Those eager to hear the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh can do so Sunday, Sept. 16, when Bishop-elect Dorsey McConnell preaches at an evensong in St. Andrew Episcopal Church, Highland Park.
The service begins at 4:30 p.m. and features the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, Richard Runciman Terry and other composers associated with traditional British choral anthems and chant. St. Andrew’s Schola Cantorum, featuring members of the congregation and professional singers, will sing in the context of evening worship.
But the highlight is expected to be Bishop-elect McConnell’s sermon. There is more than the usual level of curiosity about the man from Massachusetts, who will be consecrated and installed Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. in Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh split in October 2008 when the majority of its members and clergy followed Bishop Robert Duncan out of the Episcopal Church into what eventually became the Anglican Church in
North America. The remaining Episcopal diocese had to be restructured, and has been under the guidance of two different interim bishops. In April it became the first of four such split dioceses to elect a permanent bishop when Bishop-elect McConnell was chosen.
Unlike the other three dioceses, Pittsburgh didn’t have a clean split between theologically conservative and more liberal clergy. Some theologically conservative priests, who are unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church regarding sexual morality and biblical authority, nevertheless opposed schism on principle. They remain in the Episcopal diocese and exerted a strong influence on the election of Bishop-elect McConnell, a theological conservative with a history of working well within dioceses far more liberal than Pittsburgh, where he promoted mutual understanding and reconciliation. More moderate to liberal Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, many of whom felt disenfranchised for 20 years prior to the split, are wondering how their concerns and hopes on matters such as gay ordination will be received by the new bishop.
The evensong at St. Andrew’s may offer some hints of things to come, along with choral masterpieces from the British tradition.