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         

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Week Ending 1/30/23

New York Diocese Creates Credit Union

The Diocese of New York has received a charter for a credit union designed to serve church employees, church members, and others with a connection to the Episcopal Church.  It hopes to reach those low and moderate income people who have been unable to get a bank account because of fees or other barriers.  The union intends to provide basic banking, check cashing, and loan services to its members.  The diocese believes that some of its low income parishes may have a number of members that qualify, and church employees in low paying jobs may also benefit from the services.  For more see the Episcopal Journal article here

Continuing Threads

Another Diocese Joins Interfaith Effort to Challenge Anit-Abortion Laws

An interfaith group of church leaders have filed a lawsuit challenging Missouri's law banning almost all abortions.  Episcopalians in other dioceses, such as Florida, have been part of interfaith coalitions challenging abortion restrictions, but the Missouri suit is unique in that it is claiming the law violates several clauses of the Missouri constitution guaranteeing religious freedom and forbidding the establishment of religion.  The suit claims that the current restrictive law was passed to implement particular religious views thus establishing a religion, an act forbidden by the state's constitution.  Bishop Deon Johnson not only signed, but offered Christ Church Cathedral as the site for the announcement.  The group of 13 plaintiffs includes besides Bishop Johnson,  a number of Jewish leaders, several United Church of Christ Clergy, and some Methodists and Unitarian Universalist clergy.  You can read the filing here.  The Episcopal Church has had a "choice" position on abortion for more than 40 years, and reinforced that position at the most recent General Convention.   

English Bishops Move to Allow Blessing of Same Sex Unions

Update has been following the reactions to the latest study in the Church of England on same-sex marriage.  The matter is before the Church of England's House of Bishops, and the step being taken is to allow blessing of same-sex civil unions.  While this is a step forward, it falls short of what LGBTQA advocates and supporters sought, and is a step too far for conservatives who still see same-sex unions as sinful.  Archbishop Welby has come out with his one way of splitting the difference by announcing that while blessings may occur in the church, he will not perform and authorize them.  He is doing this in deference to his role as one of the instruments of union for the Anglican Communion and the fact that many of the independent provinces of the communion are opposed to any recognition of same sex couples.  The Living Church carried a story on his announcement here

Episcopal Leaders Concerned by Attempts to Limit Black History Teaching

The recent actions and laws limiting what can be taught about blacks and other marginalized groups has run afoul of the Episcopal Church's efforts to come to terms with its own racist past and institute a process of racial reconciliation and healing.  Leaders voiced their voiced their frustration with actions taken against libraries, teachers, and courses in Florida, especially the governor's forbidding of any school to offer the new Advanced Placement Course in Black history.  The Episcopal Church’s missioner for African descent ministries, the Rev. Ronald Byrd Sr.,called the efforts to restrict teaching of black history "educational malpractice. Update has carried numerous stories on the efforts of the church to uncover and come to terms with its own racist acts, including encouraging every diocese and parish to carefully explore its own history. 

Presiding Bishop Speaks on the Death of Tyre Nichols

The release of body camera tapes showing five Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after a traffic stop, has led to the latest round of protests and demands for police reform.  The Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry issued a statement that passionately and compassionately spoke for the whole church in condemning the actions. Memphis has acted swiftly to fire and discipline police and emergency responders, and the five officers directly involved in the beating now face criminal charges.  The church has tried to keep the issue of police reform and needless deaths of blacks at the hands of police before its members in a number of ways, such as memorial services for earlier such deaths, especially that of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

Michigan Bishops Step Up Pressure for Gun Control

Following the Democratic victories in state elections in Michigan, the three Episcopal Bishops  have joined lobbying at the state capitol to pass and implement stricter gun laws in the state.  The Episcopal Church has been advocating for stronger gun laws for quite a while, and update has carried numerous stories on these efforts, most recently here and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Week Ending 1/9/23

Anglican Cemetery Vandalized in Jerusalem

Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem was vandalized by two men in conservative Jewish garb.  The cemetery is owned and maintained by the Church Missionary Trust Association (an Anglican entity), and has been the site of burials since the beginning of the 19th century.  To get an idea of the damage, and hear from some Israeli Jews who were appalled at the damage to the historic property, watch this news video.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, and many other church leaders, including Presiding Bishop Curry have condemned the vandalism.  Many news stories referred to the cemetery as the "Protestant" cemetery in Jerusalem.  The Israeli government is supposed to be trying to find and arrest the two men. 

Continuing Threads

Largest United Methodist Church in South Carolina Begins Withdrawal Process

Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church is South Carolina's largest Methodist congregation with over 5100 members.  The congregation has begun the official discernment process which will end in a vote on whether to leave for a new conservative Methodist body, or stay part of the UMC. Those wishing to break away in 2023 must complete the discernment and voting process by March 1.   This is the latest conservative congregation to start the process.  The major issue is that the UMC is headed towards approval of same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ people.  Update has carried notices of the division because the UMC and The Episcopal Church have sent a proposal for full communion between the two bodies to their governing conventions. The most recent previous article is here

Church of England Bishop Offers Rationale for Changing Mind to Support Same-Sex Marriage. 

Update has carried several stories on the discussion around the latest Church of England study document covering possible Church approval of same-sex marriage.  After a discussion at the House of Bishops, several bishops previously opposed to same-sex marriage have announced a change of heart.  One of the bishops, Bishop John Inge of the Diocese of Worcester, has now issued an extended statement explaining his reasons for  now supporting same-sex marriage.  You can read the whole letter here.  It makes a number of theological points on how scripture should be interpreted in light of experience and science.  

English Church Releases Full Study on Its Complicity in Slavery

The Church of England leaders were surprised to learn how deeply the church had benefited  from the institution of slavery, especially financially.  The detailed study of its complicity has now been released, and the report also includes a number of suggested action steps, including committing L 100 million to investment, research and grants with special attention to those affected by historic slavery. The whole report is here.  The study is an outgrowth of a closer look by whole Anglican communion at the issue of slavery.  Update has reported on other parts of this effort, including this post. 

Presiding Bishop Curry Urges Support for Historic Black Colleges 

In what has become an annual appeal by Presiding bishop Michael Curry, he has urged that Episcopalians consider making donations to the Historic Black Colleges affiliated with the Episcopal Church as part of their commemoration of Absalom Jones Day in early February.  Absalom Jones who was born enslaved, but became free, was the first  African-American to be ordained deacon and later priest in the Episcopal Church.  He shepherded blacks in Philadelphia through the process of founding a black congregation in the late 18th and early 19th century.   

Christ Anglican Issues Its Own Statement Following Interruption of Service

Christ Church Anglican in Irvington, New Jersey is the object of a turf battle between the Church of Nigeria's American branch and ACNA.  The battle led to a physical confrontation in the midst of a service, and statements from the Anglicans. Update covered these earlier stories. What is clear from the account is that the congregation used a legal action required to comply with Nigerian changes in diocesan structure,  as a means of  trying to abandon the Nigerian Church for ACNA.  The press release issued by the parish is long and appeared on Facebook.  That page does not have a direct link, but David Virtue reprinted the whole press release on his web site.  You can read it there. Despite the efforts of the church to justify its actions, it is clear that the Church of Nigeria tried to assert its authority and claims in a timely manner, is not happy that its tactics of creating schismatic parishes has been used on them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Week Ending 1/2/23

 Maine Canon To Lead Land Mine Effort

The Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Maine, the Rev. Michael Ambler, has stepped down from that role to focus on a long-term project of his, clearing landmines left in Laos during the Vietnam War.  Laos is the most heavily land-mined country on earth.  He will be working with 80 mine-clearing teams.  He also will serve as a consultant to the Maine bishop with a focus on conflict resolution in the Maine Diocese.

"Winter Talk" Will Live Stream

The "Winter Talk" is an inter-tribal annual event sponsored by the Episcopal Church's Office of Indigenous Ministries.  It is a conference highlighting indigenous traditions and contributions within the church and this year will include a session on the General Convention resolution directing dioceses to research and explore the treatment of native youth in church-run boarding schools.  There will also be a variety of other activities. and presentations including an annual status report.  Both the President of the House of Deputies and Presiding bishop Curry will attend and speak. The conference is a hybrid event, hosted on an Oneida reservation in Wisconsin  with in person activities designed to mark the 200th anniversary of the reservation and events also available virtually.  The "Winter Talk" is scheduled for January 21-23, 2023 and those interested in attending virtually should register for the live stream, which you can do here.

Continuing Threads

Judges Recuse Selves in Methodist Case

At least twelve Arkansas judges have recused themselves from the law suit filed by First United methodist Church in Jonesboro.  The congregation had voted to withdraw from the United Methodist denomination, but the district Conference did not approve.  Update noted that the Conference had moved to take over the congregation and suspended its minister after they voted a second time to leave.  What is now clear is that at the second meeting those present also voted to alter their governing documents.  This is what prompted the Conference to step in.  The judges have asked the State to provide a special judge to hear the lawsuit filed by the congregation challenging the Conference.  Apparently too many of the local judges have ties to the Methodists. 

Nigerian Archbishop Releases Bishop to ACNA

Bishop Felix Orji who led his U.S. parishes into ACNA has been released in good standing from the Anglican Church of Nigeria and is free to affiliate with ACNA.  Some of the American congregations in the entity that Nigeria set up as an alternative to the Episcopal Church chose to remain with Nigeria.  Orji's move is also part of the background to the competing claims on a New Jersey congregation that led to a physical confrontation.  The release came very shortly after the Nigerian Archbishop released a statement saying that the bishops in charge of the Nigerian missions in the U.S. had acted without his knowledge.  The release seems timed to help gloss over a very awkward situation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Week Ending 12/26/22

Both posts are updates on previous posts

Florida Delays Its Convention

With a second challenge going to the Committee on Review, the election of a Bishop Coadjutor is still unsettled.  The Diocesan Convention was scheduled for late January, but given the timing of the review, the fact that in the last twelve months there have already been three conventions, and the fact that the diocese has a budget tentatively approved for 2023, Bishop Howard has decided to delay the convention until later in the year, with no date set at this time.  The announcement came out one day after the person elected twice and challenged twice issued a statement that he would allow clergy to follow their consciences in presiding at same-sex weddings, and would follow Episcopal Church canons by treating LGBTQ persons seeking ordination like all others.

Nigeria Issues a Statement in New Jersey Church Fight

Two weeks ago, Update posted a notice about a New Jersey parish caught between competing claims by ACNA and the Church of Nigeria in America.  A service being held with the ACNA bishop in attendance was disrupted by a group led by a Nigerian suffragan bishop claiming the building ad parish was part of the Nigerian missions in the U.S.  The disruption resulted in a physical blows.  The initial posts were from sources aligned with ACNA, and suggested the Nigerian primate must have authorized the disruption  since he had not disavowed the attack or disciplined the people involved.  The Nigerian primate has now issued a statement saying the attack was not authorized but confirming that the parish was subject to claims by both groups.  The Nigerians are trying to resolve the matter through negotiations. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Week Ending 12/19/22

All postings are updates on previous ones. . . 

Churches Prepare for More Refugees

At Christmas, we are reminded that for Mary and Joseph (and Jesus) there was no room in the inn.  Churches today are trying to make room in their "inn" by housing and helping refugees among other projects.  Update has documented many of these attempts (most recently here). Now with the expiration looming of an administrative rule allowing refugees seeking asylum to be turned away at the border and forced to wait in other countries for approval of their claims, churches and other refugee agencies are preparing to handle a much larger flow of refugees.   The Episcopal News Service has a story on the efforts in El Paso, Texas which will be be among the cities most impacted by the change.  Refugees, however affect many other parts of the world, including Europe. ENS also has a story on Episcopalians in Europe and their efforts for refugees. 

Reply to the Protest on Florida Bishop Election

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Florida has published an open letter to members of the diocese replying to the 4 main claims in the formal complaint filed against the second election of the Rev. Charles Holt as bishop.  Basically the letter boils down to a statement that they looked at each of the claims and found that nothing had been done wrong.  They admit that there was a problem with checking in clergy at the convention, but that 113 clergy were checked in and 113 voted.  The problem with the explanation is the complaint said that one of the 113 clergy checked in did not attend (thus suggesting someone else claimed his seat and was a mystery voter). 

More Threats Following Discussion of Same Sex-Marriage in England

The recent discussion in the Church of England House of Bishops about a document that includes recommendations on the church's stance on same-sex marriage ,and the subsequent surprise announcement by several evangelical bishops who changed their position and now support the same-sex marriage, has resulted in a series of negative responses from the GAFCON/Global South contingent within the Anglican communion. The Primate of Uganda isn't waiting for the larger discussion.  For him, the appointment of a priest in a same-sex union as Dean of the Canterbury Cathedral was enough to declare that Uganda would be in impaired communion with the Church of England.  The Global South group used its Christmas Letter to suggest that they might no longer consider the Archbishop of Canterbury to be the first among equals in the Communion, and to suggest a reorganization of the Anglican Communion (obviously leaving out or disciplining the liberal western churches).  Topping things off was the defection of a Church of England parish in Leipzig, Germany to the GAFCON-created, Anglican Network in Europe which has an ACNA consecrated bishop.   All of this is intended to scare the Church of England Synod meeting in February to back off from any change in its policies towards LGBTQA people.

Methodist Split Has Some Bumps in the Road

Because of the Full Communion Agreement pending between the United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church, Update has followed the events leading to the decision of conservatives to leave the UMC and create a more conservative umbrella body.  Methodist regional conferences continue to meet and grant approval for parishes requesting withdrawals.  Update has carried notices on several of these, most recently here. However, in November the Arkansas Conference denied the First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro request along with 2 others, while approving 35 other requests.   The senior minister of the church then held a second vote with a majority again voting to leave.  The congregation is large with over 1300 members, and while the required 2/3 did vote to leave, there were still over 400 who wanted to stay.   The second vote was attended by a much smaller number of members. The Conference has responded to the second vote by suspending the minister and claiming direct control of the parish property.  The congregation has another year in which it could resubmit its application and leave with its property.  After the end of 2023, however, properties will stay with the UMC if a congregation decides to leave.  Why the second vote was taken so quickly and why the conference responded so drastically is unclear. 

South Carolina Episcopalians Agree to Additional  Property Deals

Although requests for rehearings and/or the right to submit additional evidence have left the legal status of the property of 3 parishes in South Carolina unsettled, Episcopalians are moving to wrap up other loose ends in a gracious manner.  Episcopalians relinquished the title of St. Andrew's Mission to the ACNA diocese which, in turn, has handed it over to the mission parish.  This mission is an offshoot of Old St. Andrew's Church (one of the three whose status is not yet finalized.)  St. David's in Cheraw is now part of the Episcopal diocese, and the ACNA congregation is functioning in temporary quarters. The ACNA group was afraid that their minister would have to vacate the rectory and find other housing, but a sale agreement between the Episcopalians and the ACNA group to sell the rectory has settled that matter.  Update carried an earlier notice about the sale of a different parish property to ACNA (St. Matthew's in Fort Motte).

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Week Ending 12/12/22

Parish Helps Build Home for Teen-Aged Mothers

In Cheyenne, Wyoming  (population 60,000), there are around 300 homeless teenagers.  St. Mark's Episcopal Church members have been deeply involved in a charity called Unaccompanied Student Initiative that works with these homeless youth.  The latest project for USI is a home for teen-aged mothers, and St. Mark's has committed to applying for a grant from the Wyoming Diocesan foundation to buy land for the home.  St. Mark's has been successful in getting past grants from the Diocese totaling nearly $200,000 for USI.  Other charities and the First Christian Church have committed to raising the money to build the home.  First Christian will do its fundraising as part of a celebration of its 100th birthday.  A local charity that works with young mothers has committed to matching whatever First Christian raises.  The Episcopal News Service has more on this combined effort.

Continuing Stories

Methodists Split in Alabama

The United Methodist Church Conferences are continuing their annual meetings, and Methodist congregations are applying at the meeting withdraw and join a new conservative organization that does not recognize LGBTQA people as clergy or same-sex marriages. Last week Update reported on the withdrawals from two Texas conferences.  This week was the turn of  the North Alabama Conference.  The conference granted the withdrawal of 198 of its 638 congregations.  As other conferences meet, there will be more announcements. 

James Island Parish Reopens in South Carolina

Over 100 people turned out December 4, 2022 for the first service at St. James Parish on St. James Island in the Diocese of South Carolina.  The re-opening of the parish as an Episcopal Church was delayed a month waiting for the ACNA group occupying the building to move to their new location. The congregation was founded in the first part of the 18th century.  The parish Facebook page has pictures of the service.  This is the final transition involving the 6 parishes that were clearly returned to the Episcopal Diocese by the state supreme court.  Three other parishes are awaiting word if appeals (one by the parish and two by the Episcopal Church) will be heard by the supreme court and if there will then be any change in the courts decisions concerning these 3.

Formal Challenge Filed Again in Florida Election

The Rev. Charles Holt is now in unchartered territory.  Twice a convention in the Diocese of Florida has seemed to elect him as their next bishop, and twice people have filed formal complaints that could result in the process being declared invalid. The first filing was successful, hence the second convention. Twenty-eight people signed a formal complaint listing a variety of mistakes, and decisions that made this second attempt unfair. The most serious concerns include that the official record lists a clergy person as  registered and voting who was not present at the convention, and that duly elected lay deputies were denied seats. That complaint will go, as did the first, to a committee of review from the Episcopal Church.  It will take a while for the process to determine if Holt's second election will stand.  After the first complaint, Holt refused his "election."  This time he has issued a letter to the diocese about the humbling nature of the process and re-pledging that if the election stands, he will serve all of the people of the diocese and implement resolution B012 of the General Convention 2018 which requires every diocese to have a means by which same-sex couples can be married at a church locally.  Update had an earlier story on objections raised during the voting at the second convention.

New North India Moderator Chosen

Earlier Update reported that the moderator (archbishop) of the Province of North India has been arrested on charges of Fraud and money laundering.  After the arrest, the moderator was deposed from the ministry, and now a new moderator has been chosen and installed.  It is the Bishop of Phulbani, The Most Rev. Bijay K. Nayak, who had served as vice-moderator.  The moderator is recognized as one of the primates of an independent province in the Anglican Communion. 

Some Parishes Using Women's Lectionary for Advent

Last year, Update made note of a new A Woman's Lectionary for the Whole Church that had been prepared by the Rev.Wilda Gafney.  Year A was published in 2021 by Church Publishing, and years B and C are forthcoming.  Now a number of parishes have chosen to use the year A set of readings for the Advent season rather than the standard Revised Common Lectionary readings.  Gafney has the lessons focus on the women central to the Advent story.    

Nigerian bishop Tries to Forcibly Claim New Jersey Parish

Recently Update noted that many of the U.S. congregations created by the Nigerian Anglicans Church had decided to end any ties with Nigeria and being fully incorporated into ACNA.  This apparently did not sit well with some of the Nigerians, and the result was a physical confrontation between the ACNA bishop overseeing  Christ Anglican Church in Irvington, N.J. and a group including the suffragan Bishop for the Nigerian-affiliated  parishes.  The Nigerians tried to stop the Sunday service and people began shoving and hitting.  Police  had been called, and it took a while to get the Nigerians to leave.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Week Ending 12/5/22

Wisconsin Dioceses Start New Collaboration

Most recently the dioceses of Wisconsin have been in the news to merge the three dioceses in to one. The announcement this last week of a plan for Fond du Lac and Milwaukee to share personnel for youth and summer camp ministries is a step towards that merger.  The announcement also notes a further cooperation.  The camp sessions will be held at a camp owned by the ELCA.  The Episcopal Journal has more on this effort.

Continuing Stories

Methodists Approve Parish Withdrawals

Both the Central Texas and Northwest Texas Conferences of the United Methodist Church met last week, and in both cases approved the disaffiliation of a large number of congregations. With earlier approvals the total now rests at about 45% of the Texas congregations choosing to leave the United Methodists.  That still leaves over 700 congregations as a part of the United Methodist Church in Texas.  Most of those leaving plan on joining the Global Methodist Church, which does not support LGBTQA ordination or same sex marriage. Update has covered the split  (most recently here).  Each withdrawal leaves the United Methodist Church more in the hands of its liberal wing.  The Episcopal Church and United Methodists have been in conversation and have a proposal before the governing bodies of both groups for full communion. 

Church of England Discussion of Same Sex Marriage Upsets Conservatives

The fact that several Church of England bishops have now come out in favor of the church providing blessings and marriages for same sex couples, and that the Church of England Synod will be discussing the latest study document on LGBTQA status in the church, has not surprisingly elicited negative comments from those aligned with the Global South.  The latest is a suggestion that should the Church of England actually provide some access to blessings for same sex couples, the Archbishop of Canterbury would no longer be able to lead the Anglican Communion.  The Most Reverend Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, the archbishop emeritas of Egypt, and an advisor to the Global South made the statement in a recent essay reported on by the conservative on-line journal Anglican.ink which regularly sides with ACNA and GAFCON.  Given that these groups have already set up schismatic alternatives in any province that leans towards full inclusion, the statement is unsurprising, but intended to put pressure on the Church of England.  Since the Anglican Communion is defined as those provinces in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the process for selecting the Archbishop of Canterbury takes place withi the English Church (although with some input from other provinces), this would be impossible to do within the current communion structures. 

Canada Appoints New Bishop to Head Indigenous Branch

The Anglican Church of Canada is in the middle of creating a new structure that will give indigenous people their own structure  (the Sacred Circle) within the larger church.  Bishop Mark McDonald had provided crucial leadership as the structures were created, but then he had to resign due revelation of a sexual impropriety.  Progress on the new arrangement has been slowed while a search was conducted for a new archbishop.  That wait is now over with the appointment of Bishop Chris Harper of Saskatoon as the Indigenous Archbishop.  Harper, a plains Cree, came to the Anglican ministry after a career as an emergency technician.  He was priested in 2016 and made a bishop in 2018.