[Diocese of Pittsburgh] Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey W.M. McConnell announced Dec. 4 that he plans to retire in the spring of 2021.
McConnell has led the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh since 2012. He was elected by diocesan lay leaders and clergy in April of that year and was consecrated and installed in the following October.
“We have been through so much and accomplished so much, in what seems to me the twinkling of an eye,” the bishop wrote in a letter announcing his plans to the diocese, which currently numbers slightly more than 8,600 members among 36 participating congregations.
McConnell said he would remain in charge until he hands over his crozier, the symbol of a bishop’s authority, to a successor on April 24, 2021, which will occur nearly nine years to the day that he was chosen as Pittsburgh’s bishop.
When he was installed, McConnell became the first permanent bishop after a period of division and rebuilding that began when a former bishop, many clergy and their congregations left the diocese and The Episcopal Church.
During McConnell’s tenure, most of the outstanding legal disputes with the former members were resolved. A settlement concerning property use was hailed locally and nationally for the way it recognized the validity of each others’ claims and set a structure for building new relationships.
On social issues, McConnell placed an emphasis on racial reconciliation. His “Church Without Walls” launched a series of grassroots interactions between members of predominantly white congregations and those of historic African American heritage.
He has been active in civic engagement, developing relationships with elected officials and being equally comfortable working with corporate directors and walking alongside union protesters.
Within the church locally, the bishop has sought to strengthen the preparation for ministry for both clergy and the laity, principally by helping shape the first-of-its-kind Anglican-Episcopal Studies track at the Presbyterian-affiliated Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he serves as a member of the Board of Trustees, and also through the diocese’s Love+Teach+Heal Academy, an ongoing program of lay formation.
Given the size of the Pittsburgh diocese, McConnell was able to spend time with each congregation every year, and he worked toward building trust among clergy and congregations that span a wide variety of sizes, geographical settings and theological perspectives.
McConnell’s latest initiative involves a multiyear process aimed at restructuring diocesan governance and encouraging parishes in their efforts in communication, new lay-led ministries and in knowing the needs of their local communities. The bishop said these initiatives will continue.
“I assure you that I will be completely engaged in the life of the diocese until the moment I am no longer your bishop,” he wrote in his Dec. 4 letter.
Next steps in succession plan
The Pittsburgh diocese will soon begin a discernment and search process in which Episcopal priests from around the country will be invited to consider a call to be the next bishop. A local search committee, composed of laity and clergy, will narrow the field to a select group of finalists. Those nominees will be publicly identified by late summer or mid-autumn of 2020.
The new bishop will be chosen by the clergy and lay representatives of each parish at a special diocesan electing convention, scheduled for Nov. 21, 2020.
He or she will be consecrated by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, on April 24, 2021.
Following his retirement, McConnell and his wife, Betsy, plan to reside in New Hampshire.
About the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: www.episcopalpgh.org
Bishop McConnell’s retirement letter: https://www.episcopalpgh.org/a-letter-to-the-diocese-from-the-bishop/