"Today, members of the chapter of Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh, met for their annual retreat, seeking to discern the new fields of mission to which their Lord was calling them. No great novelty, except for the fact that attendees included elected representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Southern Cone) and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America and – seated next to one another – Bishop Robert Duncan of the Province of the Southern Cone and Assisting Bishop Robert Johnson of the Episcopal Church." The whole article is worth the read.
On one level it seems a commendable peaceable gathering. But there is a bit of musical chairs activity here. Given what a Cathedral is, I wonder how long sitting next to one another will work.
The Cathedral is a cathedral because it is the place where the bishop of a diocese has his cathedra, his chair. The chair is just a chair. It can take many forms. Indeed, when there is no cathedral, the chair and be even an overstuffed easy chair. The Missionary Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (part of the Church of Nigeria) was precisely that, a red easy chair. As part of the Diocesan's coming into a diocese, he or she is usually installed, making the chair a stall.
These chairs or stalls can get quite elaborate, as one can see in the cathedral chair at the Washington Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, which has inscribed behind it a version of the Lambeth Quadrilateral.
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (the one part of The Episcopal Church) has its' bishop's cathedra in Trinity Cathedral. When then Bishop Duncan was deposed the one and only diocesan website (at the time) posted a picture of the cathedra without him sitting in that chair, but a miter and staff at the ready. See the photo to the left. The picture, quite rightly, was to indicate that the episcopal office was vacant.
When the Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh met this last summer many of the clergy and lay representatives voted to leave and become part of the Province of the Southern Cone. Meeting under canons that had been changed and no longer were in conformity with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church they determined that leaving meant that the diocese itself was separating from TEC. So shortly thereafter they met again for the expressed purpose of re-electing the now deposed bishop as their bishop. As far as the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Southern Cone) EDP/SC was concerned, it seems the seat is now occupied by a bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone, Robert Duncan.
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (the one continuing as part of The Episcopal Church) (EDP/TEC) met again and repopulated the various committees of the Diocese, and in particular the Standing Committee, and agreed to ask Bishop Johnson to serve as assisting bishop during the period prior to their election of a new bishop. As far as EDP/TEC is concerned Bishop Johnson is assisting and I believe that means that as far as EDP/TEC is concerned he has not been "enthroned" or "seated" in the cathedra. That waits for the newly elected diocesan.
So here is the thing: The Cathedral leadership, which has determined to allow both church entities to use their facilities, has this chair. It's just a chair, but it is the bishop's chair. Nothing rests on whether Duncan or Johnson sits there except this:
The point to having such a chair is that at least formally it is reserved for the bishop of the Diocese of which the Cathedral is named as Cathedral. That right is not determined by the Cathedral leadership, it is not determined by two bishops of church communities so opposed to one another that one church has separated itself from the other, it is not determined by "sharing" use. The use of the chair indicates the diocese of which the Cathedral is part.
Remember that EDP/SC has signed on to the Jerusalem Declaration that rejects the leadership and churches that have gone astray from the Gospel, meaning by that TEC. Remember that Moderator Duncan is a deposed bishop of TEC and the Archbishop in the making of a new entity, The Anglican Church in North America, not in communion with TEC.
Since the two church entities, EDP/TEC and EDP/SC, are part of churches not in communion it would seem odd that they both use the same cathedra, or alternately that they have separate cathedra in the same Cathedral. If Trinity Cathedral was a separate corporation able to do what it wished, then it could declare itself a local church and invite whoever it wished to have a special chair. But if it maintains that it is a Cathedral, then it is the Cathedral pertaining to a bishop of jurisdiction in some ordered church - in this case either The Episcopal Church or the Province of the Southern Cone. Furthermore, the matter of ownership is not settled by the decision of the Cathedral leadership to determine who uses the space and why, but it clouds the issue.
Who gives a damn? Well no one it appears, at least for the moment. But come this summer when the Anglican Church in North America forms itself up, the deposed bishop, now a bishop of EDP/SC will become the Archbishop of ACNA. Then, I would bet, the Trinity Cathedral leadership might have to make some choices: is it a local church extending hospitality to two factions of what it sees to be a larger whole, or is it a Cathedral pertaining to one or the other - the Archbishop of ACNA or the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC).
Cathedrals and chairs are sometimes symbolic "flags." If you have one, it means you have a bishop. Flying flags of two states, one of which contends that spiritual warfare against the other is the order of the day, will eventually lead to an intolerable situation.
Perhaps Trinity Cathedral would do better to stop considering itself a cathedral and try the experiment of being a host church to two quite different groups. Perhaps then the bishops of EDP/TEC and EDP/SC or ACNA could sit anywhere they could find a seat, or perhaps bring out an overstuffed red easy chair for special occasions.