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Will the Real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Please Stand Up!

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 21, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

Old timers will recall (unless we have lost our memory) an early television program called “What’s My Line?”

On the show, three people, including two impostors, would claim to be the person who had introduced himself/herself through a written statement read aloud by the host. Then each contestant would say” “I am ____” in an authoritative voice. After the panelists (Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen were two of them) had quizzed the contestants and voted, the MC would declare, with great drama: “Would the real _____, please stand up!”

A variation on this theme is playing out in Allegheny Common Pleas Court. (See Pittsburgh Legal Newslog, April 18, 2009) The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, headed by Bishop Duncan, withdrew from the Episcopal Church of the United States in response to the elevation of a bishop whose views and practices were offensive to Duncan and many Episcopalians. Duncan and his flock as promptly were accepted into a South American-based Episcopalian See known as the Southern Cone.

Now, the two parties the schism are each claiming title to millions of dollars worth of Church property. The Calvary Church property dispute just happened to be in progress since 2003, making it an available battlefield for a dispute that will almost surely be resolved on appeal, and not until all appeals are exhausted.

The Episcopal Church of the United States argues that it was vested with the property, real and personal, held before the schism and continues to hold title. Duncan and his followers claim that Duncan as Bishop held record title before the schism and continued to hold it after the schism.

The winner of Round 1 appears to be the national church. However, this dispute has hardly begun. It will play out in other suits regarding church property, some yet to be filed, as well. Appeals will take years. Eventually, there will be nowhere left to go. But until that day, it will be a while before the real Diocese will be asked to “please stand up.”

Blog Commentary:

The Thinking Anglican, April 19, 2009.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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