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         

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Week Ending 09-28-20

Priest Confirms Abuse at ICE Facility

A whistleblower complaint filed by a former nurse at an ICE Detention Center for women has been in the news because doctors there were doing hysterectomies on detained women far beyond what medical necessity would have dictated.  Now an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Leeann Culbreath, has confirmed that whistleblower's statements fit very closely with what women detained there were telling her.  Culbreath has ministered to the women at the Irwin County Detention Center.  Episcopal News Service has more on her work there and the conditions at the center. 

Church in South Africa Admits Complicity in Abuse

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa passed a pair of resolutions at its most recent Provincial Standing Committee meeting.  One resolution praises Archbishop Thabo for his work to try to end all forms of abuse within the church and for his pastoral leadership in the area.  The other resolution began by admitting the church had fallen short in addressing complaints of gender -based-violence, including domestic abuse, and requires every diocese to have a gender-based violence officer or task force to lead efforts in education against such violence, and to explore changes that will make liturgies more gender inclusive.   The full resolutions are included in the Episcopal News Service story.

Continuing Stories

Maryland Parish Deals With Its Slaveholder Past

The Diocese of Maryland has taken a leading role in dealing with church participation in slavery and racism.  Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore is now coming to terms with the way that its past not only is tied to slavery, but that two of its rectors were leaders in promoting racism and disfranchisement of African Americans after the Civil War.  The church itself was built as a memorial to slaveholders.  The parish began exploring its past when the deacon assigned to the parish discovered that she was descended from slaves owned by one of the rectors of the parish.  The parish has removed plaques from the church honoring the families, and is deciding where to place them outside of the worship spaces where they can be interpreted in context as part of the parish history.  The parish has also conducted a ceremony intended to begin the healing.  Update has been covering the Episcopal Church's efforts at coming to terms with its own racist past and the removal of various memorials honoring those who were slave owners or otherwise worked to exclude African Americans.


Washington Bishop Protests ICE Detention on Church Grounds

Last week Update carried a piece on  an ICE raid that arrested the live-in caretaker of a Methodist Church.  The arrest took place on church grounds, thus violating agency policy and undoing the claim of sanctuary that the Church made.  The church was a Maryland suburb of Washington. D.C. now Bishop Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has joined with other church leaders in signing a protest of this violation of sanctuary.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Week Ending 9/21/20

Presiding Bishop's Statement on Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was among the many national figures to issue a statement following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  He praise her for commitment to the Old Testament injunction to "Do Justice."  His full statement is here

Antifa and Churches Provide Fire Relief Together

While the president and attorney general are busy painting the Antifascist movement as  terrorist organization, those who identify with  the movement have been working with churches in the northwest to provide relief to those displaced by the widespread fires that have been ravagin Washington, Oregon, and California.  Religion News carried the story of one such partnership with a UCC Church, but provides an alternative view of those who have been opposing fascist movements in the U.S. 

White Supporter of Bus Boycott Dies

 When African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama began boycotting busses because of discrimination by the city bus company, black ministers rallied to the cause, but only one white clergy person openly supported the boycott. Rev. Robert Graetz, sent to Montgomery by the Lutheran Church because they were short pastors for their black congregations, died this last wee at age 92.  Unable to get any other white clergy to join him in support of the boycott, Graetz and his family paid a heavy price in community harassment, threats, and vandalism for their support. A handful of whites in Montgomery  openly supported the boycott.  That handful included several Episcopalians, including Virginia Durr and Juliette Hampton Morgan.[Durr is mentioned in the article by the Episcopal Cafe, the Update editor has added Morgan's name].

Updates and Continuing Stories

Pandemic Results in Delay of Vote on Methodist-Episcopal Agreement

The joint committee working on a full communion agreement between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church has issued a statement delaying any vote on the agreement to the first meetings of General Convention and the Methodist General Conference held after 2021.  The reason was the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming meetings of both bodies because of the pandemic.  Unless a special General Convention called that will delay the vote on the agreement to General Convention 2024 for Episcopalians. Update has been following the discussions, especially in light of the United Methodist Church issues surrounding LGBTQ ordination.

ICE Agents Violate Rules Against Arrests at Churches

Several Episcopal Parishes have offered shelter on their grounds to immigrants fearing arrest and deportation by Immigration Control.  Update has reported on these and the court decision upholding church sanctuary from agents.  However, recently ICE agents violated agency policy by entering a Methodist Church grounds in Maryland and arresting the Indonesian immigrant who served as its caretaker.  He and his wife were both undocumented and have lived in the U.S. for 29 years.  They have two minor children who are U.S. citizens. Given the persecution Christians face in Indonesia, the couple had applied for refugee status but were denied. Update has noted that federal courts have returned cases for review when  refugee status was denied without considering the likelihood to danger for the applicant if returned to the home country.   The Methodist Church is demanding their release.

Former Massachusetts Priest Sentenced

Gregory Lisby, who was convicted early in 2020 for downloading pornography and having sexual contact with a 16 year-old-boy, was sentenced this last week to 6 years in prison.  The Diocese of Western Massachusetts removed him from the priesthood when the charges surfaced.  The sentence was less than requested  by the prosecutors, in part because the judge was impressed by the number of letters submitted in his support.  The local news has a more detailed account. 

Churches Continue to Struggle with Virus Rules

The Atlanta Journal carried a story about the return of face-to-face worship in some Episcopal parishes.  The services are being held outdoors and are limited to 50 people.  Meanwhile in Quebec, Anglicans are among the many churches protesting government regulations which limit church attendance to 25 while allowing concerts and sporting events to seat as many as 250.  The Living Church picked up a shortened version of the article published in the Canadian Church's Anglican Journal.  In England, the Archbishop of Canterbury is lobbying for greater local control on size of gatherings, singling out the "rule of six" which limits gatherings to no more than 6 people as something imposed centrally when a set of local guidelines might be better attuned to actual conditions in a community.  Update has regularly carried notices related to the reopening of face-to-face worship during the current pandemic.

West Indies Province Continues Opposition to Same Sex Unions 

The Government of Barbados is looking to create a legal civil union status for same sex couples.  They have also promised not to implement approval of marriages between same sex couples without a public referendum.  The likely change to allow legal civil unions, however, resulted in the Bishop of the Diocese of Barbados stressing in an interview that the change in civil law would not affect the Province of the West Indies stand that marriage was only between a man and a woman, nor would Barbados churches start blessing civil unions.  The Province of the West Indies has been one of the consistent opponents of full inclusion within the Anglican Communion, and the statement thus is not a surprise.  The bishop did admit that if civil unions were authorized in Barbados, public opinion might change to be more supportive of same-sex marriage, and that this could be a challenge for the Church.  Update has carried many stories on parts of the Anglican Communion having to respond to changes in civil law granting same sex couples legal protection and/or access to marriage.  One of the most recent is here.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Week ending 9/14/20

All items this week are updates on previous postings. 


South Carolina Goes to Court Again

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has filed a second request in federal court for enforcement of the trademark decree that gave the diocese remaining in the Episcopal Church sole rights to claim to be the continuation of the historic diocese.  An earlier request resulted in a cease and desist order against the schismatic group that is now part of ACNA.  Attempts by the ACNA group to have the order stayed and appealed were rejected by the court at the end of 2019, but the diocese and parishes continue to make claims.  The document filed with the court lists statements made on a number of parish web sites and the continuing claims of the group led by Bishop Mark Lawrence that he is the 14th bishop of the diocese.  Lawrence was the 14th bishop until he left the Episcopal Church.  He is now the first bishop of the ACNA diocese.  A summary of the filing is here with links to the full complaint.  

Embattled Oxford Dean Cleared Again

Faculty attempts to have the Dean of Christ Church College and Cathedral removed collapsed after a bitter period of charges and counter-charges, but the Dean's opponents refused to give up and then filed charges he had mishandled cases of sexual misconduct.  That investigation has now been concluded and once again, the dean was cleared with the investigating panel report specifying he handled the charges appropriately.  The Thinking Anglicans site has a summary and links to a number of reactions to the report just issued.  Update has followed the twists and turns of this Oxford dispute which never seems to end. 

Some In-Person Worship To Resume in Atlanta

The Diocese of Atlanta has authorized in-person outdoor worship for parishes that meet certain criteria.  On-line versions of worship will also continue.  Episcopal Dioceses have been among the most cautious in returning to face-to-face worship out of a sense of responsibility to not risk the lives of members or the spread of the covid-19 virus.  Update has been noting the steps taken in a variety of locations. 

Combating Racism and Seeking Reconciliation

A year ago the Diocese of Maryland committed to setting funds aside for reparations for the damage they caused  through their complicity in slavery and racism.  At the diocesan convention this year the the deputies approved setting aside $1 million for work on reparation projects and racial reconciliation, thus beginning the process of implementing the 2019 decision.  Maryland's lead in 2019 was followed by similar statements from two other dioceses and the Virginia Theological Seminary.  The University of South, founded after the Civil War and for years known as an institution with strong ties to the "Lost Cause" ideology has been recently coming to terms with its racist past.  It has removed memorials honoring confederates, led seminars to help other parishes and church institutions do the same, and now has officially repudiated its past ties to the  Confederacy and committed to seeking racial justice. 


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Week Ending 08/31/20

Another Episcopal First

Diana Akiyama was the first Japanese American woman ordained to the priesthood in 1989.  Now she will continue trailblazing as the first Japanese America woman elected bishop.  It will be a homecoming for Akiyama, the vicar of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Hawaii, for  she grew up in a Japanese-American community in Eastern Oregon. Elected on the second ballot, she will add to the growing number of women in the House of Bishops and broaden the ethnic and racial diversity of that house. 

New Zealand Anglicans Expand Refugee Resettlement

 New Zealand is known for eing restrictive on who may become a permament resident.  Thus refugee resettlement has been difficult.  The Anglican Church joined with Baptists and Catholics to initiate several years ago a refugee sponsorship program that admitted 40 families.  Now they have successfully lobbied for an expansion to 150 families.  They are however, continuing to encourage their country to removed certain requirements which mean that those who are more vulnerable can be included.  Currently, those admitted are not from the most hard-hit countries, and are among those most likely to find employment quickly.  More details about the effort are here.

Australian Diocese Raises Ethical Issues on Covid-19 Vaccine

The Archbishop of the conservative Australian Anglican Diocese of Sydney has joined with the Roman Catholic and  Greek Orthodox Archbishops to raise an ethical question about the covid-19 vaccine farthest along in clinical trials.  Apparently the vaccine makes use of cells gathered in a 1970s abortion.  The conservatives fear that this may result in many choosing not to get the vaccine.  They are urging the government to both make this particular vaccine optional and to seek other vaccine options. Their letter is available here.

Continuing Coverage

More on Feeding the Hungry

Update continues to highlight various outreach ministries during the pandemic.  Many Episcopalians have stepped into the breach to fill the needs of those short of food.  St. James Church in Alexander City, Alabama began a soup ministry, providing a drive-up soup-based supper once-a-week for those in need.  Now they have expanded it to serve all who come.  Originally handing out about 30 soup means in a bag, they are now serving about 70 each week.  They have added volunteers who help to prepare the meals, direct traffic, and hand the meals to the steady line of cars that come Each Tuesday between 5:30 and 6 p.m.   The Diocese of Maine has taken a different route, serving as a distributor in an effort to pair those who are short of food directly with farm produce from local farms.  The Diocese works with a non-profit and staffs several of the distribution locations. 

Worshiping During a Pandemic

The pandemic continues to affect worship in churches around the world.  One parish in Canton, Ohio has been able to put an eagle scout project done over 20 years ago to new use.  The project created an open air chapel for the parish in a wooded area.  Now it has become the site a appropriately socially distanced worship for the congregation.  The church had used the chapel about once a year.  Now it is the site of Morning Prayer every week.  Meanwhile the efforts of a woman in the Church of England to permit use of individual communion cups to facilitate serving  communion in both kinds has created a legal stir.  The House of Bishops responded that it would be against the law to do so.  A group of lawyers the woman asked to research the question says otherwise, and now others are weighing in.  The question is where the restoration of communion in both kinds or the use of the common cup is more theologically important.   Thinking Anglicans has links to a number of those who have weighed in to the discussion. Update has been following creative uses and debates about worship throughout the pandemic.

Residents Begin Return to Church High Rise

New stories originally appeared when displaced residents from a church-owned senior high-rise were afraid that diocesan support to them would be cut off while they waited for the completion of repair work from a fire.  Update carried that story, and a follow-up in which the bishop assured residents that they would continue receiving support.  Now the bishop has announced that nearly three quarters of the residents will be able to return this week.  Work continues of the building.  It appears that things are headed to a satisfactory conclusion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Week Ending 08/24/20

Church leaders Urge Protection of Arctic Wilderness

The decision of the Department of the Interior to sell gas and oil drilling leases in the protected Alaskan wilderness areas has led to a strong protest from Episcopal leadership.  Drilling not only threatens the native wildlife, but the way of life of indigienous peoples in the area, many of whom are Episcopalians.  The Episcopal Church has been on record as opposing drilling in this area for nearly 30 years.

Episcopalians Help After Iowa Derecho 

Nature seems intent on creating a lot of havoc this years with storms, fires, earthquakes and flood.  Iowans are used to flood and tornado warnings, but the hurricane force winds of the straight line  derecho that cut a wide swath across the state came with little warning.  Episcopalians were relieved that most damage to their church buildings was minimal, and so they have turned to offering assistance to their communities. The storm created major power outages, severe wind damage, blocked roads and shortages of food given blocked roads and lack of electricity.  Episcopal News Services has a report.

Nigeria Files Charges Against Anglican Bishop 

What began as an attempt by developers to take the property of an Anglican parish and tear down the church, has now escalated so that the Kaduna, Nigeria government has filed charges against the Anglican Bishop Abiodun Ogunyemi for the Zaria diocese.  Statements he made in support of the parish were deemed to be too critical of the government.  Locals are hoping that the matter will be able to be settled without going to trial.  Various African papers carried stories on the conflict.  One that is reasonably complete is here. Anglican.ink carried an earlier story with much of the background. 

Curry and Jennings Each Sign Amica Briefs Supporting LGBTQ Rights

Both the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, and the President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings, were lead Petitioners in amica filings in the case Fulton v. Philadelphia. The case involves claims of infringement of religious liberty by the city on Catholic Social Services.  The city rules allowed LGBTQ individuals and couples to serve as foster parents. Catholic Social Services sought an exemption from the rules.  Jennings is the lead petitioner in a brief signed by over 400 religious leaders, including a number of Jewish, Unitarian, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian clergy arguing against the exemption.  Curry signed a brief filed by the heads of several denominations including the UCC, the ELCA, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.  It argued that the ability of a government to its own policies was a necessary bulwark for religious liberty.  The case tests an area not covered by the decision earlier this year on employment rights for LGBTQ people.  That decision explicitly left out the question of religious exemptions and referred it to future litigation.

Ongoing Stories

Music During the Pandemic

In more peaceful news from Kenosha, the local paper carried a story on an organ, virtual choir and carillon concert offered by St. Matthews Episcopal Church.  The story highlighted ways the parish was trying to offer a music ministry to the community during the pandemic.  Update has been trying to highlight as many of these ministries as possible.

New Responses to Racial Protests

When Black Lives Matter protesters were forcibly being cleared from a downtown area in Pasadena last week,  All Saints Episcopal Church quickly opened its doors as a refuge for protesters.  A group then camped on the church grounds overnight.  Update has reported on a variety of ways Episcopalians have supported the protests. Meanwhile another police shooting of an unarmed black man, this time in Kenosha, led to violence there and a strong statement from the Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee, who also is a leading member of Bishops Against Gun Violence.   Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back as he tried get into his car while leaving the scene of a domestic violence call. His three young children were in the car.  Blake has survived, but is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

Bishop Budde's Benediction Makes News

Last week we carried news that Episcopal Bishop Budde of  Washington would offer a benediction on the second night of the Democratic National Convention.  Her short benediction was considered newsworthy enough to rate an after-convention story.  She evoked the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, the Rev. martin Luther King, Jr., the recently deceased Congressman John Lewis, and Abraham Lincoln in her short benediction.  You can read the full prayer here.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Week Ending 08/17/20

Bishop Budde Tapped for Benediction at Democratic Convention

Washington's bishop, Mariann Budde is among the interfaith group of religious leaders asked to provide benedictions during the four-day Democratic National Convention. Bishop Budde was scheduled for Tuesday, and has been in the news recently for her criticism of  the way protesters were treated in order for Trump  to use St. John's Church for a photo op.  (See later item in this post.) The list of religious leaders included leaders from Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Evangelical, Baptist, and the Catholic tradition.  group includes almost an equal number of women and men. Religion News carried the basic story.  Episcopal Cafe provided additional information on each of the leaders. 

Episcopal School Students Quarantined After Party

While Episcopal parishes have been taking a slow and cautious approach to resuming in-person services, schools have been facing pressure to hold regular classes.   At the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, almost one-quarter of the upper division students attended off campus parties over a weekend.  As a result, the Upper School has switched to all on-line classes, at least for a month, as students quarantine.

Continuing Stories

Another Parish Gets Local Praise for a Food Ministry

St. Paul's Parish in Louisville is the latest Episcopal parish to be praised by local media for their outreach ministry during the pandemic. The parish has dedicated what would have been their worship time to organizing a weekly food collection.  The congregation collects food dropped off by people driving up to the church.  The contributions com from both members and strangers who see their sign.  The food is then transported to another downtown Episcopal Church which has a food pantry that has fed more than 3500 people in the last 21 months.   Update has been noting as many of these efforts as possible.

Fence Coming Down at St. John's Lafayette Square 

As a result of protests at Lafayette Square in front of the White House, Washington D.C. officials decided to put up a fence that cut off St. John's Church from the Square.  The Parish very reluctantly agreed to the fence.  This week the rector of the parish announced that the fence was coming down at the end of the month.  The erection of the fence put on hold plans for a local arts group to paint the plywood protecting the parish's stained glass.  With the fence now coming down, the arts group is going to go forward with the plans for art that expressed healing, love and justice. 

The Bishop Responds to Those Forced from Church Apartments

Last week Update reported on residents who had been displaced from a diocese-owned high-rise apartment building in West Palm Beach that was housing for seniors.  The apartments had been having major maintenance and mold issues for several years, but an electrical fire forced all the residents to be moved to other quarters.  Local news reported on the concerns of the displaced residents after receiving a notice that the diocese was ending financial help for temporary housing.  A letter has now been shared that was sent by the Bishop of South East Florida in his role as chair of the board for the church corporation that owns the home.  The bishop committed to having weekly updates with the former residents until they could return.  The letter however, only addressed the fire damage and not the other issues. Episcopal Cafe had a follow-up story with the bishop's full letter. 

Helsinki Diocese Moves to Allow Same-Sex Marriages

When Finland authorized same-sex marriage, the Lutheran Church did not follow suit, although the Helsinki Diocese urged a formal approval of blessing same-sex marriages.  They did not prevail.  On the eve of a Church Synod at which the issue is scheduled to be discussed, the diocese has announced that they intend to begin allowing same-sex marriages in their churches. Individual clergy have been dong so for several years without being disciplined.  The Synod is expected to approve a local option arrangement.  The Lutheran Church in Finland has been in full communion with the Church of England for more than 20 years. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Week Ending 08/10/20

 Church Responds to Beirut Explosion

The devastaing blast that leveled Beirut's port and surrounding residential area shattered all the windows in All Saints Church, part of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and also damaged the Anglican Center at the Near East School of Theology about two miles from the blast.  Beirut faces a daunting task in rebuilding because the port where relief supplies and building materials would arrive is totally destroyed. Bishop Dewani has called for contributions to repair the church structures and to help in rebuilding the communities that surrounded these buildings.  Despite its damage, All Saints should be able to serve as a relief distribution center.  The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of jerusalem are coordinating  contributions.  The Episcopal News Service has more details on the damage, the challenges for rebuilding and places to contribute.

Presiding Bishop to Join Daniels Memorial Service Virtually

Seminarian Jonathan Daniels gave his life in 1965 when on August 20 he took a shotgun blast intended for a young black girl part of a group of 4 civil rights activists who had just been released from jail.  The Episcopal Church commemorates him on August 14, the day of his arrest.  Daniels was a native of Keene, New Hampshire and St. James Episcopal Church holds a special service commemorating his life and death every year.  This year Bishop Michael Curry has recorded a reflection that will be part of the church's service. The reflection will be followed by a zoom service of prayers and meditations.  The local news carried a story inviting all to attend the event on August 16.  The Presiding Bishop's video will be available on the church web site for a week.  

Seniors Homeless After Closure of Church Residence

The residents of a high rise home for senior citizens on fixed incomes that was owned and managed by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida were displaced after a June 14 electrical fire rendered the high-rise, 182 unit building uninhabitable. For at least 2 years before that residents had been complaining of maintenance issues.  The diocese has been paying for food and housing for the displaced residents, but has informed them that the subsidies are about to end.  Residents are concerned that they are ending up homeless.  Situated on the intercoastal waterway in West Palm Beach, with upper floors having an ocean view, residents are concerned that the diocese may decide to cash in on the value of the property rather than go forward with repairs.  The story and more detail is available from a local newspaper.

Remembering Bishop Sam Hulsey

Bishop Sam Hulsey, the retired Bishop of Northwest Texas, was a major guide and support for Episcopalians in Fort Worth during the schism and diocesan rebuilding died on August 6.  The Diocese of Northwest Texas and the Diocese of Fort Worth both published very full memorials of his life and work.  While the two memorials share much of the same information, each has additional material related to his work and his relations with people in that diocese. The Diocese of Northwest Texas piece is here.  The Fort Worth one was written by Katie Sherrod, and includes a number of personal reflections


Three Board Members Resign from Brotherhood of St. Andrews Over Racism

Frustration over the slowness of the Brotherhood of St. Andrews to address issues of racism within its organization and in society have led to the resignation of 3 black members of the group's leadership team.  The last straw was the reaction of the Brotherhood's president to a proposed statement  written by an ad hoc committee including the three members. One of the 3 was Joe McDaniel the vice president of the Brotherhood's racial reconciliation committee.  The statement was to be a response to the killing of George Floyd and questions of systemic racism in society. The remaining Brotherhood leadership has now tried to mend the breach by inviting the Rev.  Shaneequa Brokenleg, the staff officer for Racial Reconciliation for the Episcopal Church to consult on the Brotherhood's anti-racism efforts.   For more detail, Episcopal News Service has this article.

Continuing Stories

 Springfield Reaches Compromise on Bishop's Retirement

Update reported that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Springfield and Bishop Dan Martins had reached an impasse over the details of his retirement.  Most particularly, the Standing Committee wished him to resign earlier because Martins had already moved to Chicago and they doubted he would be able to fulfill all of his episcopal duties from several hundred miles away.  The Presiding Bishop's office sent the parties to meet with a mediator, the retired Bishop of Northern Indiana, Edward Little.  A compromise was worked out where the Standing Committee would assume most of the administrative duties, but Bishop Martin would retain authority over clergy and provide confirmation and other occasional episcopal services.  For a fuller summary see the Anglican.ink story here.