Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pastoral Note: Pittsburgh Anglicans in the News

Dear Friends in the St. Andrew's family,

Beginning with an article by Ann Rogers in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Click Here: Post Gazette Article

--and then continuing I'm sure in many contexts--we will be reading and hearing about what will be the founding "Council" of a new Church body, the "Anglican Church in North America," to be held in Texas later next week.

Click Here: For more information.

For those of us, as here at St. Andrew's, who continue as members of the Episcopal Church, with all the work we have continuing before us in the reorganization of our Episcopal Diocese, this gathering has no immediate or direct impact.

However, we certainly may be interested.

Reflecting that interest, I will be hosting an informal conversation on the topic at our final Adult Education "Coffee and Conversation" of the spring at 10 a.m. next Sunday, June 28.

One thing that we do know is that the ACNA will be made up largely, though not entirely, of clergy, congregations, and other organizations that were formerly Episcopalian--and a number of the leaders of this new Church body have Pittsburgh connections or are presently clergy and laity of the "Realigned Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh" (those who separated from the Episcopal Church at our diocesan convention in October, 2008).

Most notably, Bishop Bob Duncan, who served as our bishop from 1996 until his separation from the ministry of the Episcopal Church last September, and who was called and elected to serve as bishop of those of our diocese who "realigned," will be recognized at this gathering this week as well as the Archbishop of the ACNA--which is structured, though not recognized by the formal bodies of the Anglican Communion, as an Anglican Province or national Church.

So, what does all this mean? I think we at this point can have only a very preliminary view.

One thing that seems clear is that many of the various individuals and groups that have separated from the Episcopal Church in the past will now have a church structure within which to attempt a more orderly common life. This new organizational identity may thus be a real enhancement to the well-being of their Christian life and ministry.

There is some uncertainty here, though. The members of the ACNA have in common a desire to continue in some form of Anglican ministry while at the same time not being a part of the Episcopal Church. But within this group there is much diversity of churchmanship, culture, and theological perspective. Concerns about the ordination of women, the role and authority of bishops, and the importance of an eventual, formal acceptance within the Anglican Communion, for example, reflect a range of backgrounds from Protestant Evangelical to traditional Anglo-Catholic. It will be interesting to see if the new ACNA will struggle successfully (as certainly the Episcopal Church has struggled and continues to struggle) to live together in the midst of these differences.

It is probably the case as well that if an orderly common life does emerge within the ACNA, and if that life reflects a strong spirit of Anglican identity, the presence of the ACNA may further complicate the already very complicated role and status of the Episcopal Church within the wider Anglican world and within the formal bodies of our increasingly fragmented Anglican Communion.

We will, as the saying goes, "stay tuned for more news" in the months and years ahead.

Here locally in Pittsburgh, of course, we live with some of this story in a more immediate and personal way. The two diocesan bodies, ours of the Episcopal Church and the "realigned" diocese now identified with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and with the emerging ACNA, have a tangled mesh of concerns following from the division last fall.

Some of these concerns are formal and legal and are being addressed under the authority of the Court of Common Pleas of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Others are more informal, personal, relational, as the impact of the division has been felt in the lives of families and in relationships of friendship, collegiality, and ministry.

We have, I think, still quite a distance to go before we will be able to say that we see the whole of this situation in the rearview mirror.

What I have been impressed with myself, here at St. Andrew's and among my friends and colleagues in the wider frame, is that so many are trying so hard to move forward as Christian people with a spirit of charity, generosity, and continuing affection.

We've had some important differences, there has been some real hurt, there continue to be some sharp disagreements, and there are, no question, many problems yet to be resolved. But I know through it all there is as well a desire that our personal conduct would be a witness to the message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal hope at the heart of our Lord's gospel.

Both groups would recognize that we are, finally, profoundly imperfect expressions of Christian life. Both would recognize that as we do our best, with humility, to move forward as we can, we have much still to learn from one another. As St. Paul says in First Corinthians 12: The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you."

On a personal note, I am sending Bishop Duncan today a card of affection and congratulations at the beginning of this new chapter of his ministry. He has been a faithful pastor and friend to me and to my family for many years--and especially always with much encouragement for all of us at St. Andrew's. While we've had differences--and most especially over this profound question of departure from the Episcopal Church--we have also shared a great deal together.

It is certainly my prayer that he and Nara will find this season ahead to be one of great joy, fulfillment, and blessing.

Faithfully yours,

Bruce Robison


David Wilson+ said...

Hi Bruce

Greetings from Bedford TX. Thanks for your continual kind and gracious words. They have not gone un-noticed by us here. They go a long way toward true reconciliation -- more so than Yertle the Turtle who has reappeared.

David Wilson+ said...

BTW, I forgot to say, by my count there appears to be over 100 Pittsburghers here