Saturday, November 03, 2007

Prayers for Pittsburgh

Regular readers know that I owe my life in Christ to the work of Bob Duncan, who was the campus minister for the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC, where I first became a Christian in 1979. Now he is the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, a Diocese that has now voted to separate from the national church. According to a story in the New York Times:
If Friday’s vote is approved again in a year, the diocese will begin steps to remove itself from the American church and join with another province in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

After the vote, Bishop Robert W. Duncan of Pittsburgh, who is also moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, an alliance of conservative dioceses and parishes, defended the decision.

“What we’re trying to do is state clearly in the United States for the authority of Scripture,” Bishop Duncan said after the vote, taken during the diocese’s annual convention in this city about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh.

The vote was necessary, he said, because the more liberal bishops now in the majority in the national church “have hijacked my church, and that’s how most of the people here feel.”
This is a crucial time--literally--for the church in Pittsburgh, and I can say with some intensity of feeling that I wish them all the best in this difficult time. And when I say "difficult", I am not just waxing metaphorical:
A day earlier, the head of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, sent Bishop Duncan a letter, warning him that he could face discipline and civil suits if he “committed canonical offenses” including overseeing approval of the resolution.

A spokesman for Bishop Jefferts Schori referred questions to the Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies for the national church until last year.

“Katharine Schori is extremely clear,” Mr. Werner said. “If a diocese like this chooses to claim $30 million in trust funds and 70 churches, she’d be negligent in her duty to let them leave. She can’t back down.”
All of which is to be expected, of course, in our litigious society. One is reminded of St. Paul's injunction to the Christians under his pastoral care not to have recourse to civil law courts, on the grounds that it is unseemly for Christians to drag one another before civil magistrates to settle their differences. But that was back in the days before a small portion of a worldwide communion made unilateral decisions without caring what the majority thought about their decisions. Nowadays, an even smaller portion, one that is faithful to that worldwide communion, must take dangerous steps in order to take a stand for the truth of the Gospel, and all who follow Our Lord ought to stand by them at this time.

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