Christian example: A valuable Pittsburgh ministry is saved by charity

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Shepherd's Heart Fellowship, an Anglican church in Uptown, ministers to Pittsburgh's homeless in an old-fashioned way -- it feeds, clothes and comforts those who seek shelter under its roof. That's why the ministry, which draws up to 160 people for its evening service and dinners, has been an oasis of hope for society's most despised and dispirited since its founding at an Oakland storefront in 1993.

Every day, the drop-in center offers breakfast, showers and laundry facilities to the homeless -- the very things that help them retain their dignity. When doctrinal infighting over the ordination of gay clergy and other issues resulted in a split within the Episcopal Church in 2008, Shepherd's Heart chose to affiliate with the newly formed and theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America. Left unresolved until recently was the disposition of the ministry's property and assets.

Because the Anglican Church in North America broke away from the Episcopal Diocese, its congregations have had to go to court to seek the title over their properties. Shepherd's Heart Fellowship was in danger of becoming homeless itself.

But because of the effectiveness of the ministry and the high esteem with which it has always been held, the Episcopal Diocese agreed to give Shepherd's Heart clear title to its property and assets in October. It was a powerful gesture of Christian charity during an otherwise bitter denominational breakup.

Because it holds the deed to its space, Shepherd's Heart Fellowship can move forward with plans to add a residential program for female veterans with children, expanding its good and necessary work to others who are homeless. This came as welcome news during the Easter and Passover season. It's an example to all churches to take seriously their message of reconciliation and service to the poor.

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