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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Diktat or Negotiating in Good Faith …. What Does It Mean?

In late January 2011 the Appellate Court of the Commonwealth of PA unanimously ruled against the appeal of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh on all four counts in the case of “Calvary Church of Pittsburgh vs. Robert Duncan et al”. A final appeal is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In mid February the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church (TEC) announced they were ready to negotiate about property issues with the parishes that had separated from the Episcopal Church through the majority vote of the lay and clergy deputies of the diocesan convention duly called and seated on October 4, 2008. The TEC Diocese, however, refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh or Bishop Duncan as its diocesan bishop. It appears they do recognize the Bishop as an Archbishop of an independent (though non-Anglican) denomination, known as the ACNA . In most TEC writings he is referred to as either “Robert Duncan” or just “Duncan” and occasionally as archbishop Duncan (usually lowercase “a” rarely “A”). The TEC Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jeffords Schori, in her recent visit to Pittsburgh referred to him in an interview with the press as “Bob Duncan”. Because the TEC Diocese refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Anglican Diocese, it therefore refuses to negotiate with it since in their view the parishes that realigned never realigned and still remain part of their diocese. So,one has to ask if this tactic of TEC represents “negotiating in good faith”?

On February 17, 2011, the TEC Diocese issued a document posted on their website and mailed to each Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh parish titled, “PASTORAL DIRECTION FOR PARISHES SEEKING TO RESOLVE PROPERTY ISSUES WITH THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH” with the subheading “PASTORAL GUIDELINES FOR THE PROCESS TO BE FOLLOWED BY PARISHES SEEKING RESOLUTION OF PROPERTY ISSUES” (link here) The “Guidelines” list eight apparent pre-conditions that all Anglican parishes must subscribe in order to negotiate. So, again, one has to ask if this tactic of TEC represents “negotiating in good faith”?

On April 26, 2011, Ken Price, the Bishop of the TEC Diocese wrote to each Anglican parish requesting financial information from each parish and informing each that property maven Dr. Joan Gunderson would be contacting the parish to schedule “tours” of each property both as further apparent pre-conditions prior to commencing negotiations. These so-called "tours" are nothing more than thinly veiled inventory incursions replete with cameras and video-cams. On May 11, 2001 Dr. Gunderson wrote and reminded each parish to send in the requested financial information . She also stated that no negotiations would occur until such information is received. So, once again one has to ask if this tactic of TEC represents “negotiating in good faith”?


  1. David, I entirely agree with you about the tone of discourse. There is no question but that there are on both sides of this mess bucketloads of unresolved hurt and hostility and a continuing turmoil of essentially less-than-Christian animosities. As we walk with the calendar toward the Mount of the Ascension this week, perhaps we might all pray for healing in this, which is a symptom and sign of the spiritual disease that has infected all our houses. We'll know the fever has passed when we all can put away our hospital gowns and put on the fresh garments of Colossians 3, "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience," forbearance and forgiveness. I guess we might each try practicing this 15 minutes a day and see what happens. In the meantime, just personally, I am very sorry for the tone and vocabulary of disrespect that surfaces from time to time among some in our TEC diocese. I believe the clergy and people of the Anglican Diocese are seeking a faithful and godly way forward as servants and witnesses of our Risen Lord, and that despite our differences of approach to the challenges of our day, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Even with the occasional lapses, hints of Old Adam, in the heat of the moment.

    On the other matters. My understanding is that the negotiating committee of our TEC diocese have shared with you concerns that are "high priority" for them, reflecting the reflected decisions and starting-gate positions of Bishop Price and the Trustees. I personally have reservations about a few of those concerns, and I express my opinion when my opinion is requested. Nonetheless, my understanding is that the official position is that there are no preconditions for coming to the table, and that a successful conclusion to any negotiations will be a process that will likely result in folks on both sides of the table needing to work through hierarchies of concern. Obviously folks on either side may find in negotiation that there are bright lines that they can't cross. Probably nobody gets everything they want, but hopefully folks on both sides get enough of what they need to allow for a good future. Sometimes negotiations succeed, sometimes they fail. Folks on both sides need to look into the crystal ball to see what might happen if negotation isn't successful. Plan B.

    On the other matter, my only observation is that the TEC diocese is constrained to operate under the provisions of the 2005 Stipulation as interpreted by Judge James in his ruling. The assets of a significant number of parishes of the Anglican Diocese are listed on the schedule of the Special Master, for one thing, and there are all kinds of implications of that in terms of liability and fiduciary oversight. I don't actually know or understand what additional kind of information should be required of parties in order to facilitate negotiation. But I do think, simply as an observer and watching the trend of court rulings, that if I were a member of a congregation in the Anglican Diocese with assets in dispute with the TEC Diocese, especially if those assets are already on the Special Master's schedule, I would probably think that the prospect of a good result would be better with a successful negotiation than with a decision not to negotiate. But that of course is a question that folks in the various congregations will need to get the best advice on that they can.



  2. Thanks Bruce for your thoughts. I hope you're not the only leader in TEC-Pgh that thinks that way. As for St David's, we are on the Special Master's schedule and are already paying over $100k annually of our funds on a property which TEC holds title. We are ready to negotiate in good faith but what we are receiving thus far is a diktat.

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  4. Perhaps like Somerset they want "their" chalice and paten back?

    I would refer Dr. Joan to write to Rusty directly and request the "tour" from him.

  5. I know that TEC-Pitt is a mixed bag. It has many friendly, charitable, gracious voices in it, even from those who vehemently opposed realignment. I just hope those voices have some influence in coming days.

    My fear is that if less-than-charitable voices prevail, not only will it cause a deeper rift between us all, it may actually harm TEC-Pitt. What happens if they get what they want (at least what some want)? If they inherit our deserted church buildings, many of which are in need significant repair, what will happen to the Diocese? No one is going to purchase churches in the rust-belt or Beaver Falls, and it's very unlikely that new, Episcopal congregations can be started in those places.

    I just think, perhaps not surprisingly, that what is needed here is sacrificial grace. It needs to be given by the 'winners' (legally, TEC) to the Anglican Diocese (the ones in real need). Grace is needed in order for them and for us to be at our best, for healing to begin, and for ministries to continue. Without it, animosities will deepen, churches will empty, and TEC will likely inherit a financial crisis. Now, whether or not that grace will be given to a sacrificial degree has yet to be seen ... but it's not looking great.

    Who knows, though. God has done bolder, brighter things in the past, as we've heard again during this Easter Season. Here's top hoping for some Easter-esque Grace, for all of us.

  6. Ethan

    Maybe both sides should agree to let you and BruceR conduct the negotiations! Then,I think, yea, I know grace would prevail.

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  8. Ethan,

    Just to say that I agree. Although the analogy is far from perfect, I do find myself thinking about Lincoln's Second Inaugural. Malice toward none, charity for all. And how the history of the next century might have been different had that spirit prevailed. Though, alas. From the Lord himself: "from those to whom much has been given, much will be expected."

    Summer blessings,


  9. I'm with you, Bruce.

    How about we take up David's suggestion: You and I meet for an hour-long-lunch, eat Indian food, and just 'wrap up' this whole legal affair so that their would be good charity and Tikka Masalla for all involved. :)

  10. In response to David & Ethan (Who both know me too well): Just came across this while trying to re-establish my entire database (including bookmarks) after a computer virus forced a "format C:\"

    Pastor Rusty Stuart's response: "Bring it on. Try sucking up a month to month lease. It will last for no more than 31 days. If that works for you, great, but you'll be done at then end of the month. Have a nice day!"