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, September 20, 2016

Week Ending 09/19/16

Presiding Bishop Heading to Standing Rock

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is heading to the Standing Rock Reservation to offer further support to those opposing construction of an oil pipeline that threatens the reservation water supply and cuts through places that the reservation has documented include sacred sites.  Curry has already issued a statement of support (See Update here) and a number of Episcopal parishes and dioceses have issued statements of support (see here).  Curry will preside at a service at the Episcopal Church on the reservation during his visit.

Report Issued on Hostile Working Environment at Church Headquarters

At the time Presiding Bishop Curry fired three senior staff members in April 2016, he announced that an outside consulting firm would be providing a detailed study on the work culture at the Church Headquarters.  The consultants' report was released on September 15 at the House of Bishops meeting by a panel including the consultants and the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop.  It was webcast so that members of the House of Deputies could also hear the report.  The Living Church's report on the presentation focused on the report's documentation of an atmosphere of fear and mistrust that discouraged employees from making suggestions or reporting problems. The comments from the panel, however,  and the Episcopal Digital Network emphasized the steps being taken to build of a healthier way of working, including the transparency being offered by the webcast, and the appointment of a new leadership team.

Episcopal Seminary Board Letter Stirs Further Controversy

When Bishop Gary Hall, Chair of the EDS Board issued an update letter on the process of closing the seminary, critics quickly pointed out that his version of events was at odds with those cited in a letter by Bishop Carol Gallagher who had resigned from the Board in protest over the way things were handled.  Hall characterized Gallagher's resignation as a result of a busy schedule.  Hall's letter is here.  Pittsburgh Update covered Gallagher's resignation here

Australian Church Leaders Take Issue with Archbishop's Letter

Last week the Update reported on a letter from the Melbourne Archbishop saying that the Anglican Church would support having a plebiscite sponsored by the government on the issue of same-sex marriage.  That letter has prompted other Archbishops and bishops in the Church to issue their own statements, several claiming that such a vote would be hurtful and encourage division.   The newspaper, the Guardian, has covered the responses.

Church Attorney Rebuts Bishop Bruno's Filing to Hearing Panel.

The Church Attorney,  who represents the Episcopal Church in the proceedings against Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles in a case springing from his attempt to shut and sell St. James the Great in New Port Beach,  has filed a response to Bruno's request that the Hearing Panel dismiss all charges. Anglican Ink has a story on the filing and a more readable copy of the complaint is found on the "Save St. James" website.  The response outlines why there is a substantive case against Bruno and denies the Bishop's claims that the proceeding is irregular.  Parties are now waiting for the Hearing Panel to present its findings. The Update covered Bruno's filing and the original post-hearing filings of the Petitioners and Church Attorney here

Welsh Anglicans to Open Communion to Baptized

The bishops of the Anglican Church in Wales have agreed to allow  baptized people to take communion beginning in 2017. The church has had communion open only to those confirmed by a bishop.   The announcement was made in a letter from Archbishop Barry Morgan.  A number of Provinces in the Anglican Communion already follow this practice including The Episcopal Church, and the Churches in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, but the announcement provoked some negative response from conservatives.

Canadian Church and Bishop's Elections

While the Diocese of Toronto was celebrating the election of three suffragan bishops (two of who are women), the Bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia called off the election of a bishop coadjutor after someone raised a canonical objection.  The suffragans in Toronto will actually serve as regional bishops with the diocesan delegating authority for most matters to them in their region.  The aborted election in Caledonia was part of events surrounding the retirement at the end of 2016 of  Bishop William Anderson who opposed ordination of gays and same-sex marriage.  An objection was raised to a synod he had called for October to elect a coadjutor.  The concern was that he would try to influence the voting to elect another conservative.  Now the synod will meet in April 2017.  Anderson got in trouble in 2004 for  accepting into his diocese a priest who had renounced his Episcopal ordination and set up a competing congregation in Wyoming because the priest opposed ordination of gays.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week Ending 09/12/16

Los Angeles Diocesan Council Returns Report of Property to Task Force

The Council of the Diocese of Los Angeles received and then returned to the authoring Task Force the draft report on corporation sole property mandated by the last diocesan convention.  The Council returned the report to the Task Force stating it needed to be more specific on individual properties, the tax status and the financial impact on the Diocese of receiving the property currently held by the bishop in a corporation sole. The draft report noted that there were no controls or transparency on the actions of the corporation sole, and that this was not in line with best practices of the Church.  This report is one of the outgrowths of the ongoing struggle between Bishop Bruno and the Congregation of St. James Newport Beach over whether he could close and sell the property out from under a restart congregation about to become completely self-sufficient financially. The Update story on the original report is here.

Bishop Carol Gallagher Resigns from EDS Board

Bishop Carol Gallagher, one of four Episcopal Divinity School Trustees who was not convinced that seminary needed to close, has resigned from the board citing several irregular actions. She especially objected to a public announcement that decision of the board was unanimous when she had not been polled on the matter, and the fact that the acting president was given less than 24 hours notice that he had to vacate his office for a new president.  She also raised issues of race, noting that none of the persons of color had supported the decision cease granting decisions.

Australian Primate Makes Statement Supporting National Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

The current Prime Minister of Australia is taking steps to make good on his campaign promise to hold a national vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage. Australian newspapers report that in response the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier wrote the country's bishops urging them to help keep the discussion civil and noting that he did not expect the church to change its definition of marriage should the plebiscite be favorable,  although the church would need to welcome those who chose civil marriage.  He stated that Anglicans should be urged to vote their conscience.  The idea of the plebiscite is controversial among those working for marriage equality, some favoring the vote and others afraid that it will simply divide the country more and hurt LGBT individuals.  The bishop's full letter is here.

Task Force on Mending Anglican Relations Holds First Meeting

Archbishop Justin Welby is proceeding to implement things requested at the January meeting of Anglican Primates.  One of the things primates specified was a task group to explore how the Communion could mend relations and better walk together.  That request was endorsed at the April meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.  The task force has now met, and it is a broadly based group including TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry,  a Canadian bishop supportive of same-sex marriage, and Australian Archbishop Philip Freier (see preceding story).  The task group also includes former Global South chair, Archbishop Ian Ernst, and the highest ranking woman in the Kenyan Church, Canon Rosemary Mbogo, who is known for interdenominational work and advocacy for women and girls. The former ACC vice-chair, Elizabeth Paver, Archbishop Sarker of Bangladesh, Archbishop Clarke of Ireland, and Archbishop Hing of SE Asia also are part of the group.  The ranking Bishop from India will not be participating.

Standing Rock Protesters Gain Support from Obama, But Not the Courts

In the on-going protests against a gas pipeline in North Dakota led by Sioux from the Standing Rock reservation, the courts continue to support the company building the pipeline, refusing to halt construction, except for a temporary stay on a small area near the reservation.  However, President Obama ordered the Federal Agencies to deny permits for construction on lands they control.  Meanwhile, following the lead of the Presiding Bishop and the Diocese of North Dakota,  numerous Episcopal dioceses and organizations have announced their support for the protesters.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Week Ending 9/5/16

Same Sex Couples in the News in Europe

The Church of England cannot escape the reality of same sex couples and marriage.  This week the Church was hit with two pieces of headline news and a third emerged in the Finnish Lutheran Church which is in full communion with the Church of England.  Pressured by a British newspaper, The Bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, acknowledged that he lived in a committed, celibate relationship with a male partner.  He had never hidden the fact, but it was also not publicized.  Predictably the GAFCON leadership denounced the relationship and raised questions of secrecy when Chamberlain was consecrated last year.  The Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion on the other hand, issued a statement saying that since the Bishop was following carefully the Church protocols on matters of sexuality, there was no problem.  While these statements were flying back and forth, a group of Church of England clergy signed a public letter saying that they had married their same sex partners despite church rules opposing same sex civil marriage. There are asking for a more inclusive policy that will allow individual parishes to be openly affirming of their marriages.  To top off the week the Church of Finland issued guidelines saying that when civil same sex marriage becomes legal in Finland later this year, the church teaching will not change, and the church will continue to provide marriage only to couple comprising a man and a woman.  They did say the civilly married couples would be welcomed and blessed at church.  The Finnish Lutheran Church position contrasts with that of the Church in Denmark, where the head of that church recently performed a wedding for two Church of England men with the help of the men's Anglican parish in Denmark.

Episcopalians Continue Supporting Standing Rock Protests Against Pipeline

During the last week the number of oil pipeline protesters in North Dakota continued to grow as various interdenominational and indigenous groups rallied to the support of the Sioux who are trying to stop an oil pipeline from being constructed on land that contains sacred burial sites and jeopardizes their water supply. (See the Update from last week.)   When the oil company suddenly switched its construction to a site specifically identified the day before in court filings by the Standing Rock tribe as filled with burial cairns, protesters rushed to the site only to be met by private security guards with pepper spray and dogs.  Several of those in the crowd, including a young child needed treatment for dog bites.  Episcopalians can follow all the news, which is not getting much press attention, at a Facebook site, Episcopalians Stand With Standing Rock.

St. James in Newport Beach Files Motion to Recover Property

Last week the Petitioners who filed the original complaint against Bishop Bruno with the Episcopal Church filed a motion with the Hearing Panel asking to be allowed access to what had been their church property before Bishop Bruno locked them out as part of an attempt to sell the property to developers. The Church Attorney,  who serves the Episcopal Church during the Hearing Panel process (not one of the parties) filed his own motion supporting the return of the property to the parish.  Both of these were filed August 26.  Two days later Bishop Bruno filed his response asking that the case be dismissed and charges dropped because of errors in the process, and because legal papers and letters were shared in public forums.  In the bishop's motion, he denies any recognition to the parish or its rector. The most recent previous Update story on this ongoing saga is here.

After a Year, South Carolina Still Waits for Decision from State Supreme Court

It is now a full calendar year since the oral arguments were made before the South Carolina Supreme Court in the case originally brought by the parishes that left the Episcopal Church to defend their claims to Episcopal Property.  After the trial court favored the seceders, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina appealed.  The reason for the long delay in issuing an opinion is not clear, but the chief justice at the time has retired (but remains a part of the court for this decision) and the court apparently is having trouble agreeing on an opinion.  Journalist and blogger, Steve Skaradon has gone out on a limb and speculated the court members may have rejected an opinion written by the retired Chief Justice upholding the lower court and have had it assigned to another judge.  Links on this site do not got to individual stories, so look for the September 3 posting.

News Around the Anglican Communion

Christians in the Peshwar region of Pakistan are praising a Muslim security guard who died preventing four suicide bombers from entering a church in a Christian colony.  He raised the alarm, summoning other security forces and then started firing at the bombers. All four bombers were killed short of their target.  Five other security people were injured.

Meanwhile, Anglicans in Seoul, South Korea are celebrating the opening of a women's ministry center  that has been in planning or building stages for 20 years.  It is a full service women's center offering a variety programs which should appeal to women and families.  These will include religious and leadership programs,  provide support for women facing a number of life stresses or who are recently released prisoners or defectors from North Korea.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Week Ending 8/29/16

Churches Support Pipeline Protest

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles North and South Dakota is leading a protest against an oil pipeline that will cross the Missouri River just north of their reservation.  They are concerned both because the land involved is considered sacred (and they own the mineral rights to it) and because a leak would potentially destroy the source of water for the reservation.  Some leaders of the protest have been arrested; other tribes have gathered in support of the protesters, and there have demonstrations of support in various locations around the country. A number of the protesters are members of the Episcopal Churches on the reservation. The Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota issued an early statement supporting the protesters, and they were soon joined by the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, and now the Anglican Church of Canada.   The situation is still ongoing.

Episcopal Schools Remain in the News

Two Episcopal Schools continue struggle with issues related to sexual abuse on campus.  Legal issues continue surrounding conviction last year of a senior student who raped an underclass woman as part of a contest among graduating men at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire. The young woman's lawyers have now filed a complaint because some parents raised money to help pay the senior's legal fees.  They are holding the school responsible.  Meanwhile in Boca Raton, the Board of St. Andrew's School has announced the dismissal of a second senior administrator at the school for mishandling two complaints about possible sexual abuse. They had terminated the head of school in May and hired an outside investigating team to explore a report of abuse. The team's report uncovered a second case.  The terminated officials failed to follow state law requiring them to report possible abuse.  Earlier update stories on these schools can be found here and here

Church of England Conservatives Start Down Path to Schism

The most recent interview with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, where he commented on the awful way gays and lesbians have been treated by the church,  was one more piece of evidence for clergy from 12 parishes who have begun preliminary steps to set up their own "church within a church" shadow synod.  They are upset by what they see as the Church of England's softening stance against homosexuality, same sex marriage, and ordination of those in a same sex relationship. Episcopalians will recognize the similarity to the first actions and rhetoric taken by those who eventually left the church to form the Anglican Church in North America.  In fact, ultra-conservative bloggers are already noting the parallel.   Like ACNA the group has announced adherence to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, and like ACNA the Church of England group looks to GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) for support. In return GAFCON has issued a statement supportive of the Church of England group, while carefully noting they did not initiate the meeting.

U.S. Government to Work with Church in Ghana to End Child Slavery

The diocese of Accra in Ghana has launched a major effort to redeem children caught in child trafficking and slavery, and they have secured the U.S. government as a partner.  Ambassador Jackson was present last week at the launching of a five year program to create a "City of Hope," a refuge for trafficked children and those in forced labor developed by the Diocese of Accra in the Anglican province of West Africa. With more than 22% of Ghana's children in the labor force and 14% dong hazardous labor, the church has begun a widespread initiative that includes not only rescue and rehabilitation of children, but affordable education, sustainable employment that will eliminate the need for child labor, and changes to public policy.

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.