Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gundersen responds to Mark McCall

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh leader Joan Gundersen has published an excellent response to Mark McCall's document in which he claims the Episcopal Church is not hierarchical. Her article is available here.
An excerpt is below. But please read it all.


Copyright © 2008 by Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh ( All rights reserved. This document may be copied if accompanied by this copyright statement.

A Response to Mark McCall’s "Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?"
Joan R. Gundersen, Ph.D.1
September 17, 2008

Unfortunately, the Anglican Communion Institute’s recently published essay by Mark McCall "Is The Episcopal Church Hierarchical?"2 includes a number of historical errors, one of which undermines his entire argument by overlooking a key clause in the 1789 constitution of The Episcopal Church. In short, McCall argues that the individual state conventions (later called dioceses) were independent entities that did not give up their independence when they joined together to create The Episcopal Church and its General Convention. Central to this argument is the assertion that the dioceses existed before the "national" church was or-ganized and that the original founding documents did not include language subordinating the state conventions to the General Convention. McCall elaborates on this theme with a discussion of the supposed widespread legal knowledge of the principles of subsidiarity and supreme law3 in the 1780s when The Episcopal Church was organized, and with an argument that the church hierarchy ends at the diocesan level in The Episcopal Church, finally reaching the surprising conclusion that the whole church is not hierarchical.

The ultimate purpose of McCall’s argument appears only on page 20 of his essay, where he asserts that "there is no prohibition in The Episcopal Church’s constitution on a diocese withdrawing from its union with the General Convention." In other words, McCall is constructing an argument justifying the "realignment" that the Diocese of San Joaquin claimed to effect last year and on which the Diocese of Pittsburgh is about to vote. [As is the Diocese of Fort Worth. KS]

This short essay will discuss some of the major problems with McCall’s argument, including a fatal flaw that invalidates his entire discussion, and it will also correct a number of the smaller historical errors he introduced along the way. This is not intended as a comprehensive analysis of McCall’s paper.
Read it all here.

1 comment:

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

Sorry to break in but I am hoping to do a little related advertising. Fr. Terry did such a wonderful job with the people of San Joaquin a few of us have decided to open a new blog for the folks of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth and any other diocese suffering the same fate. It is named, Real Anglicans and can be found at

Katie, you are most welcome and we would love to hear from you as things develop. We are also here to help those who may not have a voice to be heard. Please let your friends and fellow 'Piskies know.

Thank you for your consideration. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.