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Diocesan decision confuses some followers

Through prayers for wisdom, understanding and unity, members of Episcopal churches on Sunday continued to grapple with a controversial and potentially divisive decision by the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese.

“I think it’s a terrible mistake,” said Wanda Guthrie, a 13-year member of Church of the Redeemer, a progressive congregation in Squirrel Hill. “It seems to go against things we’ve always known as true: the commandments to love one another and not exclude anyone.”

On Saturday, the Diocese passed a series of resolutions opposing the national church’s decisions to approve an openly gay man as a bishop and allow blessing services for same-sex unions.

The resolutions, which could be the impetus for a split along conservative and liberal lines in the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church USA, will be presented at a meeting Oct. 7-9 of the American Anglican Council in Dallas.

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan called the national church’s decisions “unity-breaking” acts that depart from biblical teaching and 20 centuries of church tradition. Duncan is first vice president of the American Anglican Council, which is leading the effort to return the church to orthodoxy.

Some leaders fear the resolutions will do more harm than good.

“The greater sin is in dividing the church,” said the Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert, rector at Church of the Redeemer.

Sweigert, who led a question-and-answer session after morning services for members, said, “Everyone needs to be aware of these issues.” She added that congregations feel as though they are being asked to choose between the national stance and the local one.

“I don’t understand why it has to be like this,” she said. “I don’t know how they can say you are not a true believer if you are not this or that. I find it antithetical to all of our teachings.”

At least one local church is refusing to take a stand either way, instead choosing to work on mending relationships.

Leaders at Trinity Cathedral, where the mission is to be “open and welcoming to all,” passed a special churchwide resolution and distributed it in bulletins yesterday.

“While individual members of Trinity Cathedral may hold and express personal views, Trinity, and its chapters as a whole decline to take an official stand on these important issues,” the resolution stated.

It also noted that the chapter desires to preserve the unity of the Episcopal Church and to facilitate resolution of divisions.

“Trinity Cathedral declares its intention to facilitate prayerful deliberation on these important issues in ways that respect diverse perspectives and that encourage reconciliation and a search for consensus.”

Sweigert said she doesn’t yet know how the local decision will affect area congregations.

“We believe we’re still called to work for unity,” she said.


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