Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Pittsburgh

Here is a letter from my former bishop, whom I served under in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
It is worthy of reading!

May God continue to bless him and direct him.


My beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work ofthe Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [I Cor 15: 58]

29th January, A.D. 2007

4th Monday After the Epiphany


Beloved in the Lord,

Writing from my hometown more than two hundred years ago, the great pamphleteer of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, wrote these words: “Now are the times that try men’s souls.” The American Crisis called countless men and women to nobility and sacrifice in a very difficult season; the necessary recruits came forward, the against-the-odds successes of Trenton and Princeton followed, and the cause endured and eventually triumphed. We give thanks for the courage and tenacity of those long-ago heroes.

Our challenges as the people of God in this day are not unlike theirs, but ours is a spiritual struggle in a very secular and confused age. Our struggle is against more than flesh and blood, as Scripture and our Baptism remind us. Paul’s words at the end of I Corinthians are a clarion call as to how we are to conduct ourselves whatever the nature of our trials: steadfast, immovable, abounding, knowing…

Steadfast, Immovable

Our position simply stated is this: We are the Episcopal Church in this place and we have no intention of standing anywhere except where we have always stood ("the Faith once delivered to the saints") or being who we have always been (mainstream Anglican Christians). The Alternative Primatial Oversight Request points to the likely path forward for us and for others who share our commitment to the Faith and Order of the universal church. Emerging structures beyond the level of the diocese can only be conjectured at. They are not merely our decision. One sign of the transitional moment in which we find ourselves is the official invitation I have received from the Archbishop of Canterbury to be present at the discussion of the path forward for the United States at the upcoming Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I will be accompanied by one non-Network Windsor Bishop. Katharine Jefferts Schori will be accompanied by one progressive bishop. All of this is revolutionary in the life of the Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Communion. Our great sadness is that the Episcopal Church in its national majority continues its trajectory of walking away from the Anglican Communion, something we have said in Convention we will not do. These are times that do try our souls. We will continue as we have begun, in faithfulness and in charity, whatever else may develop around us.

In the sad matter of the civil suit originally brought by two of our parishes, and now re-entered by one of them, the Standing Committee has concurred in my decision to respond with a vigorous defense. The matters in play are theological and ecclesiastical. They have nothing to do with the property of the diocese. The property of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will continue to be held and administered for the beneficial use of the parishes and institutions of the diocese. It is our continuing commitment to protect the interest the diocese has in its property -- indeed to protect all that it is steward over -- against any who would attempt to usurp that role, either from below (minority parishes) or above (national church). Scripture teaches that Christians are not to take one another to court. We did not bring the suit, and would not bring such a suit. As we seek to defend our Diocese and its rightful interests, as we believe is allowed by the Holy Scriptures, our prayer is that our God will have mercy on us all and keep us from the risks of anger, retribution or hardness of heart.

Abounding, Knowing

In trying times, St. Paul instructs us not only to be steadfast and immovable, but also to “abound in the work of the Lord, knowing that in Him [our] labor is not in vain.” All of us need to stay focused on the mission: locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Despite the trials of this season the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh continues to prosper. One sign of this is the statistics available from the Episcopal Church itself. When adjusted for population growth or loss, our diocese, over the last twelve years, is number three in the nation among ninety-nine Episcopal dioceses for growth in average Sunday attendance. (South Carolina, another Network diocese, was number one and Nevada was number ninety-nine.) Other more localized signs abound. Shepherd’s Heart (our church of the homeless) is averaging 200 at Sunday worship. Grace Slippery Rock (our newest plant) has seen as many as 100 at worship. Our Cathedral has attained the stability that should soon bring it back from transitional status. At a recent clergy day, the spirit was one of mutual encouragement, learning and even playfulness. The Common Life Project at Donegal has three buildings now underway, with new diocesan-wide committees working to bring this incredible resource into wide use. Annual planning gatherings of Diocesan Council, Board of Trustees and Cathedral Chapter have all been as positive and constructive as anyone can remember. These are just a few of the evidences that we are “abounding in the work of the Lord.”

Times of trial are times of high anxiety. St. Paul understood this, and so do we. The best antidote for fears at any level is trust in the Lord. That, too, characterizes our witness. Whatever is ahead for us, let us “know,” let us trust, that “in the Lord our labor is not in vain.”

Know that I am praying for you.

Please pray for me.

Faithfully your Bishop,

+Bob, Pittsburgh