A group styling itself as "Pittsburgh Laity" has written a statement signed by over 100 lay leaders of the Diocese of Pittsburgh supporting their Bishop in the proposition that the diocese is an independent entity and can be moved at will from the Episcopal Church. The letter also castigates twelve conservative rectors for together writing a letter in January urging the Bishop to not attempt to separate the diocese from the Church.
Lionel Deimel, a lay member of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and past-president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, points out that many of the signers have close ties to Bishop Duncan or close ties to Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry or to parishes whose rectors make continued, impassioned arguments for separation. He says:
The new letter is endorsed by approximately 175 people (and counting, I’m sure they would assure me). It is interesting to see how the signers have identified themselves. (Or not. Peter Frank, who is Communications Director for the diocese, fails to note the fact, perhaps out of modesty.) Nineteen people hold significant official positions in the diocese. (I discounted many minor offices. All these counts are approximate, by the way.) Three are former office holders or staff members. Eight seem to be paid staff members in their respective parishes; one is the spouse of a staff member; three are relatives of conservative clergy. Six are associated with Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Two are from “Anglican” congregations in the diocese but already out of The Episcopal Church. One lists himself as being in New York. Forty-eight are from Church of the Ascension, a large church led by the Rev. Jonathan Millard, an insurgent rector who has argued passionately for leaving The Episcopal Church and taking Ascension’s property with him. (Millard made his case for this at a workshop at the November convention and had a letter published in the Post-Gazette on the subject on Friday.) Several very small congregations are represented by ten or more members.He reminds us that the lay of the land is more complicated than it appears:
...there are three significant parties in the Pittsburgh diocese—the insurgents, the enthusiastic loyalists, and the reluctant loyalists. The Episcopal Church is certainly more liberal than most Pittsburgh Episcopalians, and the loyalist camp that has just come out of the closet knows that its members are destined to feel somewhat uncomfortable and marginalized in their chosen church for the foreseeable future, no matter how “inclusive” that church is. Such is the fate of minorities, and no one has figured out how to change it. When the Pittsburgh schism actually arrives, I suspect that additional revolutionaries will get cold feet and join the reluctant loyalists, albeit reluctantly.
Deimel believes the document is designed to keep the separatist camp in Pittsburgh unified. The language is written not to change minds or attract new adherents to their cause but rather to unify people who have also signed on. He also punctures the impression that this group represents "the many Pittsburgh Episcopalians who attend church regularly in the vain hope that their church—their diocese, at any rate—will not self-destruct in the near future."
Read Lionel Deimel's blog entry here.
Here is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette write up of the petition and the letter by the twelve Pittsburgh clergy.
This is the new blog "Pittsburgh Laity".