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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, July 11, 2018

Week Ending 7/9/18

General Convention Round-Up

Convention Goers Witness Against Gun Violence and For Detained Refugees/Immigrants

Sunday at Convention was a morning filled with witnessing on major issues.  At 9:30 several hundred gathered across from the convention site for an event sponsored by Bishops Against Gun Violence.  Several Bishops spoke, but the main addresses were by the parents of Carmen Schentrup, one of those killed at Stoneman High School and a very articulate 14 year-old who organized one of the larger school walkouts in Texas.  At the conclusion, the crowd joined others boarding busses to go to a prayer service at the Huto detention Center where women refugees/immigrants are detained, including at least 40 who had been separated from their children.  Nearly 1000 Episcopalians gathered in direct sun for a prayer service in Spanish and English. Local news outlets and the Living Church covered the two events.

Language a Major Issue at Convention

Language - what to say and when is a major theme at the convention.  There have been problems with providing translating for those testifying at convention and with getting materials on the floor of the House of Deputies  available in a timely manner for the Spanish speaking members of convention.  There are proposals being put forward that would require church organizations and institutions to use inclusive and non-gendered language in all settings, and revision of the Book of Common Prayer with a focus on non-gendered language and expanding the imagery used for God.  None of the measures have of yet passed both houses although the House of Deputies passed a Prayer Book Revision resolution that has some nod towards being sensitive to the historic formularies of the church and traditional language, but with no guarantees.  This provoked concern from conservatives. It is not clear what the House of Bishops will do.

Convention Debates Socialy Responsible Investment Options

The House of Deputies has sent a resolution that asks for the development of social justice criteria relating to the Palestinian crisis be developed to guide church investments.  The measure was amended on the floor to include language that referenced a 1991 General Convention resolution stressing the difference between disagreeing with Israeli governmental policy and anti-semitism.  Just out of committee and going to the House for votes are resolutions on socially repsponsible investing.  The house has already passed a resolution and sent it to the bishops on using their clout as investors to change policies of companies, especially in relation to gun violence.

Women's Status Addressed in multiple Ways

The special task force on women's status has brought several issues to General Convention.  The convention began with a special listening liturgy planned by women bishops of the church. On Monday the 9th many members wore purple scarves to raise the questionof why there are so few women bishops and encourage election of more. There are major proposals working their way through the committees and two houses for a task force to study sex bias, discrimination and harassment in the church, and require inclusive language and others to study the barriers discouraging women church musicians.

Church of England Synod Takes Stands on Nuclear Weapons and Divestment

The Church of England Synod is meeting at the same time as General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  The Synod went on record as supporting total nuclear disarmament.  It also has ordered that the church divest itself of stock in companies, including fossil fuel companies,  that cannot show they are addressing issues of global warming. The Church Times has good stories on the Nuclear resolution here and the Divestment one here.

Election of Haitian Bishop Challenged

The Living Church reports that the House of Bishops went into an executive session in order to discuss a complaint challenging the election of a new bishop for Haiti.  The Update has reported on the divisions in the Haitian diocese that are the background to this challenge.  The hope was that electing a new bishop would end the controversy that had pitted the suffragan bishop and bishop against each other.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Week Ending 7/2/18

South Carolina Hosting Open Information Sessions to Help Returnees

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has scheduled three information sessions in locations around the diocese to reconnect with those whose parishes have not been participating in the Episcopal Church. The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by the break-away group means that the Episcopal Church is now reaching out to those in the parishes affected by the property ruling.  They are offering discussions of reconciliation to those who have not been participating in the Episcopal Church for the last five years. Each session will be led by the new Missioner for Returning Parishes and will begin immediately following General Convention.  The press release from the diocese offers more details

General Convention Faces Multiple Proposals on Revision of the Book of Common Prayer

General Convention 2015 charged a special task force with coming up for a recommendation on how to revise the Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal.  That committee has come back with two options: move forward with drafting a revision for trial use or delay writing a draft while the Church intentionally studies the 1979 BCP.  In the meantime a separate task force on liturgies for same sex marriage came in with its own proposal for revision of the BCP.  A third proposal for revision emerged from a special task force on gender Equity.  There are also requests for better translations of Spanish, French, and other languages used by members of the Episcopal Church.  Eight resolutions on revision came in from bodies who filed reports in the Blue Book (the collection of official reports from task forces, commissions and committees meeting between sessions of General Convention). Two more have been offered by Bishops, three filed by dioceses, and one by a Deputy.  You can see them all here.  One of the ones filed by bishops offers an alternative approach to amending the Book of Common Prayer (which would take two General Conventions).  One of the three proposers is Bishop McConnell of Pittsburgh. This proposal leaves the same sex and gender neutral liturgies in a "trial" liturgy category indefinitely (which means the bishop does not permit its use, but requires bishops to offer Delegated Pastoral Oversight to parishes that wish to use the liturgies. This is an attempt to find a middle way for conservative bishops and dioceses in countries where same-sex marriage is not legal. Committee hearings on revision of the BCP begin at 8 a.m. on July 4.  Social media sources have already hosted widespread and heated discussions of these measures. What comes out of committee could be very different from what goes in.

English Trying to Assess Impact of Court Decision on Civil Partnerships

The British Parliament crafted a civil partnership law in 2004 that gave same sex couples a route to legal recognition of their relationships. In 2013 they made same sex marriage legal without repealing the civil partnership act.  Recently a heterosexual couple challenged their exclusion from the law wishing the benefit of a civil partnership without the patriarchal" baggage of a marriage. They argued it was unjust that same sex couples could choose between civil partnerships or marriage, but they had only the option of marriage.   The English Supreme Court has decided that the situation is unequal and violates the European Court of Human Rights standards.  The matter is thus thrown back to parliament to deal with the inequality.  While some church groups see civil partnerships as an attack on church marriage, the Church of England has supported civil partnerships because it meant clergy could use its provisions to regularize a relationship (presumably celibate) without the church needing to come to terms with same sex marriage.  The court summary of its opinion is here.  A piece explaining implications appeared here.

Same Sex Marriage Riles the Waters "Down Under."

The New Zealand Anglican Church (with its three separate strands) recently approved a local option measure allowing parishes to bless same-sex civil marriages.  That decision has led four parishes in the Diocese of Christchurch to enter conversations with church leaders on how they disassociate from the church. A separate memo outlines a 3 month period of negotiations that will cover assets, real property, and faithful remnants.  Presumably, the disassociators will then become part of a new GAFCON sponsored group.  Meanwhile in Australia, the Diocese of Wangaratta overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the Bishop to begin a process that will provide a liturgy to use to bless civil marriages, which are now legal in Australia for same-sex couples. Although presented by the Archdeacon and lay leadership, the resolution had the support of their bishop.  This puts the bishop at odds with the statement he signed with the other Australian bishops a year ago agreeing to a moratorium on such blessings.  It also puts Archbishop Philip Freier in a bind because the diocese is part of the province he heads within the Australian Church.

Alternative Proposed to Salary for President of the House of Deputies

Another of the measures before General Convention wi whether the President of the House of Deputies ought to be paid.  The requirements for action have made it difficult to find candidates free and with sufficient financial resources to take on the role as a volunteer.  Issues about whether a salary would make the President of the House an employee rather than an elected head have surfaced.  Now a resolution has been put forward from the House of Bishops offering an alternative way to characterize financial support for the PHoD.  The person would be compensated as an Executive Director and paid "fees" set by a special commission that covered expenses for the time consuming tasks now part of the PhoD duties. The Living Church has the story


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Week Ending 6/25/18

Church Continues to Speak Out on Immigration

The recent Executive Order supposedly ending the policy of separating children from parents has not slowed members of the church from speaking out.  The local vigil sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Temple Sinai, and 6th Presbyterian all in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh drew over 800 people despite flash flood warnings and heavy rain that meant crowding into the Presbyterian Church at the last minute. The Pittsburgh crowd was larger, but the vigil shorter, than the one held the next day  in Washington, D.C.  The Presiding Bishop made a statement, and General Convention is planning a prayer service at one of the detention sites during the July 3-13 meeting. The protests by church members are having an effect on Washington politicians.

Canadian Deacon Arrested at Pipeline Protest

Environmental issues were at the forefront of the protests led by Native Americans at the Standing Rock Reservation last year.  Environmental issues remain in the forefront of protests by Indigenous Peoples.  At one of the more recent demonstrations, in Canada, an Anglican Church of Canada Deacon was among those arrested for blocking a site. He has pled guilty to the charges filed against him.

Church Has Visible Presence at "Poor People's March"

Episcopal News Service highlighted the participation of at least 100 Episcopalians in the "Poor People's March" held June 23 in Washington D.C.  The march was organized by the Rev. William Barber of  North Carolina, the Disciplies of Christ minister who leads the movement "Moral Mondays" and the ecumenical "Repairers of the Breach" foundation.  The Episcopal Church was the second denomination to sign on as a sponsor of the Poor People's Campaign.

GAFCON Conference Continues Divisive Ways

The third Global Anglican Futures Conference has concluded its meeting, ACNA's Archbishop Foley Beach is the chair of the GAFCON Primates' Council. The official Communique was mostly rhetoric with only one demand, that the Archbishop of Canterbury revoke any invitation to the bishops from the churches that are now blessing or allowing marriages of single-sex Couples (The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil) and replace them with invitations to the bishops of ACNA, and the recently created alternative province in Brazil.  The communique did not threaten a boycott of Lambeth if their wishes were not met, but urged bishops to stay home. Several of the primates originally scheduled to come stayed home.   The commentary includes articles noting that a majority of the new officers are white males from "western" countries; discussion that the lack of a boycott suggests disagreement among the primates on leaving the Anglican Communion behind; article on Kenya questioning how they will participate in GAFCON in the future; and public criticism of two Irish bishops who participated.  Before the meeting, the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion wrote to express concern that GAFCON seemed to be setting up parallel committees to those already existing in the Anglican Communion, and got a tart reply from GAFCON leadership that dismissed the concerns as evidence of "colonialism."  

Investigations of Church Involvement in Sexual Abuse Bring New Controversies

While Pennsylvanians are debating the decision last week of the state Supreme Court to delay publication of a Grand Jury report on the complicity of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in sexual abuse cover-ups,  Church of England members are dealing with the Singleton Report.  The Singleton Report is highly critical of a church investigation done two years ago on the complicity of Anglican bishops and other officials in cover-ups of sexual abuse committed by clergy and/or at church institutions.  The web site "Thinking Anglicans" is keeping tabs on all of the commentary and related stories on the Singleton Report. 

South Carolina Break-Away Wardens Turn to Newspaper

As the Update noted, South Carolinian break-aways are refusing to call it quits in the legal fight over church property.  The latest salvo came in the form of a letter to the editor signed by the senior wardens of historic parishes in Charleston that were leaders in the break-away movement.  Blogger Steve Skaradon provides perspective on their letter, and on the break-aways attacks on the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Week Ending 6/18/18

Churches Condemn Policy to Separate Children from Parents at Border 

The policy of separating children from their parents when undocumented immigrants arrive at the U.S. border has been meeting with growing outrage.  That outrage grew louder when Attorney General Jeff Session tried to justify the policy using Chapter 13 of Romans. Sessions may not have realized that he had chosen a favorite passage used by slaveholders, Nazis, and other totalitarian regimes.  One after another, churches have countered that claim and spoken against the policy, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Presiding Bishop has appeared on news shows as one of several leaders countering that claim. (See here and here for videos)  And to top if off, over 600 United Methodists clergy and laity have signed a formal request asking for disciplinary proceedings against Sessions (a Methodist) for conduct that includes racism, child abuse, and false teaching.  On Wednesday June 20, there will be a vigil protesting the treatment of children separated from their parents at the border in Pittsburgh.  The vigil is at 9 p.m. at Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill.  Church of the Redeemer is one of the organizers.

Connecticut Parish Challenging Bishop Again

 When the Rev. Christopher Leighton was rector or St. Paul's Parish in Darien, Connecticut, the parish distanced itself from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Connecticut.  It was one of the six Connecticut Parishes that tried to break free of the Dennis Canon so it could leave the Epsicopal Church with its property.  St. Paul's, however, withdrew its lawsuit and stayed officially in the diocese but barely.  In 2016 they called a new rector.  He was originally from India, and had impressive credentials.  A year later the parish vestry voted to remove him. Bishop Ian Douglas informed them that there was a canonical process that parishes had to follow when a vestry and rector were at odds, and he invoked it.  After nearly a year or meetings, Douglas picked a date to inform the parish of his decision on whether the rector would go or stay.  The vestry responded by threatening to change the locks, and Douglas stepped in again.  His decision was that the rector should stay and all parties to be part of a reconciliation effort.  The vestry boycotted Douglas's meeting with the parish, and it is not clear what will happen next.

South Carolina Churches Planning Next Steps After SCOTUS Denies Appeal

 In the wake of the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear the appeal filed by the South Carolina break-away group, both the Episcopalians and the break-away group have been taking first steps in response.  Bishop Skip Adams appointed the Rev. William Coyne as Missioner for Returning Congregations whose job it will be to handle all the transitions of property and people in the parishes covered by the state Supreme Court opinion.  How soon this will occur is not clear, because the break-away bishop, Mark Lawrence issued a letter to his clergy and parishes just before leaving to attend the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem (see article later in this update).  The letter said that they would continue to fight the decision.  Blogger Steve Skaradon gives more details on Adams's plans for the diocese notes that Lawrence's response has left most SC lawyers puzzled as to what grounds exist for a review.

Church of England Synod Has Other "Hot" Issues

The Church of England Synod next month will not be discussing issues of sexuality.  All resolutions have been taken off the table until a theological report from the bishops is ready in 2020.  However, the announcement this week that a high-visibility Christian pop-singer had decided not to pursue ordination because as a lesbian she feels unwelcome in the church did not help to smooth the waters.  Meanwhile synod will be addressing other issues including a vote on a resolution asking Britain to end  nuclear proliferation.  There will also be votes on resolutions endorsing an investment policy that is environmentally sensitive and includes divestment as an option. 

Church of England Trying to Leverage Curry's Popularity

The Presiding Bishop's celebrity status continues in England. The Guardian has linked the invitation to preach at the royal wedding to efforts by the Church of England to "unstuffify" itself.   Black majority congregations have been growing rapidly in England, most are pentacostal and not affiliated with the Church of England. In a move called the "Michael Curry effect," the Church of England Synod meeting next month will be discussing resolutions that would ease ecumenical relations so that Church of England parishes could more readily cooperate with these black churches.

Anglican Communion Meetings in the News

GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference), the alternative organization created by those unhappy with the inclusive direction of some members of the Anglican Communion is holding its third conference.  Although claiming to be the real Anglican Communion, and attended by many of the African, Latin American, and  Asian Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the conference denied press credentials to the Anglican Communion News Service.  They also have welcomed and seated as provinces break-away groups they helped create in parts of the Anglican Communion deemed too liberal. Those attending the meeting in Jerusalem are divided between groups wanting to continue to set up an alternative Anglican Communion, and others simply looking for fellowship and renewal.  In the past the conferences served as an alternative to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion, but Archbishop Welby delayed the once-a-decade meeting of the bishops in the Anglican Communion until 2020 hoping to use the time to build bridges and create greater understanding among provinces before the Lambeth Conference convenes.  Welby was able to take some thunder away from GAFCON by announcing a major grant to help bishops from financially strapped dioceses make the trip to England in 2020.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Week Ending 06/11/18

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Break-Away Appeal

Among the Monday decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court was a denial of Certiorari  of the appeal filed by the break-away group in South Carolina.  This leaves the South Carolina Supreme Court decision in favor of the Episcopal Church in place.  The press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina explains what will happen next.  The break-away group led by Mark Lawrence  has said that they will appeal the implementation orders in state court.  Not surprisingly, Alan Halley (lawyer for the losing ACNA diocese in the San Joaquin property litigation) thinks the U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong.  For a thorough review of the implications from the Episcopal perspective, go to Steve Skaradon's blog, scepiscopalians.com.

"Vicar of Baghdad," Andrew White, Cleared of Charges

Two years ago, the Rev. Andrew White, who had been staffing the Anglican Church in Baghdad, was charged by the British with unlawful dealing with a terrorist group.  White, "the Vicar of Baghdad" had followed his parishioners to Jordan whichen they fled Iraq.  He was charged with paying ISIS for the return of young women kidnapped and used as sex slaves by the terrorists.  The charges were filed by the board of the Foundation For Reconciliation and Relief in the Middle East,  a group White had founded.  As a result he was forced to resign and undergo psychiatric evaluation.  White remained in the Middle East and has been working with a school and clinic for refugees in Jordan and has set up a new charity in Jerusalem that is working for reconciliation among the religious groups there.  He has now been notified that all charges have been dropped after a full investigation.  

Pride Week News

In this week of marches and celebrations of "Pride" by the LGBTQ community in many parts of the world, sexual politics has been much in the news. 

Bishop of Guyana Speaks Out Against Discrimination of LGBTQ People

As Guyana LGBTQ people celebrated their second "Pride Week,"  Charles Davidson, the Bishop of the Diocese of Guyana spoke out in favor of ending discriminatory laws aimed at  LGBTQ persons. As part of Pride week the bishop hosted a forum on faith for the LGBTQ community.  He also expressed an interest in meeting with the Transgender sex workers who work the area around the Anglican Cathedral in Georgetown.

Church of England Diocese of Lichfield  Faces Controversy Over Inclusion

When the bishops in the Diocese of Lichfield (Church of England) issued a letter directing their parishes to be welcoming and open to LGBTQ people, including welcoming them hold church offices and come to communion, the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas took them to task, and with them the Church of England's whole effort towards "radical welcome."  Thomas is no stranger to controversy having been the Church of England's leading opponent of women bishops.  In fact he is one of the "flying bishops" who provide services for those parishes who do not accept women's ordination.  Thomas issued a highly critical letter insisting that LGBTQ people would have to confess their "sin" and then reform their sexual lives before being admitted to communion, and insisting that LGBTQ people would need to remain celibate in order to seek ordination.  The English press has been filled with commentaries and responses countering his claims. The blog Thinking Anglicans is keeping track of the whole debate.  Start here and here to see what has been printed.

Pittsburgh Parishes March in Pride Parade

Several Episcopal Parishes marched in the Pittsburgh Pride Parades, including St. Brendan's Parish from Franklin Park, and Church of the Redeemer from Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh.  St. Brendan's posted pictures on their Facebook page.  The Church of Redeemer had representatives in both parades on Sunday. Redeemer has had a group in the Pride parade for a number of years. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette had an article on the two marches.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Week Ending 06/04/18

Another Anglican Province Makes Statement on Same Sex Marriage

The Episcopal Anglican Church in Brazil, is the latest Province in the Anglican Communion to make a statement on same-sex marriage.  Theirs was a nearly unanimous vote to approve canonical changes that will permit same-sex marriage.  The liturgy for marriage is already worded in a way that requires no changes.  They join the Episcopal Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church in permitting such services.  New Zealand has approved blessing of same-sex civil marriages.  Canada has taken the first of two required votes on a resolution that would permit same-sex marriage.  Australian bishops recently issued a statement saying there was a moratorium on blessings, but three clergy recently participated in a ceremony held for two parishioners in a welcoming Baptist congregation.  The Bishop of Melbourne has announced that the recent action of three clergy at the wedding of two of their parishioners in another church did not violate the moratorium.  It suggests a way that Australians will work around the moratorium.

Haiti Elects New Bishop

The Diocese of Haiti, part of The Episcopal Church, has elected the Ven. Joseph Kerwin Delicat, dean of the cathedral, as their new bishop to follow Bishop Duracin, who long term as bishop ended in controversy  and division between the bishop and suffragan bishop.  The Episcopal Church stepped in to negotiate an agreement requiring Duracin's retirement and the resignation of the suffragan.  Delicat was elected in a run off election held after the first attempt to elect a bishop ended without a firm choice. There is more on the first election here.   He faces a difficult task in reuniting the diocese, given that even his election was controversial.  As is the case for all episcopal elections in the Episcopal Church, the choice will not be final until approved by a majority of Standing Committees and Diocesan Bishops in the Episcopal Church.

Massachusetts Bishops Join in Climate Change Statement

All the bishops from the Dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts joined in issuing an appeal by a new colaition of religious leaders in Massachusetts.  The  Faith and Science Joint Appeal for Climate Action has been signed by more than 500 religious leaders.  The coalition is working with scientists in addressing the impact of climate change. 

Plans for Center for Reconciliation Shelved in Virginia

A year ago Truro Parish, part of ACNA, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced an innovative agreement that included lease arrangements allowing Truro to continue to use the facility that the courts had returned to the Episcopal Diocese and a joint center to be developed on Peace and Reconciliation.  That announcement did not set well with ACNA leadership, and after a year of talks, the ACNA bishop, John Guernsey has announced that the lease has been renegotiated and plans for a joint center have ceased.  Truro will continue some aspects of that ministry through existing ministry.

Parish Takes Central Role in Maryland Flood Relief

Two years ago, St. Peter's Episcopal Church Ellicott City, Maryland found itself helping in flood relief after flooding ravaged their town.  Ellicott City was hit again this last month and St. Peter's sprang into action, taking a leading role in relief.  The Episcopal News Service has a good report on the efforts.

Follow-Ups to Recent Stories

The Presiding Bishop's celebrity status following the royal wedding has continued to attract attention, including a blessing of the final contestants on one of Britain's main television talent contests.  He also continues to draw commentary on his social activist role.  Religion News has an interesting commentary here.

The Update reported recently that the American Baptist leader and seminary president had been forced to resign, but was given a "soft" landing with perks following pressure from women upset by his tolerance of domestic abuse.  That situation has now changed, and following reports that he had tried to cover-up rape charges brought against someone at the seminary, the Rev. Paige Patterson has been fired and all perks revoked.  He is still scheduled to give a major address at the denominational annual meeting,  but even that is in question

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Week Ending 05/28/18

Candlelight Vigil at White House Draws a Crowd

With the heavy media attention on Presiding Bishop Burrys' sermon at the recent royal wedding, it was inevitable that stories of the interdenominational prayer vigil and march to the White House  last week would focus on Curry's participation. Update carried a story on the plans for the march and its declaration in the May 14 posting.  The church hosting the prayer meeting could not hold all those who showed up, and crowd estimates suggest over 1000 marched to the White House for the candlelight vigil.  The actions were in support of a statement issued by the group "taking back Jesus" by advocating for care of the poor, the ill, and welcoming of the stranger and condemning as heretical the idea of "America First." A sampling of the stories follows: thehill.com, CNN, Christian Post, Episcopal News Service, the Guardian.

Same Sex Marriage Developments in Australia and Among Methodists

Recently the decision became public of Australian Anglican bishops to not allow Anglican buildings or liturgy to be used for same-sex marriage, following changes in Australian law permitting such marriages.  Anglican.ink carried a story on the way an Anglican parish got around the prohibitions by having the wedding of two of their parishioners hosted in the church of another denomination with participation from both the host congregation and the Anglican parish.  The article is clearly set up hoping to elicit an investigation and possible disciplinary action against the clergy.

The United Methodist Church has called a special three-day General Conference for early 2019 specifically to deal with the issues of ordination of LGBTQ members and same-sex marriage.  The Judicial Court for the Methodists has ruled that any body, group, or member of the Church may submit petitions “in harmony with the purpose” of the session.  Some church members are afraid that this will result in the Conference again getting bogged down in procedural debates and not getting to the substance of the matters in the admittedly short session.  This session will be of  special interest to Episcopalians because of the on-going discussions for a full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodists.

Adjusting to the Modern World

Several announcements this last week show the Church adjusting to a digital world, and one that is increasing aware of environmental issues. Fuller Seminary,  the largest multi-denominational seminary in the U.S. announced that it was selling its campus in Pasadena and will relocate to Pomona in a building better designed for the growing sector of on-line classes.  Regular enrollment has dropped dramatically, but their on-line courses have grown and are now over half of enrollments. Responding to the increasing dependence on digital assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, the Church of England has announced that it has developed a module for Alexa that allows people to ask theological questions, or have the assistant say grace and offer daily prayer.  They hope to have the service offered through Google Play in the near future.  Another group in England is now offering polyester cassocks made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.  The fabric is supposed to feel like a soft wool and is being marketed to the ecologically aware clergy. Currently they only offer cassocks for men, but are working on designs for women.

U.S. Supreme Court Sets Date for Review of SC Case

The June 7, 2018 agenda for the U.S. Supreme Court review of possible cases includes the petition for certiorari filed by the Lawrence faction trying to overturn the property decision issued by the South Carolina Supreme Court.  Bishop Skip Adams has issued a pastoral letter asking for prayers and explaining what might happen next. 

Following-Up on Previous Stories

 Blogger Steve Skaradon has an interesting essay May 23 reflecting on the Presiding Bishops sermon at the royal wedding and showing the influence of  the African-American lay theologian Verna Dozier on his thought.
The pressure brought to bear by Baptist women upset by Paige Patterson's statements on domestic abuse  has born fruit.  Patterson has stepped down as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but he and his wife will remain as theologians in residence and get to continue living in a house on the campus built for them.  A columnist at ReligionNews.com comments on these developments here.
GAFCON leader Peter Jensen has issued a statement defending GAFCON's actions "admitting" the Province of Recife to their version of the Anglican Communion.  It is interesting for how he tries to reframe the structure of the Anglican Comunion.  Update covered the GAFCON action in April.

Abrupt Departure Raises Questions

The Living Church reports that Neva Rae Fox who has led the Episcopal Digital Network and was the chief communications officer for the Episcopal Church abruptly departed from her job on Wednesday of last week.  There was no announcement from the Church Center, and her name was simply removed from the staff listings. No one at the Center would comment.  Fox had been the chief communications spokesperson since 2007.  The timing is very puzzling because she had just returned from London where she handled press issues associated with the Presiding Bishop's appearance at the royal wedding, and the office is gearing up for the intense work schedule that General Convention will bring. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is now listed as interim director.

Virginia Bishop Cancels Search for Suffragan

Bishop Shannon Johnson has issued a pastoral letter announcing that he has terminated the search for a suffragan bishop because of internal tensions among diocesan staff and leadership that need to be resolved, and because his own plans as bishop are now undergoing re-evaluation.  His letter is here.  Episcopal Cafe had this to say about the announcement.  The diocese is one of the largest in the Episcopal Church, but they also are not lacking in bishops they can tap.  the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff is Suffragan Bishop, and the Rt. Rev. Rober Ihloff is Assisting Bishop.  In addition the Rt. Rev. Ted Gulik is serving as interim Canon to the Ordinary.  There are also retired bishops living in Virginia.