Friday, October 17, 2008

Across the Aisle meets at Trinity Cathedral

This evening I attended an Across the Aisle meeting hosted by our parish and came away with a more positive impression than I anticipated.

First, the tone was civil. Jim Simons opened proceedings with an expression of hope that all present could agree on a common understanding of Jesus Christ and his salvific work and noted that the national church had expressed a desire for reorganization in as autonomous a fashion as possible. He outlined the manner in which he was informed of his removal from the original Standing Committee (by phone and without opportunity to discuss the matter with his former colleagues) and cited Title 1, Canon 1.2.4 (a) as the authority for the Presiding Bishop to recognize the new Standing Committee. He noted that the search for an acting bishop is under way and that a sitting bishop has been invited to assist the search committee in the weeks ahead. He also noted that there had been many messages of support and that he was receiving upwards of 100 e-mails every day.

Lou Hays from St. Paul's, Mt Lebanon, discussed parochial issues, being careful to stress that 'only individuals can leave the Episcopal Church.' He noted that parishes need do nothing to remain in the Episcopal Church, but that a vestry could confirm that it was remaining by resolution and by sending their assessment to the Episcopal Diocese
(the Southern Cone Diocese was, throughout these proceedings, referred to as "the Oliver Building"). Those parishes still in discernment he urged to take time over their decision. Small dissenting groups might form house churches; larger groups should aim to reorganize; if the vestry seeks to realign but the congregation is generally opposed (is there any such situation in Pittsburgh?) then people should stay and "fight for your parish and your rights." If a parish was on the episcopal visitation schedule and the bishop turned up unannounced (Bishop Henry sitting next to me raised his eyebrows at that) one should invite him to worship but not allow him to preside, though if he did it "wouldn't be a fatal indicator" of realignment.

I asked Jim Simons where the Standing Committee saw the relationship between the realigning and the remaining
some months down the road. He was noncommittal, but praised the Cathedral resolution as a model that might serve as a way forward and I believe he was being genuine when he said it.

Someone from St. Alban's, Murrysville, asked if a remnant from a realigned parish would be allowed to send delegates to the Episcopal convention, to which the answer was yes. A question about parochial endowment monies held by the Southern Cone Diocese led Jim to remark that parishes were free to ask for such monies to be returned to them and that he didn't anticipate that such requests would be ignored. "That doesn't sound like the character of folks there," he added.

Jim went on to note: "Your pastoral needs and your spiritual needs take precedence over every other issue;" and introduced Scott Quinn as the priest responsible for assisting parishes trying to rebuild their devotional life.

Joan Gundersen reported on the special convention planned for December 13. All parishes are to be asked if they're sending delegates and the main business of the day will be electing new officers (letters are to be sent to members of diocesan bodies other than the Standing Committee asking them where they stand on realignment). There will also be district elections (interestingly, no District One parish has expressed interest in remaining with the Episcopal Diocese - John Guest won the battle for the hearts and minds of the Beaver Valley years ago). It is possible that there will be an ordination at the closing Eucharist.

One attendee expressed frustration that the mailing list for the Trinity newsletter had been denied to the Episcopal Diocese (that was a bad decision on the Southern Cone's part, say I). Another person asked why they couldn't share properties with the other side. "Do the Southern Cone hate us so much," she asked, "that they don't want to share?" To me, this is a glimmer of hope that there are those on both sides looking for a way forward and I suspect there are many parishes that would welcome that option. Jim Simons agreed that that might well be the way to resolve some of the hurt down the road.

One final piece of interesting news. The Presiding Bishop will be at Calvary Church on All Saints Sunday!


Lionel Deimel said...

The canon cited by Jim Simons is Canon I.2.4(a).

Also, the event was not sponsored by Across the Aisle, but by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Thanks for a fair summary of last night’s event.

Jeremy Bonner said...

Thanks Lionel,

I corrected the canonical citation.

I'm leaving the title as is, but readers will see your correction in the comments.

Anonymous said...

So it doesn't bother you that Jim Simons was close friends and worked side by side for many years with the late president of the IRD?

Jeremy Bonner said...

You obviously haven't read the rest of my blog. I'm on the more conservative side, but I'm looking for a settlement that will end the bleeding. How much more do you think any of us can take?