Diocese of Pittsburgh leaves Episcopal Church, realigns with Southern Cone

By on November 1, 2008

Deputies to the 143rd diocesan convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh on Oct. 4 voted 240-102 to leave the Episcopal Church.

Minutes later, in voice votes on three resolutions, the deputies realigned the diocese with the Argentine-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and set up some initial procedures for accomplishing that manoeuvre. The vote was the culmination of the diocese’s continuing theological disputes with the Episcopal Church and many diocesan leaders later said the decision put the diocese in what they called “the Anglican mainstream.”

Both those who supported realignment and those who opposed it outlined plans before the convention was adjourned to deal with the implications of the vote.

“We understand that one member of the standing committee remains, and once he determines that he is indeed the sole remaining member, he will appoint others to join in the leadership of the diocese of Pittsburgh, in accordance with diocesan canons.”

Presiding (national) Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said,  “As the ecclesiastical authority, the standing committee will set a schedule for the reconvening of the convention, electing members to fill offices, and eventually calling a bishop to serve in Pittsburgh.”  

She said her office would “provide support and counsel to Pittsburgh, in service to the leadership of the ecclesiastical authority.”

That person, Rev. James Simons, rector of St. Michael’s of the Valley in Ligonier and chair of Across the Aisle, said after the votes that he would attempt to determine very soon the status of other standing committee members and then make the appointments Bishop Jefferts Schori described. He predicted a convention to elect an interim bishop would be held before the end of the year.

“All of us who remain in the Episcopal Church will look after those who are suffering because of this split,” he told a news conference outside St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Monroeville. “We will find someone to minister to us as a bishop. We will be recognized by the national church. We will have a diocese, and it will be healthy and faithful.”

Mr. Simons said at least 17 of the diocese’s 74 congregations would not realign, predicting that another eight to 11 may follow. “And we know that many individuals – in some cases large groups – will be joining us from congregations that realign.”

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