Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
Week Ending 05/16/16
Virginia Bishops Are Working on Transgender Policy for Church Schools
The three bishops of the Diocese of Virginia, Diocesan bishop Shannon Johnston, Suffragan Bishop Susan Goff, and Assisting Bishop Ted Gulick have issued a statement that they are carefully working on a policy for the Church Schools of the diocese, (and for other diocesan related organizations and camps) that will address controversies that have arisen in fully including transgender students. The principles that will infuse the policy are sensitive to the needs of transgender students and parents, educators, psychologists, and others involved with the schools. There are six official Church Schools, some of which are day schools and some that take boarders. The diocese elects a single board of trustees that oversees all six schools while granting much autonomy to individual boards at each school. The six are Christchurch (Middlesex County) St. Catherine's (Richmond), St. Christopher's (Richmond), St. Margaret's (Tappahannock) Stuart Hall (Staunton), and St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School (Alexandria). Three of the schools are single sex schools. One Additional Richmond school, the Anna Julia Cooper School is considered an "related institution" for the diocese. The Cooper School is a middle school with ties to the Church Schools in Richmond. In addition the policy would affect the diocesan summer camps run at Shrine Mont. The Episcopal High School in Alexandria is independent and it is not clear if any policy developed by the diocese will apply to it.
New Zealand Anglicans Delay Decision on Blessing Same-Sex CouplesThe Synod of the Anglican Church in New Zealand has deferred any decision about same-sex union blessing to their 2018 meeting. The Synod had authorized a committee in 2014 to study and draft a proposal. (See Update here.) While two of the three ethnic strands appeared ready to support a blessing of civil marriages, the strand representing those of European descent came to the meeting divided. (See Pittsburgh Update here.) As a result, the synod received and then tabled the report from the committee while they use the next two years to find a structure that will allow both those supporting and opposing blessings to stay within the church.
Strong Response to the Need for Aid to Distressed Communities in Ecuador and CanadaEpiscopal Relief and Development has provided substantial aid to the areas hit by the earthquake last month in Ecuador. ERD is working through the Episcopal Churches in the area to provide basic needs for the thousands displaced, and to assess rebuilding strategies. A fuller report is here. Meanwhile the monster wildfire in Canada that displaced 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray has also elicited contributions from across Canada and beyond. The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (i.e. a discretionary fund of Canadian archbishop Fred Hiltz) has sent an initial grant of $15,000. Individuals and dioceses have also been sending money to help feed and house those who have been displaced and begin rebuilding.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Week ending 5/9/16
What Did the Anglican Consultative Council Mean?Responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury's claim (see last week's Update) that the ACC had fully adopted the "consequences" outlined in the January Communique issued at the Primate's meeting, six members of the Standing Committee including its chair and vice chair issued a statement saying that the ACC had endorsed nothing except the desire to continue to work together, and that "received" is not the same as "endorsed" or "affirmed." Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Nigeria, the current Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion followed with a defense of Archbishop Welby's interpretation. More interpretations are sure to be forthcoming.
Virginia Suffragan Bishop to Serve Jointly as Assistant Bishop in EnglandThe Church of England continues to find ways to increase the number of women serving as bishops . The latest is the outgrowth of partnership ties between the Diocese of Virginia and the Diocese of Liverpool. Suffragan Bishop Susan Goff of Virginia has been commissioned as an Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Liverpool. She will continue to have duties in Virginia and will commute periodically to England. Her first duties in England will be to share in the June ordinations scheduled for Liverpool and to speak at that diocese's clergy conference. The arrangement has the approval of both Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. She will also be available to Liverpool on-line. You can read more about the arrangement here or watch a Facebook video of Bishop Goff explaining what she will be doing.
Sale of Church Off Before Bishop Bruno Locked Out Newport Beach CongregationThe Update report of May 2, noted that evidence had emerged that the supposed sale of the church building in Newport Beach had been cancelled weeks ago. The online newspaper, the Newport Beach Indy has now revealed that the sale offer had been withdrawn in June 2015, probably before Bishop Bruno locked the congregation out of the building under the pretext that it had been sold. One of the partners in the condominium complex planned for the church site withdrew its financing when it learned that there might be a restriction on the deed limiting the property to use by a church. At that point the investors cancelled the sale. Bruno has sued the company that originally donated the land for damages because its insistence that the original deed restrictions were never removed has held up the sale. Documents filed in that suit provided the evidence that the sale was dead before the end of June 2015. This article has generated a fair amount of discussion on a Facebook page dedicated to issues of interest to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
New Zealand Synod Struggles with Same-Sex Blessing ResolutionThe Anglican Synod in 2014 authorized a committee to study and propose a way to bless civil marriages of same sex couples. The committee report has been a major focus of the Synod meeting now in New Zealand. Two (Maori and Polynesian) of the three ethnic strands of the New Zealand church were ready to approve the blessing forms brought forward, but the seven dioceses in New Zealand were divided and looking for ways to accommodate those unhappy with the idea of blessing same-sex couples. After a closed door discussion for voting members only on Monday afternoon, the Synod granted time to the "Pakeha" strand to try to rewrite the resolution to make it more acceptable. They are expected to report by the synod meeting on Wednesday. The Anglican Communion and New Zealand news sources cover the various concerns leading up to Monday meeting.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Week ending 5/2/16
ACNA Diocese Files Request for Rehearing in San JoaquinThe ACNA diocese in San Joaquin followed through on their announcement (see the April 25, 2016 Update) and has filed a brief requesting a rehearing, claiming both error and that the Appeals Court opinion did not resolve issues surrounding all of the contested property. Alex Haley, counsel for the ACNA group summarized the argument in his blog and provided a link to the filing. As of posting time, there has been no public response from the Episcopal Diocese, nor any indication of how this may delay final resolution of this 8 year litigation.
Bishop of Diocese of Kansas Says Church Will Continue Resettling RefugeesBishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas has announced that his diocese will continue to resettle refugees working with the Episcopal Migration Ministry despite the Governor of Kansas's announcement that the state is withdrawing from the federal refugee resettlement program. Wolfe stressed that the church had an obligation to reach out to those in need, stating "Jesus was a refugee."
St. James Newport Beach Finally to Get Its HearingSt. James the Great, Newport Beach congregation which filed a Title IV complaint in July 2015 against Los Angeles Bishop Bruno announced that a date for the Title IV hearing has finally been set. The hearing will be held at a venue yet to be announced on June 20, 2016. The congregation filed the complaint after Bruno announced he was selling their property for redevelopment and locked the congregation out of the building. ( See Update Stories here, here and here.) The congregation currently meets in a building owned by the City of Newport. The announcement noted that the sales agreement lapsed months ago. The parish has uncovered questionable financial dealings by the bishop, and events became more complicated when Bishop Bruno sued the company that originally donated the land for the church building over deed restrictions. Bishop Bruno has announced his retirement for 2018 and the diocese is currently preparing to elect a bishop coadjutor.
Events Affecting Anglican-Roman Catholic RelationsConversations around ministry and ordination continued April 17-22 between Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians meeting at Rocca di Papa just South of Rome, This was a follow-up on topics explored at a meeting held last year at Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts. The next meeting is scheduled for 2017 at Cambridge, England. Meanwhile, the Anglican Church in America, a splinter group that broke from the Episcopal Church in the 1970s over ordination of women has voted to move as a block to the Roman Catholic Church's Ordinate. The ACA has about 100 parishes. The ordinate is a special structure that allows those from the Anglican tradition to keep their worship and clergy while affiliating with the Roman Catholics. The ACA was a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion. This is the second block of churches to move to the Ordinate. The first was the Australian Chapter of Forward in Faith (FiF). The British FiF is also exploring changing their affiliation from Church of England to the Ordinate. While a move by the British FiF suggests the Roman Church is ready to accept SOME Anglican orders as valid, it will complicate ecumenical relations.
Methodists and Episcopalians Hold Latest Conversations On Full CommunionThe conversations between the United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church continued and the committee's communique suggested that they had made substantial progress in crafting a proposal for full communion between the two bodies. They will meet again in 2016. Conversations with the Methodists have been approved by several General Conventions, including Resolution A017 of the 2015 convention.
Church in Brazil Supports Embattled PresidentAs the movement for impeachment of the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, gained momentum, the House of Bishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in Brazil issued a statement in support of her. They claim that the impeachment charges surrounding manipulation of some accounts is being engineered by right wing elites and conservative Christians who oppose her governments actions to improve the lives of the poor and working classes. Spokemen for the church noted that some of those leading the impeachment efforts are themselves accused of crimes, or used the same financial tactics they are charging Rousseff with.
The Crusty Old Dean Takes on Archbishop WelbyComments on the recent Anglican Consultative Council continue. The Archbishop of Canterbury has now tried to suggest that the resolution "receiving" the Primate's Communique was a full endorsement and adoption of it. This is not what "receive" means in parliamentary procedure. In response to Archbishop Welby, The Rev. Tom Ferguson, who blogs as "The Crusty Old Dean" wrote this withering response.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Week Ending 4/25/16
Property Cases in Fort Worth and San Joaquin ContinueThe Fort Worth Episcopal Diocese had its day in court, April 19 when it presented oral arguments in its appeal of a lower court decision awarding all property to the break-away group. The trial court had originally awarded everything to those who stayed in the Episcopal Church. The break-away group, also claiming to be the Episcopal Diocese, appealed and the Texas Supreme Court ordered a re-trial using so-called "neutral principles." (See the Update Story here). This time the same judge awarded everything to the break-away group, declaring them to be the continuation of the original diocese. (See Update story here.) The Episcopal Church and the loyal diocese then appealed. The short article about the hearing on the site of the diocese in the Episcopal Church includes a 39 minute recording of the arguments. The break-away group issued only a short statement. Meanwhile the break-away group in San Joaquin has announced it is going to ask for both a rehearing and file an appeal to the California Supreme Court after the appeals court issued a preliminary opinion awarding all diocesan holdings to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.
Former Presiding Bishop Has New PostThe Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts-Schori, the former Presiding Bishop, has accepted a visiting professorship at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, which was where she studied for the priesthood. She is the third occupant of the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry chair. St. Margaret's was the name of the church training school for women which merged into CDSP. She will teach a course on the role of religious leaders in public issues, especially those related to the sciences.
North Carolina Episcopalians Among Leaders Opposing North Carolina Law on Transgendered PeopleThe Star-Tribune of Wilmington, NC has published a story showing that while Baptists and Roman Catholics have issued no official statement on the so-called "bathroom" law passed in North Carolina, Episcopalians have been among those speaking out in opposition. So far North Carolina is the only state to have a law go into effect requiring transgendered people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender designation on their birth certificate. The Episcopal Cafe has a good graphic showing the status of such laws in the various states.
More Reaction to the Anglican Consultative CouncilArchbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the GAFCON bishops from Africa traded contradictory assessments of the recently concluded Anglican Consultative Council meeting. GAFCON primates complained that the ACC had failed to follow up or enforce the "sanctions" that the Primates meeting in January had outlined. (See both the Episcopal Cafe story and the GAFCON bishop's communique.) Archbishop Welby countered with an Facebook post saying that while the ACC did things in its own way, those in attendance had followed and implemented the "consequences" outlined in the Primates' communique. Meanwhile, the three American members of the ACC issued their own statement stressing the wonderful spirit they had found at the meeting, and that they had participated fully in the meeting, although Bishop Douglas had withdrawn from consideration as president of the ACC. The Church Times article also stressed the unity felt by those in attendance, although it ended with the information on the GAFCON leadership meeting held just after the ACC concluded.
Pittsburgh's ACNA Diocese Chooses Successor to Bishop DuncanThe Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh met on Friday and Saturday of this last week to choose a successor to Bishop Robert Duncan who is retiring in June. The search committee had announced 8 candidates, but 3 dropped out before the special convention convened. At the convention, things also took a different turn when the rector of Ascension Parish in Pittsburgh, Jonathan Millard was nominated from the floor. Bishop Duncan warned those attending that Millard's divorce might well prevent his approval by ACNA bishops. Millard was the early front runner on the first three ballots. He withdrew after the fourth and the Rev. James Hobby was elected. Hobby currently serves both as the congregational development officer for the ACNA diocese serving the south east corner of the U.S. and as rector of a parish in Georgia, just a short drive from Tallahassee, FL where Hobby was serving when he left the Episcopal Church in 2005. He and his wife were among the 22 clergy deposed by Bishop Howard in 2008 for abandonment of the communion. For those who are interested, his written candidate statements are here, his parish biography is here, and the Episcopal Cafe story includes the actual vote totals for each round.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Week Ending 4/18/16
Long Island Bishop Asks Diocese to Join Protest Against Trump RallyBishop Provenzano of Long Island has sent a pastoral letter to his diocese asking them to join him and others in a demonstration of anti-racism during a Trump rally. The presidential candidate is holding a fundraiser next to a site where a man was killed in 2008 because he was Hispanic immigrant. The bishop explained that his call was for people to witness to their Christian commitments and not as political activism. The full letter is here, and the Episcopal Cafe story is here.
Possible Light Shed on Church Center DismissalsEver since the Presiding Bishop announced the suspension of three senior Church Center staff members, and then the firing of two and discontinuance of the position of the third, there have been questions about what kind of wrong doing was involved. The dismissal referred to violations of "established workplace policies," failing to"live up to the Church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees," and creating "a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of The Episcopal Church." (See update story here.) Religion News has published an interview with a former staffer that suggests that gender bias may have been a part of the toxic working environment that Presiding Bishop Curry is now addressing. Bob Honeychurch says that during his time working for the center, female employees voiced to him concerns about being left out of decision-making and their advice and skills being ignored. The whole interview is here.
The Anglican Consultative Council Winds Up Business with Focus on Social Justice IssuesThe ACC has finished its meeting by passing more than 40 resolutions without further discussion. Most dealt with issues related to ecumenism, the environment, wealth disparity and income inequality, violence (especially against women), relief efforts, youth and evangelism. They declined to further the "consequences" affected the Episcopal Church which were outlined in the January Communique from the primate's meeting. Other than voting that they wished to continue walking together, the one resolution covering the communique simply "received" the message. Another resolution saying they "welcomed" it was withdrawn. The ACC also chose its leaders for the next three years, choosing the Archbishop of Hong Kong as their chair and Church of England laywoman, Margaret Swinson, as vice-chair. While the new chair, Archbishop Kwong thought that being a primate could be helpful to the ACC, others were concerned that bishops now headed all four of the instruments of communion. The other candidate for ACC chair had been a lay person. Five new members were elected to the Standing Committee - one each from Scotland, Canada, Central America, North India, and Kenya. Two are bishops (one of those a woman), two are lay and one a clergy person. In the end, all but Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria of the 38 provinces had members present.
Archbishop Welby Continues His WitnessWhile in Africa, the Archbishop of Canterbury took time to visit with the heads of two African countries. The most important was his meeting with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Welby used the conversation to explain that the Anglican Communion had diverse opinions on same-sex marriage, but that the majority still saw marriage as an institution for one man and one woman. But then Welby went on to speak against legislation criminalizing LGBT people or their supporters. The Archbishop appears to be trying to live up to the numerous Anglican Communion documents including the recent primates Communique which condemn civil penalties placed on LGBT people.
On a different front, Welby continued his support for economic justice, launching a new series of four videos, each 10 minutes long and looking at theological perspectives on money and debt. The first of the videos has just been released.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Week Ending 4/11/16
ACC Meeting Generates News and CommentThe Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia is generating news and comments as it goes. In the end, the Archbishop of Egypt and the Middle East did not attend the Standing Committee gathering that preceded the ACC meeting because Bishop Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Church did attend. On the other hand, the Kenyan deputation did attend, ignoring the announcement of their archbishop that they would not. The Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Joseph Idowu-Fearon has issued a defensive statement denying some rumors and pointing out that in fact, people were respecting the wishes of the Primates as expressed in their January statement. The meeting presentations by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Steering Committee, the ACC chair, Bishop James Tengatenga, and Executive Secretary Idowu-Fearon all walked a fine line stressing both the independence of the ACC from the primates, and the need to respectfully honor the statement made by primates at their January meeting (for the January Statement, see this Pittsburgh Update). The latest development is that Bishop Ian Douglas, who was widely expected to run for ACC chair, announced at the meeting that he would not be a candidate, although claiming it was not a response to the primate's communique, but rather a desire to maintain collegial relations within the ACC, his withdrawal from consideration has the effect of implementing the communique requirement that TEC members step down from Anglican Communion posts dealing with doctrine and polity for three years.
Archbishop Welby Gets a SurpriseArchbishop Welby has gotten more press than the ACC with his announcement that he was surprised to find out through DNA testing that his biological father was not the man married to his mother. His mother, who served as secretary to Winston Churchill, had a brief affair with a Churchill aide, Sir Anthony Montague Browne before eloping with Frank Welby. His announcement has generated tons of press, most of it sympathetic to Welby. For a sample of stories, look here and here.
Appeals Court Issues Preliminary Decision in San Joaquin CaseThe Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin came another step closer this week to recovering diocesan property that the break-away Anglicans took with them in 2007. The state appeals court in Fresno issued a unanimous opinion upholding the trial court's award of all property to those who had stayed in the Episcopal Church. The court did rule against some parts of the lower court ruling, but the outcome was the same. There is a 30 day comment period during which the break-away group can try to change the court's mind, and then another 120 days during which the break-away Anglicans could file an appeal to the state supreme court. The Episcopal bishop urged prayer during the waiting period, and the break-away Anglican bishop expressed his disappointment and said they were going to make a careful assessment of next steps. The Fresno Bee carried a full story with background, and you can find links to previous Update Stories here and here.
Federal Court Says "No" to Cross on County ShieldA federal court judge issued a permanent injunction against the Los Angeles County supervisors putting a cross back into the county seal. Episcopal priest Ed Bacon was one of the respondents in the ACLU case. Bacon argued that the decision recognized that the cross was a religious symbol belonging to Christian Churches and thus did not belong on a secular seal. The ACLU has filed numerous suits trying to keep state and church separate. After a successful suit a decade ago, the county supervisors had removed a cross placed above the Hollywood Bowl on the seal and put in a picture of San Gabriel Mission (without a cross). In 2014 commissioners tried to slip a cross on top of the mission, even though that was not historically accurate. The Los Angeles Times has the details.
St. James the Great Gets Community SupportIn the on-going battle between the congregation of St. James the Great in Newport Beach and Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, things are not going well for the bishop. This last week a vote of the residents in the immediate area of the Church was overwhelming that the property should not be converted to other use. The congregation also issued its own update letter which has been re-posted on the web to all General Convention Deputies.
Actions in Wales and in Puerto Rico reveal the continuing slow movement towards marriage equality. In Wales, same sex couples can legally marry in a secular service. A straw vote in August 2015 revelaed that while a majority of the clergy, laity and bishops in the Anglican Church in Wales supported gay marriage, but they did not have the super majority needed in the House of Bishops to change their canons. The House of Bishops of the Church of Wales, has however issued a set of "prayers" (not blessings) that can be used by a clergy person following a secular marriage. The measure is seen as slight progress, but has been criticized for being a half-way measure that is a form of blessing under another name.
Support for Same Sex Unions Inches Forward in Wales and Puerto Rico
When the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down laws banning same sex marriages was issued in 2015, it was not clear if the ruling applied to Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth. The governor of Puerto Rico issued an executive order requiring governmental employees to treat same sex couples the same as heterosexual couple, but on March 8, 2016 a a Puerto Rican judge ruled that the court decision did not apply to a commonwealth. That decision has now been overruled by the First U.S. Court of Appeals. The appeals court extended all constitutional rights to citizens of Puerto Rico, including the right to marry.