'Firewall' Resolution Passes in Pittsburgh

Episcopal News Service. November 5, 2002 [2002-255-3]

A resolution touted as an attempt to build a 'firewall' between self-described 'orthodox Anglicans' and decisions of the General Convention passed at the 137th annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh on November 2.

The resolution, modeled after one passed in February by the Diocese of South Carolina, states that the diocese:

+ affirms 'the Creedal confession of the Triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and of the unique saving work of Jesus Christ. We cannot use liturgies that depart from scriptural revelation and the historic Faith'

+ affirms 'that in God's love for all people, the only sexually intimate relationships receiving His blessing in Scripture and Tradition are those of a man and a woman within an intended life-long, faithful, marital covenant. The Church cannot bless any other sexual relationship, and we cannot recognize the blessing of any other.'

+ affirms 'the right of conscience for those who cannot agree with changes in the Faith, Order, or Practice of the Episcopal Church when those changes contradict the expressed mind of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the historic catholic faith. We cannot accept canons which mandate clergy and laity to comply with such changes.'

A similar resolution was passed earlier by the Diocese of Fort Worth.

The 93 priests and deacons at the convention favored it 73-14, with six abstentions. The 174 lay deputies adopted it 119-49, with six abstentions.

'We voted and recorded the pattern of our vote. We tried not to be winners and losers, but rather brothers and sisters. Though divided, we sought to be 'one church' in how we did what we did,' said Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan. Duncan, who initially supported the resolution, stated later in pre-convention meetings that he thought the resolution 'divides and hurts people.' He also provided assurances that the resolution would not limit the use of future liturgies by individual parishes wanting to use them, although such use might have to be overseen by another bishop. Duncan took no part in the discussion of the resolution, although he did preside.

The vote was taken by secret ballot after a motion to table the resolution failed. After its passage, members of the ad hoc group Those Opposed to Resolution One (TORO), accompanied by supporters, walked to the front of the convention floor wearing signs that read 'Christ Unites, Resolution 1 Divides,' and the Rev. Cynthia Bronson-Sweigart of Church of the Redeemer in Squirrel Hill read a statement.

'We are in profound pain over the positions stated in this resolution and concerned about the consequences its adoption will have on the already fragile common life of this diocese,' the statement said. 'We believe this unyielding document further divides our people, rendering some of us invisible. Some priests and parishes will bear allegiance to the dictates of this document and the diocese, and some will bear allegiance to the dictates of the national church. In a diocese where the fabric of unity is increasingly threadbare, passage of this resolution creates a tear which is almost impossible to mend.'

The statement was followed by silent prayer for the unity of the church and a statement from the Rev. J. Douglas McGlynn, speaking for the sponsors of the resolution. Noting that the resolution was not intended to silence the voice of those who were opposed to its content, McGlynn introduced a motion to append the voting tallies, both clergy and lay, to the communication of the resolution to the appropriate officers of the General Convention, scheduled to meet next summer in Minneapolis.

The TORO group held 'A Vigil of Prayer for the Unity of the Church' at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh the weekend before the convention. They reported to the convention that they had gathered 645 signatures in opposition to the resolution.