Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Episcopal Dawn, Anglican Sunset: A Scholar's Reflections on Pittsburgh's Episcopal Experience

This lecture was delivered at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Highland Park,
Pittsburgh, on October 17, 2008. My thanks to Bruce Robison and all those who attended.

“The effectiveness of the Episcopal Church is hampered by its own peculiar faults.” So spoke the Bishop of Pittsburgh not in 1985 or 1995, but in 1955. “In some quarters it bogs down in ritualistic trivialities and dissensions over unimportant issues. In other places, it becomes deflected from its goal by what amounts to an idolatry of scholarship and biblical criticism. Or again, the energies of the Episcopal Church become drained off by the belief that the future of the faith hinges upon new educational techniques and round table discussions. Or the Church may become so broad and liberal that it agrees with everybody and stands for nothing.” [1] Such sentiments, it would appear, have a longer lineage than one might imagine from casual perusal of today’s newspaper headlines.

It is both a privilege and a pleasure to address you tonight on the subject of 250 years of Anglican and Episcopal history and witness in this comparatively remote corner of western Pennsylvania. History is being made and never more so than in the past five years as global Anglicanism has reeled from crisis to crisis and relationships between provinces, dioceses and parishes have been irrevocably altered. A mere 20,000 Christians we may be, but we enjoy a notoriety out of all proportion to our numbers not just in the United States but across the world.

I would like to begin with an expression of thanks to Bruce Robison and the Adult Programs Committee of St. Andrew's Church. I know of no better place to address some of the present ambiguities of our situation – less than two weeks from the historic vote on realignment – than in a heterogeneous parish that has chosen to remain Episcopal. Next in importance – though first in my heart – my wife Jennifer, who, in addition to being the principal breadwinner, has had to endure four years of married life in which “churchy” affairs have formed a frequent topic of conversation (or perhaps monologue would express it better).

To the newest Bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone, I am grateful both that he considered it worthwhile to commission an official history and that, having done so, he refrained from seeking to exercise editorial judgments. In the course of two years, the only criticism Bob Duncan ever offered of my work was that he would like to see more attention given to the earliest phase of Anglican mission work, a criticism to which, I suspect, even the most ardent progressive would have little objection. As a scholar, I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the contribution of the diocesan archivist. Lynne Wohleber’s commitment to archival preservation, despite the limited resources with which she has been gifted, is worthy of high praise. Finally, every pledging member of the Diocese of Pittsburgh contributed to the stipend that I received between 2005 and 2007, an addition to our household income that was gratefully received. I hope that when our history is published in its entirety by Wipf and Stock next year, all will feel that this was money well spent.

For me, this project has had both a personal and a professional aspect. I have been a member of Trinity Cathedral – which recently adopted a unique approach to the problem of governance in a post-realignment era – have served on its Chapter and have been a delegate to Diocesan Convention. Even those aware of my Communion Conservative tendencies may well be inclined to assume that the diocesan history is a puff piece intended to validate the course pursued by Robert Duncan in his years as Bishop. While I esteem Bishop Duncan and share many of the concerns that he has expressed over the years, I have had occasion to differ with him on a number of issues and have continued to entertain reservations about the wisdom of realignment even as I have come to accept its historical inevitability.

Those who read my account of this year’s convention proceedings will have noted how I prefaced it with an extract from the last chapter of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, in which the Elves, accompanied by Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf, depart into the West, leaving Sam to mourn their departure on the shores of Middle Earth. The scene amply captures own feelings as I watched the 2008 convention proceed to its denouement. If you prefer a Biblical analogy, consider that passage from Deuteronomy, where Moses, foremost among the Prophets, is denied entry to the Promised Land on account of his faithlessness at Meribah, even while the Lord permits him a vision of what will be.

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. [2]

In a touching pre-convention message, Joseph Martin, rector of Church of Our Savior in Glenshaw, wrote of how God had emancipated him from his fear of leaving the Episcopal Church, where all doubts boiled down to one essential question: “What will ministry life be like outside of the comfort, security, and status I had known all my life in the Episcopal Church? A question I had talked a good game about but never really faced seriously, and it was daunting.” [3] I have no doubt of the genuineness of his conviction and call, and yet I also do not doubt the convictions of those who find the view from the Anglican Pisgah as remote as did Moses. Since at least 2006 many diocesan leaders have preferred to stress the potential of new beginnings rather than lament what is, for them, already lost. Most of them, as Philip Wainwright, rector of St. Peter’s, Brentwood, so eloquently noted at St. Martin’s, Monroeville, have been engaged in an increasingly rearguard action for most of their adult life and perhaps welcome the opportunity finally to be free of constraint and conflict.

It is not the historian’s task to predict the future but rather to focus on what is passing. In some respects, the assertions frequently made in discussions of realignment over the past five years – that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has not changed its position, but stands where it has always stood – seem to me misleading. While the Episcopal Church in the past half-century moved a considerable distance from what church historian Robert Prichard has called the “Mere Christianity” consensus of the 1920s, [4] postwar Pittsburgh did not remain in ecclesiological stasis in the meantime. In a world where the definition of Anglican is increasingly contested – not least because Anglicanism no longer boasts a source of ultimate authority that commands universal respect – Pittsburgh Episcopalians have contributed their mite to redefining it. It is easy, too easy, merely to note the conflicts between the liberal minority in this diocese and their conservative counterparts, but ecclesiological conflict is not confined to simple liberal/conservative dichotomies.

If you doubt me, take Ohio River Boulevard to Sewickley, where you may stand in the lobby of St. Stephen’s Church and marvel at the throng that gathers to worship God in contemporary liturgy and praise music. Then follow the signs that point south and east to Charleroi, climb the steep Mon Valley hill and enter that shrine to working class Anglo Catholicism. Geoff Chapman and Bill Illgenfritz today, John Guest and Joseph Wittkofski forty years ago, practitioners of two traditions, both deeply rooted in the Anglican way and completely incompatible in terms of nineteenth century theology! And if we argue that both still express the essentials of the faith, then how do we account for those conservatives who today have chosen not to follow the path of realignment? Sometimes it is not the open opponent but “our companion, our guide and our own familiar friend,” [5] whose perceived betrayal hurts the most.

Renewal, at its best, begins with a consciousness of the Cross on which sinful thoughts and wills are crucified, a theology that stands in radical contrast with the liberal Protestant view famously – and critically – defined by the Neo-Orthodox theologian Richard Niebuhr that “a God without Wrath brought Man without Sin into a Kingdom without Judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” [6] Sinfulness remains a universal constant, as Bishop Duncan pointed out at this year’s Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem: “Over the last five decades,” he testified, “we have made more than our share of compromises when issues of Scriptural Truth were debated or challenged . . . Moreover, the witness of our personal lives has been scarcely better than the record of those whom we now forthrightly confront: divorce and remarriage, sexual sin, addiction, material possessions, careerism, children who wander far. Further to our shame, we have sometimes as orthodox battled one another – splintering into factions and sects, competing with one another for territory or adherents, even at times condemning one another – publicly proclaiming the Truth while privately operating for our own advantage. So it is not just the progressives who have allowed sin to masquerade as righteousness, but sometimes the orthodox as well that have disgraced, disrupted and divided the whole Anglican Communion.” [7]

For the last few years, I have been uniquely privileged as a historian, to write a work of historical context for an ecclesiastical organization undergoing the most profound transformation of its 142-year history. While I sat in a little side office and read issues of the diocesan newspaper from more than 100 years earlier, I could overhear conference calls with other Anglican Communion Network bishops (rarely the substance, unfortunately). From time to time the arch purveyor of diocesan propaganda – that is to say our esteemed director of communications – would intrude his head to inquire what tidbit of diocesan scandal from far-off days was currently preoccupying me. So I sat and recorded history, while all around history was being made. Four years ago, as my wife and I prepared to move to Pittsburgh, I knew next to nothing about the diocese (though I confess that Bob Duncan’s name was not entirely unknown to me). It has been an interesting journey.

What then of my title? Episcopal Dawn is, I hope, self-explanatory. With much of this region barely settled during the 1790s, the birth of the Episcopal Church and the emergence of an Anglican witness largely coincided. That pattern held in Pittsburgh for over 150 years: a strong Evangelical presence in the early nineteenth century gradually supplanted by a more Anglo Catholic outlook; an embrace of the Social Gospel – though hardly on the scale of some other urban dioceses – during the early twentieth century; and a period of contraction during the 1920s and 1930s.

Revival during the 1950s, while owing something to the positive demographic trends that sustained much postwar Episcopal resurgence, proved significantly different in Pittsburgh than in other parts of the Episcopal Church. The twin presences of Bishop Austin Pardue and Sam Shoemaker fostered the cultivation of a prayer-centered Anglican culture considerably more introspective and personally transforming than the more mainstream spiritual nostrums of Norman Vincent Peale. The notion of a local witness intended to convert the broader culture was thus birthed in Pittsburgh twenty years before the diocese had begun to gain its present notoriety in religious circles as a center of the parachurch movement. “It is encouraging,” remarked Bishop Pardue in 1966, “to see how many new and expanded ministries have developed within the Diocese. They are not Diocesan initiatives and for them the Diocese has no financial responsibility. . . . Yet, they are fostered by our clergy and lay people and by individual parishes and missions of zeal and vision.” [8]

The contributions of undertakings as diverse as the Pittsburgh Experiment, Trinity School for Ministry, the South American Missionary Society, Anglicans for Life and Rock the World Youth Alliance should not blind us to the realities inherent in this form of spiritual identity. What developed in Pittsburgh during the 1970s and 1980s was a profoundly different understanding of “being church” from that found in most Episcopal dioceses. Its strengths were and are undeniable. It meets the unchurched where they are and focuses on bringing them into right relationship with their Lord and Savior. It confronts secular culture, refusing to make concessions on matters of doctrine merely to conciliate the secularist. Finally, it undercuts the fatal tendency of institutional Protestantism to descend into bureaucratic obscurantism by keeping its organization simple and suiting its structures to the task at hand.

Such discipleship is of a high order and yet through it runs potential contradictions, the same that drove the Reformed Episcopalians into schism. Modern Evangelicalism operates within the context of a wider conservative American Protestantism. Sometimes the suggestion that “they’re not really Anglicans” can be understood as a coded attempt to remove conservative voices from the debate, but the present discussion of the “two integrities” on female ordination inherent in the realigning movement testifies to enduring tensions. “People have a deep need to express their faith in ways that are culturally relevant to them,” observed one Evangelical priest in 1992, “we don’t really need pipe organs and medieval dress and archaic language and music.” [9] Taken at face value, such observations reflect an obliviousness to the fact that an attachment to the “archaic” can be its own form of religious counter-culture, if it is a truly lived experience and not merely a liturgical performance.

Such pronouncements could be heard as early as the 1970s. The future Bishop of Central Florida, John Howe, then a fiery Pittsburgh-based Evangelical, caused some alarm in 1973 with his denunciations of established Episcopalianism. “Our churches,” he observed, “are ‘filled’ with baptized, confirmed, committee-serving, Sunday School-teaching, bill-paying, loyal Episcopalians who have never been reborn of the Spirit. And it usually isn’t their fault. How will they be converted unless we preach conversion? And why would we ever preach conversion if we shared [the] opinion that they don’t need it?” [10] In response, the Pittsburgh writer Emily Gardiner Neal savaged Howe as a “reformed Protestant minister, who has totally rejected Sacramental principles.” Let it be noted here that Neal was no liberal; an Anglo Catholic who had authored books on devotionalism, she was strongly to oppose the Episcopal Church’s decision to ordain women to the priesthood. [11]

It is in this context, then, that I would speak of Anglican Sunset, even as the more fervent proponents of realignment would doubtless prefer “Episcopal Sunset, Anglican Dawn.” Anglican identity is changing even as we sit here and we are party to that transformation. The global reformation is at our door, as postcolonial Anglicanism assumes the driving seat. For some, however, reformation and realignment increasingly take on the character of the view from Pisgah. There is an element of tragedy amid the promise, one which I think we would all do well to appropriate. Too often, the eagerness to be gone clouds awareness of the heritage that will be sacrificed on the altar of fidelity. It is sometimes hard to escape the feeling that the legacies of Kemper, Huntington and Brent may be unavoidable casualties of the realignment process.

What then has Anglican identity meant for Pittsburgh Episcopalians down the years and what does it mean today? We all claim the identity as our heritage, but in vastly different ways. “From its origin immediately following the American Revolution,” declared the rector of Calvary Church in February 2007, “until this date the heart and soul of this church is that it is an American church based upon democratic self-determination, American morality and not subject to foreign domination . . . . Since the 1780s, our church has been predicated upon American values and American morality. The American value system and the evolving American concept of non-discrimination should govern our future as they have our past.” [12]

“We call ourselves Anglicans,” the Bishop of Pittsburgh observed in Jerusalem in June. “Canterbury (Ecclesia Anglicana) achieved dominance in the first millennium . . . in the second millennium, the British Church (and her colonies, in turn) took the Gospel across North America, Australia, Africa, South America, Asia and to the ends of the earth . . . What is remarkable next, however, are the astoundingly British and overwhelmingly Western (Caucasian) systems that guide the thirty-eight Provinces of this worldwide Christian family as the third millennium begins. This ecclesiological framework has now become an obstacle to the story.” [13]

Here, then, is the classical division between what church historian Miranda Hassett recently called diversity globalism and accountability globalism, [14] in which proponents of the latter strive to shake off that peculiar relationship with the secular state which the Church of England bequeathed to its daughter church in the Americas in the form of the “national church idea,” a vision of Anglicanism as a communion of nationally distinct ecclesiastical bodies united in a common expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. From the mausoleum that housed the earthly residue of the national church idea has arisen a confessional fellowship spanning oceans and continents. “As long as the systems were working,” to quote Bishop Duncan once again, “as long as the systems were not obstacles to the story – there was little reason to question them.” [15]

So often is the notion of the birth of a new American Anglicanism established in 1789 brought to our attention that we sometimes forgot how much the Protestant Episcopal Church (as it was then known) retained a fascination with its English roots. When one considers how much of nineteenth century American religious history must be viewed through the lens of ethnocultural identity (German Catholic, Norwegian Lutheran, Dutch Reformed), it is not too much of a stretch to speak of an English Episcopalianism, understood less in terms of an immigrant church (though Pittsburgh could report a fair number of immigrant Anglicans) than in a mindset that continued to bind the church of a former colonial dependency to the mother church. “Ask them concerning the religion of their forefathers,” declared Joseph Doddridge, one of Western Pennsylvania’s first Episcopal evangelists, in 1816. “They all answer, they were Church people. Many of these people still retain an old Prayer Book as a venerable relic of antiquity. They still have a reverence for Baptism and the Lord’s Day. The Church, they say, was once pure and good, but it is now fallen, and, they fear, will never be revived again.” [16]

In 1875, Pittsburgh’s first bishop, John Kerfoot, swore to devote his energies to succoring the “old-country church people” drawn to the region by the promise of work in the iron and coal industries. It was Kerfoot who encouraged Church of England clergy to advise immigrants bound for America that the Protestant Episcopal Church was a constituent member of the Anglican family. He later persuaded Archbishop Tait of Canterbury to institute the practice of letters commendatory, issued by English clergy for their congregants to present to their Episcopal counterparts on arrival. [17] Several years later, on a visit to Greene County, Pittsburgh’s second bishop, Cortlandt Whitehead, met an Englishman who had resided in the district for thirty years without once seeing an Episcopal priest. Visibly moved, Whitehead baptized his six adult children and confirmed them together with their mother and the family then all received Holy Communion together. [18]

Awareness of the English presence was part and parcel of Pittsburgh’s Episcopal modus operandi well into the twentieth century. In May 1937, Trinity Cathedral hosted a service of thanksgiving for the accession of King George VI, attended by the British Consul in Pittsburgh. “I think, wrote one Wilkinsburg resident who attended the service, “that we have . . . a Consul who will mean something to us the British in Pittsburgh and one who will do his utmost for the cementing of good fellowship between the peoples of America and the British Empire.” [19] Only four years later, as Pittsburghers absorbed news of the devastation inflicted on London by the Blitz, the diocesan convention endorsed a resolution “extending its deepest sympathy with the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion in its titanic struggle to preserve Christianity for the world.” [20]

Continuity with the Church of England went only so far, of course. In the mid-nineteenth century, when the high church Anglo Catholic party was struggling to hold its own in England, its American counterpart was carrying all before it. In Pittsburgh, the first two episcopal leaders of the diocese helped consolidate the ascendancy of Anglo Catholicism over a 57-year period, despite a residual Evangelical presence. “Hearty Prayer-Book teaching and modes are everywhere here acceptable,’ Bishop Kerfoot warned a high church acquaintance in 1872, “but ‘advanced’ ideas and gestures make mischief right off. Such a man as you (sic) would call a little ‘Low’ who would be loyal to the Church and to this Diocese, and who is earnest and industrious, would do well.” [21] By the 1890s Evangelical influence was waning. They constantly asserted “the evil of High Churchmanship,” reported one observer, “and solemnly affirmed their opinion that every High Churchman was nothing more or less than a Jesuit in disguise.” [22] Symbolic of their decline was the defeat of efforts to prohibit the erection of a chapel or the appointment of a chaplain (whom Evangelicals feared would be a closet Romanist) at the new St. Margaret’s Memorial Hospital in 1890, a facility made possible by a generous bequest from Episcopal layman John Shoenberger. [23]

As the Progressive Era dawned, another English influence had secured a hold on the American Anglican imagination. [24] Promoted by such mainstream Episcopal leaders as William Reed Huntington, rector of Grace Church, New York, [25] the “national church idea” found favor with such Pittsburghers as Episcopal lawyer Hill Burgwin, who argued that the Protestant Episcopal Church should adopt the name, “The National Church of the United States .” Presbyterians and the Methodists lacked a national organization, Burgwin explained; Congregationalists and Baptists lacked a national territorial organization; and the Roman Catholics were as yet a missionary church. [26] Seven years later, the rector of Christ Church, Greensburg, voiced similar sentiments, while discussing a proposal to drop the word Protestant from the Church’s title. “[Why],” he demanded, “should this comparatively small branch of the one great Anglican Communion be the only branch that holds on to an epithet which . . . gives her a sectarian or denominational name?” [27] The popularity of the national church idea revealed the lingering attachment of many American Anglicans to notions of establishment, though its proponents sought to minimize this by suggesting that the Protestant Episcopal Church would serve merely as the vehicle for the reunion of the scattered strands of American Protestantism.

In the current political climate it has become increasingly difficult accurately to determine whether the national or global vision of Anglicanism prevailed in nineteenth (and indeed early twentieth) century America. Commenting on the 1899 ruling by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York against incense and processional lights, Bishop Whitehead emphasized that the American Church was in no way bound to take note of opinions generated by Lambeth Palace and further noted that the most recent General Convention had rejected a proposal to establish a board of arbitration under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury to consider questions submitted by the national churches. [28] Whitehead, however, wrote from the context of a church that had neither the means nor the desire to implement such state-sponsored measures as the Public Worship Regulation Act. Elsewhere he seemed to imply a rather different understanding of global ecclesiastical relationship. “[One] does not belong to St. Peter’s, St. John’s, St. Matthew’s parish; nor yet to the Diocese of Pittsburgh; nor indeed to the ‘P.E.C. of the U.S.A.’” declared a diocesan newspaper editorial (almost certainly composed by the Bishop) on the Pan Anglican Missionary Congress of 1908. “We are not baptized into these puny and ephemeral bodies, but into [the] great Holy Catholic Church.” [29]

Of all the bishops of Pittsburgh, only Whitehead’s successor, Alexander Mann, spoke unequivocally to a largely American idiom for Episcopal identity. “[Our] influence is out of all proportion to our numbers,” Mann observed in 1933, “and when the Episcopal Church speaks in her corporate capacity, no Christian Communion in the country commands more truly the attention of thoughtful men. We are one per cent of the population, we are thirty per cent of college and university students . . . We are too Catholic for some of our members and we are too Protestant for others. We are told that our position is illogical, but after all what is it but the position of the family, where one son is an extreme radical and one is an ultra conservative, but where all the children are held together by the bond of a common loyalty, a common love and trust. [30] Mann’s episcopate, however, largely coincided with the social and economic upheavals of the Great Depression. By the time he resigned his position in 1943 (the first Pittsburgh bishop not to die in office) circumstances had radically altered.

It has become an axiom of contemporary progressive discourse that during the 1970s and 1980s the Diocese of Pittsburgh was subject to a takeover by conservative elements not indigenous to the region. In this view, the broad and tolerant Anglicanism of Bishop Robert Appleyard (elected in 1967) gave way to the polarizing and sectarian Evangelicalism of Alden Hathaway (elected 1980) and Robert Duncan (elected 1995). For this shift much blame is also accorded Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, whose graduates are accused of infiltrating many mainstream parishes in southwestern Pennsylvania. Such sentiments were voiced as early as 1982 in a meeting of the diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains, according to the then secretary, David Jones. “This entire discussion,” he wrote, “opened a floodgate of words and emotions concerning Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. A number of strong feelings were articulated by a number of Board members: ‘I have a hard time even calling that place a seminary.” “They claim to be in the stream of Anglicanism – they aren’t.” “We shouldn’t send anyone there; how did the Bishop’s original policy change? There was a good deal of self-righteous indignation filling the room.’” [31]

For many progressives, contemporary Evangelicalism stands outside any recognized canon of Anglican belief. Writing in a recent online edition of Episcopal Life, Dr. Joan Gundersen of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh described the recently formed Somerset Anglican Fellowship, a breakaway group from St. Francis-in-the-Fields Church that opposed the latter’s decision not to realign, as “evangelical Presbyterians.” [32] While I do not doubt that many in that group would find common cause with conservative Presbyterianism, it is not clear to me that this disqualifies them from Anglican identity, if only because there are so few absolute theological benchmarks.

I still recall my amusement at reading an account of the landmark 1922 ordination service at devoutly mainstream Calvary Church, at which one of the participants was Frederick Emrich, a Congregationalist minister, marking the first time a representative of the Reformed tradition had participated in an Episcopal ordination. [33] Fast forward eighty-two years to 2004 and we find Bishop Duncan authorizing a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church to confirm 13 candidates at St. Michael’s Church, Ligonier, a parish whose conservative rector has since confounded many by refusing to participate in realignment. [34] For good measure, I would note the comment of one Calvary parishioner in the early 1920s regarding his rector’s homilies. “The trouble with Mr. van Etten’s sermons,” he complained, “is that they are just as good for the Baptists as they are for us!” [35]

What then has been the reality of Anglican identity here in Pittsburgh in the recent past? My thesis, couched in more formal terms in a recently published Anglican and Episcopal History
article, is that Pittsburgh’s shift from Episcopal mainstream to Anglican mainstream – from national to global, if you will – has been at least as much an indigenous development as the product of alien influences encroaching upon the ecclesiastical body politic. What took place between 1953 and 2003 owed as much to Bishop Austin Pardue and Samuel Moor Shoemaker of Calvary Church, as it did to Bishop Alden Hathaway and John Guest of St. Stephen’s, Sewickley.

It is a proud boast of contemporary Evangelicals that they seek to transform secular culture, not to conform to it. Such an undertaking is achieved not by ghettoization but by active engagement with the world around them, with a mobilized body of laypeople willing to share their faith with unchurched members of their community. In 1987, the senior warden of Prince of Peace mission in Hopewell testified that he had been brought into the Church as a result of the efforts of a group of laypeople who had made weekly visits to local neighborhoods. [36] The revival of St. Philip’s Church in Moon Township in the mid-1990s to become one of the largest congregations in the Diocese was also the result of a sustained program of evangelism and outreach. “These evangelism relationships are like plants,” declared the then rector. “They need a little water every day. If they don’t get watered, they’ll die.” [37]

Such activity is impressive but hardly novel. As early as 1952, Bishop Pardue had organized a diocesan commission on evangelism to send out teams of laymen “who have experienced a transformation in their lives by Christianity” to visit parishes and discuss that experience. These presentations frequently led to the establishment of prayer and Bible study groups at the parish level. [38] Another innovation of the 1950s – the parish life conference – also became popular in Pittsburgh. “What I found,” declared one participant “was the Church as a living, freedom-giving, heart-warming Reality – something I always knew existed but which I had never experienced with such intensity.” [39] Certain clergy also won their bishop’s warm approval. “[Father William] Bradbury,” Pardue noted approvingly in 1954, “has trained his people [Christ Church, North Hills] to be missionaries, but he himself sets a fabulous pace. They tell me that he is at the doorstep of every new home before the moving van arrives and that he ceaselessly and constantly rings doorbells and talks to everybody within miles of the church.” [40]

Specialist ministries to neglected groups have also been a hallmark of the Evangelical subculture. Those who have assisted at Uptown’s Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, a congregation drawn almost exclusively from Pittsburgh’s homeless, are all too aware of the remarkable bonds that exist between the lightly-compensated clergy and lay leaders and the materially impoverished body of the congregation. Upriver, in economically straitened Ambridge, we find the socially diverse congregation of Church of the Savior, which began life in the living room of a Trinity School for Ministry seminarian. This is not your typical middle class Episcopal congregation, but a body of believers inspired by something more than a concern for liturgical propriety.

The territory may have changed since the 1950s but the search for innovative ministry has not, nor the desire to meet people where they are. Walter Righter, seeking to enter the ordination process in the early 1940s, was warned not to do so until Pardue had been installed “because [Bishop Mann] will insist you have an income of $2,400 a year or he won’t accept you.” Righter soon learned that his new bishop expected all future clergy candidates to spend a year working in a mill or factory to gain an understanding of working class culture, yet Pardue was not content simply to give his clergy a taste of working class life but sought to break through the crust of Episcopal custom to embrace the neglected communities of the Mon Valley. To take the Gospel to the lapsed Catholics of Charleroi and Donora was as potentially radical a step as any Episcopal Bishop of that day might have contemplated. [41]

The men Pardue found to answer that call proved more than equal to the task. Consider the case of Michael Budzanoski, an officer of the United Mine Workers and a member of St. Mary’s, Charleroi. “We cannot say that one side has been completely good while the other was wholly bad,” Budzanoski conceded in 1949. “The modern historian knows there have been selfish men on both sides . . . The threat of Communism may be having beneficial results among us. We’re being forced to make our Christianity into a living ideology.” [42] Equally striking is the story of Dave Griffith, the Homestead Works employee and CIO official who organized a committee to monitor workplace conditions during the 1950s that brought together representatives from the workforce, salaried employees and management, encouraged his co-workers to hold regular prayer meetings, and brought them to gatherings at Calvary Church where they mingled with the sons of privileged Episcopalians. [43] Crossing the class divide is nothing new for Pittsburgh Episcopalians.

Protesting racial injustice has been a notable entry in the progressive ledger and Pittsburgh’s progressives have reason to be proud of the achievement. “The Church is all kinds and all conditions of people,” Bishop Robert Appleyard pointed out in April 1968, “Here in our worship, here in our fellowship, we receive God’s friends to go out to the world, to go out to witness to the love, a love that we said in the Creed and in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘Our Father.’ We are then willing to comfort the family existing in its slum tenement, its ghetto, terrified by guns, by fire, by riots, by cockroaches, by utter filth . . . We can identify with those movements that have to do with good government, fair housing to all everywhere, equal rights and the highest standards of education for everyone. We can pray for those whose lives have become so bitter, so empty, so disconsolate, that they are not able to get down on their knees and pray. We can extend the fellowship of the Church into the lives and homes of those who have been rejected, those who have been forgotten, [those] who have been overlooked for years and years. [4

Progressives had reason to be skeptical of conservatives during the 1960s when a parish like All Saints, Brighton Heights, could host a white-flight school, [45] or when Father Joseph Wittkofski of Charleroi could publicly oppose a convention resolution condemning “Membership in Segregated Organizations.” For all that Wittkofski’s views were shaped by the ethnically segregated culture of the Mon Valley, the former Roman Catholic priest’s right-wing politics were anathema to many and prompted a dramatic walkout by the Holy Cross delegation at the diocesan convention of 1969. [46]

There was, however, another side to this picture, the first steps having been taken by Walter Righter in the early 1950s, when he accepted an African American couple into his parish in Aliquippa, despite the fact that the town was organized as a series of ethnically segregated communities (known as “plans”). There were black churches in Plan Nine, a vestryman told Righter, to which his rector responded that none of them were an Episcopal church. “Well Reverend,” the vestryman answered, “you’ve got yourself a problem,” but Righter insisted on accepting Garfield Shaw and his wife and lost only one family as a result. [47] Yet such ventures were not limited to Righter. In 1964, comfortable St. Stephen’s, Sewickley, accepted Richard Martin as a domestic missionary-in-training and invited him to conduct work in Pittsburgh’s Hill district, which had lacked an Episcopal presence since Holy Cross had left the neighborhood in 1954. From Martin’s work with drug addicts developed an increasingly active Episcopal ministry to the African American community. During the summer of 1966, younger members of the parish helped coach their African American counterparts at the local YMCA, with six of the latter becoming the first African Americans to play in a junior tennis tournament in Pittsburgh. [48]

It is worth noting, I think, that concern for minority interests has persisted into recent times. In 1993, while Canon to the Ordinary, Robert Duncan was active in helping establish the diocesan commission on racism, which sought to encourage Episcopalians to undertake such tasks as mentoring, patronage of minority businesses and working to ensure equal access to housing. [49] As bishop, he continued to support the commission’s work and to draw attention to racial division in the Pittsburgh community.
[50] In 1998, the commission on racism organized the first diocesan Absalom Jones Day celebration at Trinity Cathedral, which was distinguished by seminars on inequality and injustice, racism in the workplace and affirmative action in college admissions. [51] In 2000, commission member Wanda Guthrie went so far as to praise Duncan for his role in encouraging minority leadership. “I’m amazed at how far we’ve come with the help of the bishop to fill positions in the diocese,” she declared. [52]

“Scholars agree that Jesus founded a religion based on the claim of His own divinity,” Bishop Pardue wrote in 1947. “It is quite evident that you cannot accept Jesus as a great and good man while at the same time you reject Him as the Son of God. No great and good man could be merely that and make such preposterous claims.” [53] The following year, Pardue criticized what might be termed the distinctively American problem of constructing one’s faith for oneself:

Modern destructive liberalism has contributed much toward this individualistic attitude concerning things that belong to God. The debunking of faith, the Bible, the Prayer Book, the Creeds, theology, the Sacraments, and the Church, have all made us more and more disrespectful toward the eternal verities and therefore we have created inadequate little philosophical codes of transitory values which we claim to be ‘a religion of my own.’ [54]

And there’s the rub. At times, are we not all guilty of such a charge? We can look to so many efforts within this diocese to move beyond selfish individualism. To Nancy Chalfant and the Verland Foundation; to Richard Davies and the pre-school for handicapped children at St. Peter’s, Brentwood; to Sam Shoemaker and the Pittsburgh Experiment; to Becky Spanos and Anglicans for Life (formerly the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life); to David Else and the Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse; to Lynn Edwards and the Shepherd Wellness Center for AIDS sufferers; to Whis Hays and Rock the World Youth Alliance. Pittsburgh’s Episcopalians have set out to change the culture over the past half-century, not conform to it.

Amidst all this innovation, however, a parting of ways has become ever more apparent between confessing Anglicans (of all theological stripes) and their Episcopal counterparts. It came as no surprise to me last night to hear Joan Gundersen confess that no parish from District One had expressed interest in remaining part of the enduring Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Beaver Valley, secured long ago by John Guest and his successors, is solid for realignment. It is still ironic to recall that in March 1991, it was Bishop Alden Hathaway who was expressing doubts about “the absence of ecclesiastic theology and [lack of] conformity with Anglicanism,” [55] at Orchard Hill Church, (planted by St. Stephen’s, Sewickley, in 1987) and yet nine months later Episcopal Life could feature it as an example of successful church planting. Within days, Orchard Hill’s leaders had announced their departure from the denomination, the first but by no means the last to do so. [56] We can debate the merits of their decision, yet the central fact remains that the shift in theological perspective has occurred at both ends of the spectrum. If Bishop Pardue – hardly a raving fundamentalist – was aware of it in the 1950s, it is pointless to argue a case of overreaction half a century on.

Early in this address I stated the undesirability of a historian predicting the future. Now I choose to exercise the speaker’s privilege. As we enter the twilight world of multiple standing committees and mutual disavowal of the legal standing of each side’s authorities, I confess I am close to despair. One thing I will declare: a protracted war waged for control of assets, while unlikely to destroy communities in Sewickley or Moon Township, in East Liberty and Mt Lebanon, could spell the death knell of all too many small parishes, from Kittanning to Crafton and from Monongahela to Mt Washington. Where, I find myself wondering, is the spirit that will seek first the preservation of a Christian community no matter what its affiliation? I can imagine the question at the Last Judgment: “How did you vote on realignment?” and the immediate follow-up (regardless of the answer): “Following that decision, what did you then do to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ?” What I cannot imagine is the question: “Whom did you sue (or against what suits did you defend) in order to preserve your property?” If this is an overly simplistic way of putting it, well . . . there’s a lot of that about these days.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books,according to their works. [57]

God grant that when that day comes we may all be found worthy of the task to which we have been called.

In closing, let me invoke one whose voice still speaks to us beyond the pejoratives and the pettiness of today, to the very heart of self-denying love – to Nancy Chalfant at that moment when her God and ours revealed that in her care for her handicapped daughter she was permitted to testify to the fullness of divine revelation and redemption:
I knew it must be God’s power, the power of the Holy Spirit . . . Oh, what hope I was filled with then! God’s power was real, and I was actually feeling it as it burned in my heart. I knew that he loved me and Verlinda and wanted her to be whole and well. I saw that I could be a channel through which that power could work, and I didn’t have to sit by helplessly as Verlinda grew in years but not in mentality. Jesus became real to me, no longer a shadowy figure living 2,000 years ago but a person to love and be loved now, today, a person who loved Verlinda, too, and who hurt when we hurt. [58]

If Pittsburgh’s Anglicans and Episcopalians seek a new post-realignment paradigm for relationship, they could hardly do better.
[1] Convention Journal of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, May 10, 1955, 22.
[2] Deuteronomy 34: 1-4.
[4] See the discussion in Robert W. Prichard, “The Place of Doctrine in the Episcopal Church,” in Ephraim Radner and George R. Sumner, eds., Reclaiming Faith: Essays on Orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church and the Baltimore Declaration (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 13-45.
[5] Psalms 55:14
[6] H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1937), 193.
[7] Rt. Revd. Robert Duncan, “Anglicanism Come of Age: A Post-Colonial and Global Communion for the 21st Century,” The Global Anglican Future Conference, June 18, 2008, 2, accessed on July 9, 2008 at http://www.acn-us.org/etc/2008/anglicanism-come-of-age.pdf
[8]Convention Journal, 24 May 1966, 38.
[9] Trinity, June 1992.
[10] Church and Community: Christian Social Relations Bulletin, October 1973, RG4A/2.3:1, Box 6DC, Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (hereafter EDP).
[11] Church and Community: Christian Social Relations Bulletin, November, 1973, RG4A/2.3:1, Box 6DC, EDP.
[12] Revd. Dr. Harold Lewis and Florence Atwood to Rt. Revd. Katharine Jefferts Schori, February 28, 2007, accessed July 9, 2008 at http://titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/?p=18365
[13] Duncan, “Anglicanism Come of Age,” 4.
[14] See Miranda K. Hassett, Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies are Reshaping Anglicanism. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
[15] Duncan, “Anglicanism Come of Age,” 4.
[16] Revd. Joseph Doddridge to Bp. John H. Hobart, December 1816, in Revd. Joseph Doddridge, Memoirs, Letter and Papers: Establishment of the Church in Western Pennsylvania (n.d.).
[17] Convention Journal, June 9-10, 1875, 51.
[18] Convention Journal, June 8-9, 1887, 68-69.
[19] O. Smalley to Rt. Revd. Alexander Mann, June 7, 1937, Nancy K. Pushee to Rt. Revd. Alexander Mann, May 16, 1937, RG2/3.1, Box 6BP, EDP.
[20] Convention Journal, January 28-29, 1941, 14.
[21] Rt. Revd. Dr. John Kerfoot to Revd. Dr. Dix, November 1872, quoted in Hall Harrison, Life of the Right Reverend John Barrett Kerfoot, First Bishop of Pittsburgh Vol. 2 (New York: James Pott and Co., 1886), 493-494.
[22] Revd. George Rogers, “Recollections of the Church in Pittsburgh Thirty Years Ago,” 15, June 15, 1915, RG5/1.1, Box 1DP, EDP.
[23] Convention Journal, June 11-12, 1890, 30, 38-42, 45-46; Rogers, “Recollections of the Church in Pittsburgh,” 8-9.
[24] See Brooke Foss Wescott, Social Aspects of Christianity. (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1887).
[25] William R. Huntington, The Church-Idea: An Essay Toward Unity. (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1870).
[26] Hill Burgwin to Editor of Church Standard, April 16, 1898, RG2/2.2, Box 3BP, EDP.
[27] Church News, April 1903.
[28] Church News, October 1899.
[29] Church News, March 1908.
[30] Rt. Revd. Alexander Mann, “Sermon Preached at the Consecration of TrinityChurch, Geneva, NY,” Memorial Day, 1933, RG2/3.1, Box 6BP, EDP.
[31] Board of Examining Chaplains Minutes, March 3, 1982, RG4A/2.1:2, Box 2DC, EDP.
[32] Episcopal Life, October 5, 2008, at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/81847_ENG_HTM.htm
[33] Church News, January 1923.
[34] Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 11, 2004; PEPtalk, May-June 2004.
[35] E. J. Edsall, Three Generations: A History of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1855-1942. (Unpublished manuscript, 1942), 142.
[36] Diocesan Council – District X Minutes, September 21, 1987, RG4A/2.1:1, Box 1DC, EDP.
[37] Trinity, November 1996.
[38] Convention Journal, May 11, 1954, 41.
[39] Church News, May 1957.
[40] Church News, May 1954.
[41] Walter Righter interviewed by Jeremy Bonner, July 18, 2006, Tape A.
[42] Church News, May 1949.
[43] Helen S. Shoemaker, I Stand by the Door: The Life of Sam Shoemaker. (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 130-32.
[44] Church and Community: Christian Social Relations Bulletin, May 1968, RG4A/2.3:1, Box 6DC, EDP.
[45] Church and Community: Christian Social Relations Bulletin, August 1967, RG4A/2.3:1, Box 6DC, EDP.
[46] Convention Journal, May 13, 1969, 16, 34; Church News, June 1969.
[47] Righter interview, July 18, 2006, Tape A.
[48] Church News, June 1965; Christian Social Relations Bulletin, November 1966, RG4A/2.3:1, Box 6DC, EDP.
[49] Trinity, December 1993/January 1994.
[50] Trinity, December 1996/January 1997.
[51] Trinity, March 1998.
[52] Trinity, October 2000.
[53] Church News, December 1947.
[54] Church News, January 1948.
[55] Standing Committee Minutes, March 18, 1991, RG4A/1.8, Box 10DRB, EDP.
[56] Standing Committee Minutes, December 15-16, 1991, RG4A/1.8, Box 10DRB, EDP; Trinity, February 1992.
[57] Revelation 20:11-12
[58] D. Chalfant, Child of Grace: A Mother’s Life Changed by a Daughter’s Special Needs. (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1988), 30.

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