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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, February 13, 2018

Week Ending 2/12/18

South Carolina Break-Away Diocese Files Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Immediately after the South Carolina State Supreme Court denied a rehearing of the church property decision largely favorable to those who remained in the Episcopal Church, the break-away group announced their intent to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Update reported that here.  On Friday, February 9, 2018 the break-away group filed their appeal.  The appeal itself basically argues that this is a federal issue because courts have applied the idea of neutral principles in contradictory ways.  The appeal argues that the majority of South Carolina judges chose the wrong interpretation and that the Dennis Canon alone was not enough to establish a trust claim on parish property under S.C. trust law.  Interestingly, the diocese participating in the Episcopal Church published information on the filing before anything appeared on the break-away groups web sites. As expected,  Allan Haley (who argued the ACNA position on this issue in the cases involving San Joaquin) has published a commentary that recaps his unsuccessful interpretation yet again.  Blogger Steve Skaradon  sees the filing as another desperate attempt to delay turning over property to the real Episcopalians in his February 9 post.  The Living Church also covers the events.  The filing included three documents.  The second was an appendix with the separate opinions of all five of the South Carolina judges. While it was necessary to include the opinion with the filing.  The clearly written opinions of the first 4 judges make a clear argument that rebuts the appeal's contentions. The third document states that the parishes whose property titles were sustained in the South Carolina court opinion are not participating in the appeal.

Working Together on Global Warming

The Rman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston hosted an ecumenical meeting of religious leaders and leading scientists in Massachusetts to look at how churches could stand together in addressing the impact of climate change.  Among the Episcopalians present was the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas who works full-time for TEC and the UCC on climate change issues. She reflects further on the conference on her blog.  While it is too early to see if this collaboration will be fruitful,  the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and the Global Catholic Climate Movement have collaborated on a Lenten discipline that is a "carbon-fast" and lets those who follow it focus each week on a different area where they can reduce their carbon footprint.  The materials are available in 5 languages.

Australian Church Drops Charges Against Bishops

Update reported that three bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia had been upset enough by the participation of two Australian Bishops  in the ACNA consecration of Bishop Andrew Lines who was going to set up a non-Church of England diocese for GAFCON in England, that they requested the Australian Church's disciplinary body look into charges against the men.  The disciplinary group has announced that that matter has been discontinued.  One further issue is still before the group: a complaint about the Diocese of Sydney's affiliated organization rules.

Church of England Synod Supports Closer Ties with Methodists

In lop-sided votes, the Church of England Synod "welcomed" a report moving towards recognizing each other's clergy.  The details are yet to be worked out, but the committees working on those have been urged to move rapidly.  Of 35 bishops in attendance only 2 opposed the resolution.  Of the 167 clergy voting on the issue, 131 favored the resolution.  The lay order favored the resolution with  124 of 169 votes cast.  Update reported on earlier discussions and sticking points here.

TEC Church Center Gains Adds a New Tenant

The Episcopal Church Center has been renting space to non-church groups as a means of getting a return on the investment in the New York City building, and making use of space the church is no longer using.  The latest tenant brings a strong liberal focus on social justice -- The Children's Defense Fund.   The Episcopal Church COO, Geoffrey Smith stressed that the CDF work was a good alignment with the Church's own values of social justice.  

Texas Parish School Claims Church Exemption in Lawsuit

An African-American family is suing Trinity School in Galveston for not responding appropriately to  bullying of a black child by white schoolmates.  The school, a parish day school owned and controlled by Trinity Parish, but with separate 501 (c)3 status, has defended itself by raising a religious freedom defense.  It is claiming that it cannot be held to secular standards, because that would impose outside values on a religious institution.  Under the diocesan canons all church schools must adhere to basic standards for health and safety set by secular authorities or they can lose the right to operate on church property. Most responses from the larger Episcopal world have been to point out that Church values would hold the school to even higher standards of behavior.  See the comments on the Episcopal Cafe and on the "General Convention" Facebook page.

Archbishop Welby Proposes Change in Selection Process for His Successor

Archbishop Justin Welby used his Synod address to call for a revision in the selection process for Archbishops of Canterbury and York.  Currently one primate from the Anglican Communion sits with  the Crown Nomination Committee which recommends a selection to the Queen.  The CNC has representatives chosen by Synod and by the diocese to be filled. The Archbishop of York sits with the CNC when selected someone for Canterbury and Canterbury sits with CNC when selected someone for York.  Welby wants one primate from five geographic area to sit with the CNC when selecteing a new Archbishop of Canterbury., and less representation from the diocese.  It is a recognition of the dual role of that office.  It also might be seen as moving closer to a model of a world wide Anglican Church rather than a Communion. It could either give conservatives more control in the Communion or undercut their efforts to create an alternative Communion through GAFCON.

Cape-Town Archbishop Responds to Water Shortage

Capetown South Africa is facing such a serious drought that all taps to individual buildings could be shut off April 16 unless the residents find a way to cut their usage.  Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Capetown is urging members of churches to substantially reduce their water use and should they succeed in getting the reduction needed to keep water flowing, to refrain from then claiming a false crisis.  He is urging that the 80% of Capetown that is "religious" lead the way with prayer and conservation.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Week Ending 2/4/18

Churches Continue to Support Immigrants

ReligionNews.com carried a piece this week on a Reformed Church congregation that has acted as a sanctuary site for Indonesian Christians afraid to return home because of religious persecution, and action by a judge to block deportation temporarily. Bishops from the Anglican Provinces in Central America and Mexico have issued a joint statement urging support for DACA and an end to deportation of undocumented Central Americans.  The recent diocesan convention in Washington D.C. also voted to become a sanctuary diocese for undocumented immigrants, but that resolution has not received the attention received by another resolution, covered later in this issue of Update.

Bible App for Progressives

Religion News also reports on Crystal Cheatham who found numerous on-line apps that connected conservative Christians on-line, but none for a more progressive view.  So she designed an App that would focus on those who by race, sex, orientation, or ability were marginalized in society.  The new app  includes things like an LGBTQ site on the Bible.  She is looking for contributors from liberal and feminist perspectives to add more content.  The app can be found at OurBibleApp.com

Welby Accused of Blocking Compensation for Church Abuse Victim

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tries to recover from all the negative publicity surrounding his refusal to clear the late Bishop George Bell's name from charges of pedophilia, he has now been hit with a direct charge that he blocked appropriate compensation for another victim of a pedophile priest.  In this case the insurer for the church offered a relatively low sum of compensation and told the person to go directly to the Church of England for more.  The Church offered nothing in addition to the  insurance award.  Welby thus heads into the Church of England Synod meeting under fire on more than one front.

Diocese of Washington Asks for Gender-Neutral Terms for God

This is the season for diocesan resolutions intended to be presented at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church which will meet in July 2018 in Austin, TX.  The Diocese of Washington has voted nearly unanimously to ask the convention to ensure that future iterations or revisions of the Book of Common Prayer will include gender-neutral language for God.  They also voted to support full inclusion of Transgendered people in the life and liturgy of the Church. Conservative church and political sources have been making a big fuss about these votes.  See VirtueOnLine,  and the IRD blog for a selection of the negative reports. Christian News includes both the supporters of the resolution and statements by traditionalists who argue that God is male.  A more positive statement on the votes are found at Episcopal Cafe

Presiding Bishop Links Appeal for Black Colleges to Absalom Jones Day

The Presiding Bishop has chosen to call attention to the two surviving Historically Black Colleges affiliated with the Episcopal Church as part of the annual Absalom Jones Day celebration.  Bishop William White ordained Jones, a former slave, to the diaconate and priesthood, making Jones the first African-American ordained to either order.  St. Augustine's in Raleigh and Voorhees in South Carolina are the sole survivors of what was once a network of 10 Episcopal Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Anglican Leaders of Ireland Oppose Abortion Bill

The two top clergy in Ireland (North and Republic), the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin  have jointly issued a statement opposing provisions in an abortion law now under review by the parliament of the Republic of Ireland.  The bishops carefully distinguish between the provisions of the law they cannot support and the need to allow abortions for women either for medical or certain life-situational reasons and to pastorally support women, who, in difficult situations, must choose abortion. 

South Sudan Elects a Woman as Bishop

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan has consecrated its first woman as a bishop.  The Rt. Rev. Elizabeth Awut Ngor will serve as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Rumbek.  She becomes the third African woman to serve as a bishop.  The others are in Swaziland and False Bay in Southern Africa. Unlike the those in Southern Africa, the South Sudan participates in the conservative GAFCON bloc.  Her election creates a problem for the GAFCON members because they had asked Uganda and Kenya to hold off electing women as bishops until all of GAFCON would accept them. 

Church Continues Response to Natural Disasters

Presiding Bishop Curry continued his tour of locations struck by Hurricanes with a visit to the Houston area, where churches and families are still struggling to recover.  Parishes are continuing to provide basic support for those families flooded out. The Update covered his earlier visits to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands here and here.   Meanwhile in the far west, Episcopalians this week were celebrating the clearing of mudslide debris from the major road in Montecito so that they could finally worship in their own building again.  Neighboring parishes helped out during the exile.  Now all of the parishes are looking at helping neighbors whose homes were destroyed in the mudslides touched off by heavy rain in areas denuded of vegetation by recent fires. Update carried an earlier report here.

Lawyers in South Carolina Tell Court "No Progress" on Mediation

The scepiscopalians.com blog has postings from January 29 and February 2, 2018 dealing with the documents filed by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the schismatic diocese each saying that while talks continue, they are making no progress.  The court is delaying hearing arguments in the trademarks case as long as mediation is continuing.  The Episcopal Church lawyers noted that they were willing to proceed in court, thus signaling that they believe the talks are a delay tactic by the schismatic group which is trying to stave off as long as possible a court decision which may well go against them. Earlier coverage of the mediation by Update is here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Week Ending 01/29/18

Debate expands on Church of England and Methodist Plan

The proposal to be discussed by the Church of England synod on sharing ministry with the Methodists which update reported on last week is continuing to prompt comments. Anglo-Catholics are concerned because Methodists in England (unlike the U.S.) do not have bishops.  For Anglo-Catholics, the role of the bishop and the unique witness of an historic episcopacy are at stake.  The Thinking Anglicans web site has a good sampling of the statements, comments and practical concerns here.   The Christiantoday website has a good background piece here, and the Church Times covers the debate.

Surveys Mark Change in Religion

Two surveys, one by the Pew Foundation and the other by Forward  Movement offer interesting perspectives on the state of religion in America.  The Pew Foundation study surveyed 2000 young people from ages 15 to 24. Those doing the study are arguing that there is a "massive religious realignment" among young adults.  Millennials and Generation Z  simply are not concerned about many of the issues that currently divide churches,  and see the great divide as politics rather than race, class or religion.   The younger generation has a different take on issues of sexual morality than evangelical churches and while concerned about abortion, sees its legalization as a given.  There is a gender divide with young women much more positive about racial diversity and less positive about Trump than their male cohort.  You can read more here.  Meanwhile Forward Movement has studied 200 churches and surveyed 12,000 Episcopalians who are participating in the RenewalWorks ministry.  Their research classified participants into 4 categories based on their spiritual approach, and determined that there was a great hunger among participants for spiritual growth.  The research helped determine the 4 categories and what might catalyze people to move from one stage to another.  The full report is here.

Brazil Elects First Woman Bishop

The Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil has been ordaining women for nearly 33 years. It opened its ministry to all three orders of clergy in 1983, and ordained the first women as deacons and priests in 1985.  Now it has finally elected a woman to the third order, the episcopate.  The Revd Canon Marinez Santos Bassotto has been elected the new bishop of the Diocese of the Amazon.  Bassotto is well-known throughout the church, having served as Dean at the National Cathedral in Porto Alegre,  through membership on two national church committees, and as chair of the church's annual leadership conference. 

Congressional Invitees to State of Union Address Highlight Puerto Rico

Several members of Congress have used their right to invite someone to the State of the Union Address by inviting someone affected by the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico.  The Episcopal News Service highlights the experience of an Episcopalian family who left the island after the hurricane to ensure schooling for their children and to look for work.  You can find the whole piece here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Week Ending 01/22/18

Tennessee Episcopalians Vote Resolution Concerning Same-Sex Marriage

The 186th annual convention of the Diocese of Tennessee had before it a resolution requesting General Convention to allow local options on marriages for same-sex couples by making clergy the ones deciding if they would perform such rites, rather than requiring authorization of the rite by the bishop. It was introduced by members of All Sacraments for All People.  Bishop Bauerschmidt is one of 8 bishops to not only bar same-sex marriages in Episcopal Churches, but to forbid clergy from participating in such marriages anywhere else.  His convention address argued for continued conversation, but made clear his opposition to legislating on the issue and that his beliefs on marriage have not changed. After discussion, a substitute resolution was passed with only one dissenting vote asking that in any re-authorization of the rites for same-sex couples take into account the "exclusion, competing convictions, and loss of community experienced by this Diocese" under the current terms.  The whole substitute is here.

Church of England Synod to Discuss Ministry Sharing with Methodists

A shortage of clergy in rural parishes in England, has resulted in a proposal to share the parish ministry in rural places with Methodist clergy.  The Church of England Synod will discuss this measure in its upcoming session.  The measure is controversial because it does not include any laying on of hands on Methodist clergy.  Twice before, in 1972 and 1980 proposals were defeated, inpart because of the status of women's ordination at that time, and the fact that in England,  Methodists do not call their senior administrators "Bishops."  The Church of England and the Methodists have had a signed agreement to work for greater unity since 2003, but this proposal raises issues of ordination and administration of sacraments.

Episcopal Church Leaders Call for Serious Examination of Church Handling of Sexual Abuse

 As Executive Council gathered for its meeting, Presiding Bishop Curry and House of Deputies President Jennings issued a letter calling on the Episcopal Church to examine carefully the way it has handled and mishandled charges of sexual abuse and how the Church can do better in the future.  The full text of the letter is here.

Chancellor of the Diocese of the Trinidad and Tobago Chosen President of the Island Country.

Justice Paula Mae Weekes, who has served for twenty years as the Chancellor for the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago in the Province of the West Indies has been elected the President of Trinidad and Tobago.  The President is the head of state of the island nation which is part of the British Commonwealth.  The President, elected by an electoral college from the nation's parliament is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister and senate, approves bills, and heads the military.  Other than the soon-to-retire Chilean president, she will be the only female head of state among independent nations in the Americas. In addition to serving the church, Weekes has had a distinguished legal career, serving as a judge both in Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos.

New Zealand Inches Closer to Local Option on Blessing Same-Sex Relationships

The New Zealand Anglican Church has been looking for a way through the conflicting views on same-sex marriage for several years.  The Church's unusual structure (with 3 parallel tracks) was designed to allow both autonomy and unity.  They have had a small working group for several years looking at structural proposals that will allow traditionalists to stay in the church if others accept same-sex unions.  The task force began work in 2014, but was asked to go back and rework it in the interests of unity. (See Updates here and here.)  The latest version is proposing local option as the way to allow unity, without changing formularies.  Basically it is urging that the church declare amnesty for those who decide to bless same-sex unions while rejecting extra-provincial solutions for either side in the controversy.  The full, Final Report is at this site along with all previous drafts.

Update on Hurricane Recovery in the Virgin Islands

The visit of the Presiding Bishop to the Virgin Islands has gotten very little attention except from Disaster News Network which has this story.  (Update did cover a story by the Episcopal News Network saying the visit would occur.) Recovery still has a long way to go, although power has now been restored to 90 percent of the Islands.  The two hurricanes that hit the islands have had a long term impact on schools, churches and everything from employment to The status of the islands has been lost in the focus on Puerto Rico, and other issues generated in Washington, D.C.

Controversy Ensues as Archbishop of Canterbury Refuses to Clear Bishop Bell's Reputation

Recently the update carried information on a scathing report of how the Church of England mishandled the investigation into a charge of sexual misconduct with a minor that had been levied long after Bishop Bell had died.  Bell was a revered figure in the church and the Episcopal Church had added him to Holy Women, Holy Men.  Archbishop Welby has refused to clear Bell despite the church findings because there can be a difference between the proof required for a criminal case, and that for a civil or church case.   Welby's rationale is not convincing many critics in England.  For two examples of English coverage of WElby's statement, go here and here.

St. Paul's School Settles Sexual Assault Lawsuit

The Episcopal Church School in Conway, New Hampshire, has been struggling with sexual abuse issues beginning with the trial and lawsuits surrounding the sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old student by Owen Labrie, then a senior, and followed by a larger investigation into abuse by faculty.  Labrie was convicted and sentenced, but a subsequent civil lawsuit against the school for not doing more to protect the victime was filed girl's family. That has now been settled. The school is trying very hard to put these issues behind them, and the terms of the settlement have not been made public. 

Pence Visit to Jerusalem Provokes Palestinian Christian Criticism

The visit by Vice President Pence to Israel and his confirmation that the American Embassy would move to Jerusalem in 2019 has not gone unnoticed by Palestinian Christians.  The Religion News story included statements from members of three different denominations.  While the Anglican Archbishop signed an earlier ecumenical letter opposing the embassy move, he seems to have made no public statements in response to Pence's visit.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Week Ending 1/15/18

A Primer on the Undocumented

Trinity Church, Wall Street, announces that it has prepared a resource about undocumented immigrants available on-line.  It was developed following the October teach-in event it sponsored, Undocumented: What Do Faith Communities Need to Know?  The six major presentations from the teach-in are all available as video streams from the web page.

No Breakthroughs in SC Mediation Talks

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina posted a brief update on its web site concerning the court-ordered mediation scheduled for January 11-12, 2018.  Apparently they made no progress except to agree to continue to meet.  Blogger Steve Skaradon has an interesting reaction to the announcement in his January 17 post.

A New Book of Common Prayer for ACNA in 2019

At the ACNA House of Bishops meeting in Florida, the bishops approved specific texts for Holy Communion, the Daily Office, the lectionary, collects, and supplementary Canticles to be included in the 2019 edition of their Book of Common Prayer.  The publication date has been moved up a year from the group's original announcement in 2008 when the ACNA bishops approved trial texts that were available on-line.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Week Ending 01/08/18

Scottish Church Faces Push Back On Appointment of Bishop

In November the Bishops of the Episcopal Church of Scotland announced they had selected Canon Anne Dyer as the new Bishop of Aberdeen. She will be the first woman to serve as a Bishop in the Scottish Church, however, the appointment has hit a snag because conservatives in the diocese are objecting  to the process of her selection, although it followed church canons. The opponents chose to use a public letter to voice their concerns and ask for her to stand down. An account on Anglican.ink has more background in a cover letter email sent to the Primus of the Church with the public letter. Scottish bishops, including the Primus have responded.  The British site ThinkingAnglicans has good links to much of this conflict.

The Price Parishes Paid for Dealing with Confederate Symbols

Religion News has a thoughtful piece on the prices paid by parishes who had in the past honored Robert E. Lee with plaques or naming.  Both went through a multi-year discernment process, both tried hard to listen to their members, and both ended up losing their rectors.  Update covered the original decisions, but this essay provides much greater detail on how Episcopalians tried to find a middle way, but simply could not avoid conflict.

Episcopal Church Serves as Mudslide Shelter Until Ordered to Evacuate

The recent fires near Montecito and Santa Barbara, California left the ground bare and vulnerable to mudslides.  Recent rains triggered major slides with the result that much of the town of Monecito has been affected.  Just as Episcopal churches reached out to refugees from the fires ( see Update stories here and here), the local Episcopal Parish, All Saints-by-the-Sea,  served as a shelter for those who had to flee their homes, but the slides cut water and electricity to much of the community, forcing the Church to end its shelter activities and evacuate those there. 

Presiding Bishop Curry Visits Area Recovering from Hurricanes

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has been visiting the hurricane devastated areas of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  He viewed relief projects sponsored by the local Episcopal Churches and ERD, preached, and encouraged those who had lost so much. Update has been following relief efforts.  The most recent story  is here.

People in the News

The Anglican Mission in America announced the death of Bishop Charles Murphy, who was ordained  bishop with John Rogers in an irregular service held in Asia in 2000.  Murphy was the founder of the AMiA, the first schismatic group formed in the renewed controversy.

Pittsburgers may remember the Rev. Don Green, the Lutheran minister who retired a few years ago as Executive Director of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania.  He was featured in a story on Religion News as a cruise ship chaplain, something he has done periodically for a number of years.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Week Ending 1/1/18

Happy 2018 to All!!!

Things were relatively quiet on the Church policy and news front because people were busy going to church, visiting family, etc.  Nonetheless, there were a few grinches around trying to spoil the holidays.

Terrorism Puts Damper on Holidays in Kenya, Pakistan, Egypt, and New South Wales (Australia)

Terrorist attacks or the threat of them spoiled holiday celebrations in several spots around the world.  The attack December 29, 2017  on  worshipers at a Coptic Church in Egypt resulted in 11 dead.  In Pakistan, 9 more were killed in an attack on a Christmas Pageant  (or pageant rehearsal depending on the news source) December 17 at a Methodist Church in Quetta, attended by the whole Christian community in the city. In Kenya, a police raid recovered a stash of weapon that terrorists planned on using to attack a church on Christmas.  Among the weapons was a gun taken from one of two policemen killed in September while on duty outside St Paul’s Anglican Church in Ukunda, Kenya.  No one was killed in New South Wales, but an Anglican parish that had sponsored a major New Year's Eve celebration for the town for a number of years had to cancel this year's celebration because they could not afford the $10,000 that it would cost to properly protect attendees given a heightened security risk.  The event drew more than 4000 people last year.

Telling Statistics of America's 100 largest Churches

 Church Clarity has released the first of its findings on a study of more than 600 evangelical congregations.  The first data released covered the status of America's 100 largest "mega" churches.  None are Episcopalian.  Seventy-nine of the congregations were non-denominational, Southern Baptist, or Independent Christian.  Among the 100, only 7 had non-white head pastors. Only one had a woman as lead pastor and she was listed as co-pastor with her husband.  Fifty-four per cent of the largest churches hid their positions on LGBTQ people.  Of the 35% that had clear policies, none had a policy affirming of the LGBTQ community.