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[The following is a discussion on the Pittsburgh loop concerning our sexuality dialog and rules of behavior. The bishops' letter has been challenged from two quarters, and a discussion will follow with links provided as contribution appear.   E. Fox. ]

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Diocese of Pittsburgh

PASTORAL LETTER - OCTOBER, 1996

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

In light of the recent and highly publicized opinion of the court in the trial of the Rt. Rev. Walter Righter, which has raised questions and caused confusion about the teaching of the Episcopal Church with regard to human sexuality and sexual behavior, we deem it necessary and appropriate at this time to issue this pastoral letter.

The purpose of this pastoral is to reaffirm and clarify the standards that are upheld in this diocese by your bishops and which are the basis for our mutual accountability as clergy. It is our godly direction that the clergy shall limit their sexual expression to the spouse of their marriage, or to abstinence from sexual relationship in singleness, and neither behave nor teach in any manner as to allow any other intention to be construed or concluded.

In accordance with Article XX of the Articles of Religion, we draw authority from the plain meaning of Holy Scripture commending nothing that is "contrary to God's word written". We uphold this normative and orthodox teaching of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We offer the model defined by the marriage office of the Book of Common Prayer as the basis for our teaching and the high ideal we commend to godly men and women for the shaping of their personal sexual values and behavior. We stand in harmony with the reasoned conclusion of yet the majority of objective thinking people. We therefore hold, as pleasing to God, hallowed by our tradition and essential to the peaceful order of human society, that full genital expression be reserved for the sealing and sustaining of the life-long bond of a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony.

This teaching guides your bishops as we interview and approve clergy called to ministry in this diocese. Each is asked that, upon accepting a call to Pittsburgh, he or she conform to this discipline and teaching, upholding fidelity in marriage and celibacy in single life. For clergy residing in but canonically responsible to another bishop, this standard governs the granting or removal of our license to function as an ordained minister in this diocese.

The call to be in the world, but not of the world like the call to set the mind on the Spirit rather than on the flesh, are calls which would be impossible apart from the community of the Church and the strength which God gives. May the Holy Spirit grant us all the grace and strength to minister as wholesome examples in holiness and godly life, to the praise of Jesus Christ.

+Alden M. Hathaway - Bishop

+Robert W. Duncan - Bishop Coadjutor

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[The following was issued as a challenge to the above. A supporting challenge follows this one from another church.]

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOP AND BISHOP COADJUTOR OF PITTSBURGH FROM THE CLERGY, WARDENS AND VESTRY OF CALVARY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA

June 9, 1997

Dear Bishops Hathaway and Duncan:

For the past several months, the Clergy, Wardens and Vestry of Calvary Episcopal Church have been considering a response to your pastoral letter of October, 1996, on the matter of human sexuality. We think it is appropriate that we make such a response at this time, so that you might have the benefit of our thinking on the issue as you prepare to go to General Convention, where the matters relating to human sexuality will be vigorously debated.

We take exception to your letter for several reasons. In the first place, at a time when responsible church leaders have urged all Episcopalians to continue to engage in prayerful dialogue around the issue, so that we may discern and respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, your letter  peremptorily cuts off discussion and would suggest that further thinking on the matter is neither desirable nor helpful for the soul's health of our church. It grieves us that your letter is in direct contradiction to the decision of the 1994 General Convention "that the bishops and deputies to this General Convention work to establish within their respective jurisdictions the means to encourage and enable the widest possible study and conversation on the subject of homosexuality," and "that the church commit itself to dialogue, with no expectation of uniformity, but every expectation of unity." It distresses us that your letter flies in the face of the sage counsel of your fellow bishops who constituted the court in the Righter trial, who wrote: "This issue will not be resolved by unilateral acts of bishops and their dioceses, or through the adoption of proclamations by groups of bishops or others expressing positions on the issues."

Secondly, in our view, your pastoral letter seems to remove from your pastoral concern the untold thousands of faithful members of out church who are homosexuals. Given that their sexual orientation is a condition in which they find themselves by lot and not by choice, your expectation that they choose between a commitment to a monogamous heterosexual relationship and enforced chastity offers options which are respectively inappropriate and unreasonable.

Thirdly, and most egregiously, statements in your letter would suggest that you have placed yourselves above the law. As bishops who have vowed to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church, you have decided that based on your understanding of orthodoxy, the decisions reached in the Righter trial by an ecclesiastical court duly established in accordance with the canons of this church are not binding, and indeed are not to be heeded by the clergy and people over whom you have ecclesiastical jurisdiction. To impose your own personal views on this matter is, in our opinion, inconsistent with the role of the episcopal office, and, as you can well appreciate, sets a dangerous precedent.

 We believe that God leads us on a continuing exploratory approach to theological and social issues. When such issues are openly, prayerfully and thoughtfully considered --- especially when those issues are difficult and divisive --- we find God. Our belief in a loving God who is present in all of creation impels the clergy and people of Calvary Church to work towards being a place where love and inclusivity predominate. In every age, Calvary has reached out to "the least, the lost and the last" in our society. Sam Shoemaker's groundbreaking ministry to alcoholics, John Baiz's courageous hiring of the first female priest in this Diocese, Arthur McNulty's heartfelt welcome to persons with AIDS, and Harold Lewis's impassioned pleas for an end to racism all have strengthened our commitment to a church in which, to use Bishop Browning's motto, "there are no outcasts."

Because we at Calvary are committed to building on the foundations of such a ministry, characterized by an all-embracing inclusivity, your letter threatens to place your clergy, especially, on the horns of a dilemma. You seem to be asking them to choose between upholding the doctrine, discipline and worship of this church and obeying what amounts to a godly admonition of their bishops. You will certainly understand that if, based on your own conscience and your understanding of Scripture, you have objected to the interpretation of doctrine by a church tribunal, you have implicitly given the prerogative to your clergy with regard to the directives of your pastoral letter.

 Moreover, we respectfully suggest that human sexuality is not the cut-and-dried issue you would purport it to be. We do not believe that the matter can be considered settled based solely on an appeal to "orthodoxy" or Biblical inerrancy. We urge you to act and speak instead in accordance with the pastoral study document, Continuing the Dialogue, promulgated by the House of Bishops at the 1994 General Convention, which emphatically affirms: "The Bible as a whole will not in itself, without interpretation, give answers to specific questions of sexual conduct." What is more, the practice of Biblical proof-texting on this issue does not take into account learnings gleaned from recent Biblical and theological probings and virtually ignores insights gained through investigations of both the natural and social sciences. Unlike some faith communities whose theology has been sola scriptura, it is the genius of Anglicanism that a more enlightened understanding of theological issues will emerge based on an appeal to the three-legged stool of Scripture, tradition and reason.

The church's views on many issues have evolved over the years owing to the fact that reason has tempered the rigidity that can all too easily characterize the nature of the other two legs of the stool. Were it not for a prudent use of reason that has aided us in our interpretation of both Scripture and tradition, the church would still be justifying slavery, declaring women to be second-class citizens, and imposing Western cultural baggage on "heathen" in our efforts to bring the Gospel to the nethermost parts of the world. In the words of the Bishops' pastoral study document: "Scripture and tradition require reason, and authority for interpretation rests on the community of faith as a whole."

Before Bishop Duncan's consecration as bishop, he spoke eloquently of his desire to gather all in the diocese, conservatives and moderates alike, around a common discussion table. It was a vision that Calvary cheered and greeted with great hope. But your pastoral letter, striking as it does at the heart of the commitment to inclusivity which we and many others in the Diocese, cherish, belies that promise and makes us wonder if our contributions to the discussion would be taken seriously. It is precisely because the positions on human sexuality held by Calvary members and others in the Diocese are divergent from yours, that we must forge ahead, united by faith in our common Lord, guided by the Holy Spirit, and girded by prayer, in an ongoing and open dialogue. Our faith and experience permit us to do no less.

Yours respectfully,

(The Rev. Dr.) Harold T. Lewis, Rector
(The Rev.) Margaret S. Austin, Associate Rector
Charles M. Grimstad, Senior Warden
James F. Bauerle, Junior Warden
Deborah Dodds, Secretary for the Vestry

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CHRIST CHURCH - NORTH HILLS
EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH

Rogers T. Woods, Rector

An open letter to the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Pittsburgh, in response to and support of the letter from Calvary

From the Clergy, Wardens, and Vestry of Christ Church, North Hills, Pittsburgh, PA

July 8, 1997

Dear Bishops Hathaway and Duncan,

The leadership of Christ Church has also been concerned for some time about the issues addressed and the tone of the pastoral letter that you sent to us in October. We are pleased with the response of the leadership of Calvary, Shadyside, in their open letter to you of June 9, and we add our endorsement of their views. We urge you in your conduct of the affairs of this diocese and your deliberations at General Convention to prayerfully consider what is being said.

If there is anything that seems clear to us at this moment in the history of our church, it is that there is not a consensus on the subject of homosexuality. For the last two triennia, we have been asked by the General Covnention to maintain prayer and dialogue on this issue. There has been no support of this whatsoever from the Bishop of Pittsburgh, and except for the individual work done in this regard at parishes, such as Calvary, Shadyside, Christ Church, North Hills, St. Pauls, Mt. Lebanon, and Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, the call to dialogue has been ignored in Pittsburgh. Instead, we have received a stream of pronouncements telling us only what the Bishops think and implying that this is what we are to think as well. This pastoral letter is simply the latest of these.

The effect has been to send a clear message that while persons of homosexual orientation may be finding a voice in this society as the barriers to their full inclusion continue to crumble, they are not finding a welcome in our congregations, except as suspect sinners who are in particular need of repentance. This is happening, curiously, in a society where recognition and appreciation of their contribution to our common life continues to grow. Instead of being a place of refuge, these brothers and sisters in Christ have received from the leadership of this diocese a particular burden. We believe that such an attitude has no support in the Gospel.

  At Christ Church, our communion rail and our pews are open to all those who come looking for the wonder of the compassion of God and the power of grace. We preach inclusion and hope. We place no prior conditions on God's love.

In the baptism service that is conducted in our parishes with the promises renewed on the Sunday of the Resurrection, we promise to "...seek and serve Chrsit in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself", and to "...strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being." Christ Church is a Gospel driven parish where the leadership and people actively work to live those promises in our lives as we say them with our lips.

  May God grant us humble and prayerful hearts as we endeavor together to discover the Kingdom and extend God's compassion to all humankind. May God bless this diocese and its churches as we live out the implications of our faith.

Faithfully,

(The Rev.) Rodgers T. Wood, Rector
(The Rev.) Pamela J. Breakey, Assistant
(The Rev.) Richard M. Barnes, Assistant
John Schaeffer, Senior Warden
Colleen Kilbert, Junior Warden
Mary Ellen Fallon, Secretary for the Vestry
 

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