A while back I did some coverage on the effort of some Pittsburgh Episcopalians to break away from the US Episcopal Church. In a way, covering the press conference was a weird thing to me, because I had covered a similar story for Reuters a few years back.
I got to the Episcopal press conference on time, and of course it didn’t start on time. The press conference was at Trinity Cathedral, in downtown Pittsburgh. But when I, a reporter from the Toronto Starr and other reporters and camera news people showed up on time for the press conference, an ongoing worship service wasn’t over yet. So we hung around the hallway outside the sanctuary, waiting for the service to end. Finally, the group of bishops solemnly filed out in their vestments, heading to an upper room, where they would make their announcement. Here’s the first part of the story:
Conservative bishops upset with U.S. Episcopal Church stands on gay issues said on Friday they will call a constitutional convention to form a new "Anglican union" in North America.
"This is a time of reformation," said Robert Duncan, Episcopal Church bishop of Pittsburgh who convened the group. "We hope to go through this in a way that brings honor and glory to God."
Bishop Duncan seemed like a fine fellow, but when he said that his group hoped to break away from its national church and bring glory to God while doing it, I was a bit incredulous. Not because I didn’t think Bishop Duncan was serious in his intent, but rather, because it seemed to me at the time that bringing glory to God was not the crux of the dispute. Reuters titled the story, “Conservative Episcopalians Plot Separate Church.”
The Episcopalian story reminded me of a story I did a few years back during the Methodist convention here in Pittsburgh. The story, of course, was about gay issues and the Methodists. Since I couldn’t find the piece online anymore, here’s part of it:
Methodists Fail to Heal Rift Over Clergy
Wed May 5, 2004 07:33 PM ET
By Jonathan Barnes
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - Supporters of gay clergy in the United Methodist Church complained bitterly on Wednesday over a refusal by the third-largest U.S. Christian denomination to soften its stance on homosexuality.
Delegates at the Methodist general conference this week rejected repeated attempts to change the church stance and reaffirmed a view of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching. This came despite a church decision, upheld on Tuesday, to allow a lesbian minister to stay in her post.
The conference's position has left some liberal advocates contemplating their future within the church.
"As a gay man, I certainly don't feel very loved (in the church). As a part of this community, I have an obligation to push for greater acceptance," John Fletcher of Minneapolis told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.
Here's what happened with that.
All of this stuff reminds me of a piece I wrote sometime back for this blog. I didn’t understand this gay Christian debate entirely then, and I still don’t now. But I don’t think it’s right to exclude gay people from communities, though I can understand how some people believe that being gay is incompatible with Christian theology. Still, why would anyone, gay or straight, want to join a church that wouldn’t have him as a member because of who he loves?
I don’t understand why the Episcopalians and the Methodists can’t simply form their own pro-gay or neigh-gay denominations. You could have the Free Gay Methodists, and the Gay-Free Episcopalians, kind of like the Free Will Baptists . I’m kidding, but I wish it were that simple.
Clearly, what these denominations’ brothers and sisters are fighting about is not only differing interpretations of the Bible, but also power and property. Trinity Cathedral, where I attended the Episcopal press conference, is a beautiful old stone structure with a historic cemetery next to it, where an Indian chief and Revolutionary War heroes are buried. On the other side of the small cemetery is First Presbyterian Church, home of many Tiffany stained glass windows and the former pulpit of evangelist Katherine Kuhlman. It also is the church I grew up attending. I hope I don’t end up there for a press conference in the future.