Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Candidate Being Nominated by Petition

I have learned that a local priest is being nominated by petition to be Bishop of Pittsburgh. Assuming that nothing damaging is uncovered by the background check—there is no reason to expect that any skeletons will be found in the closet—this person will become the fifth candidate in the April election.

I have been waiting to see if anyone would be nominated by petition, and I am saddened that someone has been. This will not be everyone’s reaction, of course, and there are those who will not be pleased by my sharing my opinion on this topic. I have written a post on my own blog about why I think an internal candidate should not be elected bishop, irrespective (mostly) of the particular attributes of the candidate being put forward. You can read my post here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Initial Candidates Announced

As many readers will already know, four candidates for Bishop of Pittsburgh have been put forth by the Standing Committee. They are:
  1. The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr., Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Bath, Maine
  2. The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell, Rector of Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
  3. The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri
  4. The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Denver, Colorado
The official announcement is here. We now enter a period during which additional candidates can be nominated by petition. Petitions need to be postmarked by February 5, 2012.

Since only names, current positions, and photographs of the candidates have been released, anyone who feels strongly that someone else would be a good candidate is in a difficult position. If such a person knew more about the candidates, it would be easier to say either that the slate is strong and there is no need for additional candidates or that the slate is not strong and other candidates are indeed needed. Even if one is willing to give the Standing Committee the benefit of the doubt—I count myself in this category—the need to know more about the candidates is irresistible, and it is unreasonable to suggest that everyone should wait until the final slate is determined before attempting to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of those whose names have now been placed before us.

It would be a terrible duplication of effort for all Pittsburgh Episcopalians to be Googling the candidates and to be finding the same information. I therefore suggest that we use this blog to collect and distribute candidate information. Opinion is also welcome, but it should be tied to particular information you have discovered.

If you leave comments here, we will try to aggregate the information, so that people can go to a single page to access it. When the Standing Committee releases information, we will have more data before us, but the effort expended before then will not have been wasted. If you know any of the candidates or know someone who does, we would like to hear from you also.

Let me begin by offering the Web sites of the churches the candidates are presently leading:
  1. The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr.: Grace Episcopal Church, Bath, Maine
  2. The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell: Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
  3. The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri
  4. The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley: St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Denver, Colorado
OK, then. Let the Googling begin!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Relationships, in the “City of Bridges”

by Bruce Robison
St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, Pittsburgh

Bridges over the Allegheny River
Things have been slow to get started here on the “Our Pittsburgh Diocese” site, so I thought I might offer a little something more of reflection on the present state of our life in this neighborhood. Just to stir the pot, as it were. Hope a few more will decide to jump in and join Lionel and me in the deeper end of the pool. See the note on the sidebar about how to submit contributions.

I would begin this long entry with what is I think a quite likely scenario.

The ordination and consecration of the Eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been penciled-in on the calendar of the diocese and of the Presiding Bishop: October 20, 2012.

I imagine our Bishop-elect will already, by the fall of next year, have been working for some weeks with Bishop Price and with other lay and clergy leaders to prepare for a good “new start” to his or her ministry.

An important part of that preparation will involve our new bishop and the regional ecumenical community. One of the most likely places for that to begin will be around the table of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania, one of the most prominent and widely-shared ecumenical organizations in the region, including leadership from all our major Christian faith traditions—Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. Our Profile references this organization on page 21.

When our newly-elected bishop arrives next fall, he or she will take a place on the Board of Christian Associates, along with Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh; Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; the Rev. Dr. Jermaine McKinley, Moderator of the Pittsburgh Presbytery; the Rev. Thomas Bickerton, Bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church; and many other senior leaders of regional churches and judicatories. Our bishop-elect will, I imagine, be welcomed to the fellowship of Christian leaders by the President of the Christian Associates Board of Directors, recently elected by the members of the board, in reflection of ecumenical relationships of friendship and respect that have grown over more than two decades of collegial life.

The President of the Board of Christian Associates? The Most Rev. Robert William Duncan, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America.

The Profile of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh notes the ongoing relationship between the Episcopal Diocese and the Anglican Diocese in a number of places, of course. There are, for example, on pages 6 and 7, references to the division of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that occurred in our diocesan convention in October 2008, and to the subsequent process of “rebuilding” the Episcopal Diocese.

There are as well, on page 7 and elsewhere, references to some of the ongoing issues related to the legal consequences of that division, including disputes about diocesan and parish assets. (On page 8, interestingly, this is called an “ongoing distraction.”) And there is a telling note, on page 9, expressing the “hope and dream” of a future in which we would see “reconciliation with one another and with those who have left.”

So: one of the themes I think could probably be expanded on at greater length, in terms of an understanding of our Pittsburgh Diocese, would be the many sometimes confusing ways—beyond the obvious maze of legal questions and discussions about the status of property and other assets—in which the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh continue to be engaged.

The ecumenical situation, as in the imagined moment when the new Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh is welcomed to the Board of Christian Associates by the Anglican Bishop of Pittsburgh, is indeed complex.

The clergy and congregations of the Anglican Diocese, whether or not they continue in their historic places of worship and ministry, are well established and valued as colleagues and friends by our ecumenical partners and friends throughout our region—as of course are the clergy and congregations of our Episcopal Diocese.

Clergy and lay members of Episcopalian and Anglican congregations serve together on boards and “in the field” in community service and outreach ministries all across the region.

I know, for example, that at the last meeting of the clergy of the East End Cooperative Ministry, here in our corner of the City of Pittsburgh, I happened to sit just a couple of chairs away from a friend who is a member of the clergy staff of the Church of the Ascension, the Anglican congregation in the Oakland neighborhood, and she and I spent some time talking together about how our respective congregations might be able to participate in the upcoming EECM capital campaign.

CROP Walks and Food Pantries and Meals on Wheels, holiday gift drives, community Ministerium gatherings, jail ministry, ecumenical Bible Study and prayer and mission groups—the fact is that right now and as we move on into the future, "Episcopalians” and “Anglicans” are continuing to work side-by-side, along with Methodists and Presbyterians and Lutherans and Roman Catholics and all the rest, just as we did in our congregations and communities in the season before 2008.

It is interesting to note as well that in those few places where, following 2008 and then again in some more recent situations, the issues related to the division of the diocese led to the unhappy division of local congregations—with “Anglicans” departing from Episcopalian parishes in communities like Johnstown and Oakmont and Indiana and Ligonier and, more recently, with Anglican Diocese congregations leaving familiar Church buildings in the Penn Hills and Verona—a number of these new or displaced Anglican Diocese congregations have been offered at least a temporary refuge by the local clergy and congregations of churches that are at the same time strong ecumenical partners and associates of the Episcopal Diocese and its congregations.

The same has been true in Greensburg, where it the Episcopalian remnant departing from an Anglican congregation has enjoyed the occasional hospitality of the local Lutheran Church.

Western Pennsylvania is a region where communities are stable and memories are long—and where relationships grow deeper and deeper generationally. Our clergy remain in the same cure for longer periods than is typical in the Episcopal Church, and many of our congregations and neighborhoods are multi-generational, with the younger generation sitting two pews back from their grandparents and buying the “house next door” in which to raise their own families.

The clergy and congregations now of the Anglican Diocese, like those of the Episcopal Diocese, are “of” their communities, and, over many years, have developed much friendship and respect. And that is clearly reflected in the ways in which the wider ecumenical community has worked to maintain strong and positive relationships with clergy, congregations, and leadership on both sides of our division.

Someone recently described the situation of our ecumenical and interfaith partners and the wider community as not unlike the situation of the friends and extended family of a couple who separate—having a strong desire and need to find a way to continue to maintain relationship with both.

But of course we don’t have to focus only on the ecumenical and neighborhood scenes to find places where Anglican Diocese folk and Episcopal Diocese folk mix.

A great number of our Episcopalian congregations inevitably include many members who have near or extended family members, close friends, business and professional associates, neighbors, and prayer partners who are now members of Anglican Diocese congregations. This means, of course, that this is a reality for congregations in both dioceses.

A long-time member of my parish, for example, is the mother-in-law of the Senior Warden of St. David’s Anglican Church, in Peters Township. Her daughter now serves on the Altar Guild there, and her granddaughters are acolytes. A member of my Vestry has been for many years in a business partnership with a man who is a member of the Vestry of Ascension Church in Oakland. I imagine there are few congregations on either side of the divide that couldn’t find numerous parallels.

Congregations in both dioceses continue to share together the support of Shepherd’s Heart, Five Talents, missionaries like John and Susan Park, the Uganda Christian University, and on and on.

“Episcopalians” and “Anglicans” may worship in different places on Sunday mornings, but at Grandma’s dinner table for Sunday dinner and at work and school and the gym and tennis court and supermarket, picking up the kids at daycare or dropping off the daughter at Girl Scouts—in the community, day in and day out—we are side by side, with affection and friendship, familial commitments, common values, shared faith, long and generational histories together.

Sometimes, of course, the complexity of these relationships is confusing.

At the time of the death of a member of an Episcopal Diocese parish who has been living in the Canterbury Senior Residence for many years, how will the Chaplain at Canterbury, a priest of the Anglican Diocese, having ministered to the person departed and his or her family for years, be included in services?

When a couple is to be married in an Anglican Diocese Church, but with family and pastoral history in an Episcopalian congregation, how will the two clergy interact?

When a much loved and long-time clergy colleague, having been in either of the two dioceses, enters greater life, is it appropriate for clergy of the “other” diocese to vest and sit together with clergy of the “other diocese” at the funeral? To stand at the casket and share the blessing?

There’s no customary out there—and probably shouldn’t and couldn’t be, at this early moment. We’re all feeling our way through this, one step at a time, and any hard-and-fast rule now would certainly be premature and wrong. But still: we wonder what to do.

The reality is that clergy and lay folk, wives and husbands and kids, who were friends “before 2008” continue pretty much to be friends in 2011. Folks still have dinner together, meet for lunch, play golf, pray. If our kids were in “Happening” before, they still are. If our kids went to Calvary Camp before, they still do. Except when this doesn’t happen. And then: many tears.

Indeed, we even have one priest canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese who is married to a priest canonically resident in the Anglican Diocese. Hard to imagine just how we’d want to begin dealing with that in a customary.

And all this doesn’t even begin to get into the nuances of the situation at Trinity Cathedral, in downtown Pittsburgh, which, for the past three years (see Profile, p. 11), has continued to serve as best it could as the Cathedral for both dioceses. Where both dioceses hold conventions; where both dioceses schedule their Holy Week Chrism Mass; where both bishops sit (not at the same time, of course!) in the same episcopal chair. (And where two dear friends, the wife of the Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Highland Park, and the wife of the Rector of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Sewickley, will be this coming October co-leading the annual prayer retreat sponsored by the Trinity Cathedral Women.)

And all this doesn’t even begin to get into the nuances of the situation at Trinity School for Ministry, in Ambridge: one of the eleven accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church, alma mater of many clergy in both the Anglican and Episcopal dioceses, delightfully represented at recent Episcopal Diocese conventions as host of a dessert reception, and with presentations by the Episcopal priest who is the director of the seminary’s Office of Church Relations. A tremendous resource for scholarship and mission.

Trinity School for Ministry: where students preparing for ministry in the Episcopal Church are taking classes this term from tenured and adjunct faculty who are clergy of the Anglican Church in North America, and where students preparing for ministry in the Anglican Church in North America are taking classes this term from tenured and adjunct faculty who are clergy of the Episcopal Church. Where the seminary Board of Trustees includes clergy and laity from both the Episcopal Church and the ACNA. Where the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is listed as an ex officio member of the board—and where the person holding that “ex officio” seat continues in 2011 to be the person who held it in 2007, the Most Rev. Robert William Duncan.

A friend recently asked, “Where is the seminary in the disconnect between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America?” Well: it’s complicated.

Complexities. Nuances. Gray areas. Ambiguities and contradictions. Faithful Christian people, with a great heritage and a vibrant presence of life and ministry in their communities, sorting out experimentally, by trial and error, how to make of this present, broken situation of our lives something that can somehow witness the love of our Lord Jesus to a sinful and broken world.

And in all this too, the shadows. A division born out of a season of conflict, stress, distress. An environment of formal and legal negotiation over questions that affect core identity and value. A history of things said that would have been better left unsaid. Inappropriate words and inappropriate actions by folks in both dioceses. Distrust, anger, resentment, real hurt. An inextricably entangled community in which Screwtape still seems to be arm-wrestling with our Better Angels. In which some members would just as soon never see or hear from other members again, and in which others still find it almost impossible to believe that we are actually separated.

Our Episcopal Diocese is itself, of course, uneasily divided along some of the same fault lines which led to the formal division in 2008. And that further complicates the complications. Loyal Episcopalians all, we would say, but with sharply differentiated theological and ecclesiological perspectives which in many cases may influence the sympathy or antipathy felt toward those of the “other” diocese—and toward others of our own diocese and wider church.

That, not so much apparent in our official Profile, will need to be the subject of another blog post, but it is at least relevant to mention here on this topic as well.

Someone said to me the other day something like this: “I don’t know how all this is going to work out between the Anglicans and Episcopalians. But however it does, in the end, what’s most important is that somehow the newspaper will tell a story that will cause our neighbors to pause, and take a breath, to say, ‘these Christians, how they love one another.’”

We don’t know, of course, how to get there from where we are, and there are likely many turns along the road to come.

But this is the complicated place where we all of us live today—clergy, laity, congregations, dioceses. And it is the place our new, Eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will soon find him- or herself living as well—if he or she isn’t here already.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Getting Involved

by Lionel Deimel
St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon

Individual churches invariably have strong congregational tendencies. This fact is not unique to The Episcopal Church. Churches are understandably concerned with their own financial and programmatic issues. Matters of the wider church, including intermediate bodies (dioceses, synods, etc.) tend to be secondary concerns. We can even see this phenomenon in the recent schism in our own diocese. Many people are assuredly in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh because their loyalty to their parish is stronger than their loyalty to The Episcopal Church. No doubt, our own churches host parishioners who would be happier in the ACNA diocese.

Of course, we have been trying to hold our own parishes together, but, at the same time, we have been recreating our own diocese more or less from scratch. This is not fair; those who wanted to leave The Episcopal Church should have walked out of the diocesan office in 2008 and given us the keys. That did not happen, and we are where we are.

With help from the wider church and the extraordinary efforts of Pittsburgh Episcopalians, we are rebounding from what Calvary’s Harold Lewis is fond of calling “the recent unpleasantness.” Were this not the case, we would not be conducting a search for a new bishop. For a variety of reasons, we are better situated than the rebuilding dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, or Quincy.

Despite our evident progress, the strain is beginning to show. Our diocese is smaller than formerly, but the number of volunteers needed to run its many governing bodies has not been much reduced. People who were disenfranchised under the previous regime are laboring hard, often holding more than one position, to keep our diocese functioning. We owe these people our deep gratitude. They are tired, however, and they need our help.

It is ironic that our diocese has recovered well enough to initiate a search for a new bishop, but that the search itself is consuming the efforts of very many people who would otherwise be available to help run the day-to-day activities of the diocese. It was not intuitively clear that searching for a bishop necessarily weakens a diocese like ours.

As evidence for this phenomenon, I would cite the fact that we are having a very hard time finding candidates for diocesan offices. Many of the people who would otherwise be in the candidate pool are either helping to find episcopal candidates or planning for the welcome and consecration of the person we ultimately choose as our next bishop.

One of our challenges, then, is to find more people to offer their services in running the diocese. This can be a hard sell; many churches have a difficult enough time recruiting people for their own vestries or other parish bodies. On the other hand, our bishop search has at least focused attention on the diocese, and it is important that we make the most of this opportunity.

Selling the Diocese

For most of the people in the pews, I suspect that the diocese is a source of ecclesiastical services (confirmations, receptions, and occasionally baptisms) and an expenditure line (for diocesan assessment) in the parish budget. For many Pittsburgh Episcopalians who have actually paid attention to the diocese over the years, the diocese and its bishop have been a source of mischief and a cause of great distress.

As we increasingly become a "normal" Episcopal Church diocese, we need to explain to our members that the diocese can be a positive force in our lives. The diocese can help us find a new priest when we need one, help us repair our buildings, and help us get back on track whenever our individual parishes run into difficulty. The diocese provides a safety net that independent congregations do not enjoy. Perhaps even more importantly, the diocese can help parishes band together to do mission more effectively than individual parishes can do on their own. And the diocese offers opportunities for fellowship and friendships in a wider community.

The benefits of the diocese are not immediately apparent to the typical worshiper on Sunday morning. Church leaders need to educate parishioners that the diocese is important—in some cases, they may need to convince themselves of the proposition—and encourage people to volunteer to do diocesan work and to stand for diocesan office.

My own experience, in several dioceses, is that, in the normal course of church life, there is little reporting of diocesan activities, goals, and projects. This is not healthy, as, in many ways, the diocese is the fundamental organizational unit of Anglican life. We need to keep parishioners aware of what is going on at the diocesan level, speaking of it during announcements on Sunday morning, perhaps even mentioning the diocese in sermons.

In this Internet age, our diocese can tell its story more easily than formerly. How many people regularly visit the diocesan Web site, however, or subscribe to its electronic newsletter? Many, but hardly enough. We need to encourage more people to do so, and, for the computer-challenged (or technologically indifferent), we need to post diocesan stories on church bulletin boards and encourage people to read them.

What can you do to get more involved in the diocese and to involve others?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Little More about Who We Are

by Bruce Robison
Rector, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, Pittsburgh

I would begin a first contribution in this space with a word of appreciation to the Nomination Committee of our Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh for the good work they have done in preparing our Diocesan Profile. It will be, I think, an excellent introduction to the life of our diocese for those who may be considering an invitation to be in the mix of the discernment that will lead to the election of our next bishop.

As Lionel and I have said in developing this space, the Profile also may be and should be a great catalyst for those of us here in the diocese who will be participating in this process not as nominees but as electors. It is vitally important that we have among ourselves, prayerfully and respectfully, a full and robust and out-in-the-open conversation about who we are, about how God is calling us to live, to minister, to grow—and about what is of value to us as we begin to consider the character and personality and particular gifts that we would hope to find in our next bishop.

In all that, I hope to be an occasional contributor to “Our Pittsburgh Diocese”—and I hope as well that there will be many contributions along the way, from many different contributors, to reflect the rich diversity of background and perspective and experience in our diocesan community.

And so I would begin here to say that two of the sections that caught my attention right away as I looked through the Profile are found on pages 11 and 12: “Our Diocese Today” and “The Clergy of the Diocese.” Two sections mostly statistical but I think compelling, fascinating, and well worth highlighting and pondering as we move forward together.

We talk about the numbers of parishes in our diocese, and about the numbers of clergy, and it is helpful to think about what this all really means “in real life,” about the state of things as they are. Church statistics are always a little slippery, to be sure, but they can be helpful as well, at least in a broad-brush way to communicate a feel for what things are like.

One traditional Episcopalian way to think about the settled ministry of a diocese is to think about parishes that are served full-time by priests compensated “at or above” the diocesan minimum compensation/benefits guidelines for full-time clergy.

In the old days, if a congregation couldn’t support a full-time priest at the diocesan minimum and pay full diocesan assessment, that congregation would be a “Mission” rather than a “Parish.”

In any event, while we don’t use that vocabulary here in Pittsburgh anymore, we would note that there were 13 priests fitting this definition at the time of the publication of the Profile, nearly half of whom (6) served in our three largest parishes. (The departure of Nate Rugh for Los Angeles this past summer would I think move the numbers—so we would say there are now 12 priests serving and compensated at full-time levels in the diocese, 5 of whom serve the three largest congregations.)

Another somewhat informal but familiar metric to assess congregational vitality in the Episcopal Church suggests that in terms of human and financial resources, congregations can reasonably attain and maintain a level of pastoral stability with an “average Sunday attendance” (ASA) of about 100 and a “normal operating income” of about $150,000. A full-time priest, somebody to play the organ on Sunday, maybe a part-time secretary or sexton, the ordinary infrastructure expenses, insurance, utilities, repairs and maintenance, and of course the inevitable diocesan assessment.

The statistics reported in the Diocesan Journal at our 2010 Diocesan Convention would indicate that there were in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, in 2009, 7 congregations reporting attendance and operating income above both these baseline figures—Calvary East Liberty, St. Paul’s Mount Lebanon, Christ North Hills, St. Michael’s Ligonier, St. Andrew’s Highland Park, St. Thomas Oakmont, and St. Stephen’s Mckeesport. (And we would note that while 2010 diocesan statistics have not yet been published, St. Stephen’s Mckeesport would no longer be counted in the group.) Three additional parishes—Brentwood, Franklin Park, and Homewood—reported 2009 income above $150,000, but ASA below 100. There is another small handful of parishes where the numbers in one category or the other are “close,” but not quite to the 100/$150K measures.

Approximately 1/3rd of our congregations reported for 2009 average Sunday attendance under 50, and about the same number report normal operating income under $50,000.

And finally, to note: the Profile reports, on page 11, that “the diocese spans 11 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania.” Of the 32 active congregations, though, it should be noted that more than half, 19, are in Allegheny County, 4 are in Westmorland County, 2 in Indiana County, 2 in Cambria County, 1 in Washington, 1 in Armstrong, and 1 in Somerset. In 4 of our 11 counties (Beaver, Butler, Fayette, and Greene) there is at the moment no Episcopal Church presence. To a considerable extent, of course, we would explain this by noting that following the division of the diocese in 2008, a number of “previously Episcopalian” congregations in these counties are now affiliated with the Anglican Diocese. But we do want to be sure that we’re all looking at the same map when we talk about who we are.

I want to highlight these kinds of general statistics not to be in any sense negative, but to be clear about just where it is that we are right now. We’re a pretty small diocese—2,500 or so people in Church on an average Sunday morning, and about half of those in 6 congregations or so and the other half spread out over the remaining 26.

With all that, this brief conclusion. I personally believe that there is significant opportunity for growth in many ways here in our diocese. We have some extraordinary human and material resources in our midst, and a lot of wonderful, creative, gifted people, lay and clergy.

But I have said to friends sometimes that I believe our next bishop should be a Jackson Kemper or a William Kipp—a true “missionary bishop" like those heroes of the 19th century Episcopal Church, riding on horseback from mission station to mission station along the frontier, gathering small clusters of folk together for Word and Sacrament—in church basements, perhaps, and sometimes in living rooms or coffee shops, putting things together in new and creative ways, on a shoestring—and developing in a patient and steady way over the next decade or so the human and material infrastructure we will need here for the future life and work of the Church.

Certainly not the kind of bishop who might try to focus attention thematically through staff and committees and various forms of corporate bureaucratic structure around the humming busyness of a diocesan office with “big visions” and complicated programs and a focus on systems management—but rather somebody who “gets” and even loves what life and ministry is like in small parishes without much money at hand, one who would spend most of his or her time out in the field, sleeves rolled-up, hands dirty, in a patient, steady ministry, “one-on-one,” of encouragement and evangelism and pastoral care.

So, here then: a first contribution to the conversation. Looking forward to reading more!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Welcome to “Our Pittsburgh Diocese”

In preparation for the election of the Eighth Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Nomination Committee has released the official Diocesan Profile to assist in the invitation of nominees and to create a framework for conversation with them in preliminary interviews.

The Committee deserves our thanks for its work on the Profile, and we encourage all members of our diocesan family to read the Profile carefully and to share it with others in ways that will be helpful as we move forward in this process.

Although the Profile is intended to draw a clear picture of the diocese and of our ideal episcopal candidate, no document could do this, except imperfectly. In fact, both our individual perceptions of the diocese and our hopes for our next bishop differ from one person to another.

This new blog, Our Pittsburgh Diocese, is offered as an extension—an elaboration, if you will—of the official Profile. Just as many families have posed for a formal studio portrait, our diocese has its Diocesan Profile. But families also have photo albums, shoe boxes, computer hard drives, and smart phone memory cards filled with occasional images—informal snapshots, rather than formal portraits. This blog seeks to be to the diocese what those albums and shoe boxes are to a family.

The official Diocesan Profile necessarily distills many individual contributions and conversations, reflecting the diversity of views, values, memories, and aspirations, into some “consensus” perspective. What we intend to provide here is a place where individual contributions can be shared and discussed without any editorial “distillation.” This can be a place to discover consensus or a place to uncover differences.

Our Pittsburgh Diocese, then, is an unofficial and unsanctioned public square in the blogosphere for lay persons who are members of congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and for clergy canonically or physically resident here to talk together about who we are and where we’re headed.

What is your take on the diocese today? Where are we strong? Where are we fragile? How are we affected by our recent history? What will be the most significant challenges for us in the next decade or so? What should we be looking for in our next bishop?

The conversation facilitated by the Nomination Committee was surely helpful, but those conversations did not take place across parishes. This blog will allow us to have a broader and more sustained conversation. It can help us clarify our own thoughts and may even be helpful to potential candidates for bishop.

At the right, you will see Bruce Robison and Lionel Deimel listed as “contributors.” We are that, but we do not intend to be the primary contributors. That role belongs to the lay and clergy members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Of course, anyone can comment on posts made here. If you would like to make a post yourself, send your contribution to mailto:submit@pittsburghepiscopal.org or click on the link at the right.

Posts may be submitted directly in e-mail messages or in attachments (e.g., as Microsoft Word files). In general, the official contributors will neither edit nor censor contributions, though contributions may be formatted for readability. All submissions should include the name and parish of the submitter. Both submissions and comments are expected to be free of profanity, ad hominem attacks, etc. Submitted posts will be published as quickly as possible; please be patient.

With hope that over the coming months this space may host an interesting and robust conversation and, in that way, build up our life together in Christ, we remain

Bruce Robison, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park
Lionel Deimel, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon