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, February 22, 2017

Week Ending 02/20/17

Standing Rock Faces New Deadline

Officials have give water protectors at Standing Rock until today to leave camps because melting snow has caused flood conditions.The Episcopal News Service carried a story about the tribe's efforts to clean up and evacuate the camps, but the internet was carrying a plea from women at the camp for more volunteers to arrive because they were not leaving and militarized law enforcement had them surrounded. The most recent Update story is here.

Maryland Parish Increases Commitment to Immigrants

The Maryland parish whose signs were defaced by vandals the day after the election has redoubled its efforts with immigrants.  The parish's sign for its popular Spanish language service had drawn the attention of the white supremist vandals, but this 380 member parish with members from over 50 countries has responded by additional outreach to immigrants and is considering declaring itself a sanctuary site. The latest Episcopal Church to declare sanctuary status is in Buffalo, NY.

Americans Hold Double Standard on Religious Violence

A new survey show that Americans are much more willing to believe that violence claimed to be done for religious reasons is a correct interpretation of that religion when that violence is done by Muslims than when it is done by Christians.   There are some differences by political part and church membership  You can find the survey here.

Church of England Synod Fallout

It is becoming increasingly clear that what the clergy and laity at the just concluded Church of England Synod did by rejecting the bishop's report on marriage of same sex couples was to say "stop stalling and do something."  News sources carried links to stories of the response of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, statements by individual bishops looking for an approved form for blessing civil marriages, and news commentary.

Officials and Church Still at Odds on Rebuilding Cathedral

Six years after the devastating Christ Church earthquake, the Anglican Cathedral still sits a crumbling ruin, unsafe to enter.  People worship meanwhile in a temporary "cardboard cathedral" on another site.  The situation does not seem likely to change soon because government and church cannot agree on demolition or rebuilding despite grants to proceed. The previous update story is here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Week Ending 2/13/17

Executive Council takes Strong Stands on Pipeline and Refugees

As Update reported last week,  work on the Dakota pipeline has resumed following clearance by the Army Corps of Engineers, and so have protests at the site.  At its meeting last week,the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church reaffirmed its opposition to the pipeline and called on Episcopalians to support the Standing Rock Sioux in their protests, including a March 10 march on Washington.  The Council also took action to support Episcopal Migration Ministries with $500,000 to help with their immediate needs as funding for the ministry's work normally comes from government contracts that provide funds when new refugees enter the country. 

Council also directed the Presiding Bishop to investigate if it was "advisable" to file suit challenging the changes in refugee policy by the new administration in Washington.  The Diocese of Olympia has already filed suit.  The Episcopal Church was not the only religious body making statements in response to the recent executive order on entry into the U.S.  The Methodist Bishop of New York (formerly Bishop in Pittsburgh) Thomas Bickerton has also urged Methodists to take a stand, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out against a cancellation of an agreement that allowed refugee children to be settled in Britain.  The agreement was cancelled immediately following the announcement of the U.S. executive order.

Sauls Lawsuit Claims Conspiracy to Oust Him

Last week's Update carried the link to a letter issued by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies on a lawsuit filed by former church Chief Operating Officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls.  The contents of his filing are now available, and Sauls is asking for damages because his reputation has been so seriously damaged by a multi-year conspiracy led by Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies and others inside and outside the Church Center, that Sauls is now unemployable.
According to the former COO, the purpose of the conspiracy was to increase the power of the office of President of the House of Deputies so that it would overshadow the Presiding Bishop.  Alex Haley has some pointed, if one-sided comments on the filing here.

Whither General Convention 2018?

Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings have sent a letter to Texas officials opposing passage of a law requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender assigned on their birth certificates.  The letter pointedly notes that the 1955 General Convention had been scheduled for Houston but was moved to Hawaii when it became clear that the civil rights of some of those who would attend General Convention would not be honored.  The letter makes clear that the church will not allow rights of any who attend General Convention, including transgendered people, to be restricted.  This was clearly a veiled threat that if the proposed bill passes, the church may well go elsewhere.

New Survey Shows Religious Divide on Same-Sex Marriage  and Little Support for Laws Allowing Denial of Service

A new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute using a data base of over 47,000 respondents shows that a majority of Americans, including those from most churches now support same-sex marriages.  Only three groups (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and White Evangelical Protestants) had majorities disapproving of same-sex marriage.  Three more categories -- black protestants, hispanic protestants, and muslims -- had results showing both supporters and opponents in the mid-forty percents with those who offered no opinion keeping totals for either position below a majority.  Catholics (hispanic and white), white mainline protestants, orthodox Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists, other religions, and the non-religious all now have majorities accepting same-sex marriage. On a question about  whether small businesses should be able for religious reasons to deny products or services to LGBTQ, every group except for white evangelical protestants had a majority disapproving a denial of services.  The percentages were not even close. The white evangelicals were nearly split in half, with 50% supporting the right to deny services and the other 50% either not responding and opposing the denial.

Church of England Archbishops Recognize Validity of ACNA Orders

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a statement saying that they recognize the ordinations of members of the ACNA clergy as valid (i.e. comikng from the historic episcopate).  This is the same status accorded clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa, and The Free Church of England. Because this is a status awarded others not part of the Anglican Communion, it is not a back door admission of ACNA to the Communion.  In fact, it can be interpreted in the reverse, a recognition that ACNA is a separate denomination. 

Archbishop Welby Draws Parallels Between Trump, Brexit, and Neo-Fascism

In his opening speech to the Church of England Synod meeting, Archbishop Welby drew parallels in an unflattering way between the election of Donald Trump and the decision to leave the European Union, suggesting both are drawing on a vein of Neo-Fascism in society.  A full discussion and a link to his talk his here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Week Ending 2/6/17

Anglican Communion News Service Caught Rewriting Facts

It doesn't happen often, but the Rev. Mark Harris and GAFCON Executive Secretary Peter Jensen both agree that the Anglican Communion News Service is trying to rewrite what happened at the meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council last year.  The ACNS published a recent story claiming that the Episcopal Church members of the Council had abided by the conditions in a communique issued at the close of a gathering of Anglican Communion primates last January.  First claiming the TEC members did not vote on issues and then that since matters were done by consensus, not votes were taken, both Harris and Jensen have labelled that false.  Jensen remains upset that the TEC members participated and thus ignored the primates.  Harris applauded their participation.  You can find the original update stories on the confusion surrounding the primate's gathering here and the account of the ACC meeting here.

Presiding Bishop Draws Crowds in Pittsburgh

Originally invited to be the preacher at the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh's Absalom Jones Day Service, Presiding Bishop Curry turned the trip into the initial launch of his Jesus Movement revival.  Billing it as a Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism, Curry met with groups and preached four times in three days, gathering crowds for each.  The initial interdenominational service of repentance involved a number of religious leaders in Pittsburgh and  was held Friday night at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Over 200 attended it.  Saturday there was a breakfast for youth, the Absalom Jones service and afternoon workshops. The service and breakfast, held at Holy Cross in Homewood had a standing room only crowd.   On Sunday Bishop Curry first preached at Calvary Church in Pittsburgh  to a crowd of nearly 500 and then at St. Stephen's McKeesport.  The McKeesport service attracted a worshipers from nearly every parish in the diocese with attendance near 400.

Bishop Sauls Sues Presiding Bishop and Church

Last spring, the Presiding Bishop announced that three senior staff members at the Church Center had been asked to leave.  All three had been placed on administrative leave in December 2015 pending an investigation.  While two were let go for cause following the investigation, the third,  Bishop Stacy Sauls, was cleared, but was let go in April  because the new Presiding Bishop was reorganizing his staff.  Apparently they were unable to agree on a termination compensation package and now Sauls has sued.  Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings jointly issued a statement on the litigation this week.

Long Island Priest Arrested for Drugs and Child Porn

Bishop Lawrence Provanzano of Long Island moved quickly to withdraw the license and remove the Rev. Christopher King from St. James of Jerusalem in Long Beach, NY following King's arrest on drug charges and for possession of child pornography.  Various drugs were found at King's residence and the porn was on his computer.

Army Corps Announcement Brings Vows of Continued Resistance at Standing Rock

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that they intend to issue the permits needed for the completion of the Dakota Pipeline without completing the environment impact studies.  The Standing Rock tribe has vowed to continue to fight construction which threatens its water supply.  There are protests planned around the country against the Army's decision. Update had just reported on a new round of arrests of protesters in Standing Rock last week.

Diocese of Georgia Plans Student Residence at Chapel Site

The Diocese of Georgia has started the permitting process so it can build a multi-use building on the site of its current chapel at the University of Georgia.  The site would include retail, a private dorm, and a chapel.  It is not clear how long the permit process might take, but as the local news story indicates, local residents, students and the university all have questions about the project.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Week Ending 1/30/17

Standing Rock Heats Up Again

Just when it appeared that things were cooling down as Standing Rock tribal leaders appeared to be ready to use other means of protest of the pipeline being built across sacred land which threatens their water supplies, the North Dakota governor ordered mass arrests of those remaining at the water protectors camp.  The arrests of 76 individuals took place on February1, 2017 which after the official close for this week's news, but before posting and so are included here.  You can find the most recent past update story here.

Episcopalians Respond to the Executive Order on Immigration

The Executive Order banning immediately the entrance into the U.S. of people from 7 countries, including those holding green cards and refugees with visas provoked not only major demonstrations at a number of airports and cities, but numerous statements from religious leaders.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had sent a public letter to Donald Trump urging that the Episcopal Church's ministry of refugee resettlement not be disrupted just two days before Trump signed the E.O. Since then numerous Episcopal Bishops and officials have gone on record denouncing the order.  The Episcopal Cafe gives a listing of the statements.  Be sure to also look in the comments because they include updates.  In addition, there has been a petition circulating about refugee resettlement ministries that had garnered the signatures of more than 3500 religious leaders from many different faith traditions, including a number of Episcopalians.

Sudan Sends Christians to Jail for Trying to Help a Badly Burned Refugee

Petr Jašek, a Czech national with a background in medical administration was arrested on his arrival in Sudan.  He was bringing $5000 to help with medical expenses for a student badly burned during a 2013 protest.  Charged with spying, defaming the government, and bringing money to finance rebels, 
Jašek and two Sudanese Christians who were seen on a video Jašek had on his computer have received long sentences.  The government is also taking action to have numerous Christian churches demolished.

Trump's Supreme Court Nominee is an Episcopalian

Neil Gorsuch, nominated on Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court may be a conservative, but he attends a downtown Episcopal Church in Boulder, CO, according to the Religion News Service.  St. John's web page description of the parish refers to itself as "inclusive" and has this statement: "We are formed and strengthened through a variety of worship services, traditional music, contemplative prayer, spiritual and social justice formation programs, as well as meaningful service within the parish, the local community and in the larger world."  The parish is listed as a Jubilee ministry by the Episcopal Church because of its long history of outreach.  

Judge Withdraws from Consideration for South Carolina Supreme Court

Judge Diane Goodstein whose originally banned loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina from using the name of their diocese, and who issued the original trial decision that awarded all property to the schismatic group had put her name forward for consideration as a South Carolina Supreme Court Judge. Episcopalians appealed that decision in a filing highly critical of Goodstein, but have been waiting over a year and a half for the Supreme Court to issue its opinion on that appeal.  Steve Skaradon who edits the blog scepiscopalians.com reported the withdrawal and explains the politics of South Carolina judge selection.  His blog does not have internal bookmarks, so look for his February 1 entry. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Week Ending 1/23/17

Episcopalians Involved in Inauguration Weekend Events

While on inauguration day the Episcopal Church had some involvement (a private service that used St. John's as its site and a National Cathedral choir singing as part of the prelude to the inauguration ), on Saturday the Church was more visible.  The inauguration events ended with a service at the National Cathedral.  Last week the Update carried a story on the controversy surrounding this event.  The event was a very multi-faith service in which Bishop Mariann Budde, the cathedral dean, a representative for the Presiding Bishop, and cathedral vergers all participated.  A full description is found here.  Meanwhile, the capitol was flooded with over a half million participants in the Women's March and additional millions attended "sister" marches in cities and towns throughout the U.S. and world wide.  Marchers in several did so as Episcopal groups. There is an Episcopal News Story about some of the participants.

Wales Joins Provinces with Women as Bishops

Wales has now joined the list of Anglican Communion provinces with women as bishops. The Rt. Reverend Joanna Penberthy was consecrated as the 129th Bishop of St. David's in a service conducted in both Welsh and English on January 21. (The Update carried news of her election in November.) Communion-wide, the U.S. led the way with the consecration of the Right Rev. Barbara Harris in 1986.  Women also have been consecrated as bishops in England, Ireland, Scotland, Southern Africa, South India, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The extra-provincial church in Cuba also has a woman as bishop.

Dakota Pipeline Construction Back On

Donald Trump has signed an executive memorandum directing the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up their environmental review of oil pipeline construction near the Standing Rock reservation so that the pipeline can be finished.  A core of water protectors have remained at camps at the protest site despite strong pressure and threats by law enforcement to remove them.  The Episcopal Church has supported the protectors and the local Episcopal Congregation remains involved.  The most recent previous Update story is here.

Archbishop of Canterbury Calls October Meeting for Primates

In an attempt to end some of the continuing warfare among Anglican Provinces over issues related to theology and LGBTQ inclusion, Archbishop Justin Welby has called a meeting of Anglican Primates only for October 2017.  The letter was sent in November, but has now been made public.  The last gathering of Primates was held in January 2016, and resulted in a request that the Episcopal Church stand down from leadership offices in the Communion and committee that dealt with ecumenical relations.  The ACNA Archbishop was an observer at that meeting.  The invitation for this coming October is for Communion Primates only.  Thus speculation about American "TEC Bishops" being invited is off-base.  The only TEC bishop eligible to go is Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Some news stories have confused what Welby calls the "special" meeting of last January with an official primates meeting.  The meeting called for October seems to be a regular meeting,

Continuing Debate on Same-Sex Marriage

The Episcopal Cafe on-line magazine carried a story on speculation that the Church of England bishops are about to drop questions to LGBT clergy that required them to maintain a celibate lifestyle.  This would result in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" situation for same-sex partnered clergy in England.  Meanwhile in Australia, Dr. Muriel Porter, a Melbourne journalist and Anglican who has served more than 30 years in the Australian Church's General Synod, has filed documents with the Australian Senate committee looking at same-sex marriage saying that most Aussie Anglicans have no problem with same sex-marriage. Her filing counters the one submitted by a priest from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney (the one Australian Diocese participating officially in GAFCON). Update carried a report on an earlier stage of the Australian Church's response to discussion in the senate.

Finally, the editor apologizes for late publication this week of the Update, but participation in the Women's March in Washington, threw off my work schedule.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Week Ending 01/16/17

Presidential Inaugural Concerns

While Episcopalians
debated whether churches should pray for the incoming president by name or by title, and others were upset that Washington National Cathedral was hosting the post inauguration prayer service and sending its men's and boy's choir to sing as a prelude to the actual inauguration, the Archbishop of Canada asked members of his church to pray for people in the U.S.  The discussion over how to pray for the incoming president led Presiding Bishop Curry to issue a formal statement. Most prayers in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for the country and its leaders are by generic title.  Only two have an option of adding a name. Those upset with the National Cathedral service raised issues about whether that was a form of endorsement of him, were concerned that the inaugural committee was planning the service, (not the cathedral dean or bishop), that there was to be no sermon, and that it was a ticketed event.  The performance by the cathedral music groups at the prelude to the inauguration was opposed as being inappropriate given Episcopal values.  Statements by the cathedral dean and Bishop Mariann Budde did not end the criticism.

Pauli Murray Home Named a National Landmark

The childhood home of the Rev. Pauli Murray, poet, activist, lawyer, feminist, and the first African American woman ordained to the Episcopal priesthood
has been declared a national historic landmark.  The group restoring the house is working on opening the site by 2020.  You can read more about Murray here. Murray has a Pittsburgh connection, having spent the last year of her life in our diocese as a member of Holy Cross parish.

Reformed Church Ordains First Openly Gay Minister

Chad Tanaka Pack
was ordained this last week in the Reformed Church in a ceremony at Middle Collegiate Church in New York.  He is on the staff of the Marble Collegiate Church also in New York City.  It makes for some interesting commuting because Pack is the spouse of the Rev. Michael Foley, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, PA.  Pack is the first openly gay individual to enter the ordination process of the Reformed Church as an "out" gay.

Scots Criticized for Epiphany Service with Muslims

St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow planned its Epiphany Service with input from the local Muslim community which was invited to attend.  One of the readings for that service was from the Koran.  The Cathedral was surprised by the large number of protests they received.  Some of those upset threatened the church. The Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland
has issued a statement saying the Church is sorry that the service caused so much offense and is also sorry for the abuse that the cathedral and staff have received.  They will be looking for other ways to continue the interfaith dialog.

ACNA Bishops Approve Trial texts for New Prayer Book

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is on its way out in ACNA congregations.  The bishops of the break-away denomination
have approved texts for all of the remaining parts of their new Book of Common Prayer and put them on line for people to make comments and to use.  They are on track to publish the new book in 2020.  Approval came at the recent ACNA House of Bishops meeting. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Week Ending 1/9/17

Ecumenical Groups Express Concern About Trump Appointments

The National Council of Churches and PICO National Network (the largest group of faith-based organizations) have both expressed concern about some of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet Appointments.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judiaism and the Rev. William Barber's group Moral Monkeys made statements. You can find a summary of their concerns here.

Controversy Continues Over Dar-es-Salom Bishop

The Archbishop of Tanzania deposed the Bishop of Dar-es-Salom for financial irregularities.  Bishop Mokiwa however is refusing to recognize the authority of the Archbishop to do this, and controversy continues.  It is not clear if the Archbishop can do this without the action of the House of Bishops and they had declined pursuing the charges.  Mokiwa is himself a former archbishop of the Anglican province.

Bishops Against Gun Violence Take Next Step

The Episcopal Bishops United Against Gun Violence are now facilitating a conference in Chicago on April 20-22, 2017 which hopes to empower those who attend to deal with the "unholy Trinity" of poverty, racism and guns.  You can find more information including registration information here.
The group of Bishops made their first public statements in a march during the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake.  (See the Update here.)

Five Part Series on Diocese of Fort Worth Questioned

Last week Pittsburgh Update carried the link to the first of a five-part series by the Episcopal News Network on the "Resurrection" of the Diocese of Fort Worth.  The rest of articles each featured one parish, one that meets in a theater, one that does weekly lunches for college students, one meeting in a former mission chapel, and one in a shopping center.  Meanwhile the IRD has published an article picked up by conservative church news sources that questions the statistics showing diocesan growth  in the first article.  While the material in the IRD article may not be accurate on budget, the rest is based on The Episcopal Church parochial report statistics for the diocese.

Anglican Archbishops in the News

The Anglican Archbishop who headed the Maori track within the three-part organization of the Church in New Zealand has died.  Ninety-two-year-old Archbishop Brown Turei had already announced plans to step down in March 2017,  after serving for over 24 years as archbishop.  The update covered his retirement announcement here. Meanwhile Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has come out with a statement in support of the Archbishop of Southern Africa.  The South African President Jacob Zuma had told Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to keep the church out of politics.  Both archbishops referred to the long history of the church witnessing on political issues.

Two Diocese Take Steps Forward

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont has made a major commitment to green energy by purchasing the solar array that they had been leasing.  The array is on diocesan property and provided all the electricity needed for the diocesan conference center property with a little to spare and sell. Meanwhile, the diocese of Bethlehem is moving forward with plans to elect a bishop.  They have been sharing a bishop with the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Bishop Sean Rowe has served as provisional bishop of Bethlehem since  March 2014.

Too Much Candle Power at Christmas

Church of England vicar Frank Coleman noticed that his server's vestments had caught fire from a candle and it was about to spread to her hair on Christmas Eve.  He rushed over and patted out the fire with his hands and then after a member of the congregation made him soak his hand in cold water continued with the service.  The server was unhurt.  The vicar ended up after the service in the emergency room with severe burns on 30% of his hand.