Via Stand Firm:
Friday, January 09, 2009
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A group from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that voted against secession filed a court motion yesterday asking that it be given access to $20 million in endowments and funds that belong to the church.
Both sides in the court battle call themselves "The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America," but in October, a group representing about 60 percent of the local parishes voted to join the more theologically conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America.
In papers filed yesterday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, the Episcopal Diocese argued that the Anglican group stipulated in October 2005 that if it were to leave the church, all property and assets held by the "Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America ... shall continue to be so held ... regardless of whether some or even a majority of the parishes in the Diocese might decide not to remain in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America."
The Rev. Peter Frank, a spokesman for the Anglican diocese, said that's not what his side intended in signing the stipulation.
He said that his organization has the majority of the parishes, and that the group left as a diocese.
"We haven't had to rebuild anything," the Rev. Frank said. "They're the smaller group. They didn't win the vote. Our contention is that we are the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh."
The Rev. James Simons, president of the governing diocesan Standing Committee, said that doesn't make sense.
"They are now the Anglican Diocese of the Southern Cone," he said. "The affiliation is with South America."
It will be up to the court to sort through the issue.
"The sensible thing to do about this is to make a fair division," the Rev. Frank said. "No one, at the end of the day, should lose everything they've built over the years because of a decision of conscience."