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Monday, February 21, 2011

"Useful Idiots"

SFIF blogger Matt Kennedy posts the letter all the Pittsburgh clergy received from Bp Duncan last week and then he offers his comments on it. I agree with him fully. Probably what disturbs me the most about the St Philip's and the Somerset settlements is the fact that two of our parishes have placed us in a more difficult situation than we had been in for what they see as their own best self-interest. They have allowed TEC to use them to set a precidence that can now be used against us. The Soviets used to call people like these "useful idiots".

Dear Friends,
Attached is a letter describing an agreement made by Somerset Anglican Fellowship with the TEC Diocese. Some of you have already read about this in the newspaper or received an email; many of you have communicated with me your concerns that there might be many “secret deals” being made which will leave many congregations “on their own.” Here is some information about the agreement, and our current situation, that we thought it would be helpful for you to know.
1) Somerset Anglican Fellowship negotiated this settlement without the input or approval of the Diocese. In fact, we have reason to believe that the lawyer representing SAF advised them not to inform the Anglican diocese. We are very concerned that a congregation thought itself to be so in jeopardy as to necessitate secret legal action.
2) St. Stephen’s, Sewickley and Church of the Savior, Ambridge have consulted legal counsel with regard to individual settlements with the TEC Diocese. Both parishes informed the Anglican Diocese at the time and both parishes have decided not to participate in any settlement without the involvement of the Diocese.
3) To the best of our knowledge, there are no other parishes which are unilaterally attempting to make a settlement with the TEC diocese.
4) The Anglican Diocese remains committed to finding the best solution for each of its parishes in light of the recent legal decisions. We also continue to hope for and look for some kind of settlement that would benefit all of our congregations.
5) Please do not hesitate to email or call Canon Mary, Geoff Chapman (Chair of the Standing Committee) or Jonathan Millard (Standing Committee member) or me if you have further questions or concerns.

In light of these very serious developments, I feel compelled to issue a godly directive to all of the clergy of the diocese not to engage in, conduct, or conclude negotiations without first discussing such actions with me, or with Canon Mary, and with our chancellor.
The Most Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan

I think this is an unfortunate but necessary admonition. Having been through litigation, I certainly understand and think it often necessary to settle at some point. But no Christian church should enter into a settlement in which the Episcopal Church dictates a congregation's ecclesiastical loyalties and commitments. We should be willing to lose our property and assets and all things before giving in to such demands from heretics. Christ alone ought to be given the sort of authority that some churches seem to be willing to give to Episcopal Church in order to save their buildings. The very reason we have chosen to leave the Episcopal Church is so that we might worship God in freedom and truth. These egregious settlements compromise both.

And what is more it is a compromise made at just a time when TEC has had to change tactics because their previous slash and burn policy was producing so much internal and external backlash. With this new tactic, the TEC, if we allow them, will continue to rake in some cash, damage competing orthodox dioceses, and falsely present themselves as the defeated parish's benefactors. The only reason this tactic has succeeded so far and the only way it can continue to succeed is if orthodox congregations count their physical properties and assets so dear that they are willing to cooperate with heretics and relinquish Christian allegiances in order to save them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Realignment and St. Paul’s Kittanning

St. Paul’s Kittanning PA
Its Been Three Years:
Reflecting Back

Three years ago next week Gale and I were called into the Bishop’s Office. It was a dreary, cold, damp, gray Tuesday morning when I received a phone call from the Bishop informing me that charges of “sexual harassment” had been leveled against me. I was shocked and stunned. I hadn’t a clue of who could have said such a thing and what I had done. Confused and fearful, Gale and traveled to Pittsburgh for a 4:00 PM appointment. We entered the Bishop’s office to find Bishop Duncan and Canon Mary Hays. The bishop handed me a cover letter written by the Senior Warden and a listing of eight examples of how I had failed as a pastor written by the church organist. Included were two instances of my using “inappropriate language” with the organist during private conversations at lunch. He claimed I had challenged his sexuality. Oh well –so much for joking around with the organist. As a result I was asked to take a three month paid leave of absence from the parish for reflection, healing and, hopefully, restoration.

I felt betrayed by the Senior Warden whom I had just appointed three weeks before. Why didn’t he come to me first before going to the bishop? I felt “sucker punched” by the organist whom I had hired just five months before. Fortunately most of the list of pastoral failures were items in which the bishop and the canon were already aware of from my perspective well before Gale and I came to the meeting. They were conflicts or challenges of which I had been involved in pastoring a highly dysfunctional parish with a long troubled history of dysfuntionality.

What has become clear to me over the past three years was a lot of this was a dysfunctional way of working out fear of realignment in a divided parish. I was a strong proponent of realignment and a leader in the diocese to do so. The Senior Warden was torn about it. In fact unbeknownst to me at the time, he had contacted one of the prominent “conservative” clergy who was part of the opposition to realignment for advice. The organist and the Senior Warden had become fast friends at this time and so they “cooked” up a plan to stop St. Paul’s Church from realigning by sidelining me, the leader of the parish. And it worked!

During my three month leave of absence, it became clear to the bishop and to me that my time a rector of Kittanning would be coming to a close. I resigned effective June 1, 2008. I had served over ten years as rector. Of the 28 rectors in the parish’s history I had the third longest tenure in service and was about a year shy of having the second longest tenure. Sadly most of the renewal of the parish of which I had labored for years and years was undone by the organist as soon as I departed. The projector and screen were removed from the nave. The electronic keyboard was removed from the chancel and all the praise music was exorcised from the music files.

In October 2008 the vestry fired the interim rector appointed by Bishop Duncan and appointed a TEC loyalist ensuring their fate. Early in December on the strength of a 4 to 1 vote, the vestry voted to remain in TEC and not realign with the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. I found it ironic that the future history of St. Paul’s was decided by four people in the parish. Within months of the vote the Senior Warden, the organist, the TEC appointed interim, a third of the vestry and 50% of the congregation left the parish including many of the strongest leaders, the young families and the newest attendees.

Had I been able to stay would the parish have realigned? Possibly but with some of the same loss only from the other side. One positive result is that my friend the Rev. John Bailey at St. Andrew’s New Kensington has gained many new members and at least two vestrymen from the exodus at St. Paul’s

On June 15, 2008 I began as priest-in-charge of St. David’s Anglican Church in Peters Township PA. It has been a parish with much different challenges but it has been a great blessing in our lives.

Has realignment cost me? Yes it has, but it is worth every bit of the cost knowing I have followed where God has called. In my darkest days in the spring of 2008 I took strength from Romans 8:28. “All things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Annual Address to St. David's February 6, 2011 - Full version (long)

Annual Address February 6, 2011

Annual Address February 6, 2011

Black and Yella, Black and Yella, Black and Yella, Black and Yella, Black and Yella. These are the immortal words of Pittsburgh rapper Whiz Khalifa As we prepare for the big game tonight and we cheer on the Black and Yella, I couldn’t help but think there are some lessons from the Steelers for us as we face into, on human terms, an uncertain future. Steeler nation is a nation-wide phenomena in large measure because our population declined over the years as more and more people moved away to the Sunbelt, to Texas, Arizona and Florida, to Colorado to the Washington DC area, to New York City all in search of a preferable future and of course they have remained Steeler fans creating the Steeler nation. This is not unlike the situation found in the book of Acts chapter 8. Directly following the stoning of Stephen the first Christian martyr it says, On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

That text reminds us that in times of persecution the church often thrives. Often is it scattered, that is sent forth on mission, and great things happen – there is growth, there are signs and wonders. Later in Acts we are told that the followers of Jesus “turned the world upside down” for Christ and within three hundred years the entire Roman Empire had accepted Christianity. In 1948 the Western missionaries were expelled from China. The church was outlawed and went underground. The house church movement reached millions more people for Christ than the Western.

Jesus exhorts us to "be as wise as snakes and innocent as doves" (Mt 10:16). That's a hard thing to do in many areas of our lives. But the context in which Jesus said that was in his sending out of the disciples to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom. And in the very next verse Jesus warns his disciples to expect persecution and specifically to be handed over to the courts (Mt 10:17). Later Jesus encourages his disciples not to be afraid: "have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known." (Mt 10:26). We don't yet face the kinds of persecution many of our Christian brothers and sisters do in other parts of the world. So, as we pray concerning our troubles, let us do so with thanksgiving for all the blessings God has showered upon us and let us also pray for those in other lands who are standing up to physical persecution, even to the point of death.

So, what are we to do as, once more, we wait for legal matters to play out? For starters, I have asked outgoing Senior Warden Scott Smith to chair and staff a Task Force on the Future. The Task Force’s job will be to help us determine what to do should we lose our building, to find alternative locations and their cost. Second we most likely need to have legal counsel and advice from our diocesan Board of Trustees, we will be engaged with them. Third, one month hence on March 6 during Bishop Duncan’s visitation we will repeat today’s format --- one service, followed by brunch and a congregational meeting led by Archbishop Duncan and other members of his diocesan team. He will help us to consider our future and the direction to take and to answer any and all questions. Fourth, we are to continue on into the future as we always have in the past dependant on God.

At the Anglican 1000 conference last week in Plano TX, Archbishop Duncan reminded those of us gathered of the direction forward for the Anglican Church in North America. As the ACNA was formed just 18 short months ago its leaders developed four principles in the form of statements -- Vision, Mission, Method and Accountabilities. Let me use those same four categories as we look to the future of St. David’s.

Vision: What is the vision God has given us. We say we are, “A people for Christ, for the Kingdom of God and for the world”. And we mean it! We love Jesus and we want to spread the good news of salvation in him. We want to be Kingdom builders bringing God’s gracious rule to have impact in our lives, in our church and in our communities and its institutions. We are to be change agents transforming our environments. We love the world because God created it and placed us in it. All people are created in the image of God so we love people and we are active in striving to leave this world a better place for God’s sake and for the sake of the people he has created. We are lovers not haters.

Mission: What is our mission? We say, “our mission is to be an alive, biblically-based, liturgical church ministering to the families of the South Hills”. Our mission is not dependant on property, mortgages, buildings r “stuff”. We can accomplish this mission regardless of where we located. Our principal means of reaching families has been through our pre-school and Mothers Day Out ministry. I can’t say enough about the phenomenal work Deb Carr and the excellent staff she has assembled has done in this ministry. They are truly like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. I am sad to report Deb has concluded that God is calling her to a new and different ministry. She will be stepping out of the Directorship of the pre-school and turning the reins over to Jen Yoon. This will at the end of the current school year.

Method: Our method is the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." You have been given a “refrigerator” magnet of the Great Commission. I hope you affix this in a prominent place in your home or workplace. Use this to remind you of FRANS (friends, relatives, work associates and neighbors) that do not know Christ. Pray for them and pray for opportunities to invite them to come to church and better yet bring them yourselves.

Accountabilities: We are accountable to God, we are accountable to the Scriptures, we are accountable to His church, and we are accountable to each other. It will be three years in May since I accepted the call of Bishop Duncan and the vestry to pastor St. David’s. It is an awesome responsibility to be your spiritual leader and I take it very seriously. I strive to the best job I know how. Gale and I receive great blessing and joy from each and every one of you. It is an honor and privilege for us to be your pastors. As you know, I have cast my lot with the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Church in North America and that has not and will not change. I fully support the direction the Archbishop is leading us. I have no interest in dis-affiliating from the ACNA or in re-joining the Episcopal Church no matter enticing it may appear.

I believe God's call to us at St David’s is very clear:

• We are to keep on being a worshipping community - as we meet together on Saturdays Sundays, Wednesday and in smaller groups to worship God, to pray for the church and the world, and to encourage one another. Our Sunday worship is our window to the world. It is when most of our contact with visitors and new comers occurs. A wise man once said, “You only have one time to make a first impression”. That being so, we must be at our best on Sunday morning. I have the joy of announcing to you that a second praise and worship team under the leadership of Courtney Harter each second Sunday. This will give Lisa Miller the leader and the rest of Team One a much deserved break, one Sunday a month.

• We are to keep on equipping God's people through the faithful and fearless preaching of the Gospel, through our study of the Scriptures and as we train folks for the work of mission and ministry. It is my hope and plan to see Alpha begin once again in the spring. I also to see three home groups formed this upcoming year and to see a part time youth minster on board in the third quarter of the year. And Jim Babcock is training up the next generation of acolytes. I would be remiss if I did not give thanks for the final group of members of the vestry appointed by Bishop Duncan in 2007 – Scott Smith, Dave Zabkar and Terry Rubright. Their leadership in tough timed cannot be mentioned enough. They have had to make difficult, painful yet courageous decisions especially in the area of finances. They deserve great respect and admiration from us all.

• We are to keep on sharing Christ's healing with a broken world - at school, at work, and with our neighbors. Rege Turocy is ministering more and more through the St Luke’s Center for Compassionate Healing. Rege is also in the midst of training and deploying Lay Eucharistic Ministers and Stephens Ministers for pastoral care.

I don't want you to be afraid about what will happen at St David’s and I don't want you to worry about it. St. Paul reminds us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” And Jesus said , "Therefore I tell you,(AP) do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

While I don’t want us to be afraid, I do want us to be realistic. We will have a tough road ahead. One of my baseball coaches used to say “when the going gets tough; the tough get going.” Are we tough enough?

Bishop Todd Hunter reminded us last week in Plano, our God is not up in heaven wringing his hands wondering; “What are we going to do now?” Our God is in control of all things. He is faithful and trustworthy. Our task is to Worship, Grow and Give - and to stay faithful in prayer. We will support one another, we will pray together and we will find an alternative space to meet if that is what’s to be. So that we can sing God's Praises and carry on being the church that we are, and whom God has called us to be.

As always your prayers for all those in leadership at St David’s: the clergy, the church staff, the pre-school and MDO staff and the vestry are so appreciated and needed. Pray too for our bishop, Archbishop Bob, and for Nara Duncan and for the Standing Committee and for all the parishes in our diocese.

On Thursday at our clergy meeting the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt of Shepherd’s Heart has encouraged the clergy of the Diocese to commit in joining Archbishop Duncan to season of fasting and prayer. I am asking each of you to join in this discipline too.

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel. We will stand firm. And finally, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all you do be done in love."


Friday, February 4, 2011

Archbishop Duncan Writes to Pittsburgh

A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and People of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh

Moses said to the people: ”Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” [Exodus 14:13-14]

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It has been a very distressing week for us. One of our congregations, St. Philip’s, Moon Township, left our fellowship as part of a property settlement with the Episcopal Church Diocese. Then, within hours, the appellate court upheld the decision of the Court of Common Pleas that awarded diocesan property to the Episcopal Church Diocese, including the properties of 24 congregations whose deeds are titled to the Trustees.

Our God is the Red Sea God. Our God is the Empty Tomb God. He will not abandon us. He has not abandoned us. As so many times before, He just delights in showing His power. Our journey as a Diocese since 2006 has had many impossible moments. Yet every pruning has, in fact, made us stronger and more fruitful. That is the record. The psalm appointed for this Sunday begins:
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom then shall I be afraid? [Ps 27:1]
Trust Him now as you trusted Him before. The Lord who has called you is faithful, and He will do it. [I Thess 5:24]
We are an amazing Diocese. As to property, we are the 24 congregations with Trustee properties. We are 15 congregations with properties titled to the Vestries. We are 11 congregations who lease their meeting places. We are 22 congregations outside of Western Pennsylvania. But as to mission, we are 72 congregations united as “Anglican Christians transforming our world with Jesus Christ.” God has not withdrawn His favor from us.

The Standing Committee met on Wednesday night, February 2nd. Three important decisions were made. First, we will petition the appellate court for a re-hearing, which means the lower court’s ruling will not yet be final. Second, the Standing Committee and Diocesan leadership (Bishop’s Office, Trustees and Council) will do everything we can to keep all our congregations working together. Third, the Standing Committee will work tirelessly for a negotiated end to the strife between the Anglican and Episcopal Church Dioceses.

Let us all stand together. Let no one stand alone. Fast and pray. More than ever this is the season for clean hands and a pure heart. [Ps 24:4] The Lord’s promises remain. He is God at the Red Sea, at the Empty Tomb, and right here and now. Trust Him. He will not fail.

Faithfully your Bishop and Archbishop,

+Robert Pittsburgh

P.S. Go Steelers!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

St Philip's settles with TEC

Moon church to vote on settlement with Episcopal diocese

Tuesday, February 01, 2011
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Members of St. Philip's Church in Moon will vote tonight on a proposed settlement with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that would allow them to keep their property but would also require them to cut ties with the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh for at least five years.
The Rev. Eric Taylor, rector of St. Philip's, said the proposal was the best option for his parish. Since the 2008 split in the original Episcopal diocese, the property of dozens of parishes that voted to leave the denomination and follow Archbishop Robert Duncan into the new Anglican Church in North America has been tied up in legal disputes. The settlement would leave St. Philip's independent.
"I'm happy for the opportunity to negotiate an agreement, given the current climate. What's gone on [between the dioceses] has been mostly beyond my control. I am in favor of the proposed agreement," Rev. Taylor said.
The building was designed to accommodate the evangelical church's outreach to children and youth in the Moon area, he said. But he noted that now-Archbishop Duncan had been instrumental in helping the parish develop its ministry prior to the split.
"Our commitment is to the people in Moon Township. Our commitment is to the kids and families we care about, to tell them about Jesus. That's my first concern. I think it's my first responsibility, be it Anglican or Episcopal or independent," Rev. Taylor said.
The proposal also includes a financial settlement, but none of the parties would name the amount. St. Philip's website doesn't identify the parish as either Episcopal or Anglican, but stresses its involvement in 3D Ministries, an interdenominational alliance of evangelical congregations for mission and spiritual growth. About 400 people attended services last weekend, Rev. Taylor said.
The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which released a broad outline of the proposed settlement yesterday, argued that the requirement to break ties was a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The settlement must be approved by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
"Sadly, the separation mandate seems to be specifically designed to hurt both the local diocese and the North American province [the Anglican Church in North America]," Archbishop Duncan said. "If the settlement is approved by St. Philip's, we urge the court to strike any provisions of the settlement that abridge First Amendment rights."
Rich Creehan, communications director for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, said that future settlements with other parishes would not necessarily require separation from the Anglican diocese and Anglican Church in North America.
If other parishes of the Anglican diocese want to negotiate, "there is no template of what's needed to reach an agreement," he said. "This was an amicably reached agreement . . . It was a voluntary negotiation, carefully conducted over the course of a year."