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Local Episcopalians to tackle three key issues at convention

Saturday, November 02, 2002

By Steve Levin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

An innocuously named proposal called Resolution No. 1 will be the center of attention at the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese's 137th annual convention that continues today in Washington County.

Modeled after a resolution passed earlier this year by the Diocese of South Carolina, the Pittsburgh version up for a vote today will, if passed, clarify the local diocese's stance on three of the Episcopal Church's most discussed and divisive topics: liturgies, same-sex unions and canons contradicting the Anglican Communion.

The Pittsburgh resolution has been circulating among the diocese's 72 parishes since late summer. Its original language was changed Monday in an effort to mollify opponents -- several protested against it in front of Trinity Cathedral last Saturday --who object to its conservative nature.

But while the language is different, the document's intent remains unchanged.

"I find it really hurtful that there are people all over the church who think it's OK to render other people invisible," said the Rev. Catherine Munz, pastor of St. Brendan's Episcopal Church in Franklin Park.

The resolution declares that "we believe that the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired, and we seek to be obedient to them as our guiding authority" and states that the General Convention, the highest authority in the Episcopal Church, "has no authority to alter or amend received truths."

The resolution's three main points are that the diocese will:

Not use gender neutral language in the liturgy, such as "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer" instead of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" when referring to the Trinity.

Oppose its priests blessing same-sex unions.

Not accept canons which mandate clergy and laity to comply with changes in variance with the worldwide Anglican Communion and the historic catholic faith.

To pass, the resolution must receive a majority of votes in separate balloting by clergy and laity delegates attending the two-day convention at the Holiday Inn Meadowlands in Washington, Pa.

The clergy in at least 29 parishes endorsed the original version. Bishop Robert W. Duncan encouraged a substitute version that would retain the main points without language "tearing one another apart."

While the resolution is expected to pass, Duncan said that "it will not affect how I administer my leadership of the diocese."

The 20,000-member Pittsburgh Diocese is considered among the more conservative of the 120 Episcopal dioceses. With the Episcopal Church's biennial general convention scheduled for July in Minneapolis, passage of the resolution would send a message to the church's national leadership that the diocese will not accede to dissenting canons.

The Episcopal Church is part of the 70-million member worldwide Anglican Communion.

Steve Levin can be reached at slevin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1919.

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