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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, June 21, 2016

Week Ending 6/20/16

Bishop of Missouri Appoints Deputy for Gun Violence Prevention

Bishop Wayne Smith has appointed the Rev. Marc D. Smith to a special deputy role to lead efforts in his diocese on education and action (but not advocacy) to prevent gun violence.  The diocese is approaching the issue as a health issue.  Marc Smith has a background in medicine, including hospital administration, and has already been leading efforts in health and wellness within the diocese.  For more on the job description, see the bishop's announcement.  Actual biographical information on the Rev. Marc Smith is slim on-line, but a Bloomberg listing provides some insight as does this parish announcement.

Changes in Women's Role as Clergy Marked in Three Locations

Changes in women's roles as priests can be marked in three announcements this last week.  The first is the addition of a fifth candidate to the bishop search in Central New York.  The search committee put forward three women and one man as candidates.  Now a fifth candidate, another woman has been nominated.  She is th rector of the oldest parish in Central New York, and the only candidate from the diocese. The Diocese of Spokane has also announced candidates for its search for a bishop, and like Central New York, three of the four candidates named by the search committee are women.  Meanwhile, Bishop Davidson of the Diocese of Guyana in the Province of the West Indies has announced that the upcoming diocesan synod will have ordination of women as priests on the agenda.  It has been discussed for two or three years, but the bishop wants the diocese to come to a conclusion.

Gun Violence Continues in the News

A man who had made threats and defaced both the church sign and beheaded an antique church statue charged into the services of  St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church which meets at the Ancient Spanish Monastery and threatened to shoot the priest.  He also ordered the roughly 140 people attending the Sunday service to leave.  Police were on site because of the threats and he was arrested before anyone was hurt.  The parish meets in a 12th century building dismantled and reassembled in Florida in the 1950s and donated to the Episcopal Diocese in 1964.  Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's bishop, Dorsey McConnell has issued a pastoral reflection on the Orlando shooting.  Update covered other responses last week

Gay Rights Continues to Roil Waters of Anglican Communion

While insiders at the Church of England are beginning to predict that the issue of same sex marriages may well split that church and will be the focus of major "conversations" at the upcoming synod, the Archbishop of York hotly defended on TV the idea that you could oppose church marriages for same sex couple without being homophobic.  More basic issues are at stake in Kenya, where a parish priest has joined a lawsuit asking for greater protection and human rights for LGBT people in his country.  He argues it is a pastoral matter, having seen the way some of his parishioners have been abused. He risks the wrath of his bishop by going against the official position of the Kenyan Church.  In Kenyan there are strict laws making homosexuality illegal.

Hearing on Presentment of Bishop Bruno Took Place

The St. James the Great Congregation which has been locked out of its building by Bishop Bruno for a year after Bruno announced he was selling the property, posted a Facebook notice June 20 asking for prayers.  The official hearing had finally convened into their charges that Bruno had violated his oaths and church canons.  Mediation had already failed, and this is closest equivalent to a trial that can be held under current Episcopal Church canons.   The outcome will not be known for a while. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Week ending 6/13/16

The editor apologizes for the delay in getting out this week's Update, but she has been riding the bike trail from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.

Orlando Shooting Elicits Numerous Statements From Church Leaders

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a statement on the Orlando shooting, along with a number of American Church leaders.  The Thinking Anglicans web site provides a convenient set of links to them all, including the statement Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Epected Pushback Emerges on Scottish Episcopal Church Vote

Pittsburgh Update reported several weeks ago on expected changes by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change its canon on marriage to be inclusive of same sex couples and that it had already begun allowing blessings of civil marriages.  The Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod overwhelmingly passed the first reading of canon changes June 10, 2016.  Before the action is final, the synod will need to pass in 2017 by a two-thirds majority.  In between each Diocesan Synod is to hold a discussion on the measure.  Nonetheless, the usual voices are already acting as if it is complete. The Archibshiop of Canterbury has responded by informing the Scottish Primate he will be removed as leader of the World Anglican - Reformed Dialog.  from  A faction within the Scottish church called the Scottish Anglican Network has issued a statement suggesting they may follow a path pioneered by American dissidents, and the leadership of GAFCON has denounced the Scottish church as no longer Christian. GAFCON has offered "alternative episcopal oversight."

The Pope Upgrades Mary Magadalene

While Episcopalians have long commemorated the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene, the Roman Catholics just listed her in their secondary "memorials."  Now Pope Francis has announced that the church should observe her date as a feast of the church.  The official announcement focuses on her role in telling the apostles of the resurrection, her role as a  evangelist, and as a role model for women in the church.

Latvian Lutherans Downgrade Women

In a vote that has elicited horrifed responses from the rest of the European Lutheran Community, the Latvian Lutheran Synod voted to end ordination of women as priests.
Those women already ordained will be allowed to continue in the ministry.  Women were ordained priests beginning in 1975.  There have been no ordinations of women since 1993 when a conservative archbishop assumed control.  This makes the Latvian Church one of about 30 world-wide Lutheran bodies out of 145 that only ordain men.

Executive Council Summary

The Episcopal News Network has issued a summary of actions taken at the recent Executive Council Meeting.  Support for historically black colleges of the Episcopal Church and for initiatives among indiginous peoples  was high on their agenda. They also announced a number of other moves to support mission.  The rebuilding diocese of Fort Worth got a $107,500 grant for rebuilding and church planting in 2016, and $55,000 for each of 2017 and 2018.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Week Ending 6/7/16

Nigerian Backlash to Virginian Appointed As Liverpool Assisting Bishop

Several weeks ago the Pittsburgh Update covered the announcement by the Dioceses of Virginia and Liverpool that they would be sharing the time of Suffragan Bishop Susan Goff.  Liverpool  had "link" arrangements with both the Diocese of Virginia and the Diocese of Akure in Nigeria.  The Bishop of Akure has announced that he has ended the diocesan link to Liverpool because of Goff's appointment.  He objects to any relationship with the TEC, especially Virginia because of the lawsuit (won by the Diocese of Virginia) against the breakaway congregations in Virginia which had affiliated with the Nigerian-sponsored CANA. That statement was then reinforced by a pastoral letter of the new GAFCON Chairman, Archbishop Okoh who is also primate of Nigeria. Okoh suggests that GAFCON now should consider action targeting the Church of England for crossing the line by allowing Goff to serve.  The Bishop of Liverpool has responded that he has not yet received a formal notification of the severing of the link with Akure, but that he is exploring a new link with a diocese in Ghana.

Diocese of Rochester Announces Intent to Sell Its Diocesan Headquarters

Bishop Singh of Rochester has issued a letter informing his diocese that after months of discussion and consultation, it has been decided to sell the Diocesan House and seek smaller quarters.  The current staff does not use much of the space, and the expense of the building was hard to justify given the current finances of the diocese.  The first draft of the 2017 budget for the diocese has an $84,000 deficit. 

Churches in Europe Seeing Increase in Conversions from Islam

The Manchester Guardian carried a story showing a huge upswing in Muslim refugees converting to Christianity throughout Europe.  The Cathedral in Liverpool offers a serive each week in Farsi attended by 100-200 people. Churches say that the conversions are real.  That those converting do so from a variety of reasons, including the way they were welcomed in the countries that admitted them.  The BBC has noted that officials in England, however, are more skeptical since being a Christian may help applicants get a grant of asylum. Review committees have been asking questions about the Bible to decide if the converts really are Christian and turning down those they deem to have failed the questions. The problem is that the questions are things that can be memorized but do not prove faith.  This controversy is likely to grow as countries try to deal with the refugee crisis.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Week Ending 5/30/16

New Zealand Church Delays Vote on Replacing Confirmation

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia decided to hold over to their next synod a proposal to replace  the rite of Confirmation with The Laying on of Hands for Affirmation, Renewal and Reception.  The proposals for changes to baptism and replacement of confirmation were left lying on the table at the synod recently concluded. The church will use the time to hold wider conversations.  Those who made the proposal noted that the rite of confirmation has slowly lost its importance since the church made baptism the entry point for communion.  Others were concerned about the replacement of the rite with a very different ritual. This discussion should be of interest to the Episcopal Church given that the TEC has a very similar stance on baptism.

Archbishop of Canterbury Tries to Mend Rift with Scottish Episcopal Church 

The announcement shortly before Christmas that the Church of England and the (presbyterian) Church of Scotland had drafted an accord for closer ties, blindsided the Scottish Episcopal Church. (See update stories here and here.)  To the Scots, it appeared that the Church of England was crossing boundaries and inserting itself into another province's business.  The Church of Scotland approved the agreement at its recently concluded General Assembly.  Archbishop Justin Welby was present and addressed the Assembly.  In his address he took responsibility for blindsiding the Scottish Episcopal Church and requested that as the conversations continue and details are worked out, that the Scottish Episcopal Church be given a seat at the table. For at least some this gesture is too little too late.  See the commentary here.

Still Another Episcopal School Dealing with Possible Sexual Improprieties

St. Andrews School in Boca Raton, LA has dismissed its headmaster, Peter Benedict, Jr.  and a month later announced it had hired two law firms with experience in sexual misconduct issues to represent the school.  One of the firms has been charged with conducting an investigation to see if there has been any improprieties.  The board has also contacted parents to find out if there are unaddressed incidents of sexual misconduct.  There is no specific charge pending at St. Andrews, but the previous headmaster, the Rev. George Andrews's name has surfaced in conjunction with investigations at St. George's School in Rhode Island. 

Newest Bible Translation in Emoji!

Given the texting shortcuts used extensively by younger Americans, it was bound to happen.  A translation of the Bible is now available using emoji and all the abbreviations used by frequent texters.  The Episcopal Cafe has a sample of the new text. 

PBS Interview with Presiding Bishop Curry Available

Both the video and a transcription of Judy Woodruff's interview of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry are now available.  She interviewed him to see how things were going after 6 months in office.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Week Ending 5/23/16

Episcopalians Lose Again in Illinois

An Illinois District Court has ruled against Episcopal Church claims again.  In a follow-up case involving funds frozen while litigation continued, an Illinois District Court ruled again against the Episcopal Church claims.  The Illinois Supreme Court refused to take an appeal from the earlier decision in 2014, ( see notice from Chicago Diocese here)  but the Episcopal Church went back to the appeals court claiming the earlier decision had not disposed of all the issues related to funds held in trust for parishes.  The legal issues are still not fully settled because there are cases concerning parish property pending in several counties.  The comments on this decision are all from those siding with ACNA, but they include more details.  The ACNA bishop's Statement is here and Alex Haley's comments are here.

National Cathedral Chooses New Dean

Bishop Budde of the Diocese of Washington has announced that the Rev. Randy Hollerith, rector of a large and thriving parish in Richmond, Virginia, has been selected as the new Dean of the National Cathedral.  The previous dean, the Rev. Gary Hall, had resigned last year (see update story) saying he was too close to retirement age to carry the cathedral through an extensive fundraising effort. Hollerithl has ties to the Cathedral, and has been in his Richmond parish for 16 years. The Washington Post article gives more details on Hollerith's successful parish building and fundraising.

New Zealand Anglicans Set Goals for Gender Equity in Church Offices

While last week's synod meeting of the Anglican in Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia deferred decisions on blessing same sex marriages, they passed a resolution setting a goal of 50% representation of women in all aspects of their church's governance, including appointed boards, and at the highest levels of liturgical leadership (i.e. bishops).  The resolution was sponsored by those who had attended the UN meeting on the status of women and it passed to rounds of applause.

Same Sex Marriage in the News in Scotland and South Africa

Both the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church put same sex marriage on the agendas of their governing body meetings this spring.  The Church of Scotland passed changes that allow ministers of their denomination to take advantage of the civil marriage laws.  They have not approved any changes though that would allow same sex couples to wed in the church.  That however, is the question that the Scottish Episcopal Church will vote on at its synod in early June.  A commission has submitted a proposal to amend the marriage canon to allow same sex marriages.  It will require votes at two successive synods to go into effect.  Meanwhile, Archbishop Tutu's daughter has resigned her ministerial license rather than be suspended by the church in South Africa because she married her same sex partner in the Netherlands, home of her spouse.  Archbishop Tutu and his wife were present for the wedding, and the Archbishop gave a father's blessing during the service.  South Africa has had legal civil marriage for same sex couples since 2006, but the church has not changed its canons.  Her resignation does not affect Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth's standing as a priest in the Episcopal Church.  She is canonically resident in the Diocese of Washington.

Initial Court Ruling Disappoints St. James Newport Beach

The initial court ruling on whether the restrictive covenant forbidding sale of St. James Church in Newport Beach has disappointed that congregation.  The original donor of the land was sued by Bishop Bruno because they claimed that they had not removed restrictions on the church property that barred its use for anything other than a church.  The trial court has ruled that the restrictions were lifted on all three parcels of land donated by the company in the 1980s.  The company claimed it had only removed the restrictions on parcels being bused for parking.  The company is considering appealing. For more on the dispute, you can pick up the threads at this Update post.

Bishops of Four Rebuilding Dioceses Meet with President of the House of Deputies in Pittsburgh

On May 10-11, Bishops from Fort Worth, South Carolina, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh met with Gay Jennings, the President of the House of Deputies, and Sally Johnson, Chancellor to Jennings.  The bishops of the four dioceses have met periodically to discuss common issues and news.  The meeting in Pittsburgh allowed them to also brief Jennings on what was happening in the dioceses. The Diocese of South Carolina e-news has an article on the meeting and a picture.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Week Ending 05/16/16

Moravians Add Full Communion with Presbyterians

The Moravian Church, which is already in full communion with the Lutherans and Episcopalians, has now added full communion with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the largest of the various Presbyterian bodies in the U.S. The two denominations will celebrate their "covenant relationship" at a service in Wisconsin, June 10, 2016.  Full communion between the Moravians and Presbyterians means that clergy in each denomination are recognized and fully authorized to serve in the other.  The Episcopal Church has been in conversation with the Presbyterian Church for a decade and a half, and has a limited agreement approved in 2008 (See Update story here), but a formula for TEC and the Presbyterians that allows each to fully recognize the other's clergy has not been found.


Virginia Bishops Are Working on Transgender Policy for Church Schools


The three bishops of the Diocese of Virginia, Diocesan bishop Shannon Johnston, Suffragan Bishop Susan Goff, and Assisting Bishop Ted Gulick have issued a statement that they are carefully working on a policy for the Church Schools of the diocese, (and for other diocesan related organizations and camps) that will address controversies that have arisen in fully including transgender students.  The principles that will infuse the policy are sensitive to the needs of transgender students and parents, educators, psychologists, and others involved with the schools.  There are six official Church Schools, some of which are day schools and some that take boarders. The diocese elects a single board of trustees that oversees all six schools while granting much autonomy to individual boards at each school.  The six are Christchurch (Middlesex County)  St. Catherine's (Richmond), St. Christopher's (Richmond), St. Margaret's (Tappahannock)   Stuart Hall (Staunton),  and St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School (Alexandria).  Three of the schools are single sex schools. One Additional Richmond school, the Anna Julia Cooper School is considered an "related institution" for the diocese. The Cooper School is a middle school with ties to the Church Schools in Richmond.  In addition the policy would affect the diocesan summer camps run at Shrine Mont.  The Episcopal High School in Alexandria is independent and it is not clear if any policy developed by the diocese will apply to it.


New Zealand Anglicans Delay Decision on Blessing Same-Sex Couples

The Synod of the Anglican Church in New Zealand has deferred any decision about same-sex union blessing to their 2018 meeting.  The Synod had authorized a committee in 2014 to study and draft a proposal. (See Update here.) While two of the three ethnic strands appeared ready to support a blessing of civil marriages, the strand representing those of European descent came to the meeting divided.  (See Pittsburgh Update here.)  As a result, the synod received and then tabled the report from the committee while they use the next two years to find a structure that will allow both those supporting and opposing blessings to stay within the church.


Strong Response to the Need for Aid to Distressed Communities in Ecuador and Canada

Episcopal Relief and Development has provided substantial aid to the areas hit by the earthquake last month in Ecuador.  ERD is working  through the Episcopal Churches in the area to provide basic needs for the thousands displaced, and to assess rebuilding strategies.  A fuller report is here.  Meanwhile the monster wildfire in Canada that displaced 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray has also elicited contributions from across Canada and beyond.  The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (i.e. a discretionary fund of Canadian archbishop Fred Hiltz)  has sent an initial grant of $15,000.  Individuals and dioceses have also been sending money to help feed and house those who have been displaced and begin rebuilding.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Week ending 5/9/16

What Did the Anglican Consultative Council Mean?

Responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury's claim (see last week's Update) that the ACC had fully adopted the "consequences" outlined in the January Communique issued at the Primate's meeting, six members of the Standing Committee including its chair and vice chair issued a statement saying that the ACC had endorsed nothing except the desire to continue to work together, and that "received" is not the same as "endorsed" or "affirmed."  Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Nigeria, the current Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion followed with a defense of Archbishop Welby's interpretation. More interpretations are sure to be forthcoming.

Virginia Suffragan Bishop to Serve Jointly as Assistant Bishop in England

The Church of England continues to find ways to increase the number of women serving as bishops .  The latest is the outgrowth of partnership ties between the Diocese of Virginia and the Diocese of Liverpool. Suffragan Bishop Susan Goff of Virginia has been commissioned as an Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Liverpool.  She will continue to have duties in Virginia and will commute periodically to England.  Her first duties in England will be to share in the June ordinations scheduled for Liverpool and to speak at that diocese's clergy conference.  The arrangement has the approval of both Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.  She will also be available to Liverpool on-line. You can read more about the arrangement here or watch a Facebook video of Bishop Goff explaining what she will be doing.

Sale of Church Off Before Bishop Bruno Locked Out Newport Beach Congregation

The Update report of May 2, noted that evidence had emerged that the supposed sale of the church building in Newport Beach had been cancelled weeks ago.  The online newspaper, the Newport Beach Indy has now revealed that the sale offer had been withdrawn in June 2015, probably before Bishop Bruno locked the congregation out of the building under the pretext that it had been sold.  One of the partners in the condominium complex planned for the church site withdrew its financing when it learned that there might be a restriction on the deed limiting the property to use by a church.  At that point the investors cancelled the sale.  Bruno has sued the company that originally donated the land for damages because its insistence that the original deed restrictions were never removed has held up the sale.  Documents filed in that suit provided the evidence that the sale was dead before the end of June 2015.   This article has generated a fair amount of discussion on a Facebook page dedicated to issues of interest to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

New Zealand Synod Struggles with Same-Sex Blessing Resolution

The Anglican Synod in 2014 authorized a committee to study and propose a way to bless civil marriages of same sex couples.  The committee report has been a major focus of the Synod meeting now in New Zealand.  Two  (Maori and Polynesian) of the three ethnic strands of the New Zealand church were ready to approve the blessing forms brought forward, but the seven dioceses in New Zealand were divided and looking for ways to accommodate those unhappy with the idea of blessing same-sex couples.  After a closed door discussion for voting members only on Monday afternoon, the Synod granted time to the "Pakeha" strand to try to rewrite the resolution to make it more acceptable.  They are expected to report by the synod meeting on Wednesday.  The Anglican Communion and New Zealand  news sources cover the various concerns leading up to Monday meeting.