Divided Pittsburgh Episcopal dioceses team to support ministry for homeless, hungry
Two factions that divided the Episcopal church in Pittsburgh four years ago as part of a national schism have agreed to work together to support a ministry for homeless veterans and others in need.
An accord between the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh clears the way for Shepherd's Heart Fellowship to take title to all property at its Uptown location and to seek a more favorable financing of its debt.
The Episcopal Diocese considers the ministry of paramount importance, spokesman Rich Creehan said.
Attorney Andrew Fletcher, representing the Anglican Diocese, could not be reached for comment.
Shepherd's Heart, which joined the Anglican Diocese, feeds the hungry, homeless, poor and addicted. The second floor of the church at Pride Street and Forbes Avenue includes 15 beds, a kitchen, living room, showers and a computer room. It provides transitional housing for homeless veterans.
An estimated 500 to 600 veterans are homeless on any given night in Allegheny County, said Michele Margittai, director of development and community relations at Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, a South Side nonprofit that helps veterans and their families.
Theologically conservative members of the Episcopal diocese left to form the Anglican diocese in 2008 because of the church's stance on abortion and the ordination of a gay bishop.
“Fights in the Episcopalian/Anglican world are increasing, not decreasing,” said Bryan T. Froehle, professor of practical theology at St. Thomas University. “But doing things together like this is a good sign. … Doing some common outreach/community service efforts is terrific and to be celebrated.”
A joint statement from the two sides said the agreement shouldn't be interpreted as a step toward mending their rift, and they continue to resolve property issues on a parish-by-parish basis. The agreement needs court approval.
The Episcopal Church USA contends parishes that leave forfeit control of church buildings and other assets. Those who broke away from the church argue that diocesan property belongs to the people who built and maintain it.
Courts have upheld the church's position.
Shepherd's Heart began in summer 1993 as a mission program without a home. The Rev. Michael Wurschmidt, then a seminarian at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, was taking food, coffee, blankets and clothing to the homeless and needy.
The first Sunday night service was in a storefront in 1995. Shepherd's Heart moved to its current location, a former Roman Catholic Church, in 1999.
“More than 140 community partners, including 100 churches of all denominations, work alongside us in this ministry,” Wurschmidt said in a statement.
Though the Episcopal Diocese no longer will guarantee payment of Shepherd's Heart loans when refinancing is completed, the diocese will leave its equity in the property in place as an investment for as long as the homeless ministry continues, the diocese said.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.