Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Week Ending 2/13/17
Executive Council takes Strong Stands on Pipeline and RefugeesAs Update reported last week, work on the Dakota pipeline has resumed following clearance by the Army Corps of Engineers, and so have protests at the site. At its meeting last week,the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church reaffirmed its opposition to the pipeline and called on Episcopalians to support the Standing Rock Sioux in their protests, including a March 10 march on Washington. The Council also took action to support Episcopal Migration Ministries with $500,000 to help with their immediate needs as funding for the ministry's work normally comes from government contracts that provide funds when new refugees enter the country.
Council also directed the Presiding Bishop to investigate if it was "advisable" to file suit challenging the changes in refugee policy by the new administration in Washington. The Diocese of Olympia has already filed suit. The Episcopal Church was not the only religious body making statements in response to the recent executive order on entry into the U.S. The Methodist Bishop of New York (formerly Bishop in Pittsburgh) Thomas Bickerton has also urged Methodists to take a stand, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out against a cancellation of an agreement that allowed refugee children to be settled in Britain. The agreement was cancelled immediately following the announcement of the U.S. executive order.
Sauls Lawsuit Claims Conspiracy to Oust HimLast week's Update carried the link to a letter issued by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies on a lawsuit filed by former church Chief Operating Officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls. The contents of his filing are now available, and Sauls is asking for damages because his reputation has been so seriously damaged by a multi-year conspiracy led by Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies and others inside and outside the Church Center, that Sauls is now unemployable.
According to the former COO, the purpose of the conspiracy was to increase the power of the office of President of the House of Deputies so that it would overshadow the Presiding Bishop. Alex Haley has some pointed, if one-sided comments on the filing here.
Whither General Convention 2018?Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings have sent a letter to Texas officials opposing passage of a law requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender assigned on their birth certificates. The letter pointedly notes that the 1955 General Convention had been scheduled for Houston but was moved to Hawaii when it became clear that the civil rights of some of those who would attend General Convention would not be honored. The letter makes clear that the church will not allow rights of any who attend General Convention, including transgendered people, to be restricted. This was clearly a veiled threat that if the proposed bill passes, the church may well go elsewhere.
New Survey Shows Religious Divide on Same-Sex Marriage and Little Support for Laws Allowing Denial of ServiceA new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute using a data base of over 47,000 respondents shows that a majority of Americans, including those from most churches now support same-sex marriages. Only three groups (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and White Evangelical Protestants) had majorities disapproving of same-sex marriage. Three more categories -- black protestants, hispanic protestants, and muslims -- had results showing both supporters and opponents in the mid-forty percents with those who offered no opinion keeping totals for either position below a majority. Catholics (hispanic and white), white mainline protestants, orthodox Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists, other religions, and the non-religious all now have majorities accepting same-sex marriage. On a question about whether small businesses should be able for religious reasons to deny products or services to LGBTQ, every group except for white evangelical protestants had a majority disapproving a denial of services. The percentages were not even close. The white evangelicals were nearly split in half, with 50% supporting the right to deny services and the other 50% either not responding and opposing the denial.
Church of England Archbishops Recognize Validity of ACNA OrdersThe Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a statement saying that they recognize the ordinations of members of the ACNA clergy as valid (i.e. comikng from the historic episcopate). This is the same status accorded clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa, and The Free Church of England. Because this is a status awarded others not part of the Anglican Communion, it is not a back door admission of ACNA to the Communion. In fact, it can be interpreted in the reverse, a recognition that ACNA is a separate denomination.
Archbishop Welby Draws Parallels Between Trump, Brexit, and Neo-FascismIn his opening speech to the Church of England Synod meeting, Archbishop Welby drew parallels in an unflattering way between the election of Donald Trump and the decision to leave the European Union, suggesting both are drawing on a vein of Neo-Fascism in society. A full discussion and a link to his talk his here.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Week Ending 2/6/17
Presiding Bishop Draws Crowds in PittsburghOriginally invited to be the preacher at the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh's Absalom Jones Day Service, Presiding Bishop Curry turned the trip into the initial launch of his Jesus Movement revival. Billing it as a Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism, Curry met with groups and preached four times in three days, gathering crowds for each. The initial interdenominational service of repentance involved a number of religious leaders in Pittsburgh and was held Friday night at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Over 200 attended it. Saturday there was a breakfast for youth, the Absalom Jones service and afternoon workshops. The service and breakfast, held at Holy Cross in Homewood had a standing room only crowd. On Sunday Bishop Curry first preached at Calvary Church in Pittsburgh to a crowd of nearly 500 and then at St. Stephen's McKeesport. The McKeesport service attracted a worshipers from nearly every parish in the diocese with attendance near 400.
Bishop Sauls Sues Presiding Bishop and ChurchLast spring, the Presiding Bishop announced that three senior staff members at the Church Center had been asked to leave. All three had been placed on administrative leave in December 2015 pending an investigation. While two were let go for cause following the investigation, the third, Bishop Stacy Sauls, was cleared, but was let go in April because the new Presiding Bishop was reorganizing his staff. Apparently they were unable to agree on a termination compensation package and now Sauls has sued. Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings jointly issued a statement on the litigation this week.
Long Island Priest Arrested for Drugs and Child PornBishop Lawrence Provanzano of Long Island moved quickly to withdraw the license and remove the Rev. Christopher King from St. James of Jerusalem in Long Beach, NY following King's arrest on drug charges and for possession of child pornography. Various drugs were found at King's residence and the porn was on his computer.
Army Corps Announcement Brings Vows of Continued Resistance at Standing RockThe Army Corps of Engineers has announced that they intend to issue the permits needed for the completion of the Dakota Pipeline without completing the environment impact studies. The Standing Rock tribe has vowed to continue to fight construction which threatens its water supply. There are protests planned around the country against the Army's decision. Update had just reported on a new round of arrests of protesters in Standing Rock last week.
Diocese of Georgia Plans Student Residence at Chapel SiteThe Diocese of Georgia has started the permitting process so it can build a multi-use building on the site of its current chapel at the University of Georgia. The site would include retail, a private dorm, and a chapel. It is not clear how long the permit process might take, but as the local news story indicates, local residents, students and the university all have questions about the project.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Week Ending 1/30/17
Episcopalians Respond to the Executive Order on ImmigrationThe Executive Order banning immediately the entrance into the U.S. of people from 7 countries, including those holding green cards and refugees with visas provoked not only major demonstrations at a number of airports and cities, but numerous statements from religious leaders. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had sent a public letter to Donald Trump urging that the Episcopal Church's ministry of refugee resettlement not be disrupted just two days before Trump signed the E.O. Since then numerous Episcopal Bishops and officials have gone on record denouncing the order. The Episcopal Cafe gives a listing of the statements. Be sure to also look in the comments because they include updates. In addition, there has been a petition circulating about refugee resettlement ministries that had garnered the signatures of more than 3500 religious leaders from many different faith traditions, including a number of Episcopalians.
Sudan Sends Christians to Jail for Trying to Help a Badly Burned RefugeePetr Jašek, a Czech national with a background in medical administration was arrested on his arrival in Sudan. He was bringing $5000 to help with medical expenses for a student badly burned during a 2013 protest. Charged with spying, defaming the government, and bringing money to finance rebels,
Jašek and two Sudanese Christians who were seen on a video Jašek had on his computer have received long sentences. The government is also taking action to have numerous Christian churches demolished.
Trump's Supreme Court Nominee is an EpiscopalianNeil Gorsuch, nominated on Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court may be a conservative, but he attends a downtown Episcopal Church in Boulder, CO, according to the Religion News Service. St. John's web page description of the parish refers to itself as "inclusive" and has this statement: "We are formed and strengthened through a variety of worship services, traditional music, contemplative prayer, spiritual and social justice formation programs, as well as meaningful service within the parish, the local community and in the larger world." The parish is listed as a Jubilee ministry by the Episcopal Church because of its long history of outreach.
Judge Withdraws from Consideration for South Carolina Supreme CourtJudge Diane Goodstein whose originally banned loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina from using the name of their diocese, and who issued the original trial decision that awarded all property to the schismatic group had put her name forward for consideration as a South Carolina Supreme Court Judge. Episcopalians appealed that decision in a filing highly critical of Goodstein, but have been waiting over a year and a half for the Supreme Court to issue its opinion on that appeal. Steve Skaradon who edits the blog scepiscopalians.com reported the withdrawal and explains the politics of South Carolina judge selection. His blog does not have internal bookmarks, so look for his February 1 entry.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Week Ending 1/23/17
Episcopalians Involved in Inauguration Weekend EventsWhile on inauguration day the Episcopal Church had some involvement (a private service that used St. John's as its site and a National Cathedral choir singing as part of the prelude to the inauguration ), on Saturday the Church was more visible. The inauguration events ended with a service at the National Cathedral. Last week the Update carried a story on the controversy surrounding this event. The event was a very multi-faith service in which Bishop Mariann Budde, the cathedral dean, a representative for the Presiding Bishop, and cathedral vergers all participated. A full description is found here. Meanwhile, the capitol was flooded with over a half million participants in the Women's March and additional millions attended "sister" marches in cities and towns throughout the U.S. and world wide. Marchers in several did so as Episcopal groups. There is an Episcopal News Story about some of the participants.
Wales Joins Provinces with Women as BishopsWales has now joined the list of Anglican Communion provinces with women as bishops. The Rt. Reverend Joanna Penberthy was consecrated as the 129th Bishop of St. David's in a service conducted in both Welsh and English on January 21. (The Update carried news of her election in November.) Communion-wide, the U.S. led the way with the consecration of the Right Rev. Barbara Harris in 1986. Women also have been consecrated as bishops in England, Ireland, Scotland, Southern Africa, South India, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The extra-provincial church in Cuba also has a woman as bishop.
Dakota Pipeline Construction Back OnDonald Trump has signed an executive memorandum directing the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up their environmental review of oil pipeline construction near the Standing Rock reservation so that the pipeline can be finished. A core of water protectors have remained at camps at the protest site despite strong pressure and threats by law enforcement to remove them. The Episcopal Church has supported the protectors and the local Episcopal Congregation remains involved. The most recent previous Update story is here.
Archbishop of Canterbury Calls October Meeting for PrimatesIn an attempt to end some of the continuing warfare among Anglican Provinces over issues related to theology and LGBTQ inclusion, Archbishop Justin Welby has called a meeting of Anglican Primates only for October 2017. The letter was sent in November, but has now been made public. The last gathering of Primates was held in January 2016, and resulted in a request that the Episcopal Church stand down from leadership offices in the Communion and committee that dealt with ecumenical relations. The ACNA Archbishop was an observer at that meeting. The invitation for this coming October is for Communion Primates only. Thus speculation about American "TEC Bishops" being invited is off-base. The only TEC bishop eligible to go is Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Some news stories have confused what Welby calls the "special" meeting of last January with an official primates meeting. The meeting called for October seems to be a regular meeting,
Continuing Debate on Same-Sex MarriageThe Episcopal Cafe on-line magazine carried a story on speculation that the Church of England bishops are about to drop questions to LGBT clergy that required them to maintain a celibate lifestyle. This would result in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" situation for same-sex partnered clergy in England. Meanwhile in Australia, Dr. Muriel Porter, a Melbourne journalist and Anglican who has served more than 30 years in the Australian Church's General Synod, has filed documents with the Australian Senate committee looking at same-sex marriage saying that most Aussie Anglicans have no problem with same sex-marriage. Her filing counters the one submitted by a priest from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney (the one Australian Diocese participating officially in GAFCON). Update carried a report on an earlier stage of the Australian Church's response to discussion in the senate.
Finally, the editor apologizes for late publication this week of the Update, but participation in the Women's March in Washington, threw off my work schedule.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Week Ending 01/16/17
Presidential Inaugural ConcernsWhile Episcopalians debated whether churches should pray for the incoming president by name or by title, and others were upset that Washington National Cathedral was hosting the post inauguration prayer service and sending its men's and boy's choir to sing as a prelude to the actual inauguration, the Archbishop of Canada asked members of his church to pray for people in the U.S. The discussion over how to pray for the incoming president led Presiding Bishop Curry to issue a formal statement. Most prayers in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for the country and its leaders are by generic title. Only two have an option of adding a name. Those upset with the National Cathedral service raised issues about whether that was a form of endorsement of him, were concerned that the inaugural committee was planning the service, (not the cathedral dean or bishop), that there was to be no sermon, and that it was a ticketed event. The performance by the cathedral music groups at the prelude to the inauguration was opposed as being inappropriate given Episcopal values. Statements by the cathedral dean and Bishop Mariann Budde did not end the criticism.
Pauli Murray Home Named a National LandmarkThe childhood home of the Rev. Pauli Murray, poet, activist, lawyer, feminist, and the first African American woman ordained to the Episcopal priesthood has been declared a national historic landmark. The group restoring the house is working on opening the site by 2020. You can read more about Murray here. Murray has a Pittsburgh connection, having spent the last year of her life in our diocese as a member of Holy Cross parish.
Reformed Church Ordains First Openly Gay MinisterChad Tanaka Pack was ordained this last week in the Reformed Church in a ceremony at Middle Collegiate Church in New York. He is on the staff of the Marble Collegiate Church also in New York City. It makes for some interesting commuting because Pack is the spouse of the Rev. Michael Foley, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, PA. Pack is the first openly gay individual to enter the ordination process of the Reformed Church as an "out" gay.
Scots Criticized for Epiphany Service with MuslimsSt. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow planned its Epiphany Service with input from the local Muslim community which was invited to attend. One of the readings for that service was from the Koran. The Cathedral was surprised by the large number of protests they received. Some of those upset threatened the church. The Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland has issued a statement saying the Church is sorry that the service caused so much offense and is also sorry for the abuse that the cathedral and staff have received. They will be looking for other ways to continue the interfaith dialog.
ACNA Bishops Approve Trial texts for New Prayer BookThe 1979 Book of Common Prayer is on its way out in ACNA congregations. The bishops of the break-away denomination have approved texts for all of the remaining parts of their new Book of Common Prayer and put them on line for people to make comments and to use. They are on track to publish the new book in 2020. Approval came at the recent ACNA House of Bishops meeting.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Week Ending 1/9/17
Ecumenical Groups Express Concern About Trump AppointmentsThe National Council of Churches and PICO National Network (the largest group of faith-based organizations) have both expressed concern about some of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet Appointments. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judiaism and the Rev. William Barber's group Moral Monkeys made statements. You can find a summary of their concerns here.
Controversy Continues Over Dar-es-Salom BishopThe Archbishop of Tanzania deposed the Bishop of Dar-es-Salom for financial irregularities. Bishop Mokiwa however is refusing to recognize the authority of the Archbishop to do this, and controversy continues. It is not clear if the Archbishop can do this without the action of the House of Bishops and they had declined pursuing the charges. Mokiwa is himself a former archbishop of the Anglican province.
Bishops Against Gun Violence Take Next StepThe Episcopal Bishops United Against Gun Violence are now facilitating a conference in Chicago on April 20-22, 2017 which hopes to empower those who attend to deal with the "unholy Trinity" of poverty, racism and guns. You can find more information including registration information here.
The group of Bishops made their first public statements in a march during the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake. (See the Update here.)