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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, July 19, 2016

Week Ending 7/18/16

Retired Mississippi Bishop and Civil Rights Advocate Dies

Bishop Duncan Gray, Jr. died at age 89 this last week.  As a priest in Oxford, Mississippi in 1962 when James Meredith enrolled as the first black student at the University of Mississippi, Gray acted to support Meredith and tried to calm the mobs that gathered in protest.  Later as Bishop of Mississippi (a post also held by his father Duncan Gray Sr., and his son Duncan Gray III)  Gray continued to work against racism and build a more inclusive diocese.

San Joaquin Episcopalians Prevail

The Chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin informed the diocese this week that the California Supreme Court had refused to hear an appeal on the lawsuit filed 7 years ago to recover diocesan and parish property from the group that left  the Episcopal Church.  The ACNA bishop acknowledged that the case was over and he would now focus on working out the details of an orderly transition for the roughly $50 million dollars worth of property including investments, building, and a diocesan conference center.  Three parish lawsuit still remain to be settled.  In contrast to the restrained statements by the two dioceses, Alex Haley, one of the lawyers for the losing side used his blog to vent angrily.  Pittsburgh Update has long tracked this case from the initial filing in 2008 through a set of appeals, a rehearing at the trial level and the final round of appeals.

Details and Responses to the Canadian Church Vote

More detail has emerged on the recount of the Anglican Church of Canada synod vote to explicitly include same sex couples in their marriage cannon. As the Pittsburgh Update reported last week, it was first announced that the vote had failed by one vote among the clergy.  However, when the vote tally was published, people noted that there were missing or misclassified voters. There was a breakdown in the electronic clicker system, and in the information identifying who was eligible to vote and as part of which order (lay, clergy, bishop). When the errors were corrected, the measure passed. Although the change will require a second vote, Canadian bishops are acting if it is a done deal, several announcing that they will authorize marriages under the current canons, and seven bishops issuing a statement of opposition to the change.  Archbishop Fred Hiltz has announced he has no authority to prevent bishops from authorizing church weddings for same sex couples.

Charges Against Bishop Bruno Sent to Panel of Review

Pittsburgh Update last week carried a short statement from the St. James the Great congregation that confirmed the case that they had filed against Bishop Bruno for actions taken as part of his efforts to sell their building will be sent forward for a Panel of Review hearing.  In general, the charges were for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, especially lying, and vindictively retaliating when he met opposition to the sale of the property.  The Conference Panel had the power to dismiss charges, send them forward for trial or try to work out an accord.  Bruno refused to discuss any possible settlement, and the panel found the charges credible enough to send forward for a hearing.  This is the closest thing to a trial in the current disciplinary canon of the Episcopal Church.  The Save St. James web site has posted an update letter, copies of their summary of their position and proposed accord submitted to the Conference Panel, and the charges the Church Attorney is sending to the Panel of Review.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Week Ending 07/11/16


Episcopal Church Responds to Week of Gun Violence

The shootings by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and of Philando Castile in Minnesota, and the shooting of 11 police officers (5 of whom died) in Dallas as they provided support for a peaceful demonstration protesting the earlier shootings elicited a call for prayer and study of ways to end racial strife by Presiding Bishop Curry, and statements on the initial shootings from the bishops in Minnesota and Louisiana, as well as responses to the Dallas shooting by the bishops in Dallas and Fort Worth.  In addition, the Bishop of Louisiana and a diocesan delegation marched in a Baton Rouge protest on the July 10th against all of the violence.  Episcopal Churches in other areas also responded.  All Saints, Pasadena, for example,  held its own march.  Many used the Good Samaritan readings on Sunday to preach against violence.


Bishop Bruno Case to Move to Next Level

Pittsburgh Update reported earlier that St. James, Newport Beach had a Facebook posting,  saying that although they had been asked not to disclose the outcome of the June 20 Conference Panel hearing, it was likely their complaint against Bishop Bruno would move to the next level. The parish has now posted a notice on the front page of their web page that efforts at reconciliation by the Conference Panel which met June 20, 2016  have failed and the charges against Bishop Bruno will now move to an ecclesiastical hearing by a Reference Panel.


Church Developments on Same Sex Marriages

It appeared that efforts to change the marriage canon in the Anglican Church in Canada fell one vote short in among the clergy while being approved by both the lay and bishops at the annual synod.  A number of bishops responded saying that the current canons do not forbid same sex marriages and they will approve parishes offering same sex marriage.  At least one authorized use of one of the rite approved by The Episcopal Church's General Convention last year.  However, in a recent development, a check of the votes showed that one clergy vote was miscounted as a lay vote, and in fact, Canada DID approve a change in cannons so that it explictly allows same-sex marriage.  Meanwhile, the synod of the Church of England held closed door conversations on sexuality despite threats of a walk-out by the most die-hard opponents to same-sex couples.  While the Church of England talked, the United Reformed Church (heir to the Congregational and Presbyterian traditions in England) in the United Kingdom approved same-sex marriages being performed in their churches.


South India Church Subject to Fraud Investigation

The Church of South India, which is recognized as a province in the Anglican Communion is currently under investigation for fraud and tax errors.  A number of laity have been trying to get an investigation  into the practices of the dioceses for at least nine years.  The Church is overseen by a committee of bishops.  Its moderator, the Rt. Rev. G Dyvasirvadam, who has only been in office for the last two years is confident that the audit will show that there were errors, but not a deliberate attempt to defraud.


Former Presiding Bishop Browning Dies

Edmund Lee Browning, the last Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church  to serve a 12 year term, and who was known for his statement that in the Episcopal Church "There will be no outcasts" lost his struggle with cancer on July 12, 2016.  Browning was the Bishop of Hawaii when he became Presiding Bishop.  During his term, he consecrated Barbara Harris as the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion.  He also was known for outreach to Native Americans, his response to economic and social injustice and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.  There are two postings on the Episcopal News Network,  a general story and the official obituary

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Week Ending 7/4/16

Bishop Transitions in South Carolina

This week South Carolinians were saying "hello" to Bishop "Skip" Adams who has been nominated as the next provisional bishop for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  Adams is retiring as bishop of Central New York.  The diocese will formally elect him at their convention in September.  He replaces Bishop vonRosenberg, the retired  Bishop of Tennessee who has served as provisional bishop during the stressful rebuilding of the diocese following schism.  The diocese was also responding to the news of the death of their former bishop, Edward Salmon.  Salmon worked closely with those who led the ACNA schism, but he himself refused to leave the Episcopal Church.  His funeral is scheduled for the Episcopal parish he served near St. Louis, Missouri, before becoming bishop and where he retired after serving as head of Nashotah House Seminary.  Both the Episcopal Diocese and the schismatic diocese are holding memorial services in Charleston. The June 29 entry for the web site scepiscopalians.com has long commentary on Bishop Salmon's role in the SC controversy.

Episcopal Parishes in West Virginia Respond to Flooding

The Episcopal Churches in two of the areas in West Virginia hardest hit by flooding are serving as disaster relief sites.  The Church in Greenbriar, St. James Parish,  was prepared to respond to disaster and has quickly teamed up with the Greenbriar United Way to become a major distribution hub for relief efforts.  In White Sulphur Springs, St. Thomas Episcopal Church was one of the few public buildings not to be flooded and to retain electric service.  The Episcopal News Service has a good article on the efforts in the two parishes.  A member of the United Way has set up an Amazon.com wish list where people can buy items needed for relief and have them shipped directly to the the parish.  You can find that list here.

 Kenyan Anglicans in the News

This last week Kenyans were celebrating the enthronement of their new Archbishop, Jackson Nasoore ole Sapit, whose route to Christianity, ordination, and leadership is an amazing story.  Sapit has been known for his ability to bring warring groups together.  He may well need to use that ability in dealing with a lawsuit filed by three Anglican priests against their bishop and diocese for destroying their careers and good names by calling them gay. 

St. James Newport Beach Saga Continues

St. James the Great parish in Newport Beach, CA posted a cryptic statement on their Facebook page following the hearing held on charges they filed against Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles.  Bruno locked the parish out of their building as part of his efforts to sell the property to a developer.  That land deal has fallen apart but the parish and Bishop remain at odds.  The note says that they have been asked to remain quiet until the panel official report is released, but it appears proceedings against Bishop Bruno will be going forward to a public Hearing Panel.   Pittsburgh Update has followed this story from its beginnings.  Our most recent posting is here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Week Ending 6/27/16

Zanzibar Cathedral Opens Slave Trade Memorial

The Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar has opened a slave trade heritage center on church grounds in Stone Town in the Diocese of Zanzibar.  The cathedral itself sits on the site of a former slave trading market. The site documents the history of the slave trade in East Africa and the role the Anglican Church played in ending it.  East African slave trading continued after the British began enforcing a ban on slave trading in West Africa.

Kansas Bishops Ban Guns in Episcopal Churches

Bishops Wolfe of the Diocese of Kansas and Bishop Millikin of Western Kansas have issued a joint pastoral letter banning guns from Episcopal Churches in Kansas beginning August 1, except for those carried by law enforcement officials in the course of their duties.  The letter was a response to changes in state law that allowed both open and concealed carry of weapons in all houses of worship. The law allowed ecclesiastical authorities to ban weapons if proper signage was placed at the buildings. The bishops have made available to parishes quantities of the sign approved by the state attorney general. The ENS story on this is here.

"Vicar of Bagdad" Investigated

The Rev. Andrew White, who was for years the voice of the Episcopal Church in Bagdad, and was ordered to leave for his own safety by Archbishop Welby in 2014 is being investigated over concerns he may have paid ransom to ISIS in order to rescue girls from sexual slavery.  Payment to terrorists groups, including ransom payments are illegal under British law.   White is head of a charity, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation,  founded in 2010 that has worked with more than 150 girls freed from ISIS slavery.  White insists he is innocent, and that his organization is not tied to another Canadian-based group that does ransom girls.  The story was carried by Christianity Today.

Churches Respond to "Brexit" Vote

A number of bishops, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued statements on the recent vote to leave the European Union and the current unsettled state of affairs in Britain.  The vote has direct effect for the Church of England parishes in the Diocese in Europe and Gibraltar. The primates from the Anglican Churches in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales have all weighed in as well as the Archbishop of Armagh (Northern Ireland).  A good place to find links to many of the statements is at Thinking Anglicans.

Closed Sessions at Executive Council Challenged

The Living Church reported frustration at Executive Council's use of executive sessions which exclude observers and the press. Four out of five Council Committees pursued their work in executive session, including most of the matters in the area of World Mission. There is no provision in Executive Council by-laws for committees to meet in executive session, although the Council itself may do so. The Council used an executive session to hear a report on personnel matters. Mark Harris, a former member of the Council, voiced his concerns in an essay on his blog, suggesting that the matters discussed in the committee executive sessions, especially those on World Mission should have been open.

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.