Unless things change, it looks like the Episcopal House of Bishops will be taking a vote this Thursday on the deposition of Bishop Robert Duncan. The vote comes two weeks before the start of Pittsburgh’s Diocesan Convention, and the move is designed to prevent Bishop Duncan from presiding over it. The breaking news hit the blogs this morning.
I despise politics. In all its forms. So I’ll leave it to others to discuss all the intricacies of this dispute, and all its legalities and illegalities.
Suffice to say I know most of the key players in Pittsburgh personally and have been friends with many of them for years. What I’d like to write here are some facts that to my knowledge are a matter of public record but have never made it into the press.
#1 – The lawsuits and/or threats of lawsuits against conservative churches and clergy in the Pittsburgh Diocese by its own church hierarchy have been going on for over 25 years. The current situation is not an overnight development. The people’s wish to be placed under alternative leadership is legitimate — and requests to do so have been repeatedly denied. Our people have spent an entire generation’s energy just trying to be heard and respected by the leadership of our own church.
#2 – One of the attorneys leading the legal assault against the Diocese of Pittsburgh has also threatened lawsuits against his own parish and against at least two of his own priests. I’m an eyewitness to this one, and I can personally vouch for the integrity of the priests in question. I won’t name the lawyer-creep’s name here, but I will say — if he hates his parish so much that he has been threatening it for over two decades, why is he still a member?
#3 – The Episcopal Church’s team of lawyers is deliberately threatening harm to the poor and working class here in Western PA. The national church promotes itself as “supporting the little people” and “giving a voice to those who have no voice”. Well, we here in Western Pennsylvania ARE those little people. We ARE the working poor. We live in a region that has never recovered from the demise of the steel industry. We are looked down on as ‘country hicks’ by the elite on the east coast (as a former Philadelphian I can vouch for this.) The only things that are truly ours here are our homes and our churches. Now we are faced with a church hierarchy that is telling us: “accept our teachings as gospel, never mind that what we say is not in your Bibles. Believe what we tell you to, or lose your bishop and your churches”.
#4 – The vast majority of the churches at stake in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have fewer than 100 active members, and many of them are past retirement age. Many of the buildings are made of stone, hand-cut and hand-built 100-150 years ago by the grandparents and great-grandparents of the current members: men and women who worked in the steel mills and the coal mines and saw action during the World Wars. The current members want nothing more than to retire in peace after a life of hard work, and to raise their children and grandchildren in the faith they themselves were raised in. Is that too much to ask?
When the Bishops take their vote on Thursday I hope they will keep one other thought in mind too. If this can happen to Bishop Duncan, it can happen to YOU.