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         

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Week Ending 3/1/21

 Archbishop Makgoba Asks Biden for Vaccine

The Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Southern Africa has written President Biden asking his help in securing more supplies of  covi-19 vaccine.  A major concern is the price of the vaccine from its supplier.  What the archbishop is requesting is for Biden to use authority given him in legislation to waive the copyright protection on the vaccine so it can be produced locally in Africa at a lower cost by other manufacturers.  For more on the statement see the Anglican Communion News Story here.

Updates on Previous Postings

Churches Seek Balance Between Security and Openness

Despite earlier releases about the removal of a fence around St. John's Church on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., the church and its patios are still surrounded by a locked fence.  The parish is trying to overcome that barrier with local art work on the still-boarded windows, and outreach to the community. The parish has now engaged a landscape architect to help design greater security for the church that will preserve its historic welcome.  Other parishes in downtown Washington are also struggling with similar issues.  Their ministries include community outreach and activism, and yet they recognize that they are attractive targets.  The Episcopal News Service article has more on these issues.

Commemorating a Half-Million Deaths

Episcopal parishes have been using various means to mark major milestones in the death totals from the pandemic.   A number of parishes  used their Church bells to mark the deaths in early January. However, the total has grown rapidly, and St. John's Episcopal Church in Johnson City chose to tune up their bells again to honor the now more than 500,000 who have died.  On Sunday February 28 they rang their bell 500 times to memorialize the dead.  The local paper has more on the parish and its motivation.

And More on Feeding the Hungry 

Episcopalians around the country are taking seriously Jesus's command to "feed my sheep" and Update has reported on many of the efforts as they come to notice in local media.  The latest is a feature on KTSA-TV in San Antonio, TX about the ongoing efforts of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit to provide food to hungry families in partnership with Project Hope.  The recent severe weather in Texas has made the efforts even more important.

Baltimore Church Reparations Get More Exposure

Last week Update  carried a notice about the local attention Memorial Episcopal Church was getting for its efforts at reparations to the black community for the parish's past direct involvement in slavery.  Two more media stories appeared this last week, one focused on the removal  of a plaque commemorating founders of the parish to a non-worship space because of the founders status as slaveholders.  The other a news story on WBAL-TV looked at a range of the parish actions


GAFCON Groups at Odds Over ACNA Sexuality Statement

When ACNA bishops released their theological statement on the status of LGBTQ people in their church, they found themselves facing internal critiques from both those who thought it went too far and those who thought it did not go far enough.  Internally, a group of laity, clergy and one bishop signed a statement saying that the bishops had fallen short of recognizing that LGBTQ was an identity as well as an "attraction" and thus not affirming fully those who struggled to remain celibate as full members of the church.  Action by church officials has led to the withdrawal of that letter.  It is not so easy to silence the voice of the Archbishop of Nigeria who critiqued the statement for not condemning entirely  LGBTQ people.  This put the current GAFCON chair in an awkward position as he is the head of ACNA.  The responses suggest the deepness of divisions within the various GAFCON groups even after froups have withdrawn from more affirming provinces of the Anglican Communion. Thinking Anglicans has a good listing of the various responses here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Week Ending 2/22/21

All of this week's news are updates to previous stories.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Fort Worth Appeal

Loyal Fort Worth Episcopalians had pinned their hopes to recover diocesan property and endowments on the U.S. Supreme Court after the Texas Supreme Court awarded everything to the schismatic group in Fort Worth.  The U.S. Supreme Court discussed the appeal last week and on Monday issued a brief notice that they had decided not to hear the case. There was no indication that any justice dissented or wanted to hear the case.  This leaves the Fort Worth Episcopalians with nowhere to go.  Four parishes participating in the Episcopal Church in  Fort Worth also stand to lose their buildings.  That is one-quarter of the active parishes in the continuing loyal diocese.  You can read various statements in response to the denial of certiorari in the stories by the Living Church, the Episcopal Cafe, and the Episcopal News Service.  Update has followed the legal battles since they began in 2008. Last week Update carried the notice that the justices had scheduled the case for a conference.

Baltimore Church Gives First Reparation Grants

Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore voted to raise and distribute $500,000 in grants to black organizations as a form of reparations after becoming aware of the parish's history in support of and participation in the ownership of slaves.  The parish has recently awarded the first $30,000 of grants, including one to Black Women Build.  The group buys abandoned houses and then sets women to work on restoring and repairing them, eventually being able to purchase one of the repaired homes.  The CBS affiliate in Baltimore featured the efforts this last week. 

And the Feeding Continues . . .

Local media have featured the efforts of two more Episcopal parishes to feed the hungry.  This week there were stories on the efforts of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia, which is sponsoring a free food giveaway, and the other is St. Paul's in Louisville, Kentucky where the parish runs  community food collection every week for the local food shelf.   Update has been regularly noting efforts such as these.  The most recent previous notice is here

Construction Finally Begins on New Zealand Cathedral

Ten years ago, an earthquake destroyed much of Christchurch, New Zealand, with heavy damage to the Anglican Cathedral.  That building was considered a national treasure and a major controversy arose over whether it should be restored, or razed and rebuilt.  Finally in 2017, the decision was made to restore/rebuild the building to be as much as possible like the destroyed building. Not until 2020 did the diocese have the money to begin rebuilding, and now construction is finally under way.  Great cathedrals are not built in a day, and the completion date is now projected to be six years down the road.  Meanwhile the diocese continues to be served by a unique temporary cathedral constructed from cardboard. For more on the rebuilding go here.  Update has covered the earthquake, the rebuilding controversy and most recently, the letting of contracts for the rebuilding.

GAFCON Continues Building Alternate Anglican Communion 

GAFCON, the ultra-conservative group currently chaired by the ACNA Archbishop, but which claims to be in the Anglican Communion is continuing its process of setting up alternative jurisdictions matching those in the Anglican Communion Provinces.  The latest is the Anglican Convocation in Europe, which will be headed by Andrew Lines, who has been serving as a GAFCON missionary Bishop in England and Europe.  Update has noted the formation of other alternative jurisdictions including ones in Brazil, New Zealand, and and have taken first steps in Australia.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Week Ending 2/15/21

Biden Re-establishes Office for Co-ordination with Faith Groups

Melissa Rogers has returned to a familiar role, heading the re-established White House Office of Faith- Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a job she had under President Obama.  Rogers will also sit on the White House Advisory Board for Domestic Policy, and have a deputy director.  The office will seek to coordinate work with a great variety of faith-based groups in seeking to promote economic and social justice, humanitarian outreach, and to balance first amendment rights.  Religion News has a more complete run-down on the office in its story

Sewanee Vice-Chancellor Dealing with Harassment

The University of the South's Vice Chancellor, Reuben Brigety II, used his address at last Sunday's  chapel service to outline the multiple acts of vandalism that have been directed at his family's living quarters in Chen Hall on campus.  The vandalism and threatening messages have been on-going.  Brigety, who is also a former ambassador, is the first African American to serve as Vice Chancellor  at the university.  The university, founded after the Civil War by former Confederate leaders was for many years known for its propagation of the myths of the "old South."  It is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and its governing board includes members from Episcopal dioceses in the Southeast.  The campus has rallied around Brigety, but the harassers have not been identified yet.

Updates and Continuing Stories

Apologies Issued After Lucado Sermon at National Cathedral

Update reported last week on the controversy sparked by the invitation to Max Lucado to preach at the Washington Cathedral's Sunday on-line service.  Lucado has a reputation for  his anti-LGBTQ statements.  Both Bishop Budde and Dean Hollerith have now issued apologies for not realizing how painful this invitation would be to many LGBTQ people and those who support their full inclusion in the life of the church.  In addition, Lucado himself issued a statement, which while not changing his theological position, did state that LGBTQ people are children of God, and their families should be respected. 

Preparing for Lent in a Pandemic

As Americans approach Ash Wednesday and Lent after nearly a full year of pandemic precautions,  the Episcopal News Service has a story on ways churches are finding to observe Ash Wednesday, Lent and Holy Week while covid-19 remains a major threat. Some parishes will provide packets of ashes so people can self-impose them.  Three parishes in Albany have made the local news by announcing they will do a drive through "Ashes to Go."  Update has been carrying notices about adaptation to worship caused by the pandemic since the start of the lockdowns last March. the most recent is here.

Supreme Court Schedules Conference on Fort Worth Case 

The long legal battles still going on around property issues in areas where there were diocesan schisms, are a process of "hurry up and wait"  --being sure to meet filing deadlines and then waiting for court actions.  Episcopalians in Fort Worth have filed an appeal to the U.S., Supreme Court, and all documents are in.  Now they are waiting to see if the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their appeal.  This week there was some motion of the case as the court has scheduled a conference on February 19 for the case. 

More Stories of Churches Feeding the Hungry

 This week Update adds a parish in Bangor Maine, and one in Rome New York to its coverage of parishes continuing to find ways to feed the hungry.  St. John's parish in Maine, parks a truck outside the church once a month and church and community members fill the back with food and supplies which are then donated to a local organization working with those in need.  This month parishioners were also able to pick up ashes for their on-line service this Ash Wednesday.  In Rome, New York, Zion Episcopal will hold a series of monthly community suppers once a month during February, March and April.  Although free will offerings are gratefully received, there is no cost for the prepackaged meals, with a different menu each month.  People need to reserve in advance so the church can prepare enough food and have it ready for people.   The meal is take-out only due to the pandemic.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Week Ending 2/8/21

Churches Begin Work of Rebuilding Refugee Resettlement Programs

President Biden's executive order reopening the U.S. to refugee resettlement and quadrupling the number of refugees that can resettle this year in the U.S. was good news to resettlement programs, including that run by the Episcopal Church.  However, because of the drastic reduction in resettlement that the previous president imposed, the agencies have to retool, reopen, rehire and reestablish networks of support before they will be able to handle resettlement for the much larger group of eligible  refugees.  The Episcopal News Service has a story on the challenges ahead for Episcopal Migration Ministries. 

Invitation to Mega Church Pastor Creates Controversy

The Washington National Cathedral stirred up a hornet's nest  by inviting  Max Lucado, the pastor of an independent mega church in Texas to preach the Sunday service on February 7.  Lucado comes out of the Church of Christ tradition and has made numerous statements offensive to  and condemning of LGBTQ+ people.  In this case the dual role of the Cathedral as both the cathedral of the diocese of Washington with an active Episcopal congregation, and its role as a house of prayer for all of the nation, including those of other traditions were at odds with one another. The fact that Bishop V. Eugene Robinson celebrated did not calm the critics.  Bishop Robison made a statement during the service that he was there not to support the beliefs of the preacher, but because the Episcopal Church needs to model its welcome to all people, even those with whom they disagree.

Pauli Murray Film Premiers at Sundance Festival

The same group that produced the highly respected documentary RBG is back with another documentary of a path-breaking woman.  This time their subject is the poet, civil rights activist, feminist, and Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray.  The group first was introduced to Murray when Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought her up.  They have made extensive use of recordings and film from the Murray papers.  The documentary covers the many ways that Murray was ahead of her time as well as covring Murray's personal life.

Continuing Stories

Supreme Court Reverses Course on Church Pandemic Limits

Although the final outcome in the latest covid-19 restriction case to come to the U.S. Supreme Court was a 6-3 decision that California's covid-19 limits on in-person worship infringed the first amendment promises of free exercise of religion, the court was split with 3 separate opinions by justices in the majority and a dissent from the 3 liberal judges on the court.  Earlier this year the court had upheld 5-4 California limits on the size of in-person congregations.  It had similarly upheld restrictions imposed in Nevada.  However, in a decision that came after restrictions had expired, the court had ruled  in November against New York  restrictions. The replacement on the court of Justice Ginsburg with Justice Amy Barrett clearly has made a difference.   The underlying question in all the cases has been  whether churches had been unfairly categorized when compared to with secular entities (such as theaters) in setting limits.  Justices Barrett and Kavenaugh left in place limits on singing and cantoring because there was not evidence presented to show that they were treated differently than performances in secular venues.  Thus a 5 person majority upheld for the time being those restrictions.  California is already looking to revise restrictions to fit the latest decision.

Oxford Squabble Continues 

 The Christ Church, Oxford controversy that now includes an investigation of the controversial Dean's behavior in a sexual harassment charge continues to find its way into the media.  Among the pieces this week is a statement from the woman who filed the complaint. As usual Thinking Anglicans has links to the various statements.Update's most recent previous coverage is here.

  More on Episcopal Churches Serving Their Communities

The latest stories on churches reaching out to serve their communities during the pandemic address very different parts of ministry during the pandemic.  Many churches around the country have participated in rotating shelters that provide a place to sleep for the homeless on their church grounds.  However these programs had to close down during the pandemic.  In  Carlisle, PA officials had been housing homeless families in hotels at a major expense. The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania had a closed property, formerly a home for the elderly,  and it has now been repurposed as a shelter with appropriate safe distancing for families.  It provides greater stability for the families than previous arrangements.   On the other coast of the U.S., Episcopalians in Pomona, CA responded to a need for securing appointments to receive the covid-19 vaccine by setting up a core of people who track down locations with vaccine and help those people with few computer skills to get the appointments they need.  For previous example of outreach, see this Update story


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Week Ending 1/25/21

Executive Council Reaffirms Church Role in Reconciliation

After reflecting on the deep divisions in American Society, political, economic, and racial, The Executive Council for the Episcopal Church reaffirmed the Church's role in bridging the divides, healing the hurts, and bringing reconciliation.  The opening statements of the both the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies helped to frame this discussion.   The Presiding Bishop mentioned a variety of crises facing us, but spent the most time on racial justice.  Gay Jennings used her remarks as President of the House of Deputies to focus on the danger of Christian Nationalism. 

Washington National Cathedral Hosts Post-Inaugural Service 

Among the Inaugural week events was a post-inauguration national prayer service hosted virtually by the the Washington National Cathedral.  The service was interfaith with participants from participants reaching across all major world religions, and some more  specifically American traditions such as the Navajo.  Th preacher was Disciples of Christ bishop William Barber, who linked repairing the breech in American Society to correcting its inequalities.  Presiding Bishop Curry gave the final blessing. 

ACNA Reaffirms Stance on LGTBQ People

The ACNA College of Bishops has issued a long paper  providing guidance to its churches on the status of LGBTQ people in their church.  Characterizing  same sex relations as similar to other sinful human failings, such as adultery, divorce, greed, pornography, and disregard for the poor, the bishops declared celibacy the only acceptable course, refused to rule out conversion therapies, and urged the use of "same sex attraction" as the term to use rather than anything that might suggest a sexual identity.  The statement provides an unspoken contrast to the Episcopal Church positions affirming LGBTQ people  and approving liturgies for the marriages of same sex couples.  

Priest Calls Attention to Consumer Culture and Ecological Issues by What She Wore

The Rev. Sarah Robbins-Cole, a chaplain at Wellesley College, took up a challenge to show how people could live with less and thus reduce their ecological footprint and consumerism.  The challenge was wearing the same dress for 100 days.  Robbins-Cole chose a basic black dress, which of course, went well with a clergy collar, but also with a variety of scarves, jackets, tights, and other accessories.  Although initially telling only a few family and friends, she created an Instagram page documenting what she wore and soon gained  thousands of followers.  Over 65 papers around the world picked up the story. 

Updates on Continuing Stories

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Re-Licensed

 Lord  George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury got caught up in the safe-church investigations in England and was accused of covering up sexual abuse by Peter Ball and ignoring victims.  As a result in 2017 he resigned as Assistant Bishop of Oxford, and lost his license to provide religious services.  In 2018, a license to officiate in Oxford was restored,  but in 2020 it was again revoked when his actions in a different abuse case were questioned.  Now it has again been restored.  Update has covered each change of status.  

More example of Outreach

This week Update can note  three very different forms of outreach by Episcopalians.  Christ Episcopal Church in Bordentown, New Jersey was featured in local news for a variety of efforts to reach those who are economically hurting and how the parish has made outreach to the community its central theme.  St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Lafayette, Louisiana stepped up to offer space when local organizers were denied use of public property for a memorial to those in the county who had died from covid-19.  The church offered its lawn for the display of 210 flags with the names of those local people who had died, and the parish priest blessed the installation. In New York, the Episcopal Actors Guild has stepped forward to offer aid to those in the entertainment field who are in need since the industry has been largely shut down by the pandemic.  The Church of the Transfiguration provides a home base for the guild.  the Guild has a long-standing grants program and food pantry, but their work has expanded during the pandemic.  Update has been highlighting outreach ministries with notices almost every week.  Last week's notices are here

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Week Ending 1/18/21

Kamala Harris to use Marshall Bible During Inauguration

Kamala Harris will use two Bibles during her part of the inauguration.  One is the Bible of a family friend that Harris has used when sworn in to office in California.  The other is a Bible belonging to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and one of two Episcopalians that Harris mentions as inspirations to her.  Harris went to Howard Law School because of Marshall.  She also considered Constance Baker Motley, another Black Episcopalian as an inspiration.  Motley and Marshall were both noted civil rights litigators and Motley became the first African American woman appointed to the federal bench. Harris will be sworn in by Sandra Sotomayer, the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Africa Gains and Loses Women Bishops

This last week Kenya announced the appointment of Canon Emily Awino Onyango as assistant bishop of the Diocese of Bongo in Kenya.  The Anglican Communion news story has a good summary of her distinguished career.  Anglican.ink puts her in the context of the issues that her appointment presents for GAFCON which supposedly has an moratorium among its members on appointment of women bishops.  There were three other women serving as bishops in African provinces when the announcement of Onyango's appointment was made, but Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoy, the Bishop of Swaziland died from Covid-19 on January 19.  Wamukoy was lauded as an advocate for women.  thus Onyango's appointment will not increase the number of women bishops in Africa.   

Episcopal Church Condemns Arctic Gas and Oil Leases 

On its way out the door, the Trump administration rushed to auction oil and gas leases in the arctic national reserve.  Leases were supposedly signed on his last full day in office.  The Episcopal Church is on record opposing those leases.  The Episcopal News Service has a story on the issues involved and the reasons for the Church's stance.  The question remains what the new Biden administration will do about the last minute leases and any future ones. 

Continuing Stories

On Responding to the Pandemic

As the death toll rises, many Episcopal Churches around the country have joined in a commemoration on the nearly 400,000 who have died in the pandemic in the U.S. and the more than 2 million who have died around the globe.  At 5:30 on January 19, Churches began ringing bells to commemorate the dead.  The local news story here  highlights one of those churches in Tennessee.  In an ongoing effort to reduce future deaths, cathedrals in England are opening their doors as sites for mass vaccinations.  This story features Salisbury Cathedral (which is offering music during the day to soothe the sting of the needle), but others are also opening their doors.   The Update has regularly been featuring stories on responses to the epidemic.  The most recent is here.

More Outreach Efforts During the Pandemic

Update has also regularly noted parishes that are making the news for their outreach efforts.  This week there was a local story about a parish in Liberty, Missouri that has opened a free pantry food shelf to continue in a safe way the larger food bank work the parish has done.  In Louisiana, a parish has responded to the destruction of many trees in the hurricanes and other violent storms that have struck the state by creating an annual program handing out bundles of seedling trees to replace those destroyed by storms.  The parish hopes to make it an annual event. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Week Ending 01/11/21

 Pope Makes Expanded Lay Women's Roles Law

Pope Francis has made official lay women's participation as readers including of the Gospel in Roman Catholic worship.  Since many parishes were already doing this, the change is minor except it is now supported by canon law, rather than custom.  Not all advocates for women were pleased, however, because he also made clear that the ordained ministries of deacon and priest were reserved for males. 

Archbishop of Wales to Retire

John Davies, the Archbishop of Wales has announced that he will retire on May 2, 2021.  Daives has been a strong voice both for revitalizing the Church of Wales, and for progressive causes, including LGBTQ participation and women as bishops.

Churches Condemn Attack on Capitol

The mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 has been condemned by many church leaders.  Presiding Bishop Curry made a statement calling the attack an attempted coup, and then also joined in a statement made by the leadership of the National Council of Churches.  The National Council of Churches leadership, including Presiding Bishop Curry issued a second statement saying that President Trump, must resign or be removed, using either of the 2 methods provided for in the U.S. Constitution (Amendment 25 and impeachment).  While evangelical leaders called the attack wrong, they were more divided on what should happen next and whom to blame.

Continuing Stories

Episcopal Church Files Response in Fort Worth Case

The filings in the Episcopal Church's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Fort Worth Diocese property cases should now be complete.  On January 6, the Episcopal Church filed its response to the brief submitted by the schismatic diocese.  The Episcopal Church filing documented a number of misrepresentations within the filing by the ACNA diocese.  The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on whether to hear the case sometime during the court term that just began.  Update has been tracking all the filings.

New Charges in Never-Ending Oxford Story

Apparently Christ Church College, Oxford has filed new charges against the Dean of the Cathedral and College.  The college has been at war with the Dean for well over 2 years, and Update has carried notes on the on-going saga.  ThinkingAnglicans.org  has a summary and links to various announcements surrounding this latest development.

Pittsburgh Bishop Election Delayed Again

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh announced this last week that the election of a new bishop will be delayed another two months and similarly the consecration of a new bishop has also been delayed.  The delay is in hopes that the discernment retreat for candidates and the "walkabout" might actually be held in-person.  The election date is now June 26, 2021 and consecration scheduled for November 13.  The change of dates is not affecting McConnell's own retirement date which is September 11.  This is the second time the election has been delayed.  The first delay was announced in April 2020 at the height of the first surge of  covid-19 infections. 

Parish Provides Showers for Homeless

St. Andrews Episcopal Parish in Oakland, Michigan has teamed with a non-profit to host on the church property a mobile shower unit to provide showers for the homeless.  The church is looking for volunteers to help them staff the unit during the month it will be at the church.  The local paper has more on the effort.  This is the latest in Updates running series on church outreach during the pandemic.

More Responses to Pandemic Surge

The steep surge in covid-19 cases has led the leaders of all 4 major Churches in Northern Ireland to end any in-person worship.  The leaders of the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist made a joint declaration ending any in-person worship.  The earliest resumption of services will be February 6.  Meanwhile in Scotland, the canon of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow is running a crowdfunding appeal to raise money to mount a legal challenge to the Scottish Government's action closing all churches as part of the lockdown efforts in Scotland to control the pandemic. Update will continue to track the varied responses of churches to efforts to prevent spread of the virus. The most recent previous story is here.