A RESPONSE TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH
A recent announcement made by the Diocese of Pittsburgh has raised some discussion about the status of the Diocese of Dallas in an “appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight." It reads:
“With the approval of the Standing Committee, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has released the full text of the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight (APO). The appeal, which lays out the request of the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, South Carolina, and Springfield, was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury on July 20. It explains why the dioceses involved believe that APO is necessary and what that oversight might look like. Since July, Dallas has withdrawn its request, but Quincy has joined the other appellants.” (Diocese of Pittsburgh website)
There is a problem here: I never asked for APO. This is well known to most of our Clergy who attended a meeting on July 5, 2006, where I discussed this matter. I offer this response for further clarification.
The consolidated appeal to which this release makes reference, and which I did sign and had a hand in writing, doesn’t ask for APO either. Look at the third paragraph:
“Seven dioceses are seeking to reshape their life together as dioceses -- faithful to what the Episcopal Church has been and submitted to what the Anglican Communion has taught -- under the oversight of a Canterbury appointed Commissary, temporarily exercising some of the responsibilities normally assigned to the American primate. Some of these dioceses have requested “alternative primatial oversight.” One has requested “a direct pastoral relationship.” One has requested “alternative primatial relationship and, as appropriate, oversight.” While worded differently, what these requests seek in common is a special relationship of pastoral care and accountability under the Archbishop of Canterbury described more fully below.”
The consolidated appeal notes that different requests were made originally. It then seeks to clarify what “these requests have in common.” It is a “special relationship of pastoral care and accountability” under the Archbishop, and a designated point of contact called a “Commissary”. (“Commissary” being, of course, a sort of vicar used by the Bishop of London in colonial days.) Once past this paragraph, the term “alternative primatial oversight” is never used again. I maintain that the appeal is NOT for APO.
The first I ever heard of the concept of “alternative primatial oversight” (APO) was at the General Convention of 2006, when the Bishop of Fort Worth announced that he was appealing for APO, with the support of his Standing Committee. The next time I heard of it was when the Standing Committee of Dallas discussed this with me prior to the issuing of their Statement on July 5. Eventually even they modified the language, calling for “a direct primatial relationship.”
I had misgivings about the use of the APO language at the time. Among other concerns, we do not have “primatial oversight” in this Province as some other member Churches of the Anglican Communion do. Consequently, in a letter to the Diocese released at the same time as the Standing Committee’s Statement, I wrote:
“They [The Standing Committee] ask me to ‘appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a direct primatial relationship. . .’ Several dioceses have called for ‘alternative primatial oversight,’ as you will know through news reports. I will discuss a direct pastoral relationship with the Archbishop. This will be for the pastoral support of our mission, and assurance of our place in the Communion. I must emphasize that this relationship will be consistent with our Constitution and Canons, both of the Diocese and of the General Church.” (Pastoral Letter, July 5, 2006)
I immediately wrote to Archbishop Williams making my request in terms of a “direct pastoral relationship.”
Press reports and various blogs continued to use APO terminology, however. This language caused confusion and some anxiety within the Dallas Diocese. This is understandable, since I had announced and maintained a different sort of request from the beginning. Following the New York meeting in September, I shared this concern with my colleagues and indicated that I would quietly withdraw my own request. I did this before the Windsor Bishops’ meeting at Camp Allen, in a simple note to the Archbishop.
I continue to share with my colleagues a deep concern over the direction and coherence of the Episcopal Church. With them, I share a commitment to the health and unity of the Anglican Communion. I stand with them in their hope and work for a robust Anglican Covenant. There are no divisions among us. My own misgivings about the concept of APO is not a judgment on those who have made this request or what they intend by it. I certainly have not had any change of mind or resolve on my own part.
Since I never requested APO, it is incorrect to say that I have withdrawn from an appeal for APO.
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton
Bishop of Dallas