:

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, November 22, 2017

Week Ending 11/20/17

South Carolina Supreme Court Denies Rehearing

The South Carolina church property suit reached another milestone when the state supreme court refused both a rehearing of the case and a petition for recusal of one of the five judges who participated in the case. With Judge Hearn recusing herself, the judges split 2-2 on the issue of a rehearing, and thus there was no majority for rehearing. A good overview of the decision and background is here. The latest Update story is here. The judges were 5-0 on the issue of recusal.  The Lawrence faction asked too late for Judge Kay Hearn to step away from the case. The opinions filed by the judges who wanted a rehearing can be read as encouragement for the Lawrence group to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.  The break-away group has this response on its web site and also sent a letter from Bishop Lawrence.  The Episcopalians responded here.  Meanwhile, the break-away group is continuing to find new ways to litigate and thus delay return of church property to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The parishes have filed a civil suit under a "betterment" statute asking for a court award to cover the costs of all the improvements they have ever made on their properties. Steve Skaradon's blog has background on this filing.

Bishop Sauls Files Brief 

Update reported a short while ago that Bishop Sauls was refiling his suit for damages against the Presiding Bishop and other unnamed persons including leaders of General Convention and staff at the Church Headquarters. The content of that complaint is now available.  Sauls claims a conspiracy to get rid of him and punish him by a group of unnamed leaders trying to increase the power of the President of the House of Deputies.  A responding brief from TEC has not yet been filed. 

Sydney Archbishop Asks for Protection of "Freedom of Speech" 

Archbishop Davies of Sydney, Australia, and his synod were major contributors to the efforts to convince Australians not to vote for an opinion referendum on same-sex marriage. Around 80% of Australian voters participated, and 61.% voted to allow same sex marriages.  Now the Australian parliament is drafting a bill, and they hope to have it in effect by Christmas. Meanwhile, Davies is asking that as parliament drafts its bill, they also need to protect those who want to continue to preach and voice opinions that while civil marriage will now be legal for same-sex couples, it remains immoral or and not approved by the church.

West Missouri Bishop and Diocese Reach Pact

The Diocesan Leadership and the Bishop of West Missouri have not been getting along.  The Standing Committee filed a formal request in spring 2016 for reconciliation of the relationship between a diocese and its bishop.  After nearly two years of discussion, an agreement for reconciliation has emerged.  Bishop Field has agreed to professional counseling and a mentoring relationship.  The Diocese had committed to regular feedback to the bishop.  Both sides are hopeful that the outcome will be positive. The process so far has been funded by TEC, but from this point on the financial responsibility belongs to the diocese.

Ordination of Women Dividing ACNA

 After a five-year study on women's ordination, the ACNA House of Bishops voted to continue allowing each diocese to decide whether to ordain women to the priesthood.  A majority of the bishops do not support women's ordination, but key dioceses such as Pittsburgh and South Carolina, do ordain women. In September Bishop Hobby of Pittsburgh made a statement responding to the House of Bishops statement, noting his intent to continue to support ordained women.  Bishop Iker of Fort Worth however, has declared war on women's ordination.  He used his November 4 Address at the Diocesan Convention to announce that he is beginning efforts to have the ACNA constitution changed to no longer allow a local option of ordination for women.  This would undo the initial compromise that allowed dissident groups to join forces and form ACNA.

Anglican Mothers Unions Launch Initiative Against Gender Violence

  The largest women's organization in the Anglican Communion, the Mother's Union has announced a sixteen day initiative aimed at gender violence against women throughout the world.  Each province is designing their own actions.  These range from action against genital mutilation to domestic violence and murder of women.  The Anglican Communion news has a good overview, and the Anglican Journal has a piece on the Canadian approach.

Plagiarism Delays Search for Next Bishop of Newark

The diocese of Newark has hit a snag that will delay the process of seeking candidates for bishop.  It has been discovered that the entire section "The Bishop We Seek" of the diocesan profile was plagiarized from the document used for the Diocese of Bethlehem.  The member of the search committee responsible for writing that section has resigned.  The search has been put on hold until a new section has been written.  While the search committee has revised their timeline, the date for the electing convention has not been changed. The committee has also apologized to the Diocese of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Week Ending 11/13/17

Los Angeles Diocese and St. James Sign Agreement

Last week the Update noted that the Save St. James the Great Facebook page was gone and the web page had removed references to the dispute with the Los  Angeles diocese.  The reason why became clear this week.  The diocese and congregation announced this last week that talks they began in mid October had produced an agreement that will let the congregation return to the building Bishop Jon Bruno had tried to sell.  The agreement provides a path for the congregation to be recognized as a mission and to keep the priest who had helped them grow in the building and maintain their community once homeless.  The joint agreement is here.  Bishop Taylor made an additional statement.   The Living Church reported that hours before the agreement was announced, the congregation agreed to drop their legal actions against Bruno as Corporate Sole.  He agreed not to pursue them for malicious prosecution, and tried to cast it as a legal victory.  No matter how Bruno tries to spin it, the offer by the congregation was clearly part of the behind the scenes steps taken leading to the agreement with the diocese. 

Two Women in the News as Bishops

The Episcopal Church of Scotland has seven dioceses, but for the last year there were only six bishops.  The Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney had been unable to identify three candidates to replaced their retired bishop.  Under the Church's canons the matter then moved to the House of Bishops for the Church and they chose Canon Anne Dyer, rector of Holy Trinity Parish in Haddington which is in South East Scotland. Aberdeen and Orkney was the only diocese with a majority voting against the canon change this year that allows same sex-marriage.  Dyer has presided at such marriages in Haddington, and she realizes that the diocese is divided on the matter.  She hopes to focus on the things that could bring her diocese together.  Among the first women ordained deacon and priest in the Church of England, Dyer will now become the first woman ordained bishop in the Scottish Church.

New Zealand is about to lose a woman as bishop.  Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Waikato, has been named the Bishop of Ripon in England.  Hartley came to New Zealand from Ripon College, and when consecrated in 2014 as a bishop in New Zealand, she became the first woman ordained in the Church of England to become a bishop. In England she will be a suffragan bishop in the diocese of Leeds, formed in 2014 by merging four existing dioceses including Ripon. The announcement from the Anglican Church in New Zealand has more information on her ministry in New Zealand.

With EDS Gone, Boston University Seminary Announces an Anglican Episcopal Track

 As the remnant of the Episcopal Divinity School settles in as part of Union Theological Seminary in New York, Boston University has announced a program that will partially fill the gap left by the departure of EDS.  The Boston University Theological Seminary announce that it was opening two new tracks, one for Anglicans and Episcopalians and the other for United Church of Christ students. The Boston School was founded by Methodists in 1838.  They hope to attract both Anglicans from other parts of the Anglican Communion and Episcopalians to the new track.  Meanwhile EDS, which  had closed due to financial and leadership issues, and then reinvented itself as a partner of Union,  held its first board meeting at Union.  The board includes a number of high visibility Episcopalians, and seems likely to offer a strong challenge to the venerable, but troubled General Theological Seminary which is still recovering from the mass firing of its faculty in 2014.  General Convention in 2015 was displeased enough with GTS ( the only Episcopal Seminary formed by General Convention) that it created a task force to look into the relationship of the seminary to the General Convention.

Nashotah House Loses Another Faculty Member

Nashotah House, still coming to terms with the loss of Professor Daniel Westberg in a boating accident, is now also grieving the loss of Associate Dean of Student Services and Professor Richard Hartley.  He died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep.  The 48 year old Hartley had started his ministry as a Baptist, became a Congregationalist in 2006 and was ordained priest in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2013.  These deaths add to a set of rapid changes at the seminary beginning with the departure of Professor Gabig for Trinity School for Ministry and the decision not to re-elect Bishop Daniel Martin as Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Amica Brief Filed in Support of South Carolina Schismatics

The group headed by Bishop Mark Lawrence announced that it had filed an amica brief signed by 106 religious leaders supporting their request to have the South Carolina Supreme Court rehear the case decided largely in favor of the Episcopal Church. The accompanying statement by the group casts the signers as a diverse group of distinguished religious leaders.  The brief argues that neutral principles were not followed and that church property ownership is threatened by the decision.  A scanning of the signers shows that 62 of the signers were pastors at churches with "Baptist" in their title.  One signer is actually a party to suit (the Rev. Greg Kronz at St. Luke's Hilton Head), many of the rest are from Pentecostal or Community Churches.  In other words almost all the signers are from non-heirarchical churches with a polity that means the decision does not apply to them.

Canadian Bishop Fires Former AMiA Priest

In 2016 Update reported on a controversy that erupted when a Canadian Diocese initially elected the Rev. Jacob Worley as their bishop.  Worley was a former Episcopal priest who left the church to start an AMiA congregation.  He later moved to Canada and was settled in a parish there.  However, the other bishops in the  regional synod of the Yukon and British Columbia refused to approve his elected because Worley supported border-crossing.  The diocese eventually elected a new bishop.  The new bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia has now removed Worley from his parish. He has given no reason, but speculation is that it is because Worley's position on border crossing is contrary to canon law.  Under Canadian law, Worley must leave the country within 10 of the end of his employment.  His last Sunday is November 19, 2017.  

Prominent GAFCON Supporter Resigns Posts in Church of England

The signs that GAFCON intends to set up an ACNA type group in England continue to grow.  Not only did they authorize ACNA to consecrate Andrew Lines as a missionary Bishop for GAFCON in England, but now one of the strongest lay supporters of GAFCON in the Church of England has resigned all of her official positions including her General Synod seat and the Archbishop's Council. Her statement makes clear she is cutting ties with the Church of England to work with GAFCON groups outside the Church of England.  Bishop Lines used the occasion to praise her decision and call the Church of England to task for being "revisionist."  The Thinking Anglicans web site has a compilation of other responses.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Week Ending 11/6/17

South Carolina Mediation Abruptly Put on Hold

The Federal judge hearing the trademark and identity case filed by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina against the schismatic group still calling itself the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina had ordered mediation before he heard opening arguments this spring.  The mediation was scheduled for November 6-8, but was abruptly put on hold until December after a short meeting on November 7.  There are no details in the statement issued by Bishop Adams.  Adams had asked all South Carolina Episcopalians to pray for the mediation in an earlier statement issued before the start of the talks. Steve Skaradon had more to say on his blog scepiscopalians.com.

The Church Responds to the Texas Shooting

The shooting that killed 26 and injured nearly as many at a small Baptist Church in south Texas has resulted in numerous statements by religious leaders.  The most pertinent for Episcopalians are the statement from Presiding Bishop Curry and the statement from the Bishops United Against Gun Violence.  That group is a coalition of 60 Episcopal bishops who have been working since before General Convention 2015 to change the gun culture of the U.S.  Their web site includes profiles of members.  Bishop McConnell of Pittsburgh is not among them.

Bishop Sauls Files Lawsuit in New York

The Living Church has posted a story that Bishop Stacy Sauls has revived his lawsuit against the presiding bishop and Episcopal Church leaders by filing in state courts in New York.  His case was thrown out in Alabama for lack of jurisdiction.  Mediation ordered by the judge was unsuccessful.  He argues that his reputation has been so damaged by a conspiracy of church leaders that he cannot find employment in the church. Sauls was originally put on administrative leave in December 2015 with two other senior administrators who reported to him while the church investigated allegations of misconduct. In April 2016 the two other administrators were fired for misconduct and Sauls was let go because of an administrative reorganization.   Because he was employed in New York, jurisdiction is not an issue, but timeliness of the suit may be.  More than a year has gone by since he was let go.  The Episcopal Church has made an initial response filing to the charges and defends the actions they took as accurate and non-prejudicial.  

Episcopal News Service Gets Independent Web Identity

The Anglican Communion news and a press release from the Episcopal News Service have announced that the news service now has a separate web identity from The Episcopal Church.  In the process, the news service has revamped its look and even some of the kinds of news it carries to be more like a news magazine.  The good news is that links to the older site are automatically redirected to the new site so old content is still accessible.

English Church Struggling With Responses to Sexual-Abuse Victims

The Church of England continued to make headlines as victims of sexual abuse by clergy criticized the response and the small size of Church Insurance payments to victims.  The male victim involved noted that the compensation amounts were set at a time when long term affects of the abuse were not well understood.  A separate thread  focused on a woman's  experience with the church's response to her rape by a clergyman.  The woman raped wants the archbishops to commission a report to be discussed at the next General Synod.  Local press accounts link her letter to the "#Me Too" movement and the revelations of misconduct by powerful figures like Harvey Weinstein. 

Diocese of Dallas Comes up Short on Marriage Equality - Again

For the second year in a row, efforts of a few parishes to remove the Diocese of Dallas canonical statements defining marriage as between one man and one woman failed.  Those bringing the efforts are concerned because current policy sends all single sex couples seeking marriage to parishes in the neighboring diocese of Fort Worth, and the policy bars clergy from participating in such ceremonies even if being done in another diocese. Bishop George Sumner used his blog the week before the diocesan convention to speak against changing the canons while recognizing the right of those who brought the measure.  The Episcopal Cafe article appeared before the convention, but as predicted the measure was defeated.  The attempts last year can be accessed in the Diocesan Convention Journal for 2016, pp. 29-35.  While 20 bishops signed a statement at General Convention in 2015 opposing the changes allowing same-sex couples to marry at church, only 8 of the 109 dioceses of the Episcopal Church refuse to authorize ceremonies within the diocese.  

St. James Newport Beach Shifting Media Focus

The St. James the Great congregation in Newport Beach which fought back after Bishop Jon Bruno locked them out of their building because he was trying to sell it, has begun to shift their media focus.  The sale has collapsed; Bishop Bruno has been disciplined and suspended based on actions he took against the congregation and his disdain for the Title IV Hearing Panel; but the congregation did not regain access to the building and is not recognized as a mission by the Diocese of Los Angeles.  The congregation continues to worship in rented community space, but has either shut down or restricted access to their Facebook site, and has refocused their web page to emphasize their ministry. 

Anglicans Sign Agreement with Oriental Orthodox Church

Officially the Anglican Communion cut the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed over 40 years ago, but it still persists in the TEC Book of Common Prayer.  The clause added the words "and the son" to the phrase "proceeds from the Father" in the part of the Creed dealing with the Holy Spirit.  The clause was added at a western church meeting long after the Council of Nicea, and its addition caused a split between the Roman Catholic tradition and the Orthodox tradition.  In the latest of a series of conversations with various Churches from the Orthodox tradition, representatives of the Anglican Communion and the Oriental Orthodox both agree that the clause should be removed from the Creed although they hold different understandings of its meaning.  The historical agreement signed in Ireland also covers several other issues, but will not be formally published until 2018.  For more on the Oriental Orthodox tradtition, try the Wikipedia article here.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Week Ending 10/30/2017

Presiding Bishop One of the Lead Signers in Amica Brief 

A major amica brief has been filed in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission which is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The brief signed by nearly 1300 religious leaders supports the finding of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that a local baker did not have the right to refuse to make a cake for a reception celebrating the civil marriage of a same-sex couple.  Presiding Bishop Curry features prominently in the case being listed as one of the named filers at the beginning of the brief.  The five groups whose legal counsel are listed as drafters of the document are the general Synod of the Church of Christ, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Chicago Theological Seminary.   The Living Church story on the brief includes its full text, but not a full list of the 1300 signers.

Diocese of Southeast Florida Offers Parishes Hurricane Relief

Bishop Peter Eaton announced that the Executive Board of the Diocese of Southeast Florida had agreed to waive the diocesan assessments for November and December for every parish.  The intent is to help parishes meet costs not covered by insurance as they rebuild after the recent Hurricane.  The diocese has enough of a surplus to cover its necessary expenses for the last two months of the year.

Another Church Votes to Remove Lee Memorial

After a several years of discussion and study, Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia has decided to remove a pair of plaques from the front of the sanctuary.  The plaques read simply "In Memory of George Washington" and "In Memory of Robert Edward Lee."  The plaques were prominently installed in 1870, one on each side of the chancel. (For those interested a picture here shows both plaques in their existing positions.) The two plaques will remain in place until it is decided where in the historic complex the memorials will be displayed. Both men were frequent attenders at the parish, and tourists can find the pews rented by them and now marked with discrete metal name tags. Another plaque erected in 1909 honors Washington and the men who served as pall bearers at his funeral.  The decision of the vestry at Christ Church follows on the heels of announcements that the National Cathedral will remove windows dedicated to Lee and Thomas ('Stonewall") Jackson, and that the Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia will change its name from the Robert E. Lee Memorial Church back to its original "Grace Episcopal Church."

South Carolina Media War Against Property Decision Continues

Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison (retired in 1990) has written the latest salvo in the media war being waged by the schismatic diocese in South Carolina against the state Supreme Court opinion awarding most diocesan and parish properties to the diocese that stayed in the Episcopal Church.  Allison's long letter to the editor has appeared in several newspapers.  In it he argues that the Episcopal Church is not a hierarchical church and the property should have remained with those who left. Blogger Steve Skaradon has a stinging commentary posted October 31, 2017 on Allison's action.   His position is very similar to that taken by 9 bishops in amica briefs filed in Quincy and Fort Worth.  Those bishops found charges filed against them, and a Title IV proceeding resulted in a formal agreement by which they promised to not to file or endorse similar arguments in litigation involving the Episcopal Church, and admitted that the Dennis Canon limited the authority of diocesan bishops. (See the Update Story here.)  The ninety year-old Allison is one of several resigned bishops still officially resident in TEC that are living in South Carolina and participating in the schismatic diocese. Allsion is best known for participating in the irregular Singapore ordination of Charles Murphy and John Rogers as bishops in what became the Anglican Mission in America in 2000.

Episcopal Relief and Development Gets a Major Grant for Work in Africa

Episcopal Relief and Development has had a pathbreaking program in Zambia that has improved the lives and survival rates of young children.  Now another grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation will let them expand that work and carry it into neighboring Kenya. Both the Episcopal Cafe and The Living Church carried stories on the latest grant. 

Bishop of Oregon Hit with Lawsuit by Former Diocesan Finance Officer

Not satisfied after her claims were denied by a title IV panel (and a subsequent denial on appeal) and by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry, the former diocesan Finance Officer, Mary Macy has filed suit against Bishop Michael Hanley in an Oregon circuit court asking for $845,000.  The suit claims the bishop assaulted a woman priest, misused funds bequeathed to a diocesan foundation for a hospital chaplaincy, and fired her in retaliation as a whistleblower. You can read her filing here.  The Diocese of Oregon has issued a formal statement denying the charges. Those present at the diocesan convention this last week heard from the heads of the Standing Committee, Board of Trustees, and the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation.  A transcript of their remarks is here or you can watch it on video here.  Without going into detail, they made clear that Macy was fired after a series of audits were completed and an entire revamping of financial procedures were recommended and implemented. The Title IV investigation included the assault charge, and while no details were included, the assault consisted of the bishop placing his arm over the neck of the clergywoman and then standing behind her and pulling her very close to him. Both the initial Title IV hearing and the subsequent appeal resulted in the same finding, “No action taken apart from pastoral reconciliation.”

The ACNA Balancing Act on Women's Ordination

ACNA's bishop in Pittsburgh, James Hobby, has issued a long blog post reflecting on the denomination's recent decision to continue to agree to disagree about women's ordination.  Hobby's statement walks a tightrope not endorsing either position and giving equal time to both.  It suggest just how divided even his home diocese is on the subject.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Week Ending 10/23/17

Hereford Vote Forces Church of England Synod to Consider Blessing of Same-Sex Civil Unions

The Bishop of Hereford  supports a resolution  passed 41-18 with 4 abstentions by his diocese requesting a liturgy for blessing same-sex civil unions or marriages. Thus the motion is automatically put on the next Synod meeting for the whole Church of England, and will remain there until it is discussed by a synod meeting.  Clergy in the diocese were asking for guidance because many are using ad hoc forms to bless unions.  This action does not change the official canons of the church on marriage.  The web site, Thinking Anglicans, has links to a number of  pieces on this development.

Plans Continue for Episcopal and Methodist Full Communion

The Committee from the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church that is working on proposals for full communion between the churches has concluded its most recent meeting.  They heard preliminary responses from both churches on its report outlining an agreement for full communion between the two.  The group is now planning to hold regional discussions in preparation for meetings of the governing bodies of both denominations.  While the official release from the Episcopal News Service does not provide details of the agreement, the Episcopal Cafe article includes a summary and links to the full document.

Changes at Nashotah House

October brought two major changes to Nashotah House, the Anglo-Catholic seminary that has been walking a fine line between ACNA and TEC.  The Episcopalian contingent on the faculty has been reduced by the death of Professor Daniel Westberg in a boating accident.  Westberg has taught ethics and moral philosphy at the seminary since 2000.  Bishop Daniel Martins was surprised to find himself not re-elected to the Board of Directors at Nashotah House.  Martins had been the Chair of Trustees.  In his place the Nashotah Corporation chose the Rev. Canon Edmund Monk, a priest from Dallas.  Martins remains on the Corporation, which is almost evenly split between ACNA and Episcopal Church members.  The Corporation chooses Directors from among their own members.  Monk graduated from Nashotah in 1999 and was ordained by the former Bishop of Quincy, Keith Ackerman who now is assisting bishop in ACNA's Diocese of Fort Worth.  Why Martins was not re-elected is not clear, but some conservatives were unhappy with the way Martins has handled the balance between ACNA and TEC.

Nigerian Primate Unhappy About Primates Meeting He Boycotted

The Nigerian Primate, who has already published his displeasure with the outcomes of the meeting of Primates from the Anglican Communion, issued another statement.  This one complaining about the managing of the news from the meeting, attacking the Archbishop of Canterbury, and demanding that ACNA be recognized as a province of the the Communion. The final Communique from the meeting explicitly denied that ACNA was part of the Communion.  He and two other African primates boycotted the meeting, attended by 32 of the primates. It is clear that he is unhappy that most of the primates found common ground on issues other than sexuality and are continuing to work within the Communion.

Executive Council Forgives San Joaquin Debt

The recently concluded Executive Council meeting dealt with a number of issues, including budget, and social justice issues among others.  However, despite tight finances, the Executive Council voted to forgive  all but $1 million of the $6,175,000 debt and the interest that the Diocese of San Joaquin had borrowed while barred for almost a decade by litigation from accessing the assets of  the diocese. The money largely supported the ordinary costs of running the diocese.  The current year's budget, for example included a line of credit from TEC for $285,000.  Those who opposed the legal action, such as the counsel for the losing side in the litigation, have tried to cast this as part of astronomical costs brought on by the Episcopal Church's decision to enforce its canons and legal rights to retain church property when groups leave the church.  The proposed 2018 budget draws $353,000 from reserves to show a balanced budget without any line of credit.

ERD Reports on Puerto Rico

Episcopal Relief and Development reported on its efforts to aid rebuilding in Puerto Rico.  The Diocese of Puerto Rico is trying to resume activities with some churches holding services.  ERD is supplying water to distant corners of the diocese and working with groups on rebuilding.  They report that the Cathedral school has reopened in San Juan even though students have to bring their own water and batteries because the school still has neither electricity or water.  Update will continue to post reports on the rebuilding efforts from the various parts of the Episcopal Church where fires and storms have wreaked heavy damage.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Week Ending 10/16/17

Controversy Continues Over Sydney Diocese's Contribution to Antis in Australian Referendum

An earlier Update story covered the announcement by Archbishop Davies of Sydney, Australia that he had given $1 million to the "Vote No" group in a voter poll being conducted by the Australian parliament on the question of civil marriage for same sex couples. Critical comments rolled in from a wide range of Australians, including the Archbishop of Perth, conservative groups worried about entanglement of church and state, and even some members of Davies own diocese.  Davies has issued a statement defending his use of church funds.  

Response to Abuse an Issue for Both English Archbishops

Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York were dealing with controversies regarding abuse of young people by clergy many years before.   The issue for Justin Welby was whether he personally had ignored charges that the major benefactor of a camp for young boys had abused youths at the camp.  Welby worked at the camp as a young man, and later was a member of the board when action was taken that forced the benefactor to leave England for Africa, where he again was charged with abuse.  The New York Times carried the story.  Archbishop of York, John Sentamu and the current bishop of Chester had to issue a statement that they were cooperating with the police in the investigation of charges of abuse of both young men and women by a former bishop of Chester during the 1960s and 1970s.  The statement also included an apology.

Sale Falls Through at St. James, Newport Beach 

The Diocese of Los Angeles made a brief announcement that purchaser for the property of St. James the Great in Newport Beach had backed out, leaving the property in the hands of the diocese.  However, the announcement held little good news for the congregation forced out of the building.  The diocese considers the congregation an unrecognized body that must apply for membership in the diocese.  The announcement also stated that the building would be opened as a bishop's chapel with no set congregation, and with services provided by visiting clergy.  While the Rev. Cindy Voorhees, the priest who had gone to St. James to build a congregation in a building returned to the diocese after a long legal battle with schismatic members, and who has continued to minister to the congregation in exile, is eligible to be invited to conduct services there, there was no guarantee she would be invited.  Much of the comment on the internet has been critical of the diocese for not returning the building to the parish. (See the articles and comments on the Episcopal Cafe, the Facebook page "General Convention" and Anglican.ink website for a sample.)The Hearing Panel which heard the case the congregation brought against Bishop Jon Brumo the way he treated the congregation and his attempts to sell the property had recommended return of the property to the congregation.  The congregation's response to the announcement was, not surprisingly, critical.

City Starts Looking for Funds Promised in Rebuilding New Zealand Cathedral

The Update has provided continuing coverage (most recently here, here and here) of the controversy surrounding the earthquake damaged cathedral in Christ Church New Zealand, and of the final decision by the diocese to restore the building, considered a national treasure.  Because the general public wanted the site preserved, both government and private philanthropists have offered financial help.  The city of Christ Church, which has had to rebuild much of its downtown destroyed by the earthquake in 2011, now has started the process of figuring out where it will find the $10 million dollars it has promised for the restoration/rebuilding of the cathedral.

Churches in Fire Zone Offer Help While Themselves at Risk

Episcopal News Service posted two stories on the response to and impact on parishes in the northern California wine country that was devastated by fire this last week.  Firefighter have now gotten most of them largely contained, but with the deaths of over 40 people and loss of more than 6400 buildings, recovery will be a long process.  Churches in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Kenwood all survived the fire, but parishioners lost their homes.  The ENS stories from October 10 and October 12 show how the members of the parish tried to serve their community under very trying circumstances.

Episcopal Church Offers Home for Arts Festival Kicked Out by Roman Catholics

When the Roman Catholic diocese found out that one of its Manhattan parishes was hosting an arts festival that included an improvisional play about LGBTQ people coming out, the  diocese wanted those performances with LGBTQ themes cancelled.  Instead organizers of the International Human Rights Art Festival withdrew the whole festival on the eve of its opening.  St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, a 239 year-old Episcopal parish in Brooklyn Heights stepped forward to host the event.  Most of the news coverage focuses on the Roman Catholics rescinding permission to use their building for a  performance titled "“Thank You for Coming Out.” The new host, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity is the oldest parish in Brooklyn, dating back to the colonial period.  Since the parish web site explicitly states that the parish offers marriage ceremonies for LGBT couples, the festival's improvisional play on coming out was not an issue at the new site.

South Carolina Break-Away Group Continues Media Campaign

As both parties wait to see if the South Carolina Supreme Court will rehear the church property case brought originally by the break-away diocese and 39 of its congregations, and prepared for a round of mediation ordered by the federal judge who will hear a companion case on the name and trademarks of the diocese in early 2018, a media campaign against Episcopalians and one of the Supreme Court judges who ruled for the Episcopal Church has grown in fury.  Blogger Steve Skaradon, posted a long piece on October 16 about  the media campaign.  You can read it here. Update has information on the cases and  an earlier Skaradon piece on the company behind the media campaign here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Week Ending 10/09/17

Federal Court Again Rules Against Tax Exemption for Clergy Housing

Having had an appeals court throw out an earlier suit for lack of standing, those challenging the standard tax-exemption given by the IRS for clergy housing allowances, tried again, this time ensuring that they did have standing by having been denied a requested exemption.  The Federal District Court in Wisconsin that heard the first case, ruled on Friday, October  6, that the 1954 federal law granting an exemption to clergy housing was unconstitutional by granting privileges to religious organizations not offered to other philanthropic groups, thus creating an establishment of religion.  Religion News carried the story.

Primates Meeting Concludes with No Surprises

The primates meeting went pretty much as expected, helped in part by the absence of three primates most hostile to the provinces who are supportive of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. The first two days were spent largely in discussion of the 2015 vote by the Episcopal Church General Convention to allow same sex marriages, and the more recent decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The Church of Canada's vote to change their canons seems to have slipped by.  The result has been that the primates have asked for the same "consequences" for Scotland as were requested by the primates in 2016 for the U.S.  Since the Anglican Consultative Council refused to confirm these consequences, any implementation is up to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.  The Scottish primate does expect Canterbury to refrain from appointing members of their province to leadership and ecumenical matters for three years. Most of the meeting dealt with other issues faced by primates around the world, such as global warming, hunger, and evangelism. During the meeting, the primates heard the announcement of the new Anglican Inter Faith Commission (requested by the Anglican Consultative Council)  to be chaired by Bishop Mouneer Anis.  By video he invited every province to send representatives ot an initial meeting of the commission in Cairo in February.  At the conclusion of their meeting, the primates issued a Communique covering all of the issues and stressing their desire to continue to walk together.  Other positive assessments of the meeting, can be found in reports printed in the Canadian Church's Anglican Journal, in the statement by Presiding Bishop Curry, and the story in the Church Times.

The first two days were interrupted by the news of the Las Vegas shootings, and Presiding Bishop Curry was asked to do a special prayer at the beginning of their evening worship.  This resulted in the ACNA media head, Canon Andrew Gross, making some comments about how it was inappropriate for Curry to lead any prayers at the meeting.  Gross's comments backfired.  Archbishop Welby noted he was "taken aback" by the criticism, and even conservative primates found the remarks uncalled for.  The remarks may have had a further consequence in that Gross was denied press credentials and barred from the final news conference for the meeting. 

GAFCON and ACNA were certainly not happy with the outcome of the meeting.  During the meeting Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Nigeria confirmed that he had not changed his opinion that conservative money from the U.S. had manipulated African Church leaders into making sexuality a major issue. The Communique included statements confirming that ACNA is not a member of the Anglican Communion, and a section condemning cross-border incursions by other provinces.  GAFCON and ACNA are responsible for most such incursions. Not surprisingly, GAFCON issued a statement critical of the meeting, as did Archbishop Venables, primate of the Province of South American, and a GAFCON leader, who left the conference on Wednesday noon.

St. James the Great in Newport Continues as Congregation Without a Building

Although bitterly disappointed by the decision of the Los Angeles Diocese to go ahead with the sale of their church property secretly negotiated by Bishop Jon Bruno, St. James the Great has not folded up shop.  Their latest Facebook page links to a You-Tube video of their recent blessing of the animals to commemorate St. Francis Day. If the great variety and number of animals is a sign, then this congregation is continuing a vibrant ministry.

Diocese of Sydney Funding Opposition to Australian Same-Sex Marriage Vote

Business Insider reported that the conservative Sydney Diocese in Australia had contributed $1,000,000 to the "Vote No" campaign to defeat a comprehensive voter poll the Australian parliament has ordered on the subject of  same sex marriage. Archbishop Davies announced it in his talk at the Sydney diocesan synod. The Guardian's story on the donation notes that the church is divided on this issue. The Sydney Diocese had a large impact on the  Anglican Church of Australia's recent Synod vote expressing displeasure with the Scottish Episcopal Church's decision to allow same-sex marriage.  (See Update story here).  Sydney Diocese is the only active member of GAFCON, among Australian dioceses.    

Date for Mediation Set in South Carolina

The mediation requirement set by the Federal judge in the ongoing trademark lawsuit in South Carolina resulted in a meeting October 4 of legal representatives of both the break-away group and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  They agreed that all issues in both the state and federal suits might be discussed in mediation set for November 4-6, 2017.  The mediation does not affect preparations for both the hearing scheduled for 2018 on the Federal suit or the South Carolina Supreme Court's deliberations on a  request for rehearing of the property lawsuit settled largely in favor of continuing Episcopalians.