FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2008
REORGANIZED EPISCOPAL DIOCESE RECOGNIZED AS LEGITIMATE
New Leadership Formed from Group that Opposed Realignment;
Governing Convention Set for December 13
Pittsburgh, PA – Today the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church recognized a local group committed to the U.S. church as the legitimate Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The recognition by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori came in the form of accepting a new Standing Committee as the governing body of the diocese that remained after former leaders voted to leave the church on October 4th.
“I do recognize the Rev. James Simons and the two people he appointed as the rightful Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh,” Jefferts Schori wrote in an e-mail to the Rev. Simons, the only remaining member of the Standing Committee and the one responsible for reorganizing a diocese within the Episcopal Church.
The new Standing Committee consists of the Rev. Dr. James Simons, who will chair the group, along with the Rev. Jeffrey Murph and Ms. Mary Roehrich. A Standing Committee serves as the ecclesiastical authority of a diocese in the absence of a bishop.
All three were leaders of Across the Aisle, a theologically diverse group that began working about nine months ago in anticipation of a split in the diocese.
Currently, Across the Aisle counts 19 parishes on record as remaining in the Episcopal Church. In one additional parish, the Vestry voted to remain but asked not to be listed because of unresolved division among its congregation. A complete list is available at www.episcopalpgh.org.
With today’s recognition, that website, formerly for Across the Aisle, becomes the official website of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The Presiding Bishop will now send representatives to meet with the new Standing Committee according to church laws that govern “vacant” dioceses, that is, those without a bishop. The vacancy designation is significant, in that it regards the newly recognized diocese as a continuation of the former diocese, as opposed to a new entity. The Episcopal House of Bishops deposed the former Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert W. Duncan, from ministry on September 18, 2008, two weeks before a majority of diocesan convention deputies voted to “realign” with the more conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone based in Argentina. Those that claim to have realigned also continue to call themselves “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh,” yet claim to be part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and not part of The Episcopal Church.
The New Leadership
Simons was the only member of the pre-convention Standing Committee to remain committed to the Episcopal Church. On Wednesday of this week, after determining that no other former Standing Committee member would join him, he asked Murph and Roehrich to serve with him on a new Standing Committee. Simons then informed the Presiding Bishop about the reconstituted committee.
The Rev. Simons is a Pittsburgh native, has been a priest since 1985, and served the past twenty years as the Rector of St. Michael’s of the Valley in Ligonier PA.
He has been elected a deputy to the national General Convention six times. He is filling his third term on The President of the House of Deputies’ Council of Advice. Simons holds a degree from Allegheny College in Environmental Science and a Doctorate of Ministry from the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.
“This is an exciting time and there is much work to be done, but I know that we are equal to the task. Keep all of this in prayer as we move forward in grace as the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh,” said Simons.
The Rev. Murph has spent the last 14 years as Rector of St. Thomas Church in Oakmont. He also serves as Chaplain at UPMC St. Margaret. He began his ordained ministry in 1986 in his native North Carolina, after graduating from the Virginia Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity.
Murph says he also prays that “we move forward in charity and focused on mission” as the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Ms. Roehrich has been active in church leadership for more than twenty years. She is a member of St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, where she once served in the highest elected lay leadership role of Senior Warden. She is the long-standing District 7 Deputy to the annual diocesan convention. She has also served on Diocesan Council, the Cathedral Chapter, and the Commission on Archives & History. An artist and art historian, Roehrich holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Cornell and a Masters in Art History from the University of Pittsburgh.
“This is our opportunity to create a new culture in the diocese, based on our commitment to each other,” Roehrich says.
The new Standing Committee will now take on the priority of filling other diocesan offices and calling a new organizing convention, scheduled for Saturday, December 13, 2008, at a location to be announced. At a point in the process, a bishop will be selected to provide a degree of temporary sacramental services and diocesan leadership. The search for a permanent diocesan bishop could take a year or more.
An informational meeting for parishes and individuals interested in remaining part of a diocese in the Episcopal Church will be held at Trinity Cathedral, downtown Pittsburgh, on Thursday, October 16, from 7:00 -9:00 p.m.
Along with naming a new Standing Committee, the Rev. Simons appointed several others to assist the diocese in various professional capacities.
The Rev. Scott Quinn becomes Director of Pastoral Care. Quinn remains Rector of the Church of the Nativity in Crafton. In his added responsibilities, Quinn will assist parishes or divided congregations that are in need of clergy and lay liturgical leaders.
- Andy Roman of the law firm Cohen & Grigsby and member of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, as Chancellor, or chief legal counsel;
- Dr. Joan Gundersen of Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, Treasurer;
- Alice Ramser of St. Andrew’s, New Kensington, Office Administrator;
- Rich Creehan, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, Director of Communications;
- Andy Muhl, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, manager of the diocesan website, www.episcopalpgh.org.
All appointments are on an interim basis, until an expanded Standing Committee or bishop is in place to set future direction and staffing for the diocese.
Statements and additional information on The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh are available at www.episcopalpgh.org.
For more information, contact Rich Creehan, Director of Communications