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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, May 22, 2018

Week Ending 05/21/18

Fort Worth Priest Elected Bishop of Newark


The diocese of Newark broke two barriers with the election of the Rev. Carlye Hughes of Fort Worth.  Hughes will be the diocese's first African-American Bishop and it's first female bishop.  Deputies to the diocesan electing convention made her a clear choice on the first ballot.  Hughes has spent the last several years as rector of  Trinity Parish and helping Episcopalians in Fort Worth rebuild their diocese.  Hughes came to the ministry after a full career in corporate training in the Northeast, and her first parishes were in New York.  The Diocese of Newark covers the parts of New Jersey most linked to New York City, thus making her election something of a homecoming.  Hughes is the second African-American woman to head an Episcopal Diocese, the first being Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis. 

Texas School Shooting Brings New Responses from Church

The shooting at a high school in Sante Fe, Texas, southeast of Houston left 8 students and two teachers dead.  Nearby Episcopal Churches responded by opening their doors for those seeking a place to pray.  The Episcopal Church in Dickinson hosted an evening prayer service for the community in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Bishop Doyle and other Episcopal Church officials sent their messages of condolence.  But as the Update has noted on numerous occasions, the Church's efforts to end this violence go well beyond "thoughts and prayers."  Churches in other dioceses organized forums, and urged parishioners to both pray and act.  In 2015 General Convention passed a resolution (2015-C0005) that covers the full gun control agenda.  The 2018 convention has a resolution on its agenda addressing "lunch box" or "ghost" guns (Resolution C015).

Presiding Bishop Hits a Home Run at Royal Wedding

Last week the planners of the royal wedding announced that the Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry would preach the wedding address for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  After he preached on Saturday,  the press announced that the Bishop "stole the show." If you want to see Bishop Curry's whole address, Episcopal News Service has video of the sermon from the BBC and from the large screens outside where you can hear crowd reaction. Both videos and transcripts of his sermon were on every major media channel, website, and print media.  The BBC not only covered the talk positively, but included more information on the Presiding Bishop. The reporter from Esquire ended his piece with the comment "Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to join the Episcopal Church." Slate's reporter analyzed the sermon as a radical theological statement. One of the most interesting comments was the analysis of the sermon by the a regular columnist on Jewish matters for Religion News.  The Anglican Communion News Service posted a piece summarizing the media attention, as did the Episcopal News Service and the Episcopal Cafe.   The Archbishop of Canterbury  declared that Curry's sermon "blew the place open." He also referred to it in a talk given at an evangelism conference on Pentecost.   Saturday Night Live did a sketch based on an "interview" with Curry, and the Presiding Bishop found himself an invited guest on network morning shows, PBS, and others.  There were criticisms.  Some found the 13:47 minute address too long.  Some of the British Royalty seemed uncomfortable with parts of the address and delivery style.  The GAFCON group was clearly unhappy with all the attention given the talk and criticized it as "Christianity-Lite" (i.e. pandering to the public by focusing on the positive feature of love and leaving out sin, the need to amend one's life, and Christ's Death on the cross).  The best response to the Christianity-Lite claim is found on a British blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Week Ending 05/14/18

South Carolina Episcopalians Ask Court to Implement Decision

Episcopalians have filed suit in South Carolina state courts asking that the courts issue orders returning the property in possession of the schismatic group that the State Supreme Court ruled belong to those who remained in the Episcopal Church. They see no reason to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to decided if it will hear the appeal brought by the schismatic group led by Bishop Lawrence, since the state supreme court ruling is a final decree.  The Episcopalians have suggested appointment of a special master to oversee the transfer of property.  The Episcopalians expect to resume control of parish properties by having members of the congregation willing to participate in the Episcopal Church assume the governance of the parishes.  That may mean portions of the congregation and its leadership will withdraw to form a new ACNA church. They also filed an amended brief in the federal case asking the court to issue an order forbidding the break-away group from using certain names and symbols of the diocese. The press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is here.  The filing in state court is here, and the amended brief in federal court is here. The Update's most recent previous coverage of these legal issues is here.

Presiding Bishop to Preach at Royal Wedding

Within an hour of the Anglican Communion announcing that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had accepted an invitation to preach at the wedding May 19 of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle the web site crashed from over use.  The initial announcement described the Presiding Bishop as "from Chicago" without clarifying that was where he had been born, and not where he served as bishop or currently resided.  As a result, a number of the news services initially misidentified Curry as the Bishop of Chicago or living there. (See for example, Associated Press,  the Chicago Sun Times,  the CBS service ET online, and  the BBC). The Diocese of Chicago issued their own statement.  Later stories were more accurate and began to focus on his social activism and emphasis on evangelism. In China, the story highlighted his support of the LGBTQ community. Traditionally the preacher at a royal wedding is a senior member of the Church of England, but the couple apparently wanted to emphasize the bride's American origins and Africa-American Heritage, and thus chose Curry, the head of the American branch of the Anglican Communion with a reputation for dynamic preaching.  The Archbishop of Canterbury helped the couple make their selection, and his endorsement of the choice sent a message to those who questioned the Episcopal Church's place in the Anglican Communion.

Anglican Provinces Make Statements on Same-Sex Marriages

The three-branched Anglican Church in New Zealand has voted to allow blessing of same-sex unions while.  Last year the synod delayed a vote for more study.  The new study proposed a form of local option. One of the three strands, representing Polynesians, will not implement the decision, but also did not block it for the other branches of the Church. Two other provinces made negative statements.  Australia, where civil marriage for same-sex couples has just been approved, has published an agreement reached by Australian Bishops that they will not authorize formal blessing rites or allow marriages in their churches, although informal pastoral blessings may well take place in the dioceses, especially those who spoke in favor of the marriage referendum. The Update had earlier reported on the Austalian synod had chastized the Scottish Church for their vote to permit Church marriages of same-sex couples, but now a confidential agreement among Australian bishops has been released.   The Church of Ireland Bishops have also issued a statement to the Irish synod emphasizing that there has been no change in the Church of Ireland's definition of marriage as a commitment between one man and one woman.  The New Zealand decision means there are now four Anglican Provinces (the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, The Scottish Episcopal Church, and New Zealand) providing forms of church recognition for same-sex marriages.

Bomb Rocks Texas Church

When the Rev. Rev. Steven Balke arrived at his church office  on Thursday he discovered that sometime between evening worship at St. Stephen's Church in Beaumont, TX and his return on Thursday, a bomb had been set off at the church office door. No one was hurt.  ATF and FBI officials are investigating.  The Church's School which was in session when Balke reached his office was evacuated as were the offices.  The package bomb appears very similar to an unexploded bomb found at a local Starbucks on April 26.  Damage was minimal and the church and school reopened on Friday.

Women Breaking New Ground as Bishops

Within a 24 hour period both the Canadian Church and the Church of England celebrated women breaking new ground as bishops.  The Canadian Church announced the election on the first ballot of the Rt. Rev. Melissa Skelton as the Archbishop of British Columbia and the Yukon.  She is Bishop of New Westminster within that province and will continue with those duties in addition to her role as Archbishop. The province she will head is one of four internal provinces within the Anglican Church of Canada.  She is the first woman to hold that office.  In London, the Church of England was celebrating the installation of the Rt. Rev. Sarah Mullally as Bishop of London.  Originally consecrated a suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Exeter, Mullally was appointed to fill the London see in March 2018.  The Diocese of London is one of the largest and most prestigious posts in the Church of England.  Mullally noted that seat where she had just been enthroned was the target of a bombing by British suffragists almost exactly 105 years earlier.

House of Bishops Releases Draft of Healing Service for Church Leaders who Suffered Abuse Within the Church

Last week the Update reported on criticism of the approach that the House of Bishops was taking to listening to the stories at General Convention of those church workers who suffered abuse from church leaders.  Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, the House of Bishops planning committee chair,  has now issued a fuller description of their intention which was to create a special liturgy for reconciliation, not a hearing. (That will take a different format at General Convention.) 

Presiding Bishop to March in Ecumenical Protest of White House Policies

On May 24, 2018, Presiding Bishop Curry will join with a number of ecumenical leaders and spokespersons for Christian Social Action groups in a March to the White House.  The March will launch the "Reclaiming Jesus Declaration." Among signers of the Declaration are the evangelical leader the Rev.  Jim Wallis, Bishop Vashti McKenzie (the elected head of the House of Bishops of the African Methodist Church),  Bishop Carroll Baltimore of the International Community Baptist Churches, and reitred heads of the Wesleyan Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Reformed Church.  Marchers will conduct a candlelight vigil while protesting policies that disadvantage the poor, encourage bigotry, condone lying by public officials, and reject the idea of "America First" as heretical. The Anglican Communion News Service has this story.  Episcopal Cafe posted this.

Washington D.C. Church Hits Snag in Condo Project

St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Dupont Circle was destroyed by fire in 1970.  The congregation has been in temporary and rented space ever since trying to find a way to rebuild.  An innovative arrangement with a condominium developer that would have provided multipurpose space within the condominium development for St. Thomas on its original site has hit a major snag.  Construction, nearly 60 % complete was halted by order of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs after a group calling itself the Dupont Circle Residents Association (DCRA) sued to stop the 7 story development.  The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled for DCRA.  The church has now filed an appeal.  The suit was filed after the church put up a series of posters on the outside of the new building criticizing President Trump's policies.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Week Ending 5/7/18

South Carolina Files Reply in U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

The Episcopal Church has now filed its answer to the request for certiorari filed by the break-away group in South Carolina.  The South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that all but 9 of the church properties belonged to those who remained in the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopalians are arguing that the state court judges who made up the 3 person majority had used state law to determine ownership and thus there was no federal issue to resolve.  As a back-up, they also argued that the break-away group had not raised federal first amendment issues in the earlier rounds and had  misinterpreted the U. S. Supreme Court opinion that they were now citing. Steve Skaradon has an interesting commentary in his May 7 blog

Former Bishop Asks to Serve Rest of Sentence in House Detention

Heather Cook, the former suffragan bishop of Maryland, has asked that the court allow the remainder of her seven-year sentence to be served in house detention. The Baltimore Sun covered the request here, and Anglican.ink here. She has served 3 years of the sentence.  Cook was denied parole a year ago when the family of the bicyclist she killed (in a hit and run while driving drunk and texting) opposed parole, and because she seemed unrepentant.  The family is also opposing this motion, feeling that she should serve her entire sentence in prison.  Cook received a lighter sentence than a Wisconsin Lutheran bishop who is serving his full sentence after killing a runner under similar circumstances.  

Chili Takes Steps to Become Anglican Province

On May 12 members of the Diocese of Chili will gather to affirm a synod vote made in 2015 that would be a major step in the process to create an autonomous Anglican Communion province.  It is currently a part of the multi-national Province of South America (formerly called the Province of the Southern Cone).  Assuming that the special synod on May 12 agrees, adopts canons and a constitution, creates 4 dioceses within its bounds, and elects a primate and 4 bishops, Chili will receive a visit from a special delegation of the Anglican Consultative Council in about 6 months.  That group will then make a recommendation to the ACC about admitting Chili to the Anglican Communion.  The Archbishop of Canterbury also needs to formally recognize the Province.  This careful process is in contrast to the unilateral decision of the GAFCON primates recently to recognize a break-away group in Brazil as a province and to claim it is part of the Anglican Communion. Mark Harris  comments on the GAFCON claims.

New Twists in Abuse Cases

Police in North Carolina say that two more people have come forward to accuse Howard White, a deposed Episcopal priest.  White pled guilty to charges of sexually abusing a boy from St. George's School (R.I.) while on a trip to Massachusetts, and is now charged in North Carolina for abuse of two children while serving a parish there.  The new accusations bring the number of victims in NC to four.   Meanwhile, St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, has been sued by two former students for failing to protect them from sexual abuse by staff when they were students at St. Paul's in the 1960s.  The suit includes 10 different charges.

Over 350 Sign Letter in England Countering Negative Comments on TEC Marriage Task Force Report 

The reaction in England over the letter William Nye, Secretary to the Archbishop's Council wrote in response to a request for comment on proposals from the Episcopal Church task force dealing with marriage continues. Nye stated that, if adopted, the proposals would bring "stringent consequences" for the Episcopal Church .  A new public letter which began as a blog entry by Jayne Ozanne has been  signed by 350  people, including many clergy, two bishops and several deans. Thirty-nine are voting members of the Church of England Synod.   The signers are all communicants of the church, and come from 41 of the 42 Church of England dioceses.  Its content is brief, thanking the Episcopal Church for leading the way on this issue and disassociating the signers from Nye's comments.

New Steps Taken to Bring Diocese of NW Pennsylvania and Western New York Together

Pittsburgh Update reported earlier that the Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Sean Rowe, who was serving also as the provisional bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem in PA,  had begun conversations with the Diocese of Western New York to serve as provisional bishop there when Bishop Franklin retires in 2019.  Bethlehem elected a new diocesan last week and so Rowe no longer has duties there. The standing committees of Western New York and Northwestern PA have now both voted to share a bishop and administration for five years beginning  when Franklin retires. The two diocese share a border, but are in different Provinces.

Women Continue to Press Churches on Abuse Issues

Women continue to hold American churches accountable for church complicity in abuse and harassment.  Baptist women are pressing hard for the resignation of Paige Patterson, one of the most senior Baptist pastors, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of the architects of the 10 year conservative movement within the church.  Patterson's opposition includes some of the most prominent women of the church, and has resulted in numerous public statements and a petition by over 1000 women asking for him to step down because of statements he has made in the past condoning some domestic violence, and other sexist statements.

The Episcopal House of Bishops has announced that it will make time at General Convention to read written statements about the effects of sexual abuse and harassment suffered within the church.  This is a partial response to a Task Force on these issues appointed by the President of the House of Deputies and to the #MeToo movement in general.  Even though women bishops planned the event, it has draw considerable criticism because the statements will be read by someone in the House of Bishops and will be anonymous.  They are not allowed to name abusers or go into details on the actual abuse.  Only a sampling of the statements will be read.  The concerns about the format have been discussed in a Facebook posting on the page set up for discussion about General Convention.

ELCA Elects Two African-American Women As Bishops

With roots in the Scandinavian immigrant communities, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is among the "whitest" of mainline churches.  Within 24 hours, regional synods in South Central Wisconsin and Southeastern Pennsylvania both elected African-American women as their bishops, the first black women to be chosen as bishops in their denomination.  Both The Rev. Patricia A. Davenport and Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld have held major leadership roles as clergy.  The ELCA is in full communion with the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Church consecrated the Rev. Barbara Harris as suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989.  Harris, who is African-American, was the first woman to serve as a bishop anywhere in the Anglican Communion.  Not until 2017, with the consecration of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows as the eleventh bishop of Indianapolis, did the Episcopal Church have an African-American woman serving as diocesan bishop.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Week Ending 4/30/18

Religious Support of Same Sex marriage in the News

Religion News carried a story on a survey of over 40,000 Americans done by Public Religion Research Institute on attitudes of Americans towards same sex marriage.  It shows major gains in support across all American religious groups, including black churches.  The article provides a summary of the findings.  The full report is here.

 Meanwhile the letter  Church of England official, William Nye, sent in response to a query for comment by the group working on the General Convention task force on revision of the marriage liturgies continued to set off waves.  Numerous groups protested that the Church of England has never been surveyed on the question and thus his characterization of C of E feelings was not based on fact.  However, it has now been reported that contrary to first reports, that the letter was drafted after some staff consultation, and thus was mostly Nye's own opinion, those staff consultations included the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. 

Consecration of First Woman Bishop in Brazil

The Update reported in January that Brazil had elected Canon Marinez Santos Bassotto as bishop of the Amazon.  She is the first woman elected bishop in that Province.  Now the consecration has been celebrated.  Two women bishops, Linda Nichols from Huron in Canada and Griselda Delgado del Carpio, the Bishop of Cuba, were present.  Nichols preached the sermon.  The Primate of Brazil,  Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, presided.  The Anglican Communion News Service posted this account.  Episcopal Cafe published pictures that Bishop Nichols had posted on the web. 

Army Chaplains Accused of Discrimination Against Jews

Two army chaplains are under investigation after they harassed, and then fired without cause, the lay staff who had been providing Shabbat services for the Jewish soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell for 34 years. This left the 80+ Jewish soldiers at the base without any religious services. The chaplains also told the Jewish leaders that they would have to celebrate Passover on a different date because the services on that Friday would interfere with Good Friday services. Furthermore, the worship leaders were told that if they decided to hold services on Passover there would be no advertising or support for the service. The nearest synagogue is over 50 miles away in Nashville.

Beyonce' Mass in San Francisco Gets Wide Response

The announcement that the afternoon contemporary worship service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco would feature music by Beyonce' touched off a major reaction before it occurred.  The service was a cooperative effort between the Cathedral and a class at San Francisco Theological Seminary called "Beyonce' and the Hebrew Bible."  The afternoon services by The Vine usually attract 40-50 people.  Nine hundred attended the Beyonce' mass.  The clergy person from the cathedral staff responsible for "Innovative Worship" including The Vine has defended the service here.  The Episcopal Cafe covered several of the positive news stories following the service.  Conservative critics had another view.  Anglican.ink posted this description by Jeff Walton (who is Communication Director for the ultra-conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy),  gave a less positive description.

Scholarships for Bishops Attending Lambeth 2020

The Compass Rose Society has announced a million dollar scholarship program to help bishops from impoverished areas attend the 2020 Lambeth Conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury delayed the Lambeth Conference for two years and has had a special committee working on how to frame the activities at the meeting in a way that will avoid conflict while dealing with sensitive subjects.  Bishop Doyle of Texas is the current head of the 400 member Compass Rose Society,  most of whom are in the U.S., Canada, or Hong Kong. The scholarships will offer a way for bishops to come without any ideological strings attached.

Give Feedback on Proposal for TEC Anti-Racism Curriculum 

Among the many General Convention reports is one that looks at the required anti-racism training provided by the Episcopal Church and suggests a number of reorganizing steps intended to get wider participation in the training.  The committee is soliciting comments on the proposal with a deadline for comment of May 10.  The Living Church article has embedded the entire report.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Week Ending 4/23/18

New Jersey Supreme Court Nixes Grants to Churches

In a case brought by an individual and the Freedom From Religion against Morris County, New Jersey for awarding historic preservation grants to churches, the New Jersey Supreme Court  has ruled that the grants violate the language of the state constitution guaranteeing that no tax payer will be forced to support a church whose beliefs they do not support.   Two Episcopal parishes were among those receiving the challenged grants which were designed to cover the extra costs incurred to do the work in an historically accurate way. The court did not make the ruling retroactive, and no one will have to pay back grant money, but they are barred from all future grants.  Morris County officials are reviewing the ruling because it seems that it may contradict the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Missouri case involving a challenge to grant for a playground at a Lutheran church.  The court ruled in that case that barring churches from applying for grants with a secular purpose was contrary to the freedom of religion clause in the the First Amendment. The New Jersey Court drew a distinctions between the two cases because the Morris County grants would have helped parishes continue to worship in the buildings. 

British Police Drop Abuse Case Against Bell

Church of England Bishop George Bell has been dead for 60 years, was beloved by many for his work to rescue Jews from Nazi Germany, and most recently is the subject of mishandled charges of sex abuse brought three years ago.  A special task force has severely criticized the Church of England handling of the case.  In the latest development, Sussex police announced they had finished their investigation of the case, and given the length of time and death of the accused had closed the matter. The church launched a new investigation in January which continues. Update has covered the charges and the botched investigation in multiple posts.  See here for an introduction.

Marriage Liturgy Report Provoking Comment

The General Convention "Blue Book" report from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage has been provoking comment based on the responses received to a request for comment on a question about the 2015 Trial Use authorization of several rites to solemnize or bless a same sex union. Most have focused on a response by William Nye for the Church of England's Archbishop's Council of Advice.  Nye admits in the beginning that  the Council itself did not discuss the matter and he is responding on his own.  Thinking Anglicans has a good summary the discussion of Nye's letter hereThis article is typical of the the conservative British news stories.

GAFCON Continues Creating Alternative Anglican Communion

GAFCON was originally the acronym for the Global Anglican Futures Conference which was started by those unhappy with those provinces in the Anglican Communion which were welcoming to LGBTQ people.  Populated mainly African and Southeast Asian provinces with some participation from the Americas.  It sponsored an alternative to the 2008 Lambeth Conference and began acting more and more like an psuedo Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Church in North America as a member.  In the last two years it has sponsored consecrations of border-crossing bishops offering an alternative to Anglican provinces it deemed too liberal. ( See here, here, and here)  The latest GAFCON leadership meeting continued the trend, recognizing a province of Recife as an alternative to the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. In a pattern familiar to Episcopalians, Recife claimed to have broken away from Brazil in 2005; Brazil deposed the bishop and successfully sued for return of property.  Like ACNA, the Recife group is now claiming membership in the "real" Anglican Communion. The also recognized a GAFCON group has been formed in Ireland as an alternative to the church there.  The GAFCON primates also declared a moratorium on consecration of women as bishops in response to the complaint by ACNA Bishop Iker from Fort Worth against South Sudan which recently announced a woman had been made a bishop in late 2016.  Even more notable, however, was the news that GAFCON was restructuring to create a council that would include one bishop, one priest, and one layperson, their answer to the Anglican Consultative Council.

Moravians Add Agreement with Methodists

The Southern Moravians, who already are in full communion with The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have now approved a full communion document with the Methodists. The Northern Convention is expected to approve the same agreement when it meets in June. The ELCA is also in full communion with the Methodists, and the Episcopal Church has conversations underway to a similar arrangement.  Update reported on the latest report from those conversations here.

Nashotah House Calls Reformed Church Pastor to Endowed Chair

A noted Reformed Church minister, Hans Boersma,  who has written extensively on Catholic thought and sacramental theology will be the next Order of St. Benedict Servants of Christ Endowed Professorship in Ascetical Theology at Nashotah House.  His appointment will begin in 2019. He has been teaching at seminaries in Canada.  Nashotah House has been undergoing a major transformation in faculty due to deaths and departures.  The nine full-time faculty are all male, and while seven are Episcopalians, only two studied at Episcopal seminaries and both of those were at Nashotah. 

Mainstay of Episcopal Cafe Dies

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, who was a major guiding force for Episcopal Cafe, and who spoke out in favor of liberal causes has died. A familiar face to General Convention goers, Fontaine had served parishes in Wyoming and Oregon.  She also served as a  list usher on the House of Bishop's and Deputies listserve.  The listserve was open to all to read, but only bishops, alternates and deputies to recent General Conventions could post.  She posted many a comment for PEP members in the years before the 2008 schism in Pittsburgh.   Having chosen hospice care for an increasingly debilitating respiratory illness, she used her Facebook page and blog to model dying with grace.  The last several entries were by her daughter when Ann no longer had strength to do so. The Episcopal Cafe has a fitting tribute.   

Monday, April 16, 2018

Week Ending 4/16/18

Episcopalians Join Interfaith Group in Opposing Missouri Law Allowing Guns in Church

 An interfaith group of Church leaders joined together to issue a press statement opposing Missouri legislation that would allow concealed guns in churches unless a church posted a sign forbidding guns. Both Religion News and the Anglican Communion News Service carried stories on the press conference.  Noting that a first amendment issue of religious freedom was involved, and asking the legislature to consider other forms of gun legislation (such as extending background checks, or  banning bump stocks and high capacity magazines), the interfaith group included Episcopal  Bishop George Wayne Smith, the catholic archbishop, leading rabbis, the spokesperson for African American churches, the United Methodist Bishop and others. Bishop Smith has been working to end gun violence for several years, even appointing a a staff member in 2016 to focus on ending gun violence.

Church Called on to Help Save Historically Black Episcopal Schools

This year, Presiding Bishop Curry called on churches and individuals to contribute to the two remaining historically black colleges affiliated with the Episcopal Church, St. Augustine's in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Vorhees College in South Carolina.  The reason for the plea is now clearer.  St. Augustine, which played a very important role in educating black clergy, educators, and nurses in the years after the Civil War is facing a critical accreditation review.  The accrediting team has already flagged the school for financial shortfalls.  The appeals have raised $3 million for the school, but the college needs another $3 million by June 30  to reach the goals set by the accreditation body.  For more, see this Living Church story. 

Presiding Bishop Speaks Out on Gaza Violence

Just back from a visit to Israel and the Gaza Peninsula, Presiding Bishop Curry has added the Episcopal Church to the signatories of a joint statement by 15 churches and church agencies protesting Israel's response to the protest along the Gaza border. Earlier in the week he signed another interfaith letter sent to President Trump asking for protection of the vulnerable Christian communities in the Holy Land.  The letter cited actions by the Israeli Knesset that would allow Israel to retroactively appropriate land sold by the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, and by Israeli leaders in Jerusalem to  retroactively tax some Church properties. Update has covered these actions including here and here.

Irish Church Leaders Weigh In on Proposed Abortion Law Change

Irish voters are preparing to vote in a referendum to appeal the 8th Amendment to their constitution, which forbade abortion. The Anglican Church in Ireland generally opposed the 1983 amendment because they believed that it was too stringent, and provisions needed to be made for cases involving the life and health of the mothers, the certainty that the fetus had no chance of surviving, and certain other limited compassionate circumstances. In an effort to clarify what would happen if the amendment were repealed, the Irish parliament announced it would then pass a law that provided for a number of exceptions to the abortion ban, including allowing all abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This proposed legislation caused the Irish Anglican archbishops to oppose repeal because of it liberality.  Now the former Anglican Communion General Secretary, the Rev. Kenneth Kearon, has published a statement arguing for repeal, but also stating that he thinks the follow-up legislation needs to be reworked.  Conservative Anglicans are trying to use the statement to paint Kearon as a complete supporter of abortion.

More Charges Filed Against Deposed Priest

North Carolina now has filed rape charges against Howard White, a deposed Episcopal priest who is already serving a sentence for sexual abuse in a Massachusetts prison. White pled guilty to charges that he had sexually abused a boy from St. George's School in Rhode Island on a school trip to Massachusetts in the 1970s. White had retired from the school decades ago. By 2016 when the charges surfaced,  he was serving as supply in a western North Carolina parish, although still canonically resident in Central Pennsylvania. Charges also surfaced from his years in Central Pennsylvania.  Bishop Scanlon of Central Pennsylvania initiated proceedings and deposed him in September 2016.  

Gallup Poll Sheds Light on Church Attendance

The Gallop Poll conducted a survey trying to find out what made people want to go to church, and why others did not go.  While community engagement and outreach, helped, what attracted most people already attending was good preaching, either helping to explain scripture or connecting the scripture to their lives.  Having good programs for youth and community outreach were next in importance.  The one split between Roman Catholic and Protestant church goers came in music.  Almost half of Protestants considered quality music important, while only a fifth of Catholics did.  Among those not attending, the answers suggested a disinclination to organized religion, either by choosing to worship alone or stating a dislike of organized churches.  Not religious came in third.   The Episcopal Cafe gives a good summary of the research.

Retiring Bishop Questions Community Support for Rebuilding New Zealand Cathedral

Christchurch Diocese in New Zealand has struggled to move forward with plans to either restore or build a new cathedral to replace the historic building destroyed in the 2011 earthquake.  The Update reported on the September 2017 decision of the diocese to restore their historic building, despite its high cost, after assurances from groups in the community at large that they would help pay for the work.  Bishop Victoria Matthews, who lost her own home in the quake, recently announced her resignation as bishop.  At an event to honor her, she made very pointed remarks accusing the community activists who had pushed the diocese to restore rather than build a new cathedral of backing off from their promises of funding.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Week Ending 4/9/18

St. James Celebrates Return

After 145 Sundays of worshiping in public spaces while locked out of their parish building, St. James in Newport Beach celebrated their return with Bishop John Taylor preaching.  The congregation has been in exile ever since Bishop Jon Bruno decided to sell the property to developers.  As part of the agreement for their return, the parish has dropped "the Great" from their name to be plain St. James Episcopal.  The update carried news that they would return here.  The Living Church has a good article with details here on the first service.  The parish has now launched a new web site to replace "Save St. James" and it is here.

Appellate Court Rules for Fort Worth Episcopalians

Ever since oral arguments in April 2016, loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth have been waiting for the Texas Court of Appeals to issue a decision.  It came last week, and based on a decision of identity (who was the "real" diocesan corporation), the court awarded Diocesan property to those who stayed in the Episcopal Church. They also ruled that based on the deeds and documents, All Saints Church property belonged to those who stayed in TEC.  The trial court was instructed to review the deeds and documents for a number of other church properties. The Bishop for Episcopalians in Fort Worth have responded here.  Bishop Iker leader of the break-away group ( also claims to be the Episcopal Diocese, but participates in ACNA),  has announced that they will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.  Anglican.ink published an opinion piece by Alex Haley (the lawyer for the break away group that lost in the San Joaquin property cases) which is, not surprisingly, critical of the decision.  The 178 page opinion is a mixed blessing for Episcopalians because it ruled against any Dennis Canon claims.

Canadian Anglicans Grapple with Assisted Euthanasia

Canada has a new law allowing assisted suicide for geriatric patients who have terminal illness.  It was used by a couple who had been married for 73 years and feared one surviving the other.  They arranged a farewell with a family gathering and the presence of the Anglican cathedral dean for their deaths.  This has led to a debate over the church's involvement and whether the law is too lenient.