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, August 23, 2016

Week Ending 8/22/16

Copenhagen Lutherans and Anglicans Cooperate in Same Sex Wedding 

The Church of England does not allow its clergy to preside at same sex marriages nor to bless same sex couples married in civil ceremonies.  However, the Lutheran Church of Denmark does, and that church is in full communion with the Church of England.  Thus when Nigel Rowley and his partner Mikel wanted to marry, Nigel (a long-time active member of the Church of England's Diocese of Europe Parish, St. Alban's in Copenhagen) arranged a unique cooperation between the Lutheran cathedral and St. Alban's. The two were married at the Lutheran Cathedral with the Lutheran archbishop presiding.  St. Alban's choir joined with the Cathedral singers at the service.  The Diocese of Europe has posted a press release on the service that was picked up by Anglican.Ink.

Diocese of Los Angeles Committee Issues Critical Report on Property Issues

Both Anglican.Ink and Episcopal Cafe carried stories this week on the report of a committee set up to explore issues of the way Los Angeles Bishops hold title to property as Corporate Sole.  Anglican.Ink has more background, and Episcopal Cafe a better link to the actual report.  The issue is intimately tied to issues surrounding the decision a year ago by Bishop Jon Bruno to sell the property of St. James the Less in Newport Beach.  (Update has followed the St. James story in detail.  The most recent post is here.)  The corporate sole holdings by a sitting bishop was developed at a time when state law did not allow a religious organization to own property.  That law changed and dioceses created diocesan corporations.  The committee criticized the lack of transparency, inadequate auditing and records of the corporate sole and has recommended that the corporate sole turn over all property that it can without tax liabilities to the diocesan corporation.  It also recommends subordinating the corporate sole to the diocese and requiring reports.  The canons of the Episcopal Church in general are set up assuming a diocesan corporation holds property.   

Episcopal Church Encouraging Participation in Upcoming Election

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a video appeal to Episcopalians to participate in the coming elections and to do so in light of the gospel.  The interest of the presiding bishop in living the gospel is evident in the new look of the Episcopal Church web pages which right now feature links to the Episcopal Policy Network and a whole variety of election resources including information on elections in every state.  Without endorsing a particular candidate or party, the Episcopal Policy Network provides information on positions taken by the Episcopal Church on major issues including foreign policy, global warming, racial reconciliation, and economic justice.  

Two Long-Serving Anglican Archbishops to Retire in 2017

This last week two of the longest serving archbishops in the Anglican Communion announced their retirements.  Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales will retire in January 2017.  Morgan has been a voice for inclusion and support of  women as bishops during his 14 years as archbishop.  He was part of the commission that drafted the Windsor Report in 2004.  Just two months after Morgan retires, Archbishop Brown Turei will retire.  He was consecrated as a bishop in the Maori section of the New Zealand Church in 1992 and became its Archbishop in 2005.  The New Zealand Province of the communion has a unique governing arrangement with three co-equal ethnic strains, each with its own archbishop. 

South African Church to Vote on Blessing Same Sex Unions

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa Synod meeting next month will deal with a proposal that would allow blessing of civil same sex unions while explicitly saying that no clergy would be required to do so.  The proposal also endorses the ordination of those clergy in civil unions.  The measures will be controversial.  Besides South Africa the province includes Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia,  Angola, and two small British territories.  South Africa is alone among African nations in having legally recognized unions for same sex couples, although a few French, Spanish, and British-ruled territories or cities also have recognition

Episcopal Church of Brazil Speaks Out in Support of Indigenous People's Land Rights

The Church in Brazil has joined a coalition of churches working to prevent the takeover of indigenous people's land by large agri-business corporations intent on exploiting the resources of the Amazon.  At least 390 natives have been murdered and another 500 committed suicide in the last 12 years as a result of land takeovers. The coalition has met with top governmental officials and is supporting efforts to train community organizers to help indigenous people resist the open violence driving people from their lands.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week Ending 8/15/16

Presiding Bishop Announces Appoint of Director of Government Relations

One of the positions vacated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's suspension and eventual firing of three senior administrators was the Director of Government Relations.  Alexander Baumgarten had held that position along with others.   (See Update story here and here). This week the Presiding Bishop filled that post by appointing Rebecca Linder-Blatchley as Director of Government Relations.  The new director has extensive experience in foreign relations with a special focus on Africa.  Most recently she served as Senior Policy Advisor for Africa for the Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the United States Department of State.  In her new role she will be responsible for making the positions of the General Convention, Executive Council, and Presiding Bishop known to members of the U.S. Government, in ecumenical settings, and to other policy makers.

Lutheran Synod Takes Major Decisions

The Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America meeting in New Orleans last week took several steps that should interest Episcopalians, especially since The Episcopal Church and the ELCA are in full communion.  The Synod took a firm stand against Israeli settlements in occupied territories of Palestine, including abstaining from investment in firms working in Israel.  The Synod also endorsed a program that aids migrants from Mexico and Central American, and approved at path-breaking joint agreement with the Roman Catholic Church called "Declaration on the Way" that outlines additional areas of agreement between the Roman Catholics and Lutherans in ministry.

Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa Elects New Leaders

The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa has elected the Archbishop of the Province of Central Africa, Albert Charma as its new chair, replacing the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Burundi.  Charma most recently served as the host of the Anglican Consultative Council this spring.  Vice Chair will be the Archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali.  CAPA tries to bring together all of the African Provinces, including more liberal South Africa to work on joint projects.  In recent years the leadership has pulled CAPA closer to the Global South. 

Two Parishes Reach Out

Stories published by the Episcopal News Service and And Anglican Communion News Service highlighted the efforts of two Episcopal Parishes.  The ENS carried a story about a Westchester County, NY parish's efforts to aid refugees, efforts that culminated in a furniture drive for refugees being settled in the Diocese of Connecticut.   The Anglican Communion News Service highlighted a local mission effort in the community of Jersey Shores, PA that attracts ecumenical support and completed over 90 projects done during a mission week coordinated by Trinity Episcopal Church.  Projects including painting, building handicap ramps, neighborhood clean-up and more.

Australian Church Service Disrupted by Right Wing Activists

Gosford Anglican Church in New South Wales, Australia has taken strong stands in favor of refugees and same sex marriage.  These stands made it a target of a right wing group known as the Party for Freedom who masqueraded as muslims and disrupted the parish Sunday service using a bullhorn to shout anti-muslim slogans and play recorded parts of the Koran.  Their actions terrified some members of the congregation who thought they were muslim terrorists.  The protestors left without incident and then later bragged about their actions on their Facebook page.   The rector of the parish continued with his sermon after they left, but later said that the actions had traumatized some members of the parish who thought they were going to be blown up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Week Ending 8/9/16

St. George's School Reaches Settlement

The parties involved in a sexual abuse lawsuit at St. George's School have announced a settlement.  The charges brought by former students involved several staff and the events dated back to the 1970s.  (See Update Story here.)

EDS Alums Respond to Trustees

The Episcopal Divinity Alumni/ae Association has issued a letter expressing regret and disappoinment that the seminary's board of trustees announced cessation of the granting of degrees after 2017.  The letter noted that the process short-circuited work being done by a trustees-appointed "Futures" committee. The board of trustees has now issued a response.

News of Women Bishops

In the first of several elections for a diocesan bishop where women candidates outnumber men, the Diocese of Central New York has elected the Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe as the replacement for Bishop "Skip" Adams who is retiring.  Duncan-Probe, a priest in the Diocese of Virginia, was the leader on the first ballot, and was elected on the second.  The election now must be confirmed by the bishops and standing committes of dioceses in the Episcopal Church. Meanwhile in England a group supporting women priests has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to stop facilitating formal protests during consecrations The archbishop has now responded that conversations are underway to ensure no further disruptive protests.

Church of England Fastest Growing Church in Finland

Refugees from the Sudan and South Sudan have turned the Anglican Church in Finland into that country's fastest growing church. Many of the refugees were members of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and South Sudan.  They are finding their way to conregations of the Diocese of Europe in Finland.  For more see this article.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Week Ending 8/1/16

Belfast Anglican Cathedral Adds Roman Catholic Canon

The Northern Ireland city of Belfast was a center of strife between Catholics and Protestants for years.  Now St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast has appointed a Roman Catholic priest as one of three ecumenical canons permitted by its charter.  The ecumenical canons are allowed to say Morning or Evening Prayer, the litany, and to serve as a reader.  The man appointed, the Very Rev Edward O’Donnell, has 40 years of service as a Roman Catholic priest and is currently serving as a parish priest in the Roman Catholic diocese.

Oregon Parish Plans Tiny House Village for Homeless

The Church of the Resurrection in Eugene, Oregon has been active in ministry to the homeless for a number of years.  For the last three years it has used part of its parking lot as a site for a cluster of Quonset huts 6 ' x 9' providing basic, shelter (without utilities) for the homeless.  Now it has announced a plan to replace these with a cluster of "tiny houses" that are slightly bigger (12' x 8'),  taller, and complete with utilities.  They are seen as transitional housing and the formerly homeless residing there will have access to services and a mentor to help them make steps towards permanent housing.  Resurrection is not alone among churches in looking at transitional housing in Eugene, but this will be the largest and most permanent set of structures.  Each tiny house will cost between $5000 and $10,000, and the parish is working with the local high school and a community college to have classes fund and build the units.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Week Ending 7/25/16

Lake Oswego Priest Wins AR-15 in Raffle

The rector of Christ Church Episcopal Parish in Lake Oswego, New York bought 150 of the 499 raffle tickets that a girl's softball team was selling to finance a trip.  He would have bought more , but when he went back, the tickets were gone.  In the end, he won out over another purchaser who had bought 170 tickets.  The money came from his discretionary fund and donations by parishioners. The Rev. Jeremy Lucas wanted to win the AR-15 rifle that was the prize in order to remove it from circulation.   His goal is to have local artists transform the weapon into something positive and to remove a weapon from circulation. 

Episcopal Seminaries in the News

This last week the Episcopal Divinity School in Massachusetts announced that it would ceasse granting degrees in 2017. The seminary promised to help already enrolled students finish their studies.  A special committee has been formed to see what the seminary may do in the future.   EDS has gone through several changes in leadership and has been struggling with finances.   Meanwhile, in Chicago, Bexley Seabury Seminary announced its new quarters in the Hyde Park area where it will be able to take advantage of cross enrollments with several other seminaries of other denominations in the area.  Bexley-Seabury. Bexley-Seabury is the creation of a merger of Bexley Hall and Seabury Western Seminaries.  This merger had earlier resulted in Seabury selling its Evanston, IL campus and ceasing traditional on-campus classes.  Bexley recently ended its arrangement with the Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, and now the full operation of the seminary will be located in Chicago where its dean, Roger Ferlo already resided. For background, try Update stories, here, here, and here.

Hawaii Mourns loss of Congressman

Mark Takai, a well-respected first term member of Congress lost his battle with pancreatic cancer this last week.   Tributes note his commitment to the poor, social justice, his ability to get along with people on both sides of the aisle.  Takai was a lifelong Episcopalian.

San Joaquin Bishop Comments on the Lawsuit

Bishop Rice of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin gave an interview to Episcopal Cafe on the impact of the California Supreme Court Decision not to review the appeal on the diocesan property case, a decision that meant the property would not be turned over to the Episcopalians. His interview left little doubt that many of the properties would be sold. 

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