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."