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March 27, 2012
St David's Leaves Property in Peter's Twp
March 27, 2012
By Ann Rodgers / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The congregation of St. David's Anglican Church in Peters will hand over its property, its name and its debt of nearly $1 million to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and start over in a former Catholic church in Canonsburg.
The move is the latest in a property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The diocese split in 2008, with a majority leaving the Episcopal Church for the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America.
St. David's is among a number of Anglican congregations whose deed was held by the Episcopal diocese, which had guaranteed bank loans for a $3 million construction project in 2002. Although the Episcopal diocese had announced a plan to negotiate over the property of such parishes last year, talks have been on hold while the diocese completes a strategic planning process.
The 250-member congregation was paying $10,000 a month on a remaining $990,000 mortgage, which will now become the responsibility of the Episcopal diocese.
"The congregation was very interested in trying to reach a negotiated settlement but was unable to do so. It wasn't that they were happy to be dumping this [debt] on the diocese. They tried to negotiate and were unable to do that successfully," said David Trautman, spokesman for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
"We couldn't wait any longer," said the Rev. David Wilson, rector of St. David's since 2008.
The vestry, or lay governing board, voted unanimously March 19 to take the step, and the congregation upheld the decision Sunday, he said. They expect to hold their first service as Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church on May 27 at 10 a.m. in the former St. Genevieve Church in Canonsburg.
The congregational vote ended with the hymn "It is Well With My Soul," Rev. Wilson said. "The meeting was solemn, there was a mixture of resolve and sadness," he said.
"People wanted to do the right thing and were excited about doing the mission of the church instead of dealing with all the conflict and litigation. There was a great relief and release from that," he said.
The move is considered temporary, as most of the congregation intends to return to Peters when it can find a suitable property, he said. However, a daughter Anglican congregation will remain in Canonsburg, where there is also an Episcopal parish.
Rich Creehan, a spokesman for the Episcopal diocese, said it was prepared to take over the mortgage but had asked the congregation to remain where it was until the strategic planning process was completed.
He said the Episcopal diocese wished the congregation well in its new location.
"The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will cooperate with those affected by this transition and looks forward to an amicable process that has marked the return of other properties to the diocese," he said.