Here is the text of the letter:
18th October, A.D. 2011
Feast of St. Luke
TO ALL CLERGY AND LAY LEADERS OF THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE:
Dearest Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
I write to you today to inform you that our appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been rejected. We accept that the courts have not found in our favor and will, of course, comply with all court orders.
We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Episcopal Church diocese. In light of this judgment by the courts, we will redouble that commitment to reaching a final resolution of all issues between the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese through negotiation.
We intend to persevere in our mission, which is to be Anglican Christians transforming our world with Jesus Christ. We do this chiefly by planting congregations. As at every annual Convention since realignment, congregations are being added to our diocese both locally and across the country, for which we give thanks to God. We pray God’s continued favor on our mission, his grace towards those who remain within the Episcopal Church, and his help for our beloved Communion as we move into the challenges and opportunities of this new millennium. May the Gospel of our Lord Christ find a fresh hearing all across his Church and his world!
Faithfully your Bishop and Archbishop,
The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh
Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America
Duncan, of course, is reacting to the decision I wrote about in “Pa. High Court Rejects Duncan Appeal.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision was no surprise to Episcopalians who have been following the trajectory of the Calvary lawsuit. Whether Duncan’s supporters were prepared for the defeat, I do not know. They should have known that the Duncan appeal’s having twice been rejected by the appeals court made a request to the highest state court in the Commonwealth unpromising.
Having lost definitively in the courts, Duncan now focuses on “reaching a negotiated settlement” respecting “all issues between the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese.” All the issues that remain are parish property issues, and the stipulation signed in 2005 gives “the Anglican diocese” no standing in reaching negotiated settlements involving parish property. (An overarching settlement with the departed congregations seems unlikely.)
At some point, if the Anglican Church in North America survives, I believe that the Episcopal and Anglican dioceses in Pittsburgh will be able to peacefully co-exist, blessing one another’s work, even. That cannot happen while parish property issues remain unresolved.
I find it curious that Duncan, insisting that the diocese will pursue its mission, asserts that that mission is primarily about “planting congregations.” The strategy, I would suggest, is more about poaching congregations than about winning souls for Christ. Despite the setbacks in Pennsylvania courts, the strategy is working well. Although Duncan had to surrender the conspicuous financial assets of the diocese to the Episcopalians, he kept office equipment, telephones, computers, and the like, as well as cash on hand, which allowed him, with buildings and people liberated from The Episcopal Church, to build his Anglican diocese.
The small parishes in the diocese were courted and manipulated by Duncan to gain their considerable votes in the diocesan convention leading up to the 2008 realignment vote. (Diocesan canons favored small congregations.) These parishes are now more liabilities than assets to Duncan. I suspect they will now be sacrificed, and Archbishop Duncan will use their adversity to heap more abuse on The Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh continues to plant congregations, mostly outside Southwestern Pennsylvania, congregations whose convention deputies will outvote the Pennsylvania natives.
Such is politics in Christ’s Church.