Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Church Politics, Pittsburgh Style

My good friend and sparring partner, David Wilson, who in another life would not have been out of place as a ward politician but for his lamentable unwillingness to accept financial retainers, has just penned an account of the Pittsburgh clergy group that existed from the mid-1980s until 2008, which former Bishop Alden Hathaway dubbed Thunder on the Theological Right (TOTTR).

David writes:

From the late 1990s through its disbanding in 2008 TOTTR nominated or supported the nomination of every person, lay and ordained, elected to the diocesan Board of Trustees, to the Standing Committee, and as a General Convention Deputy. TOTTR also developed and implemented a strategy within the electing convention to insure the election of a conservative bishop in 1995.

A divergence of opinion in the group began in the fall of 2004 over the future of our evangelical witness within the Episcopal Church. Could we grow or even maintain such a witness in face of the liberal ascendancy and the onslaught of revisionism in TEC? At a meeting in the fall of 2004 all ten members agreed that TEC had no ability to reform itself but we differed however on whether to support George Werner in the upcoming diocesan elections for the General Convention deputation. In an interview as President of the House of Deputies George stated he had voted to consent to the election of the openly homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Only three of the members pledged to support George. George was not elected as a deputy or alternate.

The divergence surfaced again in the spring of 2007 over the issue of diocesan realignment. Six members supported separating from TEC and four members did not. TOTTR tried to maintain group cohesion in the midst of these differences but the gulf between the re-aligners and the non re-aligners widened. Increasingly the two factions acted more and more independently. The group decided after a particularly painful gathering in May 2008 to cease meeting. A farewell dinner was held at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier in September 2008.

What is fascinating about David's account, amongst other things, is first that it reminds us that politics is part of the business of church life and has been from the beginning. One can lament the necessity, but that such politicking will occur is inevitable. A second point to bear in mind is the manner in which TOTTR splintered over realigment. On the one hand we have such ACNA stalwarts as Geoff Chapman, Peter Moore, John Rodgers, Mark Zimmerman and, of course, David himself. On the other, we have Jeff Murph, Scott Quinn, Jim Shoucair, Brad Wilson, and the now notorious (at least in ACNA's eyes) Jim Simons. And, for good measure, we have the present Bishop of South Carolina, for whom all bets would now appear to be off.

Read the whole thing.


The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

Jeremy you old rascal! You paint me out to be like Boss Tweed leader of Tammany Hall in 1870s New York City

Jeremy Bonner said...

Well Tweed got results, didn't he David?

The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

As did I !