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 4, 2020

Week Ending 08/03/20

South Sudan Cathedral Attacked

Christians in South Sudan, which has been struggling to restore peace, continue to face violent attacks.  This last weekend the Cathedral Church in the Diocese of Athooch was attacked by gunmen who killed the Dean of the Cathedral and a number of women and children who had sought refuge there. The gunmen also burned the village. The latest count of deaths from the attack is 32 with another 20 wounded. 

Another Denomination Undergoing A Split

Nineteen of the 42 congregations in the Southeast District Conference of the Church of the Brethren withdrew at the Conference's recent annual meeting because the Conference did not take a strong enough stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  The majority of the conference was unwilling to strictly enforce church doctrine opposing homosexuality and same sex marriage.  The conference includes congregations in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and parts of Virginia and North Carolina.  Those leaving are expected to join the Covenant Brethren Church which formed in 2019 because of dissatisfaction that the Church of the Brethren was not "orthodox" enough.

Reconsidering Anglican Membership Numbers in Africa

Andrew McKinnon, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen posted an interesting blog page that calls into question the claims of conservative African Anglican Churches to rapid growth. Growth in these churches has often been contrasted with the decline in membership in Anglican Communion members in North America, Europe, and Britain. The implication is that "orthodox" pl;aces are growing and "liberal" places are declining.   McKinnon's research puts the  numbers in Nigeria and  Uganda at about half what they are claiming.  You can find the whole of his analysis here.

Ongoing Stories

Feeding the Hungry

Update has been carrying links to news accounts of various Episcopal parishes creating innovative ministries or reaching out to those affected by the covid-19 virus and the economic hardships associated with it.   Holy Innocents Parish in Valico, FL has been addressing needs of those who are having trouble feeding their families a hot meal several times a month.  The parish is using fundraisers to cover the costs of the food.  Luckily a local cafe donates the rice needed for meals one Sunday a month.  The local news service, the Osprey Observer carried the story.

Episcopalians Challenging Racism

The Episcopal Church has sponsored a number of different initiatives to reduce racism and foster racial reconciliation.  The most recent Update  report on one of these is here.  Now The Episcopal Church has launched a film based series that is intended to foster discussion of racism and offer anti-racism training.  The series was launched with a major on-line event attended by several thousand people. The Episcopal News Service has a story on this effort and an article on clergy supporting the protests organized by Black Lives Matters in Portland Oregon and opposing the use of federal agents in the city.

Church of England Mandates Masks

The slow reopening of churches for in-person worship continues.  Update reported that Parliament had voted to allow churches to reopen buildings several weeks ago.  However, continued infections have led Church of England officials to mandate masks be worn in their church buildings at all times.

North India Diocese Tries to Leave Church

A bishop in North India, unhappy about an investigation into management of property owned by the diocese, has announced that his diocese is now autonomous and no longer a part of the Church of North India.  The Church of North India responded by placing the bishop on leave and appointing a commission to handle affairs.  They have no yet deposed the bishop, hoping for reconciliation.  The Church says that its constitution forbids a diocese unilaterally withdrawing.  The provinces of both North India and South India have been wracked by repeated charges of corruption and mishandling of church property.  Update has carried notices of these problems before.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Week Ending 07/27/20

Churches Call for Criminal Justice Reform

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, PA has created a platform of criminal justice reforms.  They are now working to have the Episcopal Church as a whole adopt this platform, and are hoping to carry it beyond the church to the larger community.  The platform includes items asking for better data collection, transparency in policing, gun control,  Using unarmed professionals to handle some kinds of calls that police now deal with, collaboration between police an community and more.  The full platform and more about the parish's actions go here.

Accord Reached in Sexual Misconduct Case

Early in the ministerial career of the former dean of St. John the Divine, was guilty of sexual misconduct with an underage girl.  His misconduct, now several decades in the past, was investigated recently after the Episcopal Church removed time limits on such charges.  Bishop Ian Douglass of Connecticut has announced that  an "accord" has been reached with the priest after investigation.  The content of the accord was not made public in the announcement, but apparently does not result in his removal or suspension as a priest.  It does require actions that are designed to aid in healing and righting the wrong incurred.  The Newtown CT newspaper has more on the agreement.

Ongoing Stories

Legal Cases And More on Reopening Churches

Reopening the churches for in-person worship continues to be contentious.  The U.S. Supreme Court waded in last week by ruling against churches in Nevada who sued to be allowed to exceed attendance restrictions set under an Nevada order in response to the pandemic. The court ruled that the Churches had not been treated unfairly and had been grouped logically with other institutions where people might stay for extended periods of time in closed indoor spaces.  The matter is of great interest among evangelical churches.  A recent survey by the Barna group suggests 70% of Protestant churches are currently holding in-person services.   Surveys suggest, however that well over half of Americans are uneasy about returning to worship services in-person.  The Episcopal Church, however is moving much more cautiously, in part to avoid the experience of several churches where the virus was spread among many of their congregation.

Religious Freedom or an End to Civil Rights

Decisions of the Supreme Court on July 2 included several creating a larger version of religious liberty. One of those decisions has raised great concerns for  employees of church-owned institutions.  The decision raises issues of whether anyone who even tangentially participates in religious activities is thus a minister and can be fired if they make any statements or do anything contrary to church positions or doctrine. Can a social studies teacher be fired if he or she does not follow the church's interpretation of historic events?  Religion News provides a fuller discussion of the issues here. LGBTQ teachers are also concerned because earlier decisions on their right to employment specifically excluded religious institutions. 

Ministries During the Covid Pandemic

The Episcopal Church continues to find ways to serve public health during the pandemic. Update has reported on a number of these. ( The most recent is here.)  Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has announced two recent partnerships.   Trinity Church, Wall Street has given a large grant to ERD to use with partners in Africa to help contain the covid-19 virus. In Columbia, Maryland, Christ Church Episcopal teamed up with ERD, a local hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital to become a testing center for the virus.  The parish is in an area with a large Hispanic population and has a largely Hispanic membership.  The testing was done at the church and Johns Hopkins processed the results for tests within 24 hours. 

New Twist on the Church Monument Issue

Calvary Episcopal in downtown Memphis was surprised to find that vandals had knocked down  the historical marker they had worked to have revised to acknowledge that the church land had been owned by Nathan Forrest, who was not only a Confederate General and KKK leader, but had operated a slave trading business on what became the church grounds.  The parish had worked to have the historical marker changed as part of their efforts for racial reconciliation. It is not clear if the vandals objected to the marker because it was about a Confederate or because it told his unsavory connections.  Update has been regularly reporting on the efforts of parishes to more appropriately deal with monuments to those who owned slaves or were Confederate leaders.

Egyptian Anglicans Continue Fight for Legal Identity

In 2016 the Anglican Church in Egypt was shocked to find that the Egyptian government had placed it in a category of foreign churches and that it was required to work through the Presbyterian Church if it wanted to do anything to its property.  The Presbyterians have since tried to assert authority over Anglican clergy and all aspects of the church.  The Anglicans have been fighting in court to be recognized, especially since their presence in Egypt predates the Presbyterians.  This legal battle may be partially behind the creation of the new Anglican Province of Alexandria.  While Christians were encouraged when the government licensed a number of buildings earlier this year, that did not change the legal status of the Church.  The Anglican Communion has now come out with a statement backing the Church in its legal struggles. Both The Living Church and the Episcopal News Service have recently issued stories on this struggle.

Responding to Migrant Needs in West Texas

The Episcopal Church has an active ministry to immigrants, about which Update has given frequent posts.  Among the more recent were the efforts of those in Mississippi to deal with families torn apart after an ICE raid on a factory in Georgia, and the efforts in the Diocese of Rio Grande to meet needs of migrants waiting to hear about their refugee status.  What may surprise people is that the migrant detention centers along the Texas border are housing people from a variety of continents, not just  Central and South America.  In fact the Diocese of West Texas most recently scrambled to find potential housing for a large group of women and children from Haiti.  The group was cleared to be released to wait for their hearing date if there were places for them to go. The diocese went into high gear to respond rather than have the women and children continue in the grim conditions in the detention center for two years or more until their hearing dates. 

More on the Oxford Dean Squabble

Update has been following the struggle between a number of faculty at Christ Church College, Oxford, and the dean of the cathedral and college.  The latest move had been an investigation of the dean as to whether he had handled appropriately instances brought to him of possible sexual misconduct on campus.  The professors have been suggesting that the dean himself was being investigated for misconduct.  Now  Lord Carlile a noted Queens Counsel, has come out with a report saying that the investigation may be illegal because of gross conflicts of interest among those doing the investigating and he chided the dissidents at the college for "weaponizing" the investigation.  Thinking Anglicans has the details.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Week Ending 07/20/20

Buttigieg Talks About Service with House of Deputies

Former presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg provided a virtual presentation to around 400 of the General Convention deputies and alternates for 2021.  His talk explored everyday faith and living a life of service.  It was a strong reminder of the ministry of the laity.  For more of what he said, read the full Episcopal News Service story.

Central New York Embraces Sudanese Congregation

For the last decade a group of Sudanese refugees in Syracuse have been conducting services from the Book of Common Prayer in the Dinka language.  Originally they were an outpost of the Sudanese Episcopal Church, and then South Sudanese Church.  They found a home sharing Emmanuel Episcopal Church's building, and the two congregations have grown closer together over time.  The diocese of Central New York has now received the Sudanese Congregation as a mission chapel, and the diocese is providing financial assistance to its "newest" small congregation. Episcopal News Service has the details.  

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Episcopalians Start Appeals Process

After Judge Dickson issued a finding awarding church property to the schismatics in June, when he was supposed to oversee the implementation of a South Carolina Supreme Court decision awarding the property to the Episcopalians, the South Carolina diocese filed a request for a reconsideration.  Dickson has refused that request, so the Episcopalians have filed a notice of appeal with the South Carolina Court of Appeals, and asked for a stay on any actions affecting the property.  They expect the case to be transferred to the South Carolina Supreme Court given that Dickson essentially reversed their ruling. 

Church During the Pandemic

As the number of covid-19 cases rises rapidly in a number of states, Episcopalians are responding.  In Oklahoma, where the governor will not make masks mandatory, the Episcopal bishop has done so for any in-person services.  In Missouri, the Episcopal bishop has ordered that churches not hold in-person services, although allowing up to 10 people to gather at the church in order to create a service that will be made available virtually.  The order is in effect until September.  Christianity Today is reporting that a number of the largest protestant congregations are not in a hurry to offer in-person services  and are focusing on on-line ministry rather than offering services for only a portion of their large congregations.   Meanwhile in California a group of independent evangelical clergy are suing the governor because he has banned singing and chanting in churches.  The argument is that he hasn't banned singing in movie theaters or bars, and so it is a violation of religious freedom.  Of course, group singing and chanting may not be something being done on a large scale in those other venues, but the courts will be sorting this one out. Update has been reporting on the response of churches to the idea of returning to in-person worship, and on creative ministries.  Two reports of creative Episcopal ministries are the offering of free bag lunches by St. James Episcopal Church in Bangor Maine and an Episcopalian who has been organizing large scale donations of masks and protective equipment to front line workers that they can use on or off work.  The Episcopal Church has also been involved in efforts on a number of Native American reservations trying to help preserve the tribal culture and language.  Both are at special risk because the elderly who are the sources of much of this knowledge are at great risk from covid-19. 

Church Leaders Condemn Executions

The abrupt resumption of executions (after almost a two-decade hiatus) of those condemned to death in federal courts, has brought condemnation from Episcopal leaders.  The Episcopal Church is on record as opposing the death penalty.  Update has carried numerous notices of actions in different dioceses, including Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Arkansas

More on Anti-Racism and Reconciliation

The Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church have made Anti-racism and Reconciliation a major theme for the Church.  Update has reported on many of the initiatives. Local news carried a story on the support of the Diocese of Kentucky for restoration of the buildings of two traditionally black congregations in Louisville.  The diocese linked their efforts to raise money for these buildings to work responding to the death of Breonna Taylor.  The article linked the diocesan help to news carried earlier about the commitment of the Virginia Theological Seminary of a substantial sum for reparations, although there was no indication that the seminary was providing funds.  Update carried Seminary's original announcement here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Week Ending 07/13/20

Bishop McConnell Appoints Leaders for Diocesan "Beloved Community" Effort

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced a new focus for racial reconciliation and social justice with the appointment of the Rev. Eric McIntosh as canon for the Beloved Community Initiative and Shahnaz Alam-Denlinger as Program Coordinator.  McIntosh is charged with developing a curriculum to guide parishes in exploring and coming to terms with racism and Alam-Denlinger with administering the program initiatives.  It is not clear how this effort will intersect with the existing Committee on Anti-racism and Reconciliation, although both McIntosh and Alam-Denlinger have been members of that committee.  

South Sudan Drops Apostasy Law Death Penalty

Several of the North Africa and Middle Easter Countries with Muslim majorities have laws that make it a capital offense for anyone to convert  from Islam to another religion.  The new South Sudan regime is trying to secularize government.  It has now removed the death penalty for apostasy, and Christian Churches are relieved.  The revocation,if it lasts, could make things safer for members of the Anglican Communion Province of South Sudan.  However, there is some concern that the government may be moving too quickly in efforts to modernize. 

Mark Lawrence Begins Planned Exit from Leadership

The five dioceses where bishops actually led major portions of the membership out of the Episcopal Church will all have had the original bishops retire by the end of 2022.  Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth have all completed the transition to a new ACNA bishop.  Now Mark Lawrence in South Carolina has requested the election of a bishop coadjutor, who will take full control of the ACNA diocese in 2022.  The blogger Steve Skardon has some comments and speculations in a July 10 posting.  It is interesting to note that there is another ACNA bishop responsible for parishes in South Carolina.  The ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas, which came to ACNA from the Anglican Mission in America, is restructuring to give two of its 4 bishops oversight of the South Carolina parishes in its diocese (including ones in Charleston, S.C.) and the other two will focus on North Carolina.  It will be interesting to see if there is any interest in merging the units. 

Continuing Stories

Church Continues to Following Command to "Do Justice"

The Episcopal News Service continues to provide stories on the ways that the Episcopal Church pursues social, economic, and environmental justice.  This week the news service highlighted an on-line gathering attended by over 2000, that was designed to connect political activism with the command to love one's neighbor.  The gathering was a joint effort of the ELCA and the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Church also expressed its support for the court decision granting a full environmental review of the pipeline that threatened the Standing Rock Reservation water supplies and sacred lands.  Update has covered the protests and earlier stages of the lawuit.

More On Adapting Ministry to Coronavirus

In Updates ongoing efforts to highlight parish adaptations to ministry during the pandemic, there are 3 stories to highlight this week.  First is the beginning of outdoor services on the grounds of the Long Island Cathedral.  A second story was about the handling of memorials and grief counseling by both clergy and funeral directors.  The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, is quoted extensively.  The third story is about Episcopal Dioceses that received federal funds under the Paycheck Protection Program.  Pittsburgh does not appear on the list.  

St. Paul's Richmond to "Reinterpret" Windows

St/ Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond had a rich array of Confederate Memorials which it began removing as early as 2015.  The plaques removed became par of a historical display where they could be interpreted with attention to issues of racism.  However, three stained glass windows were more difficult to deal with. Two were memorials to Robert E. Lee, one of which had a biblical setting suggesting he chose to be faithful rather than accept riches when he chose to support the Confederacy rather than lead the Union troops.  The third window honored Jefferson Davis with a biblical reference to unjust imprisonment.  The church has announced that the windows will stay, but will be re-interpreted.  The new interpretation was not outlined in the announcement.  With the current pressure to remove memorials to Confederates, the Church had to reach a conclusion on the windows's fates.  The Diocese and St. Paul's have been supportive of attempts to remove public statues of Confederate leaders and supporters of white supremacy.

Lambeth Conference Delayed Again

The Lambeth Conferences have generally followed a pattern of meeting every 10 years.  However,  dissention within the Anglican Communion led Archbishop Welby to delay the conference for two years.  It was to meet this summer, but as the coronavirus pandemic struck, the meeting was delayed to 2021.  Now conditions remain uncertain enough that a further delay has been announced.  The conference is now scheduled for 2022, a 14 year gap since the previous meeting of active bishops throughout the Anglican Communion. 

Reaction to Hong Kong Archbishop's Support of Security Law 

A month ago, Update posted links to criticism of the Archbishop of Hong Kong for his support of the Chinese imposed National Security Law.  Now both Christian Today and the Living Church have stories on the Archbishop's defense of the law.  What complicates the defense is that the Archbishop of Hong Kong also holds the position of Chair of the  Anglican Consultative Council which puts the Communion in an awkward position.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Week Ending 07/06/20

All Updates This Week Follow Up Previous Posts

More Zoom Bombing of Church Services

Update reported  in April on an Churches whose on-line zoom service was disrupted by individuals posting offensive images.  The last Sunday in June, it happened again.  This time the target was St. Johns Episcopal Church in Royal Oak.  Those involved used Nazi symbols and racist words, and were persistent enough that when the church had everyone sign off and return, the disrupters once again appeared. The church had to end the service rather than continue with the offensive disruptions.
Zoom has been used widely by churches for Sunday services, despite one Sunday when there was a massive failure of the platform because of overloading.

Church Intensifies Commitment to Poor People's Campaign

The Episcopal News Service posted an article summarizing the various steps taken in recent weeks by the Episcopal Church to advocate for social justice, especially through the "Poor People's Campaign" and their Church's emphasis on racial reconciliation.  Update has covered the steps as they occurred. In addition Trinity Church, Wall Street, announced its grants in support of social justice causes, including covid-19 relief, racial justice and economic justice.  The grants totaled more than $12 million.

St. Paul's School, Conway, NH Is Back in News

 St. Paul's School in Conway, New Hampshire had hoped to have put behind it the scandal that began with the rape of an under-aged student by a graduating senior and then spread to encompass revelations of long buried sexual abuse involving a former headmaster and other members of the staff.  In September 1918, the school settled claims from lawsuits filed by those who had been abused, and in 2019 removed the name of the former headmaster who had covered up  cases from a building on the school campus.  However, another of the abuse victims has come forward, novelist, Lacy Crawford whose sexual assault by two male students was buried and ignored by the now-notorious headmaster.

More On the Cautious Re-Opening of Churches

Religion News Services reported on a recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute reveals that 64% of Americans were uncomfortable with attending services in person.  The group most comfortable were white evangelicals. Mainline protestant, black protestant, white Catholic, and Hispanic Catholic all had responses between 38% and 43% of those interviewed being "extremely" uncomfortable with attending. Another quarter were "somewhat" uncomfortable.  You can see the survey details here.   Many Episcopal Churches have responded to the rise in covid-19 cases by deciding to keep buildings closed, or delaying plans to reopen.  St. John the Baptist Episcopal in Milton, Delaware decided to offer a drive through/walk-up baptismal blessing after their on-line service as a way to do some in-person reconnecting.  The local media covered the event.  Update has been covering the slow return to in-person worship and innovative ways of doing church during the pandemic. The most recent of those posts is here.

Charlottesville Churches Buoyed by Possible Confederate Monument Removal

In 2017, the Episcopal parishes in Charlottesville were caught up in events that surrounded city official decisions to remove statues of Confederate generals Lee and Jackson.  Clergy and laity were among those who joined those counter-protesting the large demonstrations that were organized by far right groups who were unhappy the statues were to be removed.  The demonstration turned violent and one of the counter protesters was killed.  Now the churches are hopeful that the statues soon will actually be gone. Recent demonstrations aimed at removing statues erected to memorialize confederate leaders have added new impetus to the Charlottesville attempts. The city's attempts tp remove the statues have been blocked by an injunction from a Virginia judge who enforced a law forbidding removal of memorials.  As of July 1, a new state law allows a city or group to study the background of a statue and eventually remove it.  With that law in place, the city has pursued a removal of the injunction from the state supreme court.

More on Church Involvement in Recent Protests

St. John's Lafayette Square continues to be in the news.  This week, a congressional committee held hearings on the decision to use force to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square just before Trump's photo opportunity at the church.  In other news, the Living Church carried an overview article showing church support offered to protesters in a number of places.  Update has been tracking the protests, and the St. John's story. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Week Ending 6/29/20

Nashotah House Offers Free Class on Black Faith

Nashotah House, a seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin, has announced a free on-line course  "the Bible in Theology and Color" which is described as providing "the opportunity to study the history and theological insights of the Black Church, Latino/a Protestantism, and Asian American Christians and learn what these insights have to teach us about the present moment."  The instructor is  Esau McCaulley, and ACNA priest  and Assistant Professor at the conservative evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois.  The start date for the course is not given in any of the materials.

New Anglican Province Created in North Africa

The Anglican Province of the Middle East and Africa has been reconfigured into two Provinces, thus raising the number of provinces in the Anglican Communion to 41.  The measure to create the new Province of Alexandria is now complete.  The Province of  Jerusalem and the Middle East now covers the dioceses of Jerusalem (which includes Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria), Iran, Cyprus and the Gulf.  The new Province of Alexandria includes dioceses in 10 countries: Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, Mauritania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.  This will increase the number of conservative votes at both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Episcopalians File Reconsideration Request

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina filed a motion for reconsideration with the judge who issued an order in the church property case that negated the findings of the state Supreme Court.  The filing outlines the many ways the court exceeded its authority, misinterpreted the SC Supreme Court decision, and was factually incorrect.  The diocesan news release itemizes the points made in the motion. . The full filing is here.  Update has followed the full eight-year court  struggle. Its most recent posting was on the court order that is the subject of the current filing.

St. John's Lafayette Square Saga Continues

St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. has been in the new continuously since the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality.  The Church was damaged by a small fire during the protests, then the site of a brutal clearing of Lafayette Square to facilitate a photo opportunity for Donald Trump.  Church officials were initially denied access to the building for a prayer vigil, although later events were held outside.  Most recently protesters have camped on the church patio directly across from the White House, and some additional minor damage (spray painting ) occurred.  The parish was planning on a peaceful removal of protesters through negotiation, but Washington police  did a forcible removal. Now Church officials reluctantly agreed to a temporary fence installation assuming the fence would be installed on the entire block.  A statement from parish leaders is here.  Instead, just the church was enclosed in a tall fence, which is now the subject of controversy.

Christ Church Oxford Groups Ordered to Mediation

The blog Thinking Anglicans has links to a number of stories carrying further developments in the Christ Church, Oxford struggle between faculty and the Dean of the College and Cathedral.  Update has carried posts on this bitter feud a number of times.  Now the parties have been ordered into mediation while an investigation of safe church procedures goes forward.  Adding to the embarrassment of the college, the college learned that one of the fractious faculty who signed a letter asking for the removal of the dean on moral and ethical grounds has himself just been convicted in France on child pornography charges.

No Surprise! ACNA Joins Global South

The Global South/GAFCON group within the Anglican Communion continues on the path of destruction of the communion.The Global South is supposedly a group of provinces within the Anglican Communion, but it moves in close coordination with GAFCON (originally the name stood for the Global Anglican Futures Conference). GAFCON has been setting up alternative dioceses and provinces to places in the Anglican Communion it deems too liberal. It is well on a course to creating an alternative communion or splitting the existing Anglican Communion. The current chair of GAFCON is the ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach.  Thus it comes a no surprise that the ACNA Council has voted to accept membership in the Global South. 

Caution Continues on Church Building Re-Openings

It is clear that much Episcopal worship will continue to be done on-line for months to come. The rise in covid-19 cases in many states has slowed church moves to return to in-person worship. Update has been following the re-opening efforts.  Cautious groups of in-person worshipers are gathering on church lawns or in small numbers in their Church buildings in a number of dioceses.  The Episcopal News Service has an article surveying practice and caution in a number of dioceses. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Week Ending 06/22/20

Virtual Poor People's March on Washington Reaches Millions

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was one of the on-line speakers at this last weekend's highly successful "virtual" Poor People's March on Washington. Speakers included celebrities and religious leaders of many faith traditions. More than 200 groups, including churches hosted watch parties on Facebook.  In February the Episcopal Church Executive Committee officially endorsed the Poor People's Campaign organized by Disciples of Christ minister William Barber.  The original in-person march went virtual when the covid-19  pandemic intervened.  The March called attention to economic, social, racial and gender disparities.  The campaign that it is a part of seeks a single payer health system, free college, gun control, environmental justice, voting rights, and more.

Retirement Standoff in Springfield

The Diocese of Springfield Standing Committee and Bishop Dan Martins have been unable to reach an agreement on his retirement date.  The bishop announced his retirement in 2019.  The bishop and Standing Committee are now in mediation. The Standing Committee wants an retirement date of this fall, especially since the bishop has lived in Chicago since 2018 rather than in his downstate Illinois diocese. Martins does not want to end his time as bishop until June 2021. Martins is among the most conservative bishops in the Church, but with great reluctance, he did comply with the General Convention resolution requiring dioceses to provides means for same-sex couples to have church weddings in their home diocese. 

New Life for an Old Parish

St. James the Less in Philadelphia was in the news periodically from 2000-2006 as it fought to leave the Episcopal Church with its property.  The 2006 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, often cited in on-going church property suits around the country, resulted in the property being returned to the Episcopal Diocese.  The parish not only tried to withdraw from the Episcopal Church, it largely withdrew from all connection with its own neighborhood.  In 2008 St. Mark's Church assumed responsibility for the church site and began rebuilding community ties.  They have revived the church school and are offering free education to Middle School students and let the nieghborhood in to the church and its grounds. You can read more about the transformation of the site into a vibrant center of Christian outreach in an article by the Episcopal Church Foundation.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Judge Reverses S.C. State Supreme Court 

In August of 2017 the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an opinion giving ownership of most of the break-away parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  The Court then sent the case to the first circuit court district for implementation of the decision.  Judge Dickson, who was the judge assigned the task has spent nearly three years delaying making any decision.  Update has regularly covered each turn in this legal saga. the most recent post is here. That ended this last week when he issued a ruling saying that the Episcopal Church had no claim on any of the church buildings, thus ignoring the decision of the state Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court has refused petitions from the break-away group to rehear the case, but this decision may force such a rehearing.  The decision was a disappointment for Episcopalians, who are now considering their next legal steps.   The Diocesan statement on the decision is here.  The break-away group made this announcement.  Blogger Steve Skardon provides background on the judge's decision in a June 19 posting.

Supreme Court Keeps DACA Alive 

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued a number of decisions that had major political impact.  Presiding Bishop Curry had signed an amicus brief for one of the cases, which tested whether the president could unilaterally and without research or notice end the DACA policy which had provided a means for people who had been brought to the U.S. without documentation as children to register with immigration and get on with their lives.  Churches have been among the strong supporters of the DACA program.  The "Dreamers" as they are called include a number of young adults who have gone to college and into professions.  The Episcopal Church supports immigration reform and a way for those who are now in the U.S. to acquire legal status. The case decided by the Supreme Court was filed originally in 2017 by a Connecticut Legal Clinic.  One of those working on the case was Armando Ghinaglia, a Dreamer, who is an Episcopal priest and studying for a law degree.  The court ruled that the means by which the president tried to end the DACA program was illegal because it had not studied the impact on the U.S. and the Dreamers who had come forward and registered, thus identifying themselves and making themselves vulnerable to deportation should the program end.  Thus the decision does not prevent a future end to the program, but requires study and a more nuanced approach that may be hard to achieve before the November elections.

Speaking and Acting to Remove Racist Symbols

 The Episcopal Church has been dealing with a variety of memorials in their buildings that honored Confederate political and military leaders, and with other parts of their history showing deep entanglement with slavery and racism.  Update has tracked the debates over these memorials and their removal.  The recent demonstrations have heightened pressure to remove all public memorials to people or events that are identified with racism.  The latest Episcopal parish to take action concrning their own memorials is Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore.  The vestry voted to remove plaques honoring the first two rectors of the parish.  Both owned slaves, and both supported the confederacy.  They are also trying to decide the fate of a large tryptych given in honor of William Meade Dame, a Confederate veteran who spent 40 years building a system of segregation in Baltimore.  The decision was announced on the parish Facebook page and picked up by local news media.   Meanwhile, the bishop of the diocese of Mississippi has issued a formal statement supporting the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Mississippi state flag.

In Person Worship Restarts

Update has been tracking the steps towards returning to in-person worship.  The latest issue of the Diocese of South Carolina newsletter includes a feature on a parish resuming in-person worship. The Tennessean published a story of the Episcopal Church in Franklin, TN returning to in-person worship. And in New Zealand, the island country's success in squelching the coronaviraus-19 has allowed churches there to reopen.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Investigated Again

Lord Carey, a retired Archbishop of Canterbury had his license to officiate removed in 2017 and restored for limited officiating in 2018, but another review has resulted in the license again being suspended.  The reviews are the result of investigations by the National Safeguarding Team.  What is at issue is his handling of two different incidents when a priest of the church was charged with sexual abuse of others.  In the case of the most recent revocation of his license, Carey denies even knowing the person whose case he supposedly mishandled.  

More on Trump's Photo Op at St. John's

Stories about Trump's march across Lafayette Square to have a photo opportunity of him holding a Bible while standing next to the parish hall entrance sign for St. John's Church Lafayette Square just keep coming.  Both the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Marian Budde of Washington criticized Trump for taking the pictures without stopping fo going inside for prayer.  The White House has issued a statement that insurance costs and risks meant he could not go in. The CNN FactChecker, however, has noted that these claims are not true.