Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania's pastor plans to retire
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A new chapter opens next year for Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania.
March 31 is the 67th birthday of CASP executive director the Rev. Donald B. Green, and the day he retires.
“I've built a network of relationships with government, foundations, special interest groups, unions and interfaith organizations,” said Green, who joined CASP 11 years ago. “That has enriched the whole ministry of Christian Associates and given us much more visibility in the community.”
The 43-year-old CASP covers 26 judicatories (dioceses, presbyteries, etc.) of 16 faith traditions with a million members in 2,000 congregations across 10 counties.
For two years, Green said, CASP's council of bishops and judicatory executives tackled a “discernment process, addressing the reality of Christianity in our region.”
That includes shrinking church membership that requires more funds to keep local congregations going.
Its impact on Christian Associates prompted the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to assume the cost of running the CASP cable TV station through June 2016.
Green came to the interfaith agency after serving as an assistant to the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, then bishop of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
McCoid now is executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations for ELCA's presiding bishop. Closer to home, judicatory leaders often have national or international responsibilities. United Methodist Western Pennsylvania Conference bishop the Rev. Thomas Bickerton heads that denomination's “Imagine No Malaria” effort.
Pittsburgh's Roman Catholic bishop, the Most Rev. David A. Zubik, chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy.
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, Metropolitan Savas Zembillas served from March 2012 through February on the Great and Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul).
Green remains a supply pastor within the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. He preaches one weekend a month at the church where he and his wife Kathy are members, St. John's in Perrysville.
The two are marking their 44th wedding anniversary this weekend with the Lutheran Chautauqua Association in New York state.
Green, a York native, met the former Kathy Tangen while they were students at Susquehanna University. He said their first “date” was as choir members on a Good Friday, during a three-hour liturgy.
CASP board members stress core values of collegiality, connectiveness and collaboration.
“We spend a lot of time on relationships, more than we spend on actual legislation,” Green said. “Because there is that deep trust, we can talk openly and respectfully about our differences.”
That extends to rival denominations. Both Anglican and Episcopal dioceses are CASP members, as are both the ELCA and North American Lutheran Church.
“It was (ELCA Bishop Kurt) Kusserow who made the motion to the council to accept the NALC,” Green said.
CASP also includes the African Methodist Episcopal Pittsburgh and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Allegheny conferences; Allegheny Union Baptist Association; Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of Charleston (W.Va.), Oakland (Md.), Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic; Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA; Christian Church-Disciples of Christ in Pennsylvania; Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Pittsburgh; Orthodox Church in America Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh Baptist Association; Polish National Catholic Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese; Presbyterian Church USA Beaver-Butler, Kiskiminetas, Pittsburgh, Redstone and Washington presbyteries; Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg; Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division; Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America; Seventh-Day Adventist Pittsburgh Metro Ministries; and United Church of Christ Penn West Conference.
“Increasingly we talk less about doctrinal divides and more about contemporary social issues,” Green said. “We always try to work from a consensus model.”
Green seeks consensus beyond the Body of Christ. In May 2012 he received the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee's first Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Award.
In his acceptance speech Green quoted Heschel: “A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.”
During the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh, Green helped facilitate a luncheon between Lutheran and Jewish leaders.
Green said he wanted to avoid contentiousness that occurred last year between Presbyterian and Jewish representatives during the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly in Pittsburgh.
On Aug. 17, ELCA delegates approved a resolution committing that denomination to learn more about the experiences of Palestinians and Israelis and their mutual fears, aspirations and hopes.
Green also worked with the Muslim community. He was honored in 2010 by the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
During the 2009 G-20 summit, Christian Associates hosted a service at St. Paul Cathedral “that respected the integrity of all three Abrahamic religions,” Green said.
There was diversity there beyond the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. For instance, Green said, the readers included “a very Western-attired Muslim woman and a Muslim woman in full garb.”
While Green will move on, longtime executive administrative assistant Tracy Ritchie will stay on. Ritchie was hired by Christian Associates some months before Green.
Green said the CASP council “realizes she is the glue that holds everything together.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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