Bishop Dorsey McConnell writes to members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to announce a peaceful resolution of long-standing property disputes between the diocese and nine parishes of the Anglican Church in North America:
Nearly ten years ago, the Diocese of Pittsburgh was split, with many of its members separating themselves from us. Among other consequences, there were thorny questions in regard to the ownership and stewardship of a number of parish properties. This week, the diocese entered into an agreement with nine parishes that hold legal title to their church property and whose congregations now participate in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
I am happy to say this agreement is an amicable resolution of a painful and contentious matter. It is the result of years of quiet, good-faith conversation. While acknowledging our deep differences, both sides have been concerned with seeking the highest degree of relationship possible, in the hope of reducing the scandal to the Gospel posed by the split. This process eventually led us, mutually, to engage the help of two respected mediators. Through these efforts, we can now proceed on a path that acknowledges the legitimacy of both the legal ownership held by the parishes and the trust interest held by our Church. We do this, as the agreement states, by “seeking blessing on one another.”
I believe this agreement is, on both sides, a sincere expression of obedience — however imperfect — to Christ’s command that we love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12). Through this accord, we mutually forgive wrongs. We promise not to speak ill or do harm. We build relationship for the future. We recognize that each hears the call of Christ and answers it in their own way through distinct works of mission and evangelism, and we allow those works to go forward, unimpeded by the threat of litigation. In this commitment we hope the wider Church, and indeed the world, may in some small way hear the voice of Jesus who is always calling us to be reconciled to one another and to God.
I commend to you the joint public announcement and Executive Summary that are enclosed with this letter [PDF]. These documents spell out how the agreement will work and what the parties expect from and pledge to each other. I am also pleased to report that we have shared the agreement with the Presiding Bishop, and he has commended our creative efforts to address the diocese’s trust interest in parish property.
We all owe immeasurable gratitude to our Chancellor, Andy Roman, for his wise and patient shepherding of negotiations through the many years, keeping deep faithfulness to Christ even in the practice of civil law. I wish to thank the team from the diocese who helped negotiate the final phase, namely Russ Ayres, the Rev. Jim Simons, Jerry Stephenson, the Rev. Leslie Reimer, and the Rev. Kris Opat, along with the current members of the Board of Trustees and Standing Committee who gave the necessary approvals of this agreement, and to past members and others in the diocese who offered guidance along the way. I am grateful for the services of our mediators, David McClenahan and Mark Nordenberg, and to the parish rectors, vestries, congregants and their counselors who entered into this agreement with us. Finally I note with gratitude the initial invitation, seven years ago this month, of Bishop Ken Price toward the ACNA congregations, to seek an amicable solution to our property disputes, after which the congregations soon responded with a similar public indication of their desire to resolve these differences.
Follow TLC for more detailed reporting of the agreement and responses to it.