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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Diktat or Negotiating in Good Faith …. What Does It Mean? part 2

Today St. David’s was privileged to host the first ordination to the vocational diaconate in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh using the new ACNA Ordinal. It was an awesome day. During the reception that followed I learned some very interesting information. It seems that the new TEC-Pgh church in Bridgeville, All Saints’, and their rector already are planning how they are going to afford our building once they take it from us. They are the closest TEC parish to us and currently rent a small community room for worship. They apparently will re-convert the St. David's youth room to a sanctuary as it was prior to 2001. They would lease out the new sanctuary and education space to another congregation in order to pay the considerable mortgage ($1 mil) the TEC-Pgh Diocese would inherit. This doesn’t say much for TEC-Pgh’s stated intention to negotiate in good faith.

I remember a conversation I had with the TEC-Pgh Canon to the Ordinary a year or so ago who said, “Don’t worry, we have plans for your buildings, once we get them back”. Again, not much to be said for negotiating in good faith.

I also remember reading Bishop Ken Price’s Convention address from October 2010. Click here. In it he said, “I am naming, effective January 1, the Rev. Dr. Jay Geisler as a Canon for Formation. As you know, Jay already has a relationship with Trinity and Pittsburgh seminaries, and so it is my hope he can utilize some of the students in those institutions to help us reclaim, rebuild, renew and recreate congregations, so we can reach more people for Jesus Christ”. It is clear that the Canon for Formation is being charged with “reclaiming congregations" -- and what congregations would they be, pray tell? I don’t think they are reclaiming Methodist Churches. It can only be Anglican congregations and I guess the bishop also doesn't believe we are reaching our people for Jesus Christ either. So much for negotiating in good faith.

This past February the TEC-Pgh Diocese issued a Pastoral Direction by Bishop Price and Guidelines for Property Settlements. Click here. The Episcopal Café blog in commenting on this wrote, Click here “The Diocese will determine how to best minister to any members of the [Anglican] congregation who wish to remain Episcopalian. The Diocese is committed to allocating financial and personnel resources to address those needs. Bishop Price has recently appointed the Rev. Canon Dr. Jay Geisler, Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Brentwood, to also serve as Canon for Formation to oversee efforts to reach out to those [in Anglican churches] currently not being served by an Episcopal ministry”. They not only want our buildings, they want our people too. This is called negotiating in good faith.”

How then will they pastor these “reclaimed parishes”? The Canon for Formation to the rescue! From his bio on the TEC-Pgh Diocese website: Click here “Canon Geisler continues to mentor the next generation of Christian religious leaders and provides Pastoral Counseling to seminarians at the evangelical Trinity School for Ministry in the former steel town of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. In addition, he is supervising the renewal of and reopening of Episcopal parishes”. I've been told the Canon makes weekly forays to Trinity School for Ministry and under the guise of Pastoral Counseling has been recruiting unsponsored seminarians; promising them guaranteed ordination upon graduation and paid positions in Pittsburgh as well as financial aid while in seminary. I know of one Pittsburgh seminarian who has returned to TEC-Pgh for financial need reasons and two seminarians, one from Tennessee and one from Southwest Florida, who have entered or are poised to enter the TEC-Pgh discernment process. Somehow, this doesn’t seem to suggest a good faith negotiation strategy.

A fellow Pittsburgh ACNA rector and like me a Trinity alum, thinks I might be overstating the case a bit. He thinks TEC-Pgh progressives will never allow TSM grads to populate and have the influence in their diocese again as they did in the 1980s forward to realignment. We shall see.


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  2. “They not only want our buildings, they want our people too.”

    This is a great sound bite, but it is fundamentally untrue. Many of “your people” were truly unhappy in TEC and are relieved to be in ACNA. We wish them well. We both know, however, that some of “your people” wanted to stay in their building when the congregation decided to stay in TEC. Likewise, there are true Episcopalians in ACNA parishes because they wanted to stay in “their” church home. Each group experiences some degree of unhappiness, and it is an unhappiness that could not simply be mitigated by a “prisoner exchange.”

    As for the general matter of negotiating in good faith, you display a misperception of the nature of the negotiations. The two sides are not similarly situation. The negotiation is not like, say, two corporations haggling over the sale of assets from one to the other. It is more like a plea bargain. Ultimately, the Episcopal diocese holds most of the cards.

  3. David,

    Regarding Jay Geisler's "weekly forays," surely he's only doing what a Canon for Formation would be expected to do? (I presume that somebody in the ACNA Diocese has a similar responsibility.)

    Since the students are currently unsponsored, then there's no question of poaching involved. If your point is that the TEC Diocese's offers of financial support are somehow illicit, we're back to the issue raised by Lionel, namely that the Stipulation and the court's interpretation of it have rather tied ACNA's hands.

    As I think we're all discovering, things can be legal and yet unwise, whether it be litigation or the manner in which negotiations are conducted.

    Incidentally, dare I ask the source of your information on All Saints, Bridgeville? It doesn't sound like Dick Pollard and from what he told me last we met, the congregation have put a lot of effort into making the building on Boyce Road habitable. Why would they want to move?

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  5. Jeremy: I must protect my source viz All Saints' but I can assure you of their trustworthyness. Only the rector himself can deny or confirm the facts as stated to me. Perhaps he cares to comment?

  6. Lionel: Thank you for setting me straight on the difference between negotiating and negotiating in good faith. The Germans after WWI called the Paris Peace Negotiations at Versailles the "Diktat" for good reason. As you said TEC holds most the cards and how you choose to conduct these negotiations is up to you. Will it be as the title says,"Diktat or Negotiating in Good Faith"?

  7. TEC-Pgh is hellbent on damaging ACNA-Pgh as much as they possibly can. That is behind the cruel demands that parishes must leave ACNA in order to even have a shot at retaining their property. It's why after successfully evicting the parish of St. James in Penn Hills they immediately reopen the church with great hoopla and make direct appeals to its former members to come back. It's been the lead story on their website for weeks now. And while it may be true that some ACNA parishes harbor a small number of people wishing to return to TEC the truth is that sometimes there are literally none at all- as in the case of St. James. It has become sadly obvious that TEC is oblivious to its Pyrrhic legal victories. They don't mind the awful public relations and are happy to kick out ACNA parishes and attempt to repopulate the empty buildings, no matter the cost.

    My advice to ACNA-Pgh: just leave the buildings, all of them. Every time ransom money is successfully extracted along with shockingly selfish demands, as in the case of St. Philip's, that simply frees up money to prop up another Potemkin parish.

  8. Rev. David,

    I have been working with Bishop Price and Canon Geisler for several months to get the keys to Saint Christopher's in Warrenburg.

    While I have grown impatient, the Bishop and Jay have been nothing but gracious. You are clutching at windmills.

    It is a question of stewardship. Empty buildings don't glorify God!

    Move on.

    As to wanting your people, I thought they were God's people.

    With much love,
    John Marx

  9. I don't know about you guys but I think we're chasing our tails in these discussions because we're talking on the surface-y level of fiduciary responsibility and populating church buildings and not getting to the root of the matter which I said on Lionel's blog (with no response)is much deeper and theological in nature. For instance, in a conversation with a new Tec/Trinity seminarian I was told that the Anglican Communion has never been united by doctrine but by worship. How sad, but that is why we are in the conflict we are in today - We aren't united in faith and doctrine but by something else more flimsy and undefined. Would anyone care to take a shot at what unites people in a church and what divides? If we're Christians we're supposed to be one right? Why is that not happening?