Monday, March 19, 2007

A Letter to the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies from Calvary Church, Pittsburgh

This letter is a bit long, but well worth reading. It's great to see a church in the Wilderness of the Network speaking out so clearly. Actually, I'm not too surprised; the Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis preached at my ordination to the deaconate and got the six of us all fired up!

The following letter was sent on behalf of the Calvary Church vestry to express concerns about the recommendations made by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in the Communique of February 19, 2007. The letter reflects a thoughtful and thorough discussion by the vestry and asks these two leaders to resist inappropriate concessions which are in direct opposition to the theology and history of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

February 28, 2007

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop

The Episcopal Church in the USA

815 Second Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Ms. Bonnie Anderson

The Episcopal Church in the USA

815 Second Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Dear Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Anderson:

Calvary Church is a city based parish that has been a staunch supporter of The Episcopal Church for over one hundred fifty years. We represent a microcosm of American society with members from all aspects of the economic, political and social spectrum. Our commitment to our national church is demonstrated by not only Calvary’s direct payment of funding to the national church, but also by Calvary’s extensive and historic participation in the activities of the national church.
Today we write on behalf of the Vestry of Calvary Church to unequivocally object to the recommendations of the Primates in the Communiqué of February 19, 2007, and to urge the rejection of those recommendations. Our main reasons are as follows:
First, from its origin immediately following the American Revolution until this date the heart and soul of this church is that it is an American church based upon democratic self-determination, American morality and not subject to foreign domination. In fact, the Act of Association of the Clergy and Congregations of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Pennsylvania in 1784 states as follows:
WHEREAS, by the late Revolution, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is become independent of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction in England; in Consequence whereof it is necessary for the Clergy and Congregations of the said Church to associate themselves, for maintaining a System of Ecclesiastical Government; And whereas, at a Meeting of sundry Clergymen and of Lay Deputies from sundry Congregations of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this State, held in the City of Philadelphia on the Twenty-Fifth Day of May in the year of our Lord 1784, there was appointed a Committee, to confer and
correspond with Representatives from the Church in other States, for the Purpose of constituting an Ecclesiastical Government, agreeable to certain Instructions or fundamental Principles:
Which are as follow.
First, That the Episcopal Church in these States is and ought to be independent of all foreign Authority ecclesiastical or civil. Secondly , That it hath and ought to have, in common with all other religious Societies, full and exclusive Powers to regulate the Concerns of its own Communion
* * *
These Articles are not simply a historic artifact; the intent they set forth is part of our very being, strength and vitality and critical to the moral compass and ethos of our church. Since the 1780s, our church has been predicated upon American values and American morality. The American value system and the evolving American concept of non-discrimination should govern our future as they have our past.
We recognize that certain Primates have stated that their Christian witness must be made in nations whose cultures are significantly influenced by the values of other traditions, including Islam.While this may be understandable for those countries and those Primates, such influence is totally unacceptable as the arbiter of the values of this American Christian church.
Second, the Communiqué attempts to directly affect the decision making process of The Episcopal Church, in a number of serious ways. For example, the Communiqué invites the Bishops of The Episcopal Church to effectively ignore the bicameral nature of our decision making process and thereby to alter or interpret BO33 (which as you know was a fiercely contested and narrowly passed compromise between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops). To entertain the suggestion of the Primates that the Bishops collectively use their power to alter that compromise would do great damage internally to the mutual respect between the two Houses and the Orders in our church. Thus, not only would acceptance of this Communiqué be destructive of the American self-determinative nature of the Church, but also set our institutional decision making processes against each other. Surely this cannot have been the Primates’ intent, but it would be the effect if the House of Bishops were to bow to foreign pressure and foreign values to make the statements sought by the Primates concerning BO33.
These are two final points of grave concern that we raise in this letter.
If both Houses meant what was said in BO33 at the 2006 General Convention (which was not what is now being demanded by the recommendations), it would seem hypocritical for the House of Bishops to state what the Primates now request. This issue, like the first two that we set forth above, strikes at the heart of what we are as a Church.We must be true to ourselves and our values lest we lose our own moral compass and simply “confess” that we believe what a group of foreign Primates tell us we must believe to be part of their larger group.
We have heard that the failure to do as “recommended”may mean that The Episcopal Church is not able to help the poor in other nations as effectively as if the Anglican provinces in those countries accepted our church as being in full communion with theirs. Our response is that we will continue to look for those groups, both in America and abroad, who do not demand that we give up our own American character and morality as a price of helping them. Frankly, if we take the American spirit out of our body and convert this to a confessional church adhering to values set by others, we believe that the detrimental effect on The Episcopal Church will be so significant that both our internal and our outreach activities would diminish as a result of our own actions. We have also heard that a justification offered for acceptance of the “recommendations” is the need to keep a seat at the table to advance the debate in the Communion about treatment of gays and lesbians. We respectfully submit that the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies are officials of the American church, and that our church cannot act inconsistently with our own morality of justice and non-discrimination (even on a temporary basis as is hypothesized) in order to permit us to engage in a debate with other provinces about someday treating all persons on a non-discriminatory basis. In this regard, we are greatly heartened by the statements we have seen of the Bishops of Chicago, California and New York, and hopefully more will come. For us at Calvary, it is totally unacceptable to support discrimination on even a temporary basis within our church even if for the purpose of being permitted to engage in a debate with foreign primates over whether the Anglican Communion as a whole should discriminate. Indeed, we believe we are being asked by the Primates to go back into a discriminatory mode of treatment of certain of those within our church.
Finally, Calvary Church wants to object unequivocally to the Presiding Bishop delegating any of her powers of supervision over the Diocese of Pittsburgh to a Primatial Vicar who will report to the foreign controlled Pastoral Council. This is not acceptable to Calvary, and we believe it is not canonical for such delegation to occur, even if the delegation were limited to “pastoral” duties. However, we frankly believe (based upon long years of dealing with the stated goals of representatives of the group seeking such a vicar) that any delegation of duties will not be solely pastoral (at least in the normal sense of the word). But, whether pastoral or not, we believe that delegation – particularly through an agency operating outside our church – is not authorized under the Constitution and Canons. Calvary Church would vigorously object if such a structure were created and is quite hopeful that it will not be. It would be highly improper to posit the alternatives to Calvary (and other parishes loyal to the national church) of either not being part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (particularly after all the contributions made by Calvary over the years) or becoming part of a “Camp Allen” principles vicarship. Members of The Episcopal Church have the right to expect that its rules be followed. We submit that this proposed office of Primatial Vicar is non-canonical and should not be established. Further, we believe it is highly unrealistic to think that, if such a position were established, it would ever be dismantled in a manner which would lead to reintegration of the Diocese of Pittsburgh into the canonical structure provided by The Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons. On all these questions: (1) whether to preserve the vitality, emanating from the American spirit, that has to date imbued our national church with the courage to take stands based upon American morality and social justice, (2) whether to respect the democratic heritage of bicameral participatory democracy which has led us through more than two hundred years of moral decision making and which should guide us to our future service in the name of Jesus Christ, (3) whether it is hypocritical to say things, that foreign leaders say we must, to be part of an association which they may have come to dominate, and (4) whether to respect our own Constitution and Canons in administering to our own dioceses — we at Calvary fervently pray that the polestar values found in our heritage of American autonomy, American social justice, and commitment to observing the rules of our own organization should inform our future decisions.
While some might contend that compromise or even elimination of these American values would be beneficial to implementation of the overall global interests espoused by certain Primates in the Anglican Communion, we stand to say that such would not be good for The Episcopal Church in either the near or the long term.
Faithfully yours,
The Rev. Harold T. Lewis, Ph.D. Florence Atwood
Rector Senior Warden


Leonardo Ricardo said...

Bishop Katharine, please pay attention to the voices of the demeaned, the marginalized, the brutalized the discriminated against and the oppressed...I do mean oppressed...and then there are those who have been murdered know the ones, the victims of crimes of hate.

Thank you Calvary, Pittsburgh for your support in the opposing the war against the religious terror inflicted on LGBT Christians by puritan extremists sitting next to us in the pews!

Lord hear my prayer

Reverend Ref + said...

Nicely done. I would hope that this letter at least is considered seriously.

There are lots of things to consider in this whole mess, and despite the complaints about ++KJS from both sides, I think she is doing what needs to be done; and using the firm but gentle approach.

I'm happy to see a Pittsburgh parish come out with this.

I could say more, but I'm starting to ramble; so I think I'll go to bed.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Coming from a vestry rather than an individual, this letter should carry weight. Also, attention should be paid by the powers-that-be because Calvary Church is a light shining in the darkness.

scott said...

Thanks for sharing this, Padre. My apartment was just a few blocks from Calvary Church when i lived in Pittsburgh several years ago. At the time i was not yet reconciled to any church, so never attended services there, though i frequently passed by it on walks around the neighborhood. When next i visit my old stomping grounds (i live in the Diocese of Rio Grande now) i'll be sure to take in a service at Calvary.

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