2010 Convention Address by Bishop Price
Diocese of Pittsburgh
October 15, 2010

It was a year ago that this Convention elected me to serve as your Provisional Bishop. After bidding a fond farewell to Bishop Bob Johnson, who had been the part-time Assisting Bishop for ten months, the Standing Committee turned over the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese to me. Then president, the Rev. Jim Simons, delivered an upbeat and positive address and many people took positions of leadership for the first time. For two and a half months, I commuted between here and Southern Ohio for key meetings, until finally moving to Pittsburgh on December 28 — and we didn't see the ground for the next three months!  None-the-less, Mariann and I were warmly welcomed and, in no time, felt very much at home and part of this wonderful diocese.

My report, with all the others printed in the pre-Convention booklet, outline the activities of this past year. The volume of work we have accomplished is astounding. Our key committees, whose counterparts in other dioceses meet quarterly, meet monthly. In addition, a key legal support team confers weekly and a property committee is also active. And most important, our now twenty-nine congregations have been returning to a sense of normalcy after turmoil created by the split of two years ago.

As I said, you can read about all that has been going on in the booklet. In addition, many of you have been living this day in and day out. The purpose of this Bishop’s Convention address is not to rehash all that, but to share with you my perspective of where the diocese is today and to thank some key individuals.

The bishops and communicators of the four dioceses which have suffered splits confer by phone regularly and meet from time to time. These meetings have confirmed that we here in Pittsburgh are, in many ways, better off than our counterparts in California, Texas and Illinois.

This is due to many factors. Certainly the lawsuit initiated by Calvary Parish and its rector, the Rev. Harold Lewis, is a huge reason. We need to be eternally grateful to that wonderful parish and its rector. The action of the House of Bishop to depose your former bishop before the convention which purportedly voted to leave the Episcopal Church was also significant. As hard as it is for us bishops to depose a fellow bishop, that action allowed the Standing Committee to become the ecclesiastical authority, so that when the convention attempted to leave, the Rev. Jim Simons, the lone Standing Committee member who chose not to support this move, was able to reassemble a new Standing Committee and reorganize the diocese without a break. For this reason, the Presiding Bishop did not have to come to Pittsburgh to convene a special convention, and Pittsburgh has been able to maintain control and make decisions for itself from the get go. Finally, we have more parishes, clergy and laity who chose to remain loyal to the Episcopal Church than the other dioceses, representing a wide diversity of thought and action, and this has given us a stronger base of support.

We are not without our challenges, however. Although all the dioceses have their former bishop still living in the diocese, Bishop Duncan has been elected Archbishop of the Anglican Province of North America, which gives him greater visibility and clout on the global scene. I continue to interact with him regularly in ecumenical circles, and our shared use of this Trinity Cathedral also throws us together from time to time. This interaction has been cordial thus far, but there is a surrealistic dimension to it.

Following the January court decision by Judge James, the Anglican Diocese has been relatively cooperative in turning over assets and records to us, but this process is far from complete. We are indebted to Joan Gundersen and her counterpart in Archbishop Duncan’s office for handling all this, and for our chancellor and trustees and to many volunteers have given countless hours to help to sort it all out.

We have been blessed by many, many offers from the larger Episcopal Church, from adjoining dioceses, and from CREDO, to come among us to lead workshops, seminars and discussions. What this has revealed is that while there is lingering anger, hurt, and tension generated by the losses this diocese suffered in 2008, not the least of which are losses of friendships and long-standing relationships, we are coming back from that. We are beginning to look more toward the future and dwelling less on the pain of the past.

The distrust, fear and suspicion that I am told surrounded life in this diocese leading up to the 2008 split still rears its ugly head from time. Most recently, this has been evident as we begin to move toward a process to choose the next bishop. While we are unified in wanting that choice to be the exact right person for Pittsburgh, it is evident that old feelings, suspicions and presuppositions still need to be unpacked and guards let down before this can happen. The Standing Committee, in its wisdom, will be presenting a revised resolution calling for an 18-month time span for this to unfold. While this is a bit longer than normal, it is probably good for us, given all we have been through. In response to a request from the Standing Committee, Mariann and I have agreed to remain with you longer than was originally envisioned, to insure that an orderly transfer of episcopal authority, which will now hopefully take place in the fall of 2012.

Much of the energy of this past year has been spent in getting back up and running, building on the fine work done by last year’s Standing Committee and Bishop Johnson, and allowing people, many of whom were new to their leadership positions, to get up to speed. Certainly in the year ahead, there will be work to do regarding the election process, but primarily, I believe we still need to focus on practicing how we can better listen to each other in non-judgmental and loving ways. There are some key issues which are part of life of the Episcopal Church today that we need to seriously address. One of these involves the Covenant being proposed among all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. The text of that covenant and material for study of it have been provided by the Executive Council and are available on the Episcopal Church website. I am asking all of our parishes, all 29, over the next few months, to download and use these study guides and to conduct discussions of the Covenant at the parish level. When this is complete, we will then come together to formulate our response to the General Convention’s request for each diocese to share its opinion of the Covenant.

In this, and in all matters of this sort, the Diocese of Pittsburgh must make its own, unique voice heard. More than once during the past year, we have taken an action or made a statement that at times was not totally in tune with what the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop, or her staff might have put forth. But in all cases, we have been listened to, respected and often have ended up having an impact that changed hearts and minds. That, to me, is what makes me love being an Episcopalian. We are encouraged to think for ourselves, and when we disagree, are still respected and heard.

Speaking of the Presiding Bishop, I am happy to announce that she has accepted an invitation from us to come and spend a couple of days with us in Holy Week next year. We will be designing forums so that as many people as possible will be able to meet and interact with her.

After spending a year among you, experiencing the rich diversity that exists in this diocese and the strong commitment to always seeking to lift up the power of Jesus Christ in all we do, I am more convinced than ever that the Episcopal Church needs to hear our voice and needs to experience the witness that we have to serving our Lord and Savior. We often disagree with each other, and sometimes even get a bit heated, but in the end, we still end up modeling how we can continue to pray and stay together.

Finally, as we move into the next year and begin to look for ways to reach out to those people and areas of our diocese which might be feeling left behind after the split, I am convinced we need another part-time canon to assist Scott Quinn, our Canon to the Ordinary, and myself in this effort. For that reason, 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.  in addition, I am delighted to announce that the Rev. Kathy LaLonde has agreed to serve as chaplain to the clergy spouses.

Before I close down, let me recognize a few individuals who have made extraordinary contributions this past year. As I call your name or group, please stand and remain standing.

First, the Rev. Jim Simons, whose expertise and contributions were recognized by the larger church when he was appointed to serve on the Executive Council. Next is Andy Roman, and if he were here, I'd ask him to stand alongside Jim.  Jim says Andy was the first person he recruited when we needed a Chancellor and I am convinced he is a primary reason we are in such good shape legally today.

Our staff is small but mighty. Joan Gundersen is our administrator and treasurer, but she is so much more. She is truly our go-to person and she is always willing to step up to the plate. Judi Rogers is our executive assistant and does the work of three people, assisting Joan, me and the diocese in general. Rich Creehan and Andy Muhl are our communications department and are a huge reason we have such a positive image locally and across the nation. The Rev. Canon Scott Quinn is our Canon to the Ordinary, and his wisdom and long-standing knowledge are essential to me. Finally, new to us this year is our bookkeeper Marlene Rihn and she has quickly become an essential member of the team. All, save Judi, are part time.

Due to all we have been through, the Standing Committee in Pittsburgh meets and functions to a far higher degree that most Standing Committees. The Rev. Nano Chalfant-Walker chaired this last year, and Lee Hicks, Mary Roehrich, Vera Quinn, Jon Delano, the Rev. Jeff Murph, the Rev. Dr. Bruce Robison and the Very Rev. George Werner round out this group.

Next are Russ Ayres and all of you who serve on the Board of Trustees. An equally hard-working group is the Diocesan Council. The Rev. Bill Geiger is president, and everyone else who serves on Diocesan Council, please stand also. The Rev. Canon Jim Shoucair heads up the committee that organized this Convention, and the Rev. Lou Hays and the other eleven members of the Commission on Ministry have done an outstanding job lifting up ways people can respond to the call to ordained or lay ministry.

Next we have Diane Duntley and everyone on the Diocesan Life Committee. There are no harder workers than Steve Stagnitta and everyone on the Canons Committee. And let’s not forget The Rev. Kris Opat and all the youth who participated in Youth Initiative activities. Likewise hats off to David Dix and the Sheldon Calvary Camp Board and to Tim Greene, the Rev. Leslie Reimer and Anne Muhl for another banner year.

On commissions, the Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert and all the members of the Clergy Association, and Nancy Bolden and the members of the Anti Racism Commission. Lisa Simons and the Fresh Start and CREDO teams are also greatly appreciated, as is Joyce Donadee, who has worked hard this year to make Christian Education a priority for us.

We appreciate all those in the Community of Celebration and our missionaries in the Philippines, the Rev. Marc and Suzanne Jacobson, and give thanks for Celinda Scott and Cindy Leap, who have breathed new life into Cursillo. Linda Getts and the rest of the ECW Board make sure ECW remains strong, and Jackie Och keeps ERD before us. Bill Farra oversees our Jubilee ministries. Nancy Lapp and the Rev. Nate Rugh and the rest of the Social Justice and Outreach Committee remind us that doing ministry means reaching out to others. And in this same area, Scott Peterman and the Rev. Lynn Edwards work with Shepherd’s Wellness. Also important are those in the PEP group and the Rev. Anne Staples and those working for Coal Country Hangout. Kelly Glass, Provost the Rev. Canon Cathy Brall, and the rest of the Cathedral Chapter, insure Trinity Cathedral remains a strong presence in our midst. New, but with great potential is a Collaboration Group, headed by the Rev. Dr. Bruce Robison, which is seeking how we can cooperate with Northwestern Pennsylvania in our ministry.

Finally, I would like for to stand if you have served as a district officer or as a warden, treasurer, vestry person or deputy to convention from your local parish. Although small, we have a great group of deacons led by Archdeacon Jean Chess, and our ordained priests, active and the retired overseen by the Rev. Arthur Dilg, are second to none. Finally, how could we function without the spouses of our clergy?

And now, will everyone in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who is baptized by water and the Holy Spirit please stand.

Look around you. Those standing are the people that really make the Diocese of Pittsburgh be what it is today. Many are new to leadership positions and others have taken on new responsibilities. Without you, we could not function. Before you sit down, give yourself a hand.

By the grace of God, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is returning to strength and normalcy and by 2012, I am convinced, will be poised to elect an outstanding next bishop to lead you to even greater heights. May we thank God for his many blessing upon us, and for the opportunity to work together in this piece of the Kingdom of Heaven called Pittsburgh.

+Kenneth L. Price, Jr.

 

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