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PITTSBURGH: Anglican Bishop Robert Duncan to Retire in 2016, Many Parishes Still in Legal Limbo

PITTSBURGH: Anglican Bishop Robert Duncan to Retire in 2016, Many Parishes Still in Legal Limbo
Diocese Celebrates 150th Convention of the Church in Pittsburgh with 50 Congregations, TEC Diocese has 37 Congregations

By David W. Virtue DD
November 8, 2015

The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, will retire June 30, 2016.

He told his assembled priests and laity at their recent diocesan convention held at St. Stephen's in Sewickley that he has received the blessing of ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach to retire on that date following the June meeting of the ACNA College of Bishops, who will at that time elect his successor as the VIII Bishop of Pittsburgh.

"As I have said my prayers and sought counsel, it has seemed to me like the work I was called to do is as complete as it can be," Bishop Duncan told hundreds gathered for the diocese's annual convention at St. Stephen Church in Sewickley.

"The years of conflict--and of course, correction--within the body of Christ are past now," he said. "The challenge ahead is one of strengthening the church for discipleship and evangelization in a hostile and needy nation and world."

Bishop Duncan was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1995 but emerged as the leading spokesman for orthodox Episcopalians who had become disenchanted with revisionist and progressive trends in the Episcopal Church, including the explosive election of an openly homosexual man to the episcopacy in the person of Gene Robinson in 2003.

As the first archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America he drew together a disparate group of Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics into a coalition that is now bigger than the Anglican Church of Canada and has been recognized by orthodox archbishops of the Global South, posing a major ecclesiastical headache for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Delegates to the convention were told that there had been no progress in resolving property issues for the dozen parishes who hold title to their properties. Those titles continue to be contested by The Episcopal Church Diocese of Pittsburgh under the terms of the Dennis Canon.

On a more positive note, the diocese announced the reception of Southside (Pittsburgh) Anglican Fellowship and Incarnation Anglican Fellowship of State College as mission congregations. There were also reports from the mission field, including those from former Pittsburgh priest Chris Royer, Director of Anglican Frontier Mission, on AFM's work in reaching Muslims with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ, and also 84-year-old Pittsburgh priest George Pierce, who is training Nepalese pastors in Katmandu Nepal.

"We came to understand that church planting was the best way to reach new people for Christ," Duncan told delegates.

"We stood together for Jesus in the difficult days of realignment, and led a whole movement that became the Anglican Church in North America. Aided by ecumenical partners, we accepted the loss of property and assets, unwilling to compromise the 'faith once for all delivered to the saints,' and we turned storefronts and bars into places of worship."

Continuing ministries included a report from Engage, a one-to-one method of discipling youth being pioneered in the Diocese for the Anglican Youth Project. The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, former Pittsburgh priest and now CEO of the American Anglican Council, shared his continuing work of the AAC to equip congregations, clergy and lay leaders to build strong, gospel-centered ministries in their parishes.

In his address, Bishop Duncan reminded people that this year not only marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Pittsburgh but it marks 10 years since the historic "Hope and a Future" Conference which brought together over 3,000 Anglicans in Pittsburgh to differentiate themselves from the apostasies being promulgated by the national Episcopal Church. Megachurch pastor-preacher Rick Warren was the keynote speaker on that occasion. That year marked the 20th year anniversary of the Bishop's long episcopacy which he characterized as "a season of trial and triumph".

The bishop concluded his address with the call and response of the East African Revival that "God is good, all the time!" and, "All the time, God is good!" A resolution of gratitude proposed by three senior priests of the diocese passed unanimously thanking both Bishop Duncan and Nara Dewar Duncan for their loving selfless service among his people.

Canon to the Ordinary Mary Maggard Hays announced her resignation effective December 31, 2015. Mary served first as Canon Missioner and then as Canon to the Ordinary for a total of almost 18 years. Her parting words to the diocese were to "seek Jesus and his Word more and more."

The Convention closed as the incoming President of the Standing Committee presented a timeline and a discernment process for the diocese to propose 1, 2 or 3 names to the ACNA College of Bishops following a Special Convention to be held April 22--23, 2016 with the watchwords that this work will be marked by "prayer not politics" and "discernment not a search."

The Anglican diocese says it has at least 50 congregations and missions across much of Pennsylvania as well as some affiliated congregations in other states, with an average weekly attendance of just under 5,000.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has about 37 parishes in Southwestern Pennsylvania with just under 3,000 in weekly attendance.


Bishop Duncan's Address to the 150th Annual Convention Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh

November 7, 2015

My very dear brothers and sisters--friends in Christ--clergy and lay leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, participants in the Timothy Collaborative gathering, distinguished guests of this Convention: Greetings, grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This address will be short by comparison to the numerous Convention Addresses I have been privileged to deliver to you. The essential commentary on our life as a diocese and on the developments of the last year are contained in my Pre-Convention Report--the opening letter--of your Pre-Convention Journals.

I am in my 68th year as a child of God, in my forty-fourth year as deacon and priest, in my twenty-fourth year of serving this diocese, and in my twentieth year as your bishop. I believe the time has come for me to call for the election of my successor. I have consulted with our Standing Committee, who have consented to my resignation and laid the plans necessary for Godly transition--and from whom you will hear shortly. I have sought the approval of our Archbishop, His Grace Foley Beach, and he has given it. Now I seek your blessing to be released--effective on June 30 in the coming Year of our Lord 2016--from the extraordinary responsibilities you have long asked of me.

As is my Constitutional duty, I am calling a Special Convention for Friday and Saturday, 22 and 23 April, 2016, here at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, for the purpose of nominating one, two or three persons to the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America, from which nomination the College will elect my successor to be Eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh. An additional and preliminary purpose of the Special Convention will be adoption of amended Rules of Convention which shall govern the election taking place. (These amended rules will be considered by Diocesan Council at its December and February meetings, and formally recommended and widely available after those open meetings.)

Together we have done much. We came to understand that the mission of the Church is chiefly carried out in our local congregations. We came to understand that every congregation has a specialized mission to embrace and a particular people to reach, and that every one of us is an individual missionary. We came to understand that church planting was the best way to reach new people for Christ, and that every congregation--no matter how small or large--could share in the work. We stood together for Jesus in the difficult days of re-alignment, and led a whole movement that became the Anglican Church in North America. Aided by ecumenical partners, we accepted the loss of properties and assets, unwilling to compromise "the Faith once for all delivered to the saints," and we turned storefronts and bars into places of worship. We made global partnerships that changed us and changed the world. We also celebrated both the 250th Anniversary of the planting of Anglicanism at the forks of the Ohio and the 150th Anniversary of the organization of this remarkable diocese.

As I have said my prayers and sought counsel, it has seemed to me like the work I was called to do is as complete as it can be. I believe that this is a very good moment for me to let go and to pass the chief pastor's crozier to another, just as we have largely passed diocesan leadership--both clergy and lay--from one generation to another. The years of conflict--and of course correction--within the Body of Christ are past for now. The challenge ahead is one of strengthening the Church for discipleship and evangelization in a hostile and needy nation and world.

We could not have done what we did without God's abundant blessing and the support of so many, some of whose efforts are known, many unknown. Nancy Norton and Jack Downey and Don Bushyager; Marsha Tallant and Melanie Contz and Peter Frank and Netta Pozzuto and Gloria Clever. Remember Chuck Rosemeyer and Ann Paton and Betsy Rodewald in the Mission Team days. Bill Roemer and Stu Simpson and Elizabeth Hobbs and Jim Moore and Bill Rodewald and Bob Manson and Sharon Forrest and Joe Sarria. Mike Henning and Arnie Klukas and Steve Noll and Doug McGlynn and John Leggett and Peter Moore. John Rodgers and Henry Scriven and Frank Lyons. Mary Hays has been through almost the whole of it. There are many other names that could be called out. There are many names that only the Lord knows. All of you owe a debt to Nara Dewar Duncan, who has stood by me through everything that has transpired. We have consistently been served by an amazing staff, by talented clergy and by committed lay men and women. What a heritage!

In 2005, in the most uncertain days of what became the Anglican re-alignment, more than two thousand Anglicans from across the United States and Canada and from around the world met in the David L, Lawrence Convention Center--there were more than three thousand at the opening Eucharist with a clergy procession that stretched for three city blocks--we hosted a gathering entitled "Hope and A Future." The theme came from Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." A decade later we can see that the prophetic promise we claimed then has more than been fulfilled. Ours has always been a Red Sea God.

In thinking about this Sesquicentennial Convention it seemed right to claim the Jeremiah verse again. I am as sure as I can be--though I have no written evidence--that those who gathered in November of 1865 to organize "the Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh" had the Lord's promise through the Prophet Jeremiah in mind. 150 years later, God's promise to us is the same as at our organizing Convention, the same as to the exiles in Babylon nearly three millennia ago, and to the children of Israel escaping Pharoah centuries before that.

The transition we now face, from one bishop to the next, is just the next step in the unfolding of our God's good Providence. Let go of the anxieties and trust in the One who has been so trustworthy from the first day until now. What the Lord Jesus Himself said remains the exhortation of the moment: "Fear not little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you his kingdom." Or, as Paul assures the Thessalonian congregation: "He who has called you is faithful, and He will do it."

What more is there to say? Only "thank you" and "God bless you" and "Don't waiver." What a great privilege it has been to be the dominical under-shepherd for this awesome season of trial and triumph. God is good. All the time.


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