Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh became the epicenter of a schism within our Episcopal Church with nationwide results. The bishop of this diocese led the schism. Many of us fought this schism both with our words, our pleas to the national leadership of our church, our money to support churches remaining loyal to the greater Episcopal Church, and in the secular civil courts. Much anger, anxiety, grief, tension between one another, and abiding outrage resulted. This word from the Anglican Communion opens those wounds again—including the huge wound of its insult to so many among us who know themselves as Christian and part of a sexual minority.

I am outraged, also, by word of these sanctions coming from our brothers and sisters in the Faith. I do not believe the answer is to leave this Anglican Communion or even to hope that it dissolves. We have an enormous role in that Communion to witness—to witness to what we know and have been shown to be true, in faith—that sexual identity or choice of a life partner does not define or limit our ability to be faithful and responsible Christian people. Our witness is of extreme importance now, as it has been, especially for those in any place or church who are being excluded from the Christian faith community or persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

How we bear this witness is an important discussion for us here in this Diocese of Pittsburgh. Our outrage is a powerful emotion. My prayer is that we can use this outrage to see more clearly the serious issues of discrimination as they poison us all and to encourage and protect those who are hurting because of that discrimination that comes in so many forms.

The Rev. Diane Shepard
Priest, Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh


  1. My thanks to Rev Shepard for both the substance of her comments, as well as the leadership which she is demonstrating. This is the substantive sort of comment which should be issuing right now from the bishop, but unfortunately the clergy has foisted a bishop on this diocese who clearly prefers to 'lead from behind'. Now it is time to be steadfast as we decide how we will bear witness. This is no time to confuse good manners with meekness.

  2. After writing the foregoing comment, I have received and reviewed the statement from the Rt Rev Dorsey McConnell. It is thin gruel in the guise of spiritual sustenance. He proposes nothing, I repeat, nothing as a means to bear witness. Instead, the Bishop suggests that we must simply improve our person to person and parish to parish relationships in the future, and apparently otherwise keep silent.

    Huh? Bishop McConnell realized that a statement is needed, but he really states a whole lot of nothing. Instead, Bishop McConnell attacks his own flock when he refers to those who: "...hurl threats of separation, or lay down conditions, or demand repentance from everyone but ourselves..." Why in God's name do Episcopalians need to seek repentance--for recognizing fundamental principles of human dignity, equality and the right to love and be loved? So, according to Bishop McConnell, we are in the wrong if we wish to stand up for our principles? We are in the wrong if, as I have suggested, we should refuse to be bullied by a bunch of bigots?

    I have long maintained that it is always a mistake to put any member of the clergy on a pedestal, and Rt Rev Dorsey McConnell is proving my point. His statement demonstrates less wisdom and leadership than many an average parishioner.

  3. I agree with Diane that we have an important witness to bear (and a cross with which to bear it) and the way to do that is not to walk away from the Communion but to stay true to what we are and not to let the bullies silence our witness by intimidating us into leaving.

    I would especially recommend the responses by +Nick Knisely and Elizabeth Kaeton.

    And Gary, I disagree with the idea that Bishop McConnell's statement proposes no means to bear witness. Simply staying the course of loving inclusion we have set for ourselves while maintaining person-to-person, parish-to-parish relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the Communion (especially in the Global South) is a powerful witness. Do you think that the GAFCON bullies don't already know that we consider their treatment of LGBT person to be profoundly unChristian? We don't need to say that, we need to show them the fruits of the Spirit manifested in the path we have chosen. As Elizabeth Kaeton says "[Our] Staying is what the GAFCON Primates fear the most."

    Bill Ghrist

  4. And we do have friends in the Communion. Take a look at the Je Suis TEC button.


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