Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

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This article is about the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Pittsburgh. For the diocese of the Anglican Church in North America, see Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Seal of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
Territory Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties, Pennsylvania
Ecclesiastical province III
Parishes 37 (currently affiliating with the diocese)[1]
Members 8,709 baptized members (2014)[2]
Cathedral Trinity Cathedral
Current leadership
Bishop Dorsey W. M. McConnell [3]

Location of the Diocese of Pittsburgh,  325 Oliver Avenue, Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Location of the Diocese of Pittsburgh,

325 Oliver Avenue, Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is a diocese in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Geographically, it encompasses several counties in Western Pennsylvania, and its cathedral is located in downtown Pittsburgh. It was formed in 1865 by dividing the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Dorsey W. M. McConnell was ordained and consecrated as its current bishop in the fall of 2012.[4]

Early history[edit]

The Diocese of Pittsburgh covers the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and includes the current counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland. In the mid-18th century this rich transmontane area drew the first Indian traders, exploring surveyors, military men and later settlers, many of whom were at least nominal Anglicans primarily from Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The earliest penetration of the southwest corner of the state, then sparsely populated with Indians, was made by Episcopalians who set up posts in the 1740s along the Allegheny, Youghiogheny and Ohio rivers. Maryland surveyor Christopher Gist crossed the mountains to survey large claims of the best farm land. On Christmas Day in 1750, Gist read Prayers and delivered a homily to Indians and traders near what is now the town of Coshocton.[5]

Young George Washington, already a Virginia vestryman, was guided by Gist when he came west to warn the French to withdraw from this region claimed by the British. The French's refusal to leave led to invasion and capture of the tiny stockade built by Virginians at the future site of Pittsburgh in 1754. Washington read the burial office from the 1662 Prayer Book in 1755[5] when British churchman General Edward Braddock, fatally wounded while attempting to drive the French from Fort Duquesne at the Forks, was carried back over Chestnut Ridge and buried in the middle of the wagon tracks of US 40 in Fayette County. The successful 1758 campaign of British churchman General John Forbes marked the end of French control of the region.

When the first new migrating settlers arrived in the 1760s, there were no settled Episcopal clergy. Laity read Morning Prayer, mainly in farm cabins but sometimes at Fort Burd or Fort Pitt, or in public houses as those were established. Before the American Revolution there were no organized Episcopal churches left anywhere in this corner of the state. Some of the more dedicated laity maintained Prayer Book worship in their homes until after the first convention of 1789, but they kept no records, elected no vestries, and built no houses for worship. From then until the 1820s, the leadership of the scattered congregations established was mainly in the hands of the few early ministers who sought ordination as Episcopalians and rode wide itinerant circuits

The first known Episcopal services led by ordained clergy were conducted by Francis Reno. In 1794 he officiated alternately at Pittsburgh and Chartiers.[6]

Other clergy resident in this western third of what was then Diocese of Pennsylvania included Robert Ayres, a Methodist ordained in 1789, residing at Brownsville, Fayette County; and Joseph Doddridge, a Methodist ordained in 1792, residing in Independence, Washington County. John Taylor, raised in Ireland and originally a Presbyterian, was ordained to the Episcopal ministry in 1794. He moved to Washington County in 1797 to teach school, and was soon invited to lead a small congregation in Pittsburgh.[6]

In 1865, the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania was divided, and the western part became known as the Diocese of Pittsburgh.[7] John Barrett Kerfoot was the first bishop of the diocese, which then included 24 counties and 28 parishes.[5] In 1910 approval was granted for the division of the Diocese of Pittsburgh into two dioceses, and the northern part became the Diocese of Erie (now the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania). The Diocese of Pittsburgh took its current shape, covering the nine counties of southwestern Pennsylvania.


Main article: Anglican realignment

The Diocese of Pittsburgh was a theologically conservative diocese within the Episcopal Church. Robert Duncan in particular had a prominent role in the conservative position within the national church. In 2003, he and a group of other conservative bishops walked out of General Convention after the House of Bishops approved Gene Robinson's election as Bishop of New Hampshire. In January 2004, Duncan was elected the first moderator of the Anglican Communion Network.

In 2003, Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty sued the diocese and its bishops, Duncan and Scriven, specifically over actions taken by a special convention the diocese held after the Episcopal Church's 2003 General Convention.[8] At the special convention, the diocese had passed a resolution that asserted that all property of individual parishes belonged to the parishes themselves, rather than to the diocese. In the suit, Calvary claimed that the diocese could not take such an action, as it violated the Dennis Canon which states that parish property is held in trust for the diocese and the national church. The parties signed a court-approved settlement in October 2005. The settlement confirmed that all diocesan property would remain the property of "The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church U.S.A."[9] even if a majority of parishes left the Episcopal Church. It also created a process by which the diocese agreed to make decisions about property and assets should a congregation wish to leave the diocese.

On November 2, 2007, the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to change its constitution to remove accession to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church. The vote was 118 to 58 in the lay order and 109 to 24 in the clergy order.[10] As a result of this action, a September 18, 2008, session of the House of Bishops deposed Duncan from ordained ministry on charges of abandoning the communion of the church.[11]

To take effect, however, constitutional changes require votes at two successive annual conventions, and at its annual convention on October 4, 2008, 119 of 191 lay deputies and 121 of 160 clergy deputies voted on the second reading of constitutional changes intended to facilitate withdrawal from the Episcopal Church.[12] In additional votes, canonical changes were approved that were intended to move the diocese into the Province of the Southern Cone.[10] This is similar to what happened in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in 2007.


One member of the diocese's Standing Committee, the ecclesiastical authority in the absence of a bishop, remained in the Episcopal Church. That member, James Simons, appointed two additional members to the Standing Committee and informed Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop, of the situation. On October 9, 2008, Jefferts Schori acknowledged the reorganized Standing Committee as the legitimate ecclesiastical authority of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.[13]

David Jones, a suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, began serving as a consulting bishop on October 23 to assist the diocese in its rebuilding efforts. A special meeting of the diocesan convention was held on December 13. Twenty-seven congregations actively participated in the convention. The convention voted unanimously to reject the recent canonical changes and affirm the diocese's communion in the Episcopal Church. Robert Hodges Johnson, the retired Bishop of Western North Carolina, accepted the call to serve as assisting bishop and to lead the diocese, for the near term.[14] At the October 2009 convention, the Episcopal Diocese approved the call of Kenneth Price, Bishop of Southern Ohio as provisional bishop.

On October 5, 2009, a Pennsylvania court ruled that the diocese in communion with the Episcopal Church is the legal successor,[15] and on October 29, the rival diocese announced it had changed its name to the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.[16]

Calvary Episcopal Church had returned to court in December 2006 asking for enforcement of the stipulation paragraph guaranteeing that diocesan property would remain with a diocese in the Episcopal Church. Following the 2008 diocesan convention, the Episcopal Diocese and the Episcopal Church joined in that legal action. In October 2009, the Commonwealth Court ruled that all diocesan property belonged to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that was part of the Episcopal Church.[17] In January 2010 the court received a schedule of property including an investment portfolio of over $20 million and the deeds to 49 properties including 22 occupied by congregations participating in the Anglican Church of North America.[18] The Commonwealth Court of Appeals affirmed the award of property February 2011 and refused to reconsider its ruling in March 2011.[19]

The same day that the Commonwealth Court of Appeals issued its opinion, the Episcopal Diocese announced it had reached a property settlement with St. Philip's Church, Moon Township. One week later they announced a second settlement with Somerset Anglican Fellowship. On October 9, 2012 a third congregation announced a unique settlement with the Episcopal Diocese in which the diocese invested its equity in the building in the ministry to homeless veterans that constitutes the focus of Shepherd's Heart Fellowship. Shepherd's Heart remained a member of the Anglican diocese.

Trinity Cathedral was shared by both the Anglican diocese and the Episcopal diocese until December 2011, when the cathedral chapter voted to align only with the Episcopal Diocese.[20] In 2012 three of the parishes that originally chose to participate in the Anglican diocese resumed participation in the Episcopal Diocese. A fourth parish returned in 2013. Since the court decision ten Anglican congregations whose property was included in that decision have returned their buildings to the Episcopal Diocese and found other quarters. The diocese is rebuilding congregations at three of those buildings, plus one re-opened empty building recovered in the court decision. At the end of 2013 the diocese had 37 parishes and slightly over 9000 baptized members.[21]

List of bishops[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Episcopal Church statistics, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/2014_table_of_statistics_english_0.pdf
  3. ^ a b "Pittsburgh diocese elects Dorsey W. M. McConnell as 8th bishop". Episcopal News Service (ENS). April 21, 2012. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/04/21/diocese-of-pittsburgh-elects-dorsey-w-m-mcconnell-as-8th-bishop/
  4. ^ "Episcopalians install new bishop in tradition-bound ceremony". Pittsburgh Tribune Review Oct. 20, 2012. http://triblive.com/home/2754533-784/bishop-church-mcconnell-ceremony-rev-diocese-episcopal-presented-calvary-dorsey#axzz29sZJklMh
  5. ^ a b c Benton, A.A. (1884). The Church Cyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History and Ritual. 
  6. ^ a b Dahlinger, Charles (January 1918). "Reverend John Taylor and his Commonplace Book". The Western Pennsylvania Historical Society 1: 3. 
  7. ^ "History of the Diocese".Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican).
  8. ^ "Episcopal Property Lawsuit Filed Here". Post-Gazette.
  9. ^ http://www.pittsburghepiscopal.org/property/stipulation.pdf
  10. ^ a b Schjonberg, Mary Frances (2008-10-04). "Pittsburgh votes to leave Episcopal Church, align with Southern Cone". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved October 11, 2008. 
  11. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances (2007-11-02). "Pittsburgh convention approves first reading of constitutional changes". Episcopal Life. Retrieved October 12, 2008. 
  12. ^ Hamill, Sean D. (2008-10-04). "Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese Votes for Split". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2008. 
  13. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances (2008-10-10). "Pittsburgh Standing Committee fills vacancies, seeks Presiding Bishop's assistance". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved October 12, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Bishop Named for Pittsburgh Episcopalians". Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
  15. ^ Calvary Episcopal Church, et al. v. Robert William Duncan, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, et al. October 5, 2009.
  16. ^ "Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Responds to Court Ruling". Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Press Office, October 29, 2009.
  17. ^ http://www.episcopalpgh.org/docs/courtorder100609.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.episcopalpgh.org/docs/01292010_court_order.pdf
  19. ^ See the appeal decision http://www.episcopalpgh.org/docs/01292010_court_order.pdf and the denial of a rehearing http://www.episcopalpgh.org/wp-content/uploads/file/reargument-Denied_03292011.pdf
  20. ^ [2]. Trinity Cathedral Announcement, December 15, 2011.
  21. ^ The three are St. John's, Donora; Church of the Atonement, Carnegie; and St. Michael's, Wayne Township/Rural Valley. Church of the Good Shepherd in the Hazlewood area of Pittsburgh returned in 2013. They are now listed on the parish listing of the Episcopal diocese's website. http://www.episcopalpgh.org/episcopal-parishes/ The statistics are drawn from the 2012 statistics page of the 2013 pre-convention journal and updated to include members of Good Shepherd. [3]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°26′21″N 79°46′11″W / 40.43910°N 79.76964°W / 40.43910; -79.76964