The deposed bishop of Pittsburgh believes he is the bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh that holds the properties of the various churches and the assets of the diocese and that when he left The Episcopal Church the stuff was his, or at least belongs to the parishes whose leadership and often many congregants also left with him. He seems to believe the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh left with him. As Lionel Deimel suggests, the deposed bishop of Pittsburgh lives in an inverted, upside down fantasy land. Down the rabbit hole and into another world. Follow Lionel's blog for the case now to be heard regarding the actual Diocese of Pittsburgh's case for the assets and property that pertains to the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The deposed bishop of Pittsburgh and a sizable, but as yet not settled group of clergy and laity of the diocese have left the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh for temporarily warmer climes in the Southern Cone, a province large in size and miniscule in numbers. Not to worry. They will once continue to experience the joys of the winter winds in Pennsylvania. They intend, along with some other fellow travelers, to form a new Anglican Church in North America. All of that is their business. But the foolishness about their being the "real" Diocese of Pittsburgh, you know, the one that has both right and possession of properties and assets, is about to meet the test.
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh there were sufficient remaining clergy and laity, at least one member of Standing Committee, and organized efforts to continue the presence of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The reformation of the essential structures of diocesan life are well under way, with a standing committee, episcopal oversight and governance continuing. This was a long term concerted effort of many people of various minds concerning the life of the church. For Pittsburgh diocesan life continued unbroken following the convention in which a majority of clergy voted to leave The Episcopal Church, reinstate their former bishop, and make for the south.
In Fort Worth there remained a strong group of clergy and laity but no member of the Standing Committee continued with the Episcopal Diocese. So their process of reforming is in play in a somewhat different way. In Fort Worth those who remain Episcopal(ian) have formed and determined to provide lay and clerical leadership for the Episcopal Church presence in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Fort Worth. There being no bishop or Standing Committee to convene such a gathering, the Presiding Bishop is acting as convener.
On the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth site there is a chronology of events leading up to the special convention. Read it HERE.
"...the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth continues its ministry as an integral part of the Episcopal Church.
Many Episcopalians in the diocese never supported Iker’s aims. For months prior to Nov. 15, they began planning to reorganize and refocus the diocese to carry on the work of the church. They formed the mostly lay-led Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, a body made up of representatives from the remaining Episcopal congregations.
Since Nov. 15, 15 intact and reorganizing parishes and somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 Episcopalians in North Texas, some meeting in their parish property and some meeting in temporary space, have continued to worship and explore new and effective ways to carry out the church’s mission of reconciling the world to God and all humankind to each other through Jesus Christ.
Among the organizing principles of the continuing diocese are a commitment to an empowered lay leadership and a return to the emphasis on Christ’s very clear ministry instructions to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, comfort the lonely.
A reorganizing convention is scheduled for Feb. 7. Committees are preparing a budget, reviewing canons to bring them into compliance with national norms, communicating with the wider church and the public, nominating qualified lay and clerical candidates for diocesan offices and designing strategies and programs for various outreach ministries. In time, the full range of diocesan ministries will be reestablished."
Read the ENS report on the call for the convention HERE. Readers will also want to consult Desert's Child for a sense of the good news that continues in Fort Worth. They are keeping on keeping on.
The Diocese of Fort Worth, like the Diocese of San Joaquin before it, has had to reorganize with the personal presence of the Presiding Bishop, working, according to the ENS report, "in accordance with Canon III.13.1. That canon states in part that "a diocese without a bishop may, by an act of its convention, and in consultation with the Presiding Bishop, be placed under the provisional charge and authority of a bishop of another diocese or of a resigned bishop."
The Diocese of Quincy presents a different situation. The diocese, already very small, was reduced in size even further by the retirement of its bishop and the exit of many clergy and laity following his advice and counsel. The remaining Episcopal Diocese of Quincy is continuing but there seem to be some questions of just how it might proceed. Meanwhile, however, the mantra of the Standing Committee of the group that have formed as a diocese in the Province of the Southern Cone believes it is indeed the Diocese of Quincy, just not in the Episcopal Church any more. They have apparently contracted with the retired bishop of Quincy to provide them episcopal oversight in this new configuration, thereby making it certain that the retired bishop will be inhibited and deposed.
The remaining Episcopalians may organize as a core group of Episcopalians and meet in a special convention, as did San Joaquin and as will Fort Worth. But should they not be able to do so, might the possibility exists that the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Quincy be declared a missionary area and episcopal oversight be provided for missionary purposes until such time as the Episcopalians in the area organize and petition to form a diocese or the jurisdiction, by act of General Convention and neighboring dioceses be absorbed into already existing dioceses? (The neighbor dioceses are Chicago, Springfield and Missouri.)
Each case has been different and the continuing Episcopal presence has been somewhat different in expression. What has emerged, however, is the basic sense that The Episcopal Church takes seriously its call as the DOMESTIC and foreign missionary society, the vision to be present in every part of the United States such that there is a jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church in place throughout the country. Domestic mission and the realities of continuing Episcopal Church presence in each of these four jurisdictions sets in motion a variety of responses to the exodus of leadership and congregants. But in the end there will continue to be an Episcopal Church presence in each of these places, and, as Katie Sherrod observes,
"Yes, there is grief aplenty here as families have split and parishes have split. But the Holy Spirit is on the move and her presence is palpable. There is a joyousness and optimism in our gatherings now that is contagious.
Shield the joyous."
Yes: Shield the joyous indeed.