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A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003


NEWS


News . . . from the Ad Hoc Committee of                                 

Those Opposed to Resolution One (T.O.R.O.)                           

Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

 

Contacts:       Susan J. Boulden - 412 828-3576

                        Elizabeth N. Stifel, M.D. - 412 486-8067

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Members of Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Opposed to possible passage of Resolution One at the Diocesan Convention (Nov. 1-2)

 

In a move to express their concern and opposition to Resolution One, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have planned a  “Vigil for the Unity of the Church” on Saturday, October 26, 2002 at Trinity Cathedral downtown. The Vigil will take place at 11 A.M. followed by a Service of Holy Eucharist at Noon.

 

In preparation for the Pittsburgh Diocesan Convention, a group of parishes prepared Resolution One which copies a resolution passed by the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.  Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has written that it is considered to be a “firewall” resolution which will send a message to General Convention that people in the Diocese of Pittsburgh believe that, "Having no authority to alter or amend received truths, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church may not enact, nor may we accept, legislation contrary thereto."  The concern is that the General Convention, meeting in 2003, may pass resolutions with which the sponsors of Resolution do not agree.  Resolution One also expresses that they "will not use liturgies that depart from the Historic faith", thus opposing liturgies which are inclusive and/or gender neutral.  It also states that canon III 8.1 which requires the ordination of women in every diocese, should not be imposed on those few dioceses and bishops who refuse to do so out of "conscience".

 

The Ad Hoc Committee of Those Opposed to Resolution One (T.O.R.O.) came about because so many members in the Diocese of Pittsburgh disagree with the tone, contents, and purpose of this Resolution.  In conjunction with the local chapter of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, they have Petitions circulating throughout the Diocese. (Resolution One and Petition attached with Backgrounder).  The response to the Petitions has been prodigious.   At this time it is not clear what will happen at diocesan convention when this resolution comes up for discussion on Saturday, November 2nd.

 

 

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Background

Diocesan Convention Resolution Causes Concern for many in the Diocese of Pittsburgh

As the Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh draws near (Nov. 1-2), and the Triennial Meeting of General Convention looms large for 2003, a proposed resolution has revealed divisions within the Diocese of Pittsburgh. With the initial support of Bishop Robert Duncan, a number of conservative parishes have signed on to Resolution One, a copy of a resolution passed in February by the Diocese of South Carolina. This resolution (see attachment) contains three main points: 1. Inclusive liturgies will not be used and that they are probably heretical; 2) The signers will refuse to accept any General Convention resolutions which condone an unbiblical morality which for them includes homosexuality and blessing of same-sex unions, and 3) "Coercive canons" will not be accepted, by which is meant Canon III 8.1, which requires the ordination of women in every diocese.

The purpose of this resolution is, as stated by the Bishop, to be "a 'firewall' resolution..."The goal is that our diocese advise the General Convention, prior to the meeting of that body, of limits beyond which this diocese will not go in changes to Faith and Order, changes which that body might attempt to promulgate." When the resolution first was sent out to certain targeted parishes, Bishop Duncan indicated that he intended to set aside his position as Presiding Officer at the convention in order to advocate on behalf of the Resolution.

As awareness about this resolution has grown, numerous parishes and people have made known their dissatisfaction with it and with the way it has been thrust upon diocesan convention without any real discussion. Also many people found it to be insulting to women and arrogant in its appropriation of "received and revealed Truth". In response to the resolution, the rector of one of the largest parishes in the diocese, Dr. Harold Lewis of Calvary Church, discusses it in the church newsletter, AGAPE, and says, "The bottom line is that it is highly likely that General Convention, in the summer of 2003, will pass resolutions which this Diocese will have gone on record as opposing. Such a development could well place Calvary and other congregations in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the anomalous and unenviable position of being in solidarity with the majority of the Episcopal Church while being at theological odds with our bishop."  Another female priest responded with, "Is the full humanity of women a matter of debate?  Are we only full human beings if certain men accept us as full human beings, i.e., capable of being ordained?"

An Ad Hoc Committee of Those Opposed to Resolution One (T.O.R.O.) was formed, met several times, and pursued several strategies. Many people wrote letters to the Bishop and Diocesan Council, asking that the resolution be removed. However, Council voted to send it on to the agenda of diocesan convention, with only 2 out of 30 voting against the resolution. At this point T.O.R.O., in conjunction with the local chapter of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, wrote a petition which has been and continues to be circulated throughout the diocese. (See attachment) In the meantime the original resolution has been rewritten several times to make it less abhorrent to those who oppose it and the new version will perhaps be offered as a substitute resolution to the diocesan convention. (Note: this substitute resolution was not written by the sponsors of the original resolution, but by others in an attempt to soften its tone.)  However, members of T.O.R.O. did not find the substitute any better.


A delegation from T.O.R.O. met with Bishop Duncan who, while asserting that he now does not want the resolution to pass because it is too divisive to the diocese, agreed with the delegation that if the Ad Hoc Committee wants the resolution withdrawn, their members should try to convince the original sponsors to do so, or convince them to change it from a resolution to a petition which those opposed to it would not have to sign. That delegation is to meet next week with the priests who initiated the original resolution.

 

Members of T.O.R.O. have sent a letter, accompanied by a position statement and their petition, to all the clergy and deputies.  They have invited them to attend a "Vigil for the Unity of the Diocese" at Trinity Cathedral on Saturday, October 26, at 11:00 a.m. It is hoped that prayer and the realization of how divisive Resolution One is, will persuade those who brought the resolution to withdraw it from the Convention Agenda. What will happen if it goes through is anyone's surmise at this moment.



                                                            RESOLUTION #1 

 

AS ADOPTED BY THE DIOCESAN CONVENTION OF THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2002

 

As passed on by Council (9/10/02) becaused deemed appropriate for discussion at Diocesan Convention

 

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh affirms that we have received as a sacred trust the Faith once delivered to the saints. We believe that the Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary for Salvation, that the Apostles and Nicene Creeds are sufficient statements of the Christian faith, and that the sacred Tradition of the Christian faith has been preserved for us in the Book of Common Prayer. We believe that it is our bounden duty and service, in obedience to Our Lord, that the Sacraments should be duly celebrated, and the Word rightly preached, until His coming again. Furthermore, we believe that the three-fold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, rightly ordered, is a sign and seal of apostolicity, and a precious inheritance to be guarded and passed on to the church throughout the ages.

Therefore, understanding that unity must be found in truth, WE RESOLVE THAT:

  

1.We will not use liturgies that depart from the Historic faith. We seek to preserve the inheritance of conunon prayer. Liturgies that substitute gender-neutral titles for the persons of the Holy Trinity threaten this inheritance, and often reflect notions that have been classically understood as heretical. If the law of prayer is the law of belief, this is a critical issue. It is not as much how we worship but who that is at stake.

2. We will not accept General Convention Resolutions condoning an unbiblical morality, Confessing our own sins, and in a spirit of deep humility, we stand with the Church throughout the ages in acknowledging the Scriptural witness that monogamous Christian marriage between a man and a woman is the only and appropriate context for sexual relations. We reject the divorce culture, promiscuity of every type, and all behaviors, which depart from the received Biblical norm. We do so, not in judgment, but because God in His goodness has given commandments to protect us from harrn to body, soul and spirit. Rejecting certain behaviors as sin does not imply a rejection of persons. We condemn hornophobia, or any behavior that violates our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.

3. We will not accept coercive canons, which contradict the mind of the Anglican Communion. The decision of the 1976 General Convention to ordain women as priests was clearly intended as a permissive change. The Anglican Communion, at its highest level (Lambeth) agreed, stating: "Those who affirm the ordination of women, and those who do not both hold a valid theological position in this Communion." The General Convention of 1997 ignored this Communion-wide mandate by passing overwhehningly Canon III 8. 1, which requires the ordination of women in every diocese, thereby unchurching those bishops, priests, deacons and laypersons who believe what the Church has always believed. While rejoicing in the gifts that ordained women have brought to this church, we also stand in solidarity with those who do not believe the Episcopal Church can make such a change to received Catholic tradition.

 

This resolution is not intended as an exhaustive list. Rather, these three issues are singled out because General Convention already has taken, or has begun to take action on each of them that would seem to move the Episcopal Church in a direction more guided by special interests than by the mind of Christ. We recognize that we are not in a position to judge. We do not wish to be arrogant. Rather, we wish to be a witness to our conviction that revealed Truth is a given. It cannot be changed, voted on, nor amended. We are committed in every way to remaining a part of the Episcopal Church. We will witness to unity even as we witness to the higher calling of the Truth we have received.

 

Subrnitted to Diocesan Council September 10, 2002 by the clergy and vestries of

All Souls', North Versailles; Christ Church, Brownsville; Christ Church, Greensburg;  Christ the King, Beaver Falls; Church of the Advent, Jeannette; Church of the Ascension, Pittsburgh; Church of the Savior, Ambridge; Church of the Transfiguration, Clairton; Holy Innocents, Leechburg; Prince of Peace, Hopewell Twp; St. Christopher's, Warrendale; St. David's, Peters Twp; St. Francis in the Fields, Somerset; St. Luke's, Georgetown; St. Martin's, Monroeville; St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier; St. Paul's, Kittanning;  St. Paul's, Monongahela; St. Peter's, Uniontown; St. Philip's, Moon Twp;  St. Stephen's, Sewickley; St.T'homas in the Fields, Gibsonia; Shepherd's Heart Fellowship, Pittsburgh;  Trinity Church, Beaver

 

 

STATEMENT BY THOSE OPPOSED TO RES0LUTION ONE (T.O.R.O.)

REGARDING THE CONTENTS OF RESOLUTION #1

 

We object to the Resolution for a variety of reasons. The first is its tone. As one priest of the Diocese has commented, the resolution is characterized by "a tone of hostility and negativity that reflects, at the least, the absence of charity. The presentation of this complex rnaterial as a resolution to be voted up or down at convention is needlessly polarizing--- and damaging to the spirit of collegiality and mutual respect that so many of us have worked hard to cultivate in recent years." In addition to a hostile tone, there is also one of presumption. While stating that it is not judgmental or arrogant, the resolution nevertheless claims that its proponents are the only ones who have received and who can interpret "revealed truth." Moreover, we concur with Bishop Duncan who has described the resolution as "divisive and hurtful." The people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh have long lived with a tension owing to the fact that its members have held differing views on a variety of issues. What this resolution would do, unfortunately, is to codify those differences, to "draw the line in the sand." It would classify persons as either "right" or "wrong," and would virtually preclude the possibility of further dialogue on the matters raised.

 

The document is also theologically troubling. It describes "revealed truth" as a finite entity, not as a living reality tobe discovered. Our faith needs to be vibrant and dynamic; this document makes it appear that stasis is the desired state. The life of the Gospel is missing. This static approach to "revealed truth" can be seen in the sections of the resolution dealing with liturgical language. Judeo-Christian tradition has traditionally seen God as bigger than the human imagination. There is no way we can contain the reality of God in a single image, e.g., the Trinity. Scripture gives us many names for God, including gender-neutral images, e.g., rock, and living water, as well as feminine images, e.g., a hen brooding over her chicks. If we exclude gender-neutral language, then we would have to eliminate many of the scriptural passages, including portions of the Psalms. It is unclear what the resolution deems to be heretical as regards certain liturgical language.

 

The section of the resolution concerning "unbiblical morality" refers to an unchanging "Scriptural witness" of "monogamous Christian marriage."  There are, in fact, many Biblical models of morality, including the polygamy of the patriarchs. There is no universally acknowledged "received Biblical norm" on the matter. The Bible does not address committed same-sex relationships, but does, for example, condemn adultery. Yet we look in vain to the document for vehement denunciation of that practice. Moreover, this part of the resolution marginalizes homosexual persons in our church for whom a monogamous heterosexual relationship is not an option.

 

We object to the incongruity of the statement "While rejoicing in the gifts that ordained women have brought to this church, we also stand in solidarity with those who do not believe theEpiscopal Church can make such a change to received Catholic tradition." Such a statement demeans the ministries of all women clergy. The Episcopal Church acted prayerfully and lawfully to ordain women. To question the validity of women's ordination nearly three decadesafter its introduction is discriminatory and unjust. "Received catholic tradition" is interpreted anew in every age, as evidenced by revisions of the Book of Common Prayer.

 

The resolution is problematic from the point of view of church polity. It goes on record as opposing certain positions, so that if the General Convention passes resolutions, which are not in accord with those positions, we will find ourselves in the anomalous position of some of our members being in concert with the decisions of the Episcopal Church, while others are upholding thedictates of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

 

The resolution contains several inaccuracies. The Lambeth Conference, for example, has never purported to be the Anglican Communion "at its highest level." Given the polity of Anglicanism, in fact, there can be no such entity. The Lambeth Conference is incapable, therefore, of issuing a "Communion-wide mandate," as the document maintains. Lambeth only claims to be an advisory body. Moreover, it is comprised only of bishops. Our church's councils have always included clergy and laypeople as well.

 

The resolution contains several imprecise statements. What significance, for example, should be attached to the phrase, "We reject the divorce culture." What does this mean? Does it mean that we reject the many clergy and laypersons in our midst who are divorced?  Does it mean that our bishop should no longer approve the remarriage of divorced persons?

 

In our opinion, Resolution #1 will not do anything to usher in the Kingdom of God, or to further the cause of the Gospel. Indeed, its inflammatory and uncharitable language will only serve to exacerbate the divisions that already exist among us. We urge, therefore, that it be defeated when it comes before the137th Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petition Opposing Resolution One


 

 


As members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh interested in a vision of “One Church”, we are disturbed by the negativity and divisiveness implicit in Resolution One.  Its narrow perception of truth excludes thousands who have toiled faithfully in this diocese. We commit ourselves to finding strength in diversity. We oppose any Church resolutions or legislation that exclude any members of the Body of Christ.

 

Signed -  To Date (Oct. 22, 2002) by approximately 540 members from many parishes - petition is still circulating.

 

 

 

 

 


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

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