The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh reaches an important milestone and moves into a new phase of rebuilding this weekend. It meets in convention to approve a Provisional Bishop, conduct business that points to both greater stability and vitality, and to witness the ordination of a woman with deep ties to the diocese’s only predominantly African-American parish.
The governing body will convene Friday and Saturday, October 16 and 17, 2009, at the traditional seat of the diocese, Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh.
Approximately 145 clergy and lay deputies from the diocese’s 28 active congregations will be asked to affirm the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., as Provisional Bishop. In that role, he would assume full ecclesiastical authority and responsibility as chief pastor and overseer of diocesan administration and finances until a permanent bishop can be elected and installed.
“I look forward to coming to Pittsburgh as part of a collaborative effort. Let’s work together to find out what we can do to make this the strong diocese that is part of its history,” says Bishop Price.
This will be the first regular meeting of the diocesan convention since many diocesan leaders and clergy left the Episcopal Church one year ago this month. Unlike the Special Convention held in December 2008 to quickly fill dozens of vacancies created by the departures, this weekend’s convention will routinely fill about two dozen expiring terms on various diocesan boards and committees.
The Rev. Dr. James Simons, President of the Standing Committee, will tell the convention in his State of the Diocese report that there has been “tremendous progress” in the past year, especially in creating a diverse environment “in which we feel free to be ourselves and are eager to know each other’s stories and to rejoice in and with one another.”
Other business to be conducted at convention includes adoption of a budget that lowers the amount most parishes will pay to the diocese in assessments. Among the resolutions submitted for approval, one that called for merger talks will be withdrawn by its principal sponsor in favor of exploring a range of strategic partnerships.
Deputies will hear a legal update from the diocesan Chancellor. The convention takes place less than two weeks after a judge ruled that this diocese is the entity described in a 2005 court order concerning diocesan assets and is the “rightful trustee” of that property. Convention also coincides with the Standing Committee’s offer of a pastoral, non-disciplinary “release” of clergy who are no longer active in the ministry of the Episcopal Church.
A closing Eucharist Saturday afternoon features the ordination of Linda Tardy Wilson as a vocational, or permanent, deacon of the Episcopal Church.
Ms. Wilson’s family has been part of Holy Cross parish in Pittsburgh’s Homewood section for more than 100 years. “I stand on the shoulders of those ancestors who made so many sacrifices so that I am where I am today,” she says. “I am ever so grateful for the support given to me from family, dear friends, and others over these many years to reach this day.”
The convention opens Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. with a prayer service to be led by Bishop Price. He will be the guest of honor at reception immediately following.
Registration for deputies and observers opens Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., with Morning Prayer and the business session beginning at 9:00 a.m. The closing Eucharist with Ordination is set for 2:45 p.m.
All events are open to the public and take place at Trinity Cathedral, 328 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh.
A Leadership Transition
The diocesan Standing Committee is recommending that Bishop Kenneth Price be given full ecclesiastical authority “to exercise all the duties and offices of the Bishop of the Diocese, until a Bishop is elected or ordained for the Diocese,” a process that is expected to take two to three years.
Bishop Price has served in a similar capacity before, having led the Diocese of Southern Ohio from January 2006 through April 2007. He has served as the bishop suffragan of that diocese since 1994. The bishop will continue to hold that title, but will spend almost all of his time serving the Pittsburgh diocese.
As a native of West Virginia and young priest there, Bishop Price is very familiar with Western Pennsylvania and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“I know what we have to build on here. I am confident that the Diocese of Pittsburgh can survive what we’ve been through in the last year and emerge from that a strong vineyard for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” he says.
Bishop Price’s arrival marks the end of Bishop Robert Johnson’s tenure as Assisting Bishop. He came to Pittsburgh on a part-time basis in January 2009 and extended his service until a Provisional Bishop would be in place.
“It was exciting for me as we shared our gifts in ministry with each other in the ongoing task of the rebuilding ministry to which we’ve been called,” he wrote in a farewell to the diocese.
Bishop Johnson will preside and preach at the convention’s closing Eucharist Saturday.
Business Agenda Highlights
As the date for convention approached, four action items were being revised based on discussion at an October 4 pre-convention session and other feedback.
Resolution 4, which originally called for a task force “to study the possibility of the reunion” with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, will be replaced with a substitute resolution, according to its chief sponsor, the Rev. Dr. Bruce Robison.
The new proposal calls for discussions with a number of neighboring dioceses to explore “collaborative partnerships to enhance the ministries of our dioceses and to improve the efficiency of diocesan operations.”
“It makes more sense to look at our relationships and where they might lead, than to start with the assumption of a pre-determined outcome,” says Dr. Robison, who co-authored the substitute resolution with Lionel Deimel.
The Committee on Canons is recommending two changes to previously submitted motions. A wording change in the motion concerning Constitution Article III substitutes “physically resident” as a criteria for clergy to vote at convention. The committee is also offering a revision to Canon VII, which would establish the Diocesan Administrator and Treasurer as separate positions, but allow for one person to hold both jobs.
Deputies will be asked to approve an $842,283 budget for 2010. The plan eliminates a three-tiered assessment formula that has been in use for several years.
“This was a regressive tax that put a higher burden on the mid-sized parishes, than others,” explains Joan Gundersen, the diocesan treasurer. The new assessments would be calculated at 5% of the first $35,000 of parish income; any amount above that would be assessed at 11%.
On the expense side, the diocese would allocate more funds to support congregations and special outreach initiatives, especially for youth.
Linda Tardy Wilson & Grandchildren
The diocese’s new deacon, Linda Tardy Wilson, was born and raised in Pittsburgh, where she graduated from Schenley High School. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and did graduate work at Rutgers and the Trinity School for Ministry.
Ms. Wilson and her husband of 37 years, James, have two married children and four grandchildren, all under the age of three.
She describes her home parish of Holy Cross as a “sanctuary of hope and comfort.” Following her ordination, she will be assigned to serve at All Souls Episcopal Church in North Versailles.
Her ordination liturgy will be a festive celebration involving clergy, clad in red stoles, and laity from across the diocese. Banners representing parishes of the diocese will punctuate the procession.
A combined choir led by Cathedral organist and choirmaster David Schaap will feature two anthems, God So Loved the World (Stainer) and Ain’a That Good News (Dawson).
If You Plan to Attend
Trinity Cathedral is located on Sixth Avenue, between Smithfield and Wood Streets, in downtown Pittsburgh.
Parking for the Cathedral is available at the Parking Garage under Mellon Square Park and reached off either 6th or 5th Streets, or in the Oliver Street Garage directly across from the Cathedral’s Oliver Street entrance.
Lunch and refreshments are available at the Cathedral. A $10 donation is requested to help defray the cost of food. Contact the diocese office at 412-721-0853 for more details.