Author's Note: This report is written primarily to assist members of Trinity Cathedral in working through our recent crisis. The author will entertain comments here, but gives fair warning that purely pejorative observations regarding members of Trinity - or the leadership of ACNA or TEC - will be unceremoniously deleted. While he has no control over comments at sites that may link to this post, he requests that commentators at other sites observe the same courtesy. A related thread of interest may be found here.
January 7 Update: See Lionel Deimel's response.
On Thursday December 15, the Chapter of Pittsburgh’s Trinity Cathedral adopted a motion to reaffirm the charter of incorporation adopted in 1928 when Trinity assumed pro-cathedral status. In an announcement issued the following day, the Provost – Canon Catherine Brall – declared that the vote "effectively ends the governance provisions of the Special Resolution which was adopted by Chapter in August, 2008 and ratified by the parish in September, 2008." Just three years ago, the adoption of the Special Resolution drew considerable attention both within and beyond the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Providing some context for how it was adopted, implemented and ultimately revoked seems timely. The author of this report – a member of Chapter when the Special Resolution was first adopted – has consulted with Archbishop Robert Duncan, Bishop Kenneth Price, Canon Brall, all the current members of Chapter (though not all have chosen to respond) and former Chapter member John Campbell, who served until November 2011 and resigned from the Cathedral following repeal of the Special Resolution. A good faith effort has been made to incorporate the competing narratives surrounding recent events, yet it is an underlying premise of the report that the Special Resolution had an inherent merit and that the manner of its demise fell short of the standards to which Trinity had previously been committed.
To understand the context of the Special Resolution, it is necessary to go back to the original decision of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to realign in 2007 and 2008. Unlike the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Quincy – where most of those who chose to remain with The Episcopal Church (TEC) are generally happy with the course pursued by the national church – the process of diocesan realignment in Pittsburgh separated a significant number of clerical conservatives (and their congregations) from the soon-to-be Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). It was in this context that, two months before the second – and final – vote on realignment, the Chapter of Trinity Cathedral debated and adopted the Special Resolution (the text of which, interestingly enough, can still be found on the cathedral website), which was subsequently ratified by the wider parish membership. Canon Brall has stated to me recently that she understands that the word "ratified" was deliberately employed so as to signify approval without any legal change in the character of the by-laws and charter of Trinity Cathedral. To my recollection this was not a fact emphasized to members of the Chapter at the time when the concept of the resolution was put forward by the Provost, formally developed by two members of the Chapter (one a lawyer and future ACNA member; the other the TEC-leaning head of the World Affairs Council) and carefully reflected upon by the whole body, of which the present author was then a member.
Put simply, the Special Resolution affirmed both the parish’s "unique historical roots" as "the first church of Anglican and Episcopal worship in Pittsburgh," and a commitment made in September 2003, when the present crisis in TEC began to take shape, "to preserve the unity of The Episcopal Church and to facilitate resolution of divisions within the body of the Church," as grounds for refusing at that time to make an "exclusive choice" between the two church bodies (TEC and the future ACNA). To that end the following commitment was made:
The people and Chapter of Trinity Cathedral commit themselves to being a Christian community, in which the love of God is manifest to all; in which the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be evidenced in our practices of self-restraint, mutual accountability, and extending respect and forbearance to those with whom we differ; and in which the fellowship of the Holy Spirit may be exemplified in our choosing to forgive rather than retaliate, to heal hurts rather than nurse grudges, and to remain together when it would be easier and less costly to go our separate ways. (Emphasis added.)
To this was added a commitment to remain a "unified Cathedral," even to the extent of being the seat of two Bishops from contending jurisdictions. To that end, provision was made for both jurisdictions to elect representatives to the Chapter and for both Bishops (if two existed) to serve as co-presidents. At the same time, the Special Resolution expressed an expectation that it would be permitted representation in the diocesan conventions of both competing bodies. Perhaps most importantly, the Special Resolution contained the following provision:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that – if circumstances necessitate the application of the principles and provisions of this Special Resolution – the By-Laws governing the parish and Chapter of Trinity Cathedral shall be amended to incorporate these same principles and provisions, and that subsequent amendment of those By-Laws to alter substantively these principles and provisions shall require concurrence by a two-thirds majority of Chapter members elected by Trinity parish and by a two-thirds majority of those parish members present at a special meeting of the parish congregation, duly convened according to the By-Laws.
It should be noted that, in the Canon Provost’s understanding, since alterations to the by-laws would have required the consent of the diocesan standing committee at a time when the Diocese of Pittsburgh was headed for division and reorganization into two separate entities, said alteration was impossible. She further notes that she did receive a communication from the TEC Standing Committee stating that they could not acknowledge the Special Resolution. This was not communicated to the Chapter, at least not in the form of a declaration of legal non-recognition.
It should not be imagined that the Special Resolution was particularly well received at the time or subsequently, although Canon Brall did receive some expressions of appreciation from persons within and beyond the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Many observers viewed it as an abrogation of responsibility and the reflection of an inability to make hard choices. The fact that Trinity had for more than a decade been limping along financially only added to the conviction that the cathedral was seeking to have its cake and eat it. It cannot be denied that the short-term practical consequences were welcome. Nevertheless, few people in 2008 could have predicted with certainty how the two Dioceses would relate in the long-term.
Many had hoped that the relatively even balance of Episcopal and Anglican populations and the presence in the TEC Diocese of a significant body of theologically conservative clergy would promote a spirit of forbearance. The property disputes (for which ACNA must accept a measure of responsibility in choosing to pursue them) and the fact that it seems increasingly clear that conservatives in the TEC Diocese lack the numbers needed to shape such a course have changed all of this.
To reduce the perceived failure of the Special Resolution to this level, however, is in part to abrogate the cathedral’s responsibility for clarifying what the Special Resolution was about. "This Resolution shall be publicized to all lay persons and clergy within the existing Diocese of Pittsburgh and to appropriate authorities within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion," read the final clause "with a prayer that – by the grace of God – these principles will serve as a Christian model for reconciliation within divided communities." The Special Resolution was never, as many members of Chapter understood it, about drawing people to Trinity (though obviously any drawn to the congregation by the principles enunciated would have been welcome), and it was never publicly understood as promoting congregational growth, though Canon Brall states that she certainly hoped for such an outcome. To assert that the failure to grow is somehow due to the confusion provoked by the Special Resolution is, in the view of certain Chapter members at least, disingenuous; that failure is entirely separate from the purpose of the Special Resolution and long pre-dated realignment. Where the disjunction arose, at least in the view of the Resolution’s proponents, was in the parish’s failure to communicate to the wider world the principles that were so clearly enunciated in 2008. It should be acknowledged, however, that at the time it did receive coverage in the parish newsletter, the parish and diocesan (undivided) website and in press releases.
The tragedy of recent events, however, has been not that Trinity Cathedral has made the decision to align solely with the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh, but the manner in which that decision was reached, which demonstrated neither "mutual accountability" nor "respect and forbearance." By their action, those who voted to support the December 15 motion inflicted a devastating – and quite unnecessary – blow to the community whom they – quite sincerely – believe themselves to be supporting.
During the first half of 2011, members of the Chapter devoted themselves to Kevin Ford’s Transforming Church: Bringing Out the Good to Get to the Great, a book recommended by Canon Brall, as part of ongoing discussions concerning Trinity Cathedral’s long-term strategic plan. Several of those involved found it pertinent to the cathedral’s situation and the discussions around it productive. No indication was given at that time that there was any need to revise the mode of governance under the Special Resolution.
In February, however, TEC Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori proposed to attend the TEC clergy renewal of vows on April 19 (the Tuesday of Holy Week). Canon Brall states that she received representations not to host the Presiding Bishop in any capacity, but there is also discontinuity of perception in how the calendar clash with the already scheduled ACNA renewal of vows was handled. Canon Brall states that she only inquired of the ACNA diocese whether they could change their schedule, while the ACNA perspective is that an attempt was made to persuade Archbishop Duncan to relocate the ACNA service. The cathedral ultimately hosted a public forum for the Presiding Bishop on the Tuesday evening after the TEC renewal of vows in Wilkinsburg.
If the ACNA claim is accurate, given the importance accorded by the Special Resolution to serving both dioceses equally, it was at least unfortunate that the question of moving a pre-scheduled ACNA event was even raised. It should also be noted, however, that the Canon Provost made inquiries of ACNA about hosting this year's ACNA diaconal ordinations – which did not occur the previous year owing to an untypical morning wedding – but did not learn of the ACNA diocese’s rejection until she read the public announcement that they would take place at Church of the Ascension.
At the April Chapter meeting, the Canon Provost solicited feedback from members as to the qualities desired in the new TEC Bishop to be elected in 2012, which included "a reconciler," "one who accepts the Special Resolution," and "Biblical and Prayer Book perspective rather than civil law." According to the Canon Provost, the latter two suggestions came from self-identified Anglicans. At the May Chapter meeting, interim TEC Bishop Price, while declaring that he and Archbishop Duncan were working well together, noted that some in the Episcopal Diocese were wondering how a new Bishop might react to the Special Resolution. When later asked why Calvary Church had been chosen for the consecration, he responded that although logistical considerations were a factor there was also a belief in some quarters that it should take place "in a facility solely dedicated to the Episcopal Church." Apparently this elicited both "comment and concern" among some of those present. Bishop Price, it should be noted, informs me that the Chapter minutes exaggerate the importance of the latter concern and that "the relative size of the two buildings was the driving force."
At the June Chapter meeting, according to Chapter minutes, "the issue of the Cathedral’s status with both dioceses was raised." According to Mary Thompson, this came in the form of a statement from Canon Brall at the end of the meeting: "I think the Special Resolution no longer serves the best interests of the Cathedral," rapidly followed by adjournment of the meeting. The Chapter minutes summarize the Special Resolution as intended to "(1) bring people together and engender kindness between ACNA and TEC and (2) draw people to the Cathedral who didn’t want to choose between the two." Reference to the original resolution will of course demonstrate that the second was never an overt object, while the first utterly fails to convey the theological underpinning behind the Special Resolution. With such misunderstanding (at best) even on the representative body of the cathedral, it is perhaps no wonder that people were so easily persuaded to dispense with the Resolution. The assertion was also made that both dioceses were increasingly making the choice not to use the cathedral for diocesan-wide events. It was ultimately agreed that both dioceses need to be approached to find out whether, or indeed if, they viewed the cathedral as integral to their future.
At the August Chapter meeting, reports from discussions with both bishops suggested that neither viewed the status quo as defined by the Special Resolution to be viable. Archbishop Duncan has stated that his view has always been that the Special Resolution functioned well with regard to Chapter and the relationship between the two dioceses, but not as regards the congregation. From this conclusion developed his proposal for what he termed "Phase Two" of the Special Resolution: an evening congregation serving the ACNA members of the parish that would complement a morning service that might either be specifically for TEC or continue the present arrangement. Bishop Price notes that in his meeting he simply restated the fact that the Special Resolution had not helped Trinity to grow. Members of Chapter requested clarification of the statement from the TEC Diocese that the cathedral did not fit in with its mission, but also recommended that both sides be asked to clarify their view of the cathedral’s legal status and that more effective ways be defined to serve both dioceses. Consideration also began of a white paper – prepared by the Canon Provost – discussing future options for Trinity.
According to the Canon Brall’s recollection, the structural deficiencies of the first draft of the white paper in large measure reflected the fact that no one on the executive committee had followed through on its commitment to produce a white paper, forcing her to write one at short notice. While a September 15 report of the executive committee listed exclusive affiliation with ACNA as an option, the first draft of the white paper – presented at the October Chapter meeting – did not. Instead, it worried the existing good relationship with Bishop Price might not carry over to his successor if the Special Resolution endured. It argued that the Resolution had failed to be an agent of reconciliation, that working with both dioceses consumed precious time and energy, and held out the possibility of the TEC diocesan offices relocating to Trinity to provide needed rental income.
In passing, it should be noted that the white paper contained a seemingly unnecessary swipe at the "Anglicans" for moving away from the "Downtown community and the homeless" to the North Shore, despite the fact that the principal congregation of and for the homeless in the neighborhood – with whom the cathedral has worked – is an ACNA one. However, Michael Caligiuri has asked me to convey that he believes this to have arisen from a remark he made earlier that an evening ACNA service designed to attract young adults might have difficulty relating to the homeless population that Trinity continues to serve, a remark that he would also have made of a TEC service catering to a similar demographic.
The essential conservatism of the TEC Diocese was a constant refrain of the white paper, together with the dubious assurance that Trinity would remain "open and welcoming," that a Sunday ACNA evening service was an option – even without the Resolution – and that ACNA clergy could still marry their parishioners at Trinity. It is noteworthy that the Canon Provost made it clear at the November meeting of Chapter that the white paper was for Chapter review only and would not be shared with the wider congregation, an indication, perhaps, that it was not envisaged that the latter would not be involved in the decision to end the Special Resolution. (She is today not sure whether or not she envisaged that a white paper would ultimately be distributed to the congregation).
Discussion and significant amendment of the white paper continued through the fall, but with clear indications that the Chapter remained internally divided. Only at the October and November meetings was the white paper fully discussed by the whole Chapter. Following the December meeting of the executive committee, it was the impression of many members of Chapter, including two members of the executive committee, that debate on the white paper had been postponed indefinitely, that the cathedral would continue to operate under the Special Resolution for the foreseeable future, and that December’s Chapter meeting would concern itself solely with the cathedral’s Strategic Plan. In private, however, several people were pushing for a motion similar to that ultimately presented on December 15.
Walt Adkins – whose comprehensive notes on the subject have been gratefully received – offers perhaps the most useful perspective on the anti-Special Resolution position. As one who has responsibility for buildings and grounds Mr. Adkins has perhaps a more acute sense of structural atrophy than most people. In his view, it was the failure of the two Dioceses to leave their disagreements at the doors of Trinity and focus on a joint program of worship, music and service that celebrated the best of ACNA and TEC that was to blame for the failure of the Special Resolution, not a lack of communication on the part of the "small remnant" that constituted the Trinity congregation. His own observation of certain comments by ACNA members of Chapter (most notably the phrase, "sleeping with the enemy") only confirmed him in the belief that, after months of fruitless debate, "the November Chapter meeting had brought the Special Resolution to its end" and that "any serious participant of the November meeting had heard me declare the [Special Resolution] dead." Postponing its demise would simply have compounded the error.
Regular business was conducted in a noticeably perfunctory matter. The final item of business – entitled "white paper/strategic plan" – was announced and Canon Brall reported the executive committee’s recommendation that Chapter focus on strengthening Trinity’s role as a cathedral and address the white paper at a later date.
Even before any discussion on this recommendation could be entertained, Trinity representative Andrew Thiros requested that, since he believed that any discussion must center around the corporate charter, he be allowed to propose a motion reaffirming Trinity’s charter, which was seconded by appointed by TEC clergy representative Scott Quinn. Officially the TEC position was that the property section of the Special Resolution was not considered by TEC to be in effect. At no point did Mr. Thiros discuss the implications for the Special Resolution; that had to be articulated by others. It is the opinion of Walt Adkins that Mr. Thiros has made observations to this effect – though not in the form of a motion – on at least two previous occasions. Bishop Price concurs, noting that while he did not know the form of the motion that was presented in advance, he anticipated that something of the sort would occur after the November meeting. Despite objections from the secretary, Bette Salmon, that the motion was not on the agenda and should therefore only be discussed and voted upon at the next meeting, Canon Brall allowed it to be presented. Under questioning, Mr. Thiros maintained that adherence to the Charter superseded the Special Resolution and stated that his decision to present the motion had been made two days previously and after discussion with certain members of Chapter.
Despite the fact that the executive committee had met just 30 minutes earlier, no hint had been conveyed to at least two of its members, including the secretary. Moreover, no response was forthcoming either from Canon Brall or the chair of the executive committee (the senior warden), Dorothy Amis, as to why other members of the executive committee were kept in the dark. The Canon Provost has stated that she knew that a motion might be put forward but had no specific knowledge of the form – "I don’t know," she says, "who was involved in talking about this." A noteworthy aspect of this selective knowledge is the experience of Chapter member Bill Kaiser, who was told by the husband (not a member of Chapter) of the chair of the executive committee some days prior to the meeting that he hoped Mr. Kaiser would vote in favor of TEC, without specifying what he meant.
Not only was there no prior notice of the motion, but no copies of the motion (or of the Special Resolution and the relevant sections of the charter) were distributed at any stage of the proceedings. Executive committee member Wicks Stephens, like Mr. Thiros an attorney, who also received no advance warning of the motion, warned that the intent of the motion was to end the Special Resolution and he considered the manner of its introduction to be underhanded. Following discussion, Mr. Stephens made a motion to table the reaffirmation of the charter, which failed. According to Michael Caligiuri, however, this motion was to table until April, "an impossibly long time frame to have this motion hanging over us" (on this point, the author doesn't necessarily disagree).
So bad had the atmosphere become that ACNA clergy representative John Cruikshank (who has close family ties to Trinity) then introduced a motion of no confidence in the Canon Provost, which was conducted with the latter still in the chair. The Canon Provost states that she appealed to Bishop Price as to how to proceed, and he responded that she should simply entertain a voice vote. While the motion was subsequently reported to have failed, some of those present are of the opinion that it sounded equal. By the same token, no one requested that a written ballot be taken, which any Chapter member was certainly free to do.
Debate lasted from approximately 5:50 PM until 7:25 PM, and from 6:00 PM onwards the burden of the debate appears to have been borne by the supporters of Special Resolution, including Mary Thompson, a member of the cathedral congregation, whose husband Laurie has been assisting clergy at Trinity. Both are ACNA supporters who agreed to work with the Special Resolution somewhat against their better judgment at first and, in so doing, discovered something of value. They were and are especially disturbed to see the theological principles underpinning the Special Resolution being sacrificed to expediency. Furthermore, in the opinion of Sharon Johnston at least, "questions of legality, procedure or appropriate professionalism were not sufficiently addressed," with the mood of the majority being more along the lines of "let’s put this to bed."
Two members of Chapter – Ed Murry and Michael Caligiuri – did raise the practical necessity of TEC affiliation to Trinity’s identity, while a third, Walt Adkins, expressed concern about the "divisive language" being used by opponents of the motion, but for the most part, at least as far as certain observers were concerned, supporters of the motion sat in silence. Mr. Caligiuri has subsequently communicated to me his own rationale for the, in his words, painful decision to vote in the affirmative which I quote as follows:
Jesus calls us to serve people, not dioceses, and I believe that the Special Resolution was making it progressively more difficult to do that . . . I knew this was an unsustainable situation when Archbishop Duncan told the Executive Committee that he was asking Anglicans ready to leave the cathedral to stay. When someone needs to be asked to stay, there's definitely a problem. If, as time progresses, it's clear to me that being a cathedral interferes with our ability to serve the people, I'll vote then to stop being a cathedral. I believe our calling to serve the least of our brothers is far greater than to serve Bishops and Archbishops.
Finally, and only after she had asked how leaders willing to act in such a fashion could be trusted in the future, Bette Salmon finally called the question, recognizing that debate could not continue indefinitely. The motion to reaffirm the charter of Trinity Cathedral was put and passed by 11 votes to 7 (Canon Brall notes that it actually should have been recorded as 12-7, since Bishop Price voted in favor and has the right to exercise a vote under the charter). No reason was given at the time for why the vote should not be two-thirds (in accordance with the Special Resolution) rather than a simple majority, although as reported above the TEC position is that Special Resolution carried no binding legal authority. Unusually, since there are frequent absences by non-congregational representatives on both sides, all the TEC members of the Chapter were present while three from ACNA – Archbishop Duncan, Donald Bushyager and William Lytle – were not. In a final irony, the listed agenda item was never discussed.
Bishop Price insists that he had had no advance notice of the vote (and the Canon Provost confirmed that she had not alerted either Bishop to what was planned, in itself a remarkable admission) and noted that he delayed offering an opinion in the hope that Archbishop Duncan – who was delayed – would ultimately make it to the meeting. Several observers maintain, however, that in the course of his remarks he shifted from conciliatory language about the need for the dioceses to work together to one of stating that the Special Resolution had been "accepted but not approved" by the TEC diocesan standing committee, that he was the "only ecclesiastical authority" present and that it was his responsibility to "enforce" the charter. According to one witness, he also declared the Special Resolution to be "illegal." For the last three years, of course, he and his Diocese have been complicit in the illegality, by accepting a half-assessment and electing representatives in accordance with the Special Resolution, although Bishop Price argues that such actions were courtesies, in the latter case observed by Diocesan Convention at his request, and not an act of complicity.
While the long-term implications of the December 15 Chapter meeting remain to be seen, it is plain from this account that the Canon Provost’s letter of December 16 is an inadequate summary of what occurred. While the decision may not have been made "lightly" it was certainly made "hastily," and may well have been of dubious legality (the fact that the secretary had no advance notice is a matter of note). Furthermore, the Chapter had indeed achieved a "consensus," namely to put off a decision on the final status of the cathedral in favor of working on the congregation’s strategic goals.
In a recent communication, John Campbell writes as follows:
When I was newly elected to the Cathedral Chapter, Canon Brall sat me down in her office and we reviewed a document she had prepared outlining her expectations for Chapter members. One of the items that she felt was essential to Chapter participation was the ability to reach a consensus. She remarked that the contentious years prior to her tenure were marked by battles between factions resulting in winners and losers, and that she sought to end that behavior through a process of consensus building around the issues at hand. Throughout my time on Chapter, this model was successful. I cannot remember any Chapter vote in which there was more than one or two negative votes or abstentions. Indeed, the process of the composition and approval of the Special Resolution was in itself an ideal model of consensus building.
As Mr. Campbell remarks later, "the Special Resolution was working about as well as it could be expected to." It would never be perfect nor could we expect either or both dioceses always to work with it as we wished; rather it might grow and change and the option to repeal was always there if that was the overwhelming desire of those involved. Furthermore, there was a clear impression – verbally, if not in writing – given in 2008 that this was not for the Chapter alone but for the congregation to decide. The failure to keep that intent uppermost is alarming.
In the final analysis, certain members of Trinity’s leadership decided to return to the political methods that were in vogue before Canon Brall took charge of the cathedral, pushing through a decision by stealth which could easily have been obtained simply by following the provisions of the Special Resolution in securing its termination. As it is, the congregation has now been deprived of the right to decide for itself with which body to affiliate – or indeed whether to continue with the Special Resolution – a right accorded every other congregation in 2008. More importantly, the Chapter has now set a precedent for how business will be conducted in the future. There has been remarkably little effort made since the vote by those who voted for the measure to provide pastoral care for those whom they must have known would be hurt by the decision. Indeed there seems to be a total inability to understand what was wrong not with the choice but with the process by which the choice was made.
The tragedy here is not that the Anglican Church in America lost a cathedral, but that the cathedral family lost its very raison d’être.