Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Strife is O'er, the Battle Won? Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention, November 6, 2010

Deja vu all over again; yes, dear readers, I'm back for what I sincerely hope will be a final stab at convention journalism, God - and my wife's doctoral defense - willing. Last month for Pittsburgh TEC, this month for Pittsburgh ACNA. Please don't ask why - a form of masochism, I suspect.

Once again out at St. Stephen's, Sewickley, for the second full convention of the new dispensation (I confess to missing last night's dinner and primatial address). Following Morning Prayer, we commenced with a Mission Minute from Bishop Todd Hunter addressing his first convention (a fact which led Archbishop Duncan to remark: "Just imagine being a bishop and never having to do a convention"). Addressing the subject of doing church for the sake of others - a necessary corrective, in his words, for those like himself raised in a conservative evangelical milieu - he spoke of the baby steps necessary for the sort of new church plants he has birthed. "Evangelize the influential," he told us, "and take care of the poor."

The admission of five new parishes followed, those being All Saints Anglican in Springfield, Missouri; Epiphany Anglican in Ligonier, Pennsylvania; Jonah's Call in the East End of Pittsburgh; St. John the Evangelist in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, and St. Matthew's Anglican in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Three of the parishes (Ligonier, Oakmont and Johnstown) reflect the coalescing of ACNA members who belonged to non-realigning congregations.

Diocesan elections then took place, all by voice vote (since there were only enough candidates to fill the vacancies) except for the election of delegates to the provincial assembly. Representation is based upon ASA, with two delegates guaranteed in each order and one extra for every 1,000 of ASA. The top clergy and the top two lay delegates also serve on the provincial council. Currently - given our reported ASA of just over 4,000 - we are entitled to six delegates in each order.

We proceeded to Resolution One - the adoption of the voluntary diocesan tithe (otherwise known as the "godly share"). Although it will take time to implement fully, it is believed that its achievement at all levels of the Church should allow ACNA to function without serious restraint. Stephen Noll - just returned from Uganda Christian University - encouraged parishes also to consider tithing in respect of both mission and outreach. Archbishop Duncan noted that while congregations have the freedom to construct their budgets as they wish, he doesn't know any that don't give at least ten percent and many give away as much as they retain. The resolution passed unanimously, the Archbishop calling it "a great moment in our history."

Further news was then provided of the diocese's financial state, which at the beginning of 2010 was still unclear. A positive cash flow has been maintained all year and diocesan expenses have been kept under control, even as support both from parishes and individuals has increased. By the end of the year we should have a balanced budget. Compensation for the Bishop and Canon to the Ordinary have been restored to 2008 levels. The convention also adopted Resolution Two, allowing for a fifteen-month audit to cover both 2009 and 2010.

A second mission minute was provided by Ben Wilson of Church of the Ascension, attesting to efficacy of Happening. "A spiritual roller-coaster on every end of the spectrum," it offers teenagers living in an uncertain world and studying in high schools of ever-increasing size, a community where they are loved and respected and their voices are allowed to be heard, a place where the love of God is revealed and not merely talked about.

Canon Missioner May Hays spoke of her continued fascination with spiritual fruitfulness and, referring to the passage from John 15 read the previous evening, urged the bearing of fruit that will last. The lack of fruitfulness of her early years in Pittsburgh has given way to pruning and new first fruits, but these should be sprouts not snowdrops. She hoped there would be many more manifestations of the fruits of the spirit in the coming year, noting that while many parishes had in the past struck her merely as "nice," they were now brimming with "exuberant joy."

The Chancellor introduced Resolution Three, protecting non-compensated diocesan officers from personal liability, provided they refrained from "self dealing, willful misconduct or recklessness," an ecclesiastical echo of Pennsylvania's Good Samaritan law. Advance indemnification against legal expenses will be provided and the rules cannot be retroactively altered. This is intended to protect against a "buckshot approach" to litigation. The Chancellor also noted the November 9 date for the hearing of the appeal and that an answer could be expected in the spring. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the resolution passed, as did Resolution Four, a minor modification to the terms of the Growth Fund.

Another mission minute from Andrea Zimmerman dealt with Side by Side, a ministry to unmarried mothers at a time when 40 percent of children in the US are born to one-parent families. It offers among other things, one-on-one mentoring, monthly educational workshops and referral to other professionals and has served 80 mothers and 130 children over the past year. A replication workshop will be held at St. Stephen's next February.

After the "Year in the Life of the Diocese" presentation, another mission minute was provided by the Biblical Literacy Taskforce, working in conjunction with Scripture Union and now boasting 4,000 participating Bible readers. It also offers Bible 101 to parishes, a one-hour orientation to more effective habits of Bible-reading.

The New Church Developer spoke to the highlight of her last year, namely the recruitment of 100 intercessors to pray for church planting and multiplication. These, she said, are the real champions of the church planting movement.

At this point we came to Resolution Five - Creation of District 7 (the Upper Midwest). As is already known, Pittsburgh has ceased to be a purely territorial entity, now including parishes from Raleigh to San Jose. The latest group of parishes requesting admission, however, are modeled on the East African lay catechist model (also known as the greenhouse movement). In answer to my question as to why they are not associating with the Diocese of Quincy, Archbishop Duncan opined that they are not yet ready to associate with more conventional dioceses and we "don't want to mess them up too soon" by forcing them to do so. Pittsburgh is better placed to accommodate the diverse sort of ecclesiastical DNA involved.

A clergy representative from the Upper Midwest then expressed the gratitude of a group of people who since 1993 had been praying for a new province, observing "I've not been to a convention like this in a long time." John Rodgers, who has been closely associated with the greenhouse movement, added the rider that it was a "people movement" that needed freedom to do its own evangelism but still had the necessary checks and balances to secure its Anglican identity. The resolution, naturally passed. "District 7 used to be the City of Pittsburgh," declared the Archbishop cheerfully, "now it's the City of Chicago."

Closely associated with this are two other items of news. One is the already public indication of the admission of Christ Church, Plano, in Texas, something that will boost notional ASA from 4,000 to 6,000-7,000, and provide a very useful financial infusion. Another is that 11-12 congregations in the Chicago area - independent of the greenhouse movement - are likely to petition to join the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the near future. And so, ACNA grows, for now at least.

Don Green of Christian Associates - fresh from attending the TEC convention - now trotted onto the stage, noting that the present ecclesiastical confrontations haven't left ecumenists like him "short on labor opportunities." He offered the very pertinent observation that those from whom ACNA are estranged do not cease to be a part of the Body of Christ and we cannot give up on the ministry of reconciliation. He also spoke movingly of the work of Christian Associates in providing training in care for veterans returning from active service."God bless you as you continue your bold and zealous missionary endeavor," he concluded.

Our postprandial deliberations dealt with changes to the canons relating to implementation of the tithe (Canon XIII and Canon XVI); and second reading of amendments to the Constitution securing parish property indisputably to the parish, with no diocesan or national trust (Article XV) and making the obligation to pay the godly share only "spiritually" binding (Article XI). Whatever else may be said, ACNA has decentralized American Anglicanism in a big way and it is unlikely ever to be able to achieve anything in the future that is not the product of a solid consensus. Whether that will ultimately come to be seen as an albatross remains to be seen, but for now memories of the 'tyranny of the majority' clearly crowd out everything else.

We closed with a courtesy resolution crafted by David Wilson congratulating Tito Zavala - the new Presiding Bishop of The Southern Cone and a long-time associate of Pittsburgh - on his elevation and offering prayerful support to the province that extended "spiritual cover and tremendous support during our time of transition in the forming of the Anglican Church of North America."

And with that, I sincerely hope that this phase of my chronicling is over. It's certainly been a privilege to help trace this turbulent period of American church history.


Free Range Anglican said...

Thanks for posting! Thorough as usual. Are you sure you want to stop your chronicles? I hear there is an opening for a secretary to Convention.

Bruce Robison said...

Thanks very much, Jeremy, and I'm glad to hear all the good news. It's hard to know how all these new relationships will affect the life and culture of the Church here, but I guess this is a time for much spacious and generous creativity. I suggest sending the good folks of Plano a fine Black and Gold Steelers banner to fly from their flagpole . . . .

Jeremy Bonner said...

Free Range Anglican,

Glad you found it useful. Aside from the fact that this time next year should find my wife and I in England (admittedly I said that last year), my experience has been that my style of "total reporting" is not invariably welcomed by those who would like minutes to be largely a record of actions taken.

Perhaps you can fill my spot next year and keep me updated :)


I hope ACNA readers will take note of your comment. I though Don Green's remarks to us were very pertinent and some thought should be spared for the "separated brethren" (as Vatican II famously dubbed the extended Protestant family) even as the work of reaching the unchurched continues.

Lewis's representation of Final Judgment in THE LAST BATTLE (where one of those passing through the Door is a dwarf who had helped shoot the Talking Horses a little earlier) is worth pondering.

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