Gundersen on the Continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh

Lionel Deimel's blog is now carrying an important note from Joan Gundersen titled, Gundersen Offers Pitsburgh Update. Read it.

Here is what Joan Gundersen says,

"I’m afraid that those of us in Pittsburgh have been focused on the planning we need to do to get through convention, and have not been keeping people informed about the status of things in Pittsburgh. Your response about what the TEC should do prodded me to give an update. You are welcome to share this with the whole HoB/D list.
  1. Since his deposition, Bishop Duncan has been acting as a paid “consultant” to the current standing committee and has been received into the Southern Cone as a bishop; Bishop Henry Scriven also has a consulting contract, since his status as Assistant Bishop ended with Bishop Duncan’s deposition. Bishop Scriven leaves for a new position with SAMS at the end of the year. There will need be no negotiation with Bishop Duncan about leaving. He has already left, and should the realignment vote pass, is expecting to be invited back by the realigned group as bishop.

  2. While most of the standing committee favors realignment, we are sure that at least one member is voting against it. We also have members of diocesan council and the board of trustees who are staying. This means that we will have an unbroken chain of governance to go forward as a diocese within TEC should the realignment vote pass. It will take a short time to confirm with each member of the various governing bodies whether they have realigned or remain Episcopalians, and then our remaining member(s) of standing committee will begin appointing people to essential vacant spots. We will be able to run our own reorganizing convention. Thanks to planning by the Across the Aisle group which has brought together everyone we can find who is staying (liberal, conservative, or in-between), plans for a continuing presence of TEC are well in hand. We will need to negotiate with the realigned group over access to office information and issues such as insurance. We are putting plans in place for everything from office space and web site to lay-reader training and the care and tending of parishes who are without clergy. It won’t be easy, and we are sure to be short of funds at first. However, passage of realignment is not a sure thing. There is a strong core of congregations and individuals committed to staying.

  3. Should the realignment vote fail, we will have a bishopless diocese that is internally divided and in need of healing. We will also experience a rolling set of resignations as certain leaders and congregations individually withdraw. Should the vote pass, we will have an externally divided diocese and a number of deeply wounded parishes. Either way, we will need everyone’s prayers.

  4. Those of us opposed to realignment have at every convention tried to have the chair rule that the amendments concerning the accession clause are out of order, and have at every convention reminded people of their fiduciary duties. We are prepared to do so again.

  5. Because of the lawsuit filed in 2003 by Calvary Episcopal Church (and others), a signed stipulation on property resulted in 2005. The return to court by Calvary in 2006 resulted this fall in an appointment by the court of a special master who is inventorying diocesan property and reporting to the judge supervising the case. Thus, the status of property issues in Pittsburgh is very different from San Joaquin or Fort Worth. The 2005 stipulation signed by Bishop Duncan states that all diocesan (not parish) property belongs to the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.” We believe that the meaning of this is clear and have every confidence that the judge will enforce this agreement. On the other hand, institutions such as Sheldon Calvary Camp will not turn away a child from a realigned group, and so the camp will, in that sense (but not in a governing sense), remain available to all in the region. The stipulation also includes a process for negotiating property settlements with parishes leaving TEC.

  6. Our Cathedral parish has announced a plan where they would be neutral, serve the entire region, and participate in both the realigned and continuing dioceses. It is not clear whether this will be workable, but they are certainly going to give it a good try.
The best thing TEC can do for Pittsburgh should the realignment measures pass at convention is to recognize and support those who are going to ensure a continuing presence of TEC in this part of Pennsylvania."
The vote is this weekend. Prayer and support is in order.


  1. What is the official count of members/parishes of the continuing Diocese of San Joachin? (Not the bused-in crowds for diocesan events, but the actual sustaining members). I heard that there were only 10 "sorta" parishes. Does anybody have a guesstimate on how many parishes/sustaining members would make up a continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh?

  2. Allen, who in the world are you? I live in the Diocese of San Joaquin and I resent questions about people who are "bused in" for diocesan events. You do not know what you are talking about and your intent is to undermine what is being done by Episcopalains in out diocese in the name of Christianity. This is not a war where someone wins and someone loses. Rathere it is a crisis where there are losses on both sides. Joan Gunderson points out that there will be hurt and losses on both sides in their diocese. I've experienced that in a church I love and in the diocese where I have been a member for more than 40 years. If you are not in one of these dioceses, then you need to stop making pronouncements that involve people who are hurt. I am looking at my 89 year old mother who cannot jump around a diocese looking for a church that is Episcopalian, but who will not be a part of Schofield's schism. Why should she be subjected to this madness? So stop your frivilous attitude and the uestions about "guestimates" and numbers. Jesus Christ would care about every individual person who has been hurt!

  3. I see her reflections as a sign of hope. As she points out, Pitts is NOT San Joaqun where the plan to leave with the property has been going on for 30+ years.

    By the way, I was waiting for her permission to post her comments. You beat me to it.

  4. Allen,
    If you go to the website: http://www.diosanjoaquin.org you will find the number of parishes fully functional in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. From that you can ask for the parochial report given each year and I am sure they will provide you the numbers. This is basic information that an Episcopalian would know.
    You are indeed hung up on numbers.
    As I recall Jesus, when he died had about 5 people close to him there. It did not change the act of salvation. And, I believe that if only 1 person was going to be saved Jesus would have still completed the act.

    PS: Notice I did not resort to any name calling.

  5. OK beryl,

    Difference of opinion. Vantage point and questions/responders had different answers when the continuing diocese held its big rally.

    BTW: I didn't address your mother. It was just a question. Who am I? I'm one of the people paying for the litigation for your mother's diocese. I'm one of the people paying the bills for the continuing diocese to continue. I just would like to know for how long and under what conditions a "continuing" diocese will be supported as a mission diocese. Now another one's coming along. Soon two or three more afterwards. And all of this is being funded (for how long?) when our mission work in South Dakota among Native Americans is being cut. Let's remember that they hurt too. They just don't have a large public face to say it.

  6. Allen, are you an accountant by any chance?

  7. It sounds as though a secession by the diocese is not a done deal, which is good news indeed. Also good news is that preparations are well under way for the Episcopal diocese to continue if diocesan convention does vote to split. My grandfather attended St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in McKeesport outside of Pittsburgh (the former parish of Bishop Mark Lawrence in South Carolina), so I've been following all this somewhat closely.

  8. As mcuh as I want to see realignment, there is no desire to see those who wish to remain in TEC bereft of options. Plans to support them spiritually should be made and implemented even as we pray tha plans to destroy Bishop Duncan and the hope for a new province in North America fail miserably.

  9. Allen,

    The diocese is receiving some support from the national church for last year and this, in order to function. The litigation is being funded by the people in the diocese currently. That is a fact.

    I wasn't saying that you were addressing my mother. I was saying that a lot of people are hurt in these battles. There is a lot of collateral damage that seems to go unrecognized. If the mission work to native Americans in South Dakota is being cut, that is tragic, too.

    Where we live in the Diocese of San Joaquin, we continue to meet with no church building, no office,and using the bare necessities. Yet, we continue, with everyone working to help. However, in the midst, we see the need for outreach in our area and are focusing on that, too.

    We are all members of the body of Christ, and we need to look at the human faces of one another and really see the results of our battles. All of us believe we are acting on principle.

    As Christ was warning the apostles that he would be leaving them, he said to them to "Love one another," and he added that it was "By this love" for one another that the world would know them.

  10. nlnh:

    Here's an answer that I don't want anyone to interpret as "snarky", "rude", or "sarcastic". Here goes:

    I am an accountant. I will be called to account before the Lord as to what I support and endorse. So, I take stock of those things. I am a part of an organization that requests my finances to prioritize mission. Then, this organization continuously reminds me that I should be in mission. Then I find that our missions among native tribes are cut for a lack of money. This same group of S.D. tribes has one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. A fact not even publicly spoken of or acknowledged by the PB when she went to SD for her diocesan visit. Lots of talk about MDGs and...you guessed it...mission. We are closing nine of their churches for a "lack of funds". Then, in order to keep scattered more visible (dare I guess "influencial") Episcopalians happy, we are "finding" lots of money to underwrite up to five dioceses (made up of maybe 15 churches) as "continuing" with no accounting for where the money is coming from, for how long, and under what return. That is called "mission". In the most basic sense, I am outraged that we are funding a status symbol diocese (of less than a dozen churches) while closing nine churches among a group who is literally killing themslves off and needs just as much as those who weep over their old and comfortable pews. We find money conveniently and spread it strangely. Watch over the next 24 months as more "continuing" dioceses appear with the main goal of putting on the public face that TEC is here to stay. I don't buy that as "mission".

  11. Alan, if you're an accountant, more power to you. The world needs as many bean counters as possible now.

  12. Allen I believe that you are ill informed about the situation in the Diocese of South Dakota.

    The bishop there is a Native American. He is hoping to retire soon. He is tired. TEC is not closing the missions in this diocese. The bishop and his staff have made those decisions.

    If you do some further research you will find a marked difference of opinion as to what is really going on in that situation. Because of the ill manner that your government has treated the indigenous peoples of your part of north America, there are groups of folks living "together" in this diocese who do not get along too well, historically and currently. The Dakota and the Lakota are not the same peoples, but they were forced together in the past. The bishop is from one group, the closing churches are from the other. There are those who feel discrimination is present in these decisions regardless of how much the bishop wants to vocally and publicly blame TEC.

    That aside, your snarkiness is an inherent part of virtually every post that you make. This kind of character flaw does not develop overnight. You have been this way probably most of your adult life. It is not a product of current unpleasantness in the AC or TEC. You are most likely perceived to be an ass by many beyond those of us here.

    "Big rally" serves no other purpose than to be dismissive. Your assholeness will never serve you or your position well, and as you are aware, especially here.

  13. Allen, no one has denied that SOME of the events of the continuing diocese had visitors in attendance from neighbouring dioceses, and perhaps even further afield.

    The charge that these people were "bused in" (for heaven's sake, learn to spell) or that the total numbers were ever represented as boing only the continuing Episcopalians is just more "conservative" slander.

    I'm very curious about this numerical heresy of yours. If there were only ten congregations with an average of ten members each, they would still be entitled to the ministry and presence of the real Episcopal Church. If it were one, lone faithful Episcopalian, no less would that person be entitled to the care and nurture of the Church.

    But the fact of the matter is that, despite thirty years of fomenting schism, John-David never managed to cow everyone.

  14. I would hope that someday everyone would realize that it's San Joaquin. Many people on both sides of these issues spell it incorrectly. A small thing I know, but it bugs me.

  15. You're right Malcolm,

    The smallest number of people are entitled to ministry. But to be a diocese? With all of that costly overhead? And litigation? And now there's more "continuing" dioceses on the horizon. Stop worrying so about typos and wonder how TEC (which I don't think you're part of) can shoulder such a huge burden for the sake of keeping the name on the sign. No one has answered how we can find money to create all of these just-add-money, propped-up dioceses for the sake of keeping face. Yet, we barely sniff when mission is cut in S.D. among a less-visible and less-vocal tribal group. If this WAS about ministry why would we even need to create a diocese with just a handful of churches? Maybe with a lot of loudness those nine closing tribal churches can get their own diocese too? Not a chance. Not enough valuable property to fight over.

  16. david (dah-veed):

    The National Church leadership made the budgetary decision to cut the mission income used for the native tribes in question. The diocese was, therefore, unable to sustain their churches, forcing the November closures.

  17. From David Virtue -
    "Mostly recently, the 2008 Episcopal Church budget approved in February by the Executive Council included a 5 percent cut in the approximately $524,000 the diocese expected to get from the church's Domestic Partnership block grant program. The lost $30,000 amounts to a reservation priest's salary", Robertson said. "It hurts us, it hurts us very deeply.
    But another blogger said Bishop Robertson and the Diocese faced a hard decision. There is low attendance and a lack of church cohesion on the Reservations. The Diocese is combining some congregations on the Pine Ridge. The nine that are closing have very low attendance. This is the kind of decision a diocese must sometimes make, and it is thankless and painful work."

    From the Argus Reader 11 SEP 2008 -
    "The pastors received a letter from the diocese about two years ago that they had to make changes, such as raising membership. The diocese gave a deadline of Jan. 1, Tyon said.

    When Tyon arrived as deacon 10 to 12 years ago, there were 50 to 55 members with 15 active ones. Now that total is down to 35 with five or 10 active.

    They were ones who cared enough to be there to support the church," she said of active members.
    Tyon said it's difficult to attract new members such as young families to support the church.

    At two of Red Owl's three closing churches, membership has dropped to single digits, except for holidays such as Easter and Christmas that attract many visitors and nonactive members, she said.

    St. Barnabas has 13 to 18 members, and Red Owl hoped it would have station status. But it doesn't. She has invited the members to attend Church of the Mediator in Kyle, where she serves."

    There appears to be much more going on here than the simple story of the big, bad TEC.

  18. I wonder if the cuts in mission funding have anything to do with angry fundamentalist dioceses withholding their assessments?

    That is the account I got from a priest at a Navajo mission I attended a few years ago.

  19. Surely, Allen, if assorted bishops in England, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Argentina can express their rightwing extremist views of what happens in the Episcopal Church, then this simple massing priest in Canada has just as much right to express his left wing views. Stop playing both ends against the middle, Allen. It merely makes you look silly.

    As to San Joaquin, despite the departures of John-David and however many others, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joquin still exists. Perhaps that diocese may come to the conclusion that amalgamation with a neighbouring diocese constitutes more prudent stewardship. Perhaps not.

    In the meantime, it would not be appropriate to traumatize the faithful further having already been victimized by the theft perpetrated by John-David and his fellow travellers.

    TEC has acted properly (though per haps on some canonical points sloppily) by allowing the diocese to contnue until everything has shaken out. Then - and only then - the dioceses can determine their own future.

  20. Concerning Gunderson's update (which I'm sure was the point of this thread, not San Joaquin or Native American churches), I, um, well, liked it.

    It actually showed concern for both sides, wanting to make sure the camp would minister to both realigned and continuing Episcopalian children, looking for the Cathedral to minister to both camps. The notes show a generosity of spirit that I haven't seen much of in the whole conflict. Usually only the rights and needs of one side or the other are even acknowledged. This is different.

    I'm not real hopeful about that generosity maintaining itself when the litigation starts in earnest, but it is nevertheless commendable.

  21. Malcom, what is a 'Massing' Priest? Is your weight a problem?
    Or is this another pseudo-medieval accessory, like vestments and incense?

  22. A massing priest, Fred, is a priest who says mass. Tres simple, oui?

    For someone who clearly thinks that all we Anglicans (and possibly all religious believers) are irredeemable wankers, you seem to spend a lot of time trawling through our petty squabbles.

  23. Malcolm +-%=, if I go around saying "Mass, mass, mass" what happens? Do I get to wear funky robes and make that hand motion?
    How do you spend your time? At least I don't have the gall to charge people money for my stupidities.
    Let's do the ACCanada math once again: By 2055, given current membership trends, under 100 members.
    Now it's your turn to ask me a rhetorical question and avoid the topic once more!

  24. You noticed that, too, did you, Malcolm.

    Perhaps he comes to bring enlightenment -- of course that implies that he has any to bring?


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.