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Pittsburgh Settlement Now in Effect

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh announces that an agreement with nine congregations of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has received the required the legal approval:

The agreement affirms the congregations’ ownership and continued use of church properties to which they hold legal title, while also preserving the historic trust interest held by the Episcopal Diocese in those properties. It further establishes mechanisms for an ongoing relationship between the diocese and the parishes. All parties involved described it as a “distinctively Christian compromise.”

The agreement was first announced on February 28, 2018, subject to the necessary court and civil administrative approvals. These have now been granted.

On December 4, 2018, Judge Joseph James of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas approved the agreement as jointly requested by the diocese and the individual parishes. Previously, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office stated that it had no objection in light of laws governing non-profit organizations in the Commonwealth.

With the court’s action, the agreement takes effect immediately.

A joint statement released on Oct. 29 emphasized good will on both sides:

“Even though the issues resolved here originated through division and were often the cause of great pain, we know that as Christians we are called to be ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation, first among ourselves, and then with the larger world. The Episcopal Diocese and the Parishes have come to recognize that our mutual desire to live according to the Gospel and to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ far outweighs any differences we have with each other, and this agreement frees us to carry out that mission as we believe God is calling us to do,” said Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Diocese.

Bishop James Hobby of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh issued the following statement in support of the parishes entering into this agreement: “I feel that the settlement is quite remarkable, given the litigious culture in which we live. Clearly, hard work and difficult conversations were part of the negotiations. But, biblical principles and a shared commitment to follow Christ provided a healthy context for pursuing the discussions with mutual respect and understanding. A commitment to our fundamental mission was greater than our differences. While differences remain between the parties, I pray that Jesus’ prayer for unity in Him and His truth will one day find expression throughout the Church.”

These three paragraphs state the core of the agreement:

Under the Agreement the Parishes will continue to use the church buildings and other real property that is part of the Historic Property for their Christian worship and ministry. The Parishes have agreed that the Episcopal Diocese may make use of the Parish historic church buildings to meet pastoral needs consistent with the shared history, Christian heritage, values and beliefs of the Parties, or to engage in joint ministries with the Parish. The Parties have agreed to a cooperative process to address such issues.

The Parishes have agreed they will not lease, sell, assign their interests in, alter or encumber the historic church buildings without the consent of the Episcopal Diocese, and the Episcopal Diocese has agreed to cooperate with any such request and to not withhold its consent unreasonably. The Agreement specifies several factors or circumstances to be considered in the event of such a transaction.

… As part of the Agreement, each of the Parishes will pay an annual fee to the Episcopal Diocese. For the first 20 years of the Agreement, the annual fee will be 3.25% of the operating revenues of the Parish for the prior calendar year. For each year thereafter, the annual fee will be 1.75% of the operating revenues of the Parish for the prior calendar year.

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