Pittsburgh Update

Pittsburgh Update publishes weekly summaries of recent developments in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion that affect or could affect Pittsburgh Episcopalians. Emphasis is on reporting, not interpretation. This is a service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. This site is in no way affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice          

A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Week Ending 06/19/17

New Twists in Sauls and Bruno Cases

An Alabama judge has ordered mediation before he rules on dismissing the law suit filed by resigned Bishop Stacey Sauls.  Sauls sued the Episcopal Church and a number of its officers because he has been unable to find a position after being terminated as COO of the Episcopal Church Center and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  Update covered the filing of the suit here and here.

The Hearing Panel which held a formal "trial" of the charges brought against Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles concerning his behavior related to the sale of St. James the Greater in Newport Beach, CA was not pleased to learn that Bruno may have recently signed a sales agreement for the property with a different developer.  The original sale fell through.  The Panel asked for information on the possible sales agreement from both sides of the dispute.  Bishop Bruno's legal team filed several objections but did not answer the Panel's request for clarification about a potential sale.  The Panel has responded by placing Bishop Bruno under sanctions forbidding him to take any actions to sell the property until after the Panel has ruled.  The story first became public in the Orange County Register.  The Episcopal News Service also has filed a story.  In final filings before the Panel, the Episcopal Church said that the members of St. James sought a return of their building and no punishment of the Bishop, although the Church Attorney recommended a year suspension of Bruno.  Bruno's legal team continued to argue that all charges should be dismissed.

Church Responds to Heartbreak in London

It has been a rough spring for London with an ISIS -inspired terrorist attack using a vehicle and knives on London Bridge and then devastating fire at a public housing high rise that left more than 70 dead and nearly 600 homeless, and most recently a second vehicle assault this time on muslims coming out of their mosque after prayers during Ramadan.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland have made statements on the latest attack.  You can find them here and here.  Meanwhile, nearby houses of worship have been serving as centers for help to the fire victims.  In the center of the action is St. Clement's Church which is located only 4 blocks from the high rise.

Standing Rock Sioux Get Partial Legal Victory 

Leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation were pleased that the federal judge hearing their case against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The federal judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly investigate all the environmental impacts, including possible damage to the tribes hunting and fishing rights,  environmental justice issues, and possible controversial effects. The Corps has been ordered to complete this part of the assessment.  However, the judge ruled against several other complaints by the tribe and did not issue an order to stop oil coming through the pipeline. The court will allow further argument before ruing on a stay on use of the pipeline. The most recent Update story on the pipeline protest is here.

Poll Shows Wide Interest in New Zealand Cathedral Rebuilding

Episcopal Update has been following the saga of the controversy about what to do with the ruins of the cathedral in Christ Church.  There is a strong push to rebuild the Cathedral just as it was before the 2005 earthquake.  However, Bishop Mathews and the diocesan leadership have advocated for a fresh start with a new building.  The diocesan Synod will make the final determination later this year.  In the meantime, with local politicians (see Update) weighing in, the Church conducted a poll to the general public.  A majority (55%) responded that they wanted the cathedral rebuilt.  When those polled were told that public funds and taxes were not involved, and when they learned how much more expensive restoration would be compared to a fresh start, support dropped to 43%.  Those preferring a new building went from  33% (before cost information) to 49% (after learning of the costs).  Those aged 18-24 were the strongest supporters of restoration (69%)

Sale of Seminary Property Hits Snag

Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School have closed its campus in Massachusetts and signed an agreement with Union Seminary in New York City to open an EDS track as part of its campus.  The trustees had expected the sale of the 8 acre campus at Harvard Square in Cambridge to bring a large sum, but the sale has hit a snag.  In 2008 they opened a partnership with Lesley that gave Lesley ownership of at least 7 of the buildings on campus.  Lesley is using the buildings and is not interested in selling.  


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Week Ending 06/12/17

Scottish Episcopal Church Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

As predicted, the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to change its marriage canons so that clergy who wished to could preside at the marriages of same-sex couples.  The press in Scotland was supportive of the decision. GAFCON  immediately followed through on their threat (see Update here) of appointing a missionary bishop to Europe with special responsibility for Scotland and England.  GAFCON chose to delegate oversight to the American schismatic group ACNA and Archbishop Foley Beach immediately announced the person who would be consecrated. The Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion noted that provinces were independent, but went on to cite the 1998 Lambeth resolution of sexuality and stated that there would be no formal response from the Communion until after the primate's meeting. The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded by sending a letter to all of the Anglican Communion primates that while serving as a general report to the primates, included a strong section condemning the appointment of the missionary bishop as contrary to long established church custom, contrary to a 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution, and declaring that such a bishop would have no recognition or standing in Britain.  Mark Harris offers further insight into Archbishop Welby's letter.  More responses will surely be forthcoming.

Two Studies Trace Links between Theology and Politics and Giving

A study by the Barna Group on the motivation of Christians as they decide how much to give to church and other good causes categorizes American Christians as either "Givers" or "Keepers" based on the way they approach charitable giving.  While giving special emphasis on Millennials, the study breaks data down by age groups, church attendance, wealth, and other factors.  A summary of the report is here.  The full report is only available for purchase.  The New York Times
summarized a research paper identifying the political affiliations of over 130,000 clergy from Christian and Jewish traditions.  There were clear patterns by denomination, and in many cases the clergy were more committed to a particular political affiliation than the laity.  About 70% of the over 2000 Episcopal clergy they traced were registered Democrats.  The full report is worth reading because the study covers regional differences, and explores stances on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Week Ending 06/05/17

England has been in the news a lot this week, and while the terrorist attack on London Bridge has elicited voices of concern, solidarity and prayer, there is no real church tie for Update news.  On the other hand, climate change has church ties.

Church of England Wins Shareholder Fight On Climate Measure

The Church of England is a shareholder in the Exxon-Mobile Corporation.  At the shareholder's meeting this last week Church Commissioners (the financial arm of the Church)  were able to muster 62% of the votes for the resolution they put forward requiring Exxon-Mobile to report annually how the business will be affected by global efforts to reduce climate change. The New York State Comptroller partnered with the Church in sponsoring the resolution.  A year ago only 38% of shareholders supported a similar resolution.

Church leaders Speak Out After Trump Announces Withdrawal from Paris Climate Pact

President Trump's announcement that the U.S. would begin withdrawing from the Parish Climate Accord brought rounds of criticism from many quarters.  Presiding Bishop Curry issued a statement almost immediately stressing the theological position that we are stewards of the earth and have a moral responsibility. The Episcopal  Bishop Douglas Fisher of Western Massachusetts joined forces with the United Church of Christ conference leader in forcibly stating that the act of withdrawing was counter to Christian faith.  Bishops Andrus of California and Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe also issued strong statements of concern. The Anglican Communion Environmental Network also issued a statement of concern as did the Church of England's lead bishop on environmental issues.

Episcopal Church of Scotland Synod Will Take Up Same-Sex Marriage Later This Week

The Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) General Assembly took steps recently bringing it closer to allowing blessing of same sex marriages. (See Update story here.) Now it is the turn of the Episcopal Church of Scotland.  The Scottish Episcopalians will meet in General Synod beginning Thursday.  They are expected to pass a resolution which will permit their clergy to preside at same-sex marriages. The synod will take the second vote on a measure to change its canons to permit this. The canon change passed its first vote a year ago.  Update next week will have the outcome of the vote.

North Carolina Episcopal Church Offers Shelter to Woman Facing Deportation

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro opened its doors to a Guatemalan woman facing deportation as an undocumented person. The vestry voted unanimously to offer her sanctuary. The church has agreed to house her while she fights the deportation order so that she can remain with her husband (an American citizen) and four children, two of who are citizens, and two of whom are registered under the "Dreamers" policy.  She originally sought refugee status when came to the U.S. in 1994, and when that was denied received a work permit.  The permit was revoked in 1999 and since then she has been trying to receive legal status. The parish will not only house her, but work with others to pressure government officials to grant her legal status.  The Episcopal News Service filed this story and the Diocese of North Carolina issued this press release.

Pittsburghers Mourn Death of Father Lynn Edwards

Father Lynn Chester Edwards died on Monday morning, June 5 at UPMC after a long struggle with illness.  Edwards had served as a priest in the diocese for over 50 years.  Edwards served at a number a parishes in the diocese and in retirement was a member of Church of the Redeemer. During the turbulent years leading to schism in the Pittsburgh Diocese Father Lynn served a chaplain to Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh.  He is best known, however, for his pioneer ministry to those with HIV-Aids which led to the founding of Shepherd's Wellness Community.  Edwards was honored by the Merton Center in 2002 and served as co-marshall of the Pittsburgh Gay Pride Parade in 2008.  His funeral is at 11 a.m. at Trinity Cathedral on Thursday, June 8.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Week Ending 05/29/17

New Zealand Cathedral Controversy Continues

Christ Church Cathedral in New Zealand was nearly destroyed in the 2011 earthquake that destroyed much of Christ Church's center.  An historic landmark, the cathedral's fate has been caught in a political and legal struggle between those who want to restore and rebuild it and those who want to tear it down and start again.  A major trust supporting restoration now has begun a major public relations campaign to sway those who will vote at the diocesan synod this fall.   The diocese has put off the decision on its fate until fall, but now the city mayor has weighed in with a pronouncement that the city should buy the building if necessary to keep it from being torn down.  Update has been following this debate.  The most recent past story is here.

Presiding Bishop Promotes Healing in Haiti Church Rift

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Haiti had been divided as clergy and laity took sides and filed charges and counter charges in a split between the diocesan and suffragan bishops.  In April, a team sent by Presiding Bishop Curry worked out a covenant signed by both Haitian bishops.  This last week Presiding Bishop Curry was in Haiti to formally confirm the covenant and help the Diocese move towards reconciliation and healing.  The suffragan has resigned.  The diocesan is soon retiring and a new bishop will be elected.

Bishop Robinson To Head Religion Department at Chautauqua

Bishop Gene Robinson, the resigned Bishop of New Hampshire will become the Vice President and Senior Pastor of Chautauqua Institution this fall when the current director retires.  He will provide leadership for the Religion Department and chair a new advisory council.  The Chatauqua Institution, on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in Western New York, is famous for its extensive programs in music, arts, and a wide range of lecture series.  Beginning as a Methodist summer education camp in 1874, the Chautauqua Institution has become ecumenical and welcomes more than 100,000 people during its 9 week summer program. Bishop Robinson served as a Chaplain of the week and lecturer in 2011.  He is expected to help the institution strengthen its role in interfaith dialogues and understanding. 

Anglicans Offer Support to Copts Following Latest Terrorist Attack

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the new Primate for the Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East have both issued statements of support and sympathy to the Egyptian Coptic Church following the terrorist attack on a bus loaded with families who on pilgrimage to an historic monastery.  News stories cite different numbers of dead (28-30), a number of whom were children.  Many others were injured.  This is the latest in a series of attacks by Islamic extremists on the Coptic Church.

Church of Scotland Takes Step Towards Same Sex Marriages

As expected, last week the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) moved one step closer to allowing same sex marriage. The Assembly voted to apologize to gays for past discrimination, and approved a report saying that there was "no sufficient theological reason" to prevent authorizing specific clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings.  They also voted to continue exploring ways to ensure clergy also had a right to not officiate at such services.  A premature leaking of the report before the General Assembly planners were ready to release all documents created some controversy in April.  The Church of Scotland is following in the steps of the much smaller Scottish Episcopal Church which took the first of two votes to approve allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriages a year ago.  Their final vote will be before the synod next month.

Secretary of State Tillerson Ends Hosting a Ramadan Event

Beginning in 1999, the Department of State has hosted an annual event during Ramadan.  The event, usually a dinner on the first night of Ramadan breaking the daytime fast, or sometimes an Eid al-Fitr reception celebrating the end of Ramadan, usually had a guest list including members of Congress, diplomats from Muslim Countries, society and religious leaders, and senior U.S. officials. Secretary of State Tillerson did not host anything at the beginning of Ramadan, although he did issue a short statement noting the start of Ramadan. While Tillerson was still considering an event for Eid al-Fitr, no invitations have been issued and the 30 days of Ramadan have begun.  The Department of State normally hosts an event for one major holiday a year for a variety of religions. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Week Ending 5/22/17

Ecumenical Week for Episcopalians

Three separate events this last week put The Episcopal Church in an ecumenical mode.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a joint call to prayer and fasting for hunger awareness.  Episcopalians and Lutherans are called to fast on the 21st of every month from now through December when the current U.S. Congress will conclude its session. The date for the fast was chosen because that is the date each month that 90% of food stamp benefits have been used. 

A second major announcement was issued by the joint committee of Episcopalians and United Methodists working on full communion.  They have issued a full proposal for approval by both the Methodist and Episcopal Church governing bodies.  An interesting commentary by a member of the committee can be found here.

The third ecumenical event was the announcement of a signed agreement between Episcopal Divinity School in Massachusetts and Union Theological Seminary in New York.  Trustees had announced the closing of EDS and held its last commencement this last week.  At that time they announced that EDS would become a school within Union and the trustees named a new Dean, Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, for the EDS School.  Mark Harris, who graduated from ETS and was being honored at the last graduation posted his reactions to the arrangement between EDS and Union.

Report Issued on St. Paul's School Scandal

The final investigative report has been published on the scandal that has engulfed St. Paul's School in Conway, New Hampshire.  The report makes clear that earlier attempts by alumni and students to have school take action on the sexual abuse of students by staff had been buried.  The report substantiates that 13 members of the staff sexual misconduct.  Complaints against another 11 could not be proved and another 10 staff were named in anonymous complaints that could not be investigated.  The incidents occurred over a 40 year period, from 1948 to 1988.  The Episcopal school is one of 67 private schools in the Northeast that are dealing with  long-buried sexual abuse complaints.  The Washington Post carried a story focused on the report.  The Boston Globe had a story that gave more background.   One of those named at St. Paul's was the former priest Howard White who had just pleaded guilty to abuse at St. George's School in Rhode Island.  White was a chaplain at St. Paul's before going to St. George's.

Contrasting Studies on Religious Beliefs and Membership in the US and UK 

A new report, The “No Religion” Population of Britain, based on wide surveys of social attitudes in Britain and Europe in 2015 and 2014 shows that the Church of England may be losing members, but those that are remaining in the Church are more committed and active.  While only 43 percent of the British population claim a Christian affiliation and 48.6% claim no religion, the good news was that the percentage of non-affiliated had not increased.  The 17% of British Christians who claim membership in the Church of England seems to have stabilized and over two-fifths of the non-religious actually still have some religious practices and pray on occasion.  Some church commentators think that the situation will be ripe for dedicated Christians to foster a revival in the coming years. The Church Times carried the story.  

In the U.S. the evangelical research organization, the Barna Group has released its latest study on the intersection of religious beliefs and public policy.  Barna's study grouped those surveyed in five categories: evangelical, non-evangelical born-again Christians, notional Christians, adherents of non-Christian faiths, and religious skeptics.  The evangelical and born again groups showed high support for Trump in the last election.  The non-Christians and skeptics largely voted for Clinton.  The swing group was the "notional" category where people expressed a belief in Christ but were split on social issues.  Barna researchers thought this large center group (42% of Americans) had a larger than usual influence in the election.  Some of their definitions and questions may sound odd to Episcopalians, but the study has some interesting findings.

Conservative Reaction Continues to Rejection of Canadian Bishop Elect

The decision (see the Update story here)  of the Canadian bishops to not approve the election of the Rev. Jacob Worley as bishop of Caledonia because he approved priests from one jurisdiction serving in another without the bishop's permission has provoked conservative protests.  The retired Bishop of Caledonia has protested the decision, and so has the Bishop of the Arctic, who asked for a reconsideration.  But the House of Bishops of British Colombia and the Yukon  has refused to reconsider.   It seems they took seriously the Worley's deposition by the Diocese of Rio Grande when he left the Episcopal Church, and expect conservatives to support the clauses in the Canadian canons against jurisdiction violations.

Faith in Public Life Offers Training to Those Supporting Social Justice

Faith in Public Life, an ecumenical group formed by progressive Catholics to promote turning faith into action in support of liberal social policy is now offering training for those who wish to be more active in opposition to immigration raids and deportations, and to help undocumented aliens.  You can learn more about this organization and its latest training module here.

New Primate Chosen for Middle East

Archbishop Mouneer Annis is retiring as the Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East after holding that office for ten years.  His replacement for the next two and a half years will be Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem who will then be followed by Bishop Michael Lewis of the Diocese of the Cyprus and the Gulf for the next two years and a half years.  Annis has participated very fully in GAFCON meetings.  Dawani has been more circumspect since his diocese depends heavily on western support.  The Anglican Communion announcement did not explain why the Synod selected two men to split the five year term.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Week Ending 05/15/17

Canadian Bishops Block Consecration of Former AMiA Priest as Bishop

The Update recently reported on the election of the Rev. Jacob Worley as Bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia.  Worley is currently serving a parish in the diocese.  Worley was ordained in the Episcopal Church, but left the church in 2007 to form a new congregation which eventually affiliated with the Anglican Mission in America.  The Canadian Bishops blocked his consecration because he continues to believe it is permissible for a priest from one Anglican jurisdiction to create a ministry in the bounds of a different jurisdiction without permission of the bishop of that jurisdiction.  This is against Canadian canons. During the bishops' interview with Worley had confirmed his belief in border-crossing.  They then voted to withhold approval of his consecration.  The Diocese of Caledonia has had trouble electing a successor to the Rt. Rev. William Anderson who retired in December 2016.  Anderson had originally called for a synod meeting to be held October 14, 2016, but cancelled the synod because of a canonical objection.  Now selection will be delayed even further.

Former Presiding Bishop Adds Her Voice to Those Opposing Drilling in National Preserves

Former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori has published an opinion piece in the Reno Gazette-Jounral urging the protection of wilderness areas from gas and oil drilling.  She spoke specifically about  the need to protect Alaskan caribou who roam the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Her piece  picks up many of the same concerns Bishop Carol Gallagher raised in her opinion piece in a Helena, Montana paper a few weeks ago. Are more statements forthcoming?

Diocese of Washington Showcases Its Work with Immigrants

The web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has an article showcasing the efforts of a number of parishes to work with and welcome refugees including muslims.  The diocese thus joins a growing list of dioceses with active programs supporting immigrants and refugees.  Update has carried stories on Los Angeles' efforts. Episcopal News Service has carried stories on actions in  Seattle, San Diego, Minneapolis, and the amica brief filed by 14 Episcopal bishops which challenges the second Executive Order banning travel from 6 middle eastern countries  to the United States.

Episcopal Schools in the News Again

Two very different stories brought attention to Episcopal Schools this last week.  St. Andrew's School in Potomac, Maryland has announced that Baron Trump will be a student there in the fall.  Founded in 1978 the day school has an impressive record in in academic rankings and in diversity. It is about a 35 minute drive from the White House to the school.   Meanwhile in Rhode Island, Howard White, Jr., one of the men accused of sexually abusing students at St. George's School has pleaded guilty, and has reached a plea agreement with and 18 month sentence, thus avoiding a trial.  Update has carried previous stories on the St. George's cases. The most recent is here.

ACNA Task Force on Ordination of Women Recommends Further Discussion

A Task Force that was supposed to provide guidance on how ACNA could resolve the differences among its members over women's ordination has punted the ball.  The Task Force produced a more than 300 page report, that details the theological positions of all parties, voices a desire for unity, but can only recommend that discussions continue in  order to eventually find some route to unity.  It noted that both supporters and opponents are fervent in their beliefs, and outside of making a distinction between ordination as a priest and service as a bishop comes to no resolutions.  The Task Force did agree that women were barred from being bishops because bishops are supposed to be symbols of unity, and a woman bishop would be divisive. For those who want to read the whole report, it can be found here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Week Ending 5/8/17

Heather Cook Denied Parole

Former Suffragan Bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook, was denied parole at a hearing this last week.  Cook is serving a term in prison for killing a bicyclist in a hit and run incident while driving under the influence.  At her first chance at parole the deposed bishop gave no statement of apology or remorse and was denied parole.  She will continue to serve her  seven year sentence, but is likely to serve only half of it in prison. 

Splinter Group Consecrates Church of England Traditionalist as Bishop

A conservative evangelical curate at Jesmond Parish in Newcastle surprised both GAFCON and the Church of England by being consecrated a bishop in the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) which is a break away body from the The Church of Southern Africa. The news of Jonathan Pryke's consecration caught the various GAFCON groups by surprise. GAFCON had just the previous week agreed to consecrate a bishop to provide an alternative to bishops of the Church of England in Europe. The UK branch of GAFCON noted that REACH-SA had ordained several clergy serving in the Jesmond region, but made no other comment.  Orders in REACH-SA are recognized as valid by the Church of England, but the REACH-SA is not in communion with the Church of England.  Pryke intends to continue as curate in in Jesmond while also serving REACH-SA.  He took vows that said he would follow directions of bishops of the Church of God, not REACH-SA.  Bishop Christie Hardaman issued a statement saying that neither Pryke or the REACH-SA bishops had permission to function within her diocese of "England, and that this was contrary to Church canons. The situation may remind Americans of what David Moyer tried to do in Rosemont, PA after being consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Church in America. Moyer was deposed and the parish eventually reclaimed by the Diocese of Pennsylvania.   For more commentary on GAFCON and its strategy to take over the Anglican Communion, take a look the most recent blog entry by Mark Harris.

Parish Organist Arrested for Vandalizing Church

Just days after the 2016 presidential election two Episcopal parishes, one in Maryland and one in Indiana,  dealt with hate graffiti that seemed aimed at their inclusive positions.  Both incidents attracted national attention and support.  Presiding Bishop Curry celebrated communion in the Indiana parish in Bean Blossom while in Indiana for consecration of their new bishop.  Now the parish is shocked to find out that their own organist was the source of the graffiti in a misguided attempt to mobilize people for inclusion in the wake of the election. Police have arrested and charged Nathan Stang with vandalism.  Bishop Baskerville-Burrows' statement is here.  She promised full co-operation with the police, issued an apology, asked for prayers for all involved and urged Christians to resist the polarization of society.  Update's earlier coverage of the event is here