Updated Monday morning
In the first public sign of disagreement among theologically conservative clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh over the leadership of Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., 12 such rectors and priests told him this week they disapprove of his effort to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and will, instead, remain with the denomination.
The 12, including the president of the diocese's clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the "reformation of the Episcopal Church ... we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of" it.
"This [action by the group] was not unexpected," said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Bishop Duncan, "but it's still sad to see friends signal their intention to end in a different place than many of their fellow priests.
"The bottom line is that we all face momentous decisions in the Episcopal diocese this year."
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has informed Bishop Duncan he faces the prospect of being deposed (removed from office) by the House of Bishops if he does renounce his advocacy for removing the diocese from the Episcopal Church. (See this earlier story in The Lead.)
Monday morning update
One signatory of the letter - The Rev. James Simons, St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier - recently met with St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Somerset after its rector left to start a church outside TEC. Until recently Simons had been a perennial Deputy to General Convention. He has also been active in the American Anglican Council and has had a relationship with the Institute for Religion and Democracy. Most important, he is on the Standing Committee of the diocese.
Another signatory - The Rev. Scott Quinn, Rector, Church of the Nativity, Crafton - signed the 2007 Pittsburgh Compact. Like Simons long served the diocese as a Deputy to General Convention.
The open letter follows:
TO THE PEOPLE AND CLERGY OF THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH:
We are rectors and clergy in good standing of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who believe the
best way forward for renewal and reformation of the Episcopal Church is support for the
Windsor Report and its recommendations. While we understand the need of many of our
brothers and sisters to leave the Episcopal Church, we have determined to remain within,
and not re-align out of, the Episcopal Church. We intend to “keep alert and always
persevere in supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:6).
Dated this 29th day of January, 2008:
• The Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, priest in charge of St. Stephen's, Wilkinsburg
• The Rev. Jay Geisler, rector of St. Stephen's, McKeesport
• The Rev. Daniel Hall, priest associate, assigned to First Lutheran Church
• The Rev. Norman Koehler, priest, chaplain at Presbyterian Senior Care, Oakmont
• The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, rector of St. Thomas', Oakmont
• The Rev. Scott Quinn, rector of Church of the Nativity, Crafton
• The Rev. Bruce Robison, rector of St. Andrews', Highland Park
• The Rev. James Shoucair, rector of Christ Church, North Hills
• The Rev. James Simons, St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier
• The Rev. Stephen Smalley, rector of St. Barnabas', Brackenridge
• The Rev. Philip Wainwright, rector of St. Peter's, Brentwood
• The Rev. Don Youse, priest in charge, Emmanuel, North Side