The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has reached a settlement with Shepherd's Heart Fellowship in Uptown, a parish of the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh that functions primarily as a ministry to the homeless, especially homeless veterans.
The agreement, which must be approved by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, gives Shepherd's Heart clear title to all of its property and assets.
It is the first time since a 2008 schism that the Episcopal diocese has allowed a breakaway parish to keep all of its property as well as its affiliation with the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Half the property was titled to the Episcopal diocese, the other half deeded in the name of Shepherd's Heart.
A joint statement from the Episcopal diocese and Shepherd's Heart stressed that its ministry to the poor was unique and that "this agreement should not be interpreted as a model for resolving other property disputes."
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh split in 2008, with the majority of its parishes leaving the Episcopal Church for the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America.
The Episcopal diocese won a court battle awarding it all centrally-held diocesan assets, but parish property is to be settled on a case-by-case basis.
So far few settlements have occurred and several Anglican congregations have simply walked away from their buildings. In one case a parish kept all of its property but had to renounce any affiliation with the Anglican Church in North America.
Shepherd's Heart was founded in 1993 as a parish for the homeless.
Its pastor, the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt had been homeless after his business failed and before he became a priest.
Shepherd's Heart is best known for extensive work with homeless veterans. It has a 75 percent success rate of veterans achieving personal goals and moving to permanent housing.
Even though Shepherd's Heart is no longer a parish of the Episcopal diocese, that diocese and many of its parishes have continued to support homeless outreach.
The settlement will "enable the Episcopal diocese to have a lasting investment and involvement in that ministry" as one of those partners, according to the joint statement.
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.