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Holy Spirit stirring in ACNA Pittsburgh diocese?

Holy Spirit stirring in ACNA Pittsburgh diocese?


See Mark Harris’s reflection on this post on Preludium here


The saying is the Holy Spirit moves during the election of bishops. The news out of ACNA is who was nearly elected by the special convention of ACNA’s Diocese of Pittsburgh. The special convention was because Bishop Bob Duncan is retiring. Duncan had earlier stepped down from his other position as Archbishop of ACNA.

The ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh has elected the Rev. James Hobby on the fifth ballot. The election to succeed Bishop Robert Duncan, founding Archbishop of ACNA, took place Saturday in a special convention. Bishop-elect Hobby is subject to confirmation by ACNA’s College of Bishops. Unlike in the Episcopal Church, there is no role for standing committees of other dioceses in the confirmation of bishops-elect.

The Rev. Jonathan Millard, who is divorced, ran a close second to Hobby. Millard was nominated from the floor, joining five nominees presented by the nominating committee.

Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Duncan cautioned deputies about a vote that would challenge the teaching of the College of Bishops:

Before balloting on Saturday morning, delegates (sic) held a closed-door discussion about the ramifications of the candidacy of Rev. Millard. While pastor of a large parish and experienced in administration, he had been divorced last year after an extended separation. Bishop Duncan cautioned that, given the bishops’ emphasis on “the lifelong permanence of holy matrimony,” it would be a challenge for them to confirm such an election.

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has this statement from Bishop Duncan on a page titled From the Floor:

Confirmation Caveat From the Bishop
All elections must be confirmed by the College of Bishops. Bishops are servants not only of the local diocese but also of the whole Church. The Anglican Church in North America has worked very hard to restore teaching about the life-long permanence of Holy Matrimony. It can be anticipated that the College of Bishops will find the confirmation of a bishop-elect who has been divorced very challenging, and it is possible that confirmation may be denied. This is a matter for consideration in Special Convention deliberations and for the same prayerfulness that has characterized the whole of the discernment process.

The tabulation of the vote comes via email from Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Clergy vote first, lay vote second.

    First ballot

The Rev. Bill Driscoll – 8, 9
The Rev. Jack Gabig PhD – 12, 11
The Ven. Canon Jack Lumanog – 13, 23
The Rev. Jonathan Millard – 38, 35
The Rev. Jim Hobby – 32, 23
The Rev. John Paul Chaney – 12, 6


D – 2, 1
G – 7, 4
L – 15, 24
M – 44, 41
H  – 41, 36
C – 5, 0


M – 48, 41
H – 48, 44
L – 16, 22


M – 51, 39
H – 55, 53
L – 8, 14


H – 93, 75
L – 18, 30

Despite Duncan’s caution, the special convention came very close to creating a crisis in ACNA. A significant portion of clergy and lay voted for a candidate whose behavior violated the “teaching about the life-long permanence of Holy Matrimony” as delivered by the ACNA College of Bishops.

Closing note — concerning Duncan and Millard’s partnership dating back to 1993. Also, here. And this from the New York Times, October 2008:

After an overwhelming vote here over the weekend by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that created the second schism with the national church since the 2003 election and consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop, both sides were hoping for a simple resolution.

“If the national church would stay out of it, we could work it out,” said the Rev. Jonathan Millard, who favored secession and led the convention on Saturday. “And I think 90 percent of the churches here would agree with me.” Mr. Millard was referring to that most secular of issues: resolving who owns what among the millions of dollars’ worth of diocesan and parish property.

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Jeremy Bates

I agree that it is fair to ask whether this election suggests that ACNA is selective in its use of biblical literalism.

IOKIY heterosexual?

Jos. S. Laughon

The formative difference would probably be the different places that divorce and homosexuality have in Tradition.

Geoff McLarney

I wouldn’t necessarily disagree that the two occupy “different places in the tradition.” I’m more concerned by ACNA’s inversion of those places.

David Allen

True, there isn’t usually an irrational & bigoted fear of divorced folks.

And marriage & divorce are actual choices that folks make about their lives.

David Allen


Jon White

It’s OK If You are homosexual

Jon White

I’m not sure that is the headline I would have chosen, but I also don’t think it was created out of malice or gleeful maliciousness. I think it’s actually a pretty good question.

TEC’s stance has been that the Spirit is calling us into a deeper understanding of inclusion in God’s people which is rooted in the example of Christ’s example and his direction to love as God loves us. If that is so, we should expect the Spirit to move similarly in other groups of Christian’s, including ACNA. Similar to the way that the experience of God’s people in witnessing the faithful lives of those who are divorced has led the church to believe that divorce is not automatically a disqualifier for ordained ministry and leadership, many (including me) believe that what we have witnessed in the faith lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters should also mean that their sexuality is not a reason to bar them from full inclusion in the life of the church.

Jesus has some pretty clear things to say about divorce while offering nothing about homosexuality. If a near majority in one of the leading dioceses behind ACNA’s formation is willing to set aside their biases to consider the ministry of a divorced person, then might they not also at some point be prepared to reconsider their biases against LGBT persons? This vote suggests that people’s primary objections are due to bias and prejudice and not some adherence to biblical injunctions. This seems like good news to me, in both senses. We know that biases and prejudices can be overcome and it gives support to our understanding of the work of the Spirit on these issues, which is important for the people of the Episcopal Church to know and think about.

Paul Powers

I believe it shows that the ACNA and the Anglican Dio. of Pittsburgh aren’t as monolithic as some people think.

Wayne Helmly

Honestly, I do not find the post to be nearly as snarky as some of the comments.

Thank you, Dr. Chilton, for pointing out how nearly impossible it is be 100% consistent, especially when it comes to literal interpretations of scripture.

There are some pretty clear biblical admonitions against divorce, without much wiggle room. Yet some in ACNA seem to have been willing to set that aside in this case. It is fair game for Dr. Chilton to point out that this group is quick to use scripture to condemn those against whom they seem to be prejudiced. But a heterosexual male priest? Not so much.

That is of interest to this reader.

Father Ron Smith

Could the Holy Spirit conceivably have left the gathering after the first vote?

Don Brownlee

Fully agree this was a snarky posting. It’s the kind of snide arrogance I’ve come to expect from theologically conservative bloggers when talking about TEC. I generally hold the same theological viewpoints as the staff of the Cafe, but I found the condescension here offensive. It distracted from a posting that was newsworthy without it.

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