Pittsburgh Update

Pittsburgh Update publishes weekly summaries of recent developments in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion that affect or could affect Pittsburgh Episcopalians. Emphasis is on reporting, not interpretation. This is a service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. This site is in no way affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice          

A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Week Ending 7/17/17

New Hampshire Launches Criminal Investigation at St. Paul's School

Last week the Update reported on the latest sexual misconduct investigation at St. Paul's School. Officials at St. Paul's had begun a disciplinary investigation into a story about new allegations of seniors engaging in an end of the year sexual contest.  The school now finds itself under investigation by the New Hampshire District Attorney's office.  The investigation will focus on whether the school has been guilty of child endangerment or obstruction of justice. School officials say they will cooperate with investigators.

Bishop Bruno Wins One in Secular Courts

Bishop Jon Bruno still awaits the finding of the church Hearing Panel on charges of conduct unbecoming a bishop or priest that sprang out of his efforts to sell the property of St. James the Great in Newport Beach. As reported earlier, news that he had negotiated a new sales agreement for the the property while the panel was deliberating resulted in action by the Hearing Panel, Presiding Bishop, and Disciplinary Board for Bishops all restricting him completing or signing any sales agreement.  Meanwhile he has won a round in secular courts. The California Superior Court confirmed Bruno's position that deed restrictions placed on the property by the original donor had been removed.  These restrictions had required the property to be used for a church.  Thus while the courts say the property can be used for something other than a church, the Episcopal Church has forbidden him to complete any sale until the Hearing Panel decides whether he needs to restore the property to the congregation as part of a restitution and reconciliation process. 

New Reference Tools on Anglicanism

Oxford has launched two new reference tools that will interest Episcopalians. The Oxford History of Anglicanism is a five volume print study with a different editor for each volume and each chapter within the volume written by a different scholar. This study is focused globally with North America the focus for no more than one chapter each in volumes II-IV.  The volumes will appear, not necessarily in chronological order between October and February.    Another new tool, and on-line research encyclopedia of American History is also being prepared by Oxford.  A long essay (78 pages) on Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America is forthcoming in this new tool under its religious history subheading.  The current editor of update.pittsburghepiscopal.org is the author of the article on Episcopalians.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Week Ending 07/10/17

Woman Born in Iran Appointed as newest Church of England Bishop 

The Queen's latest round of appointments included notice that the Rev.Gulnar Francis-Dehqani has been appointed to the newly created suffragan see of Loughborough in Leicester.  Her special focus with  be on reaching out to the immigrant community and women's ministries.  Fourteen-year-old Francis-Dehqani arrived in England with her family as refugees from Iran following the revolution there.  She holds a Ph.D. in theology and has been serving as Curate Training Officer and Advisor for Women’s Ministry in the Diocese of Peterborough and Canon at Peterborough Cathedral.  She has 3 children and is married to another Church of England cleric.  Her consecration is scheduled for Canterbury Cathedral November 30.

New Group of St. Paul's Students Charged with Assault

No matter how it tries, St. Paul's, the church related boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire cannot seem to escape issues related to sexual assault.  Two years ago, a senior student was convicted of sexual assault for forcing sex with a younger female student as part of a senior contest.  This was followed by a set of painful revelations about faculty and staff who had assaulted students over a long period of time.  Now they are facing a new incident where about a eight senior students engaged in a contest resulting in sexual assault.  The school's efforts to change its culture have obviously not had the desired effect.

Church of England Synod Bans Conversion Therapy

The Church of England Synod met last week in York and issued several resolutions that help out welcome to LGBTQ people.  One of the most debated, with several amendments proposed, and at least one accepted, was a resolution condemning conversion therapy (i.e. attempts to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ individuals).  The Church Times noted that the measures were passed while London was celebrating Gay Pride.  You can read the official press release on the resolution here, and the Church Times much longer story with details on the proposed amendments and testimony here.

Bruno Appeal Rejected

 The  sanctions imposed on Bishop Jon Bruno by the Hearing Panel convened to hear the dispute between the bishop and members of St. James the Great in Newport Beach have been upheld in a decision by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops.  No one from the Hearing Panel took part in the Disciplinary action.  Catherine Waynick, the recently retired bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, chairs the Disciplinary Board.  She convened the Board by phone and they supported the Panel's finding that efforts to sell the church property before the Hearing Panel issued its findings and decision that his actions "disrupted and interfered with the integrity of the process of the Title IV proceeding" and that the sanctions were appropriate.  As reported last week, the presiding bishop also issued a partial inhibition on Bruno forbidding him to sign any sale documents until the Panel completes its work. The denial of the appeal came one day before the new coadjutor bishop of Los Angeles, John Taylor was consecrated in a grand festive occasion.  Bruno has been scheduled to retire this fall.  The Hearing Panel may speed up his departure.

Episcopal Priest Arrested in Road Rage Case

The Rev. William Rian Adams was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol for threatening the occupants of a truck with a gun.  Apparently the incident began when Adams stepped on the brakes to try to get a truck following his car too closely to back off.  The truck then pulled up along side Adam's car and from there the stories told by the occupants of the two vehicles diverge.  Adams, rector of a parish in Fletcher, North Carolina, and a former special forces chaplain who served in Afghanistan until an injury forced his retirement, claims that the occupants of the truck rolled down a window, yelled at him and threw a can of pop at his red corvette.  The truck occupants say Adams waved a gun at him.  Adams admits he had an unloaded gun in the car, but that it was under the passenger seat.  The priest posted the required bail and has been released.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Week ending 07/03/17

Presiding Bishop Restricts Bishop Bruno

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a partial restriction on Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles directing him to not sign any sales agreements until the Hearing Panel completes its work and issues its decision.  The measure adds legal weight to the order of the Hearing Panel issued when they were presented with evidence that Bruno had negotiated a new sale of the St. James property in Newport Beach.  The Episcopal News Service has issued both the press release and a story on the Presiding Bishop's actions. The Church attorney in the hearing has now filed an addendum to his filing about the rumored sale asking that Bruno be deposed as a bishop and recommending a forensic audit of the Corporation Sole records.  The reader comments on these and the Episcopal Cafe story are worth reading.  For the earlier action by the Hearing Panel, see the Pittsburgh Update here and here.

Bishops From Around the World Continue Building Bridges

A group of Bishops from the Anglican Communion issued their communique from the latest in a series of conversations begun in 2010 to build bridges and understanding among parts of the Communion.  Twenty-two bishops, including two from TEC (Virginia and Oklahoma) met in Kenya to continue learning about each other.  The Anglican Church of Canada has facilitated the meetings and provides the staff.  Over 45 bishops  have participated in at least one of the meetings.  Most have been from Africa and North America.

ACNA Meeting Continues Disruption of Communion

Last week the Provincial Council and Assembly of ACNA met at Wheaton College, just outside of Chicago.  The Council ratified the entrance of the schismatic South Carolinia diocese into ACNA.  The South Carolinians had voted at their diocesan convention in March to join ACNA. The move compounds the confusion of ACNA's overlapping jurisdictions in South Carolina, a point noted by blogger Steve Skaradon in his posting on June 28.  It also clearly ends Bishop Mark Lawrence's claim to still be part of the Anglican Communion. 

In a separate action at the  ACNA meeting, the group consecrated Andrew Lines as Bishop to Europe.  GAFCON bishops decided to consecrate their own bishop for Europe in response to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to allow same -sex marriage. (See Updates here and here.) The Archbishop of Sydney and the Bishop of Tasmania, both members of the Province of Australia, participated in the ceremony over the objections of Archbishop Philip Freier, the Primate of Australia. The Sydney diocese is an extremely conservative low church diocese usually at odds with the rest of its province.  The Tasmanian bishop already serves on the Anglican Relief and Development Board, the agency created by Bishop Robert Duncan shortly before the creation of ACNA to provide an alternative to Episcopal Relief and Development.  The rationales of the two Australians for participating reflect the muddied status of the whole project.  Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies defended his action as the consecration of a bishop for people who were no longer in the Church of England or Scotland and thus he was not participating in a "border-crossing," ( a position that undercuts ACNA's claim to being part of the Anglican Communion) while Bishop Condie of Tasmania claimed he was going to show support for those who were remaining in the "true" church.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Week Ending 06/26/17

Woman New Head of Unitarian-Universalists

The Unitarian-Universalist Association General Assembly elected the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray from Arizona as its President.  The UUA thus joins the ranks of American churches that have been led by women. The Assembly was filling a vacancy created when the previous President resigned early.  Three people, including a woman served as co-presidents during the interim.  Frederick-Grayled led UUA opposition in 2010 to proposed Arizona immigration restrictions.  Religion News has more on her election.

Protests in West Virginia Against Senate Health Care Bill Lead to Arrests

The West Virginia Citizen's Action Group helped organize a demonstration at the Charleston WV office of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito to urge her to vote against the Republican-drafted health care bill.  While 75 rallied outside, six protesters entered Capito's office and announced they were prepared to stay until she until she voted against the bill.  When they did not leave at office closing time, the Six were arrested.  Episcopal priest, Jim Lewis was one of the six and photos of the event show him dressed in clergy garb being led from the office in handcuffs.  They were charged with trespassing and released later that night with a trial date set for August 9.

 Episcopal Migration Ministries Issues Statement Following Supreme Court Opinion

Episcopal Migration Ministries has responded to the U.S. Supreme Court's partial lifting of legal stays on the Trump executive order putting a hold on all refugees from six countries.  The ministry notes that refugees with ties in the U.S. will still be able to come, and that represents the majority of those seeking entry.  It is asking for renewed financial and volunteer support for the Episcopal Migration Ministries over the next several months. 

Katharine Jefferts Schori to Serve as Assisting Bishop in San Diego

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Diego has announced that the former Presiding Bishop has agreed to serve three quarters time as Assisting Bishop. San Diego is currently beginning a search for a Bishop following the resignation of Bishop Mathes. 

Bruno Confirms New Sales Agreement on Church Property

Last week Update reported that the Hearing Panel had acted on information that Bishop Bruno may have signed a new sales contract for the St. James Newport property by  issuing a sanction ordering him to take no action on any such sale.  At that time Bruno's response did not address the concerns.  He now has confirmed that he has signed contracts on April 19 and May 20 to sell not only the church building, but the rectory and another unrelated property to NPB Property.  His earlier vague answers were a result of confidentiality agreements that have now been waived. Bruno's attorneys have now also filed an appeal with the Hearing Panel  asking for a stay on the sanction imposed by the panel so he can complete the sale next week or he will be in default on the contract.  

EDS Trustees Issue Statement on Property Sale

Responding to Boston media stories about "snags" in the sale of the Episcopal Divinity School, EDS trustee chair issued a statement saying that they were well aware of the condominium agreement with Leslie University and that some properties on the seminary campus were wholly owned by Leslie.  The trustees had previously announced their intent to sell their property in order to fund endowment for the continuation of EDS as part of Union Seminary in New York City.  The condominium ownership of some buildings, and sole ownership by Leslie University of three buildings on the campus will certainly complicate the process of finding a buyer for the Seminary portions of the campus.

Bishops in Trouble in England and Zimbabwe

Fomer Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, has resigned as an Assistant Bishop of Oxford following publication of a report on the Church of England's handling of sex abuse charges against former Bishop Peter Ball.  The report outlined the ways that Carey had protected Bishop Ball and ignored complaints filed by victims. The report also criticized Carey's immediate successor, Archbishop Rowan Williams for not acting more rapidly to report the abuse to authorities.

In Zimbabwe, the deposed Bishop Kunonga, who tried to set up his own Anglican Church of Zimbabwe, is now seeing some of his property sold at auction to begin the process of recovering the half million dollars courts have ruled he illegally converted from church assets to private use.  The auction of several pieces of farm machinery is the first step in liquidating Kunonga property.  Update has followed the Kunonga story for a number of years. 

Church of England and United Methodists Issue Proposal for Union

The Episcopal Church and United Methodists have a proposal for full communion that they will vote on at upcoming meetings of their respective governing bodies.  Now the Church of England and the Methodists have issued a proposal for a similar full recognition.  However, the proposal has been sent out for study and discussion by the two churches.  Although press releases by both churches suggest it will be a topic of discussion at upcoming meetings of both, it is not on the published agenda for the next meeting of either body.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Week Ending 06/19/17

New Twists in Sauls and Bruno Cases

An Alabama judge has ordered mediation before he rules on dismissing the law suit filed by resigned Bishop Stacey Sauls.  Sauls sued the Episcopal Church and a number of its officers because he has been unable to find a position after being terminated as COO of the Episcopal Church Center and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  Update covered the filing of the suit here and here.

The Hearing Panel which held a formal "trial" of the charges brought against Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles concerning his behavior related to the sale of St. James the Greater in Newport Beach, CA was not pleased to learn that Bruno may have recently signed a sales agreement for the property with a different developer.  The original sale fell through.  The Panel asked for information on the possible sales agreement from both sides of the dispute.  Bishop Bruno's legal team filed several objections but did not answer the Panel's request for clarification about a potential sale.  The Panel has responded by placing Bishop Bruno under sanctions forbidding him to take any actions to sell the property until after the Panel has ruled.  The story first became public in the Orange County Register.  The Episcopal News Service also has filed a story.  In final filings before the Panel, the Episcopal Church said that the members of St. James sought a return of their building and no punishment of the Bishop, although the Church Attorney recommended a year suspension of Bruno.  Bruno's legal team continued to argue that all charges should be dismissed.

Church Responds to Heartbreak in London

It has been a rough spring for London with an ISIS -inspired terrorist attack using a vehicle and knives on London Bridge and then devastating fire at a public housing high rise that left more than 70 dead and nearly 600 homeless, and most recently a second vehicle assault this time on muslims coming out of their mosque after prayers during Ramadan.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland have made statements on the latest attack.  You can find them here and here.  Meanwhile, nearby houses of worship have been serving as centers for help to the fire victims.  In the center of the action is St. Clement's Church which is located only 4 blocks from the high rise.

Standing Rock Sioux Get Partial Legal Victory 

Leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation were pleased that the federal judge hearing their case against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The federal judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly investigate all the environmental impacts, including possible damage to the tribes hunting and fishing rights,  environmental justice issues, and possible controversial effects. The Corps has been ordered to complete this part of the assessment.  However, the judge ruled against several other complaints by the tribe and did not issue an order to stop oil coming through the pipeline. The court will allow further argument before ruing on a stay on use of the pipeline. The most recent Update story on the pipeline protest is here.

Poll Shows Wide Interest in New Zealand Cathedral Rebuilding

Episcopal Update has been following the saga of the controversy about what to do with the ruins of the cathedral in Christ Church.  There is a strong push to rebuild the Cathedral just as it was before the 2005 earthquake.  However, Bishop Mathews and the diocesan leadership have advocated for a fresh start with a new building.  The diocesan Synod will make the final determination later this year.  In the meantime, with local politicians (see Update) weighing in, the Church conducted a poll to the general public.  A majority (55%) responded that they wanted the cathedral rebuilt.  When those polled were told that public funds and taxes were not involved, and when they learned how much more expensive restoration would be compared to a fresh start, support dropped to 43%.  Those preferring a new building went from  33% (before cost information) to 49% (after learning of the costs).  Those aged 18-24 were the strongest supporters of restoration (69%)

Sale of Seminary Property Hits Snag

Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School have closed its campus in Massachusetts and signed an agreement with Union Seminary in New York City to open an EDS track as part of its campus.  The trustees had expected the sale of the 8 acre campus at Harvard Square in Cambridge to bring a large sum, but the sale has hit a snag.  In 2008 they opened a partnership with Lesley that gave Lesley ownership of at least 7 of the buildings on campus.  Lesley is using the buildings and is not interested in selling.  


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Week Ending 06/12/17

Scottish Episcopal Church Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

As predicted, the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to change its marriage canons so that clergy who wished to could preside at the marriages of same-sex couples.  The press in Scotland was supportive of the decision. GAFCON  immediately followed through on their threat (see Update here) of appointing a missionary bishop to Europe with special responsibility for Scotland and England.  GAFCON chose to delegate oversight to the American schismatic group ACNA and Archbishop Foley Beach immediately announced the person who would be consecrated. The Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion noted that provinces were independent, but went on to cite the 1998 Lambeth resolution of sexuality and stated that there would be no formal response from the Communion until after the primate's meeting. The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded by sending a letter to all of the Anglican Communion primates that while serving as a general report to the primates, included a strong section condemning the appointment of the missionary bishop as contrary to long established church custom, contrary to a 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution, and declaring that such a bishop would have no recognition or standing in Britain.  Mark Harris offers further insight into Archbishop Welby's letter.  More responses will surely be forthcoming.

Two Studies Trace Links between Theology and Politics and Giving

A study by the Barna Group on the motivation of Christians as they decide how much to give to church and other good causes categorizes American Christians as either "Givers" or "Keepers" based on the way they approach charitable giving.  While giving special emphasis on Millennials, the study breaks data down by age groups, church attendance, wealth, and other factors.  A summary of the report is here.  The full report is only available for purchase.  The New York Times
summarized a research paper identifying the political affiliations of over 130,000 clergy from Christian and Jewish traditions.  There were clear patterns by denomination, and in many cases the clergy were more committed to a particular political affiliation than the laity.  About 70% of the over 2000 Episcopal clergy they traced were registered Democrats.  The full report is worth reading because the study covers regional differences, and explores stances on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Week Ending 06/05/17

England has been in the news a lot this week, and while the terrorist attack on London Bridge has elicited voices of concern, solidarity and prayer, there is no real church tie for Update news.  On the other hand, climate change has church ties.

Church of England Wins Shareholder Fight On Climate Measure

The Church of England is a shareholder in the Exxon-Mobile Corporation.  At the shareholder's meeting this last week Church Commissioners (the financial arm of the Church)  were able to muster 62% of the votes for the resolution they put forward requiring Exxon-Mobile to report annually how the business will be affected by global efforts to reduce climate change. The New York State Comptroller partnered with the Church in sponsoring the resolution.  A year ago only 38% of shareholders supported a similar resolution.

Church leaders Speak Out After Trump Announces Withdrawal from Paris Climate Pact

President Trump's announcement that the U.S. would begin withdrawing from the Parish Climate Accord brought rounds of criticism from many quarters.  Presiding Bishop Curry issued a statement almost immediately stressing the theological position that we are stewards of the earth and have a moral responsibility. The Episcopal  Bishop Douglas Fisher of Western Massachusetts joined forces with the United Church of Christ conference leader in forcibly stating that the act of withdrawing was counter to Christian faith.  Bishops Andrus of California and Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe also issued strong statements of concern. The Anglican Communion Environmental Network also issued a statement of concern as did the Church of England's lead bishop on environmental issues.

Episcopal Church of Scotland Synod Will Take Up Same-Sex Marriage Later This Week

The Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) General Assembly took steps recently bringing it closer to allowing blessing of same sex marriages. (See Update story here.) Now it is the turn of the Episcopal Church of Scotland.  The Scottish Episcopalians will meet in General Synod beginning Thursday.  They are expected to pass a resolution which will permit their clergy to preside at same-sex marriages. The synod will take the second vote on a measure to change its canons to permit this. The canon change passed its first vote a year ago.  Update next week will have the outcome of the vote.

North Carolina Episcopal Church Offers Shelter to Woman Facing Deportation

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro opened its doors to a Guatemalan woman facing deportation as an undocumented person. The vestry voted unanimously to offer her sanctuary. The church has agreed to house her while she fights the deportation order so that she can remain with her husband (an American citizen) and four children, two of who are citizens, and two of whom are registered under the "Dreamers" policy.  She originally sought refugee status when came to the U.S. in 1994, and when that was denied received a work permit.  The permit was revoked in 1999 and since then she has been trying to receive legal status. The parish will not only house her, but work with others to pressure government officials to grant her legal status.  The Episcopal News Service filed this story and the Diocese of North Carolina issued this press release.

Pittsburghers Mourn Death of Father Lynn Edwards

Father Lynn Chester Edwards died on Monday morning, June 5 at UPMC after a long struggle with illness.  Edwards had served as a priest in the diocese for over 50 years.  Edwards served at a number a parishes in the diocese and in retirement was a member of Church of the Redeemer. During the turbulent years leading to schism in the Pittsburgh Diocese Father Lynn served a chaplain to Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh.  He is best known, however, for his pioneer ministry to those with HIV-Aids which led to the founding of Shepherd's Wellness Community.  Edwards was honored by the Merton Center in 2002 and served as co-marshall of the Pittsburgh Gay Pride Parade in 2008.  His funeral is at 11 a.m. at Trinity Cathedral on Thursday, June 8.